Street Justice

Later this month, Rick Spiros (Block 44, Roy’s, Madame B) plans to unveil Mantou Noodles Bar (1633 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-772-8688), a 71-seat spot in Wicker Park. “It’s based on Asian street food,” says Spiros. “People there eat that stuff during the day, on the street, on their way to work as opposed to how we eat it here—sitting down to dinner.” Mantou’s menu will include spicy chicken steamed buns; curries made from scratch; udon noodles with braised Berkshire pork in a pork-ginger-scallion broth; and Vietnamese pâté with sriracha aïoli, pickled chilies, and a Saigon baguette—and liquor will be served until 2 a.m. with a late-night raw bar. You can’t accuse Spiros of cashing in on the UrbanBelly noodle craze; he’s been working on Mantou for a year and is carefully treading his own path.

Speaking of Which . . .

Bill Kim (UrbanBelly, Soul), who made his name as chef at Le Lan (749 N. Clark St.; 312-280-9100), is no longer connected to the two-and-a-half-star French/Asian spot in River North. “I cashed in all my chips and I am concentrating all my efforts on UrbanBelly,” Kim says. “Actually, no money changed hands. It was a verbal agreement and ended amicably. Just finished the fall menu and Chad Sterling will be promoted as chef.” BTW: Kim is still involved in Soul, his American restaurant in Clarendon Hills.


“Rice is born in water and must die in wine.” –Italian proverb

Green Lion?

Colin Rod Cordwell, the colorful owner of Lincoln Park’s 24-year-old Red Lion Pub (2446 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-348-2695), plans to tear down the building next month and redo it, then reopen in July 2009 with a “country English and country French” menu, in a completely green building. ”I’m making the quantum leap from the 19th to the 21st without stopping in the 20th century,” Cordwell says. “The only thing keeping our building together was the termites holding hands.” Asked what will happen to the ghost that has famously haunted the pub for years, Cordwell says: “Just because you build new doesn’t mean they don’t hang around.”

6 Questions for Rich Labriola

The owner of Labriola Breads plans to open Labriola Bakery Café and Neapolitan Pizzeria (Oak Brook Promenade, 3021 Butterfield Rd., Oak Brook; 630-574-2008) in early November.

D: What’s the story with the new café?
RL: It’s about 90 seats, counter service. Intelligentsia coffee. Boar’s Head meats. Gelato made from scratch. Salads, soups, and wood-fired pizzas. Our intention is to be Neapolitan but not as authentic as, say, Spacca Napoli. Since we are bread bakers, we need to tweak our dough a little bit differently. It might have a little chew or pull instead of being really tender.

D: And the breads?
RL: We’ll have a whole display wall of breads. I’m borrowing on this concept that I saw in France, where they bake baguettes all day long. The biggest mistake a lot of failed retail bakeries make is that they bake in the morning and that’s it.

D: And if this place takes off?
RL: I think Chicago could support three to five of these. Don’t want to sacrifice quality. If that means three, then it’s three, but if that means one, then it’s one.

D: Seems like everyone in Chicago is suddenly getting their breads from Labriola. How many accounts do you have now?
RL: About 1,000. Most in Chicago but we also do some frozen business nationally. I don’t know how we ever got to this point.

D: How did you get into bread making?
RL: The short story is that I started distributing for Casa Nostra Bakery, mostly in the south suburbs. I had my own accounts, and delivered bread to my accounts. In the beginning, I didn’t know how to bake at all. I hired a baker. Luckily he was not that good of a baker either. If he were really good, I never would have learned.

D: How green were you?
RL: I didn’t know how to make a sour dough. My baker told me that for 100 pounds of flour, you used a tomato can of salt. So we went to the store and bought a tomato can that held a little over two pounds of salt, which everyone but me knew was the right percentage for 100 pounds of flour. We used that tomato can for a long time. Somewhere we still have that tomato can. Quick Take

One of our top FODs checked out Chelsea Grill (4520 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-989-4200), the new casual remake of the old Erba space. Her take: “Nice, compact list of microbrews and wines and an American menu that’s friendly on the wallet. Fried calamari and short-rib pot roast were pretty decent. But the goat cheese and vegetable panino was a complete letdown—all oily bread and way too few veggies. Luckily, an Abita root beer float made everything better.”

Prairie Tale

“When I was young, I hated all kinds of vegetables,” says Daniel Ovanin, executive chef of the two-month-old Glen Prairie (Crowne Plaza, 1250 Roosevelt Rd., Glen Ellyn; 630-613-1250). “My mom got tired of me picking out the vegetables from my food, so she said, ‘You can just cook it the way you want it.’” He’s doing it his way at Glen Prairie, a naturalistic, 60-seat contemporary American spot with a green-minded menu. Popular dishes include chervil-crusted Northern Wisconsin pike with mac and cheese and sautéed green beans ($18), and espresso-braised Dietzler Farms short ribs with horseradish, chive mashed potatoes, and roasted root vegetables ($20). Vegetables? “The only food I don’t like now,” says Ovanin, “is escargots.”

Things to Do

  1. Have a drink at Scoozi! (410 W. Huron St.; 312-943-5900) and get free pizza from 5:30 to 9:30 any Wednesday in October. October is National Pizza Month, but who cares why? Free pizza!
  2. Attend Lycée Français de Chicago’s annual Fall French Market (613 W. Bittersweet Pl., 773-665-0066) October 17th to 19th, which will include cooking demos from Paul Virant (Vie), Charlie Socher (Café Matou), and Meg Galus (pastry chef at Tru). Admission is $5; kids are free.
  3. Watch Ruby’s mysterious “Steak Man” video, and the comic strip that inspired it.

Dot Dot Dot . . .

As reported by the 312 Dining Diva, Brasserie Ruhlmann (500 W. Superior St.) and Avenue M (695 N. Milwaukee Ave.) have both closed. . . . Koryo (2936 N. Broadway; 773-477-8510) and Casbah Café (3151 N. Broadway; 773-935-3339) also both appear to be closed for face-lifts. Whether either will reopen in a different incarnation is unknown (by us, anyway). . . . Mixteco Grill (1601 W. Montrose Ave.; 773-868-1601) plans to expand to the storefront next door (1603 W. Montrose Ave.) in the second week of November. “We’ll have about 35 more seats,” says Raúl Arreola, the owner. “And another two bathrooms.” . . . Esquire picked L2O as the restaurant of the year in its November issue, and also included Takashi and Mercat a la Planxa among the year’s best new restaurants. What an unexpected sloppy kiss from Esquire’s dining critic, John Mariani, who has been no fan of Chicago restaurants in recent years. . . . Harry Caray’s, which the November issue of Chicago magazine named one of Chicago’s 20 best steak houses, celebrates its 21st anniversary with an Italian Food & Wine Festival the week of October 20th at all three area locations. . . . The Tasting Room (1415 W. Randolph St.; 312-942-1212) offers free appetizers every Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. through October.