New ’Cue

Main Street Smokehouse (536 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville), a promising 35-seat spot slated to open the first week of January, plans to put its own spins on barbecue styles around the country. “I’m pairing pork shoulder with my own apple cider ale barbecue sauce, and ribs with maple chipotle sauce, and brisket with a sweet Tennessee-style sauce,” says the owner, Eddie Moore, a culinary school graduate who has been working as a caterer in Grayslake for the past four years. “I call it ‘unique regional’ barbecue.” The 1,750-square-foot space marries barn wood and reclaimed brick with stainless steel—and Moore plans to use a rotisserie-style pellet smoker, which he claims produces a more consistent product than a Southern Pride smoker. If that sounds like barbecue heresy, consider this: Moore loves to make quesadillas with pulled pork. “It’s perfect for barbecue,” he explains. “There’s no overkill of bread-to-meat ratio.”


“He couldn’t ad-lib a fart after a baked-bean dinner.” –Johnny Carson, American comedian (1925-2005), about Chevy Chase

6 Questions for John McLean

McLean, a 25-year veteran of Levy Restaurants, where he was the longtime chef de cuisine, recently parted ways with the company to pursue his own vision(s).

D: What are your plans?
JM: I have come up with some concepts and want to start a little restaurant company. I’m very passionate about doing a great craft pizza place. I’ve been working with wood-fired pizzas for many years. Thought it would be great to create a fun, comfortable, sexy pizza wine bar focusing on wood-fired pizzas.

D: Where is your dream location?
JM: Would like to start out in some cool neighborhood. I love Logan Square, Wicker Park/Bucktown area. Uptown. I would like to expand to the west suburbs. I believe the west suburbs have a desire to have some great craft pizzas.

D: Next concept?
JM: I want to do a really fun casual urban burger bar. Traditional burgers, but also pork, tuna sashimi, chicken, turkey. All freshly ground on premises with homemade buns. Fresh-cut fries, mushroom fries, sweet potato fries. And really fun shakes, like cheesecake shakes or strawberry shortcake shakes.

D: You’ve got other concepts?
JM: I do. There’s a concept that I think will do well in Chicago. It centers around braised food. Everything on the menu is braised. Definitely short ribs, pork shoulders. And another: an urban café where it’s truly all-natural organic local foods with whimsical presentations and twists.

D: What’s your time line for all this?
JM: It’s really open. But my goal is to have anywhere between 10 and 15 restaurants in the next five years. That’s pretty aggressive, I know. Chicago is my first market.

D: So you see these as chains?
JM: Not just yet. Want to concentrate on the success of these restaurants before considering other cities.

Speaking of Logan Square, Bucktown, and Uptown . . .

“I’ve been looking everywhere. Logan Square, Bucktown. I’ve also looked in Uptown but there aren’t a lot of locations right this moment. From what I hear there may be more in a few months. I don’t want to be the vulture picking over somebody’s restaurant bones, but we all know what the economy is now.” –Dean Zanella, who announced last week that he was leaving 312 Chicago (136 N. LaSalle St.; 312-696-2420) to open his own restaurant

Beer and Meat

A trusted FOD checked out Century Public House (1330 W. Morse Ave.; 773-654-5100), the new craft beer–heavy gastropub attached to the Morse Theatre, and was pleasantly surprised. “No expense has been spared to re-create a swanky old pub atmosphere here,” he says. “Handsome carved oak, ceilings in the 15- to 20–foot range, floor-to-ceiling front windows capped with decorative stained glass.” The menu, which he describes as “carnivore country,” includes a house-made brat and a meltingly tender bone-in rye ale–glazed pork chop with rutabaga spätzle and collard greens. Even the innocuous-sounding “savory pear tart with mixed greens” includes a bonus of bacon and blue cheese. “I can’t wait to try the burger,” he gushes. “If the other meats are any indication, it could be top-notch.” Who Wants Coffee?

Alberto Gonzalez, the owner of 90 Miles Cuban Cafe (3101 N. Clybourn Ave.; 773-248-2822), a tiny BYO that opened two months ago, was one of the Cubans on the famous Mariel boatlift of 1980. “I was 11 years old,” says Gonzalez. “It was very scary. Eleven hours at sea with bad weather. Enough to scar you for the rest of your life.” But not enough to stop the former mortgage broker from opening 90 Miles, a rustic counter spot decked with family pictures of old Havana. “Prior to Fidel Castro my family was in the catering business,” Gonzalez says. “We have family recipes. We are trying to make food that is not overseasoned.” Particularly popular is the lechón sandwich, a pulled pork number with grilled onions on top and sweet ripe plantains. Even more popular? Cuban coffee pours. “We get the place packed and I start shouting out, ‘Who wants coffee?’ ” says Gonzalez. “We just pass it out to everyone.”

Things to Do

  1. Drink a Venezuelan hot chocolate at The Greenhouse at the Ritz-Carlton (160 E. Pearson St.; 312-573-5154), made with 72 percent bittersweet Valrhona chocolate.
  2. See what Rick Bayless would serve if asked to cook at President-elect Obama’s inauguration.  
  3. Go to Eve (840 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-266-3383), the new spot from the Tallulah brain trust, and try what Pollack calls “the best dessert I’ve had anywhere this year”: warm lemon basil cake.
  4. Share Ruby’s obsession with the goofy products—Cheezels? Chum? Sustagen?in foreign grocery stores.

Next Week

Dish will be off next week for the holiday. Enjoy your Thanksgiving, and take it easy on the cranberry sauce.