Monday, December 3, 2007

Is Grotto on State closing or not?

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Are the owners of Grotto on State (1030 N. State St., 312-280-1005) on the fence about closing their Gold Coast location for good on Dec. 31?

It certainly sounds like Grotto's days are numbered over there if they're sending the executive chef, Abraham Aguirre (who ruled the kitchen at Harry Caray's before he made his move), to their new Oak Brook location, which isn't scheduled to open until March 2008.

When called, they didn't want to confirm or deny the rumors, only saying that "they haven't made up their minds about closing." If the rumors turn out to be true, if you haven't made those New Year's Eve plans and you want to check out Grotto, now is the time.

Developing . . .

New wine bar opens in River West

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Connoisseur Wine Company managing partner Gerald Lott

Word is that Connoisseur Wine Company (1041 W. Grand Ave., 312-738-3055) quietly opened in the River West neighborhood last week. It's a tiny, intimate space--and I was just on Grand last night and somehow missed it!--so you really have to look out for it.

Managing partner is veteran entertainment guru Gerald Lott, who has guided promotions for some of the city’s finest venues and celebrities for nearly 20 years. And with Connoisseur, he's promoting his prime interests: atmosphere, social drinking and familiar music all as one concept.

Connoisseur is open every day except Monday, and you'll find specialty martinis, as well as a nice selection of wine, cognacs and sparkling wines to complement the small-plate and dessert offerings.

Through Dec. 15, guests receive 20% off entire menu. Also, to be invited to their upcoming grand-opening event, go to the website:

Amped-up comfort food at BB's

Since Wrigleyville's The Outpost closed several years ago, there haven't been many places to go for some Aussie pub grub. But maybe there's a reason for that.

Well, recently, BB's (22 E. Hubbard St., 312-755-0007) quietly unveiled a new fall menu and on it, you'll find some Australian-inspired dishes and wines. There's the Bondi Burger, which comes with bacon, cheddar, beet root, pineapple and fried egg. It sounds pretty strange, but these flavors actually work together pretty well. And then there's the Aussie chicken Schnitzel "Parmi," a filling, tangy dish that's pretty similar to the chicken parmesan.

And then there's what's certain to become a big deal over at BB's: the Friday all-you-can-eat fish & chips special. For $12.95, you get Bass pale ale battered cod that comes with peas and tartar sauce. Sign me up.

Uncommon Ground opens second location today

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Husband-and-wife team Michael and Helen Cameron have had much success with their Wrigleyville Uncommon Ground location (3800 N. Clark St.), so it's no surprise that they're finally branching out.

Today they're opening a second outpost--with an eco-friendly design--in Edgewater (1401 W. Devon Ave., 773-465-9801) near Loyola University.

In addition to signature dishes like the Black Cat espresso and cocoa nib-rubbed American Buffalo Rib-eye and coriander-crusted, naturally raised chicken breast with chipotle cheddar mashed potatoes, expect the same desserts and cocktails that they've become legendary for.

Also, they're planning to embrace the community's local artist scene, featuring local artwork and nightly performances from area musicians.

Deal of the day . . .

This week only, David Burke Primehouse (616 N. Rush St., 312-660-6000) offers a very special deal for the power lunchers.

Today through Friday, Dec. 7, you can get a taste of seven wines from seven different regions for only $7. Also, special regionally themed menu items will be featured each day. Monday, they're showcasing the wines from Austria, Northern Italy and Tokaji; Tuesday come for wines from Australia; Wednesday get ready to go ooh-la-la over French vino; Thursday are those from North America; and Friday features vino from Spain.

Reservations strongly recommended and proceeds benefit Common Threads, which provides after-school programming to children educating them on the importance of nutrition and physical well being.