Bottle Rocket

Not so long ago, Chicago foodies briefly went bonkers for Leo’s Coney Island, a casual Michigan-based hot dog chain that opened a Chicago location at Southport and Cornelia. That craze died down quickly, and so did Leo’s. Now the owners of Dunlay’s (both on Clark and on the Square), D.O.C. Wine Bar, The Smoke Daddy, and Frasca are gutting the space, and adding a bar, woodwork, and street-front windows to create Crosby’s Kitchen (3455 N. Southport Ave.; no phone yet), which they aim to open mid-June. “It’s an American restaurant. Everything made from scratch,” says Doug Dunlay, a partner. Rotisserie meats (primarily chicken), entrée salads and sandwiches, and prime rib on the weekends typify the menu, and catering to the two-working-parent families in the neighborhood, the owners are planning to have a to-go business that will sell whole chickens, wild-mushroom meat loaf, and the like. Desserts will include hits from the group’s other restaurants, such as the iron skillet cookie and Key lime pie from Dunlay’s. The current chef at Frasca, Andrew Easterday, will move a few blocks east to run the kitchen. Leo’s left some branded bottled salad dressings in the outdoor display cases—maybe Dunlay will be lucky and find that they left some lightning in a bottle, too.


Another Rockit

Cubs fans really like burgers. According to the press release describing the upcoming transformation of Wrigleyville’s Rockit Bar & Grill into Rockit Burger Bar (3700 N. Clark St.; 773-645-4400), 90 percent of Rockit’s game-day food orders were burgers. “Burgers have always been a huge component of River North Rockit, too” says Amanda Downing, the chef of both Rockits. So it’s an easy transition to make the burgers central to the concept. “It’s what the public is demanding,” she says. A few burgers on the menu:

• Calabrese Burger: Black Angus patty, Calabrese salami, shaved Asiago, and housemade Kalamata olive aïoli
• Bourbon BBQ Burger: Black Angus patty, Roquefort buttermilk blue, grilled red onions, housemade bourbon barbecue sauce, and bacon aïoli
• Jive Turkey Burger: turkey patty, turkey chili, pepper Jack cheese, and jalapeño aïoli
• The Rockit Burger: Kobe beef, melted Brie, fried shallots, and Medjool date aïoli on a red onion brioche (currently on the menu at both Rockits)

Rockit Burger Bar launches April 5 for the Cubs’ home opener, hopefully giving fans something positive to focus on before the despondency kicks in again.


Six Questions for Rodelio Aglibot

Aglibot, known to Chicagoans as the original chef at Sunda, is the culinary director of the upcoming restaurant and bar Argent (Dana Hotel and Spa, 660 N. State St.; 312-202-6050), scheduled to replace Aja in early May.

Dish: Does your title at Argent mean that you’re consulting, as you were at Sunda?
Rodelio Aglibot: Consultant chef is a term relationship. Typically three, four, five months that you focus on the menu direction that the client asks for. In this case, I will be attached to the promotion of the restaurant, complete menu development, and potentially, I’ll have input on the staffing.

D: Who else is involved in the kitchen?
RA: Toni Motamen. He is the chef/owner of Raw Bar in Wrigleyville. He will be actually overseeing the day-to-day operations.

D: We’ve heard that Argent takes inspiration from Chicago history. What does that mean?
RA: We want to inspire, through Chicago, through the architectural elements during the late 1800s. That being said, I as a culinary person, I am going to research dishes that were eaten [in the United States] during the 1850s and the early 1900s. So it’s not specific to any year or city. It’s really specific to the eating habits of the country.

D: And even later, right? We see the preview menu includes a section named for shit on a shingle, which we know as a World War II–era term.
RA: A lot of things were eaten on toasts and with toasts between 1850 and the early 1900s, and so that’s where that section was inspired by. That’s where SOS kind of evolved from.

D: Will the Argent menu change frequently, like the historically inspired menus at Next?
RA: It will change seasonally. Not even close to being what Next is at all. Also based on what dishes sell. We want to give people what they are looking for and what they want. I don’t want it to be a gastropub menu. I’m not reinventing the wheel.

D: Are you based in Chicago now?
RA: I’m living in Chicago. I have fallen in love with the people here and the city. I will be here indefinitely. The chef camaraderie in this city reminds me of what was happening in the early ’90s in San Francisco. It’s a beautiful thing happening here. [We assume Aglibot is referring to the 1990s, not the 1890s. —Eds.]



After a nearly three-year hiatus, Caffè Italia (2625 N. Harlem Ave.; 773-889-0455) reopened in January, in its original Montclare location. Angelo Lollino, who owns the restaurant with his father, Giuseppe, says a major fire sparked the second incarnation—when the building burned down in 2009, they rebuilt for the return of the restaurant. “My dad is 78, but he didn’t want to retire,” Lollino says. The more-modern renovation seats 62, with a patio and an open kitchen serving wood-fired pizzas, seafood (including baby octopus sliders), homemade gelato, and the espresso they roast in a facility out back, which customers can tour after dinner if they like. We hope the Lollinos kept their balsamic vinegar—it should be delicious by now.



“The gentle art of gastronomy is a friendly one. It hurdles the language barrier, makes friends among civilized people, and warms the heart.” —Samuel Chamberlain (1829–1908), American soldier, painter, and author


Updated Reviews: L2O and Le Bouchon

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. L2O’s rating had been pending because of its recent chef change; Le Bouchon maintained its one-and-a-half-star rating. Both listings appear in the April issue, on newsstands tomorrow.

L2O (Belden-Stratford, 2300 N. Lincoln Park West; 773-868-0002). Contemporary seafood.
$$$$ ($50-plus a person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)

Matthew Kirkley, L2O’s new executive chef and a master of food as art, works small—or, as Wonderland’s Alice might have remarked, in miniature and miniaturer. His inspired juxtapositions include teensy but expressive cubes of scallop and gelled sherry vinegar with foie gras; lubina mousse gift-wrapped in an adorable polka-dot dumpling; and dramatic lacquered lobster with Ruby Red grapefruit sections and black trumpet mushrooms. It’s all admirable, gorgeous, and delicious—if a bit fussy. Staffers struck us recently as overpresent and overscripted, except for the bread server, of whose visits and wee rosemary croissants we never tired. Serious wine program. Prix fixe menus from $115 to $188.

For the dishes we liked best, click here.

Le Bouchon (1958 N. Damen Ave.; 773-862-6600). French.
  ½ (good to very good)
$$ ($30–$39 a person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)

Veteran Bucktown charmer never strays from its nimbly executed Gallic repertoire. Count on classics like a robust cheese-blanketed onion soup, splendid mussels marinières, and a Lyonnaise salad tweaked with lardons and a perfectly poached egg. Garlic-and-thyme-scented roast chicken, a bountiful bouillabaisse, and steak paired with irresistible frites make for a great second act. Finish with a trio of delectable profiteroles. Cozy quarters and congenial staff add extra appeal. So does Tuesday’s $27.50 three-course prix fixe dinner.

For the dishes we liked best, click here.



You know something has really hit trend status when people start following it because it’s a trend. “My inspiration for the grilled-cheese-centric menu was from a place in Chicago I visited. Right after that, I read an article in Time that said grilled cheese was part of our culture and has really become a trend,” says Mike Delgado, the big cheese at The Big Cheese (4229 N. Lincoln Ave.; no phone yet), a 25-seat spot scheduled to open in late April at the former site of Delhi 6 and a short-lived sushi joint. The restaurant will have full service for weekend breakfast and counter service at other times, Delgado says, and a menu of six to eight grilled cheese sandwiches, as well as curly fries, pickles, fruit, and other sides. The next phase in the life of a trend is either supersaturation or backlash—we can never remember which.


On Twitter

Follow Pollack on Twitter.


Things to Do

1. Raise a glass to boozy collaborations, particularly the one between Lucas Bols and Stillwater Artisanal Ales, forged so customers can go Dutch and order a Kopstootje. In the Netherlands, a Kopstootje (which means “little head butt”) consists of a beer and a shot of genever, and you can order one for $8 at Three Aces (1321 W. Taylor St.; 312-243-1577) from 5 to 7 p.m. tonight, then at Bangers & Lace (1670 W. Division St.; 773-252-6499) from 9 to 11. Confused? It should all come clear after a few beers, shots, and head butts.

2. Keep the drinks flowing and learn to craft three classic cocktails à la Mad Men at Don Draper’s Triumvirate, a class offered by Femme du Coupe. For $40, students will be given all the materials and instruction necessary to shake and stir Manhattans, whiskey sours, and Vesper martinis. The event runs from 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow at Fleur de Lis Florist (715 N. Franklin St.; 312-943-4444), and tickets can be purchased here.

3. Put some food in your stomach to soak up those drinks by ordering the three-course prix fixes during Chicago Chef Week (March 18 to 23); lunches run $22 and dinners $39 at most spots. Our picks: David Burke’s Primehouse (The James, 616 N. Rush St.; 312-660-6000), which will serve up a six-ounce bone-in filet (the eight-ouncer normally goes for $41 alone) with truffle-infused whipped potatoes for dinner; Elate (Hotel Felix, 111 W. Huron St.; 312-202-9900), where we’re eyeing the confit pork bánh mì for lunch; and Vie (4471 Lawn Ave., Western Springs; 708-246-2082), which has our stomachs growling at the thought of Seedling Fruit Farm dried pear and brown butter clafoutis with sage cream and cinnamon wafers.

4. Read Jeff Ruby’s last respects—and disrespects—to the legendary Charlie Trotter.


Now Open


Dot Dot Dot . . .

After just six weeks in the kitchen, Frank Mnuk has left Bistro Voltaire. No word yet on his successor. . . . Lettuce wish a happy birthday to the ever-industrious Rich Melman. . . . Ramova Grill, one of Chicago’s best breakfast picks, will ladle its last bowl of chili on April 14. . . . Team Dish offers condolences to the family and friends of Michael Altenberg, the executive chef and owner of Bistro Campagne, who passed away last week. Eater provided information on Altenberg’s upcoming memorial service. . . . In an old post office building in Norwood Park, Emmit’s owners Kevin Doherty and Ron Halverson plan to open Iron Horse Ale House this fall, serving house-smoked meats, wood-fired pizzas, craft beer, and whiskeys. . . . In Fine Spirits will close Sunday and reemerge next month as Premise, with new menus crafted by the former Graham Elliot chef Brian Runge.