Michael Taus, the main man behind Duchamp (2118 N. Damen Ave.; 773-235-6435), is parting ways with his partners there, Nick Podesta and Jason Freiman (Lumen). “Michael had to clearly focus on Zealous (419 W. Superior St.; 312-475-9112), and the time that he spent here was affecting Zealous,” says Freiman. Taus and Freiman agree that it was the rare amicable split. Duchamp did not miss a beat, slipping Allen Sternweiler into the exec chef position on August 30th. Sternweiler, probably best known for his long run at Harvest on Huron in River North, is charged with keeping the French-American neighborhood bistro relevant. “I think the kitchen could use a little bit of help,” says Sternweiler, who has been raising his three kids and consulting for the past few years. “But I’ve only been in the kitchen for 15 minutes. There will be a lot of walking before we start jogging.”
Benvenuto to Christian Fantoni, the new permanent chef at Pensiero Ristorante (1566 Oak Ave., Evanston; 847-475-7779). Italian-born Fantoni comes to Chicago from New York, where he spent four years at Fiamma, taking over for Michael White and helping the restaurant earn its Michelin star. Fantoni’s entrance comes on the heels of Alan Lake’s short stint in the kitchen: Lake, who has made a career out of rehabbing good ideas, now passes the reins and only sticks around as a consultant. One week in, Fantoni is already making his mark. “My main goal is to lighten up the menu,” he says, which means eschewing the fussy Italian fare in favor of simpler trattoria dishes—think burrata with roasted yellow peppers and onions or truffled tagliatelle with mushrooms and Parmesan.
Read Jeff Ruby’s savvy assessment of Stephanie Izard and her infamous Goat.
"What is a harp but an oversized cheese slicer with cultural pretensions?"
–Denis Norden (1922–), English comedy writer
Burgers, Burgers, Everywhere
Rudy Malnati Jr., whose very name is synonymous with pizza in Chicago, is branching out—though not far. Two doors down from the Pizano’s (61 E. Madison St.; 312-236-1777) near Millennium Park, Malnati plans to open Rudy’s Bar & Grille (69 E. Madison St.; no phone yet). The 70-seat, full-service burger joint will feature a dozen char-grilled burger options, fresh-cut fries, and chilis. “I’m creating all my own things here,” says Malnati, who has been building out the old Graham Crackers Comics space for the past six months. A Malnati doing burgers? Everyone goes through a rebellious stage. (ETA: October)
Bice Dies, Converts, and Is Reborn
After 20 years in its high-traffic Streeterville space, the Italian all-star Bice (158 E. Ontario St.; 312-664-1474) has morphed into a casual Mediterranean spot called Medi by Bice. All that will change are the lamp fixtures, the paint on the walls, and the awning. Oh, and the menu, from the new chef, Mario Camia, a Barolo native and a veteran of Il Mulino in New York. “It will become a little more economical for sure,” says Antonio Romano, Bice’s event planner. That means small bites, sandwiches, and burgers for lunch, and filet mignon with porcini mushrooms and Fontina cheese fondue for dinner. But before you commence with the handwringing about the death of another upscale Chicago restaurant: Bice will reopen with its modern Italian menu next to the Talbott Hotel (10 E. Delaware Pl.; no phone yet) on the other side of Michigan Avenue by the end of October—with a ginormous outdoor patio.
She Said It
“We are the only sushi restaurant in Chicago that has gluten-free soy sauce and gluten-free tempura. We don’t use any wheat-based flour in our restaurant. All sweet rice and cornstarch. If there is another [gluten-free sushi] place [in Chicago], I have yet to find it.” –Charley Wanamaker, the general manager of Sushi Cherry (608 W. Barry Ave.; 773-935-5284), a tiny six-month-old sushi bar just off Broadway in Lake View
All these new bakeries are starting to run together in a cloud of flour and confectioners’ sugar. But here’s something different: Cassava (3338 N. Clark St.; 773-857-3039), an all-natural bakery and smoothie shop from Jorge Flores, a native of Ecuador, will have gluten-free breads made with cassava flour. “[The bread] has a unique texture, slightly crusty and chewy on the inside,” says Flores, who infuses flavors into the breads, such as white Cheddar/jalapeño and feta/Greek olives. When it opens in early September, the café—like seemingly every other one in Chicago—will also serve Metropolis coffee.
On the Blog
The former Tizi space shucks its old image for oysters.
Things to Do
1. Have a cheap lunch date at Zocalo (358 W. Ontario St.; 312-302-9977), where the Tuesday lunch buffet is buy one, get one free. The all-you-can-eat spread includes taquitos, empanadas, tamales, enchiladas, braised and grilled meats with house-made tortillas, Mexican rice, refried black beans, soup, salad, a salsa bar, and dessert for $10.95. Reservations welcome but not required.
2. Save a bundle at Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse in Rosemont (5464 N. River Rd., Rosemont; 847-928-9900) during their tenth anniversary Labor Day weekend celebration, which includes some serious bargains, such as the signature W.R.’s Chicago Cut for only $20 (regular price $42) and Turtle Pie for $5.00 (regular price $13.50).
3. Dine Around at any five participating restaurants between now through September 26th to earn a free one-day general admission pass to Chicago Gourmet (a $150 value), which will be held in Millennium Park on September 24th–26th. Eat at great Chicago restaurants to get a one-day golden ticket to sample even more great Chicago restaurants—a delicious cycle. (Mind the rules: Present your receipts in a Dine Around folder at registration.)
4. Check out Eatt (6 W. Hubbard; 312-494-3288), the newest member of the Rosebud family, which opened August 23rd with late-night eats (breakfast and lunch, too) and an enviable deli case.
Dish is taking one week off (back on September 15), so here’s a handy list of expected openings for all you foodies who hate to fall behind:
• Chizakaya (3056 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-697-4725) opens September 2, bringing the traditional Japanese small-plate-and-pub combo (izakaya) to Lake View.
• Naf Naf Grill (1739 Freedom Dr., Naperville; 630-904-7200) moves its Middle Eastern fare to a new location—an upgrade that may be a template for future locations—on September 3rd.
• City Provisions Deli (1818 W. Wilson Ave.; 773-293-2489) serves up seasonal sandwiches made with locally sourced ingredients starting September 3rd.
• Chicago Q (1160 N. Dearborn St.; 312-642-1160) starts grilling Southern-style barbecue in the Gold Coast on September 4th—pass the hot links, please!
• La Boulangerie (2569 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-358-2569) offers a taste of Paris in Logan Square on September 7th, including fresh bread every two hours and an authentic crêperie for sweet and savory enthusiasts alike.
• Davanti Enoteca (1359 W. Taylor St.; 312-226-5550), the most recent addition to Scott Harris’s Mediterranean-and-Italian-themed empire, opens to serve small plates across the street from his Francesca’s on Taylor on September 8th.
• Vincent (1475 W. Balmoral Ave.; 773-334-7168), following a whirlwind redo of the former La Tache space, emerges as a Dutch bistro on September 10th. This could become the Holy Grail for mussels fans.
Have a great Labor Day weekend. Team Dish will be back on September 15th.