Like Hopleaf, But With More Wine

After a long negotiation, Michael Roper of Hopleaf (5148 N. Clark St.; 773-334-9851) has purchased the La Donna (5146 N. Clark St.; 773-561-9400) property next door to his Andersonville beer haven, which he will turn into a charcuterie/wine-oriented spot with a wood-burning grill. “It’s going to be more straightforward grilled fish and meat and house-made charcuterie,” says Roper, who plans to gut the space and reopen it by early winter. “We’re going to have fun with things that we can’t do at Hopleaf because it doesn’t fit our concept and our kitchen is very small there. Ben Sheagren will be executive chef over both kitchens, and the new kitchen will be a much bigger playground for him.” As if the news could not get better, the larger kitchen will enable Hopleaf to open for lunch. Meanwhile, La Donna’s last night is July 15th; Tony and Antonella Barbanente, its owners, plan to open Deseo, a “creative” Mexican cantina with a margarita bar at 6340 North Clark Street in September.


“My boyfriend and I live together, which means we don’t have sex—ever. Now that the milk is free, we’ve both become lactose intolerant.” –Margaret Cho (b. 1968), American comedian

Staking Another Claim

The folks behind The Claim Company, a beloved American spot from the eighties and nineties, have signed a lease on the 225-seat former Palm space in Northbrook Court (2171 Northbrook Court, Northbrook; 847-291-9111) and plan to bring back The Claim Company in mid-September. Michael Holleb, a partner, says they hope to recapture the glory of the old CC in Northbrook Court. “It had a desert scene and neon,” says Holleb. “And a rail car. People didn’t like sitting in it because it was claustrophobic, but it’s what people remember. We’re trying to bring in some of those aspects but that was a very unique space.” Foodwise, it’ll be similar to what you remember, including the Motherlode, a legendary charbroiled burger, and a 70-item salad bar larger than the original.

Breakfast Before Bed

Orange, the offbeat breakfast spot with locations in Lake View and Roscoe Village, will unveil its next outpost in mid-July in an old printing shop at 730 West Grand Avenue (next to the Funky Buddha Lounge). “Everything will be exactly the same as at the other Oranges,” says Darryl, a manager. “But sizewise, it’s going to be the largest. A double-decker with a patio. And we may also do a late-night brunch. If the community wants a place after the bars close, we will be there for them.”

Playing Chicken . . . Again

Some of you may remember R.D. Clucker’s, which operated at 2350 North Clark Street from 1985 to 1992. Deb Merdinger, the owner, has been back since November 2008 with the Clucker’s Charcoal Chicken (760 Sheridan Rd., Highwood; 847-432-2582). “We’ve got 80 percent of the original recipes ,” says Merdinger. “This Clucker’s has free-range, hormone-free organic chickens, marinated in fruit juice for three hours and cooked on a hardwood rotisserie. We had our original chef teach our new cooks how to duplicate the menu.” All the old favorites are back, such as the Cajun crispy sandwich and chicken beignets with rémoulade sauce. Why now, all these years later? Seems people had been stopping Merdinger for years, asking if she was “the Clucker’s person.” “With that kind of brand recognition 24 years later,” she says, “there must be something to this.”

Is That All?

35th Street Cafe (1735 W. 35th St.; 773-523-3500), a newish 35-seat BYO coffee house in McKinley Park, may have the most all-over-the-place menu in Chicago. “We do American with Italian influences, Mexican influences, Greek,” says Erika Gutierrez, a partner. “Paninis, burgers, pancakes, enchiladas, teriyaki chicken, chicken marsala, homemade cheesecake, stuffed French toast. Everything is made fresh here and nothing goes over $10.” Who does all this? Enrique Gutierrez (a veteran of P.F. Chang’s and The Cheesecake Factory), her husband and chef. “On Friday we have catfish with a pecan crust and chicken Alfredo on angel hair pasta,” says Erika Gutierrez. Yep, that about covers it.

Cheap Things to Do

  1. Clam up at Fulton’s on the River (315 N. La Salle St.; 312-822-0100), which on July 7th hosts an all-you-can-eat clambake for $22 (includes two Hoegaarden beers) on its riverside veranda.
  2. Mark July 13th on your calendar. That’s when N9ne Steakhouse (440 W. Randolph St.; 312-575-9900) begins offering a different beverage every day for 99 cents.
  3. Get a three-course meal for $20 at the Wildfire in Lincolnshire (235 Parkway Dr.; 847-279-7900) any time between July 6th and July 12th.
  4. Go to Koi (624 Davis St., Evanston; 847-866-6969) or Chen’s (3506 N. Clark St.; 773-549-9100) tonight (July 1st), when all kinds of entrées and signature martinis are half-price to celebrate “Half-Year Day.” (Half-Year Day? Well played, Koi and Chen’s.)

Dot Dot Dot . . .

Mercat a la Planxa (Blackstone Hotel, 638 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-765-0524) has closed until July 13th for repairs to its slippery floor, which will be replaced with Spanish tiles. . . . Istanbul Restaurant (3613 N. Broadway; 773-525-0500), an 85-seat Turkish BYO from Yasar Demir (A La Turka, Café Demir, Cousins), opened last week. “I make all my own stuff,” Demir says. “Homemade bread. Turkish doner, Turkish pizza, baklava.” . . . Happy 35th anniversary to Lawry’s the Prime Rib, which celebrates throughout July with a three-course, $35 prix fixe meal deal. . . . In case you missed this recent New York Times story about the rise of Chicago microbreweries, here it is. . . . Lush Wine and Spirits (1257 S. Halsted St.; 312-738-1900) has opened a patio. . . . Taxim (1558 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-252-1558) has also begun seating people outside, and has added an house-made yogurt café. . . . Pannenkoeken Cafe (4757 N. Western Ave.; 773-769-8800), a Dutch pancake place that opened in Lincoln Square in 2007, plans to launch a larger outpost with a garden patio in Wicker Park (at North Avenue and Oakley Street) in early August. . . . Enjoy your Fourth of July. We will be back on July 15th with a whole slew of news.