Monday, March 31, 2008

It's about @#$%^&*(*!)?! time!

After months and months of delay, Cinners Chili Parlour (4757 N. Talman Ave., 773-654-1624) is finally opening on April 4! But, ahhhhh, it's finally starting to warm up, so isn't it just a little too late in the season for chili?!

Big Jones (5347 N. Clark St., 773-275-5725), the contemporary Southern restaurant going into the old Augie's space in Andersonville, opens on April 9.

On the horizon, Hub 51 (21 W. Hubbard St.), the project from brothers R.J. and Jerrod Melman (of Lettuce Entertain You fame), debuts in June.

And finally, word is that the Small Bar (2049 W. Division St., 773-772-2727 and 2954 N. Albany Ave., 773-509-9888) owners have their sights set on Lakeview for their third location. They're planning to take over the old Ann Sather location at 929 W. Belmont Ave. sometime later this year. Summer, perhaps?!

A tough break . . .

One of my Ultimate Insiders writes in:

"My personal trainer and one of the guys from the gym who grew up with (owner) Gerald Lott stop into Connoisseur (1041 W. Grand Ave., 312-738-3055) periodically. My trainer mentioned there was a recent breakin/the cash register was stolen which is unfortunate for Gerald and the neighborhood."

That explains why the casual champagne and wine bar has been closed the last few weekends I've passed it. I hope they'll be able to make a comeback.

Hot Diggity Dog

When most people think of Opening Day at Wrigley Field, they're thinking that this is the year the Cubs will finally win it all. And while I'm 100 percent behind the North Side stars, I'm also thinking about those hot dogs.

Just thinking about baseball season makes my mouth water for them, so I went in search for some of the best dogs in town:

At the Lincoln Park location of America's Dog (2300 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-281-2333), they’re specializing in hot dogs from all over the country. The all-American setting—with maps and photos of national landmarks all over the walls—attracts families during the day and boisterous barcrawlers after hours. I bypassed the Chicago-style dog for the Dallas Dog, which was smothered in a perfectly seasoned chili as well as onions and shredded cheddar cheese. For a more offbeat offering, I sampled the Buffalo Dog, which had the zing of hot wings—a spicy hot sauce, bleu cheese and celery salt bringing it all together. Out of the three that I tried, this one by far was my favorite, but the next time I go, I’ve got my eye on the Des Moines Dog a.k.a. the corndog. If you order the meal deal for your dog, you also get a heaping of seasoned curly fries, onion rings or cheddar fries. Additional America’s Dog locations are on Navy Pier and in the Loop.

Even more offbeat is Hot Doug’s, which goes off the deep end when it comes to hot dogs. Weekends draw the longest lines, and you’ll find yourself waiting for up to 20 minutes for the made-on-premises encased meats. He actually has a Chicago-style dog on the menu—which is very popular by the way—but the more adventurous go for hot dogs made with more unconventional meats like spicy jerk pork sausage, or apple-rosemary and spicy Thai chicken sausage. My favorite? The Salma Hayek, a spicy dog made of tangy Andouille Sausage.

And speaking of naming hot dogs after celebrities, they’re doing something similar at Rockstar Dogs, an after-hours joint naming its Vienna beef dogs after famous rock stars. Once you get past the awkwardly placed stripper pole (twirl on it after 10pm to get your dog for free!) at the entrance you’re good to go. Owned by Dion Antic (Harry’s Velvet Room, Iggy’s), he’s named them after the likes of Sting (tantric tofu dog), The Flaming Lip (topped with cheese and grilled jalapeños) and The Tommy Lee (foot-long dog). I kept it simple and went for The Manson—a jumbo dog with my choice of Chicago-style toppings—accompanied by some of the crunchiest tater tots I’ve ever tasted. And because it’s all about the rock ‘n’ roll in here, the meal comes packaged nicely in a box with a guitar pick as a souvenir.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The latest . . .

. . . on Jerry Kleiner's long-awaited Hyde Park eatery Park 52 (5201 S. Harper Court, 773-241-5200) is here. Scheduled to open on April 8, I managed to get my hands on a menu. Highlights from Executive Chef Chris Barron's menu include BBQ spiced ribs, glazed lamb skewers, smoked chicken corn chowder and an herb-roasted half chicken with brioche stuffing.

Also, at L.2O (2300 N. Lincoln Park West), Laurent Gras' glamorous Lincoln Park seafood restaurant, they're giving a sneak preview of their exotic private dining area, Tatami Room: "One of the unique things we have created is the tatami room. The first time I visited Kyoto in Japan, I stayed in a Ryokan, which is a traditional style small hotel. The room was a tatami room, where you slept and ate all of your meals served by a room maid dressed in kimono. The room-service kaiseki I had there was one of my best meals ever. I also visited restaurants in Tokyo where you eat in a private tatami room. These were amazing experiences of quiet, natural luxury and great personalized service. The tatami room in the restaurant will be able to seat 2-6 people and will have a special menu and servers. And yes, just like in Japan you will take off your shoes before you step into the room."

L.2O is also scheduled to open this spring.

And finally, Sky Bar, a new Lincoln Park nightclub, is opening soon.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Be an Earth Angel this weekend

(Photo: World Wildlife Foundation)

You shop the farmers’ market for locally grown and organic produce. You conserve energy by walking or using public transportation as much as possible. And now here’s your chance to help the environment once again. This weekend you can celebrate Earth Hour—a World Wildlife Foundation initiative to turn off the lights in cities around the world for one hour on Saturday from 8-9pm.

Many Chicago restaurants and bars are participating, including Cyrano's Bistrot & Wine Bar (546 N. Wells St., 312-467-0546), which is adding two extra days (tonight and tomorrow) with romantic candlelight dinners in its classic French atmosphere. InnBar (162 E. Ohio St., 312-787-3100), who will celebrate with the Eco-tini (a specialty martini made with organic vodka and juices), and Cityscape Bar (350 W. Mart Plaza Center, 312-836-5000), which will offer The Energizer (V2 vodka infused with caffeine and Taurine with cranberry and grapefruit juices) and Tony Miu's Zentini (Skyy citrus vodka with zen green tea liqueur and fresh lime juice), will also participate.

Other happenings this weekend:


one sixtyblue (1400 W. Randolph St., 312-850-0303) celebrates its 10th anniversary with a party in conjunction with Green City Market and ChicaGourmets. Chow down on special bites prepared by Executive Chef Martial Noguier, drink libations from an interactive "green" cocktail station, and check out a fashion show highlighting garments from eco-friendly boutique Pivot. A portion of proceeds benefit Growing Home, a charity providing job training and employment opportunities to homeless and low-income people. 6-9pm. $80.

You'll find more high-energy grooves at JBar (610 N. Rush St., 312-660-7200) for the Sounds Good Thursdays session. Jesse de la Pena brings on the sounds with a live saxophonist; get there early for a comp VIP champagne tasting from 9-10pm; Stoli Elit cocktail specials all night for $5; bottles $150. 9pm-2am. No cover.

Looking for a chill place for dinner? Head to Café Selmarie (4729 N Lincoln Ave., 773-989-5595) for a prix-fixe dinner for only $20. Tonight’s menu includes a petite mixed greens salad, seared Ruby Red Rainbow trout with sweet potato hash and shiitake mushrooms, and a housemade dessert.

A Night in Jarvis Square takes place in Rogers Park. For $35, guests get a three-course Italian dinner at Gruppo Di Amici (1508 W. Jarvis Ave., 773-508-5565); the chance to see the Jeff-recommended “Faster” production; and a wine/cheese post-show reception featuring the cast and crew at Taste Food & Wine (1506 W. Jarvis Ave., 773-761-3663). Dinner takes place between 6-7pm; the show starts at 8pm and the post-party happens at 9:45.

This Ain’t No Ordinary Open Mic occurs at The G Spot (2719 E. 92nd St., 312-399-7522), with live entertainment, private massages, complimentary refreshments and a cash bar. 9-11:30pm. $10 general admission; $5 for performers.

Jesse de la Pena spins every week at Jbar for "Sounds Good Thursdays." (Photo:


Meet and greet the new hosts and crew for local entertainment show “24/7: Secrets of Chicago,” which kicks off on Saturday immediately following “Saturday Night Live” on NBC-5. Party takes place at Rockit Bar & Grill (22 W. Hubbard St., 312-645-6000), and co-owner Billy Dec is also co-host of the new show (where in the hell does this guy find the time?!). 6-8pm, and RSVP to

Hipster Wicker Park clothing boutique Bonnie & Clyde's (1751 W. Division St., 773-235-2680) hosts a fashion show and party at Lumen (839 W. Fulton Market, 312-733-2222) with guest DJ Steve Aoki a.k.a. Kid Millionaire. Jeffrey Sebelia of Bravo's "Project Runway" also hosts the event, which features fashions by UGG. Dark Wave Disco deejays also spin, and there’s a Snow Queen vodka hosted bar from 9:30-10:30 if you RSVP at 9pm-2am.

The first 25 people who show up at Victor Hotel (311 N. Sangamon St., 312-733-6900) for the American Boogie Down Release Party get a free CD, which has been highly rated by critics. DJ Jerome Derradji celebrates the worldwide release of "The American Boogie Down,"—his first disco boogie mix CD for London's best BBE records. Party starts at 10pm for $10.


Shop ChicagoGEN ART’s world-class shopping experience—returns to The Great Hall, Union Station (210 S. Canal St.) featuring more than 80 emerging accessory and clothing designers, including Abigail Glaum-Lathbury, Erin Gallagher Jewelry, Haji Couture, Warth Acarne and Akira. Guests can shop the latest trends, enjoy complimentary cocktails and even receive a little pampering at the Shop Chicago Beauty Lounge. VIPs will enjoy champagne, Shop Chicago gift bags and a break from the busy Shop Chicago floor in the Room & Board VIP Lounge. Guests of the VIP Lounge will also be treated to hors d’oeuvres provided by Food for Thought catering and the Berry Chill (635 N. State St., 312-266-2445) frozen yogurt bar. 3-8pm. VIP tickets $40 (available in advance); free general admission by RSVPing to 312-229-1701.

CARNAVAL. For their fifth-annual event, the performing artists group Collaboration transforms a 120-year-old gothic cathedral into an artistic arena that includes gothic cathedral-inspired live rock music, theatrical interludes, interactive artistry, two floors of dancing, unlimited drinks and a Carnaval couture costume contest. The pew-less church will feature The Prairie Cartel - featuring Blake Smith of Caviar and Scott Lukas of Local H - performing as The Final Salvation; Dark Wave Disco DJs Mark Gertz and Trancid; DJ Jordan Z; DJ LA Jesus; and Collaboraction company member DJ Anacron. $20 for general admission; $75 for VIP that includes access to top floor, separate bar, catered food and special performances. 9pm at Epiphany Episcopal Church, 201 S. Ashland Ave. Call 312-226-9633 for tix.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

'Top Chef 4:' Week 3

Stephanie Izard's Mixed Fruit with Oatmeal-Pine Nut Crumble (Photo: Bravo)

Hometown hero and Top Chef contestant Stephanie Izard posted this recipe for Mixed Fruit with Oatmeal-Pine Nut Crumble on the Bravo web site. Also, she didn't get sent packing her knives tonight!

And our own Rick Bayeless, of Frontera Grill/Topolobampo (449 N. Clark St., 312-661-0381‎) fame, blogs on Bravo with his thoughts on the show.

The Wild Brunch

“The King” French toast, available only at Rockit Bar & Grill.
(Photo: Rockit Bar & Grill)

Music is the key at these Sunday brunch spots where the eats deliciously match the beats:

At Rockit Bar & Grill (22 W. Hubbard St., 312-645-6000), you’ll get classic acoustic rock by some local artists playing everything from the Rolling Stones, Beatles and early Sheryl Crow. You’ll definitely want to pair that with their newest brunch offering—The King—an ultimate French toast dish that’s the perfect tribute to Elvis. You’ll want a little less conversation at the table as you dig into decadent bites of the thick-cut French toast swirling with a peanut butter reduction, freshly sliced bananas, whipped cream and toasted peanuts. That’s $12, and do yourself a favor and pair it with the Mimosa Kit, which comes with a bottle of bubbly as well as a selection of freshly squeezed juices like mango, orange and pineapple. Get that for $30 or go all out with a premium bottle of Champagne for $50. 11am-4pm.

Cuatro’s (2030 S. Wabash Ave., 312-842-8856) sexy Bossa Nova Brunch is probably the hottest thing going on in the South Loop on Sundays. Latin band Bossa Tres spills the sounds as customers nosh on South American favorites like the coconut-milk pancakes studded with fresh pineapple, mango and toasted pecans for $7 or the slow-roasted pork empanadas for $8. Indulge in the Forbidden Fruit Sangria, which is infused with a dozen tropical fruits, for $10, to wash it all down. 10am-3pm.

And it’s time to get the blues at Junior’s Sports Lounge (724 W. Maxwell St., 312-421-2277), starting Sunday, March 30 and throughout the summer. Two Maxwell Street institutions—Fruteland Jackson and Fernando Jones—kick off the series throughout March. I’ve seen Fernando play before and he does it all—with the harmonica, vocals and guitar. He’s also good about getting the crowd involved, so don’t be surprised when he pulls you onstage to play the harmonica with him! Junior’s serves an all-American brunch to go with the blues, including a breakfast burrito, make-your-own omelet station and a build-your-own-breakfast sandwich station. Prices are only $7-$8. 12:30-2:30pm.

Have a Hearty good time

Steve McDonagh (left) and partner Dan Smith on the set with guests at HBTV. (Photo:

Food Network stars Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh—better known as The Hearty Boys—launched HBTV (3819 N. Broadway, 773-244-9866) back in December, but last night the two dining dynamos hosted a media event to demonstrate its unique concept.

What sets HBTV apart from other private-dining venues is that it's truly an interactive experience. In this very intimate and contemporary space that accommodates 10 to 75 (depending if you're having a sit-down dinner or reception), guests get a custom-designed menu, cocktails and a show.

Now, the show is where things get really interesting as they've got a mock kitchen set up as though they're taping one of their Food Network segments. The Hearty Boys host, of course, and bring several of the guests up to join in on the fun of creating interesting dishes, like the savory bread pudding they whipped up last night. This is all taped professionally and every attendee gets a copy of the DVD as a souvenir.

But HBTV doesn't come cheap. It's $125 a head, but think of it this way: You'd probably spend that much—or more—for dinner and a show. At least this way, you're getting a piece of the action.

Do a good deed tonight

Last week, I did a story on the primo charity black-tie and cocktail parties happening this season.

I'm sure you'll all be attending most of these events, but if you actually want to get involved with something, you can do something about it tonight. If you're between the ages of 25-40, the Lookingglass Theatre Junior Board wants you to be a part of the planning committee for their annual Madhatters Ball, which is happening at Underground (56 W. Illinois St., 312-644-7600) on May 10.

To find out how you can help, they're having a reception tonight at Rockit Bar & Grill (22 W. Hubbard St., 312-645-6000) 6-7pm. Cocktails and appetizers provided. RSVP here; space is limited.

Also happening tonight is Dollars For Doggies, hosted by Chicago Canine Rescue, at Krem (1750 N. Clark St., 312-932-1750). They're having a suggested donation at the door and a Pimp Your Pooch Booth where you can purchase your pet an American Apparel doggie sweater. 7-10pm.

You have got to be kidding me!

Thrillist Chicago today writes about the Bottomless Bacon Baskets at Whiskey Road (1935 N. Damen Ave., 773-315-2540). Did someone order the angioplasty?!

Celebrity chef spotted

"Iron Chef" Michael Symon

I've never caught an episode of Food Network's "Iron Chef," but if local culinary king Dirk Flanigan, exec chef at The Gage (24 S. Michigan Ave., 312-372-2979), takes time out of his busy schedule to send me a giddy email letting me know that he just had dinner at his restaurant with current Iron Chef Michael Symon and hot restaurateur/chef Paul Kahan (Avec, Blackbird), then it must be a biiiiiig deal.

Deal(s) of the day . . .


Tonight, Quartino (626 N. State St., 312-698-5000) launches its monthly wine-tasting event where guests get to sample a variety of vino. But the best part of this party is that you get to take a bottle home! The featured winery is Azienda Agricola Gomba Boschetti Barolo from Piedmont, Italy. It's $30 for four wines, appetizers and the take-home bottle ($45 for Barolo). 7-9pm.

And another wine event happens at Webster's Wine Bar (1480 W. Webster Ave., 773-868-0608). They're featuring 25-30 reds from Austria, Germany and Switzerland paired with appetizers, music and mingling. Tasting begins with a brief presentation by sommelier Jeremy Quinn. Reservations required. 7-9pm. $30.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


From a poster on

"The former Hey Sushi (2630 N. Clark St.) space now sports an awning for an Irish bar named Crossroads. Who thinks, 'You know what Lincoln Park's really lacking? An Irish bar!' Since I live about a block away, I'm hoping it's more gastropub than frat boy bar."

Last Girl Standing no longer standing alone

(Photo: Chicago magazine)

Chicago magazine's Last Girl Standing Sarah Preston—one of my partners in crime on the nightlife scene—is getting hitched (!!!), and somehow during all that engagement madness she managed to post this on all the places you need to go to watch March Madness.

'Check, Please!' . . . Pu-Leeze!

Can I get something off my mind?! Really?!

I dig what NBC-5 is trying to do by allowing more so-called "regular" people to voice their opinion (yeah, not reviews) on their favorite restaurants on "Check, Please!," but if I hear one more person say something like "It's my favorite (insert cuisine here) restaurant in the city . . .," "They give you the biggest portions . . ." or—the one that really drives me nuts—"You can order anything off the menu and you can't go wrong . . ." I am really going to scream. I mean let's get some variety in there, can we?!

Wine bars and nightclubs at the mall?!

Consumers are going to be soon swapping shopping for sipping at malls, says

Deal(s) of the day . . .


If you're going out after work this evening, then you probably already know that you can find all sorts of deals and specials on food and drinks:

Check out the new bar menu at A Mano (335 N. Dearborn St., 312-629-3500) that's $5 every day. Guests can order house-cured mixed olives, a bruschetta trio or an Artisan cheese plate. Or go for the $5 pizza special every night between 5-7pm for selections like the traditional Margherita, fennel sausage Fatto A Mano or wild mushroom & caramelized onion.

Make your way to offbeat, yet trendy pizza parlor Il Fiasco (5101 N. Clark St., 773-769-9700) for half-price bottles of wine. And if you come back Thursday-Saturday, you'll get free pizza at the bar between 5-7pm.

Torch Tuesdays happens every week at Martini Park (151 W. Erie St., 312-640-0577), where guests may nosh on free passed appetizers between 5-8pm during sets of standards and classic live music.

Selections from the new bar menu at Room21 (2110 S. Wabash Ave., 312-328-1198) are offered for only $2.10 every Monday-Thursday from 5-6pm. Indulge in fun foods like spicy fried calamari, fried shrimp cocktail, the Kleiner-style Caesar salad and blue cheese housemade chips.

And go for the exotic spread at Tizi Melloul (531 N. Wells St., 312-670-4338), which features cocktails, appetizers and a hookah session for only $10 every Tuesday.

Monday, March 24, 2008

More buzzzzzzz . . .

Park 52 (5201 S. Harper Court), that delightful Hyde Park eatery that's the latest creation from Jerry Kleiner (Gioco, Marche, Carnivale, Room21, etc.), is really trying to open on April 8. That's the goal, their publicist tells us, but you know how these things go.

Perennial (1800 N. Lincoln Ave.), a contemporary American restaurant from the dream team of Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz (Boka, Landmark), is set to open in early May now.

And Texas de Brazil (51 E. Ohio St.) brings South American flair to the Mag Mile when it also opens sometime in May. It's going into the old Virgin Megastore space, so you know this will be a massive project. They'll be doing Churrascuria-style serving here at this Brazilian steakhouse.

Local Beard nominees announced

Drive Thru has the Chicago nominees for the 2008 James Beard Awards, including Bin 36's Brian Duncan, Lettuce Entertain You's Rich Melman and Naha's Carrie Nahabedian. Good luck, all!

An Ultimate Insider tells me . . .


. . . that the hottest chick in the music game right now—Rhianna—will perform during an exclusive concert at Vision (640 N. Dearborn St., 312-266-1944) on Wednesday. The Girls Night Out! event benefits a local charity and Rhianna's Believe Foundation, which provides everything from medical attention to clothing for terminally ill and low-income kids.

Hot new fragrance Escada Moon Sparkle has teamed up with her label Island Def Jam in support of her latest album, Good Girl Gone Bad, for a three-city tour of this exclusive Girls Night Out! event that comes to Chicago first (!!!), then Los Angeles and finally New York.

Tickets are probably sold out, but you should call the club to see if anything is available.


Earlier today, we broke the news that Jay's Amore Ristorante & Lounge (1330 W. Madison St., 312-829-3333) in the West Loop closed today in order to reconcept. But now, we've got even amore:

They're expecting to reopen the first week of April as VIAGGIO, with a spanking new contemporary look and feel. And, according to management, they're aiming to "introduce a new concept of fine dining to Chicago." Hmmmmm, I cannot wait to see this one. They're going to remain Italian focused, of course, keeping their executive chef and bringing aboard two additional ones. It's going to be really interesting to see what they've got up their sleeves. Developing . . . .

Deal(s) of the day . . .


Shift Drink Mondays continues over at the Filthy Libertine (1615 N. Clybourn Ave., 312-654-1782), the weekly industry event that gets prominent Chicago chefs behind the bar. Tonight's offering is chef de cuisine and souf chefs from Alinea (1723 N. Halsted St., 312-867-0110): Jeff Pikus and Nathan Klingbail. They'll be schmoozing and pouring their signature cocktails. Also, half-price pizzas, complimentary amuse, $1 cans of PBR and $2 shots of Makers Mark for everyone wearing kitchen clogs.

Also happening tonight is A Taste of France, a wine and cheese pairing at the Whole Foods-Lakeview (3300 N. Ashland Ave., 773-244-4200). Whether you're looking to gain info about new wines, or you just need a Monday night buzz, you'll get expert direction from a specialist on a variety of vino. Reservations recommended. 7-9pm. $10.

And as alway, every Monday night is also Taste Food & Wine's (1506 W. Jarvis Ave., 773-761-3663) weekly tasting event. Who knows what they'll break out, but we suspect it'll be on point. 6:30-8pm. Free.

Sign of the times . . .

From the mailbag, via an Ultimate Insider:

"We at Jay's Amore Ristorante & Lounge, want to inform our very special and valued customers, that we will be temporarily closing on March 24th, 2008 for remodeling. Unless otherwise informed, we will be reopening on April 3rd, 2008 under the new name VIAGGIO."

The West Loop venue is located at 1330 W. Madison St., 312-829-3333.

Friday, March 21, 2008

West Loop gets another one

Since we launched in November 2007, we've been on a roll with exclusives way before anyone else had them. And it's just gonna keep getting better! brought you scoops on Chicago Restaurant Week, Rockstar Dogs, Dirty, Schwa, Rustik, Berry Chill, Spy Bar (the reopening), Nia, Dana Hotel (and its incoming restaurants and bars), Rebar, Table 8, AK47, Soho House Chicago, ZED451 and more, more, more.

So ready for the latest?! One of my Ultimate Insiders told me that she spied signage for a new West Loop bar called Da Mark Lounge on Randolph Street. Working on getting that info, so this one is developing . . .

What the critics are saying . . .

. . . about:

Harry Caray's (33 W. Kinzie St., 312-828-0966). "Chicken vesuvio is a signature main dish, but it also scores as a hefty sandwich ($10.95). Served on sturdy tomato focaccia, the juicy chicken breast comes with a cup of vesuvio sauce and a choice of crisp steak fries or rather bland pasta salad. . . . For more zing and an athlete's portion, try the platter of five Italian sausages blanketed with grilled peppers ($15.95). I like these best tucked into crusty semolina rolls ransacked from the bread basket."—Laura Bianchi (Crain's Chicago Business) Read it all here

Nia (803 W. Randolph St., 312-226-3110). "Pata Negra, the famed Spanish ham, is on the menu, and it is frighteningly good; to make it even better, our excellent server encouraged us to pair it with the montelarreina, a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese."—David Tamarkin (Time Out Chicago) Read it all here

Union Pizzeria (1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-475-2400). "If you need a heartier meal, Union offers a single big plate each night – gnocchi or lamb stew or on Saturday nights, a rich duck ragu on a runny cushion of polenta that made me all cozy and gooey inside."—Christopher Borrelli (The Stew) Read it all here

Thursday, March 20, 2008

'Top Chef: Chicago' update

It's a blow for the hometown, says The Stew in its recap of Bravo hit show "Top Chef: Chicago." Also, they finally get one of our own as judge for next week's episode: Look for Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill/Topolobampo fame (449 N. Clark St., 312-661-0381) as a guest next Wednesday!

Make it a very good weekend

Who needs Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies when there’s cocktails, beer and wine to be had?!


Good for Party hosts its first monthly interactive party where the guests pick the theme. Tonight’s gig at Lumen (839 W. Fulton Market, 312-733-2222) is Fashion Fetish: What’s Your M.O., and guests are encouraged to wear glamorous ‘80s gear. DJ Tim Baker spins New Wave and other 1980s hits, and there will also be an ‘80s-themed fashion show. Arrive between 9-10pm for complimentary cocktails. 9pm-2am. Free for ladies; $5 for gents.

Another premiere tonight is Strings on the Water, an after-work event featuring live jazz at Flatwater (321 N. Clark St., (312-656-4422). Every Thursday, it’s a chance to unwind with cocktails and connect with your friends—or just make new ones. 5-9pm. Free.

Get ready for a deep house and Latin soul party at Cuatro (2030 S. Wabash Ave., 312-842-8856), as Grooveparlor hosts its weekly Thursday set. Deejays Mario Romay and Mark Grant spin for this mostly South Loop crowd. 10pm-2am. No cover.

You’ll have more than 99 bottles of beer to sample during a tasting at the South Loop Sam's Wines & Spirits (50 E. Roosevelt Rd., 312-663-9463). Choose from crisp and fresh lagers to smooth and rich ales as well as porters, stouts and specialty brews. 5-8pm. $30.


With all the hype of so-called celebrity deejays spinning these days, it’s good to see this guy reclaim his throne. 3Degrees brings Dimitri from Paris to Crobar (1543 N. Kingsbury, 312-266-1900) to spin a special set to celebrate the release of his new CD, Return to the Playboy Mansion. Special VIP hosts will be Playboy Playmates, and 3Degrees resident DJs Monna, Julius The Mad Thinker and FLX also perform. 9pm-4am.

The Good Friday Pastel Delight party should be an interesting sight. All guests who show up to Boutique (809 W. Evergreen Ave., 312-751-2900) by 11pm get in free. There will also be $5 Bunny-Tinis, whatever the hell those are. 9pm-4am.


Be one of the first to sample Roscoe Village wine bistro Volo’s new spring menu this weekend. Chef Stephen Dunne has updated it to include seasonal items like the spring pea and basil soup with proscuitto creme fraiche; braised Kobe beef with egg noodles and vegetables; and Peeky Toe crab cakes with wild mushroom lime chili sauce. This week is also a chance to support the TAP Project, a campaign helping to provide safe drinking water to children around the world. 2008 W. Roscoe St., 773-348-4600


Grammy-winning soul star Jill Scott hosts a Bailey’s party at Lumen (839 W. Fulton Market, 312-733-2222). She’s not performing, just hanging out immediately following her sold-out show at Chicago Theatre (175 N. State St.). Complimentary Bailey’s cocktails; call for admission. 9pm-2am.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Maki Madness and more

Ra Sushi's signature "Tootsy Maki" (Photo: Ra Sushi)

How much sushi can you stuff in your face? You've still got a few days to enter a competitive eating contest at one of the area RA Sushi locations for Maki Madness. Organized like a bracket system, competitors who demolish three uncut RA Sushi signature Tootsy Maki in the fastest amount of time advance to the next round. The rounds take place March 28 at 6pm in Glenview (2601 Aviator Lane), March 29 at 4pm in Chicago (1139 N. State St.) and April 2 at 6pm in Lombard (310 Yorktown Center). Deadline to register is March 21 and all contestants must be at least 18. Two semi-finalists will be crowned at each location and will advance to the Championship Sushi Showdown on April 9 at the State Street location. Call 312-274-0011 for more info.

Also, one sixtyblue (1400 W. Randolph St., 312-850-0303) celebrates its 10th anniversary with a party in conjunction with Green City Market and ChicaGourmets. Chow down on special bites prepared by Executive Chef Martial Noguier, drink libations from an interactive "green" cocktail station, and check out a fashion show highlighting garments from eco-friendly boutique Pivot. A portion of proceeds benefit Growing Home, a charity providing job training and employment opportunities to homeless and low-income people. Thursday, March 27 6-9pm. 2 tickets for $160.

And finally, starting the first week in April, La Madia (59 W. Grand Ave., 312-329-0400) chefs Jonathan Fox and Gianni Zonca kick off a series of cooking classes that spotlight Italian cuisine. After demos, students get to sample their creations complemented by wine and cocktails. Each class is $25 and happens at 11am on Saturdays:

April 5: Perfect Pizzas and Tuscan Red Wines
April 12: Savory Pasta and Crisp Chardonnay
April 19: Spring Salads and Cool Cocktails
April 26: Pretty Paninis and Pinot Noir

Spring fever brings out the charity in all of us . . .


Dust off those tuxes and get ready to slip into your slinkiest gowns because charity ball season arrives with spring.

Who's got the fever for some fun festivities?! Just peruse the list and pick your party:

Blackboard Affair. This is the annual event hosted by Working In The Schools' Junior Board—better known as WITS. Party includes an open bar, dinner buffet, deejay, silent auction and raffle prizes. All proceeds from the event will benefit the more than 2,000 CPS elementary students served by WITS' tutoring programs. $85 in advance; $95 at door. Thursday, April 17, 7-10pm at Carnivale (702 W. Fulton Market). Call 312-606-2030 for tickets.

CARNAVAL. For their fifth-annual event, the performing artists group Collaboration transforms a 120-year-old gothic cathedral into an artistic arena that includes gothic cathedral-inspired live rock music, theatrical interludes, interactive artistry, two floors of dancing, unlimited drinks and a Carnaval couture costume contest. The pew-less church will feature The Prairie Cartel - featuring Blake Smith of Caviar and Scott Lukas of Local H - performing as The Final Salvation; Dark Wave Disco DJs Mark Gertz and Trancid; DJ Jordan Z; DJ LA Jesus; and Collaboraction company member DJ Anacron. $20 for general admission; $75 for VIP that includes access to top floor, separate bar, catered food and special performances. Saturday, March 29 at 9pm at Epiphany Episcopal Church, 201 S. Ashland Ave. Call 312-226-9633 for tix.

GALApalooza. Taking place a day before the three-day Lollapalooza music festival, this second-annual event is in the heart of Grant Park. Last year it attracted more than 600 attendees and they're expecting more to raise funds for Parkways Foundation, the non-profit partner of the Chicago Park District. Guests enjoy cocktails and dinner in the ultra cool “Lounge Pods” for 10 instead of traditional tables. Also expect live entertainment and an appearance by Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell. Thursday, July 31. Tickets are $350 and can be had by calling 312-742-4804.

Have Mercy! Spring Gala. The Junior Board of Mercy Home for Boys and Girls hosts its annual cocktail party that includes an open bar, appetizers, karaoke, dancing and silent auction. The party occurs at The James (55 E. Ontario St.) on Saturday, April 26 8pm-midnight. Purchase tickets at for $85-$125.

Jazz for Youth. Jobs For Youth, which has placed more than 25,000 at-risk youths in jobs since 1979, will have its spring soiree at the Park West (322 W. Armitage Ave.). The party includes a lavish buffet supper, open bar, casino gaming, live and silent auctions, and live entertainment by Jimmy Damon—the only singer authorized by Frank Sinatra to sing his music during his lifetime. Party happens on Saturday, May 3 7pm-midnight. Get the $175 tickets at

Red or White Ball. The sixth-annual charity event hosted by the Steppenwolf Auxiliary Council takes place on Friday, May 30 at 8pm. Expect Chicago's movers and shakers to make an appearance at this party that includes an evening of cocktails, food, entertainment, a silent auction and raffle prizes. Event takes place at the Chicago Illuminating Company, 19 E. 21st St. A limited number of $500 VIP packages are also available: Each includes two event tickets, access for two to a private cocktail reception at 7pm with Steppenwolf ensemble members, enhanced goody bags and a one-year membership in the Auxiliary Council. Tickets, including the $135 general admission, are available by calling 312-654-5672.

Viva! This is the 11th-annual scholarship fundraiser benefiting Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. The party includes a premium open bar, gourmet Mexican buffet, live music by Angel Melendez Tropical Band, live/silent auction and $10,000 raffle. Starts at 5:30pm on Thursday, May 8. Chase North Promenade at Milennium Park, Michigan Avenue and Randolph Streets. The $100-$125 tickets can be purchased at 773-890-6817.

Deal(s) of the day . . .


It's Meet the Winemaker! night at WineStyles Belmont (1433 W. Belmont Ave., 773-549-2227). Tonight's event introduces Paul Chevalier, the national fine wine director for Shaw-Ross International Importers. He'll guide guests through a tasting of four spectacular wines from the Rhone region of France. This is your opportunity to get real with Rhone. $15 ($5 for wine club members). Space is limited, so RSVP before you go. 6-8pm.

It's also Fried Chicken Night at Paramount Room (415 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312-829-6300), so Executive Chef Stephen Dunne is whipping up 1/2 Amish fried chicken that's buttermilk dipped and dredged in cornflakes and Panko breadcrumbs. It's $16.95, goes well with one of their craft beers and only offered on Wednesday.

And every Wednesday is also a chance to get the $10 Kobe burgers at Sweet and Savories (1534 W. Fullerton Ave., 773-281-6778), the sensational French-focused eatery in Lincoln Park. Pair one with a bottle of bubbly or a nice red wine.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Guess who applied for a liquor license today?!

Restaurateurs Paul Kahan (sitting) and Donnie Madia are part of a four-man team opening a West Loop, beer-focused venue this spring/summer. (Photo: Michael Stryder)

Right now the only name they're disclosing is still the address—at 845 W. Fulton St.—but there is some progress to report on the beer-focused venue coming our way sometime this season from Paul Kahan, Donnie Madia and Terry Alexander.

Just found out that the team finally applied for a liquor license today, but it would really, really be nice if we could get a name.

On another note, I'm not sure what's going on over on Grand Avenue with Connoisseur Wine Bar (1041 W. Grand Ave., 312-738-3055), but the last four times I've passed by it during its regular business hours the lights have been off. Phone is still working with voice mail, but no one's picking up. Hmmmmmm.

And finally, The Fifty/50 (2047 W. Division St., 773-489-5050), an upscale sports bar certain to rival The Boundary (1932 W. Division St., 773-278-1919) a block away, makes its debut on March 21 in the old Bravo tapas space.

Open call for new reality restaurant show

Found this on Craigslist, if you're interested in being on yet another "reality" restaurant show:


GRANADA AMERICA, the producers that brought you
Nanny 911, Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares
are seeking two-person teams, with pre-existing relationships, who have always dreamed of opening their own restaurant!

Have you and your spouse, friend, family member, business associate or colleague dreamed of opening your own restaurant? Is one of you a whiz in the kitchen while the other is a front of the house superstar? Do you have what it takes to open and run a successful restaurant? Has financing always been a problem?


Casting Directors want to meet your team at our open call!

Hard Rock Hotel Chicago- Hamer Room- 4th Floor
230 North Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60601
Saturday- March 22nd, 2008
10am – 4pm

• Over 21 years of age; U.S. Citizens or Permanent U.S. Residents
• 2-person teams with pre-existing relationships: couples, friends, family, co-workers, chef teams, retired couples, college grads, weekend gourmets, old and young!
• Must be outgoing, creative, love the restaurant business and want to open and run your own restaurant!


For more information E-mail or Call us: or (323) 785-2325.
Please include your names, ages, the city you’re from, occupations, contact phone numbers, a recent photograph of yourselves and a brief summary as to why your team is perfect for the show!

Additional information posted on the Now Casting section at

Deal(s) of the day . . .

Marigold's "Tuesday Tasting" menu includes entrees like the duck leg dum with spicy green beans. (Photo: Marigold)

You get two more chances (tonight included) to sample the special Holi menu that welcomes the arrival of spring at trendy Indian eatery Marigold (4832 N. Broadway, 773-293-4653). The Uptown neighborhood newcomer is celebrating the traditional Indian holiday during its regular Tasting Tuesday event with a special three-course menu for $25.

Also known as the “Festival of Colors,” Holi is a glorious spectacle and a riot of colors. On this day, people literally throw colored powder on each other or spray each other with colored water on the streets and in the town-square. While there won't be any colored powder, Marigold's special menu is a spirited effort that includes Boti Kabab, or a skewer of boneless lamb cubes marinated in tandoori spices; Dahi Wada, or savory black gram lentil wada dumplings drizzled with cooling yogurt and mint chutney; and Murgh Malai Tikka, quarter-chicken marinated in malai cream, coriander, nutmeg, red chili powder, and baked.

Also happening tonight is NoMI's tribute to women winemakers during its weekly Cellar Notes event. Guests will have an opportunity to sample up to 10 varieties from women winemakers from around the world. 5:30-7:30pm. $30. 800 N. Michigan Ave., 312-239-4030

And every Tuesday at Tallulah (4539 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-942-7585), guests can BYOW (bring your own wine). It's time to break out your favorites as you nosh on signature starters like the spicy Maine lobster Deviled eggs, crab and Andouille fritters or the butternut squash and Gorgonzola ravioli in a cranberry-orange bisque

Culinary stars take over Chi-Town

Primehouse Executive Chef Rick Gresh and Marcus Samuelsson of C-House, set to open in April. (Photo:

It was a who's who in the dining world Monday night at the Museum of Contemporary Art for celebrity chef Art Smith's third-annual World Festival. Benefiting his pet charity, Common Threads, which encourages children to take control of their health through food and culture, the event was the hottest ticket in town with high-profile chefs and culinary stars everywhere you turned.

There was Padma Laskmi, the super model host of "Top Chef Chicago," who served as the honorary host of the event. This was only her second time to Chicago—beyond the "Top Chef" tapings—but she's been around the block to know a few things about our fair city.

"Blackbird and avec are my favorite Chicago restaurants," she gushed about the West Loop mainstays, "but Vermillion is the absolute best Indian restaurant in the country!"

There appeared to be a consensus about Blackbird (619 W. Randolph St., 312-715-0708) and avec (615 W. Randolph St., 312-377-2002), as chefs Rocco DiSpirito ("Rocco Gets Real" on A&E), Govind Armstrong (Table 8—coming to River North late this fall) and Marcus Samuelsson (C-House—coming to Streeterville in mid-April) also raved about their visits. But these guys weren't just about the usual suspects; they also made their way to more insidery joints like Mr. Beef (666 N. Orleans St., 312-266-8251), Goose Island Shrimp House (1011 W. Division St., 312-642-3640) and Mama Desta's Red Sea (3216 N. Clark St., 773-935-7561).

"Most people outside of Chicago think Chicago cuisine is just about German sausage, deep-dish pizza and Irish food," said Rocco DiSpirito. "But it's clear that this big city has a good restaurant scene with very diverse tastes."

R&B sensation John Legend performed at the VIP after-party at the James Hotel. (Photo:

The highlight of the night was the VIP after-party at James Hotel (55 E. Ontario St., 312-337-1000), where Food Network star Paula Deen introduced soul sensation John Legend, who performed his now classic hits as well as his latest flavor, "Good Morning."

What's "Good Morning" all about? He told me: "It's all about waking up to that person you really want to be with and making the most of the morning, if you know what I mean."

Sounds good to me!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Deal(s) of the day . . .

OD’d on all that St. Pat’s Day partying over the weekend, but you’re still looking to hang tonight?

You’ll want to check out these events, which will certainly have no green on the scene:

Head to Martini Park (151 W. Erie St., 312-640-0577), as they launch their new nightly happy hour special. Monday through Saturday, between 5-8pm, you can get $3 and $5 menu items like Kobe beef sliders, Thai-style calamari, filet mignon sauté skewers and spinach artichoke dip.

Get ready for Masters At Work mega deejay/producer Louie Vega, who spins at Boom Boom Room at Green Dolphin Street (2200 N. Ashland Ave., 773-395-0066). One of my all-time favorite music men (remember Nuyorican Soul?!), Vega headlines the party with his mesmerizing blend of soul, funk, house and Latin mixes. Tonight’s lineup also includes resident deejays Diz, Michael Serafina, Just Joey and Uncle Milty. $3 Bud products; $5 Stoli cocktails. $10. 10pm-4am.

Tickets are still available for the third-annual World Festival, hosted by Common Threads. "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi is the honorary chair for the event, which includes high-profile local and national chefs. Look out for the likes of David Burke, Jimmy Bannos, Marcus Samuelsson, Gale Gand and Rocco DiSpirito to be serving their specialties. Cocktails, bubbly, live music and more included. 6-9pm at the Museum of Contemporary Art (220 E. Chicago Ave.). John Legend performs at the VIP after-party. Call 312-752-2674 for tickets.

Chill out with friends or a sig other at Feast (1616 N. Damen Ave., 773-772-7100) in Bucktown with this deal: Buy an entrée and get half off on any bottle of wine—or BYOB with your favorite vino.

Rosscoe's off to shaky first flight

I've been seeing photos circulating over the weekend of food from the new Rosscoe's (House of Chicken & Waffles) in Bronzeville (3947 S. King Dr., 773-536-3300), and I have to say that I'm not too impressed.

Apparently, neither was The Stew, which filed this report. Also? I can see some drama happening soon with this name. Why didn't the owners just come up with their own brand instead of biting off the original in Los Angeles?!

On a similar note, I'm hearing some good buzz about the fried chicken & waffles at Kitsch'n On Roscoe (2005 W. Roscoe St., 773-248-7372). They've been serving it on the menu for several years—with Belgian-style waffles and ancho honey—on the dinner menu, and it's become so popular that it's now also on the daytime menu with a boneless breast.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I've fallen out of love with late nights


I think my nights of hanging out after 2am (3am on the weekends) have finally come to an end.

In the last several days, I found myself at some of the usual downtown late-night haunts and it just wasn't the same. I'm not sure what happened when these used to be the hot go-to spots where you could really break loose.

Each time I went out, I attended the usual fun-filled events, which usually end by midnight. And then this is what happened when we checked into the seminal after-hours spots that usually don't get hopping until after 1am:

Le Passage. There just wasn't the energy that used to keep this dance floor packed until the lights came on. The deejay was spinning music that didn't really stand out. For a Saturday night it wasn't crowded at all. Oh, and there was a guy sleeping at his table. Nice.

Stone Lotus. Upstairs the crowd was lethargic, not really into it at all. Downstairs in the VIP room the vibe was a little livlier, but no dancing and not really any socializing. Perhaps St. Paddy's Day overindulgence?! Also, the crowd was a little sloppy, as one girl's padded bra thingy kept creeping out.

RiNo. Jam packed with slamming hip-hop and mashups, and people were even dancing somewhat. Almost every reserved area filled too, but too many poseurs looking for someone else to get the party started.

Underground . Also crowded to the gills when we went on Thursday, with the usual "pretty people" filling up all the VIP sections. But only two people dancing, while everyone else in the room looked as though they were waiting for something spectacular to happen.

What is really going on with Chicago's nightlife?!

Friday, March 14, 2008

What the critics are saying . . .

. . . about:

Jerry's (1938 W. Division St., 773-235-1006). "Jerry's desserts were the high point. The carrot cake was excellent -- moist, rich and flavorful. The chocolate/banana bread pudding was quite good, too: big portion, lush and flavorful, with some terrific ice cream crowning the top of the slab."—Pat Bruno (Chicago Sun-Times) Read it all here.

Masouleh (6653 N. Clark St., 773-262-2227). "The juicy Masouleh kebab (ground beef, much like a kefta kebab) was impeccably seasoned, with discernible notes of onion, cilantro and a little bit of sumac to add a bright, fruity note to the meat. And the khoureshte gheimeh bademjan, a succulent stew of soft eggplant, tender bites of steak and toothsome yellow peas, was absolutely addictive."—David Tamarkin (Time Out Chicago) Read it all here.

ristorante we (172 W. Adams St., 312-917-5608). "All the W Hotel eateries I've visited remind me of nightclubs, and ristorante we fits it just right. Even in the morning, lounge/rock beats played in the dining room and there was barely a speck of natural light. But that apparently doesn't matter much to the crowd that files in for a quick, stylish business breakfast in the middle of the Loop. This menu adds a couple of Italian touches in keeping with the restaurant's overall approach: tasty and light scrambled egg whites with pesto, pancetta and mozzarella ($13) and eggs Benedict with roasted tomato over black olive toast ($13). Illy espresso drinks are tops and served with mini amaretti cookies. Service is smooth and prompt."—Alison Neumer (Crain's Chicago Business) Read it all here.

Scarlet (3320 N. Halsted St., 773-348-1053). "On a recent Saturday night, the main room was difficult to navigate as guys jockeyed for position at the small bar, groups swayed to music around high-top tables, and big-boned drag queens lumbered around the room. Scarlet draws a motley crew, and not the S&M (stand and model) crowd you might find at other stops along the Halsted Street strip. It felt more like a house party—at your auntie’s loft. Scarlet didn’t just take the piano out of Gentry—it changed its tune entirely."—Karen Budell (Metromix) Read it all here.

Chill out


What did you do to take advantage of yesterday's exceptionally warm weather?

I went to Berry Chill (635 N. State St., 312-266-2445), the revolutionary frozen yogurt boutique that officially opens today.

They're featuring four flavors each month (right now it's strawberry-banana, latte, chocolate and original) as well as a ton of toppings to put on your fro-yo.

But what truly makes Berry Chill appealing is that unlike other frozen yogurt products, theirs is lactose-free and contains the same benefits of real yogurt.

Berry Chill's space is just what I had expected: hip, energetic and trend-conscious, with four flatscreen monitors tuned into the latest videos. And if you show up today, they're giving out free samples that you're certain to love.

You'll also get to chill out as a deejay spins until 4am!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hot Diggity Dog


It's opening today! I swear no false alarms.

Rockstar Dogs (801 N. Ashland Ave., 312-421-2364)—the hyped-up hot dog joint with late-night hours, a stripper pole and sandwiches named after the likes of Kiss, Tommy Lee and Justin Timberlake—opens today. I peeked inside of it last night and this corner West Town joint is going to be sweet with cool music memorabilia on the walls.

Also, happening this weekend:


Checked out Jesse de la Pena's set last week at JBar (610 N. Rush St., 312-660-7200). If you remember back in the day when he put Funky Buddha Lounge (728 W. Grand Ave., 312-666-1695) on the map, then you need to get here fast. This dope deejay spins an eclectic mix of stuff as a percussionist (or last week a saxophonist) plays. Another incentive to go are the $5 Stoli Elit cocktails! 9pm-2am. Free.

Is "Achy Breaky Heart" cool again now that Miley Cyrus is a big star? If you dig country jams, then head to Joe's (940 W. Weed St., 312-337-3486), where Billy Ray Cyrus will perform his top hits. 8pm. Tickets are free, but to get them you must listen to Drew Walker on US 99.5FM. (I cannot believe I am writing this!)

Speaking of getting a little bit country, Delilah's (2771 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-472-2771) is hosting Bourbon, Scotch and All Things Whisky tonight 6:30-9pm. Maker's Mark Master Distiller Dave Pickerell will lead the discussion that's followed by a tasting, appetizers and social event. $35.

The Make a Wish Foundation hosts a pre party for the 2008 Wish Ball at Rockit Bar and Grill (22 W. Hubbard St., 312-645-6000). The $35 ticket price gets you apps and Effen cocktails. 6-8pm.

If you ever wanted to impress your friends, sign up for the
Mojito 101 Class at Carnivale (702 W. Fulton St., 312-850-3017) tonight. Victor Baheza, Carnivale's expert mixologist, will lead this hands-on class featuring two different mouthwatering mojito recipes from the restaurant's signature drink menu. The mojitos will include a classic mojito and a raspberry mojito. Participants will learn the history of this classic Cuban cocktail, while creating and sampling perfectly muddled mojitos and appetizers by Executive Chef Mark Mendez. 6:30-8:30pm. $25.


The Ministry of Burlesque happens at Soirée Bar & Bistro (2438 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-477-8880), with a night of indulging the forbidden Kübler Absinthe and a taste of Soirée’s delectable French hors d’oeuvres specials for half price. A Moulin Rouge-style dance performance will highlight the sensual energy as well as the scantily-clad cocktailers dressed as Kübler Absinthe fairies. 9pm-2am. Free.

A pre-St. Paddy's Day celebration takes place at Enclave (213 W. Institute Pl., 312-654-0234), with the second-annual St. Patrick's Eve party hosted by Immerman's Angels. The $30 cover includes cocktails and appetizers. Deejays and breakdancers perform, and 100 percent of the proceeds benefit Immerman's Angels, a cancer support group. Oh, and don't forget to wear green! 8-11pm.


Another green-themed gig occurs at Lumen (839 W. Fulton Market, 312-733-2222), when DJ Hiroki spins. Get there early for free cocktails 9:30-10:30pm (must RSVP for that). 9pm-2am. $20.

Gibson's (1028 N. Rush St., 312-266-8999) is also getting into the spirit with an event benefiting the Misericordia Foundation. Guests are encouraged to wear green and donate $10 for an event that includes an Irish buffet, passed appetizers, drink specials, party favors and live music by the Shannon Rovers. 11am-5pm.


And tickets are still available for the third-annual World Festival, hosted by Common Threads. "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi is the honorary chair for the event, which includes high-profile local and national chefs. Look out for the likes of David Burke, Jimmy Bannos, Marcus Samuelsson, Gale Gand and Rocco DiSpirito to be serving their specialties. Also included in the $250 ticket are cocktails, bubbly, live music and more. 6-9pm at the Museum of Contemporary Art (220 E. Chicago Ave.). Call 312-752-2674 for tickets.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

'Top Chef Chicago:' Take 1

Stephanie Izard still cookin' on "Top Chef Chicago."

Whew. Local culinary stars Valerie Bolon and Stephanie Izard aren't forced to "pack their knifes and go" during the first episode of "Top Chef Chicago," reports The Stew.

Deal(s) of the day . . .

Shecky’s Girl’s Night Out event returns to the Great Hall at Union Station (210 S. Canal St.) today and tomorrow 5-10pm, with free drinks, beauty treatments, and up to 75 percent off designer merchandise. It's only $10 to get in (or $30 for admission and a goody bag). Purchase a group of tickets with girlfriends to receive up to 20 percent off. Advance tickets are required; buy them at

And "Top Chef Chicago" debuts tonight at 9pm on Bravo! Watch the action at spots like Cans (1640 N. Damen Ave., 773-227-2277) for the $1 sliders and half price on cocktails, plus Halsted's Bar + Grill (3441 N. Halsted St., 773-348-9696), Citizen Bar (364 W. Erie St., 312-640-1156) or Piece (1927 W. North Ave., 773-772-4422), which also has $3 well cocktails, to cheer on local chefs Valerie Bolon and Stephanie Izard. A gripe: Tonight's first challenge for "Top Chef" is pizza. Now how can they do this and not get a local chef or food writer as a guest judge?! I'm just sayin' . . .

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Get ready for Jill Scott


Jill Scott fans, get ready:

I just received an invite in my inbox for a Baileys Get Together hosted by Grammy award winner Jill Scott on March 23.

No details were listed on where the party is taking place, but all you have to do is sign up with the password "get together." That's it. There will be complimentary Baileys cocktails and appetizers at the event.

Dinner is on People Lounge . . .

. . . if you can handle a little frostbite.

Hey, you know how unpredictable Chicago's weather is, especially at the beginning of what is supposed to be spring. So, in order to test your stamina, People Lounge (1560 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-227-9339) is willing to pay for your dinner if you can stand to dine on their sidewalk cafe on March 25.

This is People Lounge's first-ever Spring Celebration, so make your reservations now (required for the free dinner) at 773-793-0508. I'd bring a coat, scarf and gloves if I were you—just in case. (The offer is limited to dinner only; alcohol not included.)

Deal(s) of the day . . .


If you've always wanted to volunteer but couldn't decide on a charity in which you could throw your support behind, an event is taking place tonight that should help you out:

The Chicago Associates Board Presidents' Council hosts a cocktail party to recruit members for their various organizations, including AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Associate Board of Literacy Chicago, Chicago Architectural Society, Field Associates, Evening Associates of the Art Institute of Chicago, John G. Shedd Aquarium Auxiliary Board, Lincoln Park Zoo Auxiliary Board and Steppenwolf Auxiliary Council. The party takes place at East Bank Club (500 N. Kingsbury St.) tonight 6-8pm. $10 donation.

Also happening tonight—and only a few blocks away from East Bank—is Tizi Melloul's (531 N. Wells St., 312-670-4338) weekly special of cocktails, appetizers and a hookah session for $10.

At NoMI (800 N. Michigan Ave., 312-239-4030), it's Cellar Notes, as advanced sommelier Fernando Beteta leads his weekly wine-tasting event. Tonight is all about sake, and guests will have the opportunity to taste up to 10 varieties. 5:30-7:30pm. $30.

And it's 2nd Tuesday Tastings at Cru Cafe and Wine Bar (25 E. Delaware Pl., 312-337-4001). Tonight, they're featuring organic wines from around the world, plus organic hors d'oeuvres. 6-8pm. $40.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Deal of the day . . .

A sign of the times or is this just your lucky day?

Room21 (2110 S. Wabash Ave., 312-328-1198), Jerry Kleiner's South Loop sensation, is now offering a new "happy hour" bar menu that should make every wallet happy.

Get there between 5-6pm to take advantage of $2.10 select appetizers every Monday through Friday. Sample the spicy fried calamari, spinach and artichoke dip with housemade chips, traditional wedge salad or fried shrimp cocktail.

For those who come too late for the specials, Room21 has also unveiled a new bar menu that includes BBQ short rib sliders, a jumbo lump crab cake, grilled chicken salad and hand-formed burger.

They're finally here!

I've been blabbing on about a couple of spots for months, and now they're finally opening this week:

Rock Star Hot Dogs (801 N. Ashland Ave, 312-421-2364), nightlife impresario Dion Antic's nod to the likes of Justin Timberlake, Tommy Lee and Los Lobos, opens on Wednesday.

And Berry Chill (635 N. State St., 312-266-2445), the "couture," after-hours frozen yogurt shop from newcomer businessman Michael Farah, opens to the public on Friday.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Pete Wentz let the cat out the bag


Fall Out Boy star Pete Wentz slipped up and spilled the beans on his new lounge he's opening in conjunction with Empire Liquors' (1566 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-278-1600) Matt Eisler and Lakeview Broadcasting Company's (3542 N. Halsted St., 773-857-2444) Stephen Westman.

During an interview on ABC-7 News, he revealed that AK45 is the name of the bar they're opening in River North this spring.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

March right into the weekend


That's right. There's just too much going on this weekend, so there's no excuse not to hit the streets:


Avenue M (695 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312-243-1133) hosts a cocktail party to introduce its new executive chef, Mariano Aguirre. The party includes complimentary cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, but reservations are required by calling the restaurant. Also, the Dan Cray Trio performs. 6pm-until.

Enjoy special selections of French vino at the South Loop Wine Cellar (1442 S. Michigan Ave., 312-356-0630). That event also occurs tonight from 6-8pm. Free.

Also happening in the South Loop is the weekly deep house music party hosted by Groove Parlor. Mario Romay and Mark Grant spin Latin, soul and other sexy sounds at Cuatro (2030 S. Wabash Ave., 312-842-8856). 10pm-2am. No cover.

You'll find more high-energy grooves at JBar (610 N. Rush St., 312-660-7200) for the Sounds Good Thursdays session. Jesse de la Pena brings on the sounds with a live percussionist; get there early for a comp VIP champagne tasting from 9-10pm; Stoli Elit cocktail specials all night for $5; bottles $150; 20 percent off King Baby jewelry at event. 9pm-2am. No cover.

Jazzheads can head to 3030 (2830 N. Milwaukee) for the Elastic Arts Foundation's highly regarded weekly Improvised Music Series. Enjoy eclectic sounds by Kimmel/Hatwich/Hess/Riordan, beginning at 10pm.


San Francisco's DJ Morsecode hits the tables for Outfit Event's weekly bash at Enclave (213 W. Institute Pl., 312-654-0234). I'm not sure if it's the deejays they're bringing in or the crowd, but their events are red-HOT right now. Make sure you check out the after-party at Stone Lotus (873 N. Orleans St., 312-440-9680) till 4am. No cover before 11pm if you RSVP to

The original First Fridays happens this week at Victor Hotel (311 N. Sangamon St., 312-733-6900). DJ Mark Fuller hosts and spins the networking party. 9pm-2am. No cover before 11pm.


Peruvian-born spin master Mario Romay takes a break from his usual house music to rock out at new party Sunny Side Up. It takes place at Darkroom (2210 W. Chicago Ave., 773-276-1411), and he'll spin a special and eclectic mix of Latin and African variety, Brazilian vibes, Afrobeat and more. Resident deejays 4BZ and Mwelwa will also spin. No cover before 11pm; $5 after.

If you feel like heading away for the weekend, the Abbey Resort (269 Fontana Blvd., Fontana, WI) is hosting the first-ever Great Chefs at the Lake Series, which kicks off on Saturday. A number of Chicago-based chefs are heading up there, where guests will have the opportunity to mix and mingle with them, Abbey Executive Chef Scott Powers and each other. Bill Kim (Le Lan), Mark Mendez (Carnivale), Dudley Nieto (Zocolo) and Andy Webber (Carlucci Restaurant) are the esteemed chefs who will serve up some of their specialties. Each weekend features a cocktail reception, cooking demonstration with the participating chef, wine-tasting event and a four-course feast. This weekend features Carlucci chef Andy Webber (March 7-9). The following weekends: Dudley Nieto (March 14-16); Mark Mendez (March 28-30); and Bill Kim (April 4-6). Call 800-772-1000 for more information.


Help some well-deserving youth by dining out at Cafe Selmarie (4729 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-989-5595) tonight. Ten percent of dinner sales will benefit the Walter Payton College Prep High School Concert Choir, which has been invited to sing during Beijing's 2008 Summer Olympics. This choir is one of only five in the nation to be invited to participate, so the proceeds will help all 42 members with their travel expenses.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Hollywood invasion continues

Heather Graham is just one of many movie stars currently shooting a film in Chicago.

There's so many celebrities running around town right now filming movies that it's starting to feel like Hollywood.

Now comes word that Jerry O'Connell and Heather Graham, who are filming "Baby on Board" here for the next few months, were spotted this week shooting a scene at the downtown Nick's Fishmarket (51 S. Clark St., 312-621-0200).

Also, Stella's Column reports that Academy Award winning actress Marion ("La Vie en Rose") Cotillard was seen chowing down at La Scarola (721 W. Grand Ave., 312-243-1740) with director Michael Mann, plus a ton of others were out and about.

The Wild Brunch

Yummy Alaskan King crab legs you'll get from Shaw's special buffet.
(Photo: Shaw's)

Easter Brunch is right around the corner, so it's time to make those plans right now. Shaw's Crab House (21 E. Hubbard St., 312.527.2722) is getting in on the action just in time for the occasion, offering a very special brunch buffet with classic dishes you don't want to miss.

Starting on Easter Sunday (March 23), you can nosh on breakfast items like Bananas Foster French Toast, plus some solid seafood choices like assorted maki, Alaskan King crab legs, seared salmon and Lobster Brie Penne Pasta. Of course, there's a dessert station (lemon cheesecake, chocolate-covered strawberries and Key Lime pie, oh my!), Mimosas and a Bloody Mary bar. $39.99 for adults (excludes Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day) and $19.99 for children (kids under age five eat for free). The special brunch is available through Father's Day.

A truly high-end brunch is in store for those who head over to NoMI (800 N. Michigan Ave., 312-239-4030) in the Park Hyatt Chicago. Guests may choose an entrée prepared à la minute, then choose seasonal hot and cold items from a number of stations like From the Ocean; From the Bakery; From the Garden; From the Kitchen and From the Pâtisserie. $105 per person; $35 children ages 6 to 12.

For more budget-conscious cuisine, Weather Mark Tavern (1503 S. Michigan Ave., 312-588-0230) is the way to go, but not just because you'll save a few bucks. The nautical-themed eatery is fun for all, especially if you have some little ones in tow. Everything here is a la carte, but highlights include the Grilled Banana Stuffed French Toast ($8.50), Midwestern Eggs Benedict with flank steak ($8.95) and Biscuits and Gravy with wild game sausage ($7.50). Also, $5 Bloody Marys, Screwdrivers and Mimosas.

Here's Eva!

Frankie’s Scaloppine's Gianfranco Cuneo and Christopher Francis Favero (at top) nabbed this photo with Eva Longoria and friends at the restaurant. (Photo: Frankie’s Scaloppine)

So, a picture finally surfaced of "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria when she stopped in for pizza and apps at brand-new Frankie’s Fifth Floor Pizzeria (900 N. Michigan Ave., 312-266-2500) in late January.

312 Dining Diva reported exclusively that the petite star slipped in unnoticed, and graciously took photos with restaurant general manager Gianfranco Cuneo and vice president Christopher Francis Favero.

Also, its spanking new adjacent restaurant Frankie's Scaloppine has been getting a lot of buzz since it quietly opened a few weeks ago, including this First Bite from The Stew.

Just for the fun of it


It's midweek, you're stressed out and you need a little break. Whether it's a champagne-soaked soiree or a laid-back blues bash, we've got you covered tonight:

It's an all-girl affair at D.O.C. Wine Bar (2602 N. Clark St., 773-883-5101). The monthly Sheque Chicago Ladies' Night Out happens with free mani-pedi treatments as well as champagne cocktails and wine. 7-10pm. No reservations required. Free admission.

If you're up for hangin' out a little later, head to Krem (1750 N. Clark St., 312-932-1750), where deejays spin contemporary music and there's half price on appetizers, wine and bubbly. 9pm-2am. No cover.

Heading out right after work? Settle down at the sophisticated Le Bar (20 E. Chestnut St., 312-324-4000) with $14 martini flights that are paired with 'tini' bites. Guests get a trio of miniature martinis paired with bite-sized tastes such as smoked salmon and fried capers Napoleon; mini burgers and smoked chicken pizza with mushrooms and bell peppers. Free admission.

And things are always jumpin' at the South Loop's Reggie's Music Joint (2105 S. State St., 312-949-0120). The Wednesday night specials are $3 appetizers, $3 Stoli cocktails, $5 Stella and Hoegaarden drafts, and $5 Long Island iced teas and margaritas. Gary Gand's Pro Blues Jam performs at 8pm. It's also open-mic night, so blues or rock musicians bring your instruments! No cover.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Love that chocolate!

Ricky’s "Strappy Hershey’s Cocktail Dress" is on display at the Hershey's Store until March 23. (Photo: Bravo TV)

Who needs "27 Dresses" when contestants from wildly popular Bravo reality show "Project Runway" have created five ultimate frocks during a Hershey's challenge?! During one of the shows, contestants raided a Hershey's store for dress materials, and the most memorable, decadent ones are now on display at the Chicago Hershey’s Store (822 N. Michigan Ave., 312-337-7711).

You've got until March 23 to check out Christian’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Wrapper Dress, Sweet P’s Silver Kisses Paper Dress, Ricky’s Strappy Hershey’s Cocktail Dress, Victorya’s Kisses Ruffle Dress and Elisa’s Hershey’s Velour Dress with Silver Cuffs.

The dresses are being trotted out one last time before all five are auctioned off to benefit the Young Survival Coalition, a charity and activism group devoted to young survivors of breast cancer.

A tune-full Tuesday

Ayo performs at Red Kiva tonight.

Live music and libations. You can't beat that, can you?

Newcomer acoustic soul singer Ayo hits Red Kiva (1108 W. Randolph St., 312-226-5577) for a show that's certain to send chills down your spine. She's already made memorable appearances on the "David Letterman Show" and the "Late Late Show," plus her video, "Down on my Knees" is in regular rotation on VH1 and BETJ. Check her out tonight during this free show before she blows the hell up. Also, if you get there early, you can enjoy complimentary Margherita pizza from 5-7pm. Ayo performs at 7pm.

Also, Torch Tuesdays premieres tonight at Martini Park (151 W. Erie St., 312-640-0577). They're reintroducing the classic concept of the cocktail party with a special lineup of crooners reminiscent of Harry Connick Jr., Billie Holiday, Eartha Kitt and Etta James. Tonight's talent is Stephanie Browning, who will likely perform familiar hits. Signature cocktails for the evening include the Classic Side Car, Brandy Alexander, Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Kir Royale and the Champagne Cocktail. All will be available for $7 (mixed drinks will be $5). And servers will pass out complimentary hors d’oeuvres from 5-8pm, including filet mignon sauté skewers, chicken sauté skewers, tomato capri, salmon and crème fraiche served on toast points, chicken sliders, Kobe beef sliders, deviled eggs, pigs in a blanket and Martini Park’s signature mac and cheese sticks with truffled cheese sauce. Show starts at 7pm. Free.

And finally, head to Rodan (1530 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-276-7036) for The Cushicles, an alternating group of local jazz musicians every Tuesday. Artists include Jeff Parker, John Herndon, Josh Abrams, Nori Tanaka, David Boykin, Matt Lux, Aram Shelton, Jonathan Crawford, Tim Daisy, Frank Rosaly, Nate Lepine and Anton Hatwich. Show starts at 10:30pm. No cover.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The No. 1 place to meet eligible men . . .

. . . is the Apple Store, according to this article that cites Cosmo magazine as its source.

In the same vein, and so we're not pushing Apple, single gals can check out The Studio—Experience by Microsoft, a new entertainment lounge inside Hotel Sax (333 N. Dearborn St., 312-245-0333).

Just a thought, ladies.

Uh, oh: A Bar Beef!

Wow. Just wow.

I've been receiving a shitload of emails today about who's throwing the REAL Boom Boom Room tonight. And while the original Monday night house party continues on at Green Dolphin Street (and they're also proclaiming to be celebrating 17 years in 2008), a new event called Beats, Bass & Rhythm, which is hosted by its former promoters Music 101, is launching tonight at Vision (640 N. Dearborn St., 312-266-1944). Got that?! OK.

Now, what's also interesting is that long-time nightlife promoters Pure Future have jumped aboard the original and have signed on some heavyweight deejays to perform at future parties happening at Green Dolphin Street (2200 N. Ashland Ave., 773-395-0066), including Kerri Chandler (3/10), Louie Vega (3/17) and Mark Grant (3/31). What will also probably keep this event on top is the fact that they've brought back original Red Dog residents (where Boom Boom Room started!) Lego and Michael Serafini.

This should be interesting; but we definitely needed something exciting to happen to house music here!

More to adore

Lotties (1925 W. Cortland St., 773-489-0738) owner Mark Domitrovich is finally onto his next big project.

He's set to debut The Pony (1638 W. Belmont Ave.) by the end of the month in Lakeview. He's totally regutted the old Gunther Murphy's space for an updated concept that includes chocolate-brown leather booths, a stunning 38-foot copper-plated bar and a top level for private parties. Customers won't miss any sports action as flat-screen TVs will be at each booth; and menu highlights include an extra-large grilled cheese that serves up to four people; Meatloaf Stack (with mash potatoes, meatloaf, veggies, and topped with gravy and onion strings) and a handmade Cowboy Burger with a giardenera seasoning.

Spy Bar returns this spring

Underground after-hours nightclub Spy Bar (646 N. Franklin St., 312-337-2191) was true to its word when it said it would be closing for "remodeling" in early January. Look for it to reopen sometime in April with an entirely new theme. Developing . . .

BIG props for LE LAN

Last week, Brian Duncan of Bin 36 (339 N. Dearborn St., 312-755-9463) was named Chicago Wine Director of the Year by Gourmet magazine.

Now comes word that another River North gem, LE LAN (749 N. Clark St., 312-280-9100), has just been selected to receive Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Award of Unique Distinction for 2007.

The New Asian-focused eatery was one of a select number of restaurants in North America, out of thousands of applicants, to be honored with this level of recognition.

Make it a merry Monday


Tonight's a great night to get out and about, with Music 101's brand-new Beats, Bass & Rhythm, plus a bunch of wine-oriented events:

Filthy Libertine (1615 N. Clybourn Ave., 312-654-1782) hosts its weekly Shift Drink Mondays, which has quickly become the Monday night event to hit—especially if you're in the hospitality industry. Each Monday, the slick new lounge hosts a local chef and tonight it's Elisa Narrow, pastry chef of Custom House (500 S. Dearborn St., 312-523-0200). She'll be behind the bar serving a signature cocktail. Also, take advantage of the complimentary amuse, half-price desserts, $1 cans of PBRs and $2 shots of Makers Mark (for everyone wearing chef clogs). 7pm-until.

Monday Night Flights occurs at one sixtyblue (1400 W. Randolph St., 312-850-0303). Exec Chef Martial Noguier pairs wines with a special tasting menu for only $35. It's a great option for a date or your pals, with Noguier offering a seasonally driven, six-bite tasting menu to accompany the six wines poured. The flights are meant to evoke the experience of a vineyard tasting room. Each 30-minute session (6, 7 and 8pm) emphasizes wine education and exploration, with each featured wine available after the event for $10 a glass.

Jazz and Juice returns to Bin Wine Cafe (1559 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-486-2233), the more casual outpost of Bin 36 (339 N Dearborn St., 312-755-9463). The Josh Burke Quartet performs jazz and funk as guests nosh on cheese and sip several selections of vino. 7-9pm. $25.

Half Priced Mondays happens at the Tasting Room (1415 W. Randolph St., 312-942-1313), where guests get to relax with vino in a chilled-out setting. Every glass of wine, including champagne and dessert wines, are half off listed prices.

And A TUTORIAL in BUBBLY: Champagne and Sparkling Wine is a two-part session at Lush (2232 W. Roscoe Ave., 773-281-8888) in Roscoe Village. "Sparkling Wine," the first session, takes place 7-8pm, while the "Champagne" event occurs from 8:30 to 9pm. $30 for one session; $50 for both. Space extremely limited.