Brunch Is the New Black

We’ve come a long way since Jeff Ruby, Chicago magazine’s chief dining critic, described brunch this way in 2007: “Rising early on Sunday, packing into a crowded entryway, vestibule, or sidewalk, to wait for a table where an overextended server will bring me an omelet I could’ve made myself.” This summer has already seen the arrival of the aptly named Brunch (343 W. Erie St.; 312-265-1411), and June 28 saw the opening of Marmalade (1969 W. Montrose St.; 773-883-9000), a breakfast and lunch spot in Ravenswood. Gus Katsafaros, a partner, describes the food as “trendy American,” citing the Mayan Omeletta (chorizo, black beans, tomatoes, sour cream, Wisconsin sharp Cheddar, green and sweet onions, cilantro, garlic, salsa verde, sweet plantains) and Manny’s Diablo Omeletta (jerk shrimp, onions, cilantro, cream cheese, fresh avocado, mango chutney). On July 27, Alex Hernandez, formerly of Japonais, plans to open Waffles (1400 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-854-8572) in the South Loop. Waffles’ waffles will be both sweet—green tea, lemon-ginger Chantilly, pistachio, powdered sugar, candied violet—and savory—Wisconsin Cheddar, braised short rib, scallion. 2Sparrows (553 W. Diversey Pkwy.; 773-234-2320), from two Charlie Trotter’s alumni, is on deck for later this summer. While all these new spots may not be enough to win over brunch haters, at least the law of supply and demand dictates that brunches will probably be less crowded.



“Before good food goes to waste, one should overeat.” —Jamaican proverb


The Story of O

Husband-wife duo Erika Valencia and Javier Sánchez collaborated with another couple to open The Macaroon Cafe (2949 W. Belmont Ave.; 773-273-7180) about a month ago. “Everybody here knows how to bake,” Sánchez says, adding that one of his partners attended the French Pastry School and worked at Labriola. The tiny café has three tables and two pastry cases, stocking cookies, éclairs, and their most popular item thus far, raspberry-filled croissants. Promoting maximum confusion, the shop specializes in French macarons and coconut macaroons. Too bad there’s no way to compromise between the two words and spell the name of the place with one and a half o’s.


Close Cousins

Slotted into the new casino in Des Plaines is Hugo’s Frog Bar & Chop House (Rivers Casino, 3000 S. River Rd., Des Plaines; 847-768-5200), a branch of the Gibsons Restaurant Group. Unlike other Hugo’s restaurants in the chain, the Rivers Casino version, which opened Monday, isn’t as seafood-focused. “Hugo’s is generally about 50-50 with seafood and other items,” says Patrick Houlihan, the managing partner of the group. “[This one is] about 80-20 meat to other items.” But Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse in Rosemont is less than two miles away, so a slightly modified Hugo’s—still with crab cakes and frogs’ legs—was the solution. Interesting way to address something Starbucks never thought was a problem.



After logging time as a freelance writer and then working in restaurant kitchens, Jessica Volpe found her happy place making fresh pastas. Three years ago, she started selling her wares at farmers’ markets, and on July 8 she opened a storefront, Pasta Puttana (1407 W. Grand Ave.; 773-439-9623), owning to her passion with the name, which translates as “pasta whore.” Here’s Volpe on why she loves it:
“I love the physical nature of making it. It’s learning how to read the dough. I partially dry the dough sheets before cutting them. At this point, I know when it’s ready just by looking at it. I don’t even have to touch it. [I know] how to troubleshoot—if the end is drier than the middle, you can cover it with towels. You can flip it over so that the end will rehydrate. Making pasta is full of details like that. If you don’t watch, you will have an inferior product.” 


Five Questions for Matt Maroni

Maroni, known as a mover in the food-truck community, plans to expand his bricks-and-mortar trade with Morso (340 W. Armitage Ave.; no phone yet), set to open in mid-August.
Dish: Are you keeping your food truck, Gaztro-Wagon, open?
Matt Maroni: Absolutely.
D: The truck and the identically named Edgewater storefront?
MM: Absolutely. That’s not going anywhere.
D: Logistically, how are you going to handle it?
MM: I have a great staff. I’ll be out there [at Gaztro-Wagon] in the morning getting it rolling. [It’s] dinner, late-night, and brunch at the new spot, so I’ll get them rolling and then go over to Morso. We will do everything.
D: Is Morso or Gaztro-Wagon more important to your future?
MM: They are equally important. Gaztro-Wagon is my company. This new one is a partnership. It was an opportunity that was hard to pass up.
D: Anything else going on?
MM: I have a few more tricks up my sleeve. I will focus on Gaztro-Wagon. I see it as a great concept, and I see doing more storefronts. My shop in Edgewater competes with the truck in sales. We do as much at the store as we do off the truck every day.


On Twitter

  • Curtis Duffy has nothing but love for his old crew, after his announcement that he’s leaving Avenues.
  • Picturesque patio seating is king at Bice, and the halibut’s not too shabby, either.
  • Pollack’s take on the seared foie gras from Inovasi: rather busy.


Things to Do

1. Try your hand at urban foraging with our how-to guide, chock-full of food-finding tips from Dave Odd, a local rummager who supplies Blackbird, Lula Cafe, and Bonsoirée with his bounty.

2. Get your tickets for tomorrow’s Green City Market Chefs’ BBQ Benefit (North Clark Street and North Lincoln Avenue), arguably the summer’s most hotly anticipated culinary soiree. The feast runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m., and the $100 entry fee scores you grub from more than 100 of Chicago’s food stars (The Butcher & Larder, Smoque BBQ, and Frontera Grill are among the lineup) and unlimited drinks. Proceeds support the market’s educational programs and outreach.

3. If it’s a more low-key cookout you seek, check out what’s grilling at Markets (1113 W. Randolph St.; 312-929-4787) weekly Backyard BBQ, held Sundays from 1 to 7 p.m. For $27, you can fill your plate with unlimited pork shoulder, flank steak, chicken, salad, corn bread, and more, and freshen your palate with one draft brew in the West Looper’s outdoor beer garden.

4. Do Paris Club (59 W. Hubbard St.; 312-595-0800) on the cheap, thanks to the bistro’s half-price food specials. Every day from 4 to 5:30 p.m., scenesters can get their fill of budget-friendly small plates, such as lamb meatballs ($4) and French onion fondue ($3.50).  


Dot Dot Dot . . .

The Pizano’s empire expands next month with the addition of a takeout- and delivery-focused joint called Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta Express, at 800 North Dearborn Street. Delivery runs until 5 a.m. . . . Props are in order for the Longman & Eagle crew, as the gastropub was named one of America’s 100 best wine restaurants of 2011 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. . . . Counter-service Israeli restaurant Naf Naf Grill will unveil a second suburban location at 4430 Fox Valley Center Drive in Aurora next week. . . . Waterfront megarestaurant Quay officially opens Friday at 11 a.m., luring the nautical set with sandwiches and appetizers in its two bar areas and with meat and seafood in the 125-seat dining room. . . . You’ll be happy to learn that just a few days into their Thai menu, Grant Achatz and his Next crew are thinking ahead.