News Flash
We have learned that the upcoming October issue of Saveur (on newsstands next week)—the whole thing!—will be dedicated to the foods of Chicago. Just check out the scrumptious cover (left).
Locked In
The Palmer House Hilton is undergoing a staggering $150-million restoration, and naturally that includes a shiny new restaurant to play off the famed grandeur of the lobby. Lockwood, a 125-seat contemporary spot with French and Italian touches, launches in early November in the former Windsor’s Bar and gift shop spaces. The exec chef, Phillip Foss, a veteran of Le Cirque in New York and Bistrot Margot in Chicago, has worked everywhere from Brazil to Israel. He’s got free rein in his new position. “I did a dish today that was highly decadent; I’m calling it surf, turf, and turf,” says Foss, a Culinary Institute of America graduate. “It’s a seared prime filet mignon with braised short ribs, butter-poached Maine lobster, with sauce Périgord and sauce Béarnaise.” 

Zócalo Goes Loco
Dudley Nieto, a notorious kitchen-hopper whose acclaimed Xel-Há (710 N. Wells St.) lasted only seven months, has taken his show to former small-plates spot Zócalo (358 W. Ontario St.; 312-302-9977). “I want to do Mexican regional authentic with a contemporary flair,” says Nieto, who replaced chef Saul Roman. (Roman has moved on to Zapatista, 1307 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-435-1307.) Zócalo’s menu will feature dishes from Yucatan, Guerrero, Pueblo, Oaxaca, and Veracruz, among other places, and will include holdovers from Xel-Há like the poc-chuc: marinated pork loin and achiote with xnipec, a Mayan pico de gallo. Nieto has his usual big plans, which include bringing in friends from Oaxaca to carve wooden animals and do pottery: “I want people to see the regions of Mexico, not just in the food but in the art and culture itself.”

“People have been cooking and eating for thousands of years, so if you are the very first to have thought of adding fresh lime juice to scalloped potatoes, try to understand that there must be a reason for this.”
–Fran Lebowitz (b. 1950), American writer

Thai Urban Kitchen (500 W. Madison St.; 312-575-0266), an ambitious 6,485-square-foot restaurant from the owners of Sura (3124 N. Broadway; 773-248-7872), has a great spot in the bustling Ogilvie Transportation Center. So far it’s breakfast and lunch only—with dinner and a liquor license to follow this fall. A full-service sushi bar boasts more than 50 different rolls, and other intriguing Asian offerings include fun-sounding stuff like a Thai-style coconut waffle with coconut rum banana sauce and lemongrass syrup. The look is predictably modern, with plasma screens, steel mesh curtains, and a dramatic, massive fountain holding court in the dining room.

Good Gawd
“We have something called a chocolate eruption cake. It is a combination of milk chocolate and dark chocolate and Snickers and cream mousse. It’s the kind of thing you want to eat side by side with someone.” –Rodney Tyson, co-owner of Café Wicked (2151 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-227-8227), a dessert café opening in Bucktown on October 2nd

Coming Right Up . . .
Steve’s Deli (354 W. Hubbard St.; 312-467-6868), a 75-seat traditional kosher-style deli with a modern take (i.e., healthier than you’re imagining), is slated to open this winter. “We do some healthy deli items,” says Seth Herkowitz, a partner. “Lettuce wrap sandwiches. Fat-free tuna salad. Many of our salads are either fat free or low fat.” As at the original Steve’s in suburban Detroit, all the usual love-handle standards will be on hand, too—corned beef, bagels, smoked fish, matzo ball soup—plus a hot-food case with daily offerings made fresh each morning.

Speaking of Delis
Eleven City Diner (1112 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-212-1112)
will serve white-tablecloth Rosh Hashanah dinners on September 12th and 13th for “empty nesters and kids away at school who can’t make it home” (and anyone else who’s interested). “We do brisket, roasted half chicken with herbes de Provence, chopped eggs, chopped liver, and round challah,” says Brad Rubin, the owner. “And we play klezmer music and mix it up with old Milt Jackson.


Things to Do
1. Play cheesecake bingo, listen to bands, and watch the Jesse White Tumblers dive over a massive cheesecake at the 11th annual Eli’s Cheesecake Festival September 15th and 16th (6701 W. Forest Preserve Dr.). Admission for the two-day festival is free, but any purchases will benefit the New Horizon Center for the Developmentally Disabled and the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
2. Watch for two upcoming books this fall: Chicago Cooks: 25 Years of Food History with Menus, Recipes, and Tips from Les Dames D’Escoffier (Agate, 2007), edited by the Tribune’s “Good Eating” editor, Carol Haddix, and Talk With Your Mouth Full: The Hearty Boys Cookbook (Stewart, Tabori &  Chang, 2007) by local Food Network stars Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh.
3. Watch this video about the fastest food on earth.

Dot Dot Dot . . .
Mr. Kite’s Quality Chocolate (6 W. Maple St.; 312-664-7270) recently opened in its new larger location (it was a couple of blocks north, on State Street for 20 years), and it must be doing OK because the owner, Dominick So, was way too busy to talk to us when we called. . . . When? Where? . . . Agave Bar and Grill (3115 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-404-1800), a year-old spot that carries more than 150 tequilas, makes its signature guacamole with roasted tomatillo and xoconostle, a cactus fruit. . . . Sam’s Wines and Spirits plans to open its fourth superstore, this one in the South Loop at 50 East Roosevelt Road in a former bus terminal. . . . Congratulations to Rockit Bar & Grill (22 W. Hubbard St.; 312-645-6000), whose shallot-topped burger got a huge plug as a favorite of Sam Champion on Good Morning America. . . . Sarah Stegner’s shepherd’s pie recipe from Prairie Grass Cafe (601 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook; 847-205-4433) appears on page 70 of Bon Appétit’s October issue. . . . Eppy’s Deli (224 E. Ontario St.; 312-943-7797) will open a 100-seat Loop-area location next month, at 162 North Franklin Street.