Thursday, August 19, 2010

So Fresh . . . So New . . .

The main dining room at new Asian-focused eatery Arami, in Ukrainian Village. (Photo: Urban Daddy/

It's been a tremendously busy summer for bar and restaurant openings with no signs of slowing down.

This weekend's a big one for the team behind The Gage, who are finally opening the long-awaited Henri (it was originally supposed to open fall 2009) in a historically landmark building next door.

Dirk Flanigan, who is also exec chef at The Gage, oversees the seasonal menu that'll offer his spin on classic dishes like Maine lobster, peas and Porcini mushrooms over house-made Pappardelle; slow-roasted Illinois lamb for two and a 16 oz. veal chop cooked in the stone oven.

This is spectacular news for downtown crowds, who complain that there's not a lot of options in the area when it comes to chef-driven restaurants. And we have a feeling Flanigan won't let them down.

Henri opens for dinner Saturday.

More new spots to put on your radar this weekend and beyond . . .

The lip-smackin' barbecue ribs at Lillie's Q. (Photo: Lillie's Q)

Arami: Ty Fujimura (SmallBar/The Exchange) and brother Troy opened this Japanese eatery and lounge in July on a growing stretch of Chicago Avenue in Ukrainian Village. Traditional sushi and small-plate dishes like pork belly ramen, braised short ribs, spicy octopus and the signature Uni Shooter (a shot glass filled with soy-soaked sea urchin) are on the menu.

Benchmark: Since it'll be a scorcher this weekend, we highly recommend heading to the city's only rooftop beer garden. The brainchild from the guys behind Brownstone and Gaslight, look for it to offer casually good food (Korean steak tacos, lollipop lambchops) in a sports-focused atmosphere. It's in Old Town, promising to give Old Town Social a run for its money.

Grami: A more contemporary venue now occupies the space that once housed the ill-fated Reagle Beagle in Streeterville. But we're more excited about what they're planning for brunch, when it launches this weekend. How does a stack of French toast topped with Grand Marnier-infused whipped cream sound to you?! Or the Carnitas Breakfast Burrito stuffed with slow-roasted pork, scrambled eggs, ham, bacon, Monterey Jack cheese, tomatoes, avocado and pico de gallo? Also, $4 Mimosas and $5 Bloody Marys. Brunch is 11am-3pm Saturday and Sunday.

Benchmark is the city's first-ever rooftop beer garden. (Photo: Urban Daddy/

Lillie's Q: The late-night Bucktown BBQ joint has already gained legions of fans in less than a month for its hearty portions of pork shoulder, tri-tip, chicken and baby back ribs smoked for hours over peach wood. The latest news for this Southern-style stunner is that they recently added a number of small-batch "moonshine" cocktails, including Morning Lillie (moonshine, housemade Bloody Mary mix, housemade "Slim Jim," shaved Parmesan), M&M&M (moonshine, Maker's Mark, mint infused simple syrup, mint sprig) and Lillie's Sweet Tea (moonshine, housemade sweet tea).

Sono Wood Fired: And Urban Burger Bar's Italian-focused sibling recently opened next door. They're doing seasonal, wood-fired pizzas, highlighting the Bianco Finnochi (caramelized fennel, sweet onions, goat cheese and mascarpone) and Rossa Soppressata (spicy soppressata, tomato, mozzarella di bufala and basil). Look for these pizzas to be made with all local ingredients whenever possible.

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