From BB’s to Brigitte Bardot

The owners of BB’s (22 E. Hubbard St.), a pub that lasted less than two years, are in the process of reconcepting their River North space into Madame Tartine, a 1960s-style French brasserie. “French food is too serious in Chicago,” says Donnie Kruse, a partner. “We are going to have a lot of fun. Hubbard Street will become the Côte d’Azur.” Kruse describes the décor as “feminine and realistic European,” and the food from chef Jon Foster (Savarin, Le Passage) as “approachable, honest, hearty French food.” (Think escargots, steak tartare, and plenty of rosé.) ETA: late June, says Kruse. “We’re just waiting for our trunks to get here from the south of France.” So: Who is Madame Tartine? “I don’t know,” Kruse retorted. “Who’s Mr. Beef?”

He Said It

Mexique has a little history. Go back to 1863 when the French invaded Mexico: They brought their own chefs. When the French supplies ran out, they started utilizing Mexican ingredients. That is how they came to do a lot of French food with Mexican influence. . . . I don’t have regular enchiladas, margaritas, guacamole. OK, guacamole will show up as avocado pastry cream in my desserts. . . . I have three sopes: one filled with escargots and chimichurri butter; one, fried plantains with mole xico; one right now with shrimp provençale in avocado mousse.” –Carlos Gaytan, chef/owner of Mexique (1529 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-850-0288), a promising new 80-seat Mexican spot with a French influence


“They claim red meat is bad for you. But I never saw a sick-looking tiger.” –Chi Chi Rodriguez (b. 1935), Puerto Rican golfer

Burger Verdict

Pollack rushed down to Epic Burger (517 S. State St.; 312-913-1373), the new spot we wrote about last week. Loved the hand-cut, skin-on fries, and the smoothie was so thickly smoothied that you had to pinch your cheeks in to suck it up the skinny straw. That leaves the burger: She got a thin, almost sprawling patty on a toasted egg bun with grilled onion, tomato, pickle, curly lettuce, and horseradish havarti. It was a messy affair: Juicy meat left the bun gushy, cheese got strung out onto the plate, and the burger kept sliding off. There was so much going on inside that bun that most of the beefy flavor disappeared into the fray. Verdict: No better and no worse than any other diner-style griddled burger.

5 Questions for Dudley Nieto

Nieto, who has hopped from kitchen to kitchen for years, swears that Eivissa (1531 N. Wells St.; 312-929-2951), his 175-seat tapas/pintxos spot opening this summer in Old Town, is built to last. (Note: Pintxos are open-faced bite-size sandwiches, the Basque version of bruschetta.)

D: How did this come about?
DN: Joseph Alcantar [a partner] got this idea for a Spanish restaurant and he knew I wanted to pursue that. I’ve been to Spain four or five times in the last year and a half to make sure the dishes are the way I remember. My father was a Spaniard, and I grew up there.

D: How will Eivissa be different from other Spanish restaurants?
DN: Everything is going to be very Spanish—traditional and contemporary. Regional dishes, a cold tapas bar, a great sangría bar. Restaurants in Spain are different than here. The ones close to the seaside have all this excellent seafood that’s hard to get. Sardines, octopus, baby eels. And the paella.

D: We understand you’re going to make Catalonian-style paella. Is that different from the paella we know and love?
DN: I will have paella Catalana and also paella from Valencia. The paella from Catalonia is the best. They put everything on it, chicken and pork and seafood. They use saffron but they also add some liquid and they use a mortar to pound in the saffron with parsley. It’s a totally different way of eating paella.

D: What else?
DN: We’re doing full dishes called marmitako. They are like clay or metal casseroles, stews from seafood to vegetarian to chicken to pork to rabbit. A lot of rabbit.

D: And you’re going to stick with this restaurant?
DN: Yes. I want to make sure this is not like anything I’ve done before. I’ve always dreamed about having this restaurant and cooking this type of food. This is about my heritage.

How’s the Bread?

The Parmigian (2826 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-388-8341), a 58-seat, BYO Italian spot in the old Calliope Cafe space, opened at the beginning of May. The manager, Jorge Contreras, told us that the pollo de oven ($13), a boneless chicken breast with alfredo cream sauce, mushrooms, and capers—plus a side of cappellini with pesto cream sauce—is “very delicious.” Oh, yeah? Your name is the Parmigian, so how’s the chicken Parmesan? “It’s delicious.”

Things to Do

  1. Watch a movie outdoors on The Terrace at Conrad (521 N. Rush St.; 312-377-0979) on any Sunday or Monday evening all summer and try the new StaxX menu of “multiple meal selections in separate eco-chic bamboo steamers.”
  2. If you’re pregnant, hit Baskin-Robbins on May 21st before 10 p.m. for a free three-ounce cup or cone of soft serve to celebrate “Bump Day.” To find the one closest to you, click here.
  3. Wish that all commercials were this clever.

Dot Dot Dot . . .

Haussmann Brasserie (305 S. Happ Rd., Northfield; 847-446-1133), Jacky Pluton’s new restaurant, opened on May 19th. . . . Weather Mark Tavern
(1503 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-588-0230), a new American bistro near the Museum Campus, offers all kinds of vegetarian and vegan dishes (and carnivorous ones). . . . Correction: We misspelled Brendan Sodikoff’s name in last week’s column; we apologize for the error. . . . Congrats to Pilsen’s Honky Tonk BBQ (1213 W. 18th St.; 312-226-7427), whose pork shoulder won third place at the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest in Memphis this past weekend. . . . A second location of Wrigleyville’s Red Ivy Pizza will open at an 8,000-square-foot space at 110 West Hubbard Street.