Friday, February 29, 2008

What the critics are saying . . .

. . . about:

Hop Haus (646 N. Franklin St., 312-467-4287). "The burger menu—­dreamed up by a couple folks from Alinea—includes 'global' takes on the basic steak burger and exotica like kangaroo and ostrich. The German burger was pretty good, topped with rich butterkase, sauerkraut, and robust brown mustard. But the wild boar was a disappointment, the meat tough, greasy, and well past medium rare. Both come on weirdly puffy egg buns that can’t bear the weight of their contents and are accompanied by seasoned potato wedges."—Martha Bayne (Chicago Reader)

Takashi (1952 N. Damen Ave., 773-772-6170). "The large-plate highlight is the chicken in clay pot, an aromatic blend of chicken and vegetables presented with haricots verts and eggplant. The chicken is subtly but expertly seasoned, and when the pot's lid is removed, that first blast of citrus-laced steam rushing toward you is as effective a stimulus as Pavlov's bell."—Phil Vettel (Chicago Tribune) Read it all here.

Tallulah (4539 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-942-7585). "The food echoes the concept: Fancy-casual dishes like deviled eggs stuffed with Maine lobster, or the simple filet of salmon served with luxurious black truffle gnocchi, are built around the idea that you can get the best of both worlds on only one plate."—David Tamarkin (Time Out Chicago) Read it all here.

Wilde Bar & Restaurant (3130 N. Broadway, 773-244-0404). "Expensively inlaid floors feature buffed wood and mosaic tiles—a perfect backdrop for acres of turned banisters, crown molding, crackling fireplaces and cushy seating. Raised, upholstered booths line the front, while highboys and four tops dot the remaining space. Weathered volumes and burgundy club areas comprise the library. Young couples and groups gather around frothy pints and fancy bar food."—Fred Schlatter (Chicago Citysearch) Read it all here.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Coming at cha . . .

Joynt Piano Bar & Retro Club (650 N. Dearborn St., 312-573-2233) opens in mid-March in River North to give Martini Park (151 W. Erie St., 312-640-0577) a run for its money.

And Perennial (1800 N. Lincoln Ave.), the American bistro by Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm that had expected to open sometime in March, is running behind schedule. They're now telling us to look forward to their debut in early to mid April.

Boom Boom Room returns?!

Sorta. But Music 101—which had been hosting the legendary Monday night party for several years at Green Dolphin Street (2200 N. Ashland Ave., 773-395-0066)—is now calling it Beats, Bass & Rhythm.

They've teamed up with Chicago Pride and Crunch Fitness to hold it at Vision (640 N. Dearborn St., 312-266-1944), and the launch event happens on March 3 with deep house masters Tony Humphries and Roy Davis Jr. bringing on the beats.

Also, $5 Stoli drinks, $3 domestic beers, and complimentary shuttle service between Minibar (3341 N. Halsted St.) and Vision starting at 10pm. 10pm-4am Mondays. RSVP for comp admission before midnight.

A little lovin' straight from the oven

Over on the L.2O blog, Chef de Cuisine Francis Brennan gushes over the arrival of The Pavailler, a "three deck, steam injected oven built for the purpose of baking crusty loaves of bread."

The modern, high-end seafood eatery L.2O is still on schedule to open this spring at 2300 N. Lincoln Park West.

Party with Snoop?!


I don't know why he's in town today, but I just got a message in my inbox that hip-hop star Snoop Dogg is supposed to make an appearance at Transit (1431 W. Lake St., 312-491-8600) tonight.

Hosted by urban party group Good Life Chicago, the weekly Thursday night affair will definitely have members of the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards in attendance—if you're into that sort of thing. Deejays Seanmac, Mustafa Rocks and phatmike spin hip-hop and urban hits; the cover is $10 before 11:30pm.

If Snoop does actually show up, expect this party to be off the shizzle fo sho.

UPDATE: Ha! He's here to perform two shows at the House of Blues (329 N. Dearborn St., 312-923-2000).

Leap into the weekend


It only comes around once every four years, so it's time to get out and celebrate Leap Year. Let's start tonight!


The Akira Men's Store (1910 W. North Ave., 312-423-6693) in Bucktown gets a makeover, and they're doing it BIG with a party tonight from 6-10pm at all their stores on North Avenue. Deejays, free food, comp cocktails, 20 percent off purchases, and free gifts are all included. Deejays White Shadow, Lee Michaels and Mano perform next to the Red Light District Dancers. The official after-party takes place down the street at Plan B (1635 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-252-2680) with drink specials, more deejays and no cover. That goes on until 2am.

For a more chilled-out experience, head to Fiddlehead Cafe (4600 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-751-1500) for Wines of Spring and Summer. The walk-around tasting includes more than 70 wines with light snacks, from 6-8:30pm. Cost is $35 in advance; $40 at door.

Spring is also in the air at Manor (642 N. Clark St., 312-475-1390) for the Crunch Fitness Spring Break Party. DJ Gusto spins; and get there early for the Ketel One cocktail reception (10-11pm) for complimentary Crunch Punch. Guests may also enter to win a trip to Miami with personal training sessions from Crunch Fitness to get your beach body ready.

OK. DJ Rockcity spins at Relax Lounge (1450 W. Chicago Ave., 312-666-6006) tonight in what he's calling his "uncensored version of dope music." I cannot wait! 9pm-2am.

And head to Rockit Bar & Grill (22 W. Hubbard St., 312-645-6000) for Hoppy Hour, a charity event hosted by the Medical Research Junior Board Foundation of Children's Memorial Hospital. The pre-Leap Year Day celebration includes beer, wine, cocktails and appetizers for $30. 5:30-8:30pm.


Today is the final day for the first-ever Chicago Restaurant Week. Get on it!

If you haven't been to After Dark in a while, the after-work event hosted by the Art Institute Associates, it's time to return. Get guided tours of Edward Hopper's exhibit, enjoy cocktails and light appetizers as DJ Mother Hubbard spins. Also, live music by Tom Schraeder and the Viator Records Revue; performances by Collaboraction. 6-10pm. $20 for the public, $15 for Associates members. 111 S. Michigan Ave., 312-443-3600.

Outfit Events wants to make sure you take advantage of that extra day this month with this Leap into Enclave party. Deejays Dante the Don and Ryan Pullano spin here first, then the action continues at late-night haven Stone Lotus (873 N. Orleans St., 312-440-9680) until 4am. Doors open at 9pm at Enclave (220 W. Chicago Ave., 312-654-0234). $20.

Waterhouse (3407 N. Paulina St., 773-871-1200) wants you to celebrate your right to drink with their third-annual Prohibition Party. They'll have drink specials, 1920s-style decor, live music and deejays spinning all your favorite tunes. 9pm-2am. No cover.


If you still got energy, head to Sound-bar (226 W. Ontario St., 312-787-4480) for White Frog Entertainment's party with deejays and late-night action until 5am.


Revert back to childhood days with Marche's Annual Dr. Seuss Dinner. They're celebrating Theodor “Ted” Seuss Geisel’s 104th birthday with waitstaff decked out in whimsical costumes (look for Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2!), decorations from all your favorite Seuss books, and dishes like The Grand Who Burger; Moose in a Blanket, Wee Beans (house-made sausage, wrapped in pastry, campfire slow cooked beans); Sam's Green Eggs and Ham (poached egg, parma procuitto-spinach sauce, Madiera sherry demi, Bearnaise sauce); and The Once-Lers Roast Wild Beast Blue Who Goo Holly-Who-Mash, Grickle Grss Moose Juice (grilled prime ribeye, Rouqfort crust, crème fresh whips, grilled asparagus and black peppercorn sauce). 833 W. Randolph St., 312-226-8399.

'Kitchen Nightmares' diner tells all

Gordon Ramsay of "Kitchen Nightmares" (Photo: FOX)

Aha! Last night, a poster on got a chance to be part of a taping of FOX reality show "Kitchen Nightmares" before the miraculous changes took place. Unfortunately, chef/host Gordon Ramsay wasn't on site, but the diner had an interesting time nevertheless at Cafe 36 (22 Calendar Court, 708-354-5722) in La Grange. Here's the report. And, according to Suburban Life, "Kitchen Nightmares" will be there until Saturday.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Wild Brunch

Chicken and waffles at CJ's Eatery in west Humboldt Park (Photo: LTHForum)

Fried chicken. When it's crispy and flavorful and piping hot, it's more than just finger-licking good. It's like a little taste of heaven, and several Chicago spots do it better than others. And we all know that places like Harold's Chicken Shack do a fine fried chicken, but when you want to have a nice sitdown, honey, that just won't do.

If you want the soul in a quaint setting, head to west Humboldt Park's CJ's Eatery (3839 W. Grand Ave., 773-292-0990), which specializes in Latin and Southern American cuisine. On Sundays, you'll want to pair their well-seasoned wings with a big, fluffy waffle that comes with a side of homemade pecan syrup. And if that's not sweet enough for you, make sure to order a nice big glass of Southern-style sweet iced tea.

The old-school diner vibe of Stanley's Kitchen & Tap (1970 N. Lincoln Ave., 312-642-0007) somehow works for the trendy Lincoln Park crowd that comes stumbling in every weekend. Dig into all-you-can-eat portions of buttermilk fried chicken with waffles for only $11.95 per person (also 32 oz. make-your-own Effen Bloody Marys for an extra $10).

And if you can wait until 5pm on Sunday, you'll get to delight in Table Fifty-Two's (52 W. Elm St., 312-573-4000) buttermilk fried chicken with mashed roasted garlic-Yukon gold potatoes. Just make sure you leave enough room for Art's Hummingbird Cake, a generous portion of banana cake with pecans that's topped with cream cheese icing.


Rockit's rockin'

Still riding high from Rockit Ranch Productions' "Operator of the Year" award they received last night at the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas, partner Arturo Gomez talked to me about the secret of his company's success.

While out there basking in the Vegas sun, Gomez and his business partner Billy Dec spoke on panels offering valuable advice on networking, branding and integrated marketing that they've honed for the past 10 years. "We don't just hire managers to take care of the day-to-day operations," he said. "Our managers are required to fulfill certain marketing responsibilities to get the word out about our concepts."

In addition to owning Rockit Bar & Grill (22 W. Hubbard St., 312-645-6000) and Underground (56 W. Illinois St., 312-644-7600), the trio of Gomez, Dec and Brad Young are also working on a still-unnamed, 14,000-square-foot Asian concept that will be situated in River North by the end of the summer. It will offer New Asian cuisine created by consulting chef Rodelio Aglibot—who was a former consulting chef at Los Angeles' Koi restaurant as well as Yi Cuisine—and will feature Southeast Asian, Japanese and Chinese dishes.

And by year's end, said Gomez, the team should have an idea for their next concept, but "right now, everything is focused on getting this Asian concept up and running while keeping our existing projects fresh and exciting."

KINGS of nightlife

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

You know, people can say what they want about Billy Dec and his self-promoting ways for his highly visible Rockit Ranch Productions, which also includes partners Brad Young and Arturo Gomez.

But one thing is for certain: They're respected by their peers, especially the ones who awarded them "Operator of the Year" at the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show's annual Five Star Awards Dinner last night in Las Vegas. Wow. They beat out New York, LA, Miami and Vegas!

The guys behind Rockit Bar & Grill (22 W. Hubbard St., 312-645-6000) and Underground (56 W. Illinois St., 312-644-7600) are on their way back to Chicago now, so look out for an interview on what went down later today.

New to the scene . . .

BULL-eh-Dia's Tapas Bar (3651 N. Southport Ave., 773-404-2855) is opening soon in the old Neybours space in Lakeview. Before it was Neybours, it was Otro Mas, another Latin-focused restaurant that lasted for a few years in an area known for its sports-bar scene. Hopefully, executive chef/owner Antonio Rodriguez will have better luck with his pared-down portions of Mexican and Latin dishes. Developing . . .

Chocolate Grape (2113 W. Division St., 773-772-3990), a chocolate and wine lounge, now plans to open the first week of April.

Claiming to be 100 percent organic, Drew's Eatery (2207 W. Montrose Ave.) will serve hot dogs, ice cream and soups. It debuts March 14.

Mercat a la Planxa (638 S. Michigan Ave., 312-765-0524), chef Jose Garces' mod-Mediterranean spot in the all-new Blackstone Hotel, finally gets an opening date: March 8.

And look for MORE Cupcakes (One E. Delaware Pl., 312-951-0001) to open in the Gold Coast in April.

Is that poop on your lemon?!


This morning the "Today" show did an alarming segment on lemon wedges—that's right, the ones we put in our cocktails!—and a study testing 76 lemons uncovered some very disturbing results. It'll make you think twice about those garnishes when you go out now. Yeech!

Break out the bday cake . . . and cocktails


Today is Elizabeth Taylor's 76th birthday, and the legendary, award-winning British actress is still going strong.

To celebrate the fabulous occasion, on the day after her bday (February 28), Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club (3700 N. Halsted St., 773-525-1111) hosts a "Cleopatra"-themed party with servers in costume, ostentatious decorations, the movie "Cleopatra" playing on multiple screens and Diva Traci Ross performing as Liz's close pal, Michael Jackson. Diners are encouraged to come dressed as "Cleopatra" to win a $100 cash prize.

Also, Executive Chef Matt Stovey has created a special menu, including the Liz Tini (Absolut Kurant, Blue Curacao, fresh lemon juice, splash of Sprite), Cleopatra (roasted chestnut soup), Suddenly Last Summer (baby frisee with a berry vinaigrette, blue cheese and sliced almonds) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf (slow-roasted beef loin in a cabernet reduction with baby red potatoes and hericot vert with orange zest). And you can get a bottle of wine for ONE CENT with the purchase of two entrees.

Today would've also been the 50th birthday of Nancy Spungen, the controversial girlfriend of Sex Pistols bass player Sid Vicious. It's also the birthday of Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas of urban pop group TLC fame. Raise your glass to these ladies tonight during Manis Under the Influence, at Sheffield’s (3258 N. Sheffield Ave., 773-281-4989). The new girls' night out features $10 manicures from Nail Fetish (525 N. Ashland Ave.), plus $5 martinis, Cosmos and Lemon Drops. They'll also be showing the "Project Runway" finale!

And for the boys, Johnny Cash's birthday was yesterday. Head to Delilah's (2771 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-472-2771) as Psychobilly DJ Machetti spins all his hits. Specials: $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon Longnecks, $2 Ten High Bourbon.

Deal of the day . . .


Are you in or out?

Tonight's the night for the finale of Bravo's wildly popular "Project Runway," and Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club (3700 N. Halsted St., 773-525-1111), which has been hosting parties since the premiere, is doing it big.

As always, you'll get half off on a number of martinis as you watch the finalists sweat beads right down to the last second of the contest. Doors open at 5pm, and the show begins at 9pm.

Every Wednesday throughout the "Project Runway" season, guests were invited to enter their best martini "design." The favorite martini will be chosen tonight and the "designer" will be awarded a $250 Absolut vodka gift basket.

Also, dinner specials are the Nina Garcia (spicy chicken and black bean soup soup with crispy tortilla strips) for $6; Tim Gunn (cold, spicy tuna tartare on sesame wonton crisps) for $12; and Heidi Klum (slow-Braised pot roast, with saurkraut, and roasted new potatoes) for $22.

Are you in?!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chicago girls doing it BIG

Today's Chicago Woman spotlights two local culinary queens you need to know: Miae Lim (Brasserie Ruhlmann, Japonais, Mirai Sushi) and Rochelle Smith (R'Culinaire).

Green is the new . . .


St. Patrick's Day is more than a few weeks away, and I'm already getting slammed with emails from publicists pubbing some interesting promos for places that are not Irish at all.

They're a little, well, you just judge for yourself:

Ai Japanese Restaurant "wants you to eat green and save green" on St. Patrick's Day with half-price "green" menu items like green tea, edamame, seaweed salad, house salad, green tea ice cream and Heineken Light bottles. Also, guests will get to order the Green Dragon Signature Maki for $14.50. 358 W. Ontario St., 312-335-9888

Dine fetes the occasion with drink specials, including the St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Cocktail (Irish whiskey, green Crème de Menthe) and heavy cream), St. Patrick’s Day Green Cocktail (Midori melon liquor, whiskey sour mix and Sprite) and St. Patrick’s Day Party Punch (limeade and lemonade concentrate, lemon-lime flavored soda, rum and lime sherbet). They'll also have corned beef and cabbage in addition to the regular menu. 733 W. Madison St., 312-602-2100

Hip new lounge Martini Park is getting in on the action with these corned beef sliders. (Photo: Martini Park)

Geja’s Café—the most peculiar offering—will have green cheese fondue (for the dipping of apples, grapes and bread), cans of Guinness for $3 and Bailey’s drinks to bring in the “luck of the Irish.” 340 W. Armitage Ave., 773-477-7666.

Retro swing lounge Fat Cat also gets groovy, from March 14-17, with corned beef and cabbage, Beamish Irish stew, Irish Coffee bomb shots, and of course Irish music. 4840 N. Broadway, 773-506-3100

And finally, c'mon now, Martini Park. Starting on March 1 (and ending March 17), they're doing St. Paddy's Day with an Irish Mojito, Irish Coffee Martini, hot Irish Coffee, corned beef sliders, and bangers and mash. 151 W. Erie St., 312-640-0577


Deal of the day . . .


I'm so freaking over this cold weather, and you probably are too. So let's jet off to South America—like tonight.

OK, seriously, the closest thing to that we'll be able to do tonight are these events right here:

Chicago Restaurant Week, where several Latin-spiced restaurants are participating, including Brazzaz (539 N. Dearborn St., 312-595-9000), Carnivale (702 W. Fulton Market, 312-850-5005) and Sushi Samba rio (504 N. Wells St., 312 595-2300) with three-course, prix-fixe dinners for $31.95 until Feb. 29.

Coobah (3423 N. Southport Ave., 773-528-2220) for $6 pitchers of sangria. That's right. Every Tuesday, they're offering the deal, which is usually $18 a pitcher. Coobah's sangria is a secret recipe from the Dominican Republic topped with fresh cut fruit.

Nacional 27 (325 W. Huron St., 312-664-2727) for Tapas Tuesdays, where every week the Latin-focused eatery features a special tapas tasting for $8.95 per person. Executive Chef Randy Zweiban sends out his favorites while the Dave Hiltebrand Trio pumps out sultry South American jazz.

NoMI's (800 N. Michigan Ave., 312-239-4030) Cellar Notes event on the seventh floor. Advanced Sommelier Fernando Beteta hosts an Argentinean wine tasting that's paired with cheese and fruit. It's open house style and runs from 5:30-7:30pm. $30.

Whole Foods Market (3300 N. Ashland Ave., 773-244-4200) for A Taste of South America. Husband-and-wife team Sam and Sunny McDaniel pairs artisanal cheeses with their hand-picked selections from various regions in South America. 7-9pm. $10 includes the wine, cheese and informational materials.

'This place rocks!'

That comes from singer/songwriter Richard Marx (remember him?!), who dined at just opened Italian eatery Frankie's Scaloppine (900 N. Michigan Ave. 312-266-2500) in the Gold Coast, reports Stella's Column. Also, Frankie's Scaloppine has a "celebrity wall," so it will be interesting to see who signs it. Check it out when you stop in the 900 Shops.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Big props for a South Side chef

(Photo: BJ's Market & Bakery)

BJ's Market & Bakery (8734 S. Stony Island Ave., 773-374-4700) owner/chef John Meyer becomes the Illinois Restaurant Association's first-ever African-American president. Writer Chuck Sudo uncovers where his amazingly tasty soul food originates.

Right about now, I wish I had a slice of his gooey sweet banana pudding in front of me. Mmmmmmmm!

No Starbucks?! Have no fear . . .

If you're one of those who needs your Starbucks fix in the evening, you probably already know that all stores across the country will be closed for training tomorrow (Tuesday, Feb. 26) at 5:30pm.

But have no fear. Your local coffeehouse is here for you. Get on it.

Get your party on . . .

(Photo: Darkroom Demons)

Local spin star Tommie Sunshine played Smart Bar (3730 N. Clark St., 773-549-0203) over the weekend, and Darkroom Demons was there to shoot all the late-night naughtiness. Who says Smart Bar still isn't the ish?!

Vegetarians need love too during 'Restaurant Week'

An inquiring foodie wants to know which restaurants are keeping vegetarians in mind during this first-ever Chicago Restaurant Week.

Related: And just because he wasn't on the official list of participants doesn't mean that Cyrano's Bistrot & Wine Bar chef/owner Didier Durand can't take advantage of the foodie-driven week. Through March 2, his authentic French bistro is celebrating the region of Provence with bottles of red, white and rosé available for $20.08 when you order their four-course menu at $31.95. My fave? The braised beef bourguignon with olives and plum tomatoes in a Bandol red wine sauce. 546 N. Wells St., 312-467-0546.


Time Out Chicago reports that Natalino’s (1523 W. Chicago Ave., 312-997-3700) in Ukrainian Village got its windows shot out on the day it was supposed to open for a supposed "chef stealing" incident. Now that's gangster.

Deal of the day . . .


Bistro 110's (110 E. Pearson St., 312-266-3110) Sommelier for a Day returns, so you know what that means. It's time to help the delightful French eatery pick a wine for its spring menu.

Four times a year Bistro 110 hosts this event that turns the tables allowing diners to pick their favorite vinos, and tonight it's all about red Mediterranean wines, with the best of Greece, Italy, France and Spain.

For the event, Executive Chef Dominique Tougne will serve hors d’oeuvres, including braised short ribs, pulled duck confit pizza, mini steak au poivre with mashed potatoes, tuna tartare with Dijon mustard, spicy mini crab cakes, cheese and charcuterie, mini crème brûlées, chocolate mousse and mini apple tarts. Tonight 6-8pm. $35 for Levy Preferred guests; $45 general admission.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Chillin' with a bowl of chili


Any day now we should expect Cinner's Chili Parlour & Cocktail Lounge (4757 N. Talman Ave., 773-654-1624) to make its debut in Lincoln Square. We're hearing that it'll be in early March, but I'm gonna go with at least mid-March. They've also added vegetarian items to the menu, including Nutty Spaghetti with a spicy peanut sauce, broccoli, carrots and mushrooms as well as Mt. Healthy, two slices of "meatlessloaf" with broccoli and carrots.

Hey, but if you want that chili fix right now, here are a bunch of my faves:

Chili Mac's (3152 N. Broadway, 773-404-2898). The hoppin' Lakeview joint has made a name for itself for its 5-Way Chili that you can get in original Cincinnati, Texas Hot Jailhouse, vegetarian or turkey.

Halsted's Bar & Grill (3441 N Halsted St., 773-348-9696). Their jumbo bowl of Chicago Stadium Turkey Chili has just the right spice, with lean ground turkey and black beans topped with cheddar cheese and sour cream.

Karyn's Cooked (738 N. Wells St., 312-587-1050). Vegetarians can chow down too at this River North spot with the perfect meatless chili that is served with a side of steaming hot cornbread.

Luxbar (18 E Bellevue Pl., 312-642-3400). Head to the Gold Coast for a nice comforting bowl of Steak & Black Bean Chili. Get it five ways with macaroni, cheddar, japapenos, onions and sour cream. And for an extra few bucks, you can also get two Gold Coast sliders like a Kobe burger, buttermilk fried chicken or turkey burger.

Minnies (1969 N. Halsted St., 312-943-9900). The cheery cafe specializes in all things small, so order your tiny bowl of chili to accompany your favorite tiny sandwiches like the tenderloin, grilled cheese or grilled veggie Minnie.

Silver Cloud (1700 N. Damen Ave., 773-489-6212). They've got regular chili on the entree menu, but this Bucktown bar is most famous for its appetizer portion of Frito Pie, with the Fritos baked in their homemade chili and cheese.

Curtain call for Cabaret

During its heyday, Vegas-vibed Cabaret (15 W. Hubbard St., 312-245-3100) managed to snag all the stars: From Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn—who had a private party here after “The Break-Up” premiered in Chicago—to Michael Jordan and even Brit’s former flame Kevin Federline. But when managing partner Todd Rubin jumped ship last fall to actually take a gig in Vegas (he’s the marketing director for hot new spot Prive), I knew it was just a matter of time.

Last night (Saturday, Feb. 23) marked Cabaret’s last hurrah, so it’s lights out on that big-ass marquee on the busy River North strip . . . at least for now. Who knows what’s going in that space. But I’ll be on the case. . .

Friday, February 22, 2008

Word . . .

A rendering of what ZED451's rooftop lounge will look like when it arrives this spring. (Photo: ZED451)

. . . is that ZED451 (739 N. Clark St.), the hip dining spot where the culinary team not only prepares the cuisine, but also serves it tableside, will have its grand opening in mid-April. I'm also getting excited about the two-story glass atrium, 451 Lounge, which is comprised of a wine bar, an indoor fire pit, a fully exposed kitchen with chef counter seating and a “green” roof top lounge with an outdoor fireplace.

Last Girl Standing Sarah Preston reports that Wicker Park indie lounge Celebrity bites the dust, making way for Aberdeen at 1856 W. North Ave. on March 8.

Marcus Samuelsson's much-anticipated seafood restaurant C-House (166 E. Superior St.) aims for a late-April debut in the new Affinia Chicago Hotel.

Juicy Wine Co. (1658 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312-492-6620) is getting in the brunch biz on Saturdays with the 5 Buck Brunch. Beginning March 1, Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago chef and instructor Michael Wilison and his students will whip up weekly specials for $5 each. One of the signature dishes is sure to be the Orange Waffles with Harold's Fried Chicken. They'll also have Bellinis, Mimosas and Bloody Marys. 11am-4pm.

And look for the team behind high-end night spots Manor (642 N. Clark St., 312-475-1390) and RiNO (343 W. Erie St., 312-587-3433) to enter the culinary world as they're shopping for a space in the city to open a restaurant right now. Also, their super-duper VIP lounge Stay opens on the top level of Manor this spring.

What the critics are saying . . .

. . . about:

Il Fiasco (5101 N. Clark St., 773-769-9700). "(New chef Eric Aubriot) hasn’t overhauled the menu by any means, but his presence can be felt in every section of it. His rich, twice-baked Gorgonzola soufflé was in a different class from other appetizers offered (many of which Aubriot kept from the previous menu): The cheese was balanced by red wine–poached pears, and the dish had a bigger flavor—and was more sophisticated—than its peers. His crisp corn cakes, topped with a mushroom sauce that had a robust earthiness (a flavor that was missing when I tried the mushroom pizza back in August), similarly impressed. And though it was odd to see french fries listed under appetizers, they showed off Aubriot’s years of experience; he only lightly seasoned them with truffle oil, so you won’t smell like a forest all night but you will remember why truffle oil became big in the first place."—David Tamarkin (Time Out Chicago) Read it all here.

Rockwell Lounge (710 N. Clark St., 312-787-2675). "The old Narcisse space has gone all dark slate, moody blues and sheet metal. The front area houses a cordoned-off seating area while the bar sports two stripper poles and a catwalk for drink-ordering entertainment. Downstairs features much of the same paired-down and muted cool-tone decor, with more modular seating and an additional, pole-free bar. The crowd falls somewhere between those who frequent the neighborhood's ultra-lounges and folks who appreciate Chicago's grittier rock joints."—Fred Schlatter (Chicago CitySearch) Read it all here.

Stretch Run Sports Club & Grille (544 N. LaSalle St., 312-644-4477). "Either barbecue ribs ($8.95) or hot wings ($8.95) will add some life to your meal. A layer of Sweet Baby Ray's sauce coats meaty, tender ribs; sizzling hot sauce blankets the wings. The latter arrive with the usual celery sticks and choice of blue cheese or ranch dressing."—Laura Bianchi (Crain's Chicago Business) Read it all here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Margarita madness . . . and more


Adobo Grill celebrates "National Margarita Day" on Friday with $5 margaritas at all its locations. (Photo: Adobo Grill)

Get out! Get out! Get out . . . this weekend: Launch Party. The new community-based web site hosts this launch event tonight at Sofitel (20 E. Chestnut St.). Its purpose? It's for women across the United States and globe to connect with one another and discuss “real” issues and experiences. From 6-9pm, guests will mingle, enjoy hors d’oeuvres and P.I.N.K. Vodka specialty cocktails. Party-goers will also get the chance to indulge in complimentary hand massages from Sephora and H20+, mini makeovers by Bare Essentials and fashion tips and styling by wardrobe consultant Julie Watson. The first 100 guests get a fabulous swag bag filled with glamorous gifts. $30 in advance; $40 at door. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Lung Cancer Alliance Organization. Call 312-464-8111 for more info.

Hooray for Rosé. Get the real deal on this "misunderstood wine" during a tasting from 6-8pm. Just don't call it white Zinfandel! This is the wine for spring’s awakening and to ceremoniously bid winter an early adieu. WineStyles Chicago (1433 W. Belmont Ave., 773-549-2227). Free.

Margarita Madness. Take the edge off handbag shopping with a little tequila at Bess & Loie (1015 W. Lake St., 312-226-2247) accessories boutique tonight from 6-9pm.

Whiskey Seminar and Tasting. Master of whisky Martin Duffy leads this seminar to help you learn the differences and similarities between a variety of Irish and Scotch whiskies at popular North Center restaurant, Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro (3905 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-248-3905). Tonight 7-8pm. $10.

Chicago Restaurant Week. It's finally here and starts on Friday at area restaurants. See the full list of participants here, including Prosecco (710 N. Wells St., 312-951-9500), NAHA (500 N. Clark St., 312-321-6242) and Kiki's Bistro (900 N. Franklin St., 312-335-5454).

National Margarita Day! Hey, it's any excuse to start drinking on the weekend. So celebrate Friday with a margarita or two or three . . . All Adobo Grill locations (1610 N. Wells St., 312-266-7999; 2005 W. Division St., 773-252-9990) celebrate with a $5 margarita special in honor of the occasion. Also, raise your margarita glass at Blue Agave (1 W. Maple St., 312-335-8900), Agave (3115 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-404-1800), Salud (1471 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-235-5577) or Zocalo (358 W. Ontario St., 312-302-9977), which also offers half-price appetizers in the bar from 5-7pm and live Latin music every Friday.

Four-Course Fridays. Every Friday at Il Fiasco (5101 N. Clark St., 773-769-9700), the Italian shop offers a new menu for $39 per person (exclues tax, tip, gratuity). Get there early tonight for a special art show with a meet and greet with the artists from 6-8pm. There will be complimentary appetizers and it's free to get in.

Flashback Fridays. Friday kicks off a late-night event at Rednofive (440 N. Halsted St., (312-543-4998) featuring veteran deejays known for their energetic styles. Julian “The Night Ninja”, Tim "Spinnin" Schommer, Frankie "Hollywood" Rodriguez, Flipside, "The Boogieman", "Too Kool" Chris and others are the spin stars. The launch event features Jesse De La Pena and Frankie “Hollywood” Rodriguez. Friday 10pm-4am. $20.

BYOB Taste of Rogers Park. Jean Iverson, author of BYOB Chicago, stops by Taste Food and Wine (1506 Jarvis Ave., 773-761-3663) to sign books and discuss the BYOB scene in Chicago. They'll be pairing complimentary wines with tastings from Taste of Peru (6545 N. Clark St., 773-381-4540) and Pakistani eatery Luzzat (1505 W. Jarvis Ave., 773-764-1065). 6-7:30pm Saturday. Free.

Rock the World. Just in case you're not down with all the Oscar parties going down on Sunday, Sonotheque's Joe Bryl is bringing something completely different. He's spinning some mad music at Danny's Tavern (1951 W. Dickens Ave., 773-489-6457) that includes Bollywood beats, German grooves, Spanish soul, Turkish funk, Cambodian Garage, Brazilian Psychedelia and Japanese rock. Alrighty then! 9pm-2am. Free.

Another one bites the dust: The Cheese Stands Alone

(Photo: The Cheese Stands Alone)

Lincoln Square gourmet shop The Cheese Stands Alone (4547 N. Western Ave., 773-293-3870) calls it quits.

After five years in business as the place to go for husband-and-wife team Matt and Sarah Parker's handpicked selections, the store is closing this weekend. They carry more than 100 cheeses from around the world, specializing in fine European cheeses like aged Gouda, so if you're looking for a deal, they just might be on sale this weekend.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Wild Brunch

I went to dinner with a couple of my best male friends last night. Unfortunately I took them to a place with flatscreens showing NCAA college basketball. I wanted to bitch and moan about current events, dating drama, blah, blah, blah, but they weren't listening. They were too busy watching whomever was playing on the tube.

So that reminded me that "March Madness" is right around the corner. So . . . it's going to get even worse. Nonstop, all-day basketball watching—especially on Saturdays and Sundays during brunch time. We may as well get used to it and embrace it and check out some spots that do sports brunch well:

Jake Melnick's Corner Tap (41 E. Superior St., 312-867-4908). The lodge-like, Gold Coast bar recently became infamous for its seriously ridiculously over-the-top hot wings that are so intense that you have to sign a waiver in order to get them. But, if that's not your bag, go for the Hot Dog Flight with three different styles of mini hot dogs. And Sunday is their regular brunch, featuring Strawberry Cheesecake French Toast, as well as a host of omelets and skillets. Also, on Sunday, go for $3.12 312 Pints or $5 Bloody Marys from the build-your-own bar.

McGee's Tavern (950 W. Webster Ave., 773-549-8200). The Lincoln Park institution is most popular for its rowdy brunch crowd, Eggs Benedict and Haystack skillets (i.e. Placido’s Mexican Haystack, Veggiestack). Oh, and how about that build-your-own Bloody Mary bar that continues until brunch time is over? You don't want to miss that action. Multiple flatscreens over the bar and at many tables keep the natives occupied, and many people get there at 11am and don't leave until it's dark outside. Now, that's a brunch.

The Gage (24 S. Michigan Ave., 312-372-4243). Or, for a more civilized brunch, we bring you this South Loop gem that's made its name as a popular post-work hangout. They've got Dirk Flanigan in the kitchen, so of course the menu's much more creative. He's put his spin on a traditional Irish breakfast, plus steel cut Irish oatmeal brulee and an apple pancake soufflé.

'You have a baby . . . in a bar?!'

Good idea or very bad idea?

Here's what Slashfood has to say on the subject.

Some notable openings

The Stew reports that Jerry Kleiner's Park 52 (5201 S. Harper Court) is opening in mid-March. For reals this time. And did we mention that Park 52 sounds too much like Table 52 (52 W. Elm St., 312-573-4000)? He might want to rethink that one.

Drive-Thru checks out new Loop lunch spot Noodles & Co. (180 N. Michigan Ave.).

And Basil Leaf Cafe (2460 N. Clark St.) in Lincoln Park recently closed, but it's now joined forces with sister restaurant next door, Sage (2465 N. Clark St., 773-348-7243), with a larger dining space and bar area.

Deal of the day . . .

(Photo: Dogfish)

Embrace the beer craze tonight with Vertical Tasting, in which guests get to sample an awesome selection of Dogfish Head craft beers. The event's held at Delilah's (2771 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-472-2771) with Dogfish Head Craft Brewery owner/brewer Sam Calagione and Delilah's owner Mike Miller leading the largest single sampling of more than 20 Dogfish Head beers ever attempted in Chicago, including many rare beers and vintages of World Wide Stout and Immort Ale. Tonight 9pm-midnight. Free.

As usual, "Greazy & Sleazy" DJ Jason Larsen spins, and for those not into Doghead, the Wednesday specials are $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon Longnecks and $2 Ten High Bourbon.

If you can't make it to Delilah's tonight, head here on Saturday, Feb. 23 for Vintage Strong Beer Fest 2008. It's the 10th annual festival for this event, and guests will get to sample more than 70 beers, primarily strong ales, from over 50 breweries. Just some of the ales include Three Floyds, Goose Island, Greg Browne Brewing, Capitol, Two Brothers, Rock Bottom, Flossmoor Station, Flatlander’s and Bell’s & Lakefront Brewing. Many of the brewers will also be in attendance. Noon-6pm. $20.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Do you want to get DIRTY?!


Last month, gastro-pubby The Filthy Libertine (1615 N. Clybourn Ave., 312-654-1782) opened in the old Aldente space in Lincoln Park.

Now, we've got an update on another naughty-named night spot that we told you about last year.

Look for DIRTY to open soon in the recently vacated Mas home at 1670 W. Division St. in Wicker Park. Owned by Dion Antic—whose Rock Star Dogs (801 N. Ashland Ave., 312-421-2364) opens in Ukrainian Village in early March—DIRTY will have some big-name celebrity involvement, "DIRTY" burgers on the menu and porn stars coming through on a regular basis. Just how "dirty" will Dion get? If you remember some of his most memorable projects like Liquid Kitty, (the first) Harry's Velvet Room and Get Me High Lounge, then you know that he does it with kick-ass flash.

The Beer Bistro takes the plunge

(Photo: Chicago Polar Plunge)

West Loop gastropub Beer Bistro (1061 W Madison St., 312-433-0013) is sending out a call for help so they can participate in the annual Chicago Polar Plunge, which is taking place on Sunday, March 2 in the freezing waters of Lake Michigan.

Hundreds of brave souls take the plunge every year to raise funds for the Special Olympics Chicago. This year, the Beer Bistro staff is going as the Polar Beers (ha!), and they're looking for donations of $100 per person.

Those who donate $100 (or more) will be able to join the Beer Bistro folks back at the bar following the Polar Plunge for a party that includes an open bar and food. Go here for more info.

Deal of the day . . .


It's the third Tuesday of the month. Do you know what that means? Probably not, so here it is:

Randolph Wine Cellars (1415 W. Randolph St., 312-942-1212), in the West Loop, hosts its Third Tuesday Tasting, a fabulous event where you get to sample more than 30 different wines that are complemented by appetizers. They'll be pouring big, bold wines for the night. Also, if there's something you particularly loved, you will also get a discount on bottles you purchase. Reservations required. 6-8pm. $30.

Also happening tonight at 6pm is a special event at Custom House (500 S. Dearborn St., 312-523-0200) in the South Loop. Guests will have the opportunity to sample vino from boutique winery Tensley Wines with small bites from Chef de Cuisine Richard Camarota in the private dining room.

The winery produces more than 3,300 cases, including seven single-vineyard Syrahs—the most in Santa Barbara County.

To be tasted:

2006 Lea Black Oak Syrah Rose
2006 Camp 4 Vineyard Blanc
2005 Three Creek Syrah
2005 Tierra Alta Syrah
2006 Colson Canyon Syrah
2006 Three Creek Syrah

Space is limited; event is $40.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Holy Cow! Harry Caray gets BIG props . . .

(Photo: Harry Caray's)

Thursday, Feb. 21 marks the 10th anniversary of late Hall of Fame baseball announcer Harry Caray's passing.

And to commemorate the anniversary, Harry would not have had it any other way than what they're planning over at Harry Caray's (33 W. Kinzie St., 312-595-3500) that night. At 7pm—your time, anywhere in the world—it's the 10th Annual Worldwide Toast to Harry. Bars and restaurants worldwide in more than 100 countries will also be participating.

During the toast, Harry Caray’s in Chicago will attempt to break the Guinness record for the World’s Largest Glass of Beer. The vessel is two feet wide by four feet high and will hold 100 gallons of Budweiser. Full, the glass will weigh 1,000 pounds. The previous record of 4 gallons was set in New Zealand in 2004. Prior to the toast, they're filling the vessel with 100 gallons of Budweiser and will sell commemorative cups containing beer from the record-breaking glass for $5 each. All proceeds will benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in honor of Cubs legend Ron Santo.

Celebrities around the world will toast Harry’s memory on Thursday, including Will Ferrell, Jim Belushi, Harold Ramis, Max Weinberg, Stephen Baldwin, William Petersen, Jeremy Piven, Jeff Garlin, Jay Mohr, Joe Mantegna, Fisher Stevens, Dennis Farina, Linda Fiorentino, Bonnie Hunt, Dennis Franz, Will Arnot, Woody Harrelson, Lorraine Bracco, Nick Lachey, Vanessa Minnillo and former Harry Caray’s server, James Denton, comedian Frank Caliendo, Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney, General Manager Jim Hendry, Coach Lou Piniella, Alfonso Soriano, Kerry Wood, Felix Pie and Derrek Lee, Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Ryne Sandberg, Harry’s broadcasting partner Steve Stone, current announcers Bob Brenly, Len Kasper and Pat Hughes, Chicago White Sox Jim Thome, former TV newsman Bill Kurtis, Mayor Richard M. Daley, President Bill Clinton, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, rock bands The Fray and Fall Out Boy, including Pete Wentz, and many others.

WLS AM Radio’s The Roe Conn Show will broadcast live from Harry’s Bar from 5-7pm.

Quote of the month: 'Anything you cats don't eat?'

(Photo: Chicago Tribune by Jeff Sciortino)

That's Michael Carlson at his highly anticipated (re-)opening of his hot Wicker Park eatery Schwa (1466 N. Ashland Ave., 773-752-1466). The Stew has the deets.

What's going on now

(Photo: Yelp)

So it looks like Marshall McGearty Tobacco Lounge (1553 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-772-8410) didn't survive the new Illinois Smoking Ban. There's a little note in the window that simply says, "We are now closed." No further information is given.

But on a good—and much healthier—note, word from Berry Chill ( 635 N. State St., 312-640-0312) owner Michael Farah is that the specialty "froyo" spot is set to open the first weekend of March. Right now he's conducting a series of VIP focus groups and tastings, so if you want in, get on it now.

Also, BomBon Cafe (170 W. Washington Blvd.) closed its Loop location, according to Time Out. But have no fear. You can still get their pastry goodies in Pilsen and Little Village.

And finally, Nia (803 W. Randolph St., 312-226-3110), which we wrote about here before any other media outlet, opened last week in the West Loop.

Deal of the day . . .

(Photo: Tizi Melloul)

Jump start your week with a smile—whether you have today off or not for Presidents' Day—with this deal certain to please all:

Super exotic eatery Tizi Melloul (531 N. Wells St., 312-670-4338) offers half-priced appetizers and $3 martinis every Monday and Tuesday in the lounge. Pick from favorites like the Rockin' Moroccan (UV 80 vodka, lime juice, fresh mint, soda and a splash of Sprite), Cucumber Martini (vodka, cucumber, mint, simple syrup, lime juice, garnished with a sliced cucumber) or the Fizi Tizi (sparkling wine with fresh seasonal fruit puree, garnished with fresh berries).

Tizi Melloul will celebrate 10 years in 2009, but you'd never know it by its slick, futuristic design and always on the edge cuisine. It's also one of River North's best-kept secrets.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Roll out the Red Carpet . . .


. . . the Oscars are coming, and so are the local events celebrating it.

Academy Awards parties started in Chicago circa 1999, when nightlife impresario BJ Murray decided to host an all-out Hollywood-style glam jam at Marche (833 W. Randolph St., 312-226-8399) with a life-sized Oscar statuette, deejays and celebrity lookalikes.

While he's no longer throwing the once annual bash, you'll still be able to find a host of parties around town when the Oscars air on Sunday, Feb. 24, beginning at 6pm. You'll be able to cheer on your favorite actors and movies at dress-up affairs as well as more casual events at:

10pin (330 N. State St., 312-644-0300). The bowling lounge goes black tie for one evening with this affair that's decked out in gold and silver and the staff will greet guests in old-school glam. Upon arriving, guests will fill out an Oscar ballot, predicting the winner in all categories. The individual with the most correct answers will receive a trip to Aruba. But if there's a tie, there will be a bowl off. Also, fashionistas can show off their glitz and compete for Best Dressed Female and Best Dressed Male with the winners taking home a gold Oscar statuette. Specials include "Juno" (cavatappi baked with Wisconsin smoked Cheddar, fresh herbs and toasted breadcrumbs), "No Country for Old Men" quesadillas, "Atonement" (beer-battered Cod fish and chips), and a host of specialty cocktails.

Debonair Social Club (1575 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-227-7990). The Pussy Galore Flying Circus Oscars Party kicks off at 7pm, hosted by Music 101. The party will have $5 Stoli cocktails, $10 Stoli Elit martinis and a tribute to 45 years of James Bond with Bond films playing on all screens. Comp appetizers 7-10pm, and of course Bond Girls. DJ Heather Doble spins. 9pm-2am.

Kit Kat Lounge (3700 N. Halsted St., 773-525-1111). Guests are treated to live entertainment by the Kit Kat Divas during commercials, as well as half-price martinis all night. They're also showing the Oscars on five large screens. Dinner specials include The Red Carpet (savory roasted red pepper soup), Acceptance Speech (roasted baby beets with goat cheese and mixed greens with a hazelnut vinaigrette) and And The Oscar Goes to...(pan-seared scallops with truffle oil and sweet pea risotto).

Room21 (2110 S. Wabash Ave., 312-328-1198). The South Loop set benefits the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Admission includes appetizers, signature Belvedere cocktails, wine and dessert. A silent auction benefits JDRF and multiple plasma televisions will be added to the venue. The party's attire ranges from jeans to gems; best dressed guests will be presented prizes by the evening's emcee, NBC's LeeAnn Trotter. $40 in advance; $45 at door.

Sheffield's (3258 N. Sheffield Ave., 773-281-4989). They'll have a 106-inch projection screen and guests will have the chance to win prizes for guessing the night's winners. Also, sip themed cocktails like a $5 Red Carpet Punch.

Viand (155 E. Ontario St., 312-255-8505). The Streeterville eatery features some specialty Oscar creations by Executive Chef Steve Chiappetti. And for those who want to watch the big show, there will be a big screen. One guest who picks the winner for Best Picture category will win a $200 gift certificate to the restaurant. The night's cocktails: Atonement - Romantic interlude (Godiva, Kahlua, brandy, chocolate-rimmed glass), Juno - Teenage sprinter (Zinfandel wine, 7-Up, tropical fruit), Michael Clayton - Give me a stiff one (Southern Comfort and Coke), No Country for Old Men - just for the old guys (scotch, sweet vermouth, dash of bitters) and There Will Be Blood - Bloody Bloody Mary (tomato juice, tobacco, citrus vodka, deep-fried blue cheese olives).

Friday, February 15, 2008

What the critics are saying . . .

. . . about:

Cafe Matou (1846 N. Milwaukee, 773-384-8911). "(The) daily changing menu—think bouillabaisse, Bordeaux-braised lamb, apple beignets with house-made caramel ice cream—reflects the seasons and (Chef Charlie Socher's) Paris culinary training. But don't expect frou-frou food here; instead you'll find hearty French comfort with nary a pretension in sight. And the same can be said of the cozy interior, with its exposed brick walls, tin ceiling and art from local artists."—Lisa Shames (UR Chicago) Read it all here.

The Dirty Libertine (1615 N. Clybourn Ave., 312-654-1782). "While Galzin’s pissaladière (flatbread) topped with sweet caramelized onions, briny anchovies and picholine olives isn’t exactly an original, it’s executed pretty remarkably, with a bubbled, crispy crust that could convince you there was an in-house wood-burning oven (there’s not). The chef also shows some skill with one of the easiest Italian creations to mess up—his gnocchi were perfect, plump little pillows swimming in brown-butter sauce with sage and roasted squash. The dish’s only fault was the dry and somehow stringy pork belly."—Heather Shouse (Time Out Chicago) Read it all here.

Hugo's Frog Bar (1024 N. Rush St., 312-640-0999): "Fish offerings are impeccably fresh, and a long card of daily specials accompanies the regular menu. The kitchen also appears happy to accommodate requests. Want Mahi ($25) blackened instead of mesquite grilled? No problem. Overall menu preparations for filets are straightforward — planked, grilled and broiled. Look for local catches, too, such as Lake Superior whitefish ($21), perch ($23) and walleye pike ($24)."—Alison Neumer Lara (Crain's Chicago Business) Read it all here.

'Top Chef' spoilers

Local culinary scene is spotlighted in upcoming episodes of "Top Chef," says The Stew, even though the show doesn't officially launch until mid-March.

Highlights include Frontera Grill's Rick Bayless, Table 52's Art Smith, Blackbird's Paul Kahan, TRU's Gale Gand and the Chicago Sun-Times Richard Roeper (?!). OK, then!

This is the reason why I can’t support any Trump projects in Chicago

Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, the so-called villainess on “Celebrity Apprentice,” is singlehandedly damaging the Trump brand. (Photo: David Gabber/Photorazzi)

This has gone too far. This thing on Donald Trump’s so-called “Celebrity Apprentice” show to an extent that I’ve completely lost respect for him as a businessman.

I’m talking about Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, whose performance on the show last night was so ridiculously obnoxious that it's making me rethink supporting his ventures in Chicago. Yes, the new Trump Hotel, which includes the just-opened Sixteen restaurant and Rebar lounge.

I watched in horror as Omarosa verbally attacked one of her team members, British journalist Piers Morgan, with vulgar, violent language that belonged on a street corner instead of a professional environment. She also lashed out at him through his family, which was a low blow—even for her. For her disgusting behavior, she was barely admonished by Donald and Ivanka Trump when she should have been dismissed on the spot. (Any real job would've done that!)

And yes, as a professional African-American woman I felt as though I was slapped in the face. Trump and company looked at Omarosa as though the way she behaved was normal for all Black women: loud, vulgar and untameable. No, it's not. And I won't stand for it. I had been looking forward to his hotel coming to Chicago since it was first announced, but now I'm so over it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Singles: Are you ready to mingle?!

(Photo: One World Chicago)

From a massive salsa soirée to a "friends with benefits" bash, you don't have to be coupled up to have fun this weekend:

Chicago International Salsa Congress. The three-day festival occurs tonight through Feb. 17 with international Latin bands and some of the best dancers in the world. Seven shows, 60 dance workshops, and four nights of dancing to Latin orchestras until 3am. Dress to impress. Westin O'Hare (6100 River Road, Rosemont; 773-285-3197). $45-$329 (all-access pass)

Le Passage (937 N. Rush St., 312-255-0022). Take your "special buddy" to the Friends With Benefits party, which is also happening tonight. Get there between 9-10pm for a VIP reception sponsored by Effen vodka, and also enter a contest to win a lover's suite for one night at the James Hotel as well as a couple's massage at Urban Oasis. Free.

Martini Park (151 W. Erie St., 312-640-0577). Get ready to sing at the first-ever Love Rocks party with live karaoke setting it off with songs about amore. You're certain to make some new friends. Doors open at 7pm tonight. Free.

Provenance Food & Wine (2312 W. Leland Ave., 773.784.2314). Who knows who you'll run into at this last-minute Lincoln Square event happening tonight. Stop in for a wine tasting of dessert, sparkling and other great wines. 6-8pm. Free.

Victor Hotel (311 N. Sangamon St., 312-733-6900). Lip Service Productions hosts a sultry lingerie and fur fashion show with styles by Elan Furs and G Boutique. Show starts promptly at 11pm with music by DJ Buckley. $10 after 11pm.

Whiskey Blue (172 W. Adams St., 312-782-4933). After work tonight, head to the Spin Me launch party hosted by Jimmyjane. They've created a sexy twist to the classic game of mischief, and if you get there early enough you get to take home a game for yourself. Specialty cocktails included. 6-8pm tonight. Free.

Juicy Wine Co. (694 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312-492-6620). The River West wine bar always has some offbeat talent coming in to deejay these days. On Feb. 15, they've got the dynamic, unpredictable duo, When the Eagle Met the Wolf (Bald Eagle and Mr. Wolf). Saturday look out for Darren from The Changes making his debut. It'll go down good with their nice wine selection, stinky cheese and grilled panini. Free.

Ohm (1958 W. North Ave., 773-278-4646). They're calling it Cupids Ball 2008, but don't go expecting anything romantic here. Their tagline is actually "Love Stinks...," so it should be a roomful of singles hanging out as though the holiday never existed. Dance music, drink specials and lots of revealing skin on the female patrons. 10pm-4am Feb. 15. $20.

La Pomme Rouge (108 W. Kinzie St., 312-245-9555). The weekly Radio Paradiso party offers a "French Kiss" theme for the weekend. Guests who arrive early for dinner get complimentary dessert and roses for the ladies. Also, DJs Andre Harris and Just Joey spin; $5 Stoli drinks and $8 Roseline martinis. Sponsored by Music 101 and Selective Search. Free.

Jbar (610 N. Rush St., 312-660-7200). Make your way to Sunday Night Service—especially since most folks have Monday off for Presidents Day. The chilled-out vibe is chic and mature, and is home to some of Chicago's best underground house deejays known for deep, sexy grooves. Come with a date, or find one here. Resident deejay Matty spins. 10pm-2am. Free.

Spice Girls in town today

(Photo: Capitol Music Group)

From Stella's Column in the Chicago Sun-Times today:

"THE SPICY SPICE GIRLS are performing Friday at the United Center. But don't be surprised if you see them hitting the clubs for some dancing and prancing. The divas hit town today—Mel B (Scary), Victoria Beckham (Posh), Geri Halliwell (Ginger), Emma Bunton (Baby), Melanie C (Sporty). And since it is Valentine's Day, newlywed Mel B will be accompanied by her husband, Stephen Belafonte. And don't be surprised if other Spice Girls lovers show up in town as well."

Somehow I doubt these chicks will be clubbing it up around town—especially together—but I'll be on the lookout for them anyway this weekend.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Dog gets its day

Dion Antic (of Iggy's, Harry's Velvet Room fame) finally gets an opening date for his long-awaited Rock Star Dogs (801 N. Ashland Ave.): March 6.

Also, that new Fleming's steakhouse is opening in River North at 25 W. Ohio St. next month.

The Wild Brunch

Bin Wine Café's Mimosa Flight: pineapple (from left), pomegranate, Bellini and Madras (Photo: Bin Wine Café)

Extend your Valentine’s Day festivities through the weekend this year. Have dinner on Thursday, party on Friday and Saturday, and chill out with brunch on Sunday.

Feeling particularly romantic? Share luscious bites with your sig other at some of my favorite spots for amore:

Bin Wine Café (1559 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-486-2233). Share a few items like the Brunch Pizza (with poached egg, Applewood smoked bacon, spinach, frisee), Croque Monsieur (speck ham, roasted chicken, blue cheese, with fries) or the cheese flight, in which you get six awesome selections specially picked out by the staff. And speaking of flights, be sure to order the Mimosa Flight, 3 oz. tasting portions of champagne-infused cocktails, with fresh pineapple, pomegranate, peach nectar (Bellini) as well as orange juice with a splash of cranberry (Madras).

La Creperie (2845 N. Clark St., 773-528-9050). The cozy, family-run bistro serves up sweet and savory crepes that are legendary. My favorites include poulet & fromage de chevre (chicken breast with roasted tomatoes and goat cheese), poulet au champignons (chicken in an herb cream sauce with sautéed button mushrooms) and Banana Sara (bananas in a brown sugar caramel sauce topped with rum and vanilla ice cream). And yes, they're big enough to share!

North Pond (2610 N. Cannon Dr., 773-477-5845). Or go all out for your loved one with one of the city's most popular brunches, which overlooks Lincoln Park's pond. Your focus, of course, will be on each other as you nosh on Bruce Sherman's seasonal offerings. Right now, he's serving items like stone ground oatmeal with whipped cream, caramelized pears, almonds and cinnamon; a spice-rubbed Hangar steak; a pan-browned Rainbow trout; and dark chocolate sorbet accompanied by mint ice cream, cocoa cookie ganache and a salted butter cracker. $32 per person.

And the nominees go to . . .

Who cares about the Grammys or Oscars when the ballot for the 2008 James Beard Foundation nominees has been released to Beard judges (each category will be whittled down to five nominees in April, when the official list is released):

Here are the Chicago stars getting props:


Richard Melman (Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises)




Martial Noguier(one sixtyblue)

Graham Elliott Bowles (Avenues)

Suzy Crofton (Crofton on Wells)

Kendal Duque (Sepia)

Carrie Nahabedian (Naha)

Bruce Sherman (North Pond)

Giuseppe Tentori (Boka)

Paul Virant (Vie)

Michael Maddux (Le Titi de Paris)


Mindy Segal (Hot Chocolate)


Grant Achatz (Alinea)

Jean Joho (Everest)







BIN 36

The 2008 James Beard Foundation Awards Gala will take place in NYC on Sunday, June 8.

Related: Hosted by Spring Executive Chef Shawn McClain, the Friends of James Beard Dinner will be held on Wednesday, March 19 at Spring (2039 W. North Ave., 773-395-7100). Along with McClain, this mega-chef event will feature the Midwest’s most renowned – and James Beard Award-winning – chefs: Takashi Yagihashi (Takashi); Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia) and Paul Kahan (Blackbird). Together, these culinary all-stars will present a five-course menu that exhibits the most current thinking and knowledge of the American dining scene from a Midwestern perspective. Cost for the event is $175 for members of the James Beard Foundation and $200 for non-members. Advance ticket purchase is required. Space is limited.

Oh, no! Not another 'reality' dating show!

So last weekend, this thing happened.

And now Bravo is holding a casting call for the "Dating Project" on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 9:30pm.

The email that just dropped in my inbox states that "one rising starlet seeks her very own romantic inspiration. On a boulevard of dreams this stunning celebrity awaits her leading man."

O-K. So if you're a "sexy, successful and eligible" bachelor between 25-35, they want you to come in for an interview at Chaise Lounge (1840 W. North Ave., 773-342-1840). But here's the real treat: They're looking for a certain type of dude, so only apply if you're:

Professional athletes
Music execs
Stock brokers
Real estate guys
Investment bankers
Software moguls
Tennis players
Executive chefs
Art dealers

Shallow much?!

The only good thing about this is that all the single ladies now know where to go on Saturday!

All good things must come to an end

Word comes down that there's no more Boom Boom Room, the city's longest-running party that started more than 15 years ago at legendary house club Reg Dog. Hundreds of top local and international deejays performed at Boom Boom Room.

After Red Dog, Boom Boom Room was acquired by nightlife promoters Music 101, who took the party over to Green Dolphin Street (2200 N. Ashland Ave., 773-395-0066), where it remained a Monday night staple until this week. So, that's it, folks. If it returns, I'll be sure to let you know!

How could they not open this week?!


First there was Eno (505 N. Michigan Ave., 312-944-4100), and now comes Chocolate Grape (2113 W. Division St., 773-772-3990), a Wicker Park cafe specializing in wine and chocolate.

Owners Pat Karpowski and Rehanna Leigh Grady met at the "For the Love of Chocolate" benefit in 2007, and decided to make their love for chocolate a reality. Chocolate Grape expects to open in late March, and in addition to handmade chocolates and boutique wines, look for pastries, coffee, salads and soups, as well as exotic cheese and sausage flights.

There will also be a private event room, The Truffle Box, which should be an interesting addition to the local nightlife options.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Some time off

Hey, Fabulous Foodies!

312 Dining Diva is taking some personal time off, and will be back to regular postings on Wednesday, Feb. 13. In the meantime, have a fabulous time feasting out!

Before I go, just one more scoop to leave with you: La Bahia (4111 N. Lincoln Ave.) opens Sunday, Feb. 10 in the Irving Park 'hood. It specializes in fine Mexican cuisine. Hope someone gets a chance to check it out!

Oh, and now that sweet Sixteen (401 N. Wabash Ave., 312-588-8000) is open in the Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, next up will be their super-sleek Rebar lounge, set to debut by the end of the month. As far as Sixteen, I'm looking forward to the Champagne High tea service, which starts on March 8. Served on Saturdays from 11am-3pm, menu highlights include an open-faced lobster club, King crab salad in a cucumber cup as well as sweet bites like chocolate Madelaines and a pecan tart with honey glaze. It's seriously fancy, with prices ranging from $32-$75 (with Champagne high), but sometimes you just need to treat yourself, honey.

And finally, Wicker Park's offbeat sensation Schwa (1466 N. Ashland Ave., 773-252-1466) reopens on Feb. 13, but don't even think about getting in there for Valentine's Day. You might have better luck snagging a table in this tiny BYO during the earlier part of the week because they're pretty much booked solid for the next few weekends.

What the critics are saying . . .

. . . about:

A Mano (335 N. Dearborn St., 312-629-3500). "Housemade gelato and sorbetto are creamy and intense; they are the best bets for dessert (three scoops for $7). Among the gelato, I like chocolate chip, Amaretto and chocolate-hazelnut. As for the sorbetto, I recommend the orange prosecco."—Laura Bianchi (Crain's Chicago Business) Read it all here.

Elephant & Castle (185 N. Wabash Ave., 312-345-1710). "The fish is very good here, enveloped in a properly crunchy batter made with Bass Ale, wrapped in paper (which looks like newspaper but isn't) and served with soft, skin-on steak fries. What makes this place particularly noteworthy is that you get your choice of fish; Elephant & Castle offers cod fish and chips ($11) and halibut fish and chips ($14). Halibut is a fine choice; the fish is noticeably firmer than the cod but has better flavor and flakes beautifully."—Phil Vettel (Chicago Tribune) Read it all here.

Lao Shanghai (2163 S China Pl., 312-808-0830). "The meat, poultry and seafood menu tantalizes with sweet and savory flavors that finish with subtlety. Shanghai dumplings reveal chubby pouches of pork, but lack enough broth to fully enjoy the slurping. Signature smoked tea duck, marinated in five spices, boasts a crispy skin with tender meat right down to the bones. Pan-fried flat noodles tossed with bits of chicken, beef, pork and shrimp arrive without the excess grease. Juicy beef sauced with black beans, garlic and red and black peppers is surprisingly light."—Valerie Moloney (Chicago CitySearch) Read it all here

Marie’s Pizzeria and Liquors (4129 W. Lawrence, 773-725-1812). "Distressed copper tables, red vinyl booths, chandeliers cut like Superman’s ice fortress, and a colossal mirror painted with the Chicago skyline all contribute to the sense that the place ought to be swamped with mooks wearing pinkie rings. Instead the tables at Marie’s Pizzeria and Liquors are filled with old folks and families, and what brings them in is the superb crispy thin-crust Chicago-style pizza, which has a near perfect grease-to-cheese ratio and is sauced with a sharp gravy. The adjoining space is a well-stocked liquor store with more than 800 wines; you can uncork one at your table for a $2 fee."—Mike Sula (Chicago Reader) Read it all here.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Hasn't this thing run its course?!

The rose ceremonies. The ridiculous fights. And the Ken and Barbie clones.

OK, so isn't it about time for ABC to kill "The Bachelor"/"The Bachelorette?!" Isn't it like in its 20th season by now?

If you haven't gotten enough of it by now, Lincoln Park Young Professionals is teaming up with the producers of the show to look for—eek—Chicago's most eligible men to "win the heart of 'The Bachelorette.'"

So if you have "style, class and culture," head to Devon (39 E. Chicago Ave., 312-440-8660) for the party happening Saturday, Feb. 9 8-10pm. The $30 cover gets you an open bar (the best thing about this bash!), appetizers and a chance to poke fun at the poor schmucks who are actually taking this thing serious.

Mr. Skin, Michael Jackson and the Hearty Boys

Get out and have some fun this weekend:

Power shoppers get ready for Champagne, Chocolate & Couture at House of Sole (1237 S. Michigan Ave., 312-834-0909) tonight 6 to 9pm, with up to 75 percent off handbags, shoes and a trunk show with local jewelry designers, as well as champagne from the South Loop Wine Cellar (which offers five percent off all wine orders during the event) and chocolate.

Also happening tonight is the 20 Looks fashion show with Isabella Fine Lingerie at Lumen (839 W. Fulton Mkt., 312-733-2222). One lucky guest receives a week’s worth of bras and panties. 10pm-midnight. $10.

Think you know sex trivia? Test your skills at Junior's (724 W. Maxwell St., 312-421-2277) tonight at 7:30pm for Mr. Skin's Skintastic Trivia Challenge—the Hollywood sex and nudity game.

The Food Network's Hearty Boys (aka Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh) celebrate the release of their cookbook, "Talk With Your Mouth Full," Saturday, Feb. 9 from 7-9pm with a free party at their new HBTV location, 3819 N. Broadway, 773-244-9866.

If you remember the ultra-sexy Carnaval Brasil parties at Mad Bar several years ago, then you don't want to miss this event paying homage to it. Music 101 is reviving their bash at La Pomme Rouge (108 W. Kinzie St., 312-245-9555), featuring DJ Nando spinning samba, axe, funk and Brazilian beats; dancers and $5 Caipirinhas and Stoli cocktails. Saturday, Feb. 9 10:30pm-3am. No cover.

And, if you don't wish to watch the Grammys alone on Sunday, Feb. 10, head to Plush (1104 W. Madison St., 312-491-9800) for a special viewing party that also includes a Michael Jackson 25th anniversary Thriller listening party. Drink specials, of course. Doors open at 6:30pm. Free.