Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Return of White Star?!


An astute reader sent 312DD this photo of the brand-new signage and building permit for White Star (223 W. Ontario St.) in River North.

If the name and address look familiar. . . yep, it's one of the same and apparently the notorious night spot of the late-1990s/early 2000s is trying to make a comeback.

UPDATE: The new White Star is not affiliated with original owners, Ala Carte Entertainment.

For Single Guys & Gals . . .


. . . the good folks over at Mercadito/Double A have come up with an old-school way of "hooking up" on Valentine's Day.

They're encouraging diners to play an adult version of note passing, except these notes come with tequila shots. All you need to do is send the love note (see above image from Mercadito) to the object of your affection via the server.

Who knows what will happen next . . .

First-Ever Food Truck Meet-Up at Auto Show


Details are still being finalized, but the Chicago Auto Show is set to host its first-ever Food Truck Meet-Up.

What took them so long to do this?!

Organizers exclusively tell 312DD that the lineup of participating local trucks is still under wraps, but you know I will get those details ASAP.

Logan Square Gets Sweet New Saloon

Photo of Scofflaw partner Danny Shapiro via Chicago Reader.

Cocktail enthusiasts will be thrilled to know that yet another cool watering hole is coming to Logan Square.

Former 'tenders from the likes of Bonny's, Simone's, and The Whistler quietly purchased the old Streetside Cafe in December and are transforming it into Scofflaw, according to the Chicago Reader.

It's set to re-open late February or early March and the Reader got the scoop on the menu, which was given to them by partner Danny Shapiro (formerly of The Whistler):

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Banchet Winners Announced For 'Best Chef,' 'Best Mixologist' & More

Giuseppe Tentori of GT Fish & Oyster and Sepia's Josh Pearson.

It was a big night Friday for Chicago's restaurant community as the annual Grand Chefs Gala took place at the Fairmont Hotel.

Benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the event attracted many of the city's heaviest hitters for the prestigious Banchet Awards, which rewards top talent on the local dining scene.

In addition to the awards ceremony, restaurateurs Jimmy Bannos and Scott Harris were presented with the Founders Award. That achievement honors those who have significantly affected lives in a charitable or humanitarian way. Bannos and Harris also own The Purple Pig, which took home the Peoples' Choice award.

Here are the Banchet nominees and winners (which are indicated by **):

Friday, January 27, 2012

It's All About Brunch on 'G-Spot' Debut Show

Frontier Executive Chef Brian Jupiter delivers a solid, Southern-inspired brunch every weekend with dishes like Bananas Foster French Toast. (Photo: Frontier)

Soul 106.3 FM's The G-Spot featuring music industry legend George Daniels (of George's Music Room) and radio vet Caryn Lee debuted Sunday with 312DD as a featured guest.

We dished on some of the best brunches in Chicago, spotlighting Frontier in Noble Square and Wicker Park's Bangers & Lace.

Frontier was even generous enough to drop by the station during the show with a few fantastic items, driving my point home. We chowed down on powdered beignets with a rum apple dipping sauce; smothered steak with red-eye gravy, Anson Mills grits and Over Easy eggs; and blue crab Benedict with roasted tomatoes, cayenne Hollandaise and toasted English muffin.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bonsoiree, EL Chefs Collab On 'Anti Restaurant Week Dinner'

Shin Thompson (left) of Bonsoiree and Phillip Foss of EL ideas.

Not every chef slash restaurateur in town is excited about Chicago Restaurant Week, taking place Feb. 17-26.

Bonsoiree's Shin Thompson and EL ideas' Phillip Foss are planning an Anti Restaurant Week Dinner smack dab in the middle of the annual event on Feb. 21, according to GrubStreet Chicago.

"Restaurant Week is based on your ability to add volume, and for a small restaurant like Phillip's or mine, there's no way to make $33 or $44 work for us doing the kind of menu we do," Thompson tells GrubStreet.

They're planning an elaborate multi-course meal at the BYOB Bonsoiree, and they're still working on the details. We were lucky to get a sneak preview of a couple of dishes Foss is planning to serve during a massively delicious 13-course dinner at his restaurant Wednesday.

Update on New Project Going into 33 Club Space

The former 33 Club interior will look entirely different when it reopens as a new concept. (Photo: 33 Club)

Back in November, 312DD broke the story that the guys behind The Boundary, Sweetwater and Trace secured the former 33 Club space to build one of their signature casual venues that combines decent bar fare with a sports bar atmosphere.

Now Chicago magazine's Dish has more info:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

MJ Steakhouse's 'Secret' Menu Item . . .

The Killer B at Michael Jordan's Steak House (Photo: Michael Jordan's Steak House)

And speaking of Michael Jordan's Steak House, the Mag Mile resto has just introduced a secret, off-menu, late-night special.

They're calling it the Killer B—which is available by request only and served weeknights after 10pm. For $19, "insiders" get a bacon and blue cheese topped burger, sandwiched between two pieces of signature garlic bread.

MJ, Bill Kim Team Up For Slam Dunk Asian Spot


Now, this is a dream team we can appreciate!

Bill Kim (Belly Shack, Urban Belly) is teaming up with Michael Jordan's Cornerstone Restaurant Group (Michael Jordan's Steakhouse) for a new Asian BBQ concept going into the former one sixtyblue space in the West Loop.

Belly Q—with plans to open later this spring—promises to be all that, as the press release I got Tuesday morning indicates:

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Gage Transforms into a 'Blind Tiger'

Yep, that's a "blind" tiger right there!

Waaaaaay back in the day, there were sophisticated, black-tie speakeasies and there were seedy, illicit speakeasies. These were called Blind Tigers—with the tiger serving as a ruse—which sound a lot more fun than the ones we've heard about.

To school everyone on what they were like, The Gage once again opens its lower-level lounge for the Downstairs bash. The party promises to be a little risque, with some pretty naughty surprises you'll just have to find out about on your own.

Where You Should Be Dining . . . NOW

Bread & Wine's duck confit pierogi, with pickled red onion and herb crème fraiche. (Photo: Bread & Wine)

It might be the dead of winter in Chicago, but that's not stopping a number of restaurants from opening this month and in February.

So I stopped by The U's You & Me This Morning to rap with host Jeanne Sparrow about some of the most anticipated new spots, including red-hot Tavernita in River North and the sexy Storefront Company in Bucktown/Wicker Park.

But wait, there's more!

What's in Store at 'First Look For Charity'

Chicago Auto Show's "First Look For Charity" dessert spread from last year's event. (Photo: First Look 2011)

The Chicago Auto Show's First Look For Charity, the black-tie benefit where guests get an exclusive sneak peek of all the fabulous new cars, celebrates its 20th year on Feb. 9. It's raised more than $32 million for Chicago-area charities since 1992.

For the occasion, they're doing things a bit different, offering guests unusual bites from some local—and not so local—favorites.

Look for David Burke's Primehouse's Executive Chef Rick Gresh to whip up dishes certain to draw long lines. His bites include cheddar bacon dumplings, beef sliders with jalapeno ketchup, and duck confit bread pudding with whipped brie and aged-rum maple syrup.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Brand New Look For Boka Restaurant

Boka's sleek new renovated lounge. (Photo: Giuseppe Tentori)

The guys behind the super successful Boka Restaurant Group have received so many accolades for their most recent projects (Girl & the Goat, GT Fish & Oyster, Perennial Virant) that it was probably long overdue for an overhaul of Boka, which opened in 2003.

So late last year, they quietly started with the lounge area so as not to disturb the regular dining service.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lynn House Set For Sundance's 'Behind the Bar Series'

Hennessy KAWS models with Blackbird Chief Mixologist Lynn House (second, left). (Photo: Hennessy)

Mega props go out to Blackbird's super star mixologist Lynn House, who announced Friday that she's been selected for Sundance's Behind the Bar Series.

She wrote on Facebook:

It's Official....I got selected for the Sundance Channel's Behind the Bar Series. Coming to NYC to film third week of February. I intend to make a few visits while there. Look out Big Apple...House will be in the House."

Congrats, Lynn!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Trenchermen's Pop-Up Valentine's Day Dinner

Trenchermen chefs Patrick Sheerin (left) and Michael Sheerin. (Photo: via Grubstreet Chicago)

Hard-core foodie couples don't have to wait until March for Trenchermen to open.

That's because they're doing a series of pop-up dinners for those celebrating Valentine's Day at Logan Square Kitchen Feb. 12-14.

Helmed by high-profile chef brothers Michael Sheerin (Blackbird) and Patrick Sheerin (Signature Room), the restaurant is expected to be one of the top openings of the year. Its style is fine dining-casual, with a nod to seasonal ingredients and adventurous takes on familiar dishes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Bombshell of the Day!

Andrew Brochu (Photo via StarChefs.com)

Eater Chicago breaks the news that Andrew Brochu (formerly of Alinea, Pops for Champagne, Kith & Kin and most recently EL) will take over the reigns at graham elliot Feb. 1 as the restaurant moves to a tasting menu-only format:

The Most Sinful Chocolate Treats in Town

Devil's food cake, chocolate mousse, and marshmallow make up the delectable Slice of Prime dessert at Primehouse. (Photo via Michigan Avenue)

I'm sorry to do this to you seeing that you've been so damn good watching what you've been eating so far this year, but when it comes to chocolate I have no self control.

That's why I was more than happy to do a roundup of the Top 10 most sinful chocolate treats in town for the February issue of Michigan Avenue.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hum's 'Kung Fu Girl Sangria' Looks Delish!

Adam Seger's Kung Fu Girl Sangria for Penny's Noodles. (Photo: Adam Seger)

Celebrated cocktail master Adam Seger is on the move again.

This time the guy behind Hum liqueur teamed up with the folks at Penny's Noodle Shop in Bucktown to create a few Hum-infused, Asian-focused elixirs.

'The Soiree Series' Underground Party Returns

The Chicago Cabaret Project's "The Soiree Series" is an underground live performance/party taking place in fabulous Chicago homes. (Photos: Chicago Cabaret Project)

Last summer I introduced readers to the first-ever The Soiree Series, hosted by The Chicago Cabaret Project.

The theater troupe distinguished itself from other performing-arts collectives by throwing a fabulous underground cocktail party in a posh Lincoln Park mansion that included interactive cabaret performances and bubbly that followed for hours on end.

That event was so awesome—and unique to Chicago's nightlife scene—that I've been wondering when the next one would happen.

Well, I just got the details, and you'll want to sign up for this one ASAP.

Paul Kahan's Guide To Chicago

Paul Kahan and one of his favorite hangs, Danny's Tavern in Bucktown. (Photo of Danny's via GQ.com).

The award-winning Blackbird chef Paul Kahan gives mad props to some of his favorite local hangs in the current issue of GQ, including the likes of Logan Square newcomer Yusho, Lula Cafe and iconic Bucktown night spot Danny's Tavern.

He even gave a shout out to Great Lake, the madly popular pizza joint in Andersonville. Those not in the know, however, should beware: The dishy men's mag has it labeled in Lincoln Park.


Monday, January 16, 2012

'Fight Hunger' Menu Highlight of 1st Anniversary

Barrio Urban Taqueria's interior. (Photo: Barrio Urban Taqueria)

It's the first anniversary for Barrio Urban Taqueria in Lakeview, and to honor the occasion they've teamed up with Greater Chicago Food Depository to do some good in the 'hood.

Executive Chef Martin Cabrera has created a special Fight Hunger menu of signature dishes such as nachos de barrio, enchiladas en mole poblano and chuletas de puerco. Guests may also order a Smokey Roja or Cucumber-Jalapeño Margarita, and a portion of the proceeds from the drinks and food benefit the charity through Jan. 23.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

'Dine Around' in West Town is Underway

Arami's fire-roasted kamas (fish collars) with sweet soy and Meyer lemon. (Photo: Arami)

I've been gushing about this one for a couple of months and now it's finally here.

Through March 15 (Sunday-Thursday only), West Town's first-ever Dine Around event happens at nine restaurants mostly along Chicago Avenue.

Its goal is to showcase the diversity of chef-driven eateries in the area. Diners are encouraged to scoop up a "passport" for a $5 donation at one of the participating restaurants and area retailers. The donation goes toward the improvement of Eckhart Park.

Passport holders who visit the restaurants or wine retailers over the nine-week period will receive special off-menu dishes, tastings, or pairings created exclusively for the program. Diners who complete the entire passport will be entered to win a gift certificate for four guests at one of the restaurants.

Participants and initial offers include:

Ed Burns Finally Gets into Girl & The Goat


The last time award-winning actor/producer Ed Burns was in Chicago, he couldn't get a reservation for Girl & the Goat.

Owner/chef Stephanie Izard and partner Kevin Boehm reached out to him immediately and said that the next time he was in town that they'd assure he'd get in.

Burns got his chance when over the weekend he was in town promoting his latest movie, Newlyweds, at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Izard taped a personal invitation—including an offer to buy him a beer—that aired during his appearance on The U's You & Me This Morning Friday.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

This Makes Me Very, Very Happy . . .

GT Fish & Oyster's lobster roll. (Photo: Serious Eats Chicago)

Serious Eats Chicago's A Sandwich A Day feature has quickly become one of my favorite things in the world.

I mean, seriously, who doesn't like sandwiches?!

Their latest adventure was at GT Fish & Oyster, where SE's editor Nick Kindelsperger dug into the magnificent lobster roll:

Tavernita 'Soft Opens' Tonight!

Tad Carducci and Paul Tanguay of the Tippling Bros. (Photo: Mercadito Hospitality)

Eff that so-called snowstorm today, Tavernita is opening.

But check it out . . .

They're only doing limited reservations, according to Thrillist, so your best bet is to just roll up in there if you're looking to eat or drink.

Some highlights:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Top Chicago Bartenders on Scotch, Mmmm


Just in time for the real deal winter, three of Chicago's top 'tenders recently teamed up with comedian Baratunde Thurston and The Black Grouse Scotch for the first-ever Distinctive Bartender Tour.

The multi-city tour also traveled to Los Angeles, Miami and New York, and bartenders were charged with the task of creating some inventive cocktails using the spirit.

Representing Chicago were Lynn House (Blackbird), Charles Joly (The Drawing Room) and Mike Ryan (Sable Kitchen & Bar), who shook and stirred seasonal sippers certain to keep you warm during the coldest months of the year.

Check out their videos below to see how to make them at home:


(Photo via The Bacon Games)

Baconfest Chicago returns in April and Eater Chicago has got all the deets.

My recommendation if you plan on going this year to check out offerings from more than 200 restaurants?!

Act as though you were training for a marathon. Get on a workout plan NOW.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Four Seasons' New Resto Name Revealed

Kevin Hickey will be executive chef at Allium when it opens in February at Four Seasons Chicago.

Seasons Restaurant and Seasons Bar and Lounge in the Four Seasons Chicago served their last meals on New Year's Eve, making way for a private dining space and a more approachable concept called Allium.

Set to open in February, Allium (which is Latin for "onion") will focus on regional, farm-to-table modern American cuisine under the direction of current Executive Chef Kevin Hickey. It'll be housed in the space adjacent to the seventh-floor hotel lobby. And, according to a recent email from the publicist, the extensive redesign of the space will "showcase a warm, approachable and more modern aesthetic."

Let's just hope they don't take out that fireplace!

Alpana Singh Set To Open Wine Bar

Master Sommelier Alpana Singh (Photo: Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises)

This is some very cool news!

Check, Please! host and former Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises master sommelier Alpana Singh is set to open a wine bar, according to Crain's Chicago:

Didn't See This Coming

The Raw Bar signage via Yelp.

More info is trickling out about the Dana Hotel's forthcoming American contemporary restaurant set to be helmed by former Sunda chef Rodelio Aglibot.

312DD has learned that Mehrdad Toni Motamen, owner of Wrigleyville's The Raw Bar, has signed on to oversee the oyster bar that's supposed to be part of the concept. And since there's already a perfect area carved out on the mezzanine level to accommodate it, I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's going there.

Still no word on a name or when it will open . . .

Monday, January 9, 2012

It's A Busy, Busy January . . .

Big Star truck is setting shop outside Koval Distillery later this month. Photo via Time Out Chicago.

Not everyone is hibernating this month.

Those taking the boozy tours at Ravenwood's Koval Distillery can finally get some sustenance, well at least on Wednesdays. That's when Food Truck Wednesdays happens, featuring a different meal on wheels each week. They'll set up shop an hour before each tour begins and will be outside when it's done.

First up this Wednesday is Getta Polpetta, which specializes in gourmet meatballs. Duck N Roll (Jan. 18) offers tasty Vietnamese cuisine, while TaqueroFusion (Jan. 25) features Latin-influenced eats. Look for the trucks at 7pm.

A special event happens Saturday, Jan. 28 with ChicaGourmets and the Big Star Food Truck, which will serve up a DIY taco bar. That occurs 3 and 5pm.

Other cool stuff going down in January:

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Why Paul McGee Should Stay in Logan Square

Paul McGee photo via This Is A Cocktail Blog

Last week, The Whistler's head mixologist Paul McGee made a shocking announcement that he was leaving the popular Logan Square cocktail lounge to head up a future project by Jerrod, Molly and R.J. Melman.

The new project is based in River North, and I'm guessing that it'll be the planned Melmans' country and western-themed lounge.

Personally, I think the bar would be better suited in Logan Square, especially if the rumors of McGee's involvement are true. Why?!

Here are my reasons:

Friday, January 6, 2012

Keep That 'Healthy Eating' Resolution Intact

Union Sushi's black rice sushi sampler. (Photo: Union Sushi)

The worst part of your New Year's resolution to "eat healthier" is that it gets bland—quickly—because chowing down on salads every day just isn't cutting it.

Sooooo, 312DD dropped by the set of The U's You & Me This Morning Friday to introduce anchors Melissa Forman and Jeanne Sparrow to some local spots that whip up healthy, hearty and delicious dishes.

From mango jerk chicken wings from Flavor 180 to the Indian-inspired delights at Bombay Wraps to the sensational black rice sushi sampler at Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar, these items did not disappoint.

Watch the video right here!

Rodelio Aglibot Lands at the Dana Hotel

Chef Rodelio Aglibot. (Photo: Sunda)

For the past few months, there's been speculation about where former Sunda Executive Chef Rodelio Aglibot was going next.

There were whispers in the industry about him returning to the River North area to focus on another Asian-inspired concept, but an Ultimate Insider tells 312DD that only half of that is true.

Free Breakfast Jan. 6 at Protein Bar!

(Photo: Protein Bar)

Here's some breaking breakfast news for you!

Google Places Chicago is splurging on your breakfast this morning (Jan. 6!) if you get to the Protein Bar at Wells & Washington from 8-10am.

The first 100 people to join Google Chicago and show their Google Places app (available for free on Android and iPhone app store) will enjoy free breakfast burritos, granola bowls and blended drinks.

What's better than a free breakfast? A healthy, delicious, and FREE breakfast! Don't forget to review your favorite Chicago spots on Google Places, and enter the Get Fit With Google contest.

They are giving away seats in a FlyWheel Sports Spin class, Bar Method class in Lakeview and a Whole Foods Wellness Club Cooking class. Just log into Google Places, start reviewing and enter here.

Cheers to a healthy start to 2012, and to your Friday!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

'Top Chef' Star Hosts 'First Bites Bash'

(Photo: Stephanie Izard)

There's still hope that a Chicagoan will win this season's Top Chef, making him or her the second local chef to earn that honor.

But in the meantime, we've still got Stephanie Izard, who's not only the only Chicago winner, but also the only female winner of Bravo's competitive chef show. The star chef of Girl & the Goat is also known for her tireless efforts to help raise money for worthy organizations like Greater Chicago Food Depository, so it's no surprise that she signed on to host the first-ever First Bites Bash.

The kick-off event is for Chicago Restaurant Week, and 100 percent of the proceeds benefit the organization.

Paul McGee Leaves The Whistler in February

Paul McGee photo via This Is A Cocktail Blog

Just got this email from Paul McGee, the master mixologist at The Whistler:

"After three and a half years at The Whistler, I am moving on to an exciting new project with RJ and Jerrod Melman. My partners at The Whistler, Robert Brenner and Billy Helmkamp, remain great friends, and the wonderful and extremely capable staff of The Whistler will continue the great work we’ve done together since the beginning. My time behind the bar there will end on February 1st, with the final installment of our Book Club Series.

"Thank you so much for your support over the years, and I am looking forward to keeping you updated with the details of my next adventure. While you may not be able to find me behind a bar for the next few months, I’ll be keeping my blog updated with my activities and whereabouts."

Sounds to me like he'll be in charge of the cocktail program at this upcoming Melman spot.

Chicago Restaurant Week(s) Return!


Brace yourself.

A slew of local restaurants are set to participate this winter in a number of events meant to celebrate Chicago's vibrant dining scene.

First up is West Town's first-ever Dining Around event, happening Jan. 15-mid-March. Popular Near West Side spots like Arami, Leopold and Ruxbin will add special dishes to their menus and diners get "passports" to track their eating adventures. They'll be able to use the passports for special dining deals in the future.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Get 'Interactive' During 'National Pizza Week'

Frasca's signature Margherita pizza. (Photo: Frasca Pizzeria and Wine Bar)

You've probably just started some sort of healthy eating plan for the New Year, yet next week is already encouraging you to fall off the wagon.

Who could resist National Pizza Week, running Jan. 9-12?! That also means restos will see more activity than ever, and we're certain they'll have plenty of specials in store.

Lakeview's Frasca Pizzeria and Wine Bar gets in on the action as well, offering complimentary t-shirts for the first 50 people who order pizzas on Jan. 9, a free Margherita pizza coupon with the purchase of one on Jan. 10, and buy one, get one free on any pizza on the menu Jan. 11.

But we're more excited about the National Pizza Week cooking class, which is an awesome activity for those who want to learn how to make those delicious savory pies at home.

Saturday Last Day For One Sixtyblue

No word on the fate of one sixtyblue Executive Chef Michael McDonald. (Photo: one sixtyblue)

We're not even a week into the New Year, and yet another prominent Chicago restaurant announced a closing.

Wednesday afternoon one sixtyblue dropped the bomb that its last day of service will be Saturday:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Chef Wants To Bring 'Quality' Dining To S.Side

Jennifer Gavin of Catered Excellence. (Photo: Jennifer Gavin)

Until now, we haven't heard much from Jennifer Gavin, the charismatic chef who appeared a few seasons back on FOX-TV's Hell's Kitchen and then went on to helm the kitchen at The Big Easy in Hyde Park.

That's namely because the Orland Park-based toque has been on the road catering for a number of high-profile bands and productions, including the likes of Usher, American Idol Live Tour, So You Think You Can Dance Tour and Nickelback.

But it appears that she's been itching to get back into a restaurant kitchen because she posted this status to her Facebook page Tuesday:

A Good Day For Some Fondue . . .

Aged Cheddar & Guinness Fondue photo via steamykitchen.com.

It's bone-chilling cold outside, so this story's right on time.

The Wall Street Journal just posted a roundup of the country's best fondue spots, and Geja's in Lincoln Park made the cut:

"Geja's serves just one, classic Gruyère fondue, available as a main meal or as a prelude to a hot oil fondue course featuring lobster, beef and a variety of other meats of your choosing."

Yum times 10 . . .

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Rockit's Big Plan in the New Year?!

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

Last March I wrote about Rockit Ranch Productions' next project—an Asian-themed concept based on the team's New York dining adventures at 14 restaurants in 14 hours.

And now I have more information.