Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving back


Looking to volunteer over the holiday season?

312DD's uncovered a number of opportunities all over town, from senior citizen homes to food pantries. Whether you can volunteer your time or money, anything you do will be much appreciated.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 24, 2008

For those who like to get down . . .


. . . on Thanksgiving Eve:

Once again, it's time for Butch McGuire's to dust off the vintage toy choo-choo trains and Dr. Seuss mechanical thingamajig decorations for the holiday season. The after-work and into the night party is supposed to be the biggest singles scenes in the city on Thanksgiving Eve. Trust me, it really is. 3pm-4am. $10.

DandE Entertainment's long-standing Thanksgiving Night party moves to the night before, and is also taking place at Green Dolphin Street. House music legend Frankie Knuckles serves up classic and contempo beats to a crowd dancing so hard they won't have to worry about all those calories the next day. 9pm-4am. $20.

More groove-oriented music happens over at Moonshine, featuring the DJ Soul Foundation featuring Brenda D, Brian Gardner and others. Moonshine's also officially unveiling new house-made microbrew Chronic, which will be sold for $3 this night. Also, half-price pizzas and $5 Jack Daniels drinks. 9pm-2am. No cover.

Gobble up more goodies at Plan B at the second-annual B Thankful bash. A number of shots and cocktails are $3; domestic canned beer $2; half off on appetizers. DJ Daddy spins tasty beats. 6pm-2am. No cover.

Wine lovers, don't worry, there's something for you, too! Quartino continues its end-of-the-month wine tasting party happening on the upper level of the trendy pizzeria. Cool music, appetizers, socializing and four featured wines for twenty bucks. 7-9pm.

Backtrack returns to Rednofive, featuring turntablists Jesse de la Pena, Mario "Smokin" Diaz, Pumpin Pete and others. The best thing about this night?! There's a Michael Jackson/Prince showdown at midnight! Also, an '80s costume contest. 9pm-4am. Cover varies.

If you're cool and you know it, clap your hands—or just go to Sonotheque for the monthly Rebirth of the Funk fete. Deejays Joe Bryl and Eric Williams should blow you away with funk, reggae, go go, breakbeats and more. Also, $5 well cocktails. 9pm-2am. $5.

Those guys over at the Lincoln Park Young Professionals try so hard with their events, and the one at Whiskey Sky sounds like it'll jump off for sure. The Turkey Trot Classic includes classic cocktails, a fabulous lake view and multiple appetizers from various restaurants.
7-9pm. $20 in advance; $40 at door.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Best ever directions on drinking wine

(Photo: Moto)

Science-y Moto chef Homaro Cantu is at his wacky experiments again. This time, he's created Campfire Mulled Wine as a new course on the tasting menu, and well, just read on for how you're supposed to drink it:

"We take hickory smoke and mulled Rioja and place them into an Erlenmeyer Flask. The guest is instructed to exhale into the vessel, so the smoke exits the vessel, then drink the wine (through the same straw). Breathe out, breathe in."

Puff, puff, pass?!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

EXCLUSIVE: The perfect partners?!

Highly placed sources say golden boy restaurateurs Kevin Boehm (left) and Rob Katz are partnering with "Top Chef" winner Stephanie Izard for a new venture.

"Top Chef" winner Stephanie Izard is making all the right moves, said an Ultimate Insider, as she continues to plan her new contemporary American-focused restaurant in West Town. Right now, we've confirmed that she's teaming up with the guys behind Boka, Landmark and Perennial for that venture scheduled to open sometime next year. UPDATE: Interesting! This was posted hours after 312 Dining Diva broke the news.

Also hot is Esquire magazine's John Mariani, who is in town this week palling around with high-profile restaurant types. Last night the glossy men's mag hosted a party at Mercat a la Planxa and all the heavy hitters came out (we hear that restaurant mogul Rich Melman cornered Mariani, asking him to check out his kids' new spot, Hub 51). The event was to honor Mercat a la Planxa, L.20 and Takashi as the only Chicago restaurants named to Esquire's prestigious "Best New Restaurants" list for 2008.

While in town, could Mariani be checking out who's up for next year?! Last night he dined at Randy Zweiban's Latin-influenced Province and today he's making his way to Publican for lunch. They're opening the Warehouse District eatery, which specializes in pork, seafood and beer, just for him.

UPDATE: Melman wins! From yet another Ultimate Insider: " . . . Just wanted to let you know that the writer you mentioned is indeed having dinner tonight at Hub 51 with the Big Dog from Lettuce."




It's finally time for the big release of the French vino Beaujolais Nouveau, which makes its annual debut at midnight. Several local spots celebrate the festive occasion of the boutiful red wine, but we're all about the party happening at Madame Tartine. Not only will diners and guests be able to partake in a complimentary glass of the vino, but they'll also get to mingle with the ladies of Maven, which hosts its weekly Diva Series. Tonight's honoree is, a community-based web site where women sound off on just about everything under the sun. That happens 7-11pm, with comped champagne cocktails until 8pm. No cover.

Prosecco's been doing budget deals all week for dinner and lunch, and even wine director Christian Fox Hood has been offering 10 percent off on all glasses and bottles of wine. Also get up to 15 percent off the average meal, with selections like risotto crab cakes and grilled wild salmon.

There's still time to RSVP for the Bacardi Flavor Exchange happening at Bon V. You'll get to sample all the various flavors with signature cocktails, mingle with a sexy crowd, and jam out to the resident deejay. 9pm-1am. RSVP info here.

Soul music star John Legend hosts a party at Vision Nightclub on Friday.


We love craft beer tastings around here, and Lush Wine and Spirits plans an after-work event certain to get you sudsy. They're pouring special releases, seasonal and holiday favorites. 5-8pm. Free.

John Legend should really think about buying a place in Chicago because he's here all the time! The R&B super star makes a stop at the Chicago Theatre as part of his world tour, and he'll also take time out to host an after-party at Vision. Also, check out local spin stars 33 & 1/3, Wicked Prince, Legacy and Mark Fullaflava, who'll be cranking out the best in R&B and hip-hop. 10pm-4am. Cover varies.

Three Headed Productions fetes its first-year anniversary as the new owners of Le Passage, and they're doing it up big. Chris "Big Black" Boykin and Bam Bam from MTV's hit show "Rob & Big" host; DJ White Shadow spins. 9pm-4am. Cover varies.

Celebrate Turkey Day a week early at PJ Clarke’s, which is hosting a pre-Thanksgiving holiday bash. Arrive early for complimentary mini burgers, beer and wine. 8:30pm-1:30am. No cover.

Lumen throws a Warhol Factory Party, hosted by Martini & Rossi. Expect an offbeat atmosphere, including body painting and eclectic, Warhol-inspired cocktails. RSVP to for comped admission. 9pm-2am.

Rednofive teams up with some of its most successful party promotions for Collective, reuniting special guest deejays John Curley, Greg Bauer and Jesse de la Pena. 9pm-4am. Cover varies.


Are you checking out the Festival of Lights?! After freezing your ass off for a couple of hours, you'll be thankful for the toasty environs of the David Burke’s Primehouse lobby bar. They're pouring Belgian hot chocolate, Hot Toddies and champagne cocktails paired with comped Kobe beef crostini, crabcake truffles, lobster fries, Kobe corn dogs and Angry Shrimp. 11am-11pm.

And also to get you in the holiday spirit is a tasting at Volo in Roscoe Village. Indulge in select boutique wines paired with appetizers inside and out on the rustic, heated cabana patio. Stick around for dinner! 3:30-5:30pm. $20.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sweet Thang: Bitter taste for ex-employees


Yikes. So, Drive-Thru gets the lowdown on why the just-opened Sweet Thang, in Roscoe Village, abruptly shuttered.

Gobble . . . on the go


I don't know about you, but I'm more like one of those "one in 10 people likely to dine out on Thanksgiving" stats the talking heads conjure up every year. It's my most favorite holiday in the world, but it's an effing mess to clean up after.

Sooo, what's the alternative?! A number of restaurants will be open on Thanksgiving, for those looking to settle in for a seasonal supper as well as full-scale, to-go feasts, so the only thing left to clean up are the smiles on everyone's faces . . .

Dine out:

Go for the French-focused feast at Bistro 110, who's offering a three-course menu in its casual setting that's tres gay Paris. Menu items include traditional French onion soup, oven-roasted turkey breast, sweet potato Dauphinoise and crème brulée. $36.95/adults; $12.95/children.

David Burke Primehouse's doing the holiday family-style, but what we love particularly is what they're gonna do for you the day after. They're sending all diners off with a "fixins" sandwich that's stuffed with roasted turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce on toasted bread. The prix-fixe menu includes butternut squash bisque, Thanksgiving Caesar salad, truffled noodles, roasted turkey, spiced ham, slow-roasted prime rib and pumpkin crème brulee tart. $38/adults; $14/kids. Reservations strongly recommended.

Gold Coast newcomer Eve—from the team behind the magnifique Tallulah in Lincoln Square (which is also offering a special four-course dinner for $45 per person)—celebrates with four regionally inspired menus, which includes a slow-roasted suckling pig, herb-roasted heritage turkey, sausage and black walnut stuffing, roasted chestnut bisque, Maine lobster croquettes, turkey crawfish gumbo with pickled okra, grilled quail and smoked cheddar grits. $55/adults; $25/kids.

If you're in the mood for a more casual atmosphere, with plenty of plasmas to watch the games, head to The Pony for their take on Turkey Day. They're serving up the Thanksgiving Stack, which is loaded down with layers of homemade biscuits, fresh turkey, Julienne vegetables, mashed potatoes smothered with gravy and served with a side of bourbon pecan pie. Executive Chef Curtis McGee makes these stacks so you can order them to go. That's $12. You'll also find the savory Pony Cider (homemade with Magner’s cider, bourbon, butterscotch, apple pucker and cranberry juice) that's served in a tall pint glass for $8.

Naperville's glorious Sugar Toad, tucked inside Hotel Arista, is a great option for those in the 'burbs. Standouts on the prix-fixe menu include turkey duo of roasted breast and leg stuffed with Virginia ham and shiitake mushrooms; roasted Hayman sweet potatoes; green bean casserole; and the cream of chestnut soup with smoked bacon. $45/adults; $19.95/kids.

Pick it up:

Glazed Donuts offers an alternative to the usual pumpkin pie with some delectable cranberry almond praline donuts. You can pre-order them now and pick them up at Bite or Swim on Nov. 26. 4 donuts/$11; 8/$20.

Additional mini sweet treats can be yours at More, the new, high-end Gold Coast cupcakery. Your folks will go mad over cupcakes in flavors like sweet potato, banana-spiced rum, cranberry, peppermint white chocolate or gingerbread. $3.50-$4.25/each, $39.50-$49.50/dozen.

Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh of The Hearty Boys fame do their annual Thanksgiving To Go, with offerings such as maple-brined organic turkey, homemade breads (mini corn muffins, peppered buttermilk biscuits), maple-roasted brussel sprouts and truffled goat cheese mashed potatoes. Prices for a full meal for six to eight people range $100-$150.

For $100, at Sheffield's, you'll get a full spread of traditional family faves that's certain to feed up to six people. You'll get a roasted turkey, plus mashed potatoes, green beans, mac and cheese and cranberry sauce. Of course, there'll be a homestyle pumpkin pie to complete the meal. All to-go orders must be picked up by noon on Thanksgiving.

And legendary 'que joint The Smoke Daddy is giving you the chance to be the real hero of the night—if you bring one of their infamous smoked turkeys to the table. All meats are smoked in-house in the "Lil Red Smoker," so get ready to really chow down, and expect no leftovers. Also, grab a container of homemade cornbread stuffing to go. Orders must be placed by Nov. 21; pick up on Nov. 25. $3.95/quart of stuffing; $4.95 lb/turkey.

Warhol . . .Guns and Roses . . . Tequila!


Here's what's going down tonight:

Pop culture icon Andy Warhol immortalized Martini & Rossi vermouth with an innovative ad campaign in the 1960s. And now, the company's returning the favor with an exhibition honoring the artist at Whiskey Sky. Sip limited-edition Warhol-inspired cocktails as you tour the show and mingle. 6:30-9pm. No cover, but RSVP necessary at

Landmark Grill + Lounge kicks off its monthly Guns and Roses-themed wine tasting event on the restaurant's upper level. They're pairing small bites and vino with popular Guns and Roses songs. Ooooo-kay. Tonight, you'll get: Dr. Pauly ("Sweet Child of Mine"), Chateau Beauregard Ducasse ("November Rain"), Cabernet Sauvignon: 2003 20 Bench ("Welcome to the Jungle") and Sauternes: 2001 Dudon ("Patience"). 7pm-8:30pm. No cover.

If that's too rambunctious for ya, head to the Stock the Bar wine tasting at Maeve. They're sampling various holiday-ish vino paired with light appetizers. And if you love something in particular, you can buy it on the spot to serve at your party. Live music by Louis and Scharpf. 7-9pm. $20.

And tequila fans will love the tasting at Zocalo that's paired with Mexican-inspired appetizers, including their specialty tacos. 6-9pm. $15.

'Top Chef' wrapup in 30 secs . . .


Hungry Mag sets the stage of what to expect on this season's "Top Chef."

And, as always, viewing parties for "Top Chef" happen tonight at 9pm at Between and Kit Kat Club.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bubbles, Boozehounds and bargains . . .


Get the Bubbles:

It's time for The Tasting Room's annual Champagne event, happening tonight with more than 30 sparkling wines paired with appetizers. Sample superstars Krug and Ruinart as well as Jose Dhondt and Andre Clouet. 6-8pm. $50. Reservations required.

Through Nov. 21 at Duchamp, you might wanna make a reservation for you and a sig other (or BFF!) for two flutes of bubbly, two appetizers and two chocolate cupcakes. 5-7 p.m. $35.

Get the Booze:

The upper level of Hopleaf Bar plays host to the Boozehound's Beer Lover's Field Trip. You'll get four specialty draft choices, any bottled beer, premium spirits, plus beer-friendly snacks like cheese, nuts and various meats. 7-9pm. $40.

Head to Swirl Wine Bar right after work for $5 menu specials with a two-drink minimum from 5-6:30pm. Or, if you arrive later, you'll get to indulge in exotic vino as they host a Taste of Portugal event. Party includes 12 different wines, appetizers and live jazz by Gypsy Trio. 6:30-8:30pm. $25 in advance; $35 at door.

Get the Bargains:

So many of our coolest eateries are offering weekly specials to take that stress off your wallet. The Restaurant at Chaise Lounge's Tuesday deal is a three-course menu for $25, paired with $5 martinis. Get selections like the crab cakes, braised pork belly with vanilla-scented sunchoke puree and Wagyu beef with Minnesota wild rice.

At May Street Market, diners are treated to a complimentary entree (up to $24) with any dinner purchase of at least $50. And if you order from the bistro menu, you'll get a comped turkey burger with any dinner purchase of at least $25. (not available on Friday, Saturday)

And all this week, C-House doles out a three-course dinner deal for $35, offering the C-House fish and chips, pan-seared salmon and butternut squash soup.


Get up early and head to Green City Market (2430 N. Cannon Dr.), which is at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum every Wednesday and Saturday through Dec. 20. Also, if you've got time, don't miss the chef demo from Mado's husband-and-wife team Rob and Allie Levitt. That's at 10:30am. Market is 8am-1pm. Free.

Friday, November 14, 2008

This just in . . .

(Photo: Urban Daddy Chicago)

Urban Daddy hooks us up with brand-new Wicker Park playground, Edge, the latest hidden lounge to take on Violet Hour.

Sayeth The Daddy:

"Like the best insider tips, you're among the first clued in: Owners have been reluctant to talk up their stock until they hit their stride. (The fact that this place is hidden in plain view, a rare achievement for this stretch of Division, should help.)"

Don't miss out!

"Top Chef" contestant Radhika “Rad” Desai of Wicker Park’s Between Boutique Café & Lounge. (Photo: Between Boutique Café & Lounge)

Soooo, our homegirl Radhika "Rad" Desai of Between Boutique Café & Lounge pulled through the first grueling week of Bravo's "Top Chef" (peep Gaper's Block "Top Chef" recap).

I was one of the lucky ones to snag a seat for the restaurant's viewing party for this first episode, which included a tasting menu of her favorite eats (the curried lobster bisque and spice-rubbed butterfish with spinach and chorizo were the biggest hits, btw). This is the first time a Chicago contestant is actually a working chef during the show, so believe me when I say the place was packed and bustling. In fact, after the show ended people hung around well after midnight just chilling as owners cranked up some pretty cool jams.

They've decided to continue the parties throughout the season, offering what they're calling Rad's Favorites, a rotating, five-course tasting menu paired with various wines. That's $50, the show starts at 9pm Wednesdays, but it's recommended you arrive by 8pm. Reservations required.

Other fabulous events happening:

If you miss out on that hot ticket, there's the Chef's Table happening at Powerhouse. Hosted by The Local Tourist and Tweating Out, the series are casual meet & greet events with local chefs. Guests will have the opportunity to meet the chef in an intimate—and affordable—setting. The Powerhouse party also marks its first-year anniversary, so you'll get to mingle with the owner and chefs over passed hors d'oeuvres, champagne and wine. 6:30pm Nov. 19. $25.

Be the baddest babe in the room at all those upcoming holiday parties, but you'll need to attend the Haute for the Holidays event at LeDress first. Stylists will be on hand to help you get your "look" together, plus you'll get to mingle with some of the most fashionable women in the city. Complimentary cocktails and free admission, but you must RSVP to 6-9pm Nov. 19. 1741 W. Division St.

If you're looking for a delicious luxe gift for someone who truly deserves it, look to Vosges Haut-Chocolat. During a tasting party, they're offering guests an opportunity to sample their newly arrived Collection of Cheese + Chocolate, which comes in a custom-designed, sustainable bamboo box, and filled with five cheese selections, 28 chocolate truffles, mini exotic candy bars, black garlic, a guidebook and more. Also, all products are 10 percent off during the event. 7:30-9:30pm Nov. 20. $40.

And the Bacardi Flavor Exchange cocktail party occurs at Bon V, treating guests to a number of signature flavored rum drinks. RSVP here for comped admission. 9pm-1am Nov. 21.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Espression by Lavazza opens this week in The Drake. (Photo: Cindy Kurman/Kurman Communications)

Seems like every week something new’s springing up. This time, it’s Espression by Lavazza, a slick Italian café concept just opened in The Drake. They’re serving up special blends of coffee, gelatos and pastries, but right about now I’m going to need that brie, prosciutto and fig panini or Bikini Pizza Panino (grilled panini “pizza style” with sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella, mushrooms) placed in front of me.

Also look for high-stylin' "dive" Bar DeVille, which actually opens Monday, Nov. 17, but you never know. Neighborhood bars tend to creep open a few days early, so I’d peep my head around the corner at Huron and Damen to see if co-owner Matt Eisler (Angels & Kings, Empire Liquors) does a weekend preview.

More this weekend:


Carol Wallack's charming neighborhood gem, Sola, is now doing its take on the burger that's paired with a special bacon appetizer. Also, get a featured beer. That's every Thursday.

Highsight hosts a number of pre-parties for the yearend Eve of the Eve event, happening the night before New Year's Eve. Tonight's party occurs at Rock Bottom Brewery, and includes cocktails and appetizers. Guests will also be able to buy tickets to the December event at Union Station. Proceeds fund scholarships for students to attend private high schools in the city. 6-9pm. $40.

Sushi Samba's upper-level lounge transforms into a Japanese-style nightclub for the monthly Passport Thursdays. DJ Funky Couture spins futuristic beats and drink specials set the tone. 8pm-2am. No cover.


Single women wondering where all the eligible, single guys are should make their way to Publican, in the Warehouse District. It actually shouldn't come as no surprise that this extreme beer-focused venue attracts a higher ratio of men, right?! Arrive right after work and position yourself at one of the centrally placed high tables, and let the games begin.

Another after-work opportunity happens at Fion Wine Bar, with the Winesellers, Ltd. tasting event. The locally owned wine importing company's pouring vino from Portugal, Germany, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina. 6-8pm. Free.

Windy City Social throws a bash at The Joynt for the Special Olympics Chicago programs. Mingle with other professionals and indulge in Sugar Bliss cupcakes and passed apps, plus cocktails and wine. 6-8:30pm. $35 in advance; $45 at door.

Resident Tuman's deejay Buddy Major takes a break to let legendary spin star Jesse de la Pena perform for the next two Friday nights. This corner bar will certainly be rockin', plus they've always got $3 Guinness on tap. 9pm-2am. No cover.


Pinot Days 2008 Grand Festival returns to Navy Pier with 50 producers of pinot noir--the largest single gathering of pinot producers outside of Cali. Consumers will be able to sample up to 100 pinots from every important region in California, Oregon, New Zealand and Burgundy. Also, learn how to pair them with artisan cheese and specialty foods. 1-5pm. $50. Call 415-246-2267 for more information.

If bubbly's your poison, head instead to Pops for Champagne for a Laurent-Perrier Tasting. You'll get three examples paired with apps for $15. 3-5pm.


Wouldn't you rather be in a warmer climate right now?! C-House teases us with its new Bossa Nova Brunch. You'll find Latin-infused dishes, including breakfast tacos with chorizo and corn salad, custom eggs Benedict with spicy pulled pork, or the traditional Brazilian rice and beans dish Feijoa. Also, chill out with a number of signature sippers: pineapple-orange Mimosa, red snapper Bloody Mary, and of course a classic Caipirinha. Too bad they didn't spring for a Brazilian band, but piped-in Bossa Nova should do the trick, for now. 10:30am-3pm. All dishes are a la carte.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

312 Chicago chef on the move


It's been a big year for some of Chicago's popular chefs to break out on their own. Graham Elliot Bowles left Avenues last winter for his eponymous River North eatery, then Coco Pazzo's Tony Priolo left to launch Piccolo Sogno, and, of course, Randy Zweiban departed Nacional 27 for his hot Province property.

Now comes word from the Chicago Tribune's Monica Eng that 312 Chicago's Dean Zanella is kicking it solo come December to work on his own neighborhood-focused restaurant.

Sake, maki and more


Who cares if the weather's a little wacky today. Get out and enjoy yourself with one of these special events:

Get the 411 on sake with expert Aya Nomoto at Drinks Over Dearborn, the newest spirits shop to hit the River North area. Sake It To Me introduces guests to just about every style (Junmai, Ginjo, Daiginjo, Nigori), and if you really like something, you'll get to take it home at 10 percent off. 7-8pm. $25.

Speaking of Asian delights, Blu Coral hosts its Customer Appreciation Day all evening, with comp champagne, gifts and a $10 gift certificate for all dine-in customers.

Bravo's "Project Runway" finalist Daniel Vosovic gets you ready for the winter with tips on style as he signs copies of his new book, "Fashion Inside Out!," at Jake. Sip on bubbly and nibble chocolates as you sift through the season's hottest styles in this tony Rush Street boutique. 939 N. Rush St. 6-8pm. No cover.

Speaking of Bravo, the fifth season of "Top Chef" kicks off tonight, and once again Chicago's in the running for the title. This time, it's Radhika “Rad” Desai of Between Boutique Cafe and Lounge, and she's personally picked out tonight's menu for the viewing party at the restaurant. The special tasting menu includes curried lobster bisque, spice-rubbed butterfish with spinach and chorizo, braised duck samosa and ginger chocolate mousse in a chocolate tart. 8:30pm. $50.

And, as always, Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club hosts a "Top Chef" viewing party, featuring themed cocktails and dishes. Get there early to nab your seat and chow down on the specialties: Big Apple Borscht (beet stew with apples, potatoes, parsnips, onions; $6); Quickfire (spinach salad with smoked duck, goat cheese, dried cranberries, maple balsamic; $10) and Butcher Block (Rosemary-rubbed veal rack with garlic mashed potatoes and hericot vert; $25). The cocktail of the night is the Top Chef Tini (Vox vodka, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, splash of champagne; $6). Also, ask your server about many half-price martinis, and all entrees are BOGO (buy one, get one free). Show starts at 9pm. No cover.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

French 'dive' lounge next in Ukrainian Village


As with most Matt Eisler ventures (Empire Liquors, Angels & Kings), the French-focused Bar Deville aims for a chilled-out neighborhood vibe.

And how excited are we that he's bringing this new project to Ukrainian Village—which is also home to a host of top-notch hangs like Old Oak Tap, Sonotheque, Tuman's and Five Star Bar & Grill—next Monday.

A few highlights that'll certainly make this one of your favorite new watering holes: three cool rooms in which to hang, particularly the back closet bar for daily beer and shot specials; hand-crafted cocktails from the Margarita to the Manhattan; and its hidden appeal in a non-descript building on the corner of Huron and Damen.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Art Smith to the White House?!


Apparently President-Elect Obama is not playing around when it comes to picking his new team. This just came in from an Ultimate Insider:

"My friend who is a GM at a top Chicago restaurant was at a chef event this week and overheard Rick Bayless asking Art Smith if he accepted the job to become the President Elect's white house chef."

This is sooo nuts. I just speculated about the possibility of Rick Bayless (Topolobampo) or Art Smith (Table Fifty-Two) going to the White House yesterday, and now this.

I can totally see it happening because according to, Smith was the executive chef to former Florida Gov. Bob Graham, a special events chef for Martha Stewart Living Magazine and Oprah Winfrey's personal chef for 10 years. He also lives in Hyde Park—near the Obamas—and is currently working on a new dining concept in the Washington, D.C. area.

Oh, I am so on this story . . .

Friday, November 7, 2008

Who will cook for Obama in the White House?!


When Prez Obama and the First Family move into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in January, in addition to a new puppy for the girls, there'll be a new exec chef in the kitchen.

Let's cross our fingers that the professed foodies bring one of our esteemed local culinary kings—or queens—with them.

According to this article, the Obamas' tastes in restaurants range from Italian Fiesta Pizza on the South Side to Spiaggia (where they spent their wedding anniversary in October), the award-winning Mag Mile gem overseen by Tony Mantuano.

They're also big fans of mega-chef Rick Bayless' upscale Mexican eatery Topolobampo; Kendal Duque's fashionable French fare at Sepia (which is right next door to Michelle Obama's favorite dress designer Maria Pinto); and Art Smith's homey celeb magnet Table Fifty-Two that's popular for its Sunday fried-chicken suppers.

Hey, he cannot go wrong with any of those guys!

Update on next project from The Gage team


Way back in April, Dish had this to report on The Gage:

"Dirk Flanigan and Billy Lawless, the men behind The Gage (24 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-372-4243), have secured the 2,000-square-foot space next door, and are moving forward with a new concept. 'We are still working on what we want to do,' Flanigan says, 'but I can tell you that it’s going to be one of the coolest spots in Chicago—if not the coolest spot on Michigan Avenue. It’s going to be really, really cool. . . . "Cool" is what I can give you right now.' Stay tuned for more."

I caught up with them today for an update, and they had this to say:

"I can confirm that we are doing a new restaurant just north of The Gage. Similar to The Gage, it is in a historically landmarked building; so, prior to building out the interior, the façade of the building will be restored—which is the gating factor. Erected in the late 1800s, the façade was one of architect Louis Sullivan’s last commissions. Our goal is to open by Fall 2009, and I will be able to share details about our concept in a month or so."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Exclusive: Exec chef abandons brand-new Farmerie 58; was it the review or something else?!


The ink is barely effing dry on this Time Out review on month-old Farmerie 58, but Executive Chef Billy Alexander is out as of Tuesday, says the manager. He adds that the departure is a matter of creative differences between Alexander and the owners.

Sous Chef Nathan Kosakowski, Alexander's protegee, has been promoted to the top spot, but don't look for him to make any changes to the menu until December.

Wonder if the shakeup also had anything to do with the TOC review (which in my opinion came out way too early)—in the current issue—or is it just the fact that the economy sucks?!

We've been waiting for this!


Cheer on Between Boutique Café & Lounge exec chef and "Top Chef" contestant Radhika “Rad” Desai when the show premieres on Bravo at 9pm on Nov. 12.

Between's hosting a viewing party, where Rad herself has whipped up a special tasting menu of her favorite dishes, including curried lobster bisque, spice-rubbed butterfish with spinach and chorizo, braised duck samosa and ginger chocolate mousse in a chocolate tart. That's $50, so go and whoop it up for the homegirl.

This just hit the mailbag . . .

From the Manor/RiNO team:

"We're opening a rock bar called The Lucky Lady in the old Gentry on State space (corner of State and Illinois) . . . We've been keeping pretty quiet about it for the time being. Looking to open sometime soon (probably within a month or so). We're putting in a photo booth and a juke box, it will be very relaxed, a perfect place to unwind after work. Still not sure if we will have a kitchen or not. Also look for some cool live performances and concert afterparties."



It's been a great week. A new prez and the first-year anniversary of 312 Dining Diva. Let's keep the party going:


Room 21 works overtime to stay relevant, and now they're doing it with a monthly cooking demo held on the first Thursday of the month. Tonight's event has Executive Chef Dan Tucker showing guests how to prepare fresh mozzarella, which will be paired with wine. Can you believe it's only $10?! Also, if you stay for dinner, they're knocking $10 off your bill. 6-7pm.

Underground gets mad props for donating its space for the Cheers to the Children wine-tasting event, hosted by the Starlight Children’s Foundation. The after-work party includes hors d’oeuvres, raffle and a walk-around tasting. $45 in advance; $60 at door. 7-10pm.


Obama-mania continues at the original First Fridays party, with a special performance by Slick Rick. Yes, that Slick Rick. People are in such a partying mood that they had to move the event to Rainforest Cafe to accommodate everyone. Deejays Timbuck 2, Mark Fullaflava and 33 1/3 spin. Party benefits the Community Education Network. 10pm-2am. Tickets start at $15.

Another post election party happens at the newly reopened PJ Clarke's in Lincoln Park with complimentary food and specialty cocktails. Not sure if that'll go on all night, but get there early to make sure you can take advantage. Penguin sponsors with gift bags for guests. 8:30pm-2am. No cover.

Chicago Originals Wine Week, from the local independent restaurant group, kicks off today through Nov. 13. You'll be able to get—wait for it—$2 glasses of vino at spots like Cyrano's Bistrot & Wine Bar and Cafe Bernard.

Hip Sip returns to ristorante we, this time with a Reality of Dreams theme. Scene will have art, specialty drinks, apps and music by DJ Jack from J*Davey. 8:30-10:30pm. $25.

Beer lovers will delight in the generous tasting event happening over at Lush Wine & Spirits, in Roscoe Village. Guests will get two solid hours of sampling the suds. 6-8pm. Free.


Logan Square continues its cool streak for nightlife, this time with newcomer The Whistler. The thing is, however, that this is one hard ass bar to find. Once inside, you're certain to love it for the simple, yet well-picked beer list, church pew seating and live rock bands on weekends.

The popular Saturday Underground series continues at Bonsoiree, and because they only have a few seats left for Saturday, they're extending the event to Sunday. If you're not up on Underground yet, know that it's a five-course prix-fixe menu served in an unassuming Logan Square storefront. We're especially excited about what's on the menu this week: Thai red curry lobster bisque, corn-stuffed quail, and a salad of sablefish sashimi, blueberries and pink peppercorn dressing. Mmmmm. BYOB $5 corkage fee. $65 per person.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Keep on celebrating


We're all still in a deep daze over last night's historic win of President-Elect Barack Obama, so let's keep the celebration going:

Time to get to North Center for sola's prix-fixe, three-course deal, featuring squash as the month's seasonal savory ingredient. $30, and for an additional $15, they'll pair each course with wine.

Speaking of seasonal ingredients, Green City Market kicks off its weekly Wednesday series at its fall/winter home at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (2430 N. Cannon Dr.). The tented event includes a chef demo by May Street Market exec chef Alex Cheswick at 10:30am. Free.

Fill up on a bottomless bowl of mac 'n' cheese ($6) paired with $2 PBR tall boys at Risque Cafe. Also, a rock band performs every Wednesday.

And something good's brewing in the 'hood with the re-launch of Streetwise Magazine. Tonight's the big bash, at Close Up 2 Jazz Club, which includes complimentary appetizers and live jazz by Ray Silkman. 6-11pm. $25 donation.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cheers To The Chief



Who's it gonna be?!


This is it, y'all.

Soon we'll have a new Commander in Chief, but where will you be when it happens?!

Chicago will be centerstage—of the world—as Sen. Barack Obama culminates his quest for the White House with one of the biggest parties ever. If you're going to Grant Park, expect more than one million people to show up, but if you'd rather bypass the crowds—and get liquored up (no booze is allowed at the downtown event)—312 Dining Diva's got you covered.

Peep my picks for the best Election Night parties going on here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rockstar Dogs LP quietly opens over weekend

(Photo: Rockstar Dogs)

The second Rockstar Dogs, in Lincoln Park, did a soft opening over the weekend, and this outpost offers a few extra goodies.

In addition to signature dogs The Flaming Lip (char-broiled jumbo dog with Merkt’s cheddar topped with spiced jalapenos and hot giardiniera), The Sting (tantric Morningstar veggie dog) and The Kiss (chili cheese masked dog topped with Merkt’s cheddar and onions), this one's also got Rockstar Drumsticks (Iggy’s trademark BBQ chicken wings), Diana’s Chocolate Frozen Bananas and an exclusive partnership with Rockstar Energy Drink.

RSD LP looks almost identical to the West Town original—including the 1950s pin-up girl logo, stripper pole and photographer Philin Phlash's vintage rock photos—but this one also has Fender guitars displayed throughout the space.