O Say Can You See
Sports bars have a certain sameness to them—greasy fried food, beer, and lots of big TVs. When the space that has previously housed both Makisu Sushi Lounge & Grill and Fuel became available, the owners of Bangers & Lace across the street saw an opportunity for their own version of the sports bar. The Anthem (1725 W. Division St.; no phone yet), which is set to open at the end of the month, will sport a retro look with nostalgic seventies-era décor, including school lockers and paneling that evokes the old woodie station wagons. The grub will include homemade comfort food served like a TV dinner, cheese doodles made of pork rinds and Cheddar dust, and a Minnesotan staple called the Juicy Lucy, a hamburger with cheese inside the patty. The menu also covers fondue, crudité, and salads with “some of the brighter-colored dressings,” says Matt Eisler, one of the owners. Six draft beers and microbrews in cans and bottles will dominate the beverage program. And, of course, the TVs—two huge projection TVs and four 50-inch screens behind the bar will show the games but not overbear the atmosphere. This raises a question, though: Is it still a sports bar without TVs overbearing the atmosphere?
So Long, Old Sport
Meanwhile, near the United Center, construction is under way on The Ogden (1659 W. Ogden Ave.; no phone yet), which its chef, Rodney Staton, describes as a “chef-driven sports bar.” Staton, who recently left Bite Cafe, says his menu will consist of riffs on sports-bar classics, such as grilled turkey wings with house-made buffalo sauce, a smoked double-cut pork chop, and a roasted half chicken. Bar snacks, including smoked cashews with sea salt and Kentucky-style beer-cheese spread with homemade crackers, allow for shared-plates dining. “Chicago is one of the best sports cities in the United States and one of the best food cities, so what we want to do is bring these two things together,” Staton says. That sounds so right. Maybe we should try something like that. Chicago is one of the best architecture and improv-comedy cities—we are totally going to build the funniest skyscraper ever.
“The golden rule when reading a menu in a restaurant is ‘if you can’t pronounce it, you can’t afford it.’” —Frank Muir (1920–1998), English comedy writer and radio personality
He Said It
“It definitely won’t open before next year. I can’t ruin my winter vacation. If I don’t get my ski days in, I’m crabby all year.” —Michael Kornick, about his latest collaboration with David Morton, at 1664 North Ada Street (also see On Twitter, below). Kornick says the food concept for the 1,500-square-foot space hasn’t been determined, but it won’t overlap with their other places, DMK Burger Bar and Fish Bar.
Five Questions for Matt Eversman
Eversman, formerly the chef at Saigon Sisters, recently announced his plan to open Oon Chicago early next year. The address of Oon Chicago is under wraps until the lease is finalized, but the West Loop location under consideration holds up to 70 seats inside and up to 20 on a patio.
Dish: Where have you worked in the past?
Matt Eversman: [Saigon Sisters] was the first time I was an executive chef. I did an externship at Charlie Trotter’s.
D: What did you learn from Trotter?
ME: Professionalism. Understand that you have to exceed everybody’s expectation of you. I think the way Chef Trotter has put it [is that] you have to be your own personal critic. Expect more of yourself than Chef Trotter does, or your chef de cuisine does, or whoever is above you.
D: What will the cuisine at Oon Chicago be like?
ME: We are calling it Southeast Asian with contemporary American influences.
D: What does that mean?
ME: It sounds cheesy to say it, but being in harmony with nature and everything, not fighting [against] seasonality or regionality, [although] obviously we are not in Southeast Asia.
D: How will you deal with that tension?
ME: The idea is that you can still get the essence of a Southeast Asian dish using ingredients that are accessible to us. Certainly we will bring items in when necessary. [But] what we will do is take those local, regional, seasonal ingredients and twist them and play with them in a way that brings them back to the essence of Southeast Asia.
Barbari at the Gate
“There are some Persian touches in things we make,” says Al Banifazl, a self-described Persian who yesterday opened Barbari (2020 W. Chicago Ave.; 773-342-8220), a table-service soup, salad, and pizza spot in Ukrainian Village. Persian dishes include pomegranate soup, the eggplant-yogurt spread kashk, and the crusty bread that gives the restaurant its name. On the non-Persian hand, the restaurant offers Bari sausage–portobello pizza and caesar salad. Everything is made in-house. “Nothing comes prepared through the door,” Banifazl says. “The only thing in a can is Italian tomatoes.” You know how people tell you “never say can’t”? This is “never say can.”
- Pollack spies a trend hopping around Chicago menus.
- Mark Mendez says it’s out with Uva and in with Vera.
- The salmon at Telegraph is king with Pollack.
- The dynamic Michael Kornick–David Morton duo is at it again.
Follow Pollack on Twitter.
Things to Do
1. Greet the weekend with a treat from Table Fifty-Two’s (52 W. Elm St.; 312-573-4000) front porch Sweets Stand. Each Saturday in October, the pastry chef Celeste “CeCe” Campise peddles her made-to-order jam-filled
Table Fifty-Two's jam-filled doughnut doughnuts ($3), a cupcake version of Art Smith’s award-winning hummingbird cake ($4), and fresh coffee ($1) from 8 to 11 a.m. All items are cash-only.
2. Taste creations from Michael Ponzio’s (Rosebud) new Italian cookbook, Cibo, beginning this Saturday at noon at Bloomingdale’s at Oakbrook Center (100 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook; 630-573-0700). The chef will demo handpicked recipes—possibly including eggplant-wrapped snapper or pumpkin-ricotta gnocchi—before signing copies of his book, which also details culinary techniques such as dough-making.
3. Angle over to burger spot 25 Degrees (736 N. Clark St.; 312-943-9700) for after-work food deals. From 4 to 7 p.m. daily, the River North newbie dishes up $5 preburger morsels, such as bacon-wrapped dates, tempura green beans, and chili-and-honey-glazed chicken wings.
4. Welcome Sweet Spot Macarons, the city’s newest food truck, to the streets. For its maiden voyage, the Easter egg–yellow ride will be parked outside The Burlington Bar (3425 W. Fullerton Ave.; 773-384-3243) tomorrow from 8 to 10 p.m., hawking macarons—the only item it sells—in five flavors, including chocolate-espresso and passion fruit. For those seeking a beverage pairing for their fancy French cookie, PBR cans from the bar will run you just $1 with a macaron purchase.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Eyrie, an Oak Park lunch destination run by Robert Morris University culinary students, opened yesterday. . . . A smorgasbord of October 10 openings includes 2Sparrows, a tony brunch spot from two Charlie Trotter’s alums; the Midwest’s first outpost of Texas-based III Forks, a destination for “naked steaks, large à la carte sides, and big desserts,” per the proprietor, Danny Payne; a Loop location of Wildberry Pancakes and Café, a ’burbs-based breakfast and lunch spot; and Siunik Armenian Grill, a Glenview kebab-ery. . . . On the flipside, the Northbrook branch of MyPie and Li’l Guys has shuttered. The restaurant’s web page cites “rising operational costs and a dwindling economy” for its closing, but says its Bucktown store (2010 N. Damen Ave.; 773-394-6900) will remain open.