Tuesday, September 30, 2008

They caved!


Reports the Sun-Times today:

"Bars and restaurants surrounding Wrigley Field on Monday reluctantly agreed today to stop serving alcohol after the seventh inning of potential title-clinching Cubs playoff games, but only after City Hall made a last-minute concession: The prohibition will end if the games go into extra innings."

The temporary ban could get its first test on Oct. 7. That would be the fifth and final game of the Cubs and Dodgers series, if necessary.

So, you know what?! It's time to get busy in other parts of the city if this indeed goes down. In Wicker Park, there's The Boundary and Fifty/50. In River North, go to English or Rockit Bar and Grill. Or, if you want to stick close to Lakeview, head to the Southport Corridor for a number of venues, including Take Five, Justin's or Messner's.

Cheers to this . . .


Keep your spirits up today:

We love Fiddlehead Cafe for slashing prices on its wine flights every Tuesday. Go for the robust Spanish vino or South American juice. Treat yourself to interesting whites from Portugal or a nice selection of sparkling wines. Usually, they're $11 to $14, but tonight they're all $8. And if you really enjoy something, you can take a bottle home for a special low price.

Tuesdays are also popular for the Pub Beer Showcase at Goose Island. The Clybourn location trots out special brews and even has the brewer on hand to discuss. 6pm. Free.

Cheers for more beer at NoMI, which takes a break from its usual Tuesday wine-tasting Cellar Notes to let you soak up the suds. Advanced sommelier Fernando Beteta leads with an expert on hand, offering a number of beers complemented by appetizers. 5:30-7:30pm $30.

And the biggest deal of the day is Paramount Room's weekly all-you-can-eat fish & chips special. That's endless, hand-dipped fish that comes with fresh-cut fries. Pair that with a bottle of wine, which is half off every Tuesday. Also, $5 shots of Jack Daniels and Jameson.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Oak Tree opening delayed another month

Here's evidence that you cannot rely on restaurants to open when they say they will:

The Dish reported way back in July that Mag Mile fave Oak Tree was coming back as Oak Tree Restaurant & Bakery on Thursday.

Turns out that's not happening after all—at least not this week. They're now looking at a Nov. 15 re-opening, but hey, you never, ever know.

Recap of first-ever Chicago Gourmet


I didn't get a chance to check out the highly anticipated Chicago Gourmet: A Celebration of Food and Wine event, but my colleagues over at The Stew hung out all weekend with several blog posts, including this one.

Here's a taste:

"If you wanted to taste the food of the A-list chefs, you had to wait for the individual tasting tables staggered throughout the day. These lasted roughly 90 minutes. Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate served a cold thimble of hot chocolate; Rick Moonen of Las Vegas’ RM Seafood served a refreshing arctic char ceviche. I did not have a bad thimble of anything, however long the lines for those thimbles could get. My highlight was the pretty little bamboo plate of unbelievable foie gras served by Christophe David at NoMI. It came topped with a dollop of apricot-Thai long peppercorn chutney."

Today's the day . . .


. . . for City Hall and Wrigleyville bar owners to meet on that wack proposal. They're convening at John Barleycorn and hopefully they'll come out of there with a solution to make all happy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hennessy Artistry Series hits town with Ashanti

Ashanti performing at the "Hennessy Artistry Series," which took place at Spy Bar on Thursday. (Photo: Spy Bar)

Despite feeling a bit under the weather, R&B songstress Ashanti still managed to put on one hell of a show at Spy Bar Thursday.

In town for the touring Hennessy Artistry Series, she sang all of her hits, plus previewed a couple of songs from her upcoming album, The Declaration. It was a huge turnout for this invite-only party featuring Hennessy-infused cocktails (cognac mojitos?!) and appetizers; plus the crowd was a diverse mix of industry insiders and young professionals.

It's great to see that clubs are finally getting the message that every once in a while they need to shake things up in order to get the people out and about. Spy Bar's line was way down the street, filled with eager beavers ready to party their asses off. I don't know how long Hennessy was pouring that free hooch, but something tells me that no bottles were left over . . .

David Beckham's a gracious loser


The L.A. Galaxy was beaten by our Chicago Fire soccer team 3-1, so you'd think they'd be sitting in their hotel rooms licking their wounds.

Instead they hung out hardcore early Friday morning at celebrity magnet Underground, where super star David Beckham didn't shy away from the crowds—as expected—even though they were nestled in a corner.

The plaid-shirt clad Beckham just stood at his well-guarded table drinking beer and nodding his head to beats by birthday boy (R&B super producer) Jermaine Dupri, who spun a special set of hip-hop, house and R&B jams to get the crowd all worked up. Too bad Dupri's girlfriend, Janet Jackson, whose Rock Wit You Tour made a stop at Allstate Arena, didn't make a cameo.

But hey! Two out of three isn't bad.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

R. Kelly throws public party at his crib?!


So I received several emails from reliable sources about some big bash at the private residence of R. Kelly in the 'burbs. The party includes the usual: live music, poolside fun, free food and drinks, plus the opportunity to be one of the first people to hear his upcoming album in its entirety.

I get these invites every so often, but this time it looks like they're inviting anyone who wants to go. Strange!

Apparently, if you want to hang, all you have to do is show up by 9:30pm Saturday at Debonair Social Club. They're providing free transportation as long as you're 21 (hmmmmmm), to and from the party. This one should be really interesting.

Update on Janet Jackson gig

Janet Jackson's only scheduled to appear at Allstate Arena tonight.

Turns out there's no Velvet Rope tonight after all:

Sources tell me that Janet Jackson's after party at Le Passage is cancelled. If she turns up anywhere, it'll likely be over at Underground, where her boo, mega-producer Jermaine Dupri, is celebrating his birthday by spinning a special set. That's from 10pm-4am, and early arrival is highly recommended.

The pop culture parade

Soccer great David Beckham is one of many celebrities expected to hang out in town this weekend.

Our economy's in turmoil, but if you want to get your mind off it for awhile, there's certainly plenty to do this weekend, from a host of celebrities hitting town and Chicago Gourmet to a few key lounge openings like the new Wrigleyville speakeasy 1914.

Here's what else is happening:


The Diva Series settles into its new home at Madame Tartine, with special celebrity guest Stephanie Izard of "Top Chef." It's also a kickoff party for Meals on Wheels' 20th annual Celebrity Chef Ball, happening in October. Comped Effen cocktails 7-8pm. 7pm-2am. No cover.

Also happening at Madame Tartine is the Johnny Boys Reunion, featuring nightlife icon BJ Murray, Madame Tartine owner Donnie Kruse, artist Gary Weidner and others. If you're all about the "old school," this is one not to miss. 9pm-2am. No cover.

Landmark Grill + Lounge throws a wine-tasting bash, offering guests the best of Aussie vino. Exec Chef Benjamin Browning pairs those with some culinary delights. 7-9pm. $35.

And Edgewater's annual Fall Dinner Crawl occurs at various venues in the neighborhood. Just how many restaurants can you fit in during this three-hour affair?! Twenty-six eateries and businesses will be open for your enjoyment, plus you'll be able to dance away the calories, view fine art and listen to live music. Spots include Broadway Cellars, Viet Bistro and Uncommon Ground. Get the $35 tix here. 6-9pm.

Janet Jackson, who's performing Thursday at Allstate Arena, is scheduled to host an after-party at Le Passage.


Deep, underground house is back at Cuatro, as Groove Parlor takes over with Sound Garden. Deejays Vic Lavender and Mario Romay perform; Mr. Ali's Carla Prather does a live PA. 9pm-2am. No cover.

A Fashion Sneak Peek happens at par lounge, with guests being treated to a hipster view on fashion, art, music and more. Also, get there for those drink specials: $4 Jameson shots, $5 martinis, $6 Effen cocktails. 7pm-2am. No cover.


Since it's so crazy warm outside, the Rib-A-Que Smoke-Out at Moonshine is mad appropriate. Socca is also on this deal, which includes more than 10 different local restaurants as well as award-winning amateurs to pick the "smoke-out champion." Also, "Top Chef" stars Stephanie Izard and Dale Levitski will make an appearance as judges; live music by Devil in a Woodpile and Javelinas. Also, Moonshine’s new onsite brewery should complement the rib-tasting experience. Noon-6pm. $25 in advance; $35 at door.


The Oak Street Council and CS Brides magazine host the annual Wedding Walk: An Afternoon of Bridal Luxury. Fashion shows from luxe boutiques Harry Winston, Hermes, Lester Lampert, Vera Wang, Ultimate Brides and Luca Luca should be the highlight as well as cake tastings and sweet tables by the likes of Bleeding Heart Bakery. Noon-4pm. $60 for brides, $25 for guests here.

Get a little provocative on Football Sunday with the Flirty Girl Football Bash, happening at Flirty Girl Fitness (1325 West Randolph St.). They're setting up multiple large screens to view the action, plus free food and five cash bars and an outdoor patio. The half-time show will consist of pole dancing and "Coyote Ugly"-style performances. Complimentary beer 6-7pm. 6pm-2am. $20 ($25 at the door, if available). Call 312-666-2266 for tickets.

La Madia's weekly football lunch includes the Hester Special: During any Bears game, if star Devin Hester has a return for a touchdown, pizza is on them. Also, the staff helps guests select the perfect brew to complement their extensive pizza selection. Saturday and Sundays 11am-4pm.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

City Hall is out of touch


The city's proposed seventh-inning cutoff for Wrigleyville is stepping it up a notch, with the mayor threatening the area's bars to play along with his rules or "that whole area will be voted dry tomorrow."

Is this fair?! Even if these bars play along with the city's terms, don't they realize that people will just start binge drinking before the seventh inning—or even worse—BYOF (bring your own flask). Also, exactly what boundaries are we talking about here? Does that include the Southport Corridor and Boystown?! And what about the restaurants and lounges that serve alcohol but are not considered "sports bars?"

There's gotta be a better solution without everyone getting all worked up; plus if this area goes dry, the city loses millions of dollars and is this the image it wants to portray as it continues to pursue that 2016 Olympic bid?!

Chicago Gourmet is on its way . . .

Cary Taylor, of Chaise Lounge, is one of many Chicago chefs cooking at this weekend's first-ever "Chicago Gourmet" event. (Photo: Chaise Lounge)

. . . and if you cannot wait until this weekend, check out Chaise Lounge, which is serving up Executive Chef Cary Taylor's offerings for a fraction of the price of the actual event. All this week through Sunday, foodies can sample what he'll be serving at Chicago Gourmet, including "deconstructed" Waldorf Salad (roaring 40s bleu cheese, black walnuts, yogurt dressing), crab cakes, "crispy" chicken and whole wheat penne for only $30. And if you do plan on attending Chicago Gourmet, which showcases some of the city's hottest restaurants, 312 Dining Diva readers get an online discount of 10 percent off when they use the promotional code: CG2008TEN.

Luscious Latin fare and Goose Island beer pairings happen at Carnivale, with a special appearance by brewmaster Greg Hall discussing his award-winning craft beers. Several farmers will also be on hand as part of the "localvare challenge." 7-10pm. $45.

Over at Nacional 27, they're pairing five wines with five courses of Latin American cuisine. The weekly Wine Down Wednesdays is $25 for basic wine pairings; $45 for luxe wine pairings; $50 with Spanish cheese and port pairings.

The most social wine party of the month happens tonight at Quartino. A stylish after-work crowd fills up the second level of this loungy pizzeria for a sampling of four wines, appetizers and cool music. This time they're doing French vino as well as each guest gets a specialty St. Germain cocktail. Also, for those wanting more wine, they're selling featured bottles for $10; drink it there or take it home. 7-9pm. $20.

And quirky deejay Matt Roan spins during Politically Empowering Fiercely Fashionable, hosted by Salon Blonde and Rock the Vote. Happening at Double Door, the big headliner is Bang! Bang!. 7:30pm-2am. $18 in advance; $24 at door.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Someone always @#$%@#$$!# stuff up for the rest of us . . .


Thanks to some idiots fighting over in Wrigleyville after the Cubs games, we may all have to suffer.

The Sun-Times reports the city is asking bars and restaurants around Wrigley Field to stop serving alcohol after the seventh-inning stretch to prevent Cubs playoff celebrations from turning ugly.

Right now it's a volunteer effort—and owners are resistant—so hopefully it doesn't go through because those recent incidents were random by some really bad eggs—not the Cubs' true fans.

Plus, that would be a ton of money lost over there!

This deserves a celebration!


Café Selmarie, known for its delectable pastries and price-conscious comfort fare, turns 25 this week. Don't you think that deserves a toast?! They do too, that's why today through Sunday the restaurant offers a comped glass of bubbly with lunch and dinner.

Another noted anniversary takes place at Lumen with a special performance by the one and only DJ Psycho Bitch, singing by house music legend Dajae, and a deejay set by Lego. Lumen's industry night has been going strong for one year now, so get there early for the festivities. Belvedere vodka hosts the bar with complimentary cocktails 9-10pm, and of course there will be drink specials. 9pm-2am. No cover.

Impress a lunch date or a sig other with a fabulous lunch at David Burke Primehouse. Burke’s NoBull Lunch, offered Monday through Saturday, includes an appetizer, entree and dessert for the price of the entree. For example, get the pan-roasted Alaskan king salmon ($25), pan-roasted half chicken ($20) or petite “South Side” filet mignon ($26). 11am-3pm.

It's budget-dining night every night at Madame Tartine, the sixties-styled, French supperclub decked out in shades of red, white and black. For $29, you'll get a three-course meal that's paired with a half carafe of red or rose. Choose from steak frites, risotto, roasted chicken or baked salmon for your entree.

And get gussied up and head to the charity wine tasting benefiting Kaleidescope, Inc., which raises money for over 4,000 children in Chicago who require care outside of their home due to abuse and neglect. Guests will sample a variety of vino paired with appetizers at WineStyles Chicago. 6-8pm. Get the $35 tix here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Look for more 4am bars . . .


. . . to be popping up soon in the 42nd Ward (River North area), as the alderman there is seriously considering overturning the moritorium on after-hours liquor licenses. An Ultimate Insider gave 312 Dining Diva the scoop last week.

Developing . . .

Beer-focused eatery finally opens in Bucktown

The Bristol opens in Bucktown on Tuesday. (Photo: Urban Daddy Chicago)

After all the high drama, false starts and flood damage, The Bristol finally opens tomorrow.

Is it worth the hype?! Urban Daddy Chicago gives us a sneak preview of what to expect, including a 60-plus beer list and a chalk wall full of menu items like Taco-Stand Corn on the Cob and Grilled Whole Fish with Sour Cherries.

Sounds good to moi.

Get ready for Mai Tais—again


The Stew's Phil Vettel is getting us all excited about the return of Polynesian-flavored Trader Vic's in its new Gold Coast home.

Monday is Funday


Who knows how many amazing days we have left like this?! I highly recommend you getting out and enjoying it:

You can still get a reservation for the Art of Cocktailing event, happening at The Violet Hour. House of Campari and Swindle magazine host, and guests get to choose one of four designs by artist David Weidman, which will be recreated onto complimentary canvas tote bags. Specialty Compari cocktails, priced $2-$7, for the night include the Maloney Negroni (Campari, Beefeater gin, Carpano Antica Formula, house orange bitters); LaBotija (Campari, Pisco Santiago Queirolo, Aperol, lime, Frutabomba Bitters); and The Rivera (pineapple-infused Campari, Luxardo Maraschino Liquer, egg white and lemon). 7-9pm. No cover, but RSVP required.

You'll get half off on any bottle of wine—or BYOB—when you buy an entree at Feast on Monday or Tuesday.

Expose yourself to some African hip-hop at Sonotheque. Nomadic Wax African Hip Hop Showcase happens with performances by Ghana's M.anifest, Senegal's Baay Musa, Uganda's Krukid and others. DJ Boo spins. 9pm-2am. $10.

And more international sounds are on tap as Hothouse continues the 10th-annual World Music Festival at Uncommon Ground through Wednesday. Tonight, you'll get Balkano, a Chicago-based band playing Balkan-infused jazz and klezmer. Tomorrow, Canadians Jayme Stone and Mansa Sissoko kick out African- and Appalachian-influenced grooves. And Wednesday's show is Flamenco guitar and song by Vivian Garcia. All shows start at 9pm. $10 donation suggested.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hub Punch knocks out the competition

HUB 51's potent Hub Punch is one of three winners for the annual "Cheers Ibiza Bartender Challenge." (Photo: HUB 51)

HUB 51's R.J. Melman, who owns the River North hot spot with his brother Jerrod, is currently chilling out in Ibiza, Spain right now.

Why?! The new restaurant's signature and very potent Hub Punch (made with Licor 43, citrus-flavored vodka, Reposado tequila, fresh-squeezed lemonade as well as pomegranate, orange and lime juices) won the annual Cheers Ibiza Bartender Challenge.

Sponsored by the Spanish-based Licor 43, the contest sets out to discover which bar/restaurant makes the most creative cocktail with the citrus and fruit-flavored liqueur. Melman jetted out to Ibiza this weekend for the awards ceremony and a series of parties.

The Hub Punch's pricey at $35 a pitcher, but I guess if you do it in lieu of a bottle of wine it's about the same.

A whole lotta ballin' going on . . .

R&B star Ashanti, in town for an exclusive private party, is one of many celebs hanging out in Chicago this week.

Be on the lookout for celebs galore running around town this week—beyond the usual professional athletes:


Candace Bushnell's in town promoting her latest chick-lit tome, "One Fifth Avenue," as well as the premiere of the second season for NBC's "Lipstick Jungle" during a private party at Manor.


R&B star Ashanti performs; celebrity-fave DJ Kiss spins at an undisclosed location for a private party for a high-end liquor company.

It'll be interesting to see how the parties at Le Passage and Underground play out. Janet Jackson, whose “Rock Witchu” Tour makes a stop at the Allstate Arena, is scheduled to host an after-party at Le Passage. LL Cool J is also supposed to make a cameo. And over at UG, it's all about mega-producer Jemaine Dupri—Janet's main squeeze—who's on tap to deejay during his birthday party.


Hip-hop star and local Chicago boy Common returns home to host a few fundraisers for his namesake charity, Common Ground Foundation. An afternoon VIP bowling event occurs at 10pin Bowling Lounge, with confirmed attendees The Roots, Pharrell, Will.i.Am, Talib Kweli and Bilal.

And at 7:30pm, Common's performing at the House of Blues, and with all these guys in town, get ready for many cameos onstage!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Achatz takes on the Big Apple


Eater is reporting that our very own Grant Achatz of Alinea fame is teaming up with the legendary Thomas Keller this fall to host three, 20-course dinners at Per Se, Alinea (Dec. 2) and The French Laundry.

Of course, it's NOT cheap: Each event seats 65 diners and runs $1,500 a head. I guess the economy's not affecting everyone.

Mmmmm, cheesecake . . . and other sweet stuff

Eli’s Cheesecake Festival happens this weekend at Eli's Cheesecake World.

Last weekend's weather was pretty freaking bad, so let's thank our lucky stars that it'll be 80 degrees and sunny for the next few days. Especially since we've got some fabulous outdoor festivals happening, including the annual Eli's Cheesecake Festival, Hideout Block Party and Lizzie McNeill’s Half Way to St. Patrick’s Day Festival.

Whatever the case, whether you're hanging on a rooftop lounge or kickin' it with a cold one in a divey beer garden, it's time to get busy:


SecondCityStyle.com hosts some sort of "fashion bday bash" for its third anniversary at W Chicago - City Center. Will there be cake?! Dunno. But they will have comped cocktails, apps, fashion-focused party games and clothes galore. 6-8pm. No cover, but RSVP to chic@secondcitystyle.com if you want in.

Another after-work gig takes place at Fleming's, as Maven throws a party to help you unwind for the weekend. Guests get discounted appetizers and free wine, including the very cool-sounding Hey Mambo Sultry Red Blend and Hey Mambo Swanky White Blend. 6:30-8pm. No cover.


Fresh off New York Fashion Week—where she rocked the Versace, Armani and Fashion Rocks parties—DJ Kiss returns to Crimson Lounge. As always, she's bringing her own special brand of sweet sounds of hip-hop, soul, funk and rock. 9pm-2am. Cover varies.

If you're feeling lucky, head over to Lizzie McNeill’s for the fifth-annual Lizzie McNeill’s Half Way to St. Patrick’s Day Festival. The block party happens all weekend right in front of the bar, featuring live music from U2 tribute band Elevation, as well as bagpipers and other local artists. Food and drink vendors will be on hand, with a portion of the proceeds donated to the Special Olympics. 3-11pm Friday; 11am-11pm Saturday; 11pm-5pm Sunday. No cover.

New York sensation DJ Kiss returns to Crimson Lounge Friday. (Photo: Zapwater Communications)

Hothouse is back with the 10th-annual World Music Festival, occurring at Uncommon Ground through next Wednesday. Highlights include Desafinado, a six-piece ensemble playing Samba, Bossa Nova and Musica Popular Brasileira at 10pm Friday; the multi-national Seckou Keita Quartet performing Saturday at 10; and Sunday's 8pm show with Alex Cuba working it out with Afro-Cuban beats. $10 donation suggested.

Get the girls together for Manicures, Massages, Martinis's and More...., happening at Max Bar. Event includes three hours of open bar and spa services. 7-10pm. $30.

Hyper Crush hits Lumen with their '80s style of electro, doo-hop and more. Wear hyper colors (yes, glow, baby, glow!), and get ready to take it to the next level. 9pm-2am. No cover before 10pm.


If you've got a super sweet tooth, you don't wanna miss the 12th-annual Eli’s Cheesecake Festival, happening on the massive campus of Eli’s Cheesecake World. Festivities include cheesecake eating contests, cheesecake bingo, cheesecake samples, cheesecake dancing (?!?!?), the Jesse White Tumblers flying over a giant cheesecake and the Happiness Club performing the "Eli’s Cheesecake Rap." If that's not enough, you can donate a non-perishable food item to the Greater Chicago Food Depository for a free pre-packaged slice of cheesecake. Also, live music and a classic car show. 10am-5pm Saturday; 11am-5pm Sunday. Free.

Sitting around twiddling your thumbs trying to find something to do in the middle of the afternoon?! Head over to Red & White for the weekly wine tasting. Every Saturday, the owners bring in a winemaker and generously pour several bottles of little-known vinos that you're certain to appreciate. This week, they're exploring Austrian juice with five different varieties. Light snacks, too! 2-5pm. Free.

Oktoberfest is here! Sheffield's does it up in classic and contempo fashion with German-style music, food and beer on its notoriously large beer garden. Guests will be treated to six of Sheffield's best craft beers, live music from The Polkaholics and an unlimited brat station complete with the works. Noon-6pm. $25.

And sadly, you know it's officially the end of the summer when the Hideout Block Party rolls around. The two-day festival held directly in front of The Hideout is loaded with worthy music acts ranging from the super Indie Plastic People of the Universe to big-name bands like The New Pornographers. Check the site for the entire sked here. Gates open at 11am Saturday; noon Sunday. $25 or $45 for a two-day pass.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Who's got the juice?!


LTHForum just announced its annual Great Neighborhood Restaurant Awards, and whoo hooo is the heat already on!

You know how Chicago diners get all nuts about their favorite spots and this contest is no different. Just check the comments on entries for the likes of Schwa, Urban Belly, Honey 1 BBQ and Spacca Napoli.

Mamma mia!

Dissed by Forbes


Forbes just named Chicago the most stressful city in the country:

"Chicago's rising unemployment rate, expensive gas, high population density and relatively poor air quality create a perfect storm of stress, according to measures we used to calculate the country's anxiety hot spots."

So grab a beer or a cocktail and calm the (*&^%$#@!@#$%^& down.

If you didn’t get enough ‘Sex’ . . .


. . . then get ready for more madness as “Sex and the City” gets underway—again—for the second time this year. Le Bar kicks off a three-day foreplay to the release of the DVD (which hits stores Sept. 23) with a cocktail party filled with freebies for the fashionable. You’ll be able to snap up complimentary movie posters, key chains, wristbands, magazines and gift bags. 7-9pm tonight through Friday. No cover.

Also, on Saturday, Rednofive gets into the "SATC" spirit with a red-carpet event. Fans of the show will have the chance to win copies of the movie, plus there will be gift bags filled with "SATC" swag like branded items and certificates. Guests will also get to enjoy signature cocktails named after the movie's characters, from The Carrie to Mr. Big. 9pm-5am. $20.

More Hump Day happenings:

Shirley King's best described as "Etta James, Koko Taylor and B.B. King all rolled into one," and she's performing tonight and every Wednesday at The Joynt. The daughter of legendary bluesman B.B. King is not to be missed. 9pm. No cover.

Raphael Saadiq—best known for his R&B hits with the Grammy Award-winning Tony! Toni! Toné! as well as Lucy Pearl—strikes out on his own again with new album "The Way I See It." RSVPs are still being accepted for the listening party at Funky Buddha Lounge, hosted by Raphael and Remy Martin. 6-9pm. No cover, but RSVP to chicagorsvp@gmail.com for admission.

Blackhawk star Dustin Byfuglien and local rapper Twista square off head to head on an Xbox 360 version of the brand new game NHL 2K9 at Spoon. I don't know crap about hockey or Xbox, but Kilo Kai is hosting the bar and at least that's something I understand. 6:30-9pm. $10.

Head to Bucktown beauty boutique p.45 (1643 N. Damen Ave.) for the third-annual Global Design Reward event. Hosted by BlackBook and Hennessy, the mingle-fest includes cocktails and shopping at a discount. Interior designer Jordana Joseph and stylist Julie Watson will also be on hand to help guests create new fall looks. 6-9pm. No cover.

And tix are still available for Pinot Envy at Sam's Wines & Spirits in the South Loop. You'll get to taste a nice range of global pinot grapes, from Champagnes to dry rosés. Paired with apps. 7-8:30pm. $50.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The end of an expensive era?!


Now that all these high-rolling types in the financial industry are losing their jobs left and right, who's going to be able to afford bottle service every week in the clubs?!

Gawker declares that as of yesterday bottle service is dead in New York. Will Chicago follow this latest Big Apple trend?!

You know how I feel about bottle service, so I will be watching this one closely and keeping you updated on who makes a move first.

Developing . . .

Pane Caldo's servers get slammed in review

Grilled shrimp and calamari are served in white wine sauce with fine herbs at Pane Caldo in the Gold Coast. (Photo: Dave Slivinski for Crain's Chicago Business)

When Jennifer Aniston was in town filming "The Breakup" a few years back, one of her fave restaurants was the low-key, but very expensive Pane Caldo, in the Gold Coast. This unassuming Italian eatery, which has been around for 16 years, suddenly found itself in the spotlight beyond the neighborhood regulars who frequent it.

So you'd think by now they'd have the service thing down, right?! Not so, says Crain's Chicago Business, whose dining critic loved the food, but took mad issue with the shoddy service she received during her outings:

"If the service were only as good as the food at Pane Caldo, it would be among my top picks for business dining. . . . Servers need remedial training. Lunch service was slow. No refills on iced tea were offered. At dinner, crumbs and dirty dishes lingered on tables while staff loitered. If I were the chef, I'd be steamed."

To new beginnings and old friends . . .


Four new swanky spots to try whether you’re a sexy gal or swaggering guy:

Dirty Martini, an unassuming cocktail lounge in River North, features a high-tech machine pouring your drinks.

Lakeview's Late Night Thai opens at 9pm and closes at 5am for the after-hours owls with appetites for pad Thai and spring rolls.

90 Miles Cafe, in Logan Square, kicks out authentic Cuban sandwiches piled high with ham, roasted pork or shredded beef.

And Lincoln Park's The Counter is getting rave reviews for burgers really made your way.

Also, these deals are steals:

It's budget-dining night every night at Madame Tartine, the sixties-styled, French supperclub decked out in shades of red, white and black. For $29, you'll get a three-course meal that's paired with a half carafe of red or rose. Choose from steak frites, risotto, roasted chicken or baked salmon for your entree.

Another three-course prix fixe, for $27, is offered each Tuesday at Angelina Ristorante. The romantic Lakeview eatery offers a charming setting that goes perfectly with classic Italian dishes that change each week.

And the Pub Beer Showcase happens every Tuesday at the original Goose Island. Get there at 6pm for a free tasting of their latest beer. The brewer will also be on hand so here's your chance to sound off on suds.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Settle down, they're only cupcakes!

MORE's cool cupcake case is filled with a variety of savory and sweet treats every day. (Photo: Jessica Tampas)

Commenters over on The Stew got a little heated over the new sweet and savory cupcakes at MORE on the Gold Coast.


"If I want a samich, I'll buy a samich. If I want a cupcake, I'll buy a real cupcake that God intended to be dessert, not some silly samich impersonating a cupcake. That's just wrong. What's innovative and haute cuisine in LA or NYC is just silly and pretentious in Chicago."

Hmmmmmmm, OK, dude. You keep your Hostess cupcakes, but I'm going to keep my mind open. Did any of these people even try the &^%$#@!@#?! cupcakes before they banged out these comments?! Likely not.

Bristol opening delayed; return of Sommelier for a Day


The Bristol was set to open on Thursday, but due to flood damage from the weekend's massive rain storm, they're now shooting for a Sept. 23 debut.

In the meantime, if you're looking to get out for a wallet-friendly lunch, head over to BIN 36 for the No-Tax Lunch deal that's going on through Oct. 31. BIN 36 picks up the tax for those dining in.

For more cost-conscious kickin' it, head to Petterino’s for Monday Night Live. This is your chance to catch emerging and established singers as they step to the stage with standard showtunes and cabaret. Who knows who'll hit the mike, as traveling artists from the casts of "Wicked," "The Producers" and other Broadway shows have been known to perform. 7:30-10pm. $15 dining minimum per person.

And manana:

UPDATE: This event has been postponed until further notice: Sommelier for a Day returns to Bistro 110. The popular, interactive event allows guests to help the stylish Gold Coast eatery select their upcoming winter wines. This time they're sampling a number of Champagne and sparkling vino, and guests get to rate them all. The best, of course, will be added to the menu. The event also includes small bites by Executive Chef Dominique Tougne. 6-8pm. $35 for Levy Preferred members; $45 for others.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Props to the Boka boys

Kevin Boehm (left) and Rob Katz, partners of BOKA Restaurant Group (Photo: Kevin Boehm)

BOKA celebrates its fifth annivesary on Monday with a blowout feast. It's no surprise coming from this progressive American eatery that's managed to stay relevant in an area with some of the most fickle diners in town.

Earlier this year, partner/executive chef Giuseppe Tentori snagged a 2008 Best New Chef honor by Food & Wine magazine, so it'll be interesting to see what's up with this multi-course meal that includes braised Kobe short ribs with grits, a poached Tasmanian ocean trout and smoked duck with foie gras terrine. The dinner's paired with wines of Hendry Ranch Winery in Napa Valley.

Event occurs Monday, Sept. 15 at 7pm. $150.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

B-day cupcakes and bubbly!

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312 Dining Diva's taking a personal day . . .

Life is a song worth singing . . .

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Alicia Keys performs at The Venue, the live music lounge nestled inside the Horseshoe Casino, on Saturday.

. . . especially if you get the chance to hear it through the sweet voice of Alicia Keys, who's performing at The Venue on Saturday.

That's the new high-profile music lounge inside the renovated Horseshoe Casino. And if you don't mind hoofing it to Hammond, Ind., they're spotlighting a host of hot upcoming shows, including Bret Michaels’ "The Rock of Love Bus Tour" (Sept. 21), Seal (Oct. 5), Aretha Franklin (Nov. 14) and Billy Cosby (Nov. 15).

Those not driving can hop the free Golden Phoenix shuttle at the downtown Hyatt (151 E. Wacker Dr.) or Hyatt Regency McCormick (2233 S. Martin Luther King Dr.). Call 312-563-0888 for hours of operation.

There's a bunch more happening this weekend, including the opening of More, a cute Gold Coast cupcakery with offbeat treats like the BLT (yes, with real bacon!), carrot cake, root beer, black peppercorn, curry, Red Velvet and pink grapefruit. Also, Crescendo returns with new ownership.


Another notable opening is from the guys behind Uncle Fatty's Rum Resort. The adjacent Coach House has been open for a few weeks now, but tonight they're celebrating with free Effen vodka drinks (7-9pm), light appetizers, as well as half-price wine, martinis and beer all night. No cover.

The Diva Reunion occurs at Jbar, with a number of local media and entertainment personalities getting props from Maven and Sarah Vargo Productions. Special guest deejay Will (from MTV's "Real World") spins, and there will be specials on Snow Queen vodka. 9pm-2am. No cover.

For those on a budget, head to Broadway Cellars for a fixed-priced dinner, where you can get three courses for only $20. And for an additional $5, you get 3 oz. wine pairings.


Go crazy like Prince or walk like an Egyptian at I Love '80s Night, happening at Sheffield's. The bar's staff will be decked out in '80s kitsch, and of course guests are encouraged to do so as well. The night also includes cult classic films ("Sixteen Candles," "Flashdance"), a costume contest, '80s music, and drink and food specials. 6pm-2am. No cover.

2005 was a fantastic year for Bordeaux winemakers, but you don't have to spend an arm and a leg to get the best of it. Big Creek Productions and Lincoln Park Young Professionals host this after-work, wine-tasting event at Sam's Wines & Spirits for onephiles and novices to check out a number of stars, plus light bites from California Pizza Kitchen, Fleming's Steakhouse, Edible Arrangements and others. 6-8pm. $40 in advance (Ticketweb.com) or $50 at door.

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The BLT cupcake is one of the offbeat treats at More, opening Friday in the Gold Coast. (Photo: Jessica Tampas)


Wine lovers will also be flocking to the annual Wine Crush, taking place in Old Town. The daylong event, which starts at 11am (isn't that a little too early to be drinking wine?!), includes a couture fashion show, demonstrations, live music, food and more. It's also the third-year anniversary party for Suite Lounge, so if you're still stumbling around the area after the event, check in. Fest runs until 8pm, with tickets ranging from $25 for standard wine tastings to $45 for unlimited tastings.

Tickets are still available for Green Tie Ball, which takes places this year in a new venue at Chicago Scenic Studios (1315 N. North Branch St.). The festive soiree explores with a Greenivale theme, paying homage to Carnivale and Mardi Gras. You'll get to taste gourmet samplings, as well as an open bar, live music, charity gaming and more. 8:30pm-1am. $150.


The feast happening every weekend at newcomer Lakeview sports lounge The Pony should make every football fan happy. Chef Curtis whips up his version of chicken 'n' waffles (two homemade waffles with Southern fried chicken, whipped with strawberry butter), plus Effen Bloody Marys and "breakfast stacks" layered with meat, biscuits and hash browns. Get your order in and settle in under one of the many flatscreen TVs.

Possessed, a voodoo-themed fashion show, is what Akira is pushing as the stylish boutique showcases the best of its fall line. FORD models will take the runway in Chinese Laundry, 7Diamonds, Artful Dodger, FiveFour, Ben Sherman, PF Flyers and other looks to tribal beats. Also, live music from He Say, She Say and Brilliant Pebbles. Doors open at 5:30pm; show starts at 7pm at House of Blues. $15 general admission; $25 at door; $50 VIP. Call 847-727-5867 for tix. Crimson hosts the after party.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Get ready for something new

Paul Kahan (left) and Donnie Madia are behind The Publican.

Two very high-profile places are set to open soon:

The 411 just dropped in my inbox about The Bristol debuting on Sept. 18 in Bucktown.

And The Publican—the long-awaited beer-focused lounge from the team behind avec, Blackbird, Violet Hour and Sonotheque—is arriving sometime next month in the Warehouse District.

I'm so there.

Something worth celebrating . . .

Sushi Samba (shown here) and Cat's Meow celebrate Brazil's independence today. (Photo: Sushi Samba)

Brazilian Independence Day actually fell on Sunday, but the celebrations continue!

Sushi Samba held a fabulous feast with live entertainment and samba dancers, and tonight the party carries on. Ginza Tropicallia jumps off every Wednesday with DJ Ed M, samba dancers and a band. Of course, you'll be able to chow down on Brazilian bites and sip specialty cocktails. 9pm-midnight. No cover.

And Cat's Meow hosts a neighborhood affair with Balada Brazil. This party includes live music by the Planeta Azul Trio (samba, funk, forro, Brazilian pop), samba dancers and DJ Sergio. Also, $3 Heinekens, $5 Caipirinha menu and $6 glasses of wine. 9pm-2am. No cover.

Other notable events happening today:

Maven and Hornitos Tequila transform Galleria Marchetti into the Garden of Agave. Deejays Flosstradamus, Million $ Mano, Patrycja Mikula and the "world's sexiest deejay" Colleen Shannon perform; comped tequila cocktails all night. 8pm-1am. RSVP to sarah@maven-chicago.com for free admission.

And Martini Park continues its weekly Martinis and the City "girls' night out" gig with a visit from Chicago's top men's-only salon. HALO [FOR MEN] will cater to female patrons, offering head reflexology, chair massages and other female-friendly services. Guests will also receive a gift card for their favorite guy. Comp appetizers and $7 specialty cocktails (Girls' Best Friend, Stiletto and BoTox). 6-8pm. No cover.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Barack (Attack) wins!

The Barack Attack (left, in blue) defeated the McCain Terrain with 174 votes to 166 votes as the best tasting maki at RA Sushi. (Photo: RA Sushi)

Who cares what the polls are saying . . .

The people have spoken—and chowed down—and they've picked RA Sushi's Barack Attack maki roll over the McCain Terrain. Barack Attack (layered with smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber and artichoke rolled in rice and seaweed and topped with crunchy blue tempura bits, finished with a sweet eel sauce and wasabi mayo) defeated the McCain Terrain with 174 votes to 166 votes as the best tasting maki.

Beginning Friday, it'll be "inaugurated" on RA's menu for $10, with $3 of every order benefiting Rock the Vote. You'll be able to get the Barack Attack until Oct. 3.

Oodles of noodles bar doesn't impress this writer

"The pork belly ramen in pho broth was better," says Michael Nagrant of Urban Belly's menu. (Photo: Hungry Mag)

Hungry Mag's Michael Nagrant takes a swipe at newcomer noodle bar Urban Belly and owner-chef Bill Kim:

"Here’s a guy who’s stepped down from his gourmet pedestal to bless the masses with an 'affordable' take on soul-satisfying Asian comfort food and the Korean treats of his youth. It’s a pretty tempting legend. Walk in to the cave-dark confines, compliments of a drab paint job, of Urban Belly, and you’ll see Kim manning the pass with his black hair flopping over a 'Karate Kid'-like Daniel-San do-rag, calling out table numbers and slurping on noodles to taste before he expedites his creations."

Hot stuff on a cold night


The local salsa scene is alive and thriving, as I discovered Sunday night at Hot Salsa Kitchen's party at Buzz, in River North.

Red-hot Latin music ranging from Afro-house to samba kept the floor pulsating with skilled and not-so skilled dancers for hours. And the most beautiful thing of all?! Those dancers came in all shapes and sizes and ages and ethnicities.

You can hit up a salsa party almost every night of the week, including tonight for Hot Salsa Kitchen's crazy popular dance event at Alhambra. Deejays Luis "Rollins" Rivera and Dwight Burr spin, and if you arrive early you can work on your moves during a complimentary dance lesson. 9pm-2am. $10.

If you're looking for something more chilled out, NoMI continues Cellar Notes, with this week's tasting: Blend Your Own Wine. Advanced sommelier Fernando Beteta will be on hand to guide guests through a tasting of different wines. It's also an opportunity to learn how to taste and evaluate wines based on the subtle nuances in flavor, acidity, clarity and color of each selection. 5:30-7:30pm. $30.

And Rockit Live! at Rockit Bar & Grill is the place to be if you're looking for karaoke. A live band will back you up if you dare to hit center stage. 8pm-2am. No cover.

Monday, September 8, 2008

How did we get so lucky?!


Word just came in that the one and only Candace Bushnell (of "Sex and the City" fame) is coming to town.

The red-hot author will host an exclusive viewing party at Manor for her hit TV show, "Lipstick Jungle." She'll also be promoting her latest book, One Fifth Avenue, a modern-day story of old and new money that's a nod to F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jazz Age tales.

That happens on Sept. 24.

Sports bars need to get their acts together


I'm not calling out any names of the culprits, but you know who you are!

With everyone still hyped up over the big Bears win over the Colts last night, I thought I'd get in a dig on the situation of the women's bathrooms in sports bars.

More than ever, women are taking an interest in sports, and the NCAA and professional football games are likely the most popular of them all. So you'd think someone—especially seeing so many female bar managers, servers and bartenders these days—would clean up those bathrooms.

I have no idea what the guys' bathrooms look like, but they cannot be any worse than what I witnessed over the weekend. At one Lincoln Park bar in particular, there was used toliet paper all over the floor near the sinks and in the stalls, overflowing toliets and a stench so bad you would've thought it was an outhouse.

This is not the first time I've witnessed this, and it's time to take a stand. These bars are making enough money and have enough staffers on hand to maintain clean bathrooms. Additionally, most of these spots serve food, and any place that cannot maintain a basic, clean bathroom should not be serving food.

I understand that bars get busy, but there's just no excuse for subjecting people to this *&^%$#@!@#$%!)?!

Forbes got it wrong


With all the hot-ass neighborhoods and bars here for the straights and gays, how could Forbes list Chicago as the 11th best place for singles?! I mean, really, what's up with Atlanta, Dallas, Washington D.C., Orlando (?!) and Boston beating us?!

Friday, September 5, 2008

This place again?!

Jernell Geronimo (right), shown here with R&B star Akon, will spin at Crescendo's re-opening party next week. (Photo: Jernell Geronimo)

Crescendo, originally owned by the guys behind the now-defunct Reserve, is set to open once again in River North. It launched with a lavish fashion show and party in spring 2007, and lasted exactly one week.

After much speculation that the team behind RiNO and Manor were going to take it over, turns out that Sound-Bar and Y Bar's owners have once again taken over the space they operated two years ago as L8.

Confused?! Don't be.

Nightlife impresario Tony Macey hosts the re-opening bash on Sept. 12 with DJ Jernell Geronimo spinning.

Let's just hope it stays open longer this time.

It's almost here!


Hungry Magazine's Michael Nagrant scores a podcast interview with Brian Huston of The Publican, scheduled to open mid-September in the Warehouse District.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Something good's cooking this weekend . . .

Dale Levitsky of Bravo's season three of "Top Chef."

Oh, it's a little dreary today, but the star power still hanging around town should pick up your spirits.

"Top Chef" fans can check out a special tour making a stop in town today. Olympic fans who didn't have a chance to meet the athletes during Oprah's taping get another shot Saturday when "Redeem Team" star Dwayne Wade hosts a gold medal affair. And those looking to make fans of their own can audition at Spy Bar for a new VH1 reality show:


Top Chef: The Tour hits town for the second day, happening at the Green City Market (1799 N. Clark St.) in Lincoln Park. Former contestants Dale Levitsky and CJ Jacobsen (both from Season 3) offer guests a first-hand look at how to make it as a Top Chef, complete with cooking demonstrations, gourmet tips and show secrets. 10:30am, noon, 1:30pm. Seats are available on a first come, first served basis. Free.

Enjoy Spanish vino?! Get your fill at In Fine Spirits during this tasting that explores the exotic region. Also, meet pioneering Spanish winemakers Raimundo Abando and Luis Ollar as you enjoy tapas-style appetizers. 6:30-8:30pm. Free.

Soul Essentials is the event going down every Thursday at Red Kiva, with resident deejay Cordell Johnson behind the tables. No drink specials, but the sounds will certainly get you high. 10pm-2am. No cover.

Celebrity designer Nate Berkus is the special guest host for Basil Hayden Tastemakers Design Chicago, happening at Lumen. Guests will have the opportunity to meet the finalist as well as sample specialty bourbon-infused cocktails by Basil Hayden and appetizers. 7-9pm. RSVP to info@lumen-chicago.com for comp admission.


The Windy City Wine Festival is back for a fourth year, taking place at Daley Bicentennial Plaza. Sponsored by Binny's, the event will include more than 250 wines to sample along with appetizers, cooking demos and live entertainment. 4-10pm Friday; 3-10pm Saturday. $25 in advance; $30 at door; $10 designated driver ticket. Call 847-382-1480 for tix.

Liar's Club, one of the few unpretentious nightclubs left in Chicago, is one of those guilty pleasures. And tonight they're hosting Neon Hi-Tops, an event promising to be full of unpredictable moments. Get ready for $2 PBR, $3 Kilo Kai Rum shots and $4 Kilo mixers. 9pm-2am. Free before 11pm.


This is what we've been talking about! This sounds like a great Fulton Market party with music that's not your usual bag of tricks. It's celebrating the second anniversary for Permanent Records, with drink specials, deejays spinning offbeat tunes and live music. It's happening at AV-aerie (2000 W. Fulton St. #310, 312-342-6280) and it's free. Doors open at 8pm.


Take a late-morn stroll to Lincoln Park Zoo, then head over to Perennial for their brand-new brunch. They're pushing a seasonal menu, so right now you'll be good to go with items like the Spanish omelet (olive oil poached Yukon potatoes and onions, garlic aioli and petite salad), Legs Benedict (poached eggs, duck leg confit, hollandaise and English muffin) or French toast (almond baguette, peaches, lemon ginger crème fraiche). We're also looking forward to the brunch cocktails on the menu right now: a Hazelnut Brunch Daiquiri with espresso, Pyrat rum, hazelnut liquor served with floating crushed coffee beans and the B2 with Basil Hayden’s bourbon and basil-infused simple syrup with a touch of orange bitters. 9:30am-1:30pm Saturday and Sunday.

And get ready for the Bears to get their revenge for that Super Bowl loss to the Colts. Do it in style at Cityscape Bar at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza, as they're offering a number of specials to get your through what's certain to be a nail biter. Order the Football Flights (4oz beer flights for $6) or half-price apps, which includes mini Angus beef burgers, Buffalo chicken straws and roasted duck tamales. Game starts at 7pm.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sex tape 'star' looking for new co-star


But luckily for the ladies of Chicago, this time it's all about a VH-1 reality TV show for notorious R&B singer Ray-J, who made headlines last year for filming some kinky moments with then girlfriend Kim Kardashian.

The open casting call occurs at Spy Bar, with the goal of "single, beautiful and confident women up for the challenge of turning hip-hop artist Ray J into a 'one woman man' . . . all contestants must . . . possess a love for the hip-hop industry and the ability to handle the drama of a celebrity lifestyle."

Didn't Flavor Flav already do this?!

It's this Saturday, 8pm-midnight, if you dare.

On the radar . . .


Eater's infamous Deathwatch is the most feared section of this New York dining and nightlife blog, so it should be interesting to see whether they bring it to Chicago when Eater launches here next month—a year behind schedule.

For those not familiar, Deathwatch monitors whether a bar or restaurant manages to survive despite all odds stacked against it. Some critics have complained that once an establishment is "Deathwatched," it has no chance in hell to make a comeback.

Signs of a seriously slow dining news day

The Stew is reporting on the "waning sidewalk cafe season."

Digging for gold (medalists)


Where will the likes of Michael Phelps, Kobe Bryant, Misty May Trainor and others be grubbing (and clubbing) while they're in town?!

If you happen to run into any of them, drop a comment below or an email. I just hope they're doing something beyond the usual suspect spots . . .

Another one bites the dust

This sucks.

Dwayne Wade hosts Gold Medal affair


I bet you've been licking your chops at the thought of meeting some of those gold-medal Olympic winners in town today taping the "Oprah" show.

While that likely won't happen, word just came in that Miami Heat and "Redeem Team" star Dwayne Wade is hosting a Young, Fly & Flashy gig at Vision on Saturday.

It would've made more sense to host it tonight to cap off the daylong frenzy certain to take place at Millennium Park, but it looks like Wade's turning this party into one of his infamous Miami jams. Expect celebs from the fashion, music, movies and sports industries with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Wade’s World Foundation, which helps at-risk children.

Doors open at 10pm, and tickets likely start at $20.