We’ve heard the buzz on Chilam Balam (3023 North Broadway; 773-296-6901), a new cash-only Mexican BYO run by Chuy Valencia, an alum of Frontera Grill, but Pollack was skeptical. Especially when the halibut seviche ($9.25) and guacamole and chips ($7.25)—both recommended by the gregarious waiter—arrived in a flash and looked small, especially the guac, even by small-plate standards. Pollack’s upsell alert bell went off, but both were fresh and delish and more generous than they appeared. Then the following empanadas and corn masa memelas were earthy and terrific. Impeccably tender grilled hanger steak came with tortillas, and the juicy whole game hen with lime slices ($17) was perfect for four people. The colorful subterranean haunt is a party, and we’re glad we invited ourselves after all.
“Swiss cheese is a rip-off. It’s the only cheese I can bite into and miss.” –Mitch Hedberg (1968-2005), American comedian
Five Questions For Bradford Phillips
Phillips, a veteran of Blackbird, is the new chef at Tallulah (4539 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-942-7585)—which will morph into LM Le Restaurant at the beginning of October.
D: We thought Tallulah was going gangbusters. Why the change?
BP: Stefan [Quaisser, the new owner] had been looking for a space for a while. I know that Matt [Fisher, the former owner] still owns the building. Maybe he just wanted to concentrate on Eve.
D: Can you explain the new concept?
BP: Stefan wants to do what he calls “a boutique experience,” where the owner is reflected in the entire room, whether it be the selection of linens or the lighting or the color. He wants me to have that same ownership and connection with people in the dining room.
D: What’s going to happen to the menu?
BP: We’ll run the Tallulah menu for the next couple of weeks as we slowly interject what we are aiming to do, kind of use this as a live laboratory. We will test out as many new menu items as we can between now and then.
D: Such as?
BP: I would like to see braised veal cheeks with roasted sunchokes, toasted almonds, and picholine olives. But LM will be a little bit more straightforward in philosophy: contemporary French American. For dessert, we’re working with Dimitri [Fayard] at Vanille Pâtisserie.
D: Will the room change?
BP: Not drastically. New china, glassware, silverware, linens. Stefan is bringing more of the brown with an orange accent to give more zip to the space.
Old World, New Location
Bogna and Walter Solak plan to open their sixth outlet of Oak Mill Bakery at 2204 West North Avenue next month. “I lived in Wicker Park last year, and I wanted Oak Mill Bakery to come there really bad because I thought it would be a big hit,” says Alexandra Solak, daughter of the owners and their marketing manager. By her reasoning, Wicker Parkers will fall in love with Oak Mill’s European pastries such as the pear charlotte, a torte-like cake with ladyfingers, chocolate mousse, rum-and-pear mousse, and yellow vanilla cake ($29.50). “As far as I know, no one else in Chicago has it,” she says. “My mom is constantly in Europe trying to discover new techniques and flavors.”
He Said It
“I make thin-crust pizza in a brick oven. I make my own pasta. Gnocchi di sardi with lamb ragoût. Ravioli di ricotta with homemade ravioli stuffed with Swiss chard and ricotta. Tagliatelle porcini. We are going to have lasagna. I have 14 pastas, about 20 pizzas, four chickens, two fish, and two veals. The menu is big.” –Nino Coronas, the Sardinian chef of Orvieto (2200 N. Ashland Ave.; 773-395-0066), the Italian revamp of Green Dolphin Street slated to open September 22nd
A Fish Swims in Uptown
Blue Ocean (4650 N. Clark St.; 773-334-6288), a BYO-for-now sushi restaurant in Uptown, opens September 17th with Jay Kim (formerly of Wildfish and Blu Coral) in the kitchen. Expect the usual sushi, plus creations such as kani kani, a creamy king crab appetizer with garlic and shallot butter. The 100-seat space, which includes a wine/saké cellar in the entrance, sounds ambitious—especially if you believe the press release: “The unique up-and-down halogens, floating paperclip lighting fixtures, and candles, create shadow patterns on the wall to form an abstract ‘under the sea’ pattern.”
Same Sugar, Different Toad
Jimmy Sneed, the brains and muscles behind SugarToad (2139 CityGate Ln., Naperville; 630-778-8623), has handed the reins of his modern Southern spot to Geoff Rhyne, his chef de cuisine. “They call me Jimmy Jr. here,” says Rhyne. "We have the same mentality. My food may be a little bit more modern than his is, but it has the same simplicity of ingredients. No froufrou. I want people to recognize what they are eating.” Sneed, who is moving back to Virginia, will continue to consult for SugarToad and obviously feels good about stepping down. “It’s all about passion, focus, and work ethic,” says Sneed. “And Geoff has all of those in spades.”
Things to Do
- Try to win free pizza for a year at My Pie (1361 Shermer Rd., Northbook; 847-715-9009) by coming up with a great name for My Pie’s wacky new “Willy Wonka-esque” pizza machine, pictured here. E-mail your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org by October 15th.
- Go to the 24th annual Berghoff Oktoberfest September 16th through 18th at Federal Plaza at Dearborn and Adams (i.e., within stumbling distance of the Berghoff, 17 W. Adams St.; 312-427-3170): Beer. Food. Polka. Fun.
- Sit down at Cosina Grill (1706 W. Foster Ave.; 773-271-7103), a new 70-seat Mexican BYO that opened last week in Ravenswood, and find out if the chef-partner Israel Olguin’s homemade salsas are as good as he claims.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Bar Novo (1 W. Wacker Dr.; 312-372-7200), a slick lounge with an “interactive chef’s station,” has its soft opening on September 17th in the Renaissance Hotel. . . . Roti Mediterranean Grill, which has locations in the Loop, Northbrook, and Vernon Hills, has opened another café in the Loop (310 W. Adams St.; 312-236-3500). . . . Blackfinn, an American saloon with locations from D.C. to Dallas, is about to open at 16 West Jefferson Avenue in Naperville. . . . Later this fall, Giovanni DeNigris plans to reopen Macello (1235 W. Lake St.; 312-850-9870), his Italian spot in the West Loop that caught fire back in January, with the same look and same chef. . . . Sam’s Wines & Spirits has closed its Highland Park location on Skokie Valley Road, but its Lincoln Park and Downers Grove stores are still going strong.