Stay Classic, Chicago
Who needs trends? Carrie Nahabedian, the chef at the River North fine-dining standout Naha, tweeted a couple of weeks ago that she was in Paris doing gastrotouristical research for a new Chicago restaurant, and she tells us she’s not jumping onto the latest bandwagons. “A lot of our clients say, ‘Please let it be dressy. We are just so tired of this casual, casual, casual,’ ” she says. “I like luxury. I like white tablecloths and a lot of texture and a sexy-looking room. It won’t be small plates. It’s not going to be a huge, high price point. No set menus or degustations. It’s just going to be an American, French-inspired restaurant.” The as-yet-unnamed spot will be located at 534 North Clark Street, and Nahabedian hopes to open in October. The menu isn’t available yet, but we’d say a great item would be Salmon Swimming Upstream.
The hideaway off Michigan Avenue that housed Boston Blackie’s caught the eye of Benny Siddu (Volare, Benny’s Chop House), and after renovations inside and out, he and the chef Edward Leonard plan to open Chef’s Burger Bistro (164 E. Grand Ave.; no phone yet), probably in mid-July. As the name suggests, gourmet burgers make up one main menu category, among them “one that is simply the burger, to feature the beautiful taste of the burger,” says Leonard. The patties will come in two sizes, and beef eschewers can order veggie, turkey, or—new to us—lobster burgers. (Incidentally, what would you call a burger made out of ham?) The other main category of the menu will be shareable small plates, such as pressed beet salad with Humboldt Fog goat cheese and sea bass with morels, peas, and lobster-butter broth. A from-scratch baking program covers all the buns and madeleines baked to order for breakfast and weekend brunch. Leonard says the renovations will allow for rooftop dining. One warm winter and Chicago goes bonkers for rooftop dining.
Bento Into Shape
The brains and knives behind Ukrainian Village’s sushi haven Arami plan to open Arami Go! (203 E. Ohio St.; no phone yet) in August. To combat the cold rice and soggy nori in grocery-store sushi, Arami Go! will sell bento boxes with the ingredients separated, and then customers will roll their own. Seaweed salad, mizuna salad, edamame, and soups complete the $8 to $12 lunches. (Thanks to 312 Dining Diva for getting the maki rolling on this story.)
“Nowadays, with our world full of war and violence and lack of love, a world full of greed, a world of domination, grasping power, venal stupidity, real evil, don’t get me started—it’s good to know that a conversation about tacos will always engender a sense of comfort and happiness. If only we could sit down at a big round world table and eat tacos in a spirit of love, we might begin to work on world peace!” —Denise Chavez (1948–), American author, playwright, and stage director
A Stout Beer Scene
Breweries are reduplicating like yeast, or maybe zebra mussels, around Chicago these days. Coming in the fall to Lake View is Dryhop Brewers (3155 N. Broadway; 312-513-7162), which we first heard about on Eater. Greg Shuff, who studied at Siebel in Chicago and Doemens in Munich, Germany, owns the business and masterminds the brewing—40 beers he developed out of a garage bay in Indianapolis. At the 70-seat brewpub, ten taps will serve house beers brewed onsite, and Pete Repak (Charlie Trotter’s, Fox & Obel, Eatzi’s) will prepare locally sourced western European food, with sausages and custom-ground beef (sirloin, short rib, chuck shoulder) for burgers from a butcher in Wisconsin. Sauerkraut and garlic-rosemary rugalach for wrapping boudin blanc will be made in-house. And although they obviously won’t be local, mussels in three different preparations will make the traditional pairing with beer. Actually, given the local-food movement’s popularity, it’s too bad no one has figured out yet how to cook those pesky little zebra mussels running rampant in Lake Michigan.
Hey Batter, Batter, Batter
Derek Rylon, who started his culinary career at age 13 at the Hyde Park branch of the peanut-shells-on-the-floor burger joint Chances R, now brings more than 20 years of steak-house and hotel experience (and a team of coworkers he met along the way) to his new role as the chef/owner of Batter & Berries (2748 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-248-7710), a breakfast-lunch-brunch place in Lincoln Park. A few things to expect at the restaurant:
• A deconstructed omelet. “We are putting all the ingredients on the outside,” Rylon says. “[In the standard presentation,] you are not getting the good cut of the veggies because they’re cut up so little.”
• French toast and pancakes that don’t need syrup. “I make a maple butter,” he says. “I can’t tell you the secret in my pancakes, but you won’t need any syrup because the sweetness is in the batter.”
• Flavored whipped creams to match the types of French toast, such as lemon whipped cream for the lemon French toast.
• A chicken-breast sandwich called The Arthur (named for a childhood acquaintance of Rylon’s), which is served with Guinness barbecue sauce, caramelized onions, and Swiss cheese on a garlic crescent roll
• A BYO mimosa bar
Rylon hopes to open in about two weeks. Batter up!
Five Questions for Troy Graves
Graves opens Red Door (2118 N. Damen Ave.; 773-697-7221) in Bucktown tomorrow. The space previously housed Duchamp, and before that, Meritage, another Graves restaurant. He has also worked at Montarra in Algonquin and Eve. We first heard about Red Door on Eater.
Dish: What’s Red Door going to be like?
Troy Graves: Like a cocktail lounge that’s a bar with delicious food.
D: Small plates?
TG: Yeah. There are no entrée portions. Vegetables, meats, seafood, and then stuff on bread.
D: Are you doing poutine, the dish of the moment?
TG: I am doing poutine, with peas, a curry gravy, and obviously cheese curds, from Brunkow in Wisconsin. French fries on the bottom and then chicken confit, cooked in duck fat and then pulled. Also I am doing rabbit schnitzel. Rabbit loin, pounded thin, breaded with herbs, and homemade sauerkraut on the plate. It comes with a honey mustard sauce.
D: Where are you from originally?
TG: Iowa. From a very small town of 6,000 people. When I was in high school, I worked at a small mom-and-pop sort of place that served mostly fried chicken and steaks. Rib-eye steak sandwiches. Fried pork sandwich. Really Iowa-y but really good.
D: How did you get from Iowa to here?
TG: I joined the military. I was in the army. I fired mortar. Stationed in Texas and a brief time in Germany. I was in the first Gulf War. Nine months in the desert. Infantry. After the army, I went to college. My roommate in college worked at a restaurant. [He said,] “You should come work with us.” And I did. Just for fun. I never thought I would do that [for my life].
Seems Like We Just Wrote This Item
“Eric Aubriot is gone,” says Kim Nguyen, the owner of Pasteur (5525 N. Broadway; 773-728-4800). “This happened two weeks ago.” A two-time Beard Award nominee who hasn’t stayed put in a kitchen for a while, Aubriot lasted three months at Pasteur, following about four months at Revolver and a similarly short stint at Lure Izakaya Pub. In fact, in Aubriot’s many-lined entry in Chicago’s restaurant database, the last place he worked more than a year was Aubriot, from 1998 to 2003. “I think I need a young chef, a go-getter who wants to make his mark,” Nguyen says. Instead of the Vietnamese-French menu that took advantage of Aubriot’s skill, an all-Vietnamese menu will mark the restaurant’s new direction. “Eventually we will have about 55 Vietnamese dishes,” Nguyen says. “Dan [Nguyen, the chef and Kim’s ex-husband] will continue to expand the menu in the next couple of weeks. But for now I want to stabilize.” Here’s hoping for some stability all around.
Updated Review: Café Ba-Ba-Reeba!
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. Café Ba-Ba-Reeba! maintained its one-and-a-half star rating in the May issue, on newsstands now.
Café Ba-Ba-Reeba! (2024 N. Halsted St.; 773-935-5000). Spanish.
½ (good to very good)
$ ($20–$29 per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)
This friendly stalwart of the Lettuce Entertain You empire continues to draw crowds with its tasty tapas, festive vibe, and gentle prices. Pintxos platters of appetizers and desserts are a good way to go—they cover interesting territory without dumbing anything down. Paella comes three ways (we liked the Valenciana, with chicken, pork, green beans, and artichokes) and is available in individual portions. Other bright spots include a warm potato and onion omelet, mushrooms stuffed with spinach and Manchego, and plump scallops with raisins and pine nuts. Accompany with sangría. Nice list of Spanish wines includes many bottles under $40.
For the dishes we liked best, click here.
I Think That I Shall Never See . . .
Bonsai Bar & Lounge (3503 N. Halsted St.; 773-248-0100), an Asian-influenced restaurant and bar, is scheduled to open later in May under the ownership of Frank Elliott, who also has Oak Park’s Velvet Rope. The menu tends toward spring rolls, rice dishes, noodle dishes, and lavash pizzas. Also the mixologist for both places, Elliott creates drinks such as a concoction of pomegranate, orange, raspberry, and coconut that pairs with a dessert lavash of candied walnuts, pears, caramel, and goat cheese. But not, as might befit the name of the place, microgreens.
- Mac and cheese does the trick at Forza.
- Pollack ponders scrambled-up sauce-naming at Nellcô&te.
- De Cero says hello to a new lunchtime concept.
- Tim Lacey (Ada Street) uproots himself for a new gig at Sprout.
- Pollack relishes toothpick-free chicken Kiev at Frog n Snail.
Follow Pollack on Twitter.
Things to Do
1. Embrace the never-ending fro-yo craze at Yogurtland (76 S. Arlington Heights Rd., Arlington Heights; 847-253-1111). The Chicago area’s first location of the SoCal-based self-serve chain will mark its grand opening Saturday at noon with $5 gift cards for the first 50 customers and free yogurt for the first 100.
2. Bask in the return of spring: Green City Market (Clark St. at Lincoln Ave.; 773-880-1266) resettles in its warm-weather alfresco home in Lincoln Park Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Be sure to pull up a chair for Sarah Grueneberg’s (Spiaggia) cooking demo at 10:30.
3. Take in a side of culture with your lunch at the world premiere of conductor Allison Knowles’s The Identical Lunch Symphony, a 15-minute composition employing blenders to create Knowles’s habitual lunch (a tuna sandwich), which she ultimately serves to the audience. The performance is part of a weekend symposium held in conjunction with the University of Chicago Smart Museum of Art’s exhibition Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art and takes place Saturday at 11:15 at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts (915 E. 60th St.; 773-702-0200). Register for the symposium online.
- Daddy Cool’s (2200 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-697-4576), a late-night gourmet sausage stand named after a world-traveling cartoon mascot, is up and running.
- Chez Moi (2100 N. Halsted St.; 773-871-2100), a French bistro housed in the former Café Bernard digs, is open.
- The Bongo Room (5022 N. Clark St.; 773-728-7900) has thrown its spatula into the Andersonville brunch scene.
- Argent, (Dana Hotel and Spa, 660 N. State St.; 312-202-6050) the Dana Hotel’s Aja replacement that features an oyster bar and a late-night lounge, is open.
- The Zaragoza family will chase the success of their Jalisciense-style slow-cooked goat meat at Birrieria Zaragoza with Birrieria Zaragoza II (2211 W. Lake St., Melrose Park; 708-344-3400), kicking off the fiesta on Cinco de Mayo.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
We learned from Grub Street that Pecking Order, Kristine Subido’s (Wave) ode to Filipino fowl, will be located at 4416 North Clark Street and is scheduled to open around the end of the month. . . . Eater first reported that after being open for just shy of five months in an area where Laurent Tourondel bemoans a lack of foot traffic, BLT American Brasserie has closed. . . . The company behind Mercadito and Tavernita will unveil a new restaurant inside the Talbott Hotel (20 E. Delaware Pl.; 312-944-4970) this fall. In the meantime, the group will operate PT: A Pop-Up Restaurant in the Talbott Hotel—a spot serving American food and helmed by the Mercadito chef Patricio Sandoval—starting May 7. . . . Small Bar got a little smaller after selling its Fullerton Avenue bar (which will reemerge next week as a second outpost of The Beer Bistro). . . . Condolences to the family and friends of the pastry chef Michel Briand (Ambria, Mon Ami Gabi), who passed away last week.