Friday, November 30, 2007

Easy Bar turns one; Do-Division Holiday Walk

Easy Bar (1944 W. Division St.) celebrates its first year anniversary with $1 cocktails all Saturday. Yes, that's right, you won't get your typical bargain basement brew offerings as the lineup includes Jameson cocktails/shots, Stoli cocktails, Fat Tire and Miller products. And as the clock ticks the dollar drinks change on the hour.

But if you head to that area during the day, you'll want to take part in the "Do-Division Holiday Walk" from 11am-6pm. The event takes place along Division Street between Leavitt and Ashland, and even though it's pretty family friendly, guests can take advantage of drink and specials along the way at such places as Bravo Tapas Lounge, Crust, Vintage Wine Bar, Gold Star and Moonshine.

There will also be free live musical theater, Santa taking pictures with kids, acapella groups singing to passersby, and deep discounts from boutiques and shops along the Division Street Corridor.

What the critics are saying. . .

. . . about:

Exposure Tapas Supper Club (1315 S. Wabash Ave., 312-662-1082): "As the name suggests, the changing menu focuses on small plates (most $4-$14), though there are a few entrees available. Oysters and clams from the raw bar were everything they should’ve been, but my favorite cold dish was charred beef tenderloin carpaccio paired with a salad of fresh baby artichokes drizzled with truffle oil and balsamic syrup." Anne Spiselman (Chicago Reader)

La Madia (59 W. Grand Ave., 312-329-0400): “I can spot an inferior pizza even before the first bite (the color of the tomatoes, the melt of the cheese, the puff of the crust). La Madia comes through with flying colors on all counts. The Margherita pizza here is easily among my top five for best Margherita pizza in Chicago.” Pat Bruno (Chicago Sun-Times)

Niu Japanese Fusion Lounge (332 E. Illinois St., 312-527-2888): "One of the better choices: crouching tiger lettuce wrap ($9). Tempura shrimp and spicy tuna are laced with mayonnaise and served with delicate soy sauce." Laura Bianchi (Crain's Chicago Business)

Prost (2566 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-880-9900): "This split-personality bar is at once old worldly with its heavy oaken tables and wrought-iron chandeliers juxtaposed with 10 flatscreens hung on the walls of its narrow hall. With three satellites broadcasting games for every kind of sports fan, Wisconsin alums can often be found catching a Badger's game, eating the bar's famed soft pretzels and drinking one of 12 German beers on tap." (

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Big props for Bin 36

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Raise your glass to BIN 36 (339 N. Dearborn St., 312-755-9463), the River North wine bar/restaurant/retail store, which just received the coveted Award of Unique Distinction by Wine Enthusiast Magazine in the annual Restaurant Awards, for its "dedication to delivering the most wine-friendly experience to [its] patrons." In recognition, BIN 36 will appear in the magazine's upcoming February 2008 issue and will be listed on its searchable online restaurant database throughout the year.

In a congratulatory letter, Editor/Publisher Adam Strum noted, "BIN 36 is one of a select number of restaurants in North America, out of thousands of applicants, to be honored in 2007 with this level of recognition."

As a winner, BIN 36 is recognized for displaying excellence, creativity, knowledge and vision in its wine offerings, from Wine Director Brian Duncan's nightly pairings from the restaurant's extensive selection of 50 wines by the glass and more than 400 by the bottle, to special wine promotions, to the multitude of wine-centric classes and events the restaurant offers its guests each year.

DJ Kiss puckers up tonight, plus other events around town

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DJ Kiss performs tonight at NV Penthouse Lounge.

Tonight's an especially busy night, but one of the events I'm looking forward to is New York's DJ Kiss, who's flying in to spin at NV Penthouse Lounge (116 W. Hubbard St., 312-329-9960). You may not have heard of her yet, but Puffy (or whatever he's calling himself these days), Big Boi of OutKast fame, actress Kerry Washington and Salt N' Pepa are many of the high-profile stars who have called on her to play their parties. I checked her out a few months ago when she stopped in to spin at J Bar (610 N. Rush St., 312-660-7200), and was so impressed that I profiled her for See what all the fuss is about when she plays 9pm-2am for a Chambord-sponsored event. Free.

Also on tap:

TK Men, Haberdash and Halo [For Men] host an event you don't want to miss. An all-male fashion show (!!!!!) happens with some of the sexiest local male models swaggering down the runway. It's free to get in, but you must email for guest list. There's complimentary cocktails, and a silent auction benefits the Howard Brown Health Center. 9-11pm at Crimson Lounge, 333 N. Dearborn St.

Make-a-Wish Foundation's Associate Board holiday social set takes place at Underground (56 W. Illinois St.) from 7-10pm. The party includes a deejay spinning contemporary tunes, hors d'oeuvres, cocktails and a raffle. To register: $30 (online)/$35 (at door).

Or you can "Ring in the Red" at the American Red Cross of Great Chicago's Auxiliary Board benefit at Kerryman (661 N. Clark St.). Get there for complimentary appetizers, plus a host of drink and beer specials for $2 (!!). 6-9pm. $20 in advance; $25 at door. Call 312-729-6130 for more info.

And the "Kimpton Red Romp: A Red Hot Night Benefiting AIDSCare" is what's up over at Hotel Monaco (225 W. Wabash Ave.). For a $5 donation, attendees can expect the red-carpet treatment, including one red-themed cocktail and tasty appetizers. They’ll be able to shop for the season’s hottest red fashions from SHE and Flirt boutiques and jewelry from local Chicago designer Dana Rebecca Designs, with 10% of all purchases benefiting AIDSCare. Also on the docket is a silent auction featuring a little black dress by Sweetface from SHE (retail value $502), a private shopping party at Flirt for you and your 10 girlfriends and more. 5-7:30pm. RSVP at or

Deal of the day . . . (as seen on 'WGN Morning News' today)

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Consider swanky sports lounge WestEnd for your co-worker sponsored holiday bash.

How about ditching that corporate-sponsored holiday shindig this year and hosting your own? Or perhaps you just want to cut loose after the main festivities with a crew of the coolest co-workers from the office.

Regardless, as the worker bees, it’s not like you can bankroll one of those fancy fetes yourself, so I’m recommending one of these spots where you don’t have to worry about room rentals, deposits, package deals, etc.

Just show up and hang at:

Junior’s Sports Lounge (724 W Maxwell St., 312-421-2277). Massive sports bar has great deals every Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday’s game night features $10 Bud Light pitchers, $13 buckets of Bud bottles, plus free pool, a hilarious bean bag game, Wii bowling and board games; or head here Wednesday for half-priced appetizers (excluding wings), $5 mojitos and specialty martinis.

Landmark (1633 N. Halsted St., 312-587-1600). Weekly “Wino Wednesdays” at this trendy Lincoln Park lounge offers half off on bottles of wine from the “50 under $50” list, $5 Skyy vodka martinis and free pizzas from their wood-burning oven.

Nacional 27 (325 W. Huron St., 312-664-2727). Or you can always test your co-workers' skills on the dance floor (or show off yours!) with Latin Street Beat Thursdays with South American appetizers and cocktails for $3-$4. There’s also Latin house music and live percussion. Woo hoo!

WestEnd Bar & Grill (1326 W. Madison St., 312-733-0574). Unwind with your work pals at this swanky new sports bar in the West Loop. Thursdays are ideal for their $10 pizzas that come with unlimited toppings such as sausage, basil, arugula, fresh garlic, mushrooms, black olives or pepperoni. Each serves up to four people and they go great with the $16 Goose Island Honkers buckets.

Zocalo (358 W. Ontario St., 312-302-9977). No deals on appetizers where famed chef Dudley Nieto resides, but the Thursday drink specials are perfect when you need to save a few bucks. For $5, you can swill sangria Roja (with red wine, Presidente brandy, triple sec, mango and guava juices) or the Citrus Cazuela (with Milagro citrus tequila, Fresca, white wine, and grapefruit, orange, lemon lime juices) all night long. That’ll go fine with their fresh plaintain and corn chips served with a flight of signature guacamoles that are spicy, tangy and sweet.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Schwa reopening?

A Craigslist ad was posted yesterday by rock star chef Michael Carlson, whose edgy Wicker Park eatery Schwa closed early last month. Could it be possible that he's angling for a reopening? According to Dish: "Schwa opened in August 2005 and served its last meal on October 5th, a private blowout for several of the world-class chefs in town for Charlie Trotter’s 20th anniversary dinner on Sunday night.(Trotter took the chefs to Schwa, unaware that it would be Schwa’s final night, says Trotter’s spokesperson, Katy Burstein.)."

So after all that hoopla, is Carlson trying to reopen by year's end?

Here's the ad below:

"serious culinary canidates

Reply to:
Date: 2007-11-27, 8:26AM CST

Chef Michael Carlson & Schwa Restaurant is looking for professional, hard working, and creative chefs who are interested in all facets of the restaurant. Must have good refrences and be ready to make a commitment. Please attach resumes to a quick email telling us a little about yourself."

An excuse to get buzzed

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Seems like everyone's having champagne tastings these days, but duh! it's that time of year.

Now comes The Tasting Room (1415 W. Randolph St., 312-942-1212) with a bubbly bash offering more than 30 of your favorites (and some stuff you've never heard of).

Tonight, you'll get to sample superstars Krug and Ruinart, great grower Champagnes like Jose Dhondt and Andre Clouet, as well as a wide array of sparkling wines from around the globe.

Also, enjoy light hors d’oeuvres in their city view lounge, and all wines featured will be discounted tonight at the adjoining Randolph Wine Cellars. 6-8pm. $50.

The next big thing?!

I've never heard of Kinky Notti, but this soul band is already making waves across the country for its unique sound. And if you want to catch them before they really blow up, they're headlining a show tonight at Blu 47 (4655 S. King Dr., 773-536-6000).

Also performing during this "Southern flair meets Northern flavor" event are the Free Agents Brand Band from New Orleans, Emotion Brown out of Dallas, Von from Dallas and local crooners Verbal Balance.

Blu 47's usually understated interior will be transformed to reflect the energy, with live mural art collaborations, dance performances, cuisine and culture. Tonight 8pm-midnight. Free.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Comp manis and massages tonight

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Every time this event comes around I've already got something lined up, but perhaps you can make it:

Tsuki Japanese Restaurant and Lounge (1441-1443 W. Fullerton, 773-883-8722) is truly bringing it with a very special event for ladies' only: free manicures, massages and $5 martini specials. Guests can also take advantage of their a la carte dinner specials before or after their services. RSVP is required to Tonight 7-10pm.

And now for something completely different

Ukie Village night spot Sonotheque (1444 W. Chicago Ave., 312-226-7600) is always offbeat—especially during the week—so this screening of Mário Peixoto's “Limite,” a rare Brazilian masterpiece of the 1930s, is hardly a surprise.

“Limite” is considered a preeminent work of the Brazilian silent era, and was the first and only film by Mário Peixoto—who was reportedly only 18 years old when he began to direct it. It's achieved mythological status as an influential though seldom seen experimental classic. The story of three castaways, “Limite” makes fragmentary connections relating to themes of love, betrayal and entrapment. It was also screened by the Edinburg Film Festival 2007 as a launchpad for Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Foundation, which aims to highlight and restore lost classics.

Tonight's screening of "Limite" will be preceded and followed by a selection of rare Brazilian music from the 1930s-1950s from the collection of DJ Joe Bryl. Music will range from folkloric, ritualistic and ceremonial to Brazilian forms of big bands, jazz and samba. Also, during the silent screening, music will be performed live by Poi Dog Pondering. Tonight at 7:30 (film starts at 8:30). $7.

Kanye the restaurateur?

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From Stella's Column today:

"KANYE WEST, the Grammy Award-winning hip-hop superstar who is deep in grief over the passing of his beloved mom, Donda West, is still planning to open a chain of Fatburger eateries around the Chicago area -- one of which will soon debut in Hyde Park. He is among a few celebs such as Queen Latifah, rapper/producer Pharrell Williams, the Cincinnati Bengals' Willie Anderson and Montel Williams who are all partnering with Fatburger chairman Andy Wiederhorn. There are 91 restaurants in the popular hamburger chain that is based on the West Coast."

And speaking of West Coast outposts on the South Side, the "coming soon" signage is still up on Martin Luther King Drive in Bronzeville for a Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles. It was supposed to open last June, so what exactly is going on over there?!

'Love, Luxe, Life'

. . . is the name of the fabulous event happening tomorrow evening at the 28 Shop at Macy’s (111 N. State St.). From 5 to 8pm, you'll get to preview luxury designer collections in jewelry, watches and fragrances with music, appetizers and complimentary gift wrapping and discounts on select items. RSVP to 800-329-8667 by this afternoon because the list for this free event will fill up.

Deal of the day . . .

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La Bouillabaisse "La Sardine" comes with shrimp, clams, mussels, calamari, scallops, monkfish and lobster in a saffron broth.

Now, the prices over at French sensation Le Sardine (111 N. Carpenter St., 312-421-2800) are pretty moderate already--with no entrees exceeding $22 (for the braised lamb shank)--so consider the three-course, prix-fixe menu at $25 a treat.

It’s offered every Tuesday, and changes occasionally, but I’m sure on a chilly day like this they’re probably offering signature dishes like La Bouillabaisse "La Sardine," which comes with shrimp, clams, mussels, calamari, scallops, monkfish and lobster in a toasty saffron broth. It’s certain to warm you down to your bones, especially if you pair it with a nice bottle of the newly released Beaujolais.

No more hot cinnamon rolls, for a few days . . .

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Lakeview restaurant Ann Sather--most famous for its Swedish meatballs and gooey cinnamon rolls--closed its longtime location over the weekend at 935 W. Belmont Ave. and is reopening in a smaller location down the street at 909 W. Belmont St. on Friday.

Monday, November 26, 2007

'Kitchen Nightmares' comes to Chicago

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With Bravo's "Top Chef" coming to Chicago next year, it's really no surprise that FOX's "Kitchen Nightmares" is making its way here, too.

And since I'm a huge fan of the charming, yet potty-mouthed host/chef Gordon Ramsay, I will be all over that. If you haven't checked out the U.S. edition of the UK original show, Ramsay goes into a restaurant that's on its last legs and turns it around miraculously in five days flat.

Right now, they're looking for restaurants to give the old "Ramsay touch," and they're casting 10 shows in our fair city. To find out how your establishment--or someone's you know--can be considered, email or call 310-387-6775.

Be your own winemaker

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Wanna have some real bragging rights this holiday season? Sign up for Just Grapes' first-ever interactive wine-blending seminar where you'll learn how to make your vino.

The premier wine shop in the West Loop specializes in wine education and events for corporations. And at this fun event, participants blend wine at team tables, learning the basic techniques of wine-blending and in turn being able to develop and understand their own wine preferences. Also, as part of the event you'll get to take home your very own magnum bottle of your concoction with a personalized label. Bring that bottle to your favorite house holiday bash, and you're certain to be the star of the party.

The event occurs Wednesday, Nov. 28 6-8pm at 560 W. Washington Blvd., 312-627-WINE. $100.

A minty holiday mixer

Where are my Peppermint Patties and Peppermint Patricks?

Lincoln Park Young Professionals hosts one of their infamous after-work cocktail parties where you can drink and eat for a pretty reasonable price.

Friday, Nov. 30, they're throwing a "Peppermint Holiday Party" at the Hard Rock Hotel (230 N. Michigan Ave.). For only $30 ($40 at door), you'll get your fill of their peppermint martini bars, Red Pama martini bars, Zodiac candy cane and Mistletow martinis, champagne, wine, classic cocktails and more. Edibles include selections from several Chicago-area restaurants, and what would this party be without plenty of Peppermint Patty candies?!

Be there 6-8pm Friday, Nov. 30 by calling 312-642-5097.

Deal of the day ...

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Sola’s ginger-glazed salmon

Thank God Thanksgiving is over. Did you get enough turkey to eat? If you’re so over picking on those leftovers, check into this:

Mahalo Mondays” happens every Monday at sola (3868 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-327-3868), the New Hawaiian sensation in North Center, until the end of the year (New Year’s Eve!). Mahalo is the Hawaiian word for “thank you,” and they’re doing so by offering half-price bottles of wine.

So that gives you the chance to sample one of their gloriously fresh fish entrees, which range from $24-$26. My favorite picks include the hoisin-mustard-panko crusted tuna with bamboo rice, avocado tempura drizzled with soy-wasabi buerre blanc; the seared and ginger-glazed salmon with
edamame puree, truffle teriyaki sauce and green bean tempura; barramundi with black forbidden rice, baby bok choy, black sesame, coconut butter; and the pumpkin-seed crusted Mahi Mahi accompanied by Japanese heirloom squash and truffle vinaigrette.

Makes you wanna gobble, gobble, huh?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Say what?!


Meritage calls it a career, announces Jan. 1 closing

"Say it ain't so: Christopher Peckat announced this morning, via e-mail, that his restaurant, Meritage Café & Wine Bar (2118 N. Damen Ave.) would close its doors for keeps on Jan. 1. Meritage has won a handful of awards since its May 1997 opening with chef Jonathan Harootunian, and has been one of the city's most consistently excellent restaurants throughout its existence. It will be missed. But the good news, sort of, is that there's still time for a farewell meal or two."

Get there before it closes. At least Meritage got to celebrate its 10-year anniversary. Plus, Peckat still owns The Ashland (2824 N. Ashland Ave., 773-549-3333) and Fixture (2706 N. Ashland Ave., 773-248-3331) in Lakeview.

Sounding off: Designer Brunches

It's getting pretty heated over on, where the fabulous foodies are debating over the price points at hip neighborhood brunch spots like Orange on Roscoe (2011 W. Roscoe St., 773-248-0999)--the popular eatery with outposts in Lakeview and the South Loop.

Here's a taste of comments:

"My bill for three for breakfast (at Orange) was in a similiar price range. 3 juices, 3 coffees, a few meats, a few entrees maybe an order of toast or something. It can get to the $60's quick."

"Sure you can cut corners, but with omelets and pancakes starting generally at $8 and specials at $10, you'd be wise to prepare for $20-$25/head whenever breakfasting nowadays at Orange, Bongo Room, and their ilk."

"I've eaten at most of these places recently, including Bongo Room, M. Henry, Wishbone, Walker Brother, and Orange on Harrison. Prices on their menus are remarkably consistent within this group, with $9 being the 'sweet spot' for most mains (with some less than that), $3.50-4.00 for a large juice, and $2-3 for coffee. I've gone over $20 only on the exceptional occasion when I have ordered more than one beverage, more than one food item, and/or an exceptionally expensive main (only a few are over $10). Based on my experience, I think that most people who order one main and one beverage will find themselves paying $12-20 including tax/tip pretty consistently. But order a large juice AND coffee, or get a dessert after your main, and yes, that's how you can end up over $20."

"Oh come on now! Everybody knows those breakfast places are more expensive than many neighborhood places, but it really depends on what you want to order. If you just want two scrambled eggs, you're better off at that coffee shop on the corner (or better still, McDonald's for around a dollar - although most people don't know that you can order eggs without meat there) rather than paying $5.95 for them at Orange or $4.95 for them at Bongo Room or M. Henry. But if you want a pancake 'flight' of four different kinds of pancakes (Orange, $10.95, one of only two items on their menu over $8.95), or creamy polenta topped with two eggs, sharp cheddar and fresh thyme, wrapped in applewood bacon and served atop a mixed greens salad (M. Henry, $8.95), or banana pancakes topped with crushed oreos served with warm vanilla bean cream and chocolate creme anglaise (Bongo Room, $8.95), then you'll need to go to one of those breakfast specialty places and pay the price. At any of these places, you can get a main for $8.95 and coffee for $2.50, thrown on tax and tip, and you're around $15; order more, and pay more. It's your choice; you can go where you want, and select whatever foods and beverages you want. . . . As soon as my local McDonald's starts selling a delicious puffed up cinnamony apple pancake for a dollar, and fresh squeezed orange juice for a dollar, I'm going to stop going to Walker Brothers. But I'm not holding my breath that that's ever going to happen."

You Got Served . . .

So my swingin' hot friend Michael made his way over to Otom (951 W. Fulton Market, 312-491-5804) this weekend, and he reported back that this slightly cheaper sibling to Moto (945 W. Fulton Market, 312-491-0058) is living up to its hype.

While I was a little distraught that he didn't order the famed mac 'n' cheese (baked with truffled white cheddar and double-smoked bacon and chives, mmmmmmmmmmm), he still managed to make my mouth water with his choices: a perfectly tangy Chinook salmon cerviche with citrus bubbles, chili, cucumbers and wonton chips; an offbeat jambalaya made with braised chicken, Jasmine rice, spicy crawfish and andouille; and a savory, seared boneless quail with pickled bok choy and maple-soy glaze.

Portions, of course, were small, yet filling. And being the big-time party boy he is, he needed just enough sustenance to keep him running for the night . . .

Got any good stories of a good nightlife or dining outing this weekend? Feel free to let us know.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Oakenfold plays Le Passage

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This just in:

Paul Oakenfold--one of the world's most famous deejays--is having dinner at Le Passage's hot new Drawing Room on Saturday. Then, after his concert that night he returns to the late-night club to spin until 5am. 937 N. Rush St., 312-255-0022.

Doing good in the 'hood

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Randee and Larry Estes, owners of U Lucky Dawg and Max's Italian Beef

U Lucky Dawg (6821 N. Western Ave., 773-989-4488) hosts an all-American feast on Thanksgiving Day for disadvantaged families in the Chicago area. Owners Larry and Randee Estes will be serving roasted turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries and vegetables as well as mini-Vienna beef hot dogs as appetizers.

The feast runs 11am-3pm. Know someone who can benefit from this event? Have them call 773-989-4488 for a reservation.

Black Wednesday bashes

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DJ Samantha Ronson (center) flanked by PR divas Susie Schreiber (left) and Kiran Advani of Zapwater Communications

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, so you know what that means. It’s time to cut loose before you head home to the families. Feast your eyes on these bashes certain to whet your nightlife appetite:

Butch McGuire’s (20 W. Division St., 312-337-9080). Head here as soon as you get off (by 2pm hopefully!) as this legendary Irish bar decorates the entire venue with choo-choo trains, whimsical Dr. Seuss characters and more tinsel than you can handle. $10 after 5pm.

Chaise Lounge (1840 W. North Ave., 773-342-1840). Half-price bottles of selected wines, a heated deck with lush, Miami-style cabana seating and a deejay are exactly what you’ll need to get ready for the relatives manana.

Citizen (364 W. Erie St., 312-640-1156). Get your grub on one day early with bottomless pasta for $14.95, $3 Snow Queen Lemon Drops and $125 bottles of Snow Queen vodka. Deejays K.O. and Risky Biz spin indoors and also on the heated, tented deck.

Crimson Lounge (333 N. Dearborn St., 312-923-2473). Hot shot celebrity deejay Samantha Ronson does her monthly residency at the new Hotel Sax’s swanky lounge.

Cuartro (2030 S. Wabash Ave., 312-842-8856). Groove Parlor features deep house maestro Mark Grant and Groove Parlor founder Mario Romay. 10pm-2am.

Jilly’s Too! (1009 N. Rush St., 312 664-0009). Downtown Melissa Brown hosts her annual bash for a mature crowd looking for something beyond the usual bar scenes. She’s gathered a number of her “downtown diva” friends (including 312 Dining Diva!) for a fun party that begins with a comp champagne reception at 8:30pm. Donny Greco performs.

Y (224 W. Ontario St., 312-274-1880). Make your way to Tony Macey's pre-Thanksgiving event at this sexy lounge known for its infamous Wednesday night parties. Get there by 10pm for guaranteed admission.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Green City Market shopping for Thanksgiving

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Prairie Grass Cafe's Sarah Stegner

If you've got some leisurely time tomorrow morning, then make your way to the weekly Green City Market, which is in its fall/winter edition.

I'll admit that since I started going to it last summer, I haven't looked at a vine-riped tomato or squash the same again. And now that it's moved to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum's North Gallery (2430 N. Cannon Dr.) through December, you can get in on the good-food action as well--just in time for a heart-healthy Thanksgiving celebration.

Also, the best part of the market are the cooking demos, and tomorrow you'll be able to catch chefs Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris of Prairie Grass Cafe (601 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook, 847-205-4433).

The event starts at 10:30am, and if you get there early you might even get a chance to sit close enough to sample some of their yummy concoctions. Oh, and the best part about it is that it's free. The market's locally and organically grown fruits and veggies, of course, are not.

'Take no prisoners' . . .

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. . . is the theme for tonight's industry event hosted by Z and Trigger, who've been kings in Chicago's nightlife for a number of years. They host their latest parties every Tuesday at Manor (642 N. Clark St.,312-475-1390), and they're packing 'em in.

Tonight, they're helping to launch local liquor Kilo Kai, a spiced rum that is making waves in the industry. Get there early (10-11:30pm) for a complimentary cocktail reception sponsored by Kilo Kai and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.

'Check, Please!' expands to video-based web site

If you're a fan of the WTTW-TV show "Check, Please!," then you'll be happy to know that you can now watch it anytime you wish as it as expands to the Internet.

With, a video-based web site partnering with NBC5 Chicago, you'll get to watch regular folks sound off on their favorite local and national restaurants.

You can even apply yourself to become a reviewer. Just post recommendations at and indicate that you would like to be considered. "Check, Please!" invites viewers to local events where they are videotaped making one recommendation and giving reviews of at least two other restaurants that have been suggested. Parallel to the hit television show, each posted restaurant features one person recommending a restaurant, and at least two reviewers giving their opinions on video.

NBC5 will air never-before-seen, one-minute Check, Please! video recommendations from local residents twice weekly on its 6pm newscast every Tuesday and Friday. The half-hour hit TV show, which has won five Emmy awards, will continue airing weekly on WTTW-TV.

BYOB, baby!

A colleague was raving about this tiny sushi spot in Lincoln Park last week, so I decided to check into it.

If you can get over the lackluster service, you're certain to be impressed by the rolls at Green Tea Japanese Restaurant (2206 N. Clark St., 773-883-8812), with nothing really over $6. The food here is super fresh, including starters like the edamame and oshinko, or Japanese pickles. Then you can move on to delightful rolls like the spicy tuna, avocado, smoked salmon or shittake mushroom.

With only 17 seats, most customers prefer to do take out or delivery, but if you decide to stay, we recommend taking a nice bottle of sake or pinot noir.

Deal of the day . . .

Because there are many of us staying in town this holiday weekend--as well as many coming in--knowing where to go for an inexpensive meal is still top of mind.

Lincoln Park favorite Tilli’s (1952 N. Halsted St., 773-325-0044) offers the perfect deal for a cozy night out in this trendy neighborhood:

Every Sunday-Wednesday, they've got half-price bottles of wine with the purchase of any two entrees (which come with a choice of one side). Our favorites? The gorgonzola pork chops marinated in maple syrup; grilled Cajun spiced catfish; Thai BBQ salmon; or the St. Johns skirt steak, a Caribbean island spice-rubbed steak topped with mango salsa.

Pair one of those with the Rex Goliath Merlot 2002 (half price at $12), Castle Rock Pinot Noir 2002 (half price at $12), Raymond Amberhill Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (half price at $12) or the Woop Woop Shiraz 2003 (half price at $16), and you've got yourself a wonderful meal.

If you're not a wine fan, they've also got $3 drafts.

Monday, November 19, 2007

You Got Served

Did you eat anywhere good this weekend? Hang out at a hot new spot or an old neighborhood favorite? How was the service? The doormen? The food? The cocktails? It's time to sound off . . .

Break out the big bucks for this Bordeaux tasting

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It's been making noise ever since it opened in the original Iggy's space in River West last winter, especially with its wacky-themed wine events.

But this Bordeaux happening tomorrow from 6-8pm is the most ambitious of all for Juicy Wine Co. (694 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312-492-6620), which is quickly becoming the hipster's wine lounge. They're kicking off what they're calling an extraordinary Collector's Series by exploring the Bordeaux region. For $150 a person (only 25 people will be allowed in the event), owner Rodney Alex takes guests on a tour of perhaps the most revered grape-growing region in the world, tucked into the Southwestern corner of France along the Garonne.

The event begins with a complimentary Krug champagne reception. Then for the next two hours they're pouring some of the most outstanding Bordeaux wines available today alongside succulent grilled lamb chops and tender, roasted, aged prime beef. The tasting ends with seared pâté de foie gras paired with a stunning 1997 Château d'Yquem (96 points, Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate, 2003).

Decadent as hell.

Michael Kornick down for Obama

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Michael Kornick, one of our most celebrated chefs/restaurateurs, is all about U.S. Senator Barack Obama's run for president, and he's supporting by co-hosting a benefit at MK (868 N. Franklin St., 312-482-9179) on Friday, Nov. 23 7:30-9pm.

They're calling the event "November to Remember," and you can go to for more information.

Kornick is certain to whip something up for this benefit that you won't forget anytime soon either.

Sepia leads the poll

I've been conducting a poll since the beginning of the month--at the bottom of the page--to see which new restaurant came out on top in 2007.

Sepia (123 N. Jefferson St., 312-441-1920), a very sophisticated yet understated eatery in the West Loop, has been leading since day one. Do you agree? Or not? Do you think Table 52, The Gage, Tavern at the Park or Room 21 are better? Or do you think I'm totally off base with any of these choices? Join in on the fun. There's only 11 more days to go.

Deal of the day . . .

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I love my Chicago pizza, but there's something about this scruffy New York-style pizza spot that makes my mouth water.

Santullo's (1943 W. North Ave., 773-227-7960) is no-frills, with blaring rock music, hardwood booths, cafeteria-style seating and punk rock looking staffers who act like they don't care but crank out one mean pie.

They're known for their generous slices, which are served until 5am on Saturdays, but during the week you can get cheese, pepperoni or sausage for only $2. That's Monday-Friday 4-6pm. Order a glass of beer or wine, and you're good to go.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

RL one of Oprah’s ‘favorite things’

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I could be way off base here, but it’s a mighty rare occurrence to catch an Oprah Winfrey sighting at any of our local eateries (save for her boy Art Smith’s Table 52), so I was shocked to hear about the one that took place last week at RL (115 E. Chicago Ave., 312-475-1100).

Jim and Mary Lasky (whose Chaise Lounge incidentally scored former RL head chef Isaac Holzwarth) spotted the Queen of Media dining at her fave table with none other than Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks, who appears on her show Monday. While the Laskys didn’t catch a glimpse of what they were chowing down on, they noted that she had no security and was dressed stylish, yet low key. And no one bothered her. Wow.

I just wonder which RL table is one of Oprah’s “favorite things.”

Friday, November 16, 2007

Say hola to new Thanksgiving tradition

If you're tired of the same-old traditional turkey dinner you've had every year since lord knows when, then keep reading:

Zocalo's Executive Chef Dudley Nieto is teaching a class on how to prepare a Mexican-American Thankgiving dinner tomorrow.

Participants will learn how to put a Mexican spin on the traditional American Thanksgiving feast with Nieto's recipes like a guajillo-marinated turkey in ancho, chiles pasilla stuffed with cheese, and crema de flor de calabaza (squash blossom soup with roasted spaghetti squash and a hint of mole poblano).

The class is $45 and includes a sampling of all the recipes, plus complimentary warm cinnamon-infused tequila ponche. It's 11am-1pm at the restaurant, 358 W. Ontario St.,312-302-9977.

Have a fabulous weekend!

'Music & Martinis' make me wanna holler

Say woo! for the weekend!

It's almost time to unwind, and you're probably making those post-work plans now. Have you checked out Miracle Entertainment's monthly set yet, which happens at Bella (1212 N. State Pkwy., 312-235-6359)?

If not, you might wanna head over there this evening for the "manager's special" for only $20: a buffet dinner and unlimited martinis like the peach sangria, vanilla espresso and strawberry cheesecake.

The party starts right after work at 5pm and keeps going until the last man (or girl) is standing at 2am. Deejays Malik Shabazz, World and C-Vicious spin delightful tunes of hip-hop, reggae, soul and funk.

Hell, I might wind up over there myself.

We're still waiting . . .

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Rock star restaurateurs Paul Kahan (left) and Donnie Madia are two of the partners behind a new trendy beer-focused eatery opening in 2008.

. . .on a name for the new pork and seafood restaurant located at 845 W. Fulton St., and owned by rock star restaurateurs Paul Kahan, Donnie Madia and Terry Alexander.

The new establishment, which aims to open next spring, plans to serve rustic Belgian-inspired fare designed to complement beer. Executive Chef Kahan and Chef de Cuisine Brian Huston have developed a network of purveyors to supply the restaurant with hand-selected, sustainably harvested fish and seafood as well as sustainably raised heirloom pork to anchor a menu of simple yet eclectic fare.

The extensive beer list developed by Eduard Seitan features an eclectically diverse international list of ales, lagers, stouts and ciders. Similar to Blackbird (which is celebrating its 10th year anniversary in December) and avec, the restaurant is another design partnership of Donnie Madia and Thomas Schlesser. Developing . . .

Carlos' gets big props

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The European butter-poached lobster tail at Carlos'.

Big congrats go out to Carlos', the contemporary French cuisine sensation in Highwood. Proprietors Debbie and Carlos Nieto were just named one of 10 BEST restaurants in the nation by Zagat (Also, in 2006, Carlos' was named #1 for food in Chicago by Zagat ).

It's a major milestone for Carlos', which is also celebrating its 26th year in business this month. During November, they've been featuring special menus and chefs of the past 26 years.

They've also been highly regarded for their foie gras, which is a decadent preparation of both hot/seared (under a glass dome) and cold/terrine (on top of the glass dome). It's an amazing appetizer that's worth the drive and sure to satisfy any goose or duck liver lover. It's a bit pricy at $23.50, but worth it. If you're not into the foie, then head here for their popular Monday Night “No Corkage Fee” with your best bottle(s) of wine and pay no corkage fee, while enjoying Carlos’ a la carte menu, or special eight-course degustation menu which costs $90 (or $130 if paired with Carlos’ wines). 429 Temple, Highland Park, IL, 847-432-0770.

What the critics are saying . . .

. . . about:

Between Boutique Cafe & Lounge (1324 N. Milwaukee, 773-292-0585): "At $18 the lobster trifecta—a trio of bisque, risotto cakes and fresh lobster salad—is the most expensive thing on the menu; the bisque is ethereal perfection, rich, light and ever-so-slightly sweet."—Martha Bayne, Chicago Reader

Le Passage/The Drawing Room (937 N. Rush St., 312-255-0022): "In general, I don't think 'clubsteraunts' really work, so it will be interesting to see if the Three Headed boys can pull it off. They've had great success with neighborhood sports bars, but the Le Passage/Drawing Room hybrid is a different beast altogether. Will clubgoers care that a fancy chef planned the menu? Will foodies want to mess with the hassle of a 4 a.m. club?"—Sarah Preston, Chicago Magazine's "Last Girl Standing"

Macello (1235 W Lake St., 312-850-9870): "The show is part of it, of course, but the result is one of the better pizzas in town. Particularly the Barese, a holy trinity of silky prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and burrata (think creamy mozz). The prosciutto stays perfectly moist since it’s added after the pie is pulled from the oven and just before a last-second drizzle of bright olive oil."—Heather Shouse, Time Out Chicago

Riccardo Trattoria (2119 N. Clark St., 773-549-0038): "Riccardo Michi was an executive chef with the Bice restaurant group for many years, and Lincoln Park locals are thrilled to be getting Bice-quality food at neighborhood-trattoria prices. Michi's robust, rustic cooking is first-rate and attitude free; he's as happy to make a rich spaghetti carbonara as he is tripe Florentine, a dish that has developed something of a cult following."—Phil Vettel, Chicago Tribune

Table 52 (52 W. Elm St., 312-573-4000): "Behind the popular six-seat food bar—no reservations required—a wood-burning oven turns out beautifully browned macaroni and cheese; crisp, thin-crust pizzas, and glorious, hot, goat cheese biscuits that arrive unbidden at every table."—Laura Bianchi, Crain's Chicago Business

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Exclusive: Ready for Rebar?

While the world is waiting with baited breath for the opening of Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, I'm waiting for their red-hot lounge, Rebar (401 N. Wabash Ave., 312-924-7600), to open.

It's scheduled to debut this winter on the property's second level, and expect the ultimate backdrop: floor-to-ceiling windows throughout, views of the Chicago River and the city skyline punctuating the lounge’s contemporary décor.

Rebar's also introducing an extensive mixology program with emphasis on the use of fresh juices and mixers. And the wine list is heavy on Champagne and sparkling wine, and aims to complement the shareable menu created by Executive Chef Frank Brunacci.

Just some of Brunacci's dishes include the salmon, caviar, cucumber sweets and lemon crystals; scallop mi cuit with black truffle and potato sauce; and the Kobe carpaccio with parmesan and parsley mousse.

Rebar, a shortened term for “reinforced bar,” is a steel rod used in support of concrete buildings. There are more than tens of thousands of tons of rebar utilized in the construction of the Trump hotel. So, that's where the name comes from.

Chef Julius brings out his wild side

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We've always known that chefs can be a little crazy, but this one is actually embracing his um, creative side. Chef Julius--whose alter ego is Chef Tiki--is skilled in the very detailed techniques of French and Spanish fare. But he's known around the country for bringing on his wild side as Chef Tiki through his interpretations of Cajun/Creole, Caribbean and Latin fare.

You'll be able to catch Chef Julius as he showcases his catering company, A Tale of Two Chefs, at the Urban Livin' Harvest at Home Show at the South Shore Culture Center (7059 S. South Shore Drive) on Nov. 17 11:30am-8:30pm. He'll be doing demonstrations all day, plus giving out gift certificates, samples and recipe cards. Bet he'll give Emeril Lagasse a run for his money. Admission is free.

These guys want to upgrade your nightlife

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The principals behind Table4Ten

With all the people complaining about first class not being what it used to be, these guys should come in handy.

Table4Ten, a Chicago-based premier concierge and VIP hosting company, aims to bring back high stylin' and big ballin' in a way we've never seen before. Owners Justin Brown, Morris Gershengorin and Imran Hussain believe they've discovered the missing link for those looking for an “insider” experience while traveling to foreign locales or looking for entertainment in their resident cities. From elite bottle service and dining reservations to booking private jet travel to providing security, clients are offered a top of the line experience based on their individual needs and desires for luxurious treatment in their daily lives and or travel.

Tonight at Enclave (220 W. Chicago Ave.), they're debuting with an
over-the-top party with a jet set theme. As guests enter the venue, Lamborghini and Bentley cars will line the red carpet to give guests a sneak peak of what’s inside. Waitresses will be morphed into flight attendants, while doorman and bartenders will be pilots for the evening. The party takes off from 8:30pm-2am, and prompt guests will be able to enjoy complimentary Level Vodka cocktails from 9-11pm.

Wanna be in the mix? Guests must RSVP to

Beaujolais is back

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Pops For Champagne celebrates Beaujolais Nouveau Day tonight.

It's really not as pretentious as it sounds: a bunch of onephiles standing around waiting for the once-a-year release of a nouveau wine. Oh, well maybe it does.

Regardless, Beaujolais Nouveau Day is kind of a big deal as the wine is traditionally released for sale worldwide on the third Thursday of November each year. Beaujolais nouveau is a red wine made from Gamay grapes produced in the Beaujolais region of France. It's the most popular vin de primeur, fermented for just a few weeks then officially released for sale on the third Thursday of November. The wine is generally dominated by fruity, ester flavors of bananas and pear drops.

To celebrate its arrival, Pops For Champagne (601 N. State St., 312-266-7677) is offering Joseph Drouhin 2007 for $6 a glass and $30 a bottle all day Thursday, Friday and Saturday (Nov. 15-17).

Sepia bartender wins big

Big congrats go out to Peter Vestinos, Sepia’s bartender extraordinaire who just won the “Chicago Iron Bartender Competition,” hosted by the US Bartenders Guild, Sante magazine and Absolut spirits. He beat out some tough competition (from mixologists from Martini Park, MK, Nacional 27, Otom) with this winning recipe that you can recreate at home:

The Ramble on Cocktail

1 oz puree of blackberries, blueberries, strawberries sweetened with 1/2 oz agave nectar
2 oz Plymouth Gin
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 oz fresh lime juice

Shake and strain into rocks glass, garnish with mixed fresh berries.

The seasonal cocktail is not available at Sepia (123 N Jefferson St., 312-441-1920) right now, but Peter assures us that it'll return real soon. In the meantime, he'll be happy to make your a specialty cocktail from the restaurant's extensive list.

Glamorous steakhouse now open for lunch

Everyone's talking about the expensive prices at Brasserie Ruhlmann (500 W. Superior St., 312-494-1900), the glamorous new French-flavored steakhouse opened by the team behind Japonais across the street.

So if you're one of those folks, you'll be happy to know that they just launched their lunch program yesterday. "It wasn't busy," admitted co-owner Miae Liam about their first day, "but the food is amazing."

I guess that's a good thing that they weren't busy on their first day so they can get all the kinks out before the crazy holiday season kicks off. Nevertheless, I peeped the new menu, and even though the prices aren't for the average Joe, I'm sure you'll find it a little less daunting.

Salads range from $8-$14, with the specialty Ruhlmann Chopped Salad (with chicken, ham, peas, endive, swiss cheese and chopped Bibb lettuce in a basalmic reduction) sounding yummy as hell. Sandwiches were reasonable as well, but you get just a little extra special something with the $19 Le Burger Ruhlmann prepared with Black Angus ground sirloin, braised beef and caramelized shallots.

Even the main courses are reasonable for a spot like this for lunch: Ranging from $21 to $42, the Hanger steak Delouvrier is only $26.

This isn't your run-of-the mill lunch destination, but if you're looking to treat yourself . . .

Deal of the day . . .

SoPo (3418 N. Southport Ave., 773-348-0100) is one of those tight little neighborhood lounges where you can actually have a civilized conversation without screaming over the table to your companions. The music serves as the perfect background accompaniment--except on the weekends when deejays come out to spin the usual hip-hip and contemporary rock mixes.

Anyway, if you're up in the Wrigleyville area tonight, start your night off here for the Thursday special of $3 martinis and $2 Amstel Light draught. You won't find a deal like that anywhere in the Gold Coast.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ah, the Good Life . . .

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Nu Bang Clan's Cordell Johnson is special guest deejay tonight at Subterranean.

Swank Society hosts its weekly "Good Life" party tonight at Subterranean (2011 W. North Ave., 773-278-6799) with special guest Cordell Johnson, whose day job is cameraman for WGN-TV.

You'll want to do some serious chilling out as he spins his special blend of deep house, funk and eclectic beats. Resident deejays Sean Alverez and Christian Armand also spin. Doors open at 8pm; $5.

'Project Runway' viewing party at Kit Kat

Who wants to watch a show this good alone?

"Project Runway" kicks off tonight, and Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club (3700 N. Halsted St., 773-525-1111) hosts a weekly interactive experience so you can showcase your design skills too.

They're debuting the "Design Your Own Martini" contest tonight in which guests are invited to enter their best martini "design" each Wednesday. The favorite martini will be chosen at the season finale viewing party and the "designer" will be awarded a $250 Absolut vodka gift basket.

Doors open at 5:30pm, and "Project Runway" airs at 9, so get there early to grab a seat and take advantage of the half-price cocktails and martini specials.

Also, they've added some entrees paying homage to the show, including:

"Nina Garcia": Spicy chicken and black bean soup soup with crispy tortilla strips

"Tim Gunn": Cold, spicy, tuna tartare on sesame wonton crisps

"Heidi Klum": Slow-braised pot roast, with saurkraut, and roasted new potatoes

It'll be your chance to shout in unison: "You in, oh you out."

Reality stars on a roll

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Michael Laungani from "The Apprentice: Season 5"

They've already showcased their skills of brain and brawn on such high-rated shows as "The Apprentice," "Big Brother" and "Survivor." Now, they're testing just how creative they can be in the kitchen as they design new sushi rolls in order to raise money for a good cause.

Tonight, the Glenview RA Sushi hosts "RA Reality," and four reality television stars have transformed into top sushi chefs. The winning roll will then be available in December at all three Chicagoland RA Sushi locations (Chicago, Glenview and Lombard) with a to-be-determined percentage of the proceeds donated to the winning reality star's charity of choice.

James Rhine of season 6 of "Big Brother" aligned himself with Immerman Angels to create a roll called Big Angel; "Survivor Fiji's" Mookie Lee is benefiting his own charity Active Chicago with the Ravu Roll; while Season 5 "Apprentice" alum Michael Laungani has cooked up The Orchid on behalf of the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Illinois; and Jamie Murray of "The Real World New Orleans" developed the Uber Uber Roll for La Rabida Children's Hospital.

The reality stars' rolls will be judged by a panel of media insiders and guests in attendance on the most innovative name, ingredients, presentation, and most importantly the taste. The winning roll will then be featured on its own special menu with a photograph of the reality star who created it.

The event occurs tonight 5:30-7:30pm at the Glenview location, 2601 Aviator Lane, but you'll be able to get the winning roll at all locations: 1139 N. State St., 312-274-0011 in the city or at The Shops on Butterfield in the Yorktown Center, Lombard (310 Yorktown Center, 630-627-6800).


Jamie Murray (The Real World: New Orleans)
Sushi Roll Name: Uber Uber Roll
Charity: La Rabida Children's Hospital
Recipe: Tuna, Avocado, Cucumber, Salmon, Cream Cheese, Sesame Seeds, Shrimp Tempura, Mayo, and Dash of Chalula Hot Sauce

Michael Laungani (The Apprentice, Season 5)
Sushi Roll Name: The Orchid
Charity: Make A Wish Foundation of Illinois
Recipe: Lobster, Yellowtail, Fresh strawberry, Cucumber, Avocado, Tempura Crunch, Mint, Light Wasabi Mayo

James Rhine (Big Brother, Season 6)
Sushi Roll Name: Big Angel Roll
Charity: Imerman Angels
Recipe: Tuna Avocado, Sliced Almonds, Topped with thin slices of strawberry, and drizzled with sweet eel sauce

Mookie Lee (Survivor Fiji)
Sushi Roll: Ravu Roll
Charity: Active Chicago
Recipe: White Tuna, Spicy Salmon, Unagi, Scallion, Avocado, Cucumber, Topped with tempura crunchies, and drizzled with eel sauce & wasabi mayo

A freebie for my friends

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You can enjoy Citizen's heated tent lounge even as the temperature drops.

If you're missing those lazy summer afternoons spent on Citizen's (364 W. Erie St., 312-640-1156) spacious outdoor patio, have no fear. They're back. But this time, the patio's tented over for an all-weather outdoor dining experience so that you don't freeze your ass off as the temperatures drop.

Tonight, they're launching the new tent offering with a grand opening party starting at 7pm. Enjoy complimentary wine, beer and passed appetizers until 8. Then you can enjoy their new fall menu by candlelight.

Can't make that gig tonight? Check into these additional heated outdoor gardens around town:

Chaise Lounge: The rooftop bar is as swanky as the indoors downstairs lounge, complete with a deejay, full-service bar and cabana seating. 1840 W. North Ave., 773-342-1840.

Northside Bar & Grill: Ideal for brunching or hanging out right before you head out, this venerable outdoor patio is one of the best in town for lazy days or nights. 1635 N. Damen Ave., 773-384-3555.

Village Tap: Daily drink and dinner specials are just one of the reasons why area folks make this their home away from home. 2055 W. Roscoe St., 773-883-0817.

Volo: Discover their revamped loungy backyard garden where you can enjoy a glass or bottle of great vino. 2008 W. Roscoe St., 773-348-4600.

Deal of the day . . .

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What would we do without all the countless servers, bartenders, hostesses and other service-industry folks making our dining and nightlife experiences enjoyable?

The staff over at Relax Lounge (1450 W. Chicago Ave., 312-666-6006) hosts a Wednesday night industry appreciation party where you can personally thank them as they chill out in this upscale loungey setting in Ukrainian Village.

Deejays spin a variety of classic rock, funk and soul as guests network and enjoy a number of Wednesday night specials, including $2 Bud bottles, $5 Red Bull Bombs, $5 Effen cocktails, $150 Effen bottles and $4 homestyle burgers.

Doors open at 6pm, but folks start trickling in around 9. No cover, so be there, and buy a service-industry friend a drink.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tasting Tuesdays, live music

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M Lounge's intimate bar is ideal for mingling with a sexy sig other.

How about a sexy, casual date tonight?

Not with me, silly, but with someone you can take to one of these laid-back neighborhood gems for live music, cocktails and conversation.

I've rounded up a couple of places that you might want to check out:

M Lounge (1520 S. Wabash Ave., 312-447-0201). Enjoy specialty cocktails in this intimate space serving up live jazz every Tuesday and Wednesday. South Loopers love this spot, so it fills up quickly around 7pm. Try to get there right after work. Tonight, the Eric Allen Quartet performs. No cover.

Swirl Wine Bar (111 W. Hubbard St., 312-828-9000). Or sample all your favorites during Swirl's weekly event, "Tasting Tuesdays," when you get the chance to order $3 tastings from their entire wine list. Also, you can still get reservations to attend Swirl's monthly wine tasting tonight for $25. Price includes tastings of the "big red" wines and appetizers prepared by their executive chef. Vocalist Petra van Nuis and guitarist Andy Brown are the scheduled artists tonight at 8pm.

For the bubbleheads

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The bubbly's always on at Pops for Champagne.

Two holiday champagne tastings are coming up soon, and you'd better get on it now because these things usually sell out fast:

Webster's Wine Bar (1480 W. Webster Ave., 773-868-0608) hosts its 12th annual party that includes more than 30 champagnes and sparkling wines from around the world. It's held in their private upstairs room and is a great, casual event that usually attracts people from the neighborhood. Dec. 5 at 7:30pm. $50.

And Bin 36's fabulous Bubble Bath is in its eighth year, and the walkaround tasting celebrates all things sparkling. They're bringing aboard more than 75 sparkling wines and champagne to sample with Executive Chef John Caputo's delightful bites. 339 N. Dearborn St., 312-755-9463. Dec. 12 6-10pm. $50.

If you miss those, you can always head to Pops for Champagne (601 N. State St., 312-266-7677) for Open House Mondays, when the jazz-focused lounge opens three styles of champagne to taste by the glass. They're also offering flights of all three featured sparkling wines.

Deal of the day . . .

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Don't think of burritos as the late-night treat you need following a night of drinking and carrying on.

Former anchorman Bill Kurtis has teamed up with Burrito Beach to offer a healthier version that's also good for the environment. The Barbacoa Burrito, made with Kurtis' eco-friendly Tallgrass beef, can be found at all seven Burrito Beach locations until the end of the year. Tallgrass beef is naturally-nourished by a food source--grass--and produced without sub-therapeutic antibiotics, growth hormones or grain. The meat is usually found at higher-end restaurants, but with the Barbacoa, you can sample it for only $6.79.

To create the Barbacoa, Burrito Beach slow-cooks and marinates Tallgrass beef brisket in its signature “Baja” salsa, then rolls the brisket in a flour tortilla, accompanied by house-made salsa verde, smoky pinto beans, Spanish rice, shredded jack cheese, diced tomatoes, romaine lettuce, fresh onion-cilantro mix, and sour cream.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each burrito will be donated to the Green City Market.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Jimmy Bannos helps rebuild the Big Easy

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He’s a strong supporter of New Orleans’ culture and cuisine, and ever since Hurricane Katrina struck, he’s done all he can to help.

So the latest effort Heaven on Seven’s Jimmy Bannos is doing is this worthy event happening Wednesday, Nov. 14 5:30-8pm. He’s teaming up with the Trust for Public Land to benefit New Orleans’ City Park with a benefit at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington Blvd.).

First guests may observe two presentations in the Claudia Cassidy Theater, “Geographies of New Orleans: Urban Fabrics Before and After the Storm” and “City Park: Progress to Date,” then join Bannos for a reception at his Heaven on Seven Loop location at 111 N. Wabash Ave., seventh floor. He’ll be serving up cocktails and his spin on New Orleans fare. $125 for both events; $100 for cocktail reception; $25 for presentation only. 312-263-6443 for tickets.

The Craft is back . . .

OK, so this just dropped in my inbox: an invitation for a party for MGD's new beer, The Craft, and it's happening on Wednesday, Nov. 15 at Galleria Marchetti (825 W. Erie St., 312-563-0495). Apparently they've been here before for one of these free parties, and they usually get some pretty big-name talent to perform.

This time, Doug E. Fresh is the host, with Black Thought from The Roots and Raekwon from Wu-Tang Clan scheduled to perform. You'd better get there early if you want to get in. RSVP at or, and of course there's free beer for all. Doors open at 8pm.

Deal of the day . . .

So what it's Monday.

There's always time to hit a happy hour after work. And you don't have to settle for the usual wings and burgers if you head to McCormick & Schmick's. They've finally updated their popular happy hour menu--and all items are still under $4.

Even though you can still get the steamed black mussels, half-pound cheeseburger and pot roast sliders for $1.95, they've added some $3.95 items like the Mahi Mahi cakes, Asian cross-cut ribs and blackened fish tacos with pico de gallo and sour cream. No drink specials, but with those prices, I'm sure you can spare a few more bucks.

Hours: Happy hour at Loop location, Monday-Thursday 3:30-6pm; night happy hour Monday-Thursday 10pm-midnight; Friday, Saturday 11pm-1am; and Sunday, 9-11pm. The Rush Street location offers happy hour Monday-Friday 3:30-6:30pm, and then again Monday-Thursday 9-11pm. Two city locations: One E. Wacker Dr., 312-923-7226 or 41 E. Chestnut St., 312-397-9500.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Friday night special

If you don't know Eric from Wicker Park's Silver Room--the purveyor of cool--then you're missing out.

If you get a chance, check out his stylish jewelry/accessories boutique in the 'hood (1442 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-278-7130), but he's also known for putting his stamp on urban hipster nightlife.

Tonight, he's launching a Friday night party, "Show & Tell," at 343 S. Dearborn St. With DJ Duane Powell, he's spinning a tantalizing blend of nu jazz, soul, rock and whatever. 10pm-2am. $5. Be there, or your ass is square.

What the critics are saying . . .

. . . about:

The Bluebird (1749 N. Damen Ave., 773-486-2473): "Want some bacon with your porchetta? On the menu at the Bluebird, a late-night lounge/wine bar/gastropub from the owners of Webster’s Wine Bar, it’s hard to find anything not spiked with smoked pig."--Martha Bayne, Chicago Reader

Brasserie Ruhlmann (500 W. Superior St., 312-494-1900): "The steak au poivre was impossibly tender, and the flavors—the bite of the pepper crust, the richness of the sauce—expertly balanced. And while there is no lamb chop on the menu per se, there’s a luscious lamb stew, the morsels of lamb almost as soft as the cheese soufflé we had greedily ordered to eat alongside it."--David Tamarkin, Time Out Chicago

Brunch: "Ruby here. The other day, a friend asked what my favorite weekend brunch spot was, and I realized: I hate brunch. The whole tradition that we follow like robots: rising early on Sunday, packing into a crowded entryway, vestibule, or sidewalk, to wait for a table where an overextended server will bring me an omelet I could’ve made myself? This isn’t dining. It’s compulsory eating, and I want my time and calories back. What is the allure here? Is it the ritual? The camaraderie? The hangover? Nothing against restaurants that provide brunch—nor those that do their best to add a little flair to it, like Orange, M. Henry, and Toast—but I’ll sleep in. And I’ll make my own French toast, thanks." --Jeff Ruby, Chicago Magazine

Old Town Brasserie (1209 N. Wells St., 312-943-3000): "Finesse? I'll say. (Roland) Liccioni knows how to fashion sauces the way Armani does clothes. Sauce merguez. Sauce Perigueux, sauce champignon ... this attention to the food-sauce connection takes years to hone, and Liccioni has never been sharper. If you never got to try his food at Les Nomades or Le Francais, this is your chance, and at easy-to-digest prices." -- Pat Bruno, Chicago Sun-Times

Paramount Room (415 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312-829-6300): "Congratulate yourself for being a member of the cognoscenti for finding this hidden boite on Milwaukee Avenue in the shadow of the Blommer Chocolate Co. factory. Chef/co-owner Stephen Dunne (Roscoe Village's Volo) and partner Jon Young (Kitsch'n) have successfully created a solid destination for upscale bar snacking, late-night dining and any-hour grazing that's not too far from the Loop." --Alison Neumer Lara, Crain's Chicago Business

A healthy approach to the holidays

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John Abels, manager of education & culinary programs and National Restaurant Association Show chef

If you're hosting a holiday party this season, why not get some tips from the experts on how to do it right?

John Abels, manager of education & culinary programs and National Restaurant Association Show chef, and Renee Zonka, associate dean of the culinary arts program and registered dietician for Kendall College, lead a special holiday cooking class for the CCFA Illinois Chapter Young Professionals Group. And they'll demonstrate with healthy, yet yummy recipes so you can impress your guests.

The event takes place on Thursday, Dec. 6, 7-9pm, at Kendall College (900 N. North Branch St.). Tickets are $20 and includes food and drink. Interested? Get tickets soon because this thing will sell out. Call 800-886-6664 for more info.

Japanese pizza?

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Do something completely out of your comfort zone tonight and indulge in Executive Chef Ozzie's Okonomyaki, or authentic Japanese pizza. Served every Thursday and Friday at University Village's Japonica (1422 W. Taylor St., 312-421-3288), the delicacy is made with eggs, leeks, onions, carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, seaweed, shrimp and chicken on a vegetable-infused, fried flour dough pie-base.

Oh, and it's BYOB, so bring on those sweet sakes or a bottle of bubbly.

Pinot Days are here . . .

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Wine lovers should head to Navy Pier this weekend for the kickoff for the touring Pinot Days. It occurs at the Lakeview Terrace, Saturday, Nov. 10 1-4pm. This will be Chicago's largest single gathering of pinot producers ever. For $50, you'll sample more than 150 pinots from every important region in California, Oregon, New Zealand and Burgundy, and meet the winemakers who create them. You even get to take the Bormioli Burgundy crystal glass when you leave. Also, sample a variety of artisan cheeses and other specialty foods. For more information, contact 415-408-3360.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Deal of the day . . .

It's one more day before the official weekend, but you need to unwind tonight. Head to Zocalo Restaurant & Tequila Bar (358 W. Ontario St., 312-302-9977), the fancy, yet traditional Mexican eatery in River North where creative Executive Chef Dudley Nieto is blending classic and contemporary preparations of the regional dishes of Mexico.

While you're at it, order their Thursday night special cocktails: the Citrus Cazuela has Milagro citrus tequilas, aguardiente and white wine with grapefruit, orange, lemon and lime juices and a splash of Fresca soda, while the Sangria Roja is a mix of red wine, Presidente brandy, triple sec, mango and guava juices. Both are $5.

Get on it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

New spot for Thanksgiving

If you're staying in town for Thanksgiving, we've found a cool spot for you to impress your family or friends.

Contemporary American eatery Powerhouse (215 N. Clinton St., 312-928-0800) opens just in time for you to check out with Executive Chef John Peters (formerly of Naha, Alinea and Trio) in charge.

The holiday menu is offered 11am-7pm on Thursday, Nov. 22 for prix-fixe meals only. You'll get all the fixings such as a butternut squash soup, wild mushroom risotto and salad, plus a choice of meat. Go traditional with a whole roasted turkey with sage stuffing, sweet potato, caramelized brussel sports and cranberries for $55, or go all out new American with choices like the 10oz beef tenderloin with roasted garlic-yukon potato puree, green beans and crispy shallots in a red wine reduction for $68 or a seared venison loin with dried fruit, wild rice ragout, chestnuts and broccoli rabe for $64.

The only downside: no leftovers.

A freebie for my friends . . .

Phillip Foss, a former Le Cirque and Bistrot Margot chef, is at the helm of the Palmer House's hot new Lockwood (17 E. Monroe St., 312-917-3404) eatery, and he wants you to check him out.

Lookwood's hosting an opening party Wednesday, Nov. 15, and if you RSVP now to, you'll be all good. The party's from 6-9pm, and includes samplings from the contemporary French- and Italian-influenced menu, cocktails and socializing. It'll give you an opportunity to check out this elegant dining room that tastefully merges sexy new design elements with the hotel's old-school foundation.

Kid Rock to rock Enclave

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Kid Rock in cool white.

There's something about Kid Rock that's majorly cool. And it has nothing to do with Pamela Anderson either. He exudes a swaggering, yet humble attitude that just makes you want to buy him a shot.

In fact, he's so cool that Enclave (220 W. Chicago Ave., 312-654-0234)--one of the city's top celeb magnets--is having him break in their brand-new, state-of-the-art deejay equipment this weekend.

The Detroit rap-rocker's in town for his "Rock n' Roll Jesus Tour," and he's hosting the official afterparty at Enclave on Saturday, Nov. 10. Apparently, he started his music career deejaying, so bro is just going back to his roots.

He'll hit the new deejay booth overlooking the entire first floor--directly in the middle of the action--and it's illuminated enough so that you can catch his moves too.

Wanna party with Kid Rock this weekend? RSVP to Doors open at 9pm; no cover before 10pm.

Deal of the day . . .

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This intimate table for two at Cafe Matou could be yours tonight. (Photo: Peter Riskind)

Doesn't a cozy dinner for two sound pretty good for a chilly night like tonight?

Bucktown's Cafe Matou (1846 N. Milwaukee Ave, 773-384-8911), known for its special $23 prix-fixe menu Sunday-Thursday, just updated its dishes for the winter season.

In addition to the seasonal, French-focused menu, Executive Chef Charlie Socher also changes his entrees daily, so even if you wanted to go a couple of days a week, you'll be able to order something completely different.

Just some of the dishes making my mouth water just about now include the ragoût de poulet à la provençale (chicken braised with white wine, tomato, garlic and fresh basil), salade d’endive, champignons et tomates au fromage de chevre (composed salad of Belgian endive, mushrooms, tomato and goat cheese, served with herb vinaigrette) or the rillettes et saucisse d’ail (Toulouse-style duck rillettes and Lyons-style garlic sausage served with cornichons and caperberries).

Pair some of that with a nice, full-bodied bottle of red vino and you're certain to be warmed down to your bones.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Breaking nightlife news . . .

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Heartthrob Nick Lachey is one of many celebrities to host Crobar's "Paparazzi Fridays."

Crobar's "Paparazzi Fridays" heats up in December.

Lovebirds Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo stop by to celebrate their birthdays on Dec. 7. Look out for more hot celebrities to make their way through during the month as well. Crobar's at 1543 N Kingsbury, 312-266-1900.

A tequila surprise

If you're a fan of tequila, Salud (1471 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-276-7582) is hosting its infamous tequila dinner next week. This time they're pairing a three-course meal with Don Julio Tequila--named after founder Don Julio Gonzalez Estrada. He revolutionized Reposado-style tequila production in Mexico.

In addition to the three courses, the dinner includes three sample shots of Don Julio, a featured cocktail with each course (!) and a special presentation about Don Julio tequila. The dinners happen Wednesday, Nov. 14 and Thursday, Nov. 15 at 7:30pm, but these things sell out quickly so get a move on it. Worm not included. $40.

Be a sommelier for a day

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Bistro 110's main dining room

This is one of my favorite events. Well, actually any event that includes endless amounts of bubbly is my favorite. But anyway, Bistro 110's (110 E. Pearson St., 312-266-3114) "Sommelier for a Day" is a walkaround wine-tasting event allowing guests to rate their favorites. The most popular selections make the menu.

It's approps that tonight's party takes on bubbly as most restaurants are gearing up for the busy holiday season. Bistro 110 is also celebrating its 20th anniversary, so they'll be sampling Champagne and sparkling wines from France to California.

Also, Executive Chef Dominique Tougne will pair specialty items with the Champagnes and sparkling wines, including smoked salmon pizza, mushroom ravioli, braised short ribs and more. It's $45, or $35 for Levy preferred members. 6-8pm. tonight.

'Dodo has left the building . . .'

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. . .states the message on Dodo's website (, as it closed late last week. I'm kinda sad because it was right in my 'hood in Ukrainian Village and I only got to get over there once since it opened early in 2006.

But have no fear. This eatery, which calls its well-received concept "breakfast+lunch=breakunch," is not going to be extinct for long. In early '08, they're re-opening at 2003 W. Fulton St. at the corner of Fulton and Damen. The owner says he had to get out of his original location due to serious landlord issues and ongoing electrical problems. We're really going to miss those thick hotcakes, strong coffee and hearty sandwiches. Stay tuned for the opening date.

Deal of the day . . .

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So I remember a few weeks ago the "Today" show did this story on "blind dining," where customers ate multiple-course meals wearing blindfolds and had to figure out what they were eating. It was intriguing at the least, but quite daunting.

While I haven't come across any blind-dining deals in Chicago, I found this blind wine tasting event tonight at NoMI (800 N. Michigan Ave., 312-239-4030), the award-winning restaurant on the seventh floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel. "Cellar Notes," an open-house style party, takes place every Tuesday for $30 until the end of the year, and tonight's event is "Blind Tasting 101." Who knows what they're going to feature, but it's certain to be an entertaining event that challenges your taste buds. Cellar Notes occurs 5:30-7:30pm, but if you cannot make tonight, here is the rest of the schedule:

Nov. 13 - Australia and New Zealand
Nov. 20 - California Rising Stars
Nov. 27 - Alsace
Dec. 4 - Oregon Wines
Dec. 11 - Sparkling Wines and Champagne
Dec. 18 - Burgundy

Monday, November 5, 2007

Le Passage re-launches with hot new look, celeb chef

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Le Passage's Friday night-opening invite is hot too.

The re-launch party invitation for Le Passage (937 N. Rush St., 312-225-0022) just arrived in my inbox, and I'm actually getting a little excited about it. In its heyday, we used to hang out there so much that we knew all the doormen and bartenders on a first-name basis.

Anyway, this is a new day for Le Passage, which has renamed the old Yow Bar The Drawing Room, where celebrated chef Shawn McClain (Custom House, Green Zebra, Spring) is designing the menu with his protege, Nick Lacasse. Not that there was anything wrong with those scrumptious mini-burgers and skinny fries, but methinks he's going to take it up a few notches.

The main room for the club looks the same save for they moved the deejay booth in the middle of the dance floor, but The Drawing Room has undergone a dramatic makeover that will be unveiled at the opening party Friday, Nov. 9 from 9pm-4am.

Give them a call and get on that list.

'Win Chef Kim' at your home

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Le Lan's new private dining room could be yours this holiday season.

Here's a chance to impress your friends--if you win.

The stylish Asian-French Le Lan (749 N. Clark St., 312-280-9100) recently unveiled its swanky second-floor private dining room just in time for the busy holiday season. And if you book it for an event now through the end of the year, you'll be entered into a contest to win a dinner party at your home for up to 12 guests. The multiple-course menu--paired with various wines provided by the restaurant--will be prepared by the man himself: Executive Chef Bill Kim.

Blackbird's Paul Kahan as DJ?!

He's great with his hands, so I guess it should come as no surprise that he's using them to spin records now.

That's right. Blackbird's kick-ass, award-winning chef Paul Kahan is the special guest deejay at boutique wine bar Juicy Wine Co. (694 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312-492-6620). It'll be interesting to see what he spins when he takes on the turntables Monday, Nov. 12, 10pm-close. Will it be rock? Soul? Old-school funk? Who knows, but it's something you don't want to miss. He's also bringing some signature appetizers for guests to snack on as they take advantage of owner Rodney Alex's hand-picked wine selections for $5.

Deal of the day . . .

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The yummy pork empanadas at People Lounge.

Going out tonight?

Wicker Park's People Lounge (1560 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-227-9339) has a deal you should check out right after work. Every Sunday-Thursday 5:30pm-7, they're hosting a happy hour with all tapas for $3. Specials include pork empanadas, croquetas, queso de cabra (goat cheese with garlic bread) and spicy potatoes. You'll want to wash them down with their great selection of sangrias, including a white one made with champagne.

Also, stick around for nightly live music, ranging from Latin to soul.

Chambord takes note

The company behind Chambord, the deliciously decandent raspberry-flavored liqueur, is in town for a few days to get the opinions of some of our top industry experts on how their product is doing at their venues.

At a private event at the James Hotel on Sunday, the company invited service professionals from some of Chicago's hot spots to test out new cocktails and encourage them to create their own. Most of the guests admitted that Chambord is rarely used in cocktails at Chicago's bars and restaurants, but the company aimed to change that trend by the end of the night. Reps from Butterfly Social Club, Blue Water Grill, Club 720, Funky Buddha Lounge, Martini Park and NoMI sampled a variety of Chambord-flavored cocktails, including a sweet tea made with vodka, a bourbon drink and a frozen margarita. But it was their spin on the mojito that everyone seemed to love the most--including me--so I've decided to include the recipe so you can make it yourself:

Chambord Mojito
2 oz. Appleton White Rum
1/2 oz. Chambord
6-8 mint leaves
2 lime wedges
1/2 tablespoon sugar
Club soda

Add sugar, mint leaves, lime wedges and a splash of soda water to a tall glass. Muddle until sugar is dissolved. Add ice to glass. Add Appleton and Chambord. Stir to mix. Top with a splash of soda.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Dion Antic gets dirty

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The new Iggys3, at the corner of Chicago and Dearborn.

Only Dion Antic can get away with making hot dogs hip.

With Rock Star Dogs--his latest project slated to open at year's end in Ukrainian Village at the corner of Chicago and Ashland--late-night revelers in the area don't have to travel all the way to Wrigleyville's Weiner Circle to get their food fix.

There's about 20 dogs on the menu with cool names like Tommy Lee (our foot-long tribute), Los Lobos (Latin-style bacon wrapped dog), Sting (Tantric tofu dog) and the J. Timberlake (Our Cheezy Dog . . .Dawg!). And non hot dog lovers can get The Misfits, two mini cheeseburgers. All sandwiches come with fries and a can of soda, and range $4-$6. It will stay open 'til 4am on most nights, 5am on Saturday.

But, of course, being Dion Antic, he's not stopping there. He's had much success as the consultant of Iggys3, which opened in early September at the corner of Chicago and Dearborn, and now he's on to the next big thing.

Be on the lookout in '08 for Dirty, a rock 'n' roll lounge boasting an "Easyrider," biker attitude, with pole dancing, bold tattoo murals and a vintage Americana theme. Behind the bar, you'll find a huge line of handmade cocktails, including Manhattans with brandy-soaked cherries and an impressive Dirty martini. Serving them will be waitresses outfitted in plaid Catholic schoolgirl uniforms with knee-high Doc Martin boots. And get this: Each month, Dirty will feature porn star karaoke with performances from popular actresses like Kylie King and Jenna Hayes. Stay tuned.