Monday, January 21, 2008

'Desperate Housewife' spotted at new 900 Shops pizzeria


"Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria snuck into Chicago last week and made a pitstop at Frankie’s Fifth Floor Pizzeria (900 N. Michigan Ave., 312-266-2500) in the 900 Shops. I'm not quite sure what she was doing in town, but the petite star caused quite a stir, according to manager Matt Whittaker, in the new restaurant's patio area in the mall.

Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises Vice President Christopher Favero, who is also behind the concept of the new Sardinia-style pizza joint, managed to get a photo with Longoria. I want to see proof of this, and when I get my hands on that photo, I will be sure to post it ASAP.

Update on Big Jones in Andersonville

We had the scoop on Big Jones (5347 N. Clark St.) in Andersonville at the beginning of the month, and now the details are really coming in.

Owned by chef Paul Fehribach (who was most recently the chef/GM at Schubas and Harmony Grill), the restaurant will be rooted in Southern coastal cuisine with Caribbean influences.

In step with the current trend, Fehribach plans to work with local farmers for regionally grown produce, pasture-raised meats and dairy for his seasonally inspired menu. Offerings like a blue crab and wild mushroom pie, fried green tomato BLT (tres interesting!), and Niman Ranch Baby Back Ribs basted with an in-house-brewed Worcestershire sauce sound good to me. Big Jones will also feature an extensive selection of classic cocktails and a daily afternoon tea service from 2-5pm. The tea service will offer three plates of finger foods—sweets, savories and relishes.

Some may remember the venue as the old German bar Augie's, but now the 2,650-square-foot space has been totally renovated to look more like a warm Southern setting you'd find in New Orleans or Charleston. Look for it to open in mid-March.

'Garbage bags over the windows' is not a good thing

One of my peeps just checked in with this email: "My friend and I were going to go to Fan Si Pan (1618 W. Chicago Ave.) for lunch and the damn place is totally closed, garbage bags over the windows, etc..any
idea of what happened there?"

I followed up and called the casual Vietnamese eatery specializing in flavorful oversized spring rolls and french-fried green beans. No answer, with phone ringing off the hook. I'm going to go ahead and guess that since I never saw anyone in the place it was time for them to go.

They beat us to it . . .

The Chicago Tribune's Phil Vettel is reporting that Avenues (108 E. Superior St., 312-573-6754) Executive Chef Graham Elliot Bowles is leaving to launch an eponymous "bistronomic" concept in River North.

Also, in a related story, ex-Alinea chef Curtis Duffy takes his helm over at Avenues.

2008 BlackBook Guide to Chicago arrives . . .

. . . in bookstores tomorrow.

The "insiders" guide to local nightlife and dining spots was written by yours truly as well as colleagues Sarah Preston (aka Last Girl Standing) and features writer/Plate magazine associate editor Liz Grossman.

Pick up a copy when you get a chance!

New wine lounge opening in Andersonville; Harry Caray's to hit home run in Wrigleyville


Looks like the very popular In Fine Spirits wine retail store (5418 N. Clark St., 773-506-9463) in Andersonville is adding another component in mid-March.

Next door at 5420 N. Clark St. they're opening In Fine Spirits Lounge, which aims to be a classic neighborhood bar featuring New World wine, classic cocktails and craft beers as well as small plates and cheese platters. The intimate space should be a comfortable meeting place for neighborhood folks looking to chill out for casual nights or wine education seminars. And come late spring (around Memorial Day), they're planning to have outdoor seating on the bustling Clark Street and around back on the patio.

Also opening this spring is Harry Caray's Tavern (3551 N. Sheffield Ave., 773-348-0009) in the old Hi-Tops space in Wrigleyville. It's debuting just in time for baseball season, and it's right across the street from Wrigley Field. Highlights of the menu include the Holy Cow! Burger Bar, the award-winning chicken Vesuvio and Dutchie’s salad. Late-night entertainment will include live bands, deejays and dancing.

Western suburb to get Soul

Look for buzz to happen in Clarendon Hills—like it did when Fahrenheit opened in St. Charles—when a high-profile duo brings Soul (1 Walker Ave.) to the western suburbs this winter.

Howard Davis—one of the principals behind Gioco, Red Light, Le Lan and Opera—teams up with Bill Kim (who is the executive chef at Le Lan) for this concept they're calling "refined American regional cuisine." Soul's executive chef will be Karen Nicolas (formerly of Gramercy Tavern in NYC and the Charlie Palmer Restaurant Group), who's also planning a budget-friendly bar menu with all items under $15. The restaurant will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner service.

Deal of the day . . .

(Photo: Taste Food and Wine)

If you had cabin fever over the weekend because of the unbearable chill in the air, now’s the time to get out to:

Boka (1729 N. Halsted St., 312-337-6070) for the Old World, New World and Your World, a wine-tasting event. They’re bringing in Cream Wine Company to compare and contrast different varieties, including pinot grigio, Rhone and pinot noir. Executive Chef Guiseppe Tentori will also serve specialty appetizers to complement. 6:30-8pm tonight. $30.

Sweets and Savories’ (1534 W. Fullerton Ave., 773-281-6778) Monday night tasting menu, which is $10 off every week. You’ll also get to save additional $$ because you can BYOB with no corkage fee.

Taste Food and Wine (1506 Jarvis Ave., 773-761-3663) in Rogers Park for the Monday night wine-tasting event. Each week, they spotlight a different vino, from bodacious reds to ports and sherries. 6:30-8pm. Free.