Mado: The Beat Goes On
He may be only 25 years old, but New York transplant Brandon Baltzley has been in the kitchen for nearly half his life—except for the two years he spent as the drummer in the metal band Kylesa. As reported in Eater Chicago, Baltzley took over the kitchen at Mado (1647 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-342-2340) last Thursday after the abrupt departure of the farm-to-table favorites Rob and Allie Levitt. When he landed the Mado gig, Baltzley was given 48 hours to pull something together in time for Friday night, and he came up with dishes like farrotto with butternut squash and lamb neck with lamb bacon, sunchokes, truffles, hazelnuts, and kale. “I really dig the food scene here,” he says. “In New York, it’s all about technique. Here, there is more of a creative output.” Baltzley’s crew is young—his sous-chefs are only 19 and 21—and they have no intention of competing with the Levitts’ legacy. “I try not to have a particular style,” says Baltzley. “It’s more about focusing on a constantly creative environment. We are going to make whatever food we want to make and do it really well.”
Fork in the Road
Back in 2006, David Byers bought Square Kitchen and transformed it into the loungey wine bar Fiddlehead Cafe (4600 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-751-1500). After four years of high turnover and inconsistent service, Byers has found someone who understands his original vision: his chef, Joshua Rabbie. “I see eye to eye with him,” says Rabbie, who came on board a year ago. “It’s finally evolving into what Byers really wanted it to be.” The duo will celebrate their compatibility in mid-January when the café becomes Fork—a casual and comfortable small-plate gastropub with 30 wines by the glass and 150 craft brews. Fork will smoke its own meat in-house, hence menu items such as a PBLT—a smoked pork belly sandwich with tomato jam, butter lettuce, and an egg—and an aged Cheddar grilled cheese with house bacon and a side of tomato soup.
Serena Teipel Perdue has replaced Jeremy Lycan as chef of Niche (14 S. Third St., Geneva; 630-262-1000). Since Perdue took over the kitchen at the end of September, the Geneva native has begun to put her own stamp on the menu, with a little help from the restaurant’s suppliers. “The second day I was working here, [a forager] came in the back door, introduced himself, and opened up this gigunda bag that had maitake mushrooms the size of 16-inch softballs,” she recalls. Perdue cut the mushrooms like steak, then seared them on both sides, braised them in chicken stock, and served them as a centerpiece of a barramundi dish. Fresh off a five-year stint at NoMI, Perdue jumped on the opportunity to tackle fine dining in Geneva. “I was fishing around for something new,” she explains. “My husband loves to scan Craigslist, and he said, ‘Isn’t this in your hometown?’”
“I don’t like gourmet cooking or ‘this’ cooking or ‘that’ cooking. I like good cooking.”
—James Beard (1903–1985), American chef and author
It’s been about five weeks since Joey’s Brickhouse (1258 W. Belmont Ave.) closed its doors, and the proprietors, brothers Joey and Greg Morelli, are moving on. As third-generation owners of Max’s Delicatessen & Restaurant (191 Skokie Valley Rd., Highland Park; 847-831-0600), the Morellis hope to take their grandfather’s business from coast to coast, including locations in New York, Las Vegas, and Madison, Wisconsin. “We made mistakes [at Joey’s], and we will do it better next time,” Joey says. “Always do it better next time.” Joey’s old space on Belmont is slated to become the second outpost for the Italian restaurant La Gondola (2914 N. Ashland Ave.; 773-248-4433) in early December. “Just remodeling it,” says the owner, Andrew McGuire. “Paint, clean, and shake some things loose—trying to bring the same look and feel that we have in the Ashland location, trying to make it just as cozy, but in a much bigger room.”
Slyce of Life
“I was 14 years old, bagging groceries at Jewel [in Algonquin], but there was a pizza place across the street [Jake’s Pizza],” says Gary Bougie. “I thought making pizzas would be a lot more fun than bagging groceries.” So began a lifelong love affair with pizza. While taking a year off to try his hand working for a food distributor (where he was the resident pizza expert), Bougie met Brittany Barth, general manager of Lindy’s (115 Park St., Wauconda; 847-526-9789), her family’s dockside restaurant on Bangs Lake, and they began to collaborate on a pizza project. The result? Slyce Coal Fired Pizza (127 N. Main St., Wauconda; 847-469-8840)—a modern pizzeria with a coal-fired oven. The hand-stretched thin-crust 12-inch pies, made from scratch, start at $11.99 for the basic cheese and go up to $15.49. “People don’t say, ‘Oh, it’s so good,’” says Barth. “They say, “Oh, you can taste the fresh ingredients.’ I don’t think people are used to that.”
Bernie Laskowski, the chef at Park Grill (11 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-521-7275), has been watching his customers. Rather, he’s been watching their preferences change. “They are grazing more, taking plates and splitting them or sharing them,” he says. Enter a revamped menu, which boasts snacks, shared plates, and a few new dishes, like the black-bean faro burger with horseradish Cheddar and onion crisp ($13). The restaurant has backed away from its dependence on proteins—salads come meat free, with the option to add tofu, salmon, chicken, or shrimp. But the new menu couldn’t stop Laskowski from one thing: He bought a cow. The Black Angus, raised on a free-range farm in Bonfield, Illinois, currently stars on the specials menu as a butter burger with carmelized onions, red wine mustard, and butterkäse cheese on a potato bun ($12, with fries).
• A “Colossal” cupcake from the Big Apple, coming soon to the Windy City.
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On the Blog
1. Hear the Michelin Guide Chicago announcement recap and analysis from Jean-Luc Naret, Michelin Guide director general, on November 18th at Chicago Live! (Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St.; tickets at chicagolive.com). Hometown foodie heroes—including Graham Elliot Bowles (Graham Elliot), Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat), Paul Kahan (Blackbird, Avec, The Publican), and Doug Sohn (Hot Doug’s)—also will make appearances.
2. Book your table early for the quick-to-sell-out Sunday Supper at Vie (4471 Lawn Ave., Western Springs; 708-246-2082)—on December 12th from 2:30 to 7:00 p.m. for $25—and bring the kids (who can eat for a price the same as their age, as long as they’re 11 or younger).
3. Forget about meatless Mondays and get any steak, including prime cuts, at 33 Club (1419 N. Wells St.; 312-664-1419) for $20 or less, any Monday.
4. Get a second chance at a Chicago Gourmet–style experience, this time at the Museum of Contemporary Art, where Food & Wine hosts a $110 showcase of some of Chicago’s culinary talents (Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia, Carrie Nahabedian of Naha, and Bill Kim of UrbanBelly, to name a few) on November 15th from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. (tickets available here).
Dot Dot Dot…
Headed to Madison for parents’ weekend at the University of Wisconsin? Tim and Elizabeth Dahl, a husband-and-wife team that can cite Blackbird, Boka, Naha, NoMI, and Charlie Trotter’s as former employers, recently opened Nostrano (111 S. Hamilton St.; 608-395-3295) on Capitol Square. . . . A Thursday opening is expected for Todd Stein’s modern Italian opus, The Florentine (JW Marriott Hotel, 151 W. Adams; 312-660-8866). . . . Laurent Gras has taken personal leave from L2O (2300 N. Lincoln Park West; 773-868-0002); no word yet on whether it’s permanent. . . . Vegans can jump on the food-truck bandwagon now that the Soul Vegetarian food truck (check Twitter for locations) is rolling through locations across Chicago and Evanston. . . . Also in Evanston: the HummingBird Kitchen food truck (check Twitter for locations) is on the road, doing what grub trucks in Chicago (legally) can’t—actually cooking food inside the vehicle. . . . With a menu boasting meat galore—including a hot dog, cheese, and bacon sandwich—we’re starting to understand why Snarf’s (600 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-644-1500), a Colorado-based sub shop, chose Chicago to launch one of its first outposts outside the Rockies. . . . Real Urban Barbecue (610 Central Ave., Ste. 177; 224-770-4227) opens tomorrow in Highland Park and celebrates with a BBQ bash Friday night.