Ten Reasons We’re Excited About the New Whole Foods, Opening on May 20th

  1. The new 75,000-square-foot space at 1550 North Kingsbury Street (312-587-0648) is the third-largest WF in the world. (London and Austin, that’s where.)
  2. More than 400 free parking spaces for customers.
  3. Fresh food venues—which Lettuce Entertain You consulted on—line the store, including The Pilsen Taquería, Wicker Park Subs, Chicago Smokehouse, and Taylor Street Italian.
  4. And River View Diner, a full-service burger-and-shake joint.
  5. And a chowder bar.
  6. And a sit-down wine-and-cheese bar.
  7. And 1550 Brew, a coffee bar by day and a craft-beer haven by night.
  8. Automated express checkout lanes.
  9. An 800-foot walkway along the Chicago River with outside seating.
  10. The produce department houses its own water tower. (“The whole store is our homage to Chicago,” says Kate Klotz, the spokeswoman.)


“Performance-enhancing drugs are banned in the Olympics. OK, we can swing with that. But performance-debilitating drugs should not be banned. Smoke a joint and win the hundred meters, fair play for you. That’s pretty damn good. Unless someone’s dangling a Mars bar off in the distance.” –Eddie Izzard (b. 1962), English comedian

Protein Vogue

Matt Matros, a former sports agent whose firm represented baseball players such as Mike Piazza and Albert Pujols, plans to open Protein Bar (235 S. Franklin St.; 312-346-7300), a healthy food/blended drink shop in the Loop, on May 18th. The Los Angeles native grew up overweight; after watching his father suffer a heart attack, Matros left the sports agency and committed to a healthy lifestyle. Then he realized the protein shake he was getting every day at the gym had very little protein, and began bringing his own protein powders to add to his drink. “I started to experiment,” he says. “Vanilla with banana and pineapple tasted like a piña colada. Chocolate protein with peanut butter and ice tasted like Reese’s Pieces.” Nine such variations will be available at Protein Bar, a 21-seat fast-casual spot with free Wi-Fi—or patrons can create their own offbeat concoctions, involving quinoa or whey.

One Serious Roastery

While we’re on the subject of dramatic career changes, consider Kevin Ashtari and Corrine Tostado, spouses/owners of Asado Coffee Co. (1432 W. Irving Park Rd.; 773-661-6530). While stationed in southern Spain during a stint in the Navy, Ashtari discovered “the Spanish way of life,” which meant, among other things, really good coffee. This past January, the couple opened Asado, a farm-friendly 20-seat café in Lake View that roasts its own beans and brews each cup of coffee con leche, cortados, and café solo by hand. “I wanted to slow it down a bit,” says Ashtari, who buys his coffee directly from family farmers everywhere from Honduras to Uganda. “We use a company called Crop to Cup that is the liaison between us and the farms.”

He Said It

“In Naperville, sushi is really popular. We have a whole bunch of rolls. Sushi pizza. Around $12.95 for eight maki pieces. You never heard of it?  We use Parmesan cheese and everything in it and bake it. It’s very tasty. Very popular in my restaurant.” –Ky Lam, the manager of Raku Sushi Gourmet (850 E. Ogden Ave., Naperville; 630-357-7633), a 110-seat spot that opened May 5th in a former Baker’s Square space.

Like a Margarita, Rising From the Ashes

As reported elsewhere, nightlife veterans Mike Bisbee and Michael Kaulentis (RiNo Lounge) joined forces with Greg Mohr and Scott Weiner (The Fifty/50) for the summer to test run Cedar Hotel (1112 N. State St.; 312-944-1112) in the boozy spaces that used to house Melvin B’s and Cactus. “The patio will be a lot nicer,” says Mohr. “The furniture will match the neighborhood. It won’t be plastic.” Yes, you can still wear shorts, but expect plenty of wicker, Victorian sconces, and cedar in the remodeled space—plus improved food along the lines of ribs, burgers, sandwiches, and expanded seafood selections. “I think we will hit a home run with it,” says Bisbee. “If it works, we will be open all winter.”

Cheap Things to Do

  1. Take your kid (under the age of 12) to Joey’s Brickhouse (1258 W. Belmont Ave.; 773-296-1300) on Monday and he eats free. (Your kid, we mean. Not Joey.)
  2. Test new flavors of cupcakes at More (1 E. Delaware Pl.; 312-951-0001)—for free—on any Wednesday night from 5 to 8 p.m.
  3. Check out the new Modern Wing at the Art Institute any time from May 16th to May 22nd—free—or better yet, pay your admission with a canned good for the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
  4. Wonder how much grief this woman still gets from her friends.

Dot Dot Dot . . .

Le Lan and Soul, both owned by Howard Davis, have closed. In a terse press release, Davis stated the obvious:  “We had to close due to a downturn in business that we attribute to the current economic situation.” Bummer. Not long ago, Le Lan was the most promising new restaurant in Chicago. . . . An outpost of Harry Caray’s will go into the old Joe’s Be-Bop Cafe space on Navy Pier (600 E. Grand Ave.) later this summer. . . . Pete Miller’s Steakhouse petemillers.com closed its Schaumburg location last Friday. Pete’s is still alive and well in Evanston and Wheeling. . . . Elate (Hotel Felix, 111 W. Huron St.; 312-202-9900), an 80-seat “urban American” spot in a new boutique hotel, opens mid-summer. The proprietor, Anthony Fiore, formerly owned Bella Lounge. . . . Rocco’s Café & Pizzeria (1925 N. Lincoln Ave.; 312-280-8077) has opened in the former Ranalli’s space with that big patio in Lincoln Park. . . . Yats (955 W. Randolph St.), a 10-month-old Creole spot in the West Loop, has closed. . . . Fulton Lounge (955 W. Fulton Market; 312-942-9500), the hip bar next to Follia, has added a small-plates menu by Daryl Nash, the chef of Otom. . . . Italiasia, an ambitious 170-seat spot, has opened in the Merchandise Mart (Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza, 350 W. Mart Center Dr.; 312-529-1157). Its name tells you everything you need to know.