Sprouting from Elysian’s Fields
The gravitational pull from the mass of restaurants on Randolph Street has drawn in another upcoming project, this one from alumni of Ria and Balsan at the Elysian Hotel (now Waldorf Astoria Chicago). Embeya (564 W. Randolph St.; 312-612-5640), which means “little one” in Vietnamese, is christened with the family nickname of its chef, Thai Dang, the youngest of ten children. Dang, who worked with the chef Susur Lee in Washington, D.C., and Laurent Gras at L2O, met his Embeya partner, Attila Gyulai, when Gyulai hired him as the chef de cuisine at Ria. In contrast with the rarefied realm of L2O and Ria, Embeya, scheduled to open in mid-August, aims for a more casual atmosphere. Expect small plates (such as soft-shell crab with pomelo, lime, and toasted garlic) for $9 to $15 and large plates between $20 and $32. The progressive Asian 120-seater (which has an additional 42 seats in the bar and lounge and 50 on an outdoor patio) was designed by Karen Herold of 555 International (Girl & the Goat, GT Fish & Oyster), and will feature cocktails by another Elysian vet, Danielle Pizzutillo, who will create drinks with edible garnishes, as with a jackfruit roll-up paired with a jackfruit cocktail she made for a tasting. With its restaurant density increasing as it is, Randolph Street is getting to the point where the dry cleaners there have changed the term for “no starch” to “gluten-free.”
Antoine Cedicci, the owner of the Gold Coast white-tablecloth Italian Pane Caldo, plans to open a more-casual spot next week on, you guessed it, Randolph Street. Alimentari (621-23 W. Randolph St.; 312-382-8880), occupying the Blackbird-adjacent space that housed Meiji, will offer small plates, pastas, a few entrée-size courses, and Neapolitan pizzas from a wood-burning oven on a menu Cedicci describes as rustic Italian with Tuscan influences. Dishes will range between $7 and $20 and include items like eggplant mille-feuille with parmigiano, gnocchi alla romano with Bolognese sauce, and baked butternut squash with leeks and speck. And why locate the concept in that space? Alimentari, my dear Watson.
“Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore. It's too crowded.” —Yogi Berra (1925–), former Major League Baseball catcher, manager, and aphorist
Bull Is the New Black
To add to a zoo of black-animal restaurants previously noted in this space, a new tapas restaurant with 100 seats inside (and 24 out), Black Bull (1721 W. Division St.; 773-227-8600) opens Friday, under the corporate chef Bob Zrenner (the corporation includes Barn & Company, Hubbard Inn, and English) and the chef de cuisine Matt Wilde (formerly a sous chef at 312 Chicago). The restaurant is named after the toro de Osborne, a silhouetted bull originally advertising a sherry company but now an emblem of Spain. The tapas run $3 to $10 (except for a pata negra ham for $16), including these Zrenner-selected highlights:
• Mejillones en escabeche, $5, pickled mussels and garlic potato purée with paprika, vinegar, and Spanish olive oil
• Pimientos del piquillo rellenos de bacalao, $8, piquillo peppers stuffed with salt cod and served with tomato sauce
• Almejas en vino blanco y hierbas frescas, $7, clams in white wine with fresh herbs
• Boquerones en vinagre, $6, white anchovies in vinegar
• Flamenquines de cerdo, $9, marinated pork loin stuffed with Manchego cheese and Serrano ham, breaded and deep-fried
“We wanted an unassuming storefront [for a] gathering with good friends to share the victories and defeats of your day and plan the next,” Zrenner says. We’ll stop by with our appointment book.
With a Bullet
Typograhically, we at Dish have to track ampersands versus pluses versus ‘n’ (with or without apostrophes), resolve numbers in restaurant names, and inform owners that we capitalize proper names. But a new wrinkle comes with the bullet in the name of the food-delivery service Hue•Gah. Styled to look like a dictionary entry, Hue•Gah refers to the Danish word hygge, meaning a sense of contentment, coziness, or togetherness. The owners, Paul Hitalenko and Dirk Bowles, work out of Kitchen Chicago, where Hitalenko prepares and vacuum-seals meals such as mushroom pastitsio with béchamel or huitlacoche and nopales (cactus) wrapped in a blue corn crêpe with mole. “I do what I’m told, and [Hitalenko] makes magic,” Bowles says. Then Bowles in his Prius or Hitalenko on his scooter delivers the meals on Wednesdays and Sundays. Customers put the sealed bag in a pot of boiling water for 15 minutes, and then cut it open and eat. That bullet was easy enough to resolve here, but we’re holding our breath for when someone decides to open a vegetarian restaurant called ^^^, to be pronounced “carrots.”
The food at Navy Pier has generally lived up to the reputation of the mess hall on a ship. But Manolis Alpogianis, whose family owns Kappy’s in Morton Grove, Palace Grill in the West Loop, and the five city outposts of America’s Dog, aims to reroute the Pier’s culinary course. When given the opportunity to run a pop-up restaurant for five months, he tapped the city’s gastronomic talent. “If you are going to do this, you need food reflective of Chicago,” he says. “We have to really put our foot on the pedal of the culinary world.” The result, City Porch (800 E. Grand Ave.; 312-595-5560), a full-service restaurant (at least through October), will offer a rotating menu from local chefs alongside an unchanging menu of items such as seared halibut with goat cheese, watermelon, bacon, and shallots. Heather Terhune (Sable Kitchen & Bar) inaugurates the rotating menu June 13, followed by Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia) July 1 and Jimmy Bannos (Heaven on Seven) August 1. Hopefully the good-food bearing can influence the rest of the Pier.
New Review: Tavernita
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. Tavernita’s listing is new to the June issue, on newsstands now.
Tavernita (151 W. Erie St.; 312-274-1111). Spanish.
$$ ($30–$39 per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)
Is this restaurant the most fun in Chicago? Ryan Poli’s flavor-packed small plates, the ever-flowing kegged cocktails by the legendary Tippling Bros. at three different bars, and a gorgeous, tipsy crowd crammed into a sharp gold-toned space with an ebullient staff make it a pretty good bet right now. The Spain-loving menu is full of showstoppers, including Faroe Island salmon crudo, blistered pimientos de padrón with sherry vinegar and Maldon salt, and housemade pappardelle with mushroom ragoût and Manchego. Desserts are a slight letdown, but, as the crowds in attendance long after midnight attest, who cares?
For the dishes we liked best, click here.
· Basil- and cheese-wise, more would be more at Pizzeria da Nella Cucina Napoletana.
· Rhapsody preps for a major face-lift.
· Following a visit to Flour + Wine, Pollack boldly claims there’s no such thing as too much cheese.
· Stout Barrel House & Galley gives bar-food fans a reason to raise a glass.
Follow Pollack on Twitter.
· G.E.B. (841 W. Randolph St.; 312-888-2258), the new Graham Elliot joint that’s focused on fundamental techniques and dishes with no more than three ingredients, has become the newest arrival on the booming West Loop scene.
· Bleeding Heart Bakery’s (1351 W. Belmont Ave.; 773-327-6934) new Lake View pastry shop is up and rocking.
· Fatty’s Burgers & More (2665 N. Clark St.; 773-248-3288), a San Antonio–based spot, has descended on Lincoln Park, bringing with it The Lineman, a one-pound cheeseburger.
· Pei Wei Asian Market (227 E. Ontario St.; 312-660-3100), a Pei Wei spinoff dishing up lower price points (such as $1.95 to $4.95 for tapas-style portions of lettuce wraps, lemongrass chicken noodle salad, and sweet potato fries) and speedier service, has opened its doors in Streeterville.
· Beyond Borders, a farm-to-food-truck concept from the City Farms Market & Grill team, hits the streets today with items such as a meatball sandwich with 21-day dry-aged beef and a spinach salad with blue cheese, walnuts, and dried cherries.
· Stout Barrel House & Galley (642 N. Clark St.; 312-475-1390), a gastropub with American comfort food from Chris Curren (Blue 13), opens tomorrow.
· Drumbar (201 E. Delaware Pl.; 312-943-5000), a speakeasy-inspired lounge and bar on the 18th floor of the Raffaello Hotel, cracks open its first bottle of Kentucky bourbon Friday.
Things to Do
1. Greet grilling season at Better Homes and Gardens Magazine’s and Weber’s Chill and Grill Festival on Saturday (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and Sunday (noon to 5 p.m.) in Waveland Park (3600 North Recreation Drive). Local restaurants such as Chicago Cut Steakhouse and Mindy’s Hot Chocolate are selling samples, and chefs such as Susan Goss (West Town Tavern) and Charlie McKenna (Lillie’s Q) are leading hands-on grilling seminars.
2. Fuel your workday at the nutrition-minded Freshii, which celebrates four years in Chicago with a bevy of specials from June 11 to 15. Available at all six city locations, the deals include buy-one-get-one breakfast options (such as a spinach and goat cheese wrap or a low-fat yogurt parfait) before 11 a.m. and fro-yo after 2 p.m., as well as $5 daily lunch specials.
3. Spruce up your nails while getting your wine on at Primp & Pour, a stylish soiree for the launch of Santa Margherita Sparkling Rosé held at Beauty Bar (1444 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-226-8828) every Thursday in June from 5 to 8 p.m. A mani and a bottle of nail polish in a wine-themed shade come free with a glass of bubbly or wine ($10).
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Sarah Levy confirms she will relocate Sarah’s Pastries & Candies from its current Oak Street location to a larger space—at 1165 North State Street—in August. . . . Hash House A Go Go, the crazy-popular San Diego spot known for serving colossal portions, will open at 1212 North State Parkway (in the former Paradise Cantina space) this fall. . . . Cru Café & Wine Bar has reopened in its former Gold Coast home with a more upscale approach than in its last go-round, featuring dishes from Richard Roettgen (Alinea, Girl & the Goat). Feast, the interim occupant also owned by Cru’s proprietress, Debbie Sharpe, remains open in Bucktown. . . . Park Grill has appointed the Chicago native Michael Wallach (Carlucci, McCormick & Schmick’s) as executive chef. . . . Felony Franks, the hot dog stand that employed ex-convicts, has closed. . . . The new spring cocktails at NoMI Kitchen are the product of a partnership with the same New York–based group that dreamed up the Violet Hour drink menu. . . . According to Time Out Chicago, Premise has added lower-priced items on a “neighborhood” menu.