“I kind of thought I would do this my whole life,” says Rachel Dennis, referring to fulfilling her goal of opening her eclectic-rustic restaurant Lake Street Kitchen + Bar (1101 Lake St., Oak Park; 708-383-5253). Dennis’s life kept leading her back to the food world: Her mother was a career waitress, and Dennis herself waited tables through high school and college. After law school, she became general counsel for the Bar Louie group, but she was laid off when the company was sold. When an 80- to 90-seat location in downtown Oak Park came available because a potential Johnny Rockets fell through, Dennis leaped. She hired the chef Jason Kurosaki, who has experience at Sola and Custom House, and the restaurant opened on October 11. Kurosaki designed a menu with flatbreads, panini, small plates, charcuterie, and some large plates such as Moroccan-spice-rubbed country ribs, brined and served with apples and parsnips. Now that the former lawyer’s restaurant is up and running, we can read her quote as lawyers would and find an ambiguity: Instead of thinking her whole life about having a restaurant, now she can think about having a restaurant her whole life.
“An apple pie without some cheese / Is like a kiss without a squeeze.” —English rhyme
Give 'Em the Boot
Not so long ago, there was a moment when it looked like Theo Gilbert would have three locations of his restaurant Terragusto—the original near the Addison Brown Line stop, the second in Lincoln Park, and a planned location in Glencoe. Well, Glencoe never panned out, Gilbert parted ways with his partner at the Lincoln Park location, and the Addison outpost closed suddenly in August. Just as suddenly, Gilbert resurfaced last week with Ripasso (1619 N. Damen Ave.; 773-342-8799). “It’s very similar to what we were doing before [at Terragusto], but a little bit better,” Gilbert says. The homemade pastas Terragusto specialized in have made the move, as in a cappellacci de zucca—hat-shaped pasta stuffed with roasted squash and topped with sage brown butter and crumbled amaretti cookies. Unlike Terragusto’s Addison Street location, however, Ripasso serves wine, and Gilbert has planned monthly family-style wine dinners that showcase different regions of Italy. So far Gilbert has only the one location, but he’s surprised us before.
Four Questions for Joncarl Lachman
Lachman announced this week that he’s leaving Vincent (1475 W. Balmoral Ave.; 773-334-7168) as head chef, leaving the kitchen to the chef de cuisine, Chrissy Camba.
Dish: Why are you leaving Vincent?
Joncarl Lachman: I’m thinking more long term. I just turned 49, so as a result you think about what you want to do with the rest of your life. [I’m leaving at about] the end of next year to go back East. I’m still in contact with Anne Rosenzweig, the first woman to get three stars from the New York Times. We are good friends and we may do a project together. Everyone is staying at Vincent, except for me.
D: Are you also cutting ties with your other restaurant, Home Bistro?
JCL: I have no desire to leave there. David Cooper—he’s a really, really talented guy. He just did an incredible thing with a goat. He and Victor Morenz are just great guys. I’m very emotional, so I step back and see what those two guys did with [HB]. I’m just so full of love. I will be having fun with my friends at HB.
D: So you are going to hang out at HB for a year and a half?
JCL: I guess that’s what they call it.
D: Why leave Vincent now, if you aren’t moving for over a year?
JCL: Just to focus. It’s the restaurant business.
Named after a short story by W.W. Jacobs, The Monkey’s Paw (2524 N. Southport Ave.; 773-413-9314) is scheduled to open in late November or early December. The owners, Matt Parkinson and his mother, Barbara, plan a gastropub (they haven’t named a chef yet) specializing in whiskey, and its 75 seats include several at quasi-high-top tables that protrude as nodes at the corners of the bar. The epigraph to the Jacobs story is “Be careful what you wish for; you may receive it,” and the Parkinsons chose the name to illustrate the slow road to opening. “They’ve had this piece of property for almost ten years,” says Tamara Jensen, Matt’s girlfriend. What a coincidence—we were just regretting what we wished for the other day at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Big Restaurant, Small Dishes
Biggest opening of the month, at least by one metric: Cai (2100 S. Archer Ave.; 312-326-6888), a dim sum and Cantonese restaurant with around 250 seats. “We are a very upscale restaurant, and even the things that are the same, you can make taste much different than [at other] restaurants that make dim sum in Chinatown,” says the owner, John Wong, who also owns the Japanese-and-karaoke spot Sushi Lounge on Cermak Road. Cai (pronounced “chai”) serves dim sum every day from 9 (8 on weekends) to 4 and dinner until midnight. Both restaurants are headed by the chef Xi Lin, a recent transplant from Toronto. Cai may have other restaurants beat by another metric as well—it’s hard to imagine a faster way of producing dirty dishes than 250 people at dim sum.
Small Restaurant, Short Writeup
The owners of Pelago, Kimberly Anguil Mafrici and her husband, Mauro, are opening the 24-seat Masaki Sushi (198 E. Delaware Pl., Hilton Chicago/Magnificent Mile; no phone yet) in the first quarter of 2012. The plan: “Minimal hot kitchen. Obviously soup and a few braised things. But primarily sushi,” Kimberly Mafrici says. “We will do a lot of wine. Sake and everything else as well. Kind of classic but very well done.”
He Said It
“It’s a completely different concept from anything in the past BLTs—a completely different vision. There’s something for everyone. The menu spans tremendously from sushi to raw bar to meat and fish. Pizzas out of a wood-burning oven as well.” —Aksel Theilkuhl, the 27-year-old chef de cuisine at BLT American Brasserie (500 W. Superior St.; no phone yet), scheduled to open mid- to late November. The enormous restaurant will be a Chicago outpost in the empire of Laurent Tourondel, whose monogram makes up two-thirds of the initialism in the place’s name. (The B stands for Bistro.)
- Is the third name the charm for Brendan Sodikoff’s soon-to-open diner?
- This week in Brandon Baltzley news: The chef parts ways with Pensiero Ristorante after a fleeting six-week gig.
- III Forks earns four stars for its bone-in rib eye.
- Pollack takes a personal, all-in-one-day sweets tour.
- It’s the end of the road for Avenues.
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On the Blog
Things to Do
1. Take a cue from our neighbors to the north and hunker down for the Fish Fry Fridays shindig at Uncommon Ground (1401 W. Devon Ave.; 773-465-9801). The weekly event runs from 5 to 10 p.m. and includes fried perch, french fries, soup, and salad for $23. Call to reserve.
2. Chuck the notion that MK (868 N. Franklin St.; 312-482-9179) is only a special-occasion destination and pull up a bar stool for Wine on Wednesdays, when $25 buys three three-ounce pours paired with three seasonal small plates from a menu created weekly by the sommelier Robby Nagelberg and the chef Erick Williams. This week’s lineup includes shaved speck with poached pears, seared Arctic char with creamed spinach, and a roast beef filet with hen of the woods mushrooms.
3. Embrace the pop-up trend at A Backyard Chow Down Pop Up, a lunchtime collaboration between Jo Snow Syrups, Brown Bag Lunch Truck, and the confectioner Salted Caramel. The meal will be served on the back patio at Espresso Thy Art (4019 N. Damen Ave.; 773-248-1935) Saturday from 12 to 4 p.m. For $20 in advance or $24 at the door, down-chowers will create their own menu from a list of entrées (we choose peanut butter–smothered, cherry-glazed PB&J Chicken), sides (creamy coconut mashed potatoes), desserts (pumpkin–bread pudding cupcake), and homemade sodas (root beer).
Dot Dot Dot . . .
The South Loop burger joint The Burger Point will mark its grand opening November 4. . . . Twisted Q BBQ and Bakery, purveyors of the unusual combination of barbecue and baked goods, opened a Homewood location at 2053 Ridge Road. . . . The Italian chain Capri Ristorante will add a Berwyn outpost in the recently vacated Wishbone space (6613 W. Roosevelt Rd.) around Christmastime. . . . Phillip Foss plans to add 50 percent more seating (which equals six or seven additional seats) this month to the diminutive El in order to alleviate the headache of securing reservations. . . . Smokey Bears BBQ House has shuttered its Harlem Avenue location, but the Foster Avenue branch remains up and smoking. . . . The relocated Deleece at 3747 North Southport Avenue opened a week ago today. . . . Matt Eversman announced that Oon Chicago, which is slated to open early next year, will be located at 802 West Randolph Street.