Monday, June 30, 2008

Tips for a first timer

Local folks on the Chicago Chowhound message boards come to the aid of someone going by the name "CookieEater," who is looking for some good, inexpensive spots while in town for the holiday weekend.

Recs are pretty much across the board, from ethnic eats like Habana Libre for Cuban and Hopleaf for Belgian to coffee hangouts such as Sip and Caffe De Luca.

It gets pretty heated . . . especially when they start discussing pizza.

BARBQ, beats and the 'Bubble Bar'

One sixtyblue offers a number of cocktails during its nightly BARBQ event, including a Cool Mint Margarita, Cabo San Loco and Veev-a La Summer. (Photo: one sixtyblue)

It's a short week, so let's get it started early:

one sixtyblue's BARBQ is executive chef Martial Noguier’s signature twist on a summertime tradition. Guests get to enjoy delights such as Swan Creek Farm suckling pig (in a galanga pineapple BBQ sauce!), herb-marinated Australian lamb loin and Swan Creek Farm chicken wing lollipops. Pair those with refreshing cocktails like the Cabo San Loco with Absolut Peppar or the Cool Mint Margarita. Menu is available Monday-Friday at the bar only.

It's Movie Night over at the Terrace, and tonight's feature flick is "Dreamgirls." Chill out with truffled popcorn and selections from the Bubble Bar (bubble tea cocktails infused with vodka or champagne) and Asian-inspired dishes from the eco-chic StaxX menu. Movie starts at dusk, and you get an amazing backdrop of the city's skyline.

Crust offers one of the most welcoming, coziest patios in the city, and guests can enjoy their specialty organic flatbread pizzas, salads and sandwiches. Every Monday, diners get half price on bottles and glasses of wine.

And tonight's Beats + Bass + Rhythm bash at Debonair Social Club is a Large Records music event with deejays Jeff Craven and Hector Lopez. Music 101's weekly event including $5 Stoli drinks and $3 domestic beers to go along with the deep house set. 9pm-2am. No cover.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Stars turn out for 'Public Enemies' wrap party


The West Loop was jumpin' Friday night as the cast and crew of the John Dillinger biopic "Public Enemies" hit Randolph Street hot spot Bon V for the official wrap party, as exclusively reported by 312 Dining Diva. No media were allowed into this private event.

One of my Ultimate Insiders was in attendance and reported that stars started arriving into the crowded club around 11:30pm. Actors Giovanni Ribisi and Stephen "Never Misses a Party" Dorff were first on the scene, then came "PE" director Michael Mann. An hour later, Oscar winner Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose") sashayed in wearing a floral tee and jeans.

Even though he wasn't in the movie, Chicago homeboy and "Entourage" star Jeremy Piven came out to support his colleagues. He barely avoided another incident with a reportedly wasted Stephen Dorff (remember that highly publicized argument in a New York nightclub bathroom line last year?!), who got all up in his face in the VIP section. Luckily, their friends diffused the situation before it got out of hand and put them on opposite sides of the room.

So where the hell was Johnny Depp—the star of "Public Enemies"—during all this excitement?! He was still having dinner in the private dining room of Gibsons Steakhouse, so he never made it out. Oh well!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Johnny Depp confirmed!


Yet another Ultimate Insider has called to say that Johnny Depp is indeed confirmed to attend the private wrap party for the John Dillinger movie, "Public Enemies."

It's happening tonight at Bon V, but not even the 312 Dining Diva can get in!

Another high-profile name confirmed for the party is Jeremy Piven, Emmy-winning star of "Entourage," who's in town for the annual Piven Theatre Workshop Benefit at Rockit Bar & Grill. That happens tomorrow 6-10pm. $150.

Too trendy for Taste?!

Certainly there will be mojitos at the Chicago Rum Festival happening at Bottom Lounge's new Volcano Room this weekend.

If you're one of those people who'd rather skip the city's massive annual food orgy running through July 6, here are some glorious neighborhood joints you might wanna check out this weekend:

BAM! Belmont Arts and Music Fest: Occurring in Roscoe Village between Damen Avenue and Leavitt Street, the two-day event includes live bands, food and drink vendors from nearby restaurants. Noon-10pm Saturday and Sunday. $5 donation.

Cans Music Fest: The retro-focused Bucktown bar holds its annual block party benefiting the Wicker Park Chamber of Commerce. This year they've got Vanilla Ice (wtf), C&C Music Factory and deejays. It takes place right next to Cans. 4pm Friday; 2pm Saturday. $5.

Chicago Rum Fest: Bottom Lounge showcases its new rum bar, the Volcano Room, with a two-day festival that will include food, drinks, rum tastings and more. There will also be live ska, reggae and calypso beginning at 9pm. 1pm Friday; 3pm Saturday. Tickets range from $15 for show to $75 for a dinner accompanied by rum cocktails.

Fifth Annual Back Lot Bash: Check behind the Cheetah Gym in Andersonville (5238 N. Clark St.) for this festival that's a good alternative to the Pride Parade. The party includes deejays, food and drink for purchase and, of course, live music. 3pm Saturday; 2pm Sunday; $10.

It's a wrap for Johnny Depp


For those of you who've been hot on the Johnny Depp trail as he's been filming the John Dillinger biopic, "Public Enemies," around town and throughout the Midwest, tonight may be your last time for a sighting.

An Ultimate Insider tells me that they've finished filming the movie, and tonight's the wrap party at West Loop hot spot Bon V. Whether or not Depp will be in the house has not been confirmed, but planners have invited 900 guests to fill up the 300-capacity club. The party was originally scheduled to take place at Alhambra Palace down the street, but for some reason that's not happening.

Other possible star sightings from the movie tonight include actors Christian Bale, Channing Tatum and Giovanni Ribisi.

Depp has caused quite a stir on the scene since he's been in town. He celebrated his birthday at Shanghai Terrace earlier this month, and he's also been spotted at La Scarola, The Drawing Room and Gibsons Steakhouse.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sweet Thang, Oak Tree say au revoir

Sweet Thang lost its lease in Bucktown on Sunday after 10 years. (Photo: Sweet Thang)

After 10 successful years in its Bucktown home at 1921 W. North Ave., French pastry shop Sweet Thang is making a move. The owners lost their lease, so they're looking for a new venue in the neighborhood.

But have no fear because they're still whipping up the goodies at the new Roscoe Village location.

Another big closing is The Oak Tree, the long-time family favorite in the 900 Shops at 900 N. Michigan Ave. It's on its way out on Monday to make way for French-focused eatery Jacque's. After a few months of renovation, look for that to open in October under the same ownership.

Muy caliente concert venue comes to Wicker Park

Stella's Column has the deets on new concert venue/restaurant Fuego Mexican Grill/V Live that's debuting in the fall with a special performance by R&B sensation John Legend.

Ooh, ooh here it comes . . .


. . . it's the weekend:


Landmark Grill + Lounge kicks off a new seasonal series tonight. Passport to Summer should be a hit with the hip-stars for the complimentary 10 Cane Rum cocktails, small, creative bites by executive chef Benjamin Browning and fashion show. Event starts at 7:30pm with the cocktail party, then a fashion show with Akira happening at 10. No cover.

Celebrity favorite deejay Samantha Ronson returns for her monthly set at Crimson, and who knows who'll show up with her. Last time it was Lindsay Lohan, this time it could be ________! Ronson starts at 9pm, but get there early for the GQ Magazine/Discover Heineken Around the World reception. Comp Heineken 8-10pm. Free.

It's time for Highsight's annual Midsummer Eve of the Eve—the midpoint to their Eve of the Eve holiday bash. After-work party attracts young city-centric professionals and includes an open bar, food, live music and a silent auction. 7pm-midnight. Cafe Brauer, 2021 N. Stockton Dr. $80.

Get ready for a special preview of the 86 Collective featuring Echo. The artsy cocktail party will also have a special appearance by actress Amy Sedaris, passed appetizers and comp cocktails. 7-9pm. RSVP to for admission. 1101 W. Fulton Market

As part of the Gen Art Film Festival, AMC Pipers Alley (1608 N. Wells St.) will have the Chicago premiere of "Dark Streets," starring Bijou Phillips. A Q&A will immediately follow, then the after-party at Rockit Bar & Grill. Film at 7pm; party kicks off at 9:30pm. $15-$20.


It's time to Melt at Victor Hotel. Party includes James Lauer and Funky Couture holding it down with hot electronica dance; drink specials include $7 P.I.N.K. vodka cocktails. 9pm-2am. No cover.


There's never a bad time for bubbly, and Pops for Champagne gets the party started early with this afternoon tasting. Guests will have the opportunity to sample three cuvées from Iron Horse Vineyards, which cranks out exceptional craft-produced sparkling wines. 3-5pm. $15.

Head to Lush Wine and Spirits for the Three Floyds XI release party of some spectacular ales. They'll also be pouring three additional Floyds beers and grilling brats on the patio. 5-8pm. Free.

If you're putzing around Wicker Park on Saturday evening, make your way to Silver Room (1442 N. Milwaukee Ave.) for the Beat Boutique. This time they're featuring Kinky Notti, a local Neo-Soul group taking the city—and country—by storm. Also performing are Spqher, Sanction Music Group and DJ Sean Alverez. 7pm-midnight. Free.


After the Pride Parade, one of the best bets should be the Super Secret Makeout Party at Kinetic Playground (1113 W. Lawrence Ave., 773-769-5483). Hosted by Music 101, Beat Giants and Malibu Rum, the event includes performances by local spin stars Derrick Carter, Michael Serafini, Ron Carroll, Steve Melvage, Dark Wave Disco (Trancid, Mark Gertz, Greg Corner) and a special '80s set by Medusa Circle's Pier. 4pm-4am. Free.

Pastry chef cooks up healthy new tome for kids


Foodies know Gale Gand as the award-winning pastry chef behind Tru, and most recently as the consulting chef over at new Gold Coast cupcakery More.

But her most recent project is a far stretch from her sugary cookies, signature lollipops and fruity tarts. To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Wheat Foods Council, she's written Food for Thought from Parents to Children, a cookbook filled with fun, yet health-conscious, wheat-based recipes that families can prepare together. Just some of Gand's favorites, which she's made with her own kids, include Chocolate Hazelnut Cereal Haystacks, Wheat Berry Tuna Salad and Strawberry and Yogurt Wheat Crepes.

A portion of cookbook proceeds benefits Spoons Across America, a not-for-profit organization working to positively influence the eating habits of children through hands-on education. The cookbook is $3.50 and can be purchased here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What's up next, yo . . .

The Stew takes a look at Freshii, the Loop's newest health-conscious option, but they didn't love it.

And Time Out Chicago gives the 411 on Logan Bar & Grill, the new watering hole from the guys behind Black Beetle and the Northside.

A shot at a good time tonight


Don't let the weather get you down, there's plenty going on inside so that you don't miss a step:

The Violet Hour opened last year around this time, and it continues to get props. This time Esquire—in its annual best bars issue—named it one of the country's hottest spots. Tonight, they're celebrating with a party hosted by Don Julio Tequila. 7-11pm. No cover.

The launch party for Chicago Is...Red Hot—the annual fall fashion show by The Apparel Industry Board, Inc.—happens at Chaise Lounge. Hosted by CS magazine, the event includes music by DJ White Shadow, comped cocktails by Ketel One Vodka, appetizers and the opportunity to hang out on one of the sexiest rooftops in the city. 6-9pm. No cover.

SHE Boutique (1024 W. Armitage Ave.) celebrates its first-year anniversary with an event hosted by LUCKY magazine. Explore the Sweet Side of Fashion offers complimentary Prosecco sparkling wine, treats from yummy Dylan's Candy Bar and 20 percent off all purchases. SHE carries a number of top-notch designers, including Roberto Cavalli Sun, Dream Society, Young fabolous and Broke, Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent, as well as bags by Zac Posen. 7-9pm. No cover, but RSVP to

Three top Loop chefs join forces for Chefs on the Grill at Park Grill. Executive Chef Bernie Laskowski (Park Grill), Jose Garces (Mercat a la Planxa) and Doran Payne (Rhapsody) prepare their specialties; cocktails and wine included in price. Event benefits the Grant Park Conservancy. 6-8:30pm. $55.

It's the Battle of the Italian Wines as Tuscany takes on Veneto for the June installment of Quartino's monthly wine tasting party. Amarone della Valpolicella vs. Vino Nobile di Montelpulciano, with guests getting to taste their best vino, plus estate bottled olive oils. Also included in the ticket price are Neopolitan thin crust stone oven pizza, classic Italian Salumi, Quartino recipe cured meats and cicchetti (bar snacks) paired with the selections. 7-9pm. $35 (includes a take-home bottle of one of the featured wines).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Go to Manor . . . Stay for more . . .

Stay, Manor's upper-level, late-night lounge, offers a more cool-out vibe than its clubby downstairs sibling. (Photo: 312 Dining Diva)

Got an exclusive, sneak preview this afternoon of three of the hottest spots to hit River North this summer:

Those guys behind RiNo and Manor are already sitting pretty with two of the biggest celebrity hangouts in the 'hood. Now comes their latest—Stay—which aims for a high-end clientele looking for low-key action. The top-level lounge to Manor has a separate entrance on Erie Street, its own deejay cranking out chilled-out beats and no bottle service requirements (!!!). And the best thing about it?! They're keeping the decor simple with understated, yet refined hard wood accents and a booming sound system that'll jack the party up when you need it to. 4am during the week; 5am Saturdays. Look for Stay to open later this summer.

Hub 51 has gotten mad media attention within the last few days, but nothing's been said about the lower-level bar called Sub 51. It's a simple room, looking like the perfect spot to throw a basement bash, with cushy leather sofas and dim lights so you can push up on a sig other. But co-owner R.J. Melman's fave seats—and ours too!—are tucked away behind the bar, and no one will ever know you're there unless you want them to. It's the perfect cove for a couple. Hub 51/Sub 51 officially opens on Friday.

Hub 51's subterranean lounge Sub 51 offers one of the sexiest hidden nooks in town. (Photo: 312 Dining Diva)

And Donnie Kruse changed up his gastropub BB's for something completely different in Madame Tartine. If you were around when he owned Butterfield 8, then you've got the idea. But this time, he's stepped it up . . . way, way up . . . with a seductive French theme that's a nod to the 1960s. Check the vintage fixtures, wallpaper, artwork and music, but don't go expecting something fuddy duddy. That's all we're saying, for now. Madame Tartine opens in early July.

Slim down with a sexy salad


Looking for lighter, yet tasty dishes this summer?! Whether you're trying to slim down or maintain a fabulous figure, here are some salads meant for more than just munching:

Settle on the breezy outdoor patio at Blue Water Grill for the Seafood Salad. The tangy, well-proportioned plate includes Maryland lump crab, Gulf shrimp, preserved lemon, peppery mesclun greens and honey-roasted walnuts complemented by a tarragon-lime emulsion ($15).

Chaise Lounge's South Beach-inspired upper-level deck is ideal for chowing down on the Waldorf Salad. Their take on the classic dish has roaring '40s Bleu cheese, black walnuts and a yogurt dressing ($7).

Relax on the sceney sidewalk patio or the romantic terrace at Le Colonial for a number of salads. We're particularly fond of the French-Vietnamese restaurant's Goi Thom, a salad of mixed greens, sea beans, cherry tomatoes, water chestnuts and fresh pineapple that's served with light rice wine vinegar dressing ($11).

Neighborhood fave Moonshine offers a popular patio for the Wicker Park crowd. Diners can bask in the sun with the Moonshine Summer Salad, a fresh combination of pan-seared Ahi tuna served over assorted greens, juicy Mandarin oranges, strawberries, blueberries and Granny Smith apples, tossed with a tangy raspberry vinaigrette ($9; with chicken $11).

And our mouths are watering at the thought of the Grilled Beef Tenderloin Salad at VTK. That's a unique combo of Romaine lettuce, cucumbers, red onions and chilies, and finished with a cilantro-citrus dressing ($12.95).

(Suzy McMillen contributed to this post)

Monday, June 23, 2008

A 'first look' at Hub 51

I'm a little salty because I was told Hub 51 wasn't going to be open until another week or two, but here is The Stew with its first-impression review.

UPDATE: Hub 51 opens to the public on Friday.

Gourmet burgers and a benefit


What is there not to love about today's weather?! Not too chilly, not windy and no rain. Get out and enjoy yourself:

Sit Stay Read hosts a spa party for gals and gents. This third-annual event includes a spa treatment (deluxe mani, mini-facial, body glow, massage), shopping opportunities, and food and "mocktails" from Silver Cloud. Proceeds benefit Sit Stay Read, a unique nonprofit literacy group helping at-risk youth. 4-9pm at Spa Soak (1733 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-395-9000). $60.

Or get your grub on at Viand's Gourmet Burger Bar, happening every Monday. Executive chef Steve Chiappetti offers an exciting lineup of burgers, which guests may pair with a number of fine Wisconsin cheeses as toppings. $2 each!

And make room for hot nights with Havana Club, on Mondays at Juicy Wine Co. The Cuban-themed night includes $5 handcrafted mojitos and Cubano sandwiches (made with roasted pork, pickles and gooey cheese trapped in a roll and pressed thin). DJ Madrid spins Cuban-influenced music to set the mood in the bar or on the outdoor patio. 7pm-2am. Free admission.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Berry Generous

(Photo: Berry Chill)

Berry Chill owner and University of Iowa alumni Michael Farah does his part in helping victims of the recent flooding in Iowa. With more than 400 blocks of downtown evacuated, including a major hospital, emergency officials estimate the flooding of the Cedar River has forced at least 24,000 to evacuate from their homes. While the river begins to slowly recede, Cedar Rapids officials worry the city’s supply of drinkable water will run out.

He's reaching out to customers to stop in and drop off pre-packaged cases of water or clothing for those devastated by the disaster through June 29. Berry Chill is paying for all shipping costs. [Also look out for new locations at 132 N. LaSalle St. and 500 W. Madison St. (Ogilvie Train Station) this summer.)]

Designer/architect Suhail hosts another benefit to raise funds for the children who survived a massive earthquake that tore through a vast region of Kashmir in 2005. More than 80,000 people were killed and three million left homeless. Suhail and a team of volunteers are making another trip to the region to help, and this benefit will help get them there. Event includes live music, DJ Madrid spinning exotic beats, an open bar, raffle, and appetizers from Moto and Otom. 7-10pm Friday, June 27. LIGHTOLOGY (215 W. Chicago Ave., 312-733-9411). $100.

And in other restaurant-related news, the National Restaurant Association just donated an impressive 116,553 pounds of top quality food to the Greater Chicago Food Depository to provide meals for 87,633 hungry men, women and children in the Chicago area.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

First-ever Kids Restaurant Week arrives


Earlier this year, Chicago finally got an official Restaurant Week, now for those with mini me's, Gapers Block reports on the city's first-ever Kids' Restaurant Week happening at favorites like Blue Water Grill, Ina's and Otom.

It kicks off this weekend at Green City Market.

Photo op with a politico

Jesse Jackson showed up to the NABJ party at Texas de Brazil and pressed flesh with restaurant GM Vincent Feola.

Somehow I missed out on a hot party hosted by my colleagues from the National Association of Black Journalists—Chicago Chapter last night at Texas de Brazil.

Political activist Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. was one of the special guests, and signed the first Serras de Azeitao, Texas de Brazil's 2006 signature white wine.

What's Good all over the 'hoods this weekend . . .

Rising movie star Meagan Good, who's in "The Love Guru," makes an appearance at Lumen tonight.

From diamonds to divas to high-end drinks, here's your weekend guide:


Today's The Love Day at Cartier, with a new jewelry collection launching with a host of celebrity ambassadors. Chicago's own Common, plus Janet Jackson, Eve, Fergie, Hilary Duff, Emmy Rossum and others serve as special ambassadors for an 18K white gold miniature bracelet intertwined with an 18K pink gold miniature bracelet (A playlist featuring each new Love Charity ambassador's favorite love song is available for free download at here). The celebration happens from noon to 6pm, with DJ Mano spinning and complimentary bubbly. 630 N. Michigan Ave., 312-266-7440.

US Weekly hosts the Hot Hollywood Party at Lumen, with "The Love Guru" star Meagan Good as special guest. Event includes comp cocktails, appetizers, gift bags and beauty stations. 8-11pm. RSVP to for admission.

Hip, contemporary eatery Perennial, owned by Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz (Boka, Landmark), opens today in Lincoln Park.

Has NV Penthouse Lounge lost its &^%$#@!($#@! mind?! Tonight they're unveiling the $2,500 Envy Martini—which consists of Belvedere vodka, Midori melon liquor, Dom Perignon champagne and fresh garnishes. It comes with a 2.3 carat pear shaped emerald pendant provided by Jewel Star Chicago and a handcrafted sterling silver engraved monogram martini pic. 9pm-2am. No cover.

If you're not willing to grill out yourself, head to one sixtyblue for BARBQ, executive chef Martial Noguier’s signature twist on a summertime tradition. Guests may enjoy such selections as Swan Creek Farm suckling pig accompanied by home-style sweet potato chips and Swan Creek Farm chicken wing lollipops. Guests may complement dinner with refreshing summer drinks like the Cabo San Loco (Absolut Peppar, pineapple, lime juice, cilantro) or South by Southwest (Stoli Orange, Southern Comfort, prickly pear puree and soda). It's available at the bar Monday-Friday.


The Taste of Randolph kicks off today along the Randolph Street corridor, between Peoria Street and Racine Avenue. Participating restaurants include de cero, La Sardine, Macello, Marche, Red Light, Veerasway and Vivo, with live music, booths and more. The highlight of the weekend should be the chef cooking demonstrations, which take place 2:30-6:30pm Saturday and Sunday with hosts Steve Dolinsky and LeeAnn Trotter. You'll get to check out the area's hottest chefs like Jennifer Brooks (de cero), Tyler Williams (Veerasway), Matt Tobin (Marche) and Jackie Shen (Red Light). 5-11pm Friday; 2-11pm Saturday; 2-10pm Sunday. $10 suggested donation goes towards the West Loop Community Organization.

The Business Networking Expo at Enclave offers local professionals the opportunity to learn more about sustainability and the environment. Network with like-minded folks from all industries and enjoy comp appetizers and specialty cocktails. 6-9pm. $15 in advance; $25 at door.


Cocktail connoisseurs should love the Summer Flavors Cocktail Clinic at WAVE restaurant. Head bartender Kevin Wonder will show guests how to make perfect summer cocktails, from infused vodkas and simple syrups made with local, seasonal ingredients to frozen Bloody Marys and margaritas. An interactive bar will be outfitted with all the bells and whistles. Guests will also get to enjoy signature bites from executive chef Kristine Subido and a parting gift. 2:30-4:30pm. $50.


SummerFest happens at Erie Park (Erie and Kingsbury streets). The day-long event features restaurants, art, retail and entertainment with more than 50 area businesses showcasing their goodies, including Melting Pot, Rockit Bar & Grill, Redhead Piano Bar and Zocalo. 11am-7pm. $5 donation benefits the River North Residents Association.

And it's time for Sunday Night Service at Jbar. This insider's affair has been going strong for a few months now. DJ Madrid and Funky Couture are the featured spin stars, and of course you'll get drink specials: $5 P.I.N.K. vodka cocktails and $4 imported beer. 10-2am. Free.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Rock bar on its way to becoming a star?!

Angels & Kings owners Jonathan Daniel (from left), Bob McLynn and Pete Wentz. (Photo: 312 Dining Diva)

Angels & Kings had a sneak preview party last night, and 312 Dining Diva was in the house. Check out my recap here.

Also?! What's up with management not letting rock 'n' roll photographer Tyler Curtis from Dark Room Demons shoot Pete Wentz, Ashlee Simpson and other stars, but everyone and their mama were allowed to shoot with everything from iPhones to wide lenses?! WTF?!

Boom Shaka Laka Laka!


The Lakers suck, so while everyone in LA is gloomy over their big loss in the NBA Finals, it's sunny and cheery in Chicago:

It's time for a Flavor Explosion at WAVE, as the W Lakeshore restaurant offers guests a cool new way to enjoy the fireworks show at Navy Pier.
Executive Chef Kristine Subido combines her signature spicy panache with Garrett Popcorn and Häagen-Dazs to create sweet and savory summer snacks. Highlights include chicken liver pâté with Garrett’s CaramelCrisp® crunch for $5 or the "salty sweet" mix made with Garrett’s Mix and house-made spiced nuts for only $2. Check it out every Wednesday and Saturday on the patio with cocktails until 11pm.

Eno-Versity, the regular wine series at Eno, features Dusted Valley Vintners winemaker Corey Braunel, who will showcase his vino from the Walla Walla Valley in Washington state. Socialize and enjoy wine by the glass or flight, as well as complementing cheese and chocolate by the flight. 6-8pm. $25. celebrates 10 years with what should be a memorable event at Zed451. DJ Geronimo spins, U2 tribute band Elevation performs and a portion from the $20 cover benefits Imerman Angels. Party starts at 9pm. Revelers can keep it going at RiNo for the official after-party that's also the debut of A:M (After Midnight), the world's first premium caffeine cocktail. We cannot wait to try it in black raspberry!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hideout is hot next week!

Check out this hot-ass event happening at Hideout next week. Trust me, you'll want to get tix now.

Wii Wars and wine events . . . whee!


Hang out with sports stars or let the wine be the star at events this evening:

Go head to head against local celebrities in Nintendo Wii Wars at Harry Caray's Tavern every Tuesday beginning tonight. They're kicking off the series with an appearance by Ernie "Mr. Cub" Banks, who will challenge guests on the 123” HD TV—the only precision engineered StarGlass screen in the Midwest. Banks will give away autographed baseballs along with the most sought after tickets in town—Cubs vs. Sox at US Cellular Field. Future Wii Wars include football against Chicago Bear Brian Urlacher, basketball against former Chicago Bull Dickie Simpkins and Home Run Derby against Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg and Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney. Drink specials include $3 Miller Lite bottles and $4 Captain Morgan cocktails. 8pm-1am (unless there's a Cubs game in town).

The Third Tuesday Tasting is back at Tasting Room, this time with a nod to exotic locales like South Africa, Argentina and Australia. Guests will sample malbecs, bonardas, sweet chenin blancs, sexy carmeneres, shirazes and silky sauvignon blancs, of course paired with light bites. 6-8pm. $30.

The monthly tasting at Swirl Wine Bar explores Cool Whites for Hot Summer Nights. The event includes 12 different wines paired with appetizers, plus music by jazz band Gypsy Trio. 6:30-8:30pm. $25 in advance; $30 at door.

And at A.Vision Chicago (910 N. Damen Ave.), guests will have the opportunity to meet winemakers Tim Olson and John Ogden of Olson Ogden Wines, which specializes in a small production of syrah and pinot noir. Proceeds benefit the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Illinois. 7-9pm. $30 ($20 goes to the Alzheimer's Association). Call 847-933-2413 for tix.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Back in action


Joe Segal's legendary Jazz Showcase settles into its new South Loop home, and Metromix has the first review.

Daddy Day for Obama


Where did presidential hopeful and our very own rock star Senator Barack Obama chow down on Father's Day after he gave an uplifting speech at a South Side church?!

An Ultimate Insider tells 312 Dining Diva that Obama and family opted for Asian in the form of Roy's in River North.

That Obama. Always on the cutting edge. Brunch service at Roy's is brand new, and for more on the Hawaiian-inflected menu, check out this review from Gaper's Block. Chef/partner Kevin Dusinki highly recommends the Loco Moco, a traditionally Hawaiian breakfast item with a "tower of beef, fried rice, and eggs with a penthouse suite of crispy frisee of sweet potatoes." Oh, and don't forget the "bottomless" Mimosas!

Over 30 singles scenes


People are always asking me about where they should go when they're single and over 30.

Chicago Citysearch answers the question with the results of its latest poll, which includes such local faves as English, SushiSamba Rio and, of course, Tavern on Rush.

For the love of Rosé, Roots and more . . .


Oh, what a fabulous day you'll have if you attend one of these events:

Bistro 110's mega-popular Sommelier for a Day returns, this time paying homage to the rosé. Ahhh, that's right, they're sampling more than 20 wines for guests to pick the very best for the restaurant to add to its summer wine list. Event also includes appetizers created by executive chef Dominique Tougne. 6-8pm. $35 for Levy Preferred members; $45 for everyone else.

Wine lovers can also take A Tour de France Through Wine at
Mon Ami Gabi in Lincoln Park. You'll get to sip a variety of more than 25 French wines with appetizers in the outdoor cafe. 6-8pm. $25.

Crust offers one of the most welcoming, coziest patios in the city, and guests can enjoy their specialty organic flatbread pizzas, salads and sandwiches out there. Every Monday, diners pay half price on bottles and glasses of wine.

Tonight is the debut of Havana Club at Juicy Wine Co., with budget-friendly cocktails and cuisine. For only $5 each, guests get mojitos and Cubano sandwiches (made with roasted pork, pickles and gooey cheese trapped in a roll and pressed thin). DJ Madrid spins Cuban-influenced music to set the mood. 7pm-2am Mondays. Free admission.

And the Boom Boom Room—the city's longest-running nightlife event—gets in a New York state of mind by hosting one of the Big Apple's hottest parties. The Roots, which happens every week at Cielo NYC, invades Green Dolphin Street with famed mixmasters Louie Vega and Kevin Hedge. This is the first time this exciting event has ever traveled, so make it a point to be there. 9pm-4am. Comp admission before 10pm. Get on the list at

Sunday, June 15, 2008

'Show us your tots!' . . .

Newport Bar & Grill bartenders Emily Wells (from left) and Brian Trombley accept the Golden Tot trophy from Tater Tot Trot founders Amy Murray and Sheri Piecuch. (Photo: Derrek Hull)

. . . was the tagline used to hook in four of the Southport Cooridor's watering holes for one of the quirkiest pub crawls ever.

Tater tot enthusiasts—or better yet AmbassatatersAmy Murray and Sheri Piecuch created the Tater Tot Trot in 2007 to celebrate a friend's birthday. In one evening they went from bar to bar in search of the best tater tots in town.

For the 2008 event, held on Saturday, they stepped it up a notch by creating a ballot, awarding the Golden Tot trophy to the winning bar and attracting more than 60 people—two of who came from as far as South Carolina and Kentucky just to join in on the festivities.

The theme was Rock the Tot, in honor of the election season, and participants judged tater tots on such criteria as presentation (variety of dipping sauces, quantity), taste (crispiness, texture, flavor, freshness) and bar/staff ("tot friendly," service, atmosphere). The featured pubs along the crawl were Newport Bar & Grill, Southport Lanes & Billiards, Schoolyard Tap and Messner's Wrigelyville, who all offered drink specials.

But it was Newport Bar & Grill, a divey neighborhood spot best known for its adjacent Laundromat, who went all out for the contest, offering free tater tots (always GOOD to bribe the people!), creating tot-centric signage and schmoozing with guests. It was no surprise that they easily nabbed the Golden Tot trophy, but they also had some of the tastiest tots on the crawl, as most of the guests raved about their Cajun-flavored potato bites that complemented the burgers and sandwiches.

The best moment of the night?! Right before the winner was announced, co-founder Sheri Piecuch made a joke about R&B star and Chicago native R. Kelly, who was just acquitted on all charges of child pornography.

"Too bad R. Kelly wasn't here to celebrate," she told the crowd. "You know how much he loves the tots!"

Friday, June 13, 2008

After hours for onephiles . . .


Swirl Wine Bar extends its hours into the late night, beginning this weekend, making it the city's first-ever after-hours wine lounge.

Every Friday deejays Lil' Mikey and Simply J spin exotic Brazilian, electronica and mushroom jazz until 4am; Saturdays you get Frique spinning deep house until 5.


Eat & Drink Club member "Richard" attempted to talk his way into the Dana Hotel opening party. (Photo: Anonymous)

You know, some people just cannot leave well enough alone.

The Eat & Drink Club struck again, this time running about 10 or 15 deep! The object of their desire was the opening of the Dana Hotel & Spa, which hosted a fabulous party featuring some of the freshest sushi I've ever had from its Asian-focused eatery ajasteak that's set to open on Monday.

As always, they made up names, fast-talked employees, tried sneaking through a side door and brushed past the gatekeepers in an attempt to get into the party. Somehow they were all corraled and kicked the hell out.

From the tipster on "Richard:"

"He made an effort that night. And he, too, went around to a side door only to be escorted out moments later.

Tactic - the pointing really emphasizes how much he SHOULD BE ON THAT LIST."


This is not a joke

I just tried making reservations for tonight at graham elliot, and was told by the hostess that the earliest opening was 10:30pm!

What the critics are saying . . .

. . . about:

Tallulah: "The most fun dish on the menu is the least impressive technically. That would be the spicy lobster deviled eggs, a gussied-up version of a suburban potluck staple augmented with lumps of Maine lobster. (Just what June Cleaver would have whipped up, had she found an extra $20 in her apron pocket.) At $7 for two eggs (actually two halves), this is either a pricey egg dish or a bargain lobster dish."—Phil Vettel (Chicago Tribune) Read it all here.

Veerasway: "'Hot Bollywood Lollipops' turned out to be crispy, juicy chicken drumsticks, three to an order, plated in little dishes on pools of chile sauce and "ranch" raita—a fun play on hot wings, though not nearly as spicy as the menu warned."—Alison Neumer Lara (Crain's Chicago Business) Read it all here.

Viaggio Ristorante & Lounge: "Had Viaggio turned out to be like so many other restaurants of its kind, restaurants where the red sauce has no nuance and the endless menu no soul, there would have been no reason to take the overabundance of food home. But instead, Viaggio deftly wrapped the food to go, where it could be picked at during the ride home, nibbled on while watching Letterman, and enjoyed until every last bit was gone."—David Tamarkin (Time Out Chicago) Read it all here.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

He's got game . . .

Graham Elliot's masterful version of beef stroganoff. (Photo: Graham Elliot)

. . . and word is spreading fast about how hard it's gonna be to get into Graham Elliot Bowles' eponymous River North eatery.

And the critics—the pros and the foodies—are already weighing in on their experiences even though it hasn't been open for two weeks. Metromix got a first look and Chowhound's rabid readers get real on quirky menu items like PBR-soaked onions, a Buffalo chicken thigh, risotto with Cheez-Its and frozen foie gras covered in Pop Rocks.

Fabulous fetes, fests, fathers, Fiddlehead . . .

Spy Bar unveils its new hot look, including this sexy graphic wall, to the public on Friday. (Photo: 312 Dining Diva)

It's time to give Pops his props, Old Town Arts Fest arrives and Spy Bar returns with a hot new look:


Get ready for an Urban Renaissance as several local promoters host an exotic, Brazilian-themed event at Alhambra Palace. Party includes drink specials, deejays Mark Fulla Flava and Eddie Mills spin, and Brazilian dance shows (7:30, 9:30) will set the room on fiyah. 5pm-2am. No cover before 10pm.

Beginning today and every Thursday during Green City Market
season, Carnivale exec chef Mark Mendez features a Farmer's Market Prix-Fixe Lunch. The meal includes an entree, appetizer or salad, and seasonal fruit dessert for $19, and it's best enjoyed on Carnivale's relaxing outdoor patio. 11:30am-2:30pm.

The 13th Annual St. Jude Chicago to Peoria Run raises money for the world's largest childhood cancer research center. The benefit happens 7-9pm at Jbar. Stay for the Diva Series with Sarah Vargo Productions, featuring Snow Queen Vodka specials. Deejay Jesse de la Pena spins soul, funk, Latin beats and more. 9pm-2am. No cover.

Fiddlehead Café hosts its popular neighborhood wine-tasting event, which is themed this time around Wines of the Mediterranean. Guests get to sample more than 60 wines with light snacks. 6-8pm. $35.

The Farmer's Market Prix-Fixe Lunch at Carnivale will offer goodies like this beet salad. (Photo: Carnivale)


It's time for the second installation of Project Art, which includes live art, dance and deejays at Victor Hotel. Hosted by PLS Magazine and Good for Party, the set includes specials on Hennessy drinks and visual art from Peabe, Revise CMW, Blutt and Joey Potts. Deejays Spre and Rahaan spin. 9pm-2am. No cover.

Outfit Events fetes two fabulous years in the biz with a party at Enclave. They're bringing back celebrity spin star DJ AM for what's cetain to be the wildest party of the weekend. 9pm-2am. $20-$30.

Spy Bar is the city's only nightclub serving tableside, hand-crafted cocktails like this mojito. (Photo: 312 Dining Diva)

Say hello to the all-new Spy Bar tonight. 312 Dining Diva got an exclusive preview of its sleek, upscale interior—with hardwood accents, muted colors and a sexy wall with eye-catching graphics—that replaces the dark, mysterious setting that gave it a seedy vibe. Also, they've secured MK mixologist John Kinder to consult on a lustful list of cocktails like a traditional mojito as well Strawberry’s Drip (Belevdere vodka, a refreshing blend of fresh strawberry and lemon juice with a hint of lavender), Pineapple Chamo (Hennessy VS, pineapple, chamomile and Tarragon come together) and Sparkling Jasmine (Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label with an exotic blend of Tahitian vanilla, fresh citrus and soothing jasmine). Spy Bar is the only nightclub in the city serving tableside, handcrafted cocktails. 9pm-4am. Cover varies.


Dan Marquis, the chef de cuisine at Bin 36, conducts the cooking demo at Green City Market. Event starts at 10:30am, but the market is open 7am-2:30pm. Free.

Get the bubbly on early at Pops for Champagne for the Paul Bara Champagne Tasting. Guests will taste three different cuvées from this legendary Bouzy producer considered one of the best sources of pinot noir. 3-5pm. $20.

It's that time again for the Old Town Arts Fest/Wells Street Arts Fest, but these things can get overwhelming! Meet up with friends at Spoon, where they'll be offering drink specials and then end the night at sushi fave Kamehachi, which stays open until 2am. 11am-2am. Donation requested.


If your dad loves the links, then he'll probably want to check out Wine Styles' exclusive PGA Wine Tasting at GolfTec (2847 N. Halsted St.). Guests will taste five PGA Tour wines while participating in long drive and putting contests, all while watching final round action of the U.S. Open. Also, appetizers and PGA professionals on site for game improvement tips. 2-8pm. No cover or reservations.

For fathers who prefer to skip the crazy brunch hours, head to Cafe Selmarie for steak au Poivre, Jamaican jerk chicken or crispy Tilapia. All dads will get a complimentary specialty cocktail. Outdoor seating available; dinner service begins at 3pm.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A great week for Chicago chefs!

Earlier this week local rock-star chefs Carrie Nahabedian (Naha) and Grant Achatz (Alinea) took home the coveted James Beard awards.

Now, Chicago's own Stephanie Izard just won Bravo's "Top Chef!" She's also the first female chef to win the popular, chef-driven reality show. The Stew has all the details here, including the scene at Room21, where the official Bravo "Top Chef" finale party took place. This has been a historic week for our chefs and they cannot be stopped. Whoo hoo!

If you want to congratulate her, reservations may still be available for the Stephanie Izard-Nick LaCasse event at the Drawing Room on Sunday. The dinner's sold out, but the after-party includes appetizers with two seasonal cocktails created by Izard. Also, those who miss out on the dinner or reception can sample the winning dishes created by Izard and LaCasse for one week following the event. RSVP at 773-276-7582. $40 for reception at 9pm.

A 'Top Chef' gives props


Top Chef finalist Stephanie Izard dishes on her favorite Chicago spots to Daily Candy, including Schwa for the quail egg-filled ravioli, Violet for the tasty cappuccinos and Blackbird for fine dining.

Take a gamble on fun tonight


You don't have to be a high roller to have fun:

Bring your A-Game to Galleria Marchetti for Chicago Gateway Green's first-ever poker party that's a kick-off event for the annual Green Tie Ball. Hosted by Horseshoe Casino as a World Series of Poker Qualifying Tournament. Also Akira boutique will be upping the ante with a "Vegas"-themed runway show with fashions from Betsy Johnson, Anna Sui, Ben Sherman, Just Cavalli, BCBG Max Azaria and French Connection. 5:30-11:30pm. Call 312-994-2620 for more info.

Janine MacLachlan from The Rustic Kitchen is the special demo chef for Green City Market. As usual the market opens at 7am, and the demo starts at 10:30. It goes until 1:30pm. Free.

Who needs "American Idol" when we've got Pass the Mic, an open-mic night every Wednesday at Plan B Bar + Kitchen. Hosted by Chris Grant of Trippin’ Billies, a popular Chicago-based Dave Matthews cover band, the event includes solo acts and acoutic bands. And to give others courage, there's a host of drink specials like $3 well drinks, $3 domestic bottles and half-off on wine. 9pm. Free admission.

Visit Follia in June to check out Fashion Meets Art: Building Unity Through Charitable Threads, a showcase of one-of-a-kind shirts and ties from Beth Lambert of Scarlet Designs and fine artist Suk Ja Kang. Prices are $2,500 for shirts and $200 for ties. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Chicago Cares.

Indulge in Pinot in the Park at Park Grill, hosted by master sommelier Joseph Spellman, who has worked in Chicago's top restaurants, including Charlie Trotter's. The walk-around tasting explores lush pinots paired with a nice selection of hors d'oeuvres. 5:30-7:30pm. $30 AIWF members/$35 non-members.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

We got an opening date

Pete Wentz's Angels & Kings lounge is set to open on June 21 in River North. Will new wife Ashlee Simpson make an appearance?! Stay tuned to find out!

We had the name first, then we had the location exclusively for the new Angels & Kings lounge that's owned by Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz and a host of local, high-profile bar owners. Now, we've got an opening date: Saturday, June 21.

Get ready to wear your best rock 'n' roll gear, y'all.

Attack of the Shark Bite and more . . .

Sola's Shark Bite cocktail packs a punch. (Photo: sola)

Tuesdays are tastier than ever:

You'll get not one, not two but three specials on Tuesdays at the highly regarded North Center eatery sola. A three-course, prix-fixe menu is $30 and highlights locally grown, organic baby carrots in June. It's also a chance to order the cocktail of the month—the Shark Bite—a refreshing mix of Absolut Citron, blue Curacao, lemonade, Sprite and grenadine. And get your happy ending with sola's new Ice Cream Flight, and choose from such delish flavors as brown butter macadamia nut brittle, ginger cream cheese and pineapple-macadamia nut.

Go for Marigold's new Indian Grill, which just launched last week. Each Tuesday, guests get a three-course tasting menu for $25 that changes every month. In June, the menu consists of grilled Ajwain shrimp served on a bed of carrots and green cabbage; roasted corn Bhuta and spinach salad with creamy cilantro yogurt dressing; and Tandoori chicken with a side of spiced garbanzo beans.

A deep-discount dinner is offered at Cleos, where you can chow down on the $6.99 half slab rib supper. You'll also be able to chill out on one of the best-kept secret outdoor gardens in the city. It's like someone's cool backyard patio.

Another fabulous deal is at Tizi Melloul in River North, where revelers get cocktails, appetizers and a hookah session for $10. This is the perfect hookup when you've got a large group.

And reservations are still available at the South Loop Sam's Wines & Spirits for the Winemaker Seminar with Hans vinding-Diers. The Tuscan winemaker for Cantina Argiano will sample wines from his own estate in Argentina, Bodega Noemia de Patagonia. 6:30-8pm. $15.

Monday, June 9, 2008

One more reason to go local . . .

Now that grocery stores and restaurants are pulling tomatoes because of a salmonella scare, this is one more reason to take your butt to the Green City Market where restaurants like North Pond Cafe, Rustik Kitchen and May Street Market get all their home-grown goodies.

The latest . . .

. . . on what's going on:

Perennial, that long-awaited project from Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz (Boka, Landmark), is now coming at ya on June 19.

The Dana Hotel's Japanese steakhouse, ajasteak, hits town June 16, but the bar opens on Friday, June 13.

True underground night spot Spy Bar is back in biz on Friday after a multi-million $$$ makeover.

And also on Friday the 13th, new after-hours club Religion finally has its grand-opening party with special performances by Harry Choo Choo Romero and B96's DJ Flipside.

Naha, Alinea nab top Beard awards

Alinea's Grant Achatz won the James Beard "Outstanding Chef Award" (Photo: Alinea)

The Stew reports on local James Beard winners—the Oscars of the dining world!—Carrie Nahabedian (Naha), Grant Achatz of Alinea fame and others.

Don't miss the comments section . . . some folks need to lay off the haterade for real!

The Bubble Bar, beats and tiny eats

Guests who indulge in the Bubble Bar on the Terrace of Conrad Chicago also get a unique view of Chicago's skyline. (Photo: Conrad Chicago)

There's so much competition for outdoor hangin' this summer that the more established spots need to step up their game. Terrace, on the fifth floor of Conrad Chicago, makes an aggressive move with the introduction of the Bubble Bar, the new outdoor bar cranking out bubble tea cocktails.

Go for the mango- or pineapple-infused drinks—made from fresh fruit and a variety of liquors (!!)—and settle on one of the cabanas that'll make you feel like you've been transported to South Beach. And Monday nights are also reserved for film buffs who come for classic and kitchy movies shown on a large screen. Tonight go retro with "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and munch on truffle popcorn or from a menu of "StaxX" (a meal built vertically by layering bamboo steamers) such as vegetable spring rolls, mini crabcake sliders, sushi and seasoned fries. Showtime at 8pm.

Also happening tonight (and every night) is the $3 bar tapas menu at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! when you get there between 4-6pm. Yummy faves like the Rioja short ribs with Manchego mashed potatoes, chicken empanadas, or mushrooms stuffed with spinach and manchego cheese can be had.

Speaking of tapas, People Lounge doles out the deals every Monday-Thursday (5:30-7pm). Three dollars gets you bites such as pollo Diablo, rainbow trout and scallops. Tonight, you'll want to pair those with $10 sangria pitchers or $2 PBRs as you kick back with live Delta blues from John Kimler.

And down the street from People Lounge is another Monday night special: the BBR Monday Social at Debonair Social Club. Music 101 this week hosts a very hot party with legendary house music maestro Roy Davis, Jr. behind the 'tables. Get the $5 Stoli drinks and $3 domestic beers while you're there. 9pm-2am. $5.

Friday, June 6, 2008

What the critics are saying . . .

. . . about:

Epic Burger: "The sandwiches were messy, but it had nothing to do with grease. With onions and crisp pickles and actual green lettuce—not iceberg—and tomato we had to eat over the table to keep from dripping. As we dug into the fries I told Susan they reminded me of In-N-Out’s, the burger chain in California. After we’d finished eating (owner) David (Friedman) told us that chain was one of his inspirations. They have a limited menu, everything’s made to order, and a loyal fan base that will wait in line for the fresh-cut fries."—Theresa Carter (The Local Tourist) Read it all here.

Mixteco Grill: "The moles here can stop your heart. The otherwise run-of-the-mill sopes are elevated to showstopping status by a dose of the brooding, smoky mole rojo, and the white fish gets treated with a lighter, sprightly mole verde. And while its not a mole, the smooth poblano sauce pooled around plump, smoky, perfectly grilled shrimp is so lappable, we almost don’t need the seafood."—David Tamarkin (Time Out Chicago) Read it all here.

Natalino's: "Natalino's serves the best chicken cacciatore in Chicago. Period. This is one chicken dish that you get either all right or all wrong, and the relatively new Natalino's on West Chicago Avenue gets it all right: A masterful blend of flavors that started with the sauteed chicken (on the bone) and rambled on through a light and fragrant tomato sauce along with just the right amount of the "cacciatore" part—meaty mushrooms and strips of red and green bell peppers."—Pat Bruno (Chicago Sun-Times) Read it all here.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

They're still keeping their lips sealed!

Blackbird's Paul Kahan and Donnie Madia are set to open their unnamed, beer-focused restaurant in the Warehouse District in July. (Photo: Michael Stryder)

Just how long have we been waiting now for those rascals from Blackbird to give us a name for their new beer-focused eatery in the Warehouse District?!

Paul Kahan and Donnie Madia are part of the rock-star team of restaurateurs (also Terry Alexander and Eduard Seitan) that's been working on this heavily anticipated spot since late last year.

And though it's still got no name, they've finally released some of the menu items: Seafood and meat dominate with offerings like marinated Spanish mackerel, wood-roasted black sea bass and fine sliced ham complemented by goat butter.

Scheduled opening date is in July.

Chicago's culinary elite takes to the streets

Time Out Chicago checks in with the likes of Calvin Soh of Shanghai Terrace, Spiaggia's Tony Mantuano and Dan Nguyen (Viet Bistro) to uncover their fave cheap eats around town.

Get the blues for brunch . . . Butter Boogie launches . . .

Ronnie Baker Brooks wowing the crowd at Buddy Guy’s Legends, which is hosting Blues Fest brunch all weekend. (Photo: Recording Academy's Chicago Chapter)

It’s mega music madness this weekend with the Blues Fest in Grant Park, Juicy Wine Co. pairing wine with rap, and an original member of Devo showcasing his artistic skills.

Get in where you fit in:


Leave it to Juicy Wine Co. to jump out the box when it comes to vino. This time they’re hosting Betts & Scholl, a little-known label created in 2001 that’ll be pouring The Chronique, a new school wine with concentrated raspberry and strawberry flavors. You’ll be able to sample their vino as a deejay spins vibes from Dr. Dre’s legendary The Chronic. And as a bonus, guests will get a $5 Juicy gift card toward any Betts & Scholl wine purchase. 6-8pm. $15.

Upscale men’s boutique HALO [FOR MEN] throws a scotch tasting for those guys looking to really start the weekend off right. Guests will have the opportunity to sample 15-, 17-, and 21-year-old aged scotch with appetizers. Entertainment includes a caricaturist and DJ ME spinning. 6:30-8:30pm. RSVP to

It’s the first Thursday of the month, so that means Braziliance returns to Sonotheque. Resident spin star Joe Bryl hosts this sexy set paying homage to beautiful Brazil with The Braziliance Drinking Guide, a special menu of liquid creations capturing the art of cocktailing in Rio like mojitos, Caipirinhas and exotic beers. Guests are encouraged to start the night off at Flo for a special Brazilian menu, then come to Sonotheque for comp admission. 9pm-2am. Free before 10pm; $5 after.

Chicago’s Black Professional Network and Miracle Entertainment celebrate Barack Obama’s big win with Social Therapy at Victor Hotel. Deejays World and I.N.C. spin. 6pm-2am. Free.

Butter Boogie kicks off tonight at Crimson Lounge. Cool kids Good for Party will be throwing this one every first Thursday of the month with comp Absolut vodka tastings and CDs until 10pm. Deejays Mike Cole and Mark Grusane spin modern soul, boogie, disco, electro, vintage house and more. 8pm-2am. Free when you RSVP.


Mark Mothersbaugh was an artist long before he formed iconic punk-alt group Devo with Jerry Casale and Bob Lewis. And though the group will forever be known for its timeless “Whip It,” he’s been busy writing music for likes of filmmaker Wes Anderson (“Royal Tenenbaums,” “Rushmore”), the children’s show “Clifford the Big Red Dog” and Apple Computers. He’s in the spotlight in Chicago this weekend for his one-man show, The Postcard Diaries, which showcases the illustrated postcards he’s created for more than 30 years. The grand-opening reception takes place at DLG River North, located in the same building as hot new “bistronomic” eatery graham elliot. 6-11pm. Free.

And speaking of visual art, one of’s Top 20 Must-See Museum Exhibitions for Summer 2008 is the new Everything's Here: Jeff Koons and His Experience of Chicago exhibit at the MCA through September. Check it out tonight during First Fridays. 6-10pm. The $15 ticket includes live entertainment and Wolfgang Puck hors d’oeuvres; cash bar. 220 E. Chicago Ave.

Head to Gold Star Bar for the 2008 release of the Not For Tourists Guide. Party includes free drinks and copies of the tome, but you gotta print out the invite here to get in. 6-9pm. Free.


Get the blues before you even get to the Blues Fest and check out Buddy Guy’s Legends—which is located close to Grant Park—for a special blues brunch. Munch on biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and muffins during acoustic blues sets by Guy King and Harmonica Hinds. 11am-1pm Saturday and Sunday. $15.

And you’ll wanna dress up and get down because it’s Big Brown going for the Triple Crown. Brownstone Tavern & Grill hosts a viewing party with a contest (for the best picks) that will include cool prizes like Guitar Hero III, gas cards (!!!), Cubs tickets, Sirius stereo players and an iPhone. Also, there will be prizes for best racetrack attire (think seersucker, bonnets and summer dresses), deejay between races and a live trumpeter for call to post. $5 drink deals include the Belmont Breeze (official drink of the Stakes), White Carnation (official flower of the Stakes) and a Maker’s Mark Mint Julep. Doors open at 11am; race starts at 4pm.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Help this dude out

Some poor sap from Toronto is trying to get a reservation at Schwa to no avail. Can anyone help him out?!

Yes We Can . . .

. . . get the 411 on the location for the bar they're trying to keep a secret from everyone! An Ultimate Insider tells me that the recently closed Rockwell Lounge in River North is the new home for Angels & Kings, that hot new rock bar from Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz and company.

Look for it to open in mid-June.

Rick Bayless, house music and more

Frontera Grill chef/owner Rick Bayless will demo at the Green City Market today.

Whether you want to chill out at home with goodies from the market or dance the night away, there's something for everyone on this list:

Yet another rock star chef takes the stage at Green City Market this morning: Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill/Topolobampo fame will demo at 10:30am. The Market runs 7am-1:30pm with seasonal local veggies and fruits. Free.

Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club is the place to be if you're looking to view Bravo's wildly popular "Top Chef" tonight on five screens and sip themed cocktails. Specials include two-for-one entrees and half-price select cocktails. 9pm.

If the weather is decent today, why not head to River North for the Block Party hosted by Ai and Zocalo? They're celebrating the opening of their new patios with alfresco dining specials, including $3 glasses of Japanese sangria and $3 edamame and selected maki at Ai; $5 margaritas and half-price appetizers at Zocalo. 11:30am-11pm.

You'll dig Trilogy, the deejay-driven event happening every Wednesday at Moonshine. Tonight's lineup features Spencer Lokken, Bear Who and Newlife spinning deep house and remixes. You'll also appreciate all the deals, including half-price pizzas, $15 Absolut vodka pitchers and $15 Hornitos margarita pitchers. 8pm-2am. Free.

More dance music is on tap at Zentra with We Love House Music Wednesdays. Hosted by Allay Soul, Aid to the SouLLess, and House Arrest, the party also includes a host of drink specials, including $2 vodka cocktails (10-11p), $5 tequila and rum cocktails, as well as a $35 bracelet for 9 premium cocktails. 10pm-4am. No cover.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I told y'all it was gonna sell out!

Word just came down that the Stephanie Izard dinner at the Drawing Room is sold out.

It sold out in 15 minutes! That's right, but because the owners don't want to turn away the fans, they've added a special post-VIP cocktail reception. Stephanie will be preparing two "culinary" cocktails using seasonal ingredients. It's $40 and starts at 9pm June 15.

graham elliot, others coming your way

graham elliot's Cheddar-apple risotto (with braised onion, green apple, Wisconsin bacon and Cheez-its) is one of the entrees on the menu. (Photo: graham elliot)

Today's the big opening day for graham elliot in River North. Chicago's first "bistronomic" restaurant is owned by former Avenues chef Graham Elliot Bowles.

Moderately priced Italian eatery Piccolo Sogno is expected to open on July 16, according to chef/owner Tony Priolo, who was the former exec chef at Coco Pazzo.

And we're sending out good vibrations for the June debut of Logan Bar and Grill in Logan Square. It's the latest project by the owners of Northside and Black Beetle.

Tempt yourself . . .

Pina Colada, Persephone and Mango Peach Poptails (Photo: DeLaCosta)

. . . with a tasty treat in the form of a refreshing cocktail:

Today's the perfect day to indulge in one of DeLaCosta's new Poptails, a cool combo of a cocktail and popsicle. Choose between Pina Colada (DLC's pineapple infused vodka, pineapple juice, lime and Coco lopez popsicle), Persephone (Grey Goose L'Orange vodka, Pama pomegranate liquer, blood orange puree, cava and a pomegrante popsicle) or Mango Peach (Bacardi Peach red rum, mango puree, orange juice, lime juice and a peach popsicle).

Or celebrate the end of the Democratic primaries with this ode to U.S. Senator Barack Obama. Plan B Bar + Kitchen has created the Ciroc Obama (Ciroc, splash of Chambord and lemonade with a grape sugar rim) that's certain to be a winner all summer long.

Get to Lincoln Park's cozy lower-level lounge Matisse for $2 sangrias, $6 taco plates and a chance to sit down on the intimate patio. It's a great spot for a date, but also for groups looking to avoid the madness up in Wrigleyville's watering holes.

And every Tuesday is Return of the Cocktail Party at Martini Park. Come early (5-8pm) for the delicious passed hors d'oeuvres and specially priced signature cocktails ($5-$7) like the Berry Fizzy Lemonade (Effen Berry Vodka, lemon juice, strawberry puree, and a Rock Star float, garnished with a lemon wheel) or Grapefruit Caipirinha (Ketel Citron, muddled grapefruit, lime, and simple syrup, garnished with a lime wheel). Stick around for the live music. Tonight, the Flat Cats perform at 7pm.

Monday, June 2, 2008

More info on the Fall Out Boy's bar

Newlyweds Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz.

The 411 is finally trickling in on that new venture from Fall Out Boy star Pete Wentz, who's teamed up with nightlife kingpins Matt Eisler (Empire Liquors) and Stephen Westman (Lakeview Broadcasting Co.) as well as Lyle Aker and Patrick Poncher (Five Star Bar & Grill) for the Chicago outpost of Angels & Kings.

It's done pretty well since opening in New York in 2007, so look for Angels & Kings to be a hit when it arrives in River North this summer.

Take it . . .


. . . to the streets tonight:

Get your liquid lunch on as David Burke's Primehouse brings back the 777 Wine Lunch, a semi-annual celebration benefiting Common Threads all week long. $7 gets you seven samples of different wines to complement your meal. Today it's chardonnay, Tuesday (cabernet sauvignon), Wednesday (summer), Thursday (New Old World) and Friday (South America).

Enoteca Roma's hidden outdoor garden is ideal for a romantic night out or if you're looking to escape the fray of the downtown bars. Every Monday, they offer select bottles of vino for $20 with dinner.

There's still a few spaces left for the beer class at Lush Wine and Spirits tonight. Guests will get the 411 on all things hoppy, malty and fermented. And if that sounds good to you, wait until you get to the tastings. They'll be pairing Belgian ales with bites. 7:30-9pm. $30.

And the annual Burgerfest at Rockit Bar & Grill kicks off today through Saturday. They've created a different yummy burger each day, beginning with a tangy Tuna Burger topped with wasabi mayo and paired with sweet potato fries. Other highlights this week include Wednesday's Duck a la Orange Burger that come with duck fat fries (!!!), Saturday's all-natural beef burger with heirloom tomatoes and fingerling potatoes and Sunday's Benedict Burger with poached egg, red onion brioche and bearnaise sauce. And don't forget to pair those with liquor-infused rootbeer floats and milkshakes.