A Different Shade of Sepia

Kendal Duque, named the best new chef of 2008 by Chicago magazine last May, announced he will leave his chef position at Sepia (123 N. Jefferson St.; 312-441-1920) at the end of March to pursue his own restaurant in Chicago. “It will probably be a small, casual place,” says Duque, a 36-year-old native of Ecuador. “l have a very, very good concept in mind and I’m being as tightlipped as I can for now. But I can say that I have a lot of energy—almost as never before.” While Duque plans his spot for later this year, Andrew Zimmerman, who did fine work at Del Toro and NoMI, will replace him in Sepia’s kitchen. “I didn’t want to find just anyone,” says Emmanuel Nony, Sepia’s owner. “Kendal set such high standards that I wanted to make sure we got someone who could maybe exceed expectations. Andrew is very, very talented.”

Please, Make It So

Grant Achatz’s casual message on Twitter that he was “looking for a space for a new concept . . . Lincoln Park and/or Bucktown areas,” it turns out, was anything but casual. “The reason Grant went Twitter on this was to see if any real-estate people would come to us,” says Nick Kokonas, his partner at Alinea (1723 N. Halsted St.; 312-867-0110). “This is unrelated to our next restaurant concept. It is just going to be a small ‘shop’ of sorts as a way of rewarding one of our key employees.” Huh? “I’m not going to say who the employee is,” Kokonas says. “Don’t mean to be secretive but nothing is signed yet. We’re working on five different things at any one time, and maybe one or two of the five will actually happen.” Foodies, resume furious tail-wagging.


“Did you try the saag aloo? It’s to die for and then be reincarnated and then die for again.” –Kevin Nealon (b. 1953), American comedian, on Showtime’s Weeds

The Trifecta

Jerry Kleiner (Marché, Red Light, Carnivale) claims he will open three restaurants in the next three months. Via Ventuno (2110 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-328-1198), his regional Italian redo of Room 21, is slated to unveil around St. Patrick’s Day, with Jim Kilberg as the chef. “Jerry has built a beautiful antipasto table,” says Kilberg (Gioco, Coco Pazzo Café). “And I’m going to plant a bunch of herbs around the patio in the summer.” Kleiner says the space has “an entirely different feel.” In April, his still-unnamed 135-seat Italian spot in Hinsdale will launch. “It’s in an old building from the 1880s and you’ll feel like you are going back in time,” Kleiner says. Chef: Nick Van Wassenhove (Extra Virgin, Blue Point). Then, in May, we can expect Kleiner’s clubby American spot in Old Town (1419 North Wells Street) with Daniel Kelly (D. Kelly, Tramonto’s Steak & Seafood) in the kitchen. “I’m pretty sure I will be doing my Maryland-style crab cake with rémoulade again and my chicken stuffed with lobster,” says Kelly. “But it’s a neighborhood restaurant. It’s not a steak house.”

Stars for Hire

Roland Liccioni, you may have heard, has landed at Miramar (301 Waukegan Rd., Highwood; 847-433-1078), Gabriel Viti’s North Shore bistro. It sounded like an odd fit at first, but then again: There aren’t exactly openings for chefs at four-star restaurants in Chicago right now, nor are wealthy investors looking to throw around their money—even at a guy as talented as Liccioni. Viti, Liccioni’s sous-chef at Carlos’ more than 20 years ago, is thrilled with his acquisition. “I’m blessed to have one of the best French chefs in Chicago,” he says. “Miramar has been going through a little bit of an image thing. Four hundred people would show up on weekends and it became a club. The goal for both of us is to make it a great bistro.” As for Liccioni, he plans to add his trademarks— pâté maison, duck consommé, artichauts terrine, “soufflé when the kitchen is ready”—and enjoy the commute. “This is pretty close to my house,” he says. “So that’s good.”


Cheap Things to Do

  1. Take your kid to Park Grill (11 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-521-7275) on Saturday or Sunday and the tyke (age ten and under) eats for 99¢ if you order your own entrée. This offer is good through the ice-skating season, so go soon before the rink gives way to the patio.
  2. Get a drink at the bar in Zocalo (358 W. Ontario St.; 312-302-9977) between 5 and 7 p.m. on a weeknight, and eat all the traditional taquizas (such as crispy duck carnitas and braised beef barbacoa) you want for $6.
  3. Celebrate Café Bernard’s 36th anniversary by dining there (2100 N. Halsted St.; 773-871-2100) on a Monday or Tuesday and getting 36 percent off your food bill.
  4. Starting on March 9th, take your bank card to Patty Burger (72 E. Adams St.; 312-987-0900) on any Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and get 50 percent off your bill (through April 13).

Dot Dot Dot . . .

Sunda (110 W. Illinois St.; 312-644-0500), the promising 200-seat Asian spot from Billy Dec and pals, opened quietly this week. . . . 90 Miles Cuban Café (3101 N. Clybourn Ave.; 773-248-2822) will open a second restaurant this spring, at 2540 West Armitage Avenue. “Same name and concept, but this one will have counter seating, table seating, and a patio,” says Alberto Gonzalez, the owner. . . . As reported here, Café Ibérico (737 N. LaSalle St.; 312-573-1510) has added Pintxos, a not-so-secret restaurant upstairs (312-664-4800). . . . Read about Los Angeles’s insanely popular viral restaurant , a “Twitter-fueled Korean taco truck.” . . . A Mano (335 N. Dearborn St.; 312-629-3500), the 150-seat spot under Bin 36, has reopened with its new friendlier Italian menu. . . . Attach whatever depressing cultural symbolism you choose to this video. Or just watch the guy’s chin in awe.