Monday, March 1, 2010

Restaurant Week Extended; Chicago Chef Week Returns . . .

River North's Elate is participating in the second-annual "Chicago Chef Week." (Photo: Fearman Photos)

The Chicago Tribune's Phil Vettel says 45 restaurants are extending their Chicago Restaurant Week menus:

"I've learned that 45 of the 165 participating restaurants, including Blue 13, have opted to extend their Restaurant Week participation, and will continue to offer three-course lunches for $22 and/or three-course dinners for $32. (I expect the number of restaurants extending their participation to grow.)

Some restaurants have extended their deals through March 4. Some will feature the deals through March 6 or 7. And a few will offer their Restaurant Week menus through March 31."

See the full list of participants here.

This is also a good time to mention the return of the second-annual Chicago Chef Week, which runs March 22-28.

The guys behind Boka, Landmark and Perennial launched it in 2009 in order to highlight some of the city's most celebrated culinary artists.

More than 20 restaurants—including newcomers Elate, Mercadito, Kith and Kin and Prairie Fire—will offer a three-course, prix fixe dinner menu for $30 (plus a $20 menu for those who serve lunch).

Art Smith's Celeb-Studded B-Day Bash!

Art Smith (left) and life partner Jesus Salgueiro at the James Hotel on Sunday. (Photo: Amanda Puck)

Oprah may not have made her former personal chef's fabulous 50th birthday party Sunday at The James Hotel, but she certainly made up for her absence with a $250,000 check for his charity, Common Threads.

Of course, we're talking about Table Fifty-Two's Art Smith, the affable chef who's cooked for other celebrities, including the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael Jordan as well as President Obama and The First Lady.

The VIP affair at The James included top culinary icons and celebrity chefs Nigella Lawson, Ming Tsai, David Burke, Barbara Lynch, Gavin Kaysen and Stephanie Izard, plus Mayor Daley and former White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers.

Check out the Twitter feed of ABC-7 entertainment reporter Steve "The Hungry Hound" Dolinsky to find out what they ate (he also has some photos), which of course included Table Fifty-Two's legendary buttermilk fried chicken.

But for Smith, Sunday's party was just the beginning. Tonight's annual Common Threads World Festival at Soldier's Field is the main event. Tickets are still available.

Stage Bites: The Weekly Dining & Drinking Guide

Alana Arenas (above), Jacqueline Williams (below) and the cast of Steppenwolf’s "The Brother/Sister Plays (In the Red and Brown Water)." (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

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

The Brother/Sister Plays at Steppenwolf Theatre. Three plays (In the Red and Brown Water, The Brothers Size, Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet) are presented in repertory in the Upstairs Theatre. On the banks of the bayou, a small community springs to life with stories of love, sexuality and coming-of-age that's influenced by lively Afro-Caribbean folklore. 7:30pm Tuesday-Sunday; 3pm Saturday-Sunday (through May 23). Get tickets here.

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!: Get here early (4-6pm Monday-Sunday) or late (10pm-midnight Friday-Saturday) for $1 pintxos, $3 tapas or get all six pintxos for $6. Standouts include the short rib-stuffed piquillo pepper, chicken empanada, chicken and ham croquettes, and the bacon-wrapped date.

Landmark Grill + Lounge: Wino Wednesday happens every week, offering you the chance to get half off on your favorite vino and sparkling wines. They're also doing $6 Svedka cocktails, so drink up. Pair booze with bites like the flatbread pizza topped with wood roasted-mushrooms and black truffles, Kobe beef sliders with truffle and foie gras, or crispy polenta frites with Parmesan thyme dipping sauce.

Vinci: You'll get traditional Italian dishes, plus the Cacciuco, or seafood stew of shrimp, mussels, calamari and fish in tomato herb broth for $23.95.

Landmark's main bar area. (Photo: Landmark)

Private Lives at Shakespeare Theatre. You'll get a peek inside the lives of a glamorous ex-couple in the mid-1930s, complete with parties. Divorcés Amanda and Elyot meet up again quite by accident—on their second honeymoons, with brand-new spouses in tow. Wednesday-Sunday (through March 7). Get tickets here.

Charlie's Ale House: There's nothing particularly innovative about this Navy Pier offshoot from the Lincoln Park original, but we do love them for serving up comfort-food classics. You won't find many places in the area where you can get beef tenderloin Stroganoff, pot roast, chicken pot pie and fried chicken on the same menu.

Harry Caray's Tavern: Speaking of sequels, the new Harry Caray's is now open on Navy Pier. The Holy Cow Burger Bar is here, offering you the chance to build your own burger from ingredients like Tallgrass beef, crispy buttermilk onion strings, Applewood smoked bacon and Gruyère cheese.

Big Star's Taco de Chivo. (Photo: Grant Kessler)

The Reverend Horton Heat at Double Door. The legendary psycho-billy band performs, with opening acts Dex Romweber on March 5 and True Historians March 6. Get tickets here.

Big Star: After the show, it makes sense to go to this Honky Tonk taco joint right next door for budget bites ranging from $2 tacos to $3 tostadas. Hell, why not just order a few for yourself, particularly tacos al pastor (marinated, spit-roasted pork shoulder with grilled pineapple, grilled onion and cilantro), tostada de pollo (wood-grilled chicken thigh, chayote, black beans, poblano cream, coriander and red onion) or tacos de panza (crispy braised pork belly with tomato guajillo sauce, Queso Rancherito and cilantro).

Feast: There's more spice to be had at the Bucktown original for the crab cakes that come with chipotle aioli and the roasted salmon paired with corn buttermilk hot cakes, avocado salsa and a spicy barbecue sauce.

People Lounge: Or opt for the young and clubby environs of this lively tapas bar for awesome share-able dishes and sangria. You'll never go wrong with the gambas (sherry garlic marinated shrimp skewer, couscous), empanada de cerdo (sweet chili pork empanadas, belgian beer aioli) or mejillones (mussels with Spanish chorizo).

Meatball Mondays Starts March 1!

Socca's massive, one-pound meatball serves two to four people. (Photo: Socca)

312DD is on a mission to bring The Meatball Shop—or something like it—to Chicago.

But in the meantime, since so many existing eateries already feature a marvelous meatball or two on their menus, I'm going to highlight one each week.

This week's signature meatball comes to you from Socca, the offbeat Lakeview resto that's been lauded with praises from the likes of celeb chef Art Smith.

Look for one massive meatball plopped down in the center of a plate surrounded by rosemary suga, curried chickpeas, roasted peppers and arugula. It's $20.