Friday, January 4, 2008

Say it ain't so!

(Photo: Johnny Rockets)

I was strolling through the Gold Coast this afternoon only to find out that my secret summertime spot Johnny Rockets (901 N. Rush St.) closed six days ago.

A sign posted in the window simply said: "Thanks for all your patronage for over 20 years . . ." So sad. Now where will we go for old-school malts, shakes, fries and burgers after spending all our money in places like Bloomies, Barney's and Banana Republic? Truly an end of an era in the Gold Coast . . .

Grilled cheese goes couture

"Gossip Girl" stars noshing on the infamous $50 grilled cheese?! (Photo: CW)

Just saw a segment on the "Today" show about a $50 grilled cheese (!!!) that was featured on glossy CW show "Gossip Girl."

Executive Chef Christopher Lee of NYC's Gilt (455 Madison Ave., 212-891-8100) is behind the creation, which includes fontina cheese, shallots, shaved black truffles (white truffles, when in season) and, of course, decadent truffle oil.

Now, while Chicago may not have any super high-end grilled cheese offerings, I found some that could definitely compete with the "Gossip Girl" gourmet sandwich—and hey you don't have to pay $50!

Crust (2056 W. Division St., 773 235-5511). The hip, organic eatery serves theirs with kalona cooperative cheddar, brioche bread and a tomato basil soup. $8.

Fixture (2706 N. Ashland Ave., 773-248-3331). Mmmm. This one comes with taleggio cheese, brioche and drizzled with truffle oil (!!). Oh, and it is complemented by smoked tomato soup, too. $10.

Jerry’s Sandwiches. Comes with a choice of two cheeses and grilled on your choice of bread: Tuscan white, classic white, multigrain or dark rye. $7.75. 1045 W Madison St., 312-563-1008 or 1938 W. Division St., 773-235-1006.

Kitsch’n Roscoe (2005 W. Roscoe St., 773-248-7372). It’s simple, but hearty with grilled tomato, caramelized onions and choice of cheese. $6.99. (Also served at Kitsch’n River North, 600 W. Chicago Ave., 312-644-1500.)

Silver Cloud (1700 N. Damen Ave., 773-489-6212). All January, every day is the 4th Annual Anti-Resolution Killer Carb special: $9.95 gets you Silver Cloud’s signature grilled cheese (special cheese blend served on Italian bread), mac & cheese, and mashed potatoes and gravy.

What the critics are saying . . .

Relax partner David Lehtman (left) and two of his rock-star bartenders.
(Photo: Relax)

. . . about:

The Boundary (1932 W. Division St., 773-278-1919). "The common denominator drawing the crowds—generally, a 20- through 40-something mix of good-looking folks from greater West Town—is the beer list, heavy on craft brews such as Breckenridge Avalanche Ale ($4 a bottle) and Dogfish Head Midas Touch Golden Elixir ($6 a bottle). There's also a full bar menu of standard American fare. On our visit, music seemed to function mostly as background noise, but service was swift, and our waitress, Jackie, was never far."—Sarah Preston (Chicago Magazine)

Demera (4801 N. Broadway, 773-334-8787). "The doro alicha wat (lemon-marinated, slightly sweet chicken legs) had been stewed long enough that it needed only the lightest pinch with injera to come off the bone; the kitfo (Ethiopian steak tartare) was cool and pure in flavor, and offset by the spicy chile powder sprinkled over it. The lega tibs (lamb stir-fried with garlic, peppers, etc) weren’t bad either—but their flavor didn’t seem to warrant the jaw-numbing gnawing required to get the meat off the bone."—David Tamarkin (Time Out Chicago)

Kiki's Bistro (900 N. Franklin St., 312-335-5454). "Rich but not overwhelming, sautéed duck breast with leg confit ($23) is as good as this dish gets. The breast meat is cooked to order, and the leg meat falls off the bone. Both are well-suited to the green peppercorn sauce and sides of sweet-sour red cabbage and buttery wild rice."—Laura Bianchi (Crain's Chicago Business)

Relax Lounge (1450 W. Chicago Ave., 312-666-6006). "The kitchen, such as it is, serves baskets of burgers and fries, and burgers and fries only. But they’re pretty good: a third-pound beef patty or veggie burger on a toasty bun, your choice of cheese, and a side of hot, crisp, salty hand-cut sticks of starch. And compared to the other 'rock ’n’ roll' bar on the block, the blisteringly loud Five Star, this place is an oasis of class."—Martha Bayne (Chicago Reader)

South Coast (1700 S. Michigan Ave., 312-662-1700). "Vintage embellishments on the building's facade contrast with a contemporary interior. The foyer boasts marble accents and printed wallpaper, the rest of the dining room following suit with grained zebra wood, graphic wall treatments and carved wood vases. The sushi bar cranks out fresh, innovative maki with unexpected ingredients like mint and geoduck, but other items, like citrus-spiked corn and tuna salad, are popular, too."—Fred Schlatter (Chicago CitySearch)

Jay-Z brings his fabulous 40/40 Club to Chicago

Rap mogul/businessman Jay-Z and his main squeeze Beyoncé. (Photo: Kevin Mazur,

From the New York Post's Page Six today:

"'Jay is focusing on opening five more 40/40 clubs,' a source said about Jay's sports club which originated in New York. 'He opened Las Vegas on New Year's and up next are LA, Miami, Chicago, London and Houston.'"

Just one question: Will Beyoncé be at the opening?!