Park and Re-Creation
Although Jason Chan left Urban Union, the Taylor Street restaurant he opened with Michael Shrader, almost three months ago, news only filtered out in late June. On the other hand, when B. K. Park left his position as the chef at Arami, the news broke the next day—within a week of Chan’s news. “I left April 19, and I started talking to B.K. probably two weeks after he left Arami,” Chan says. “We decided to do something together.” That something turns out to be a 100-seat sushi and Japanese seafood restaurant with a raw bar and a kitchen. “I want to do more seafood,” Park says. “King crab, lobster, all varieties of seafood.” They haven’t yet signed the lease for their likely space, and another restaurant is still operating there, so they won’t yet allow publication of the address—but it’s not in the West Loop, as has previously been reported. The name needs legal vetting before it can be revealed. Chan pegs the opening date loosely (and, we presume, prudently) between October and December. One thing we can say for sure: Park’s many fans from his Arami days are celebrating.
On the Other Hand Roll
“It was a little hiccup. It made us far stronger,” says Ty Fujimura, the owner of Arami (1829 W. Chicago Ave., 312-243-1535), where B. K. Park was formerly a partner. Arami closed for about two weeks after Park’s departure, during which Fujimura and his brother, Troy, retooled the menu, adding two robata grill stations preparing pork jowl, quail, maitake mushrooms, and botan ebi (sweet shrimp), among other things. The new menu will also put tsukemono (Japanese pickles), previously available but not prominent, in the foreground. “We lost five items, but we gained about 15,” Fujimura says. The brothers’ other project, the Streeterville rolled-to-order-sushi takeout concept Arami Go!, is still on track for late August. Arami reopened July 10, having metaphorically drunk a glass of water from the far side while holding its ears.
“To barbecue is a way of life rather than a desirable method of cooking.” —Sir Clement Raphael Freud (1924–2009), English broadcaster, writer, politician, and chef
Updated Review: Vie
New restaurant reviews, updated to reflect critics’ recent visits, appear each month in Chicago magazine, in Dine, as well as on our website. Listed restaurants are rated from one to four stars, where one is good, two is very good, three is excellent, and four is superlative. Vie maintained its three-and-a-half-star rating in its new review in the August issue, on newsstands now.
Vie (4471 Lawn Ave., Western Springs, 708-246-2082). Contemporary American.
½ (excellent to superlative)
$$$$ ($50-plus per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)
Just like the pickled vegetables and intensely flavored jams that characterize his menu, Paul Virant’s cooking gets better with age, as does that of Nathan Sears, his chef de cuisine. Virant and Sears have done the impossible in this sleepy suburb, elevating the farmhouse spirit of a Cracker Barrel into a stunning fine-dining destination with great wines and impeccable service. These days the menu is more daring than ever: Think dinosaur-size Scotch eggs wrapped with chicken sausage, scallops served with pork-braised ramps, and salmon set in a mortadella and green garlic ragoût with olives and local pecans. All in all, it’s a showcase for the best of what the Midwestern table has to offer.
For the dishes we liked best, click here.
Lack o’ the Irish
The two-years-vacant space that formerly housed Old Town Brasserie finally has a new tenant: The Skeff (1209 N. Wells St., 312-854-2970), an Irish restaurant and pub from Bob Ellis (a 15-year industry veteran), Terry Geoghegan (Galway Arms), and Martin Lynch (Irish Times in Brookfield). Named after what the locals call the Skeffington Hotel in Galway, Ireland, which is Geoghegan and Lynch’s hometown, The Skeff will serve gastropub food targeted to the Old Town neighborhood, where the owners see an unfilled niche as Cabrini Green is redeveloped. “Better than bar food,” Geoghegan says. “I would say we will top out at $18 or $19 for entrées, except for a high-end steak or a special.” A quick Google search does reveal another Irish pub just up the street, but considering the density of them in Chicago, only one nearby counts as a gaping void.
We Think This Cupcake Thing Might Catch On
Speaking of numerous, a food truck called Chicago Cupcake quietly hit the cupcake-loving streets at the end of June. Brendan Bolger, a former real-estate developer, launched an online delivery business out of Kitchen Chicago about a year ago. He hopes to move production soon to 2409 North Western Avenue and someday to open a storefront selling other sweets as well. For now, Bolger plans to hawk his red velvet, bananas Foster, and other cupcakes in truckloads of 240 or so, ramping up toward a full load of 500. The number of cupcake options out there seems only to increase. Guess that’s because old cupcakes never die—they just get iced.
He Said It
“We had a hard time in that building. It never felt right. We’re doing great as a company, but we have not found the right circumstances in Chicago. We’re not giving up on Chicago.” —Jerry Katzoff, the managing partner of Il Mulino, which closed its Gold Coast location this week. Eater speculates that the upscale Chinese glitz magnet Mr. Chow will take over the space.
The owners of Cortland’s Garage, Standard Bar & Grill, and The Stretch plan to open Flagship (1622 W. Belmont Ave., no phone yet) in the late summer or early fall in the former Bungalow space. Jim August, the chef for all four spots, told us a few of the items he’s planning for Flagship:
• Lamb ribs with an Asian spice rub and a sesame pomegranate glaze, served with sweet potato fries
• Fritters. “Like a pakora [Indian fritter], but it will be a fritter so people will understand what it is,” August says.
• Peppercorn-encrusted hanger steak with brandy cream sauce with cremini and oyster mushrooms and bleu cheese
• Club sandwich with gribenes (chicken-skin cracklings)
• Chicken wings with several sauces, including Jameson-chipotle barbecue sauce, Thai green chili, and Buffalo sauce made with honey as well as butter. “The Buffalo sauce has great heat and depth and viscosity,” August says.
• “Magic Mushroom Burger,” topped with forest mushrooms in a veal stock reduction with cream
Ignore the dissonance from a fourth business named Flagship. After all, even though it’s all on one level, the building isn’t a bungalow, either.
· The identity of the chef at Madison Street Kitchen emerges.
· Pollack digs the risotto at G.E.B.
· Dessert at Eggy’s is an ice-creamy miracle.
· Pollack dishes details about the permanent replacement for the long-term pop-up PT at the Talbott.
Things to Do
1. Start the party early at Summer Brew (parking lot at the 4500 block of North Lincoln Avenue), the kickoff for the fledgling Square Roots Festival. Taking place tomorrow from 6:30 to 10 p.m., the beer bonanza will feature 15 local brews not available at the rest of the folk music and craft beer festival, such as Three Floyds’ Al-Dabeyoun and Vander Mill’s Ginger Peach Cider, as well as grub from The Grafton and Fountainhead. The admission fee ($20 in advance, $25 at the event) helps fund the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce’s free events and buys a souvenir glass and the first nine-ounce pour.
2. Think and drink pink at the Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation’s third annual Summer Soiree, July 25 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Roka Akor (456 N. Clark St., 312-477-7652). The entire $75 entrance fee ($80 at the door) benefits the foundation and buys a bottomless glass of the evening’s signature cocktail, the Pink Ribbon (Grey Goose, Bacardi cherry Cognac, agave nectar, lemon juice, strawberries, and a Prosecco float), along with beer, wine, and well drinks, plus Roka Akor hors d’oeuvres such as wagyu beef dumplings.
3. Get your overheated self to Allium (Four Seasons Hotel, 120 E. Delaware Pl., 312-649-2349), where sweltering temperatures work to your benefit via the Summertime Scorcher special. Now through Labor Day, on any day that the forecast calls for temps in the 90s, Allium offers half off all draft beers (regularly $6 to $7) and select cocktails, such as the gin- and ginger beer–laced Basil Smash (regularly $14). Keep an eye on @AlliumChicago on Twitter for #SummertimeScorcher announcements.
· The Savoy (1408 N. Milwaukee Ave., no phone yet), a raw bar, seafood, and absinthe restaurant, makes its debut on Monday.
· Hash House A Go Go (1212 N. State Pkwy., 312-202-0994), a San Diego–based breakfast, lunch, and dinner chain known for its colossal portions, opens July 24.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
In closing news, Cary Taylor pulled the plug on The Southern Mac & Cheese Store (but the food truck rolls on); the North Shore Italian-French restaurant Gabriel’s will shutter on Saturday; and Ciao Napoli Pizzeria served its final wood-fired pie last weekend. In response to rumors that Telegraph will take over the former Ciao Napoli space, Telegraph partner Tom MacDonald tells Dish via text message, “I’ve looked at that space and am interested in it but no deal has been done—nothing has been signed. Definitely would not be a Telegraph expansion but rather, if I get the space, it would be a completely separate concept.” . . . After a public spat between its partners, West Town's Bleeding Heart Bakery & Café will close for a week beginning Sunday night and reopen on July 28 as West Town Bakery & Diner, which will no longer be affiliated with the Bleeding Heart brand. Changes will include tweaked menus and a 3 Star Certified Green Restaurant designation. . . . The Beverly neighborhood’s beloved Italian spot Franconello’s—which closed last year due to a fire—secured permits to start remodeling, and owners plan to reopen in the fall.