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 . . .