Moral and Hearty

Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith, a.k.a. the Hearty Boys, are quietly moving forward with plans to turn their catering facility/TV studio (3819 N. Broadway; 773-244-9866) into a full-service restaurant, Hearty. “We’re calling it that, because that’s what the food will be,” says McDonagh. “It’s all twists on American comfort-food classics, like a deconstructed tuna casserole, which is seared ahi with panko over a bed of saffron cream egg noodles topped with crushed dried peas.” When the place opens in mid-September, expect spins on pork and beans, corn dogs, and chicken and porridge—plus a bar full of forgotten cocktail classics like the Moscow Mule. “We wanted to do this two or three years back, but our son was only two,” says McDonagh. “We’ve been working out how best to do the amount of things we do and still allow for a family life.” To get a taste of what’s coming at Hearty, sign up for the three-course $35 preview dinner on July 28th.

Can’t Wait

John McLean, a longtime chef de cuisine for Levy Restaurants who told you about his ambitious plans last fall, has signed a lease on three storefronts (1578-1582 North Clybourn Avenue), where he will open two restaurants this fall: Urban Burger Bar and Pizzeria SoNo. The first will feature hand-crafted burgers, fries, and shakes. “We will cook hormone-free ground chuck over a live hardwood coal fire that will give a great smoky backyard barbecue flavor,” says McLean, who also promises an “amazing” veggie burger and a list of 50-plus local craft beers, including a dozen on tap. As for Pizzeria SoNo, expect 15 hand-crafted thin-crust pizzas along the lines of caramelized fennel and onion with goat cheese, mascarpone, and roasted garlic.


“I don’t like spinach, and I’m glad I don’t, because if I liked it I’d eat it, and I just hate it.” –Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), American lawyer

Beer and Sandwiches: A Classic Combination

Craig Fass and Mandy Franklin, the folks who brought you Menagerie a few years back, plan to literally put two icons together at The Bad Apple (4300 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-360-8406), a gourmet burger joint in the old Feed the Beast space. “We have a blackened burger with Bitter End pale ale and a Roquefort blue cheese sauce,” says Fass. “And another with Honey Weiss–crusted ham on the burger. And a Belgian ale–braised pork shoulder with a rarebit sauce.” Beef comes from Pat LaFrieda, New York’s legendary butcher, and Fass says he’s going to try to keep the entire menu under $10 an item. The space will be outfitted with communal benches, a fireplace, a shuffleboard table, and an old-school pinball machine. Target opening: August 7th.  

Ten Reasons We’re Excited About SodaDog (171 Highway 212, Michigan City, Indiana; 219-872-7632), 64 Miles from Downtown Chicago

  1. It’s a hot dog drive-in located in a circa-1954 carhop space.
  2. The authentic franks and sausages include a true, all-beef, natural casing Chicago dog with “all the right toppings.”
  3. Other regional favorites include a Detroiter with Coney sauce.
  4. Actual carhops.
  5. Fresh-cut french fries.
  6. Soft-serve ice cream.
  7. Micro-crafted bottled sodas (and plans to make its own sodas next year).
  8. The whole operation is environmentally friendly (picnic tables of recycled plastic, oil for the generator, plans for a wind turbine and solar panels on the roof).
  9. It’s the brainchild of Chris Bardol, the zealot behind Stop 50 Wood Fired Pizzeria in nearby Michiana Shores.
  10. Anyone who utters a line like this—“If you got a double dog combo, like a double Detroiter, a half basket of fries, and a soda, that’s $9”—can’t be half bad.

Falafel Kings

Maher Chebaro (Souk) spent five years eating every falafel he could in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt, then set about perfecting his own. “I tried with fava beans, chickpeas, a combination,” says Chebaro, who, with Nemer Ziyad (Ziyad Brothers Importing), plans to open Falafill (3202 N. Broadway), an eco-friendly counter-service falafel spot. “Getting the ratio of the spices, herbs, and onions right—that’s what you play with.” In the end, Chebaro went with chickpeas and green onion for his falafel sandwich, which you can fill with virtually any topping you want at the tiny (13-seat) spot when it opens in early August. A 35-item salad bar includes tahini salad, tabouleh salad, Armenian-cut salad, and sauces from India to Israel to Morocco.

Things to Do

  1. Bring your kids to the Four Seasons (120 E. Delaware Pl.) on any Thursday night and drop them off with a free in-house babysitter while you eat dinner at Seasons. Lest you feel guilty about this arrangement, the kids get their own buffet, games, and movies. Call 312-649-2349 for reservations.
  2. Go to the bar at One Sixtyblue (1400 W. Randolph St.; 312-850-0303) on a Thursday night and try a Chicago-style wagyu beef hot dog and hand-cut fries (or sauerkraut balls) for $8.
  3. Celebrate Venetian Night at Farmerie 58 (58 E. Ontario St.; 312-440-1818) between July 24th and July 26th with a dinner that includes sushi, sesame tuna, and a seaweed salad for $19. What this has to do with Venetian night, we have no idea, but hey: good deal.

Dot Dot Dot . . .

Castel Gandolfo (800 N. Dearborn St.; 312-787-2211), a small brick-oven pizzeria named for the small town in central Italy that serves as the Pope’s summer residence, has opened in River North. . . . Here’s what’s happening in the old Power House space (201 N. Clinton St.). . . . Satko Ibrahimovic (Pizza Bubamara) plans to open Sprout (1417 W. Fullerton Ave.), an organic French-Italian restaurant, near DePaul next month. . . . Marché, Opera, Gioco, and Red Light are offering free ice cream to kids all summer, as long as you order an entrée of some sort.