Saturday, January 30, 2010

Winners of the Jean Banchet Awards!

Blackbird's Michael Sheerin took home "Rising Chef" honors at the Banchet Awards on Friday. (Photo: Anthony Tahlier)

Friday was a big night for a number of Chicago's top culinary folks as they took home awards at the Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence ceremony during the Cystic Fibrosis' annual Grand Chefs Gala.

The event took place in the Fairmont Hotel's grand ballroom following an amazing cocktail party where more than 30 chefs whipped up signature appetizers for several hundred guests.

Here are the winners, who were selected by all participating and nominated chefs voting by secret ballot:

Best Catering Co: Blue Plate; Best Sommelier: Scott Tyree of Sepia; Rising Chef: Michael Sheerin of Blackbird; Rising Pastry: Stephanie Prida of Blackbird; Best Neighborhood Spot: Piccolo Sogno; Best Fine Dining: Paul Virant of Vie; Celeb Pastry Chef: Cindy Schuman of Sepia; Celeb Chef: Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill/Topolobampo/Xoco; People's Choice Award: Curtis Duffy of Avenues.

Congrats to all!

Friday, January 29, 2010

NBCChicago's Flash Mob Party Hits Wicker Park

(Photos: Jason Lewis,

"We want to continue doing special events going forward, but not just the same ol' same ol'," says Marcus Riley, an entertainment reporter for, about the offbeat parties he's helped organized to put the media outlet on a different level than its competition.

In December, they headed to the South Side for the coolest retro set since "Soul Train" filmed in Chicago.

Revelers donned their best disco threads, accessories and hats on the dance floor as they bumped and boogied through a Soul Train line.

Thursday's first-ever flash mob—which was heavily promoted on NBC's Facebook and Twitter pages—wasn't half as flashy as the retro affair, but cool nonetheless.


One hundred guests showed up to Usagi Ya's upper-level Rabbit Room, in Wicker Park, to indulge in free sushi, cocktails and music from local deejay Com-Lb.

Riley says's got more events coming up throughout the year, so if you want to be down, follow them here on Twitter.

Curtis Duffy Gets Super Props from Grant Achatz

Grant Achatz (left) and Curtis Duffy

Avenues at the Peninsula Chef de Cuisine Curtis Duffy is having one hell of a week.

Friday night he's hosting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's annual Grand Chefs Gala, where he's up for two honors in the Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence (Best Fine Dining and Celebrity Chef).

And, as he was preparing for those festivities, word came down that he got some major props from one of the most famous chefs in the world.

Alinea's Grant Achatz, who Duffy worked with at Trio several years ago, tapped him to be a part of the James Beard Foundation Awards ceremony taking place on May 3 in New York City.

Each year, a past winner nominates a new chef to cook for the event, and Duffy was lucky enough to get the nod.

"It will be such a memorable experience," said Duffy, who was still in shock from the news.

He's not sure what he's making yet, of course, but he knows it's going to have to be amazing to impress the country's most important people in the dining industry.

Also, we'll see if this means that he'll finally be up for a Beard award himself . . .

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fire Destroys Bronzeville Spots; Where to Go Now

"Game Night" at Blu 47. (Photo: Blu 47)

A three-alarm fire destroyed a commercial building in Bronzeville early Thursday morning that was home to a number of thriving hot spots, including Blu 47, Spoken Word Cafe and a fifth Uncle Joe's Jerk Chicken location—which was set to open any day now.

This really sucks because it's a known fact that there's always been a lack of cool South Side places for young professionals to hang, so we're crossing our fingers that they're able to rebuild quickly.

We couldn't reach any of the business owners, but Blu 47 posted a message on its Facebook page, "Please keep our Blu 47 family in your prayers," which generated more than 50 messages from well-wishers.

We did catch up with Art Sims, a Bronzeville resident and regular contributor to "You and Me This Morning with Jeanne Sparrow," which airs weekdays on WCIU-TV. He's also known for putting on lively events at a few of the venues that were damaged.

Art Sims' "Relationship Chat" networking event at Spoken Word Cafe. (Photo: Art Sims)

He says that the loss of these businesses is a blow to the neighborhood.

"It's a tremendous loss because we lack upscale places in our community, and that corner was the place to go," he says. "It offered everything: comedy, poetry, upscale dining. For many years, it was the home of my Original Real Deal Relationship Chat.

"I just hope they're all able to rebuild as soon as possible."

As a frequent diner in Bronzeville as well as nearby Hyde Park, Sims offers some other places to eat in the area:

The Big Easy: "'Hell's Kitchen' alum Chef Jen is bringing something good to the Hyde Park community with her take on Louisiana cuisine, but they still have some kinks they need to work out."

Cedars Mediterranean: "So fresh, and I love their chicken schwarma and hummus. They're located in Kimbark Plaza, so it's easy to park."

Chant: "It's really nice, Pan-Asian-inspired food. They do lobster rangoon and tempura vegetables, and are vegetarian friendly."

Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles: "It's a warm, relaxing spot where you can veg out after their famous chicken and waffles. It's extremely packed on weekends."

The Sit Down: "A sushi bistro that's really good. In addition to sushi they also have Italian fare and sandwiches."

Hyde Park location for Uncle Joe's Jerk Chicken: "The jerk chicken is very good, and the fish is always fresh."

Think Warm Thoughts . . .

The interior of Uncle Fatty's in Lakeview will make you feel as though you're on a beach in Mexico. (Photo: Uncle Fatty's)

Think Brazil. Think Australia. Think Mexico.

Think about anywhere warmer than this cold-ass weather that's got me contemplating wearing three layers of coats this weekend.

It seems to have just snuck up on us, so if you cannot get away, there's no harm in pretending like you're somewhere with more tropic-like temperatures.

Uncle Fatty’s Rum Resort in Lakeview, for example, gets it right when it comes to a warm-weather theme.

Island-style cocktails, beach-y decor (including private cabanas and sandbox) and a rotating list of high-energy, local cover bands are certain to make you feel like you're on vacation.

Through Sunday, Uncle Fatty's hosts its first-ever Winter Music Fest, featuring hip and poppy bands Two White Crew (Thursday), Mike and Joe (Friday), 16 Candles (Saturday) and The Spazmatics (Sunday). Expect large crowds and drink specials.

We wouldn't recommend showing up in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts though.

Music starts at 9pm; $5 cover.

More spots to warm your body, your mind and your soul:


Deejays spin classic reggae, dub and hip-hop at new Jamaican joint Mr. Brown’s Lounge, in Ukrainian Village. You'll get jerk chicken, oxtails, beef patties and curry goat that tastes like it came right out of Kingston, but you'll also get a little bit of American flair in the dining room that's casual, but clubby.

The guys behind Tango Sur have a hit on their hands with another Argentinean-themed resto in Folklore. The menu is similar, with well-marinated cuts of meats and poultry, but what sets it apart from the original is that it has a full-service bar. Deejay Shon Dervis spins slinky, exotic beats on some nights.

Former "Hell's Kitchen" contestant Jennifer Gavin goes for New Orleans flavor with The Big Easy in Hyde Park. Expect traditional Cajun and Southern food like fried green tomatoes, Louisiana crab cakes, jambalaya and freshly made beignets.

Traditional Caribbean cuisine sets up shop in Ukrainian Village with Mr. Brown's Lounge. (Photo: Urban Daddy Chicago)


For a kitschy, Hawaiian theme, it's time to get busy at Trader Vic’s, which serves up traditional pu-pu platters, Mai Tais and more. We love this spot for after-work shenanigans, because after a few of these strong-ass cocktails you'll be up for almost anything.

Bucktown's Rinconcito Sudamericano, however, is a bit more laid back, offering authentic Peruvian fare and flair. House specialties include the ceviche, sweet potatoes and an absolutely divine dish called Aji de Gallina, which has shredded chicken, walnut cream and Peruvian spices served over white rice.

Pick your favorite vino (preferably at next door Lush), and head to Habana Libre for heaving plates of Cuban food. Their signature Arroz con Pollo can easily feed a family of four, but make sure you call at least 45 minutes in advance to put in your order.


Nightlife-inspired Chicago Fashion Brunch hosts its second event at Tocco with a Capri theme. Akira owner Jon Cotay has teamed up with local fashion insiders to transport diners to the exotic coast of Italy. DJ Madrid spins sexy sounds as guests indulge in Italian wine flights, a Bellini bar and delicious brunch items. Of course there will be a fashion show! 11am-4pm. Reservations required at

More Cuban's in the mix at Cafe Laguardia, which has been at its Bucktown location for almost 40 years. Go for the paella, Cuban sandwiches bursting with thick slices of ham, and shredded beef over mounds of fluffy rice. Most nights feature Latin bands.

Mercadito's superb lower-level retreat Double A offers one of the best tequila lists in the city, plus their award-winning mixologists make exotic elixirs like Caipisutra (Leblon cachaça, pineapple, grapefruit, lime, garam masala), Shuga Daddy (Bacardi Select, spice syrup, kumquat, Champagne, orange bitters) and Down South (Averna liquirizia, strawberry, guava, lemon and Champagne). Deejays spin music to make you hot.


And Coobah serves up a Latin-inspired brunch with offerings like breakfast empanadas (filled with egg, sausage and aged Manchego cheese), blue corn buttermilk pancakes (dripping with Mexican canela-cinnamon butter and dark Ancho rum maple syrup) and a three-egg breakfast burrito. Also, go crazy with pitchers of sangria that's made from a secret Dominican Republic recipe. 10am-3pm.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Flash Dance, Drink and Dine!


Looks like the coolest TV station in town is NBC-5, who is hosting a "flash mob" party at 9pm Thursday, where guests will be treated to free sushi and cocktails, plus one of Chicago's hottest deejays.

For right now, they're not releasing the location, but we can tell you that the after-party's going down at Carol's Pub in Uptown.

They're only letting in the first 115 people, so to get all the deets follow them on Twitter.

The $6K Wine Was Screaming Eagle . . .


Got an update on the $6,000 wine story I wrote earlier this week.

Turns out the diner at an unnamed Chicago steakhouse ordered a 2001 Screaming Eagle. That bottle retailed for $6,000 at the resto, while a 1998 vintage was a little over $3,000. Perhaps he ordered the wrong bottle?!

I'll admit that when it comes to fine wines, I'm no expert, so I turned to Avenues at the Peninsula Sommelier Michael Muser, who shed light on how this situation could've been handled better:

"You delicately and clearly explain what they just ordered, including the vintage and everything," he says. "If you have an item on your wine list that's $6,000, you need to be very, very cautious, making sure the guest understands the severity of the situation. That is a major purchase."

On the other hand, Muser says, if he wasn't paying attention, "he deserved what he got. This is the most exclusive wine, and I'm assuming they know Screaming Eagle and know it is one of the hardest wines in the world to get."

Foodie Yoga the Next Big Thing?!


As a hardcore yogi who's been practicing for more than 13 years, I'm finding this latest trend on the mat quite disturbing.

Foodie Yoga is the newest brand of yoga at a New York studio. They're combining vegan food with Bikram, which sounds absolutely unsanitary. I'm all about exploring yourself through yoga—and of course I'm all about the food!!!—but this is beyond, as described in yesterday's New York Times story:

"All had signed up for a strange new hybrid of physical activity: first an hour of vigorous, sweaty yoga, then a multicourse dinner of pasta, red wine and chocolate. As soon as the lights went up, dinner was served on the floor: an (almost) seamless transition designed to allow the yogis to taste, smell and digest in a heightened state of awareness."

I really hope this is one trend that never makes its way to Chicago!

UPDATE: It's coming . . . and happening at Province in March!

Prairie Fire Set to Open Next Week in West Loop

Prairie Fire owners Sarah Stegner (left) and George Bumbaris with Naha owner Carrie Nahabedian. (Photo: Prairie Grass Cafe)

Located in the old Powerhouse resto space, Prairie Fire is set to open next week, according to owner/chef Sarah Stegner on her Facebook status:

"We passed inspection so we should be able to open next week. I"m not sure which day yet. Lot of work to do between now and then."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Curtis Duffy on Being Green, 'Grand Chefs Gala'

Curtis Duffy, chef de cuisine at Avenues at the Peninsula. (Photo: Peninsula Chicago)

Avenues at the Peninsula chef Curtis Duffy takes sustainable and organic cuisine quite serious. All one has to do is take a peek at his blog, where he gleefully posts pics of his masterpieces.

So it makes sense he's hosting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's annual Grand Chefs Gala (along with Sarah Levy of Sarah's Pastries), which trots out the city's finest kings and queens of the kitchen to cook signature appetizers and desserts for a few hundred folks.

Embracing this year's theme, Green for Life, Duffy, Levy and more than 30 of their peers will serve only local and organic food.

Duffy's whipping up one of his favorite dishes, a chilled Alaskan crab appetizer that's tangy and comes with tiny bites of Steelhead Roe, orange blossom pudding, pickled cucumber and a tangerine lace.

He says this will be a daunting task, as he's used to only making about 40 a night in his haute cuisine resto tucked inside the lobby level of the Peninsula. "We're doing 350 portions (for the event), which is very labor intensive," says Duffy. "It’s the first time we’re doing that crab dish for so many people. It’s going to be a big test of what we do on a mass scale."

Curtis Duffy's signature Alaskan King Crab appetizer. (Photo: Peninsula Chicago)

Duffy's also up for two honors that night in the Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence, which recognizes originality exhibited by Chicago's culinary professionals. He's nominated in the Best Fine Dining (for Avenues) and Celebrity Chef categories. Last year he took home an award for Rising Star Chef.

For Duffy, the local/organic movement is no fleeting trend; it's a lifestyle. He believes in supporting local farmers, especially since their philosophies on food are in line with his. "They put as much energy and time and passion in their products as the chefs do," he says. "They care what they do and it shows. They’re excited to show you the stuff they have."

Additionally, he says, 90 percent of the vegetables he uses are from small regional farmers. "I have a farm in Michigan that will grow fennel for me and no one else. I also have a farmer growing rare herbs for me. There's no way I could get a large corporation to produce these products exclusively for me."

Other chefs participating in the Grand Chefs Gala include Josh Linton (aja) and John des Rosiers (Inovasi)—both up for the Rising Star Chef award; Mark Mendez (Carnivale), Rick Gresh (Primehouse), Jonathan Fox (La Madia), Mark Sparacino (Prosecco), Jason McLeod (Balsan) and Toni Roberts (C-House).

For a complete list of chefs as well as tickets, go here.

The event happens 6-10pm Jan. 29.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Exchange Gets An Opening Date

Master mixologist Peter Vestinos hooking up cocktails at a sneak-preview party at The Exchange, set to open Feb. 11. (Photo: Phil McFarland)

The Exchange, an updated cocktail lounge in the former Lava Lounge space on Milwaukee Avenue, finally has an opening date.

Look for it to debut officially Feb. 11, but there's a "friends and family" night Saturday, and next week they expect to quietly open.

Say goodbye to the hip-hop and dub nights, and hello to a bar taking its mixology program serious.

A few of master mixologist Peter Vestinos' drinks certain to make your mouth water:

The 75, made with Right gin, fresh lemon sour, orange bitters and Flemish sour ale.

Smoke + Mirrors, with smoky Lapsong tea-infused tequila, agave nectar, fresh lime, egg and triple pepper bitters.

And The FireFly, featuring New Holland Knickerbocker gin, Alpine liqueur, chartreuse, bitters and rosemary garnish.

We've got even more news from the owners of The Exchange, who are also behind the SmallBar gastropub concept in Wicker Park and Logan Square.

Owner Phil McFarland tells 312DD that the third location is totally ready to open in Lincoln Park, but they're having licensing issues with City Hall. Sheesh.

Old-schoolers will remember this venue as one of the pool halls where famed director Martin Scorsese filmed The Color of Money starring Paul Newman and Tom Cruise.

St Paul’s Billiards was a gritty piece of work, so it'll be interesting to see just how much it's changed since the SmallBar guys took over.

Here's Your WTF Wine Story of the Week!


Soooooo, a guy and his friends hit up one of Chicago's most established steakhouses for a meal over the weekend.

They eat and drink like kings and queens, ordering seafood and steaks and wine to celebrate life. Bill comes, and while they knew it would be expensive, they had no idea one bottle alone would cost $6,000!

The guy pays up (thank God his credit card covered it!), but he's in complete shock because if the one bottle of vino was $6,000, could you imagine how much the entire bill was?!

How in the hell could this have happened?! Did he not see the bottle's price on the menu? Did the server, before she/he opened the bottle, remind him how much it cost? What in the world would've happened had he not been able to cover the cost of the meal (the man in question was also 72 years old and retired)? What was the tip and tax? And is this a typical occurrence on high-ticket items at restaurants?

312DD caught up with Arturo Gomez, managing partner of popular hot spots Rockit Bar & Grill, Sunda and Underground, to find out how his establishments would have avoided this rather embarrassing and sticky situation:

"Typically at a bar or nightclub when someone's doing large purchases like that you take their credit card and you pre-authorize just to make sure that it will go through," says Gomez.

"That's more of club culture, not at a restaurant. When you sit down, before you get anything, they ask for your credit card and ID. It's required that the server lets them know the price because we've actually had this type of situation occur before." He adds that at all three of his establishments, prices are listed clearly on all menus to avoid confusion.

Even though credit cards are not pre-authorized at most restaurants, including Sunda, Gomez says servers are required to repeat orders to customers, particularly on large-ticket items. At Sunda, he says, the most expensive bottle of wine is about $1,000.

"We'd repeat clearly to the customer to make sure they were aware of what they ordered. We'd show them the vintage and everything before opening the bottle," he says.

"You really have to double check to make sure nothing embarrassing happens."

I soooo want to call this restaurant's name out, but I promised that for right now, I'd keep its name on the hush . . .

UPDATE: We found out more about the wine the diner purchased here.

Chef Uses Twitter to Find Next Job


Chef Matt Troost (formerly of the Peninsula Chicago) put the word out on Twitter this afternoon that Fianco, in Lakeview, had shuttered and that he and his staff were looking for jobs:

"talented chef seeks job...FIANCO IS CLOSED.. email me at if you have work for me .. my cooks need jobs too."

Expansion in the Works for Old Town Social

(Photo: Old Town Social)

I just love good news to start off the week!

This just hit the inbox from one of my West Coast Ultimate Insiders about Old Town Social:

"(Old Town Social owner) Chris Dexter is opening a Quality Social in downtown San Diego, extending the brand he started in Chicago. It's supposed to open in mid February."

And yes, it's definitely going down, according to this story from Discover San Diego, who calls it "a sophisticated dive bar creation from Chicago industry leaders."

Good for them, but the name isn't half as cool as the Chicago original!

Chaise Lounge Transforms into The Southern

Johnny Cakes are just one of the Southern-inspired items on the menu at The Southern, formerly Chaise Lounge. (Photo: The Southern)

Just randomly out of nowhere this afternoon, a missive dropped in my email box that Chaise Lounge would be no longer.

Executive Chef Cary Taylor, who transformed the South Beach-inspired Bucktown spot into a dining destination when he took over in 2008, has been slowly transitioning the menu from contemporary American to more Southern-focused fare, so this actually doesn't come as a surprise.

At The Southern, he plans to explore even deeper Southern cuisine as well as offer an expansive selection of small-batch bourbons, microbrews and hearty whiskeys. Look for dishes like Beignets; Southern Poutine with tasso, fries and curds; Johnny Cakes and something they're calling a Southern Insanity concept (see the entire menu here).

When I first posted the news on Twitter, there was an immediate backlash from Chaise fans, including one patron who wrote that he just went over the weekend:

"Chef Cary Taylor came out to talk a couple of times and we had a great meal. 'Cuban Croque Madame' with Jamon Serrano and Pulled Turkey, Fried Egg, Toasted Brioche, Pepperjack Mornay Sauce. We were also the very first people to try his Beignets. Everything was great. I hope the name change doesn't mean he's leaving the restaurant."

Thankfully Taylor's not going anywhere, but we'll see where this new concept goes when it opens on Feb. 5 . . .

Friday, January 22, 2010

Swingin' with the Sharks at the Shedd

(Photo: Natasha Hernandez)

While you were chilling at home or dining out at a quaint neighborhood restaurant Thursday night, some of Chicago's snappiest young professionals headed to the Shedd for the launch of The Kraken, a new black spiced rum debuting in the Chicago market.'s About Last Night section shows you what you missed in this lively slideshow.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tiger's Mistress, J-Woww Hit Town . . .

J-Woww of "Jersey Shore" (left) and Tiger Woods' alleged mistress, Jamiee Grubbs (Photo:

Look who's coming to town this weekend.

None other than "Jersey Shore" brawler J-Woww and Jamiee Grubbs, who gained notoriety for being an alleged Tiger Woods' mistress. has the deets on where you can check them out.

My question is: Can they sing? Dance? Deejay?! What will they do to entertain people? What they've become famous for isn't legal at Manor or RiNO . . .

Take a Hop Around Town This Weekend


Chicago's finally getting the props it deserves when it comes to hops, as told in a 2009 New York Times story about the city's new wave of microbrews scattered throughout the trendiest neighborhoods.

So it's no surprise that you'll find beer-oriented bashes going down on the regular like Friday's Meet the Brewers event at Jake Melnick's Corner Tap.

They're bringing in the team behind Ravenswood's Metropolitan Brewery, who will deftly showcase a number of signature microbrew drafts, including Dynamo, Generator, Krankshaft and Flywheel. Beer enthusiasts should love this as they'll get unlimited pours paired with snacks.

That happens 6:30-9:30pm, and cover's $25.

There's so many more beer events happening this weekend, so bounce around . . .


At In Fine Spirits' fifth-anniversary party, it'll be mostly wines that local distributors will be pouring, but also expect a few local craft brew gems. We're hoping the guys from Two Brothers, Metropolitan Brewing and Arcadia make a cameo. 6-8pm. $20 (advance purchase required).

If you're on a budget, one of the best bets of the night is at new River North hang The Fifth. The Thursday night special is the $5 Kobe burger and $1 off craft beer drafts.

Speaking of burgers, Hawaiian-themed Sola does a Burgers, Bacon and Beer night every Thursday. Pair the award-winning Wagyu Kobe burger with Two Brothers' Ebel Weiss beer.


Warm up to Blue 13's hearty new winter menu that they've so thoughtfully paired with a number of full-bodied brews. Chef Chris Curren's take on the classic chicken 'n' waffles dish (Buffalo waffle, Pointes Reyes blue cheese, Great Lakes beer foam) goes well with the Great Lakes Eliot Ness. The decadent Rabbit Struedel (horseradish potato foam, glazed carrots, cipollini onions, Dijon vinaigrette) just makes sense with a Lagunitas Czech Pilsner. And the Drunken Wagyu Shortrib (glazed carrots, caramelized Brussels sprouts, egg noodles, wild mushroom stout sauce) gets the weekend off to a good start when complemented with a Murphy's Irish Stout.

SmallBar owner Phil McFarland says "people freak out" when he gets Bell's seasonal HopSlam—which is currently on draft at both locations in Wicker Park and Logan Square. He warns that this beer is not for the weak at 10 percent alcohol by volume, in comparison to Miller Lite's squirrely three percent ABV. Also new is Bell's Java Stout, a chocolaty sensation; 3Floyds Dreadnaught, another high alcohol, hoppy beer; and Allagash Brewing's Burnham Road, a smoked Belgian-style blonde that McFarland says is a rare draught to find in Chicago.


With provocative names like Full Frontal Pale Ale and Dark-n-Curvy Dunkelweizen, how could you resist?! Piece's award-winning American-style pale and German-style wheat ales respectively go well with their New England-style pizzas. Plus, after a few of those you'll have the courage you need to get on stage for live-band karaoke. Band performs 11pm-2am every Saturday.


Quirky James Hotel resto Primehouse is putting a new spin to the traditional Japanese Bento box by offering a number of funky-themed options during its newly tweaked brunch service. We're loving the idea behind the Hangover (which comes with mini Burkers,…fried quail eggs, fries, mac 'n' cheese, a Monti Cristo, sunglasses and aspirin), Little Bull (207L beef tips, grilled steak, shortrib dumplings) and a Mystery Box, where Executive Chef Rick Gresh gets "creative." Of course, you cannot go wrong if you pair any of these with a carafe of Bloody Mary amped up with Guinness. 11am-2pm Saturday, Sunday.

Go Down Under for a day as Sixteen pays homage to its executive chef's hometown. Frank Brunacci has gathered Australia's most famous brands for a walk-around tasting event, including Cooper's beer, wine, food, cheeses and more. 1-5pm. $35.

Sunday nights are laid back at Le Bar, now that they're serving up moules and frites. You'll get a full portion of black mussels steamed with Stella Artois. It comes with fries and aioli for $9.50, and for an additional $5 you can indulge in a Fat Tire, Guinness, Alpha King, Shiner Black or Goose Island.


Wisconsin's Tyranena Brewery, new to the Chicago scene, hosts an event at Bluebird for fans to sip through their selection of suds. You'll enjoy such mainstays as the Headless Man, Rocky's Revenge and Bitter Woman IPA, but they'll also sample a little Shaggin' on the Wood, a scotch ale aged in bourbon barrels. Snacks included. 7:30-9:30pm. $20.


And look forward to free Tuesday tastings at Smoke Daddy, which highlights new, rare and small-production brews across the country. You'll also get pints of the featured beers for $6 and $10 for beer flights. On Jan. 26, look forward to selections from Samuel Adams Imperial Series. It's also $6 pulled meat nachos and live-music night! 7-9pm for tastings; live music at 9pm.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Socca Chef's Dish a Favorite of Food Network

Socca Chef/Owner Roger Herring with Art Smith. (Photo: Socca)

Lakeview's cozy French-Italian bistro Socca is off to a great start in 2010.

Look for it to celebrate its fifth anniversary next month with an all-star lineup of local chefs (Rick Gresh of Primehouse, Stephanie Izard of Girl & The Goat, Bristol's Chris Pandel, to name a few). Plus, one of its dishes was anointed "one of the best things" celeb chef Art Smith (Table Fifty-Two) ever ate on the popular Food Network series, The Best Thing I Ever Ate.

Socca's signature Shrimp Pizzette. (Photo: Socca)

He gushes over the signature Shrimp Pizzette, which comes topped with heirloom tomato sauce, fontina, basil and chili pepper. The Food Network show airs at 9pm CST Feb. 5.

Get it now because once the show airs, it's gonna be crazy over there . . .

Chef Radhika Desai is a Cheeky Chick of the Year

(Photo: Radhika Desai)

Sarah Levy (Sarah's Pastries & Candies) and Top Chef alum Radhika Desai (formerly of Between Boutique Cafe and Lounge) are two of 10 fab women honored during Cheeky's annual party for the Cheeky Chicks of the Year.

The party goes down at Sunda at 8pm Friday, with passed apps, cocktails and a deejay spinning.

Single guys may want to take note: It'll be a room full of eligible and gorgeous women, so you might want to make this your first stop of the night!

$25 a person; space is limited. RSVP required at

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bice Grill Closes for Renovation Until Spring


An astute foodie on her way to lunch at popular Streeterville spot Bice Grill alerted us all with a tweet that it was no longer:

"What?!? No more Bice Grill? So sad! Guess this will force me to branch out a bit more at lunchtime."

A call to the restaurant confirmed that it was indeed closed: The line was disconnected. But we followed up with a call to sister resto Bice Ristorante, where the manager said it closed last Friday.

"Business is slower at the beginning of the year, and it gets really cold for customers because of the ventilation system," he said. "Therefore we took this opportunity to shut it down, renovate and reopen in about six weeks."

Rumor has it that it'll transform into a completely new concept, so we'll just have to wait and see.

On the upside, if you're looking for a new lunch spot in the area, Epic launched service Tuesday, with contemporary menu items like hot-off-the-press paper-wrapped paninis; buttermilk fried calamari; raw bar selections such as jumbo prawn and King crab; and mini desserts from hot shot Pastry Chef Christine McCabe.

She Digs Delicious Eats Beyond Meat . . .


Chicago's a hardcore, meat-eating town.

So when Kelli Zink, the spunky entertainment news reporter for, told me she was a vegetarian, I blurted out, "How can you survive here?!"

She's always making the scene at the hottest restaurants in town, surrounded by beautiful cuts of meat, so it's hard to believe she didn't feel out of place.

Zink makes it work, by getting creative at regular restaurants and not limiting herself to vegetarian-only spots. So for those considering a meat-free diet (or already on board), she offers her favorites of all time in the city:

Freshii: "They have soups, wraps and salads. You can customize all your meals and whatever crazy combination you come up with they will have it."

Green Zebra: "I can have everything on the menu and don’t have to worry about (biting into meat products by accident). It’s one of the few places you can go and it’s safe, but it can get expensive."

HUB 51: "I’ve taken my out-of-town vegetarian friends here, and they have the veggie sushi roll which has beets on top of it. Their veggie burger is amazing because they make it from scratch. They tested several recipes until they got it right. I also like that they allow you to substitute items on the menu. Their staff is very accommodating for special diets."

Karyn’s Fresh Corner: "They have the takeout stuff, and you can do shots of wheatgrass and it’s really convenient and cool."

Karyn’s Cooked: I can take my friends who eat like 'normal' people and they still enjoy it. You can get pizza that still tastes like pizza."

Lo-Cal Corner: "They have the cheapest and healthiest wraps and soups, veggie chili, vegan cookies and brownies. In the store, they sell coconut water and Kombucha(carbonated Japanese fermented tea), which has an acquired taste."

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sneak Peek of Sable Kitchen & Bar!


Sable Kitchen & Bar, with former Atwood Kitchen exec chef Heather Terhune at its helm, is set to debut March 24 on the first level of the Hotel Palomar.

We got our hands on some really cool photos, a rendering of the restaurant (see above) and some artwork going into the space. You'll love this: Most of the portraits are superimposed over a molecule structure and a cocktail recipe.


As far as the overall design of Sable, the PR rep tells us to expect "a sleek and sexy space with seating for 158 guests, including bar, lounge, dining room and patio options, Sable is a refreshing update on the glamor of the 1940s, as old Hollywood charm mingles effortlessly with modern industrial touches and classic Chicago warmth.

"For the interiors, acclaimed California-based design firm the Puccini Group created a space that is at once soothing and sleek. At Sable, design tips its hat to the almost alchemical power of the bar and to the sophisticated comfort of the 1940s and 1950s."

The Drawing Room Gets Big Honors

Charles Joly of The Drawing Room (Photo: Charles Joly)

With all the cool clubs and bars around town, I'm a little shocked only two made it into the finals for the annual Nightclub & Bar Magazine awards program.

As always, Chicago was mostly overlooked in favor of its peers on the East and West coasts. And then to pour more gasoline into an open wound, the local venue that made it into the "Ultra Lounge of the Year" category is an adult club. Loop lap-dance spot Pink Monkey gets the nod.

At least they got it right when it comes to The Drawing Room. The sexy, subterranean spot is a finalist in two categories: "Cocktail Lounge of the Year" and "Bartender of the Year," with that honor going to magnificent mixologist Charles Joly.


Friday, January 15, 2010

What The Hell Is Going on Here?!


I tried to get some well-deserved R&R Friday afternoon, and apparently all hell broke loose.

According to, there will be no fist-pumping this weekend because the entire "Jersey Shore" crew scheduled to appear at local nightclubs Manor, Lumen and RiNo have canceled:

"Hordes of fist-pumping Chicagoans will be disappointed to learn that the four stars of the MTV reality show 'Jersey Shore' who were slated to hit the Chicago nightclub scene will not be coming after all.

Lumen nightclub, which was planning to host Mike 'The Situation and DJ Pauly D, announced Friday that the duo canceled because of 'scheduled appearances.'

The entire cast was pulled from all North American appearances in order to fly to Los Angeles for a major press junket hosted by MTV, according to their booking agent.

If Pauly D's Twitter account is to be believed, they're currently living it up in LA.

Jenny 'J-WOWW' Farley announced Thursday via her Twitter account that she wouldn't honor her commitment at RiNo, apologizing to her fans, but not giving a reason why.

But on Friday afternoon, she tweeted 'In the hotel room with @snooki sick... We r sooo congested.'

And we feel sooo sorry for you both.

A PR rep for the The LGN Group, which owns both Manor and Rino, confirmed Friday afternoon that Nicole Snookie' Polizzi, who was scheduled to appear at Manor, and J-WOWW's appearances were canceled due to an 'unexpected change' in their filming schedule.

Lumen officials said they planned to make it up to it customers by offering a hosted vodka cocktail reception from 9-10:30 p.m. and a Jersey Shore Look-alike contest with a $300 main prize.

But they won't be able to reimburse you for all that hair gel you bought in anticipation of tonight's shenanigans."

If this is all true, don't even think about coming back . . . go pump those fists elsewhere!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bars & Restos Raise $$$ for Haiti Relief


Here are some ways you can help Haiti:

Law & Order: SUV star Chris Meloni took a video during his recent trip for Smile Train, which helps malnutritioned children.

Donate $10 instantly by texting "HAITI" to 90999 on your mobile phone (you'll see the charge on your next bill); all proceeds go to International Red Cross. Also, get up-to-the-minute updates on relief efforts here.

Doctors and nurses volunteer with Doctors Without Borders to provide urgent medical care in countries to victims of war and disaster regardless of race, religion or politics.

Hip-hop star Wyclef Jean, who originated from Haiti, is taking donations to help rebuild his homeland at You can also automatically donate $5 to the Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund if you text "YELE" to 501501 on your cell phone.

Messiah St.-Bartholomew Development Center (MSBDC) is a Chicago-based, non-profit organization offering relief for disadvantaged children and seniors. They've been raising donations for programs in Haiti for more than 10 years. They're accepting donations that will go directly to the country at 8255 S. Dante Ave., Chicago, IL 60619; 773-721-6965.

All Gerber Group properties, including Whiskey Bar and Whiskey Sky in Chicago, will donate a portion of the night's sales on Jan. 22 to Oxfam America, Partners in Health, American Red Cross, UNICEF and Yele Haiti Foundation. They're doing it in conjunction with the Hope for Haiti celebrity-studded telethon.

Joel Barnes, the general manager at Le Passage, is hosting Haiti fundraisers each Friday in January. He'll be collecting canned goods at the door, and all tips he receives will benefit American Red Cross. 6-9pm.

Through the end of the month, Custom House is offering the Aid to Haiti Punch made with Rhum Barbacourt, Myers Rum, Bacardi rum, apricot, orange and pineapple. All proceeds from the $16 cocktail go to the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund.

Twenty-five percent of all burger sales at DMK Burger Bar will benefit American Red Cross. We highly recommend going for the No. 3 (NY pastrami, Grand Cru Gruyere Cheese, Sauerkraut, Leroy’s Remoulade), No. 9 (organic turkey with cucumber and blue cheese coleslaw) or the No. 10 (grass-fed lamb with sheep's milk feta, olive tapenade and tomato and onion salad). Jan. 19-24. Also, DMK will have a Haitian Relief Fund donation raffle for $20 per ticket; the winner will receive a month of free burgers. The drawing takes place midnight Jan. 30.

Province's party raises money for Doctors Without Borders. Benefit includes food and drinks, with 100 percent of the money going to the group. 5:30-8pm. Jan. 28. $40.

Bottom Lounge is the place to be on Grammy Night, when local musical and spoken-word artists join forces to raise money for the Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund. There will be a special Grammy viewing party, food and a silent auction. 6:30-10:30pm in the upstairs Volcano Lounge. Jan. 31. $20. (17+ admitted)

Will update as more events come in . . .

Baby, It's Cold Outside, So Heat It Up Inside . . .


. . . with a significant other by cozying up to one of many events this weekend. You don't even have to wait until Valentine's Day!

Chopping Block's known for innovative cooking classes, so grab your honey and head to the Merchandise Mart location to whip up flavorful, spicy dishes like blackened shrimp with remoulade sauce; crawfish and Andouille sausage etouffee; and flambéed bananas foster with vanilla bean ice cream. 6pm Friday, Saturday.

Or if you're in the mood for more traditional dishes with a little bit of twist, make a date for the Lincoln Square spot. You will prepare spinach artichoke dip, smothered pork chops with caramelized onions, scalloped potatoes and a gingerbread pear cobbler. 7pm Saturday. All events are $75 per person.

More events where you can snuggle in the city . . .


Make your hot date right after work for Adam Seger's Hot Drinks Class at Nacional 27. The master mixologist will show you how to make his signature Hot Buttered Hum and Hot Agave Mocha, as you nosh on appetizers. 5:30-6:30pm. $27 per person. And if you stick around, we highly recommend you share a bowl of the black bean soup (with smoked chicken, crema, amontillado) and get a shot of 1894 solera sherry and spanish flor de sel for an extra $1.95.

Seasons Lounge's "haute" chocolate. (Photo: Tyler Curtis)

West Town Tavern's wonderful Pappardelle with turkey meatballs, roasted tomatoes, market veggies and mushrooms is not going to be one of those dishes you'll share with your sweetie. So your night will be fight-free, you both order it along with a bottle of 2006 Quinta de Cabriz Red.

Liquid lovers will certainly enjoy the sexy lounge at Sepia, where you can gaze in each others' eyes and sip the Hot Spiced Whiskey, made with Jameson Irish Whiskey, spiced honey, Grand Marnier and topped with Rooibos tea.


If it gets below 20 degrees tonight—or any night this winter—make your way to MK for a complimentary Hot Toddy.

Hot Toddies are also on tap at graham elliot, when it reopens tonight after a holiday break. Mixologist Lynn House's take on it is the Hot Crimson and Clover, made with Hum Liqueur, rum, Hibiscus tea, lemon, honey, clove rock candy syrup and garnished with a brûléed lemon.

Aja chef Joshua Linton offers a delicious chile-lime soup with hearty ingredients (charred chicken, braised pork and rice noodles) that's certain to warm you right down to your toes.

If you're on a budget, Chens Chinese and Sushi is the hookup for its variety of soup specials you can share, including the vegetable and tofu soup or chicken sizzling rice soup. Both are $6.95.

Aja's chile-lime soup with charred chicken and braised pork. (Photo: Aja)


If you're heading to the Mag Mile to finally spend those gift cards you got over the holidays, might we recommend stopping in Seasons Lounge in the Four Seasons for some "haute" chocolate?! It'll pair well with savory short rib sliders, the homemade all-beef hot dog or crisp pork belly flatbread.

Or, make your way down the street for Bistro 110's classic French onion soup that's made with Provolone and Swiss cheese melted on top of a medley of onions, leeks and homemade beef bouillon and served in a cast-iron bowl.

For guys who want to throw the smooth moves on a mama, take her to the new Elysian Hotel, where she's certain to be impressed. Right now what's hot on the menu at casual eatery Balsan is the duck cassoulet, made with cranberry beans (cooked with pork belly, bacon, chicken stock herbs), confit duck gizzards, confit duck leg, pork skin, duck heart and homestyle Toulous sausage. That's only $10 and serves two people. Skip dessert and instead opt for the Kentucky Cider, a delicious drink of bourbon, warm apple cider, cinnamon and star anise topped with whipped cream and shaved nutmeg. Get one more nightcap at Bernard’s, the delightfully decadent bar on the second floor. A Hemingway Side Car (cognac, Cointreau and lemon) or Brown Derby (bourbon, grapefruit, honey) would be the perfect way to cap off your evening.


Snag seats near the fireplace and get ready for a massive, all-you-can-eat brunch at ZED451, which is now $24 a person. Ideal dishes for winter include the vanilla-spiced whole-grain oatmeal; bourbon-glazed ham that's been roasted over a wood-burning grill; and duck hash browns sautéed with confit duck, shallots and fresh herbs.

And you can also cozy up to the fireplace at sola, where Executive Chef Carol Wallack's putting a Hawaiian and Asian twist on her comfort soups. Indulge in Carrot Miso or Parsnip Miso, her take on ‘French’ onion with pineapple (sweated in bacon fat) with gruyere croutons.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rockit Tweet-Up Serves as Haiti Fundraiser!

Rockit Ranch principals Brad Young (from left), Billy Dec and Arturo Gomez (Photo: Rockit Ranch Productions)

Rockit Wrigleyville partner Billy Dec's using his Saturday night tweet-up as a fundraiser for Haiti earthquake survivors:

"Made my Sat 1/16 tweetNmeet in2 benefit4 #Haiti. $20min, drinks/apps on me 9-10p @RockitWrigley rsvp2"

Will update as more info comes in . . .

What's Going on at 33 Club?!

(Photo: 33 Club)

Just got this email from an Ultimate Insider, who also happens to be a high-profile chef:

"Talking to my sous. Evidently has been a bloodbath in the kitchen at 33 Club. Half the staff's been let go."

In the shakeup, Executive Chef Dan Kelly was replaced by former Branch 27 and North Pond chef Bob Zrenner.

Publicist Abby Baine Dunn says of the changes:

"33 Club's new Executive Chef Bob Zrenner doesn't have any major changes planned for the menu. He plans to 'stay the course with seasonal, vibrant and contemporary food.'

"Any changes that he makes to the menu will be seasonally driven—for example he will incorporate more local product this spring."

Hits and Misses at New Steakhouse RB Grille

RB Grille interior (Photo: Neil John Burger for

New Rock Bottom Brewery casual steakhouse RB Grille gets a lukewarm review from Crain's in that it still needs to work on its bacon skills:

"RB Grille is ruining its bacon. In each of the dishes that call for it, the bacon was dry and barely registered any flavor, as if it were prepared hours earlier. It didn't wreck the salads, or the turkey-ham club sandwich ($11), but the bacon-wrapped scallops (I made the mistake of ordering the entree size, $20) failed entirely. Kitchen, take note."

But the reviewer does give them big props for their hand-crafted burgers:

"Given the choice, however, I'd opt for a burger ($9-$10). RB Grille serves up six styles with all kinds of cheeses and condiments, plus the option of swapping out beef for chicken breast or ground turkey. They're great partners to the Brewery's house lagers and ales."

Newly remodeled Rock Bottom Brewery interior (Photo: Neil John Burger for

Speaking of ales, Rock Bottom Brewery, which has been around since 1996, just unveiled its new look that is certain to attract a new kind of beer drinker. They've added a stage for live performances as well as 22 flatscreens for sports watching.

Plus, they're introducing "tapping parties" to get the word out about new brews. Thursday, their award-winning brewmaster Pete Crowley introduces “My Sweet” Cherry Wheat, a wheat ale brewed with 160 gallons of dark sweet cherry juice.

And on Jan. 28, he'll debut Drunken Angel Abbey Dubbel, a fun new brew that’s already won a bronze medal at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival.

Both parties occur 6-7pm and are free. No RSVP necessary.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Where Should They Go This Weekend?!


By now everyone knows that the Jersey Shore crew is invading the 312 this weekend.

All going down Friday, Nicole "Snookie" Polizzi is set to host Manor; Mike "The Situation" and Pauly D will be fist pumping their way through Lumen; and hopefully J-WOWW won't throw a fist when she makes an appearance at after-hours hot spot, RiNo.

And because these hardcore East Coasters are not familiar with our neck of the woods, it's only proper to be a good host and point out some restos they might enjoy during their stay:

Pickle enthusiast Snookie would certainly feel at home at Steve's Deli because she can go absolutely crazy. They wouldn't even look at her like she's nuts if she bypassed their amazing Reubens for a handful of extra-large dill pickles.

Or if she's feeling adventurous, she can head up to Risqué Café in Wrigleyville for fried pickles. It's a little harder for her to "suck the juices out," but we're sure she'll be satisfied nevertheless.

The old-school meat lasagna at Jay's on Taylor should satisfy "The Situation." (Photo: Jay's on Taylor)

J-WOWW claims she only eats 500 calories a day—which is absolutely crazy by the way—so we'll send her off to Berry Chill so she can load up on froyo. With no toppings, she can get a small cup of Strawberry-Banana (110 calories), Maqui-Blueberry (120 calories) or Original (100 calories).

The boys will be looking for a little more sustenance, but one place they should avoid is Rockit Bar & Grill because owner Billy Dec has already made it clear that he's not that into them.

That's aight. We feel like they'll be more comfortable at Jay's on Taylor and La Scarola, especially Jay's for its back dining room where they can order heaving plates of chicken Vesuvio and meat lasagna. Plus, La Scarola serves up the best veal parmesan in the city.

One more thing: For the rest of the week, my name is A-WOWW.

Brunch Predictions for New Year?! Bring It On!


Local food writer Carly Fisher of Chicago Brunch Blog makes some predictions on what to expect in early-morning meals in 2010:

"Small Plates: We’ve all been there. Forced to make a decision among 20 awesome brunch choices only to settle with a stack of double chocolate raspberry pancakes with liquified candy bar syrup that has as much appeal half way through as filing taxes. Roof at theWit is already serving smaller plates to encourage sharing and having a well-balanced breakfast."

Also. Fisher's Top 5 List of Brunch Spots Hot Right NOW:

Bakin' and Eggs: "Great food, attentive service and minimal wait time at a brunch-specific restaurant. Never thought I'd see it happen.
Considering the popularity of this spot, we were seated within 10
minutes and received our food in a timely manner. Had a fantastic
frittata here—and it was actually as advertised, not an omelet-dubbed frittata. Excellent tea from Rare Tea Cellar and Intelligensia coffee, plus Lovely pastries."

Birchwood Kitchen: "Consistently awesome food and service, including really interesting and well-prepared brunch specials. The Croque Madame makes me weep."

Hot Chocolate: "I hate, hate, hate waiting for a spot for brunch, but I just can't resist the Mexican Hot Chocolate, baked eggs and breakfast sandwich here. Call me selfish, but I also hate children and this is
more of an 'adult' brunch with dark walls and minimal stroller interaction, so that's an added bonus."

Nana: "A brunch spot that makes me leave my neighborhood to go to the other side of the planet in Bridgeport with a raging hangover and not
regret it. Beautiful restaurant, great service and perfectly crispy
potatoes. Love the twist on classic eggs 'Benny' with the Nanadict."

Publican: "The food at Publican is sort of a given, but the best part about brunch here is that you get the best elements of the restaurant
at a much lower price-point, which is great for broke-ass bitches like
myself. Get the scrapple and the red-wine poached eggs."

Experts Weigh in on What to Expect in 2010

Arturo Gomez of Rockit Ranch Productions (Photo: Arturo Gomez)

What big trends should you expect in the New Year?! spoke to a number of local experts, including Arturo Gomez of Rockit Ranch Productions (Rockit Bar & Grill, Sunda, Underground) and yours truly, on what to look forward to in dining, nightlife, music and more.

Says Gomez:

"This year, guests will be cautiously optimistic. The effect of the economy will have people searching for value-added experiences, but operators will see continually increasing guest counts.

"As far as hospitality trends themselves, microbrews and small batch beers continue their popularity and whiskies and gins will be everywhere, with vodka falling behind from its pre-eminent position in the cocktail category.

"Asian and Latin cuisine are where people want to eat now, and that's only going to be expanded upon. Casual, relaxed dining where you aren't emptying your wallet for a night out is not only the way of 2010, but will likely be the preferred dining trend that's here to stay."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Lady Goes Gaga Over 'Goddess'


Pop icon Lady Gaga apparently ate well during her weekend stint in Chicago.

First, it was reported here exclusively that she was spotted chowing down on a burger at Kuma's Corner.

Now we just found out that Debbie Sharpe—celebrity caterer who's served for the likes of the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and U2 backstage—served the star and her staff during the Rosemont Theatre concerts.

She gleefully proclaimed in a series of tweets that her cafe/store Goddess and Grocer satisfied all:

"Does anybody know where to buy 5-factor bars in Chicago? Am catering Lady Gaga and they're on the rider."

"Everybody at gaga is gaga over our catering."

"Another #1 hit from goddess & grocer catering for lady gaga show."

"They're going GaGa for our red velvet cupcakes."

"Oprah's crew digging their dinner at GaGa show."

"Microwaving lavender filled teddy and now it's to bed. Loved catering for Lady Gaga and crew but totally exhausted."

Soooo hawt.

Stage Bites: The Weekly Dining & Drinking Guide

pH Productions' musical sketch show "It's Only Rock & Roll, But I Like It" is part of the "Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival" at the Theatre Building. The show goes down 7pm Saturday. (Photo: pH Productions)

Every Monday look for the week's top performances paired with the best deals before and after the show:

The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival at Theatre Building. You'll laugh your ass off during this annual festival featuring more than 130 shows with 100 local and national sketch comedy troupes. Whether you're looking for something sexy, topical, outrageous or just plain weird, you're certain to find it here during its eight-day romp. Through Jan. 17. Get tickets here.

Cooper's: Located directly across the street from the theater, plus Thursdays are half-price pizza night!

Matsu Yama: One of the area's best sushi spots still doesn't charge a corkage fee for BYOB, plus dinner for two is less than $35. Favorites: Godzilla and Jack Chen's White Dragon Roll.

Sapore di Napoli: It's not only BYOB (also no corkage fee!), but the authentic Neapolitan pizzas are definitely on point. Highly recommended are the traditional Margherita and Quattro Stagioni (tomato sauce, mozzarella, artichokes, Kalamata olives, mushrooms, prosciutto).

Vintage 51 at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, IN. (Photo: Horseshoe Casino)

Killer Joe at Profiles Theater. Greed, family values and high society clash in this thriller dealing with a Texas clan whose murder plot spirals out of control. Sounds like a regular episode of "All My Children" to me. Through Feb. 28 (8pm Thursday, Friday; 5pm, 8pm Saturday; 7pm Sunday). Get tickets here.

Cafe Too: The well-meaning BYOB offers contemporary American dishes on a seasonal, rotating menu. Also known for one of the best deals in the area: three courses for $18 or five for $24—if you're really hungry.

Holiday Club: You're certain to be worked up after the performance, so blow off steam here with specials on sweet tea vodka and beer on Fridays; shots of tequila and more beer on Saturdays as deejays spin 1990s hits. Most menu items are under $10.

Nick's Uptown: The rowdy after-hours bar features live blues, soul or R&B every Friday and Saturday. Sadly, no drink specials.

Steve Harvey at The Venue at Horseshoe Casino. Count yourself among the lucky ones if you snagged tix to the sold-out show by one of the Original Kings of Comedy. The stand-up comedian, actor and syndicated radio host is certain to give the audience some tips based off his number-one best seller, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. 7:30pm Saturday.

Village Square Buffet: Every Friday and Saturday, they're doing a Seafood Feast for $32.99. You'll delight in the crab legs, chilled shrimp, seafood stews, smoked seafood, shrimp scampi and more.

Vintage 51: Offering a vibe found more often in River North, this cool wine bar offers a nice selection of vino, microbrews and signature, hand-crafted cocktails. Just remember, they still smoke in Indiana.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Lady Gaga Makes Low-Key Appearance at Kuma's

Lady Gaga in blond wig, black leather coat and sunglasses at Kuma's bar. (Photo: JenerationX)

You'd expect the queen of the "shock 'em scene" in wild and crazy gear 24/7, but she was pretty low key when she made a stop at heavy-metal burger joint Kuma's Corner before her Saturday show at the Rosemont Theatre.

The manager said she wore a leather coat, black sunglasses and her signature flowing platinum locks. No crazy hat, no crazy undergarments. Shocking, huh?!

More important, she ordered beer and the signature Judas Priest Burger, a flamboyant sandwich suiting her personality and topped with bacon, bleu cheese dressing, apples, walnuts and dried cranberries.

The crowd at Kuma's, known for their low-key and non-fazed attitudes, of course didn't bother her.

Hmmmmm, I wonder if Kuma's would consider adding a Gaga Burger to the menu. Now that would be something!