Monday, December 29, 2008

Hubba Hubba, Hub 51

Hub 51 came out on top in the second-annual 312DD Nightlife Poll. (Photo: Hub 51)

Big props go out to River North newcomer Hub 51, which took first place in 312 Dining Diva's annual Who Came Out on Top Nightlife Poll (scroll to the bottom of the page for results).

The contest included a number of local new hot spots that generated buzz in '08, from beautiful penthouse boîtes Vertigo and C-View to hipster hangouts Angels & Kings and Cat's Meow.

But in the end it was all about Hub 51, which has managed to gain a loyal following in a short few months. Whether Hub 51 won because of its sexy underbar Sub 51, potent Hub Punch or stylish singles scene is unknown, but whatever the case, the fans came out to give it a landslide victory over the competition.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Redefine in '09!


You're out of your eggnog fog and it's now time to concentrate on those New Year's Eve plans.

312DD's gathered a bunch of events around town—some free, some not so pricey—and you won't find anything over $60, from a sultry Brazilian bash happening at Cat's Meow to Rebar's no-charge event where you'll have the perfect view of the fireworks.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What the critics said in 2008 . . .

MANA food bar (Photo: Grant Kessler)

. . . about:

Big Jones. "My dining partner ordered the sweet potato biscuits smothered with spicy gravy and hash and topped with Andouille sausage. Big Jones uses organic and farm-raised meats from Niman Ranch pork to Tall Grass beef. Everything was delicious and I’m sure extremely bad for you. Our server brought over a bowl of fruit, which was a welcomed addition to our high-fat, high-cholesterol meal. We had a really good first impression and great first meal. Once we work off the 5 pounds we gained from breakfast we will certainly be back for dinner to try one of their fabulous sounding desserts."—Chicago Foodies (read entire review here)

Bristol. "The Bristol doesn't serve bread, but you can order the 'monkey bread' listed under 'snacks.' It costs $4 and is really good. The cute little loaf comes in a cast-iron baking pan, served nicely hot. And as it goes with monkey bread, you pull pieces off the loaf, dipping each piece, if you care to, in the dill butter that is served on the side. You also can spend a lot at the Bristol. The grilled prawns were excellent—four very large prawns, heads still on, were swaddled in a tasty anchovy butter. They tasted as good as they looked and the aroma was enticing. Good eating? Yes. For sixteen bucks? I can deal with it."—Pat Bruno (Chicago Sun-Times) (read entire review here)

C-House. "(Executive Chef Seth) Siegel-Gardner will throw a meaty surprise out there now and again—the nicely charcoaled skirt steak was delicious, and the fork-tender suckling pig with peach chutney and lacquered skin was a revelation—but large plates are mostly finny and very good, particularly seared tuna with black olive couscous and sea urchin foam."—Phil Vettel (Chicago Tribune) (read entire review here)

Duchamp. "There's nothing surreal about the food at the Bucktown spot, though chef/partner Michael Taus manages a few twists on the menu, such as the 'fish and chips' that involves skate wing, garlic-romano fries and no bread. Everything is familiar and accessible. And even a starving artist could afford to eat here; main courses top out at $19, and the gussied-up sandwiches, including a picture-perfect burger with havarti cheese and tomato remoulade, go for $11 or $12."—Phil Vettel (Chicago Tribune) (read entire review here)

graham elliot. "What sets (Graham) Bowles’ cooking apart is his original approach to familiar items. A roasted beet salad ($9), a standard on any American contemporary menu, is elevated here by the application of gossamer puffs of whipped goat cheese. Other appetizers, like the spicy buffalo chicken ($13), which comes with something called "Budweiser bubbles," seemed like they were going to be too gimmicky. Cute, I found myself thinking, without expecting much. But trust us: You haven’t tasted a buffalo wing (actually, it’s a crispy chicken thigh) this good before. And, yes, that beer taste really comes through."—Metromix (read entire review here)

MANA Food Bar. "The Mana Chili ($6) blew us away—a substantial southwestern style chili made with black beans, corn, chickpeas and manchego cheese. The spicy Bi Bim Bop, filled with vegetables and brown rice and covered with spicy hot pepper miso, came topped with a perfectly fried egg. Save room for Baja Corn, an ear of corn grilled, split in half and coated with a lime-chili powder. At only $2, it’s a fine-dining bargain you won’t find anywhere else."—Chicagoist (read entire review here)

Mercat a la Planxa. "Chef de cuisine Michael Fiorello throws plenty onto that grill, from prawns and turbot to rack of lamb and morcillo sausage, though what he cooks off it is just as delicious—bonbon-like Serrano-ham croquettes, chile-spiked chicken-chorizo-rock-shrimp soup, and the bocadillos—sandwiches that come with smoked paprika fries. The big, two-level dining room has been as big a hit at lunch, when tapas, charcuterie, and cheeses are a great way to eat light, as at night, when the Latin music rises up and the sangria goes down easy."—Esquire (read entire review here)

Park 52. "Executive Chef Chris Barron spins a locally sourced menu of salads, soups, steaks, fish, chicken and pork, with many ingredients plucked from Hyde Park's weekly Farmer's Market. A lack of fancy eats in this community fuels traffic from families, foodies and University of Chicago students."—Citysearch (read entire review here)

Province. "I look forward to the Very Slow Tasmanian Salmon in red wine mojo ($18), and I look forward to paying $18. The rest—Spanish influenced (Spanish blue cheese fondue, to cite one obvious, if enticing, example), a penchant for just enough on your plate, a long, involved selection—reminds us a smart restaurant leaves you with a hint of what you’re missing. One final note: The bread plate—a white rectangular plate, and not a basket—includes a cornbread nugget, with a lilting bite of ancho chile, is among the best things I’ve taste all year."—The Stew (read entire review here)

The Whistler. "The cocktail menu changes seasonally. When I visited we sampled the Rosemary Gin & Tonic, Hibiscus Sour, and Sazerac. All were delicious and offered at the very reasonable price of $8. The bottled beer menu includes selections from craft breweries like Bell's and Great Lakes and—perhaps best of all—they also stock $2 Pabst cans."—Gapers Block (read entire review here)

Ho, Ho Holidays!


Christmas is here! And whether you're doing it up with family or friends (or both!), don't make a move this weekend until you read this list:


It's so effing cold outside, so if you're one of those last-minute shoppers along the Mag Mile, make sure you stumble into Bistro 110 for Bistro & Bubbles. Happening through Dec. 30, the dealio is two Moët & Chandon champagne and food pairings. Choose from a glass of Moët White Star paired with truffle oil Parmesan french fries ($11) or a glass of Moët Rosé Impérial paired with smoked salmon pizza ($15). 5-7pm.

Make your way to the West Loop for a complimentary wine tasting event at the Just Grapes wine shop, where you'll get to sample a number of wines that'll pair well with your holiday dinner. You'll also get to indulge in various dessert vino. Noon-6pm.

Young Jewish professionals should turn out strong for the second-annual Juju Ball, happening at Martini Park. Get there early for the open bar (8:30-9:30pm), then dance to live music and flirt it up with a crowd expecting to surpass 700 guests. 8:30pm-2am. $25 at door.

If you're in the mood for a more neighborhood vibe, head to Wrigleyville for the Wednesday night specials at Risque Café. Get ready to load up on the bottomless bowl of mac 'n' cheese ($6) and $2 PBR tall boys as you nod your head to music from local bands. 8pm-2am. No cover.


Butch McGuire's is the ultimate holiday bar destination and tonight's a biggie for those needing to get away from those nagging relatives. After 11pm, expect this long-time singles scene to be jam-packed with all types of folks blowing off steam. Closes at 4am. No cover.

No dinner plans?! No problem. New Café des Architectes Executive Chef Martial Noguier has whipped up a four-course menu filled with hearty dishes like homemade potato gnocchi, beef tenderloin, and Bûche de Noël (white chocolate rum ice cream, Amarena cherry parfait, bittersweet chocolate cake) for dessert. That's $72 per person. 3-11pm.

Farmerie 58, the hot new market-fresh restaurant on two levels, offers a more budget-conscious, four-course meal for $45 a person. The mustard-brined stuffed pork chop, wild mushroom-and-roasted chestnut soup, and pecan-crusted pumpkin pie with bourbon whip are just some of the highlights.

House music legend Lil Louis ("French Kiss") brings The Love Tour to Crobar, cranking out sexy body and soul sounds. You'll also get a copy of his book and double CD, Two Sides to Every Story. 10pm-4am. $25.

Grammy nominated R&B artist Chrisette Michelle celebrates her birthday at Flirty Fitness on Friday.


She's up for a Grammy in February, plus she's celebrating her birthday. Sultry R&B songstress Chrisette Michelle will be in the house for a holiday bash certain to be the talk of the town. No discounted drinks, but if you email, they'll knock off a few $$ on your admission. Hopefully she'll perform! Flirty Girl Fitness (1325 W. Randolph St.) 9pm-2am.


Another celeb appearance is on tap when T-Pain hits Bon V after his concert. The hip-hop star is spinning, with opening sets by DJ Pullano and Skylar. All you have to do to gain free admission is say "VibeIsRight" before 11pm. After party happens at Rednofive. 9pm-2am.


And get an early start on your New Year's Eve festivities at Taste Food & Wine, which is hosting a Champagne & Bubbly Tasting. You'll get to pair them with Debbie's homemade chocolates. Mmmm-hmmm. 3-6pm. $20 in advance; $25 at door.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hub 51 in complete control of Nightlife Poll

Hub 51 is in the lead in the second-annual nightlife poll. (Photo: Hub 51)

Who would've thought River North newcomer Hub 51 would command such a lead in the second-annual 312DD nightlife poll?!

Props to them, but you still have four days left if you want to break the lead. To vote, just scroll to the bottom of the page!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Exclusive: Buzz on what's next in The Buzz space

The long-time, Latin-focused nightclub known as The Buzz is coming to an end soon.

An Ultimate Insider tells 312DD that the team behind Enclave recently took it over with plans to regut it into something entirely new. Look for that yet-unnamed project to debut next spring, possibly in April.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Weiner's Circle shutters; people pissed


Say what you will about Weiner's Circle, the late-night Lakeview hot dog spot made famous for its foul-mouthed staff and rowdy revelers, but it'll be missed.

The city shut it down on Friday because they had no hot water. WTF. That's just gross.

Whatever the case, fans and haters of the greasy fast-food joint are sounding off on its sudden demise on blogs everywhere.

Just a taste:

"Sounds like another newbie-customer missed the point and got offended by the waitstaff and made a bogus complaint. And all they find is what? The hot water wasn't working, and the cooked onions were a bit on the cold side (my guess is they just made too large a large batch at a time)? That's it? Really? Geez. Shut down half the other hot dog and burrito joints in town, because this is some pretty ticky-tack stuff relative to what I've seen at a lot of these places. Whoever the thin-skinned busy-body is who reported them should move back to Schaumburg."

"No food service business can operate without hot water. You put your customers at risk for serious illnesses such as e.coli, listeria, etc. etc. The owner was certified in sanitation so he knew what the risks were. Your health is not 'ticky-tacky stuff.'"

"Rudeness and insults aren't cute, even when they're aimed at drunken frat boys. Yeah, everyone knows the food sucked, but they should be shut down for ripping off customers at night (they routinely quoted prices higher than the menu, expecting the drunks to not notice, no doubt pocketing the proceeds). And, no, I'm not a suburbanite. I can actually see the place from my window. Glad I soon won't have to--I hear the owner doesn't plan on reopening and has plans to sell the building."

"This is a travesty. All you people who say this place is disgusting clearly don't know hot dogs. This place serves some of the best hot dogs in the City."

"You have to understand, it is in Lincoln Park, which means if you do get sick from the food, it will be a hipper, more trendy food poisoning."

"Good riddance to this dump. Most overrated place in town."

"This place is a disgrace to Chicago and the institution of the Chicago Style Hot Dog. I hope it is shut down permanantly. Somewhere along the line these jerks have gotten the idea that being foul mouthed, rude, and generally offensive to their is cute and adds ambiance. While I do not patronize this toilet that calls itself a restaurant, I do not feel that there any need for incorrigable behaivior or continued health code violators in our community. Close this rat trap. Maybe Demon Dogs can reopen there."

"The Weiner's Circle is, indeed, disgusting, and only TRUE CHICAGOANS can survive eating there. (The dogs and fries are delicious, BTW.) Whiny surburbanites - do us all a favor and go back to your ancestral malls! The Weiner's Circle is an experience in true Chicago improv, where 'playing the dozens' is the ENTIRE POINT. That place needs a webcam!"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

This dive's a dame

Thrillist has additional info on new bar Lucky Lady, which 312DD introduced to you early last month:

"Co-owned by the guys behind luxe clubs Manor and RiNo, the Lady's a dark-wooded, rock-and-country drinking lodge sporting a hefty, U-shaped oak bar, 13 flatscreens, a red-walled pool room, and herds of antler chandeliers and deer heads. The booze situation's limited to the essentials: short-skirted, high-booted bartenders serving staple domestics (Iron City, High Life, etc) and microbrews (Half Acre Ale, Abita Amber, Great Lakes Eliot Ness); there are no specialty cocktails, and all hard liquor drinks come in 12oz glasses, which should reduce your trips to the bar, but won't."

Update: Get there tonight 8:30-11:30 for the free drinks!

Exclusive: Meet Scott Walton

(Photo: DoubleTree Hotel Chicago Magnificent Mile)

Here's something to look forward to in 2009: Market House.

Executive Chef Scott Walton, the former chef at the Sheraton and Magnum's Steakhouse as well as the head of his own catering biz, is excited about this new farm-centric concept going into the ground floor of the new DoubleTree Hotel in Streeterville.

We're especially excited about the menu, of course, which is following the trend of offering diners market-fresh dishes made with organic and sustainable veggies, meat and seafood. We got a taste of what to expect when Market House debuts in mid-February (they're shooting to open by Valentine's Day!), as Walton trotted out his twists on small plates, offering wild boar corndogs (wild boar sausage in blue cornmeal dipped in whole-grain mustard), toasted cauliflower hummus on herbed flatbread, and jumbo prawns accompanied by Bloody Mary sauce and avocado and horseradish cream.

Also new: Opened just yesterday is the yet-unnamed hotel lobby bar that's done up in chrome with a centrally placed fireplace behind the bar. Of course, Walton's had a hand in this project as well, particularly in the new handcrafted vodkas in seasonal flavors like candy cane, tangerine, citrus and vanilla bean. If you cannot make up your mind, just order them all in an infused vodka flight, served chilled, for $20.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Samba into the New Year . . .


They're doing a sizzling samba soiree at Cat's Meow and Capote-themed Black & White Party at In Fine Spirits.

I've added those events to What's free on NYE?!, the most comprehensive, hottest (!!) and budget-friendly guide for what's happening on New Year's Eve.

Hello, Publican fans?!

The pork shank at The Publican. (Photo: Grant Kessler Photography)

After all the year-long buzz, props and foodie frenzy surrounding Publican, I'm tres shocked their fans haven't come out strong for this nightlife poll (scroll down to the bottom to vote!).

After all, Hub 51's supporters certainly are not shy because they've voted enough to give the River North hot spot a serious lead over the competition.

Come on now, guys, it's time to vote!

Exclusive: Gone too soon!


So an Ultimate Insider sadly reports that Agave Bar & Grill, the Lakeview spot known for all-natural, handcrafted margaritas, is closing Sunday.

Word is that the current owners will be re-opening under a new concept in the New Year.

Hope it works out for them!

Winning dishes for your holiday table

Cockburn’s Culinary Competition's winning recipe offers an original twist on traditional Portuguese cuisine: Crispy Braised Pork Belly, Migas, Black Beluga Lentils and Frisée Salad in a Cockburn’s Special Reserve Vinaigrette. (Photo: Cockburn's Special Reserve)

From beginning to end, this year will certainly go down as the most unusual, so why settle for the usual turkey and stuffing for your holiday celebration?!

312DD got a little inspiration from Kendall College students whipping up original recipes during last week's Cockburn’s Culinary Competition at the school.

Three teams of future culinary stars raced around in "Top Chef" style preparing their creations as famed alumni Shawn McClain (Custom House, Green Zebra, Spring) and reigning "Top Chef" champ Stephanie Izard (The Drunken Goat) served as judges.

Tracey Torres and Jeremy Fisher came out on top in the end, with their winning recipe of Crispy Braised Pork Belly, Migas, Black Beluga Lentils and Frisée Salad in a Cockburn’s Special Reserve Vinaigrette. Find out how to make it here.

And for a unique starter, Stephanie Izard suggests her simple recipe for Broiled Oysters with Garlic/Parsley Aioli:

Broil oysters until just warmed through then drizzle with aioli (will melt but makes a nice rich jus on oysters). Recommend to plate on rock salt or bed of blanched seaweed.


1-2 heads garlic, roasted (Just cut off top of head, put in foil, drizzle with salt and pepper and olive oil and roast at 375 degrees until browned and soft. Squeeze to remove)

2 egg yolks

1 tbsp Dijon

1/4 cup white balsamic

Place in blender. Add in blended or light olive oil until thickened. Add in garlic and 1 bunch chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Meatloaf Bakery gets props in first week

The lentil meatloaf cupcakes at Meatloaf Bakery. (Photo: Urban Daddy Chicago)

Yesterday we brought you short ribs and today it's meatloaf. We're all about comfort food these days, especially with the frightful weather outside.

But the latest fare find—uncovered by Urban Daddy late last week—is not your mama's meatloaf. At Lincoln Park's Meatloaf Bakery, you can get them resembling cupcakes, pies or cakes with savory "frosting."

The Stew already jumped at a "first bite" report (let's hope this one goes better than last time), with the writer pleasantly surprised at what he sampled:

"We ate our Wing and Prayer right there, and it was moister than any meatloaf we remember our parents making. Slice into it and the surprise is the creamy orb of blue cheese at the center—on top, a cap of blue cheese, salty and buttery and a bit over the top. (Hot sauce? Each order comes with a miniature bottle.) As for our next favorite, that would be the Mother Loaf, and being how this is the signature loaf, the most down-to-earth foot soldier in the gourmet cupcake/meatloaf revolution, we were pleasantly relieved. The veal came through surprisingly strong as did that long old meatloaf tradition of not knowing precisely what you’re eating but being physically incapable of stopping. The potatoes, however—harder than we would have liked, even when prepared and served by (owner Cynthia) Kallile herself."

Hub 51 tied with Vertigo in Nightlife Poll

Hub 51 is battling Vertigo for the title of "best new bar of '08." (Photo: Hub 51)

The Who's on Top in '08?! poll is off to a great start, on its second day.

Frontrunners are Hub 51, the trendy bar/restaurant hybrid by brothers Jerrod and R.J. Melman, and Vertigo, the posh penthhouse-level lounge crowning the dana hotel.

To vote, just scroll to the bottom of the page!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mmmmm, short ribs . . .


Over at Chowhound, a foodie started a thread about finding the best short ribs in the city:

Check the list for the best recs from regular folks, including graham elliot, Sweets and Savories, Custom House, Osteria Via Stato, Manny's Coffee Shop & Deli , Bonsoiree and Chaise Lounge.

Can I get a yum yum?!

Why are they famous?!


Will someone please remind 312DD again why Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag are famous?! They cannot spin, sing or sew, so why is it that this dude boasts that he gets a minimum of $100,000 just to show up to a bar?

I just pray that Manor, where they're making an appearance on Friday, didn't get suckered into paying anything near that amount!

This just makes me want to hurl a heel at somebody.

Who's on Top in '08?!

Vertigo Sky Lounge, atop the dana hotel, was one of the hottest new bars to open in 2008. (Photo: Vertigo Sky Lounge)

We had fun this year. I mean a whole lotta fun.

We partied our asses off—as the whole world watched—at various hot spots when a new president was elected right here in our fair city.

We kicked it hard all summer in some of the best outdoor venues we've ever had, including C-View, Vertigo and Zed451.

We mocked the Eat & Drink Club, a vicious pack of freeloaders hitting every open bar in town they could sniff out.

And we saw several triumphant comebacks, particularly from Crescendo and Trader Vic's (opens Dec. 15!).

So, it's that time of year again; time for you to pick your favorite new venues in the second-annual nightlife/dining poll: Who's on Top in '08?!

Scroll down to the bottom of the page and vote (If you don't see your favorite, then feel free to post in the comments section)! And because we're here in the infamous Windy City, vote often!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Celebrated chef out at Old Town Brasserie

Old Town Brasserie chef Roland Liccioni (left). (Photo: Le Français)

Dish breaks the news that Old Town Brasserie chef Roland Liccioni is out at the end of the year:

"Today’s big news: Roland Liccioni, who put Le Français back on the map in the nineties, is apparently leaving Old Town Brasserie (1209 N. Wells St.; 312-943-3000) just before Christmas. 'I’m going to France to visit my mother, take some time off,' Liccioni says. After that, he has no plans, but would like to stay in Chicago. Bob Djahanguiri, OTB’s owner, sees it differently. 'I told him, "You go to France and when you come back we will sit down. And if you agree with my agreement, we will work together." . . . Roland is a great chef but the restaurant is not just the food. Honestly, he wants to stay.'"

He may or may not return, but in his absence, Andy Motto, a Charlie Trotter’s veteran who has worked with Liccioni for 12 years, is handling the kitchen.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Way to take advantage of a sticky situation


This wins for the most tasteless press release of the week:

"As Illinois politics is making front page news throughout the country, Chicagoans are up in arms that yet another governor has proven to be corrupt. One Chicago restaurant is voicing its disapproval in another way; by dedicating a drink to the situation.

Take a dirty martini, steal the olives but leave the pimentos and you have 'The Dirty Governor,' a drink currently being served at Wicker Park hotspot The Fifty/50.

What brand of vodka is used? Effen. Because Chicago’s (sic) are 'effen' mad."

Note to publicist:


Rad's on fire!


The Stew continues its coverage of our girl Radhika Desai of Between on "Top Chef":

"At judges' table, Radhika's team is on top, but Ariane gets the victory for cooking 'the most flavorful component of the evening,' (guest judge Dana) Cowin reveals. Now wait. Didn't Radhika's marinade and yogurt sauce contribute more to the flavor than Ariane's cooking? All she had to do was know when to take the lamb out of the oven, and she needed help from her teammates to get that right. Radhika should have stood up more for her cooking. At least she shows strongly by placing with the winning team. Now she needs to stand out on her own."



This week's been effed up, y'all.

From The Guv to GM, it seems like everyone's in hot water. Two prominent restaurants shuttered (copperblue, Mantou Noodle Bar), and yet another is changing its concept before it heads into trouble.

Of course, everyone's strapped for $$$ these days, but let's try to get out and about this weekend and support our local businesses:


If you're shopping on the Mag Mile or in River North, and it's arctic outside, warm up at mk. Every time the weather dips below 20 degrees, diners get free hot toddies.

Shoppers can also take refuge inside Bistro 110, which is doing Bistro & Bubbles until the end of the month in the lounge. They're offering two champagne pairings from Moët & Chandon: a glass of Moët White Star paired with truffle oil parmesan fries ($11) or a glass of Moët Rosé Impérial with smoked salmon pizza ($15). 5-7pm Sunday-Friday.

Green Zebra's new dinner deal benefits the World Bicycle Relief, a nonprofit organization supporting impoverished areas worldwide. A seasonal, four-course tasting menu is $44, with $4 from each order going to the organization. Through Dec. 30.


They're doing Millionaire Flight Night every Friday at D.O.C. Wine Bar, but thankfully that's meant to be tongue in cheek. This one's only $25, with rare and specialty vino personally selected by wine director Adam Moore. This week, global pinots Domaine Leroy Burgundy, Julius Wasem Spatburgunder, Archer Summit "Cuvee Estate" are featured.

Funkshion (2121 W. Division St.) fetes its first-year anniversary with a party at the boutique from 7-11pm. Deejays spin, giveaways and a premium open bar. They're also requesting that guests bring gently used clothing to gift those less fortunate. The after-party happens at Right Loft (above Enclave) until 4am. No cover.

Hopefully the Bears beat the Saints so they hold their heads up high at the first-ever Bear Factor, happening at Rednofive. Guests get to mingle with past and present Bears players, and enjoy a fashion show featuring their wives and girlfriends. Appetizers and open bar included. 7-11pm. $75.

C-House chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Toni Roberts are the guest celebrity bartenders at Pops for Champagne on Monday. (Photo: C-House)


It's suds galore at Delilah's, which hosts the 10th annual Christmas & Winter Beer Tasting. This is likely the largest beer tasting in the country with more than 100 beers on hand for your indulgence. Brands include Goose Island Christmas Ale, Three Floyds Alpha Claus Christmas Porter, Lakefront Holiday Spice Lager and Summit Winter Ale, plus reps will be on hand to answer questions. Noon-5pm. $20.

The sixth-annual Kandy Kane Ball at Joe's should bring out all the young professionals. Admission includes an open bar and appetizers (until midnight), live entertainment and some of the most interesting people you'll meet this holiday season. 9pm-2am. $40 (toy donation required; no batteries).

World-class tennis hottie Anna Kournikova's in town for another toy drive happening at Enclave. The party benefits the Union League Boys and Girls Club. 10pm-3am. $20 donation (or toys).

XBOX 360's I'm With the DJ Tour makes a stop at Bon V. You'll jam out to the sounds of Clinton Sparks, Rick Rude and White Shadow. 9pm-3am. $20.


Every Monday Pops for Champagne hosts an industry night event featuring local chefs behind the bar. It's time for C-House chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Toni Roberts to shine with their creations Pineapple Express (tequila, rosemary, sparkling wine), BOH (bourbon, maple, lime) and Motorboat (horchata, Kahlua, rootbeer). 9pm-2am. No cover.

OM Records superstar Miguel Migs makes a rare appearance at a Chicago nightclub. He's doing a special house set at Boom Boom Room, happening at Green Dolphin Street. NYC's SUPER PRODUCERS "1200 warriors" and local spin star DJ Uncle Milty also perform. Drink specials. 9pm-4am. $10.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

EXCLUSIVE: Mantou closes

(Photo: Anthony Tahlier)

This shit is getting out of control:

312DD just learned that Mantou Noodle Bar has closed, just a week after The Stew posted a glowing, "first bite" review.

It opened on Oct. 30.

EXCLUSIVE: More changes for Room21


Here's an update on the changes coming soon to Room21:

In addition to the contemporary American South Loop spot going all-Ital, inside sources now tell 312DD that a chef shuffling's underway as well. When owner Jerry Kleiner unveils Room21's new look in late January or early February, Jim Kilberg will be heading up the kitchen.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Toast new West Town taverns


West Town is hot. There's no doubt about that with the recent successful openings of Old Oak Tap, Cat's Meow and Bar DeVille.

So, now comes the latest crop of poppers, promising to keep us entertained through the winter:

Thrillist gives us the dealio on Crocodile, which opens Wednesday. We're looking forward to one of the biggest bargains of the month: For every $5 you spend on alcohol, you get one mini pizza.

The Daddy introduces us to Theory, taking off on Thursday just in time for the big Bears vs. Saints game. You'll get food and drink specials, including $3 sliders and $3 John Daly Irish Whiskey.

And finally, Branch 27's not scheduled to open until sometime in January. A collaboration from noteworthy nightlife vets (Fat Cat, Rockit, Empire Liquors), it's located in a former library branch and will offer small, shareable plates, craft beers and an upscale, yet comfy bar setting.

What's free on NYE?!


That's the most frequently asked question these days around 312DD, as most revelers will not only be recycling dressy wear from seasons past, but clamping down on how much they'll spend to party on the big night.

You could easily head over to your corner bar 'cause likely that's free, but on New Year's Eve, doncha want to step up your game?!

So, we've gathered a bunch of events around town—some free, some not so pricey—and you won't find anything over $60:

Deals abound all over the Bucktown/Wicker Park area, especially at bin wine cafe, which is serving its regular dinner menu of seasonal small plates. For something special, order the Bubbles & Chocolate tasting, which comes with four, 2.5 oz pours of bubbly and sparkling wine, paired with chocolate-dipped strawberries, Marcona-almond chocolate bark, Pop Rock truffles and white chocolate truffles. $25 for one; $48 for two. 5pm-2am.

Since you'll be drinking champagne anyway, why not celebrate NYE like a Parisian?! Bistro 110 rings in the New Year at midnight—on Paris time. They're doing seatings between 5 and 8pm, and if you head here for the first seating, you'll get a complimentary glass of bubbly (5-6pm). The menu is a la carte, with specials such as grilled quails with braised savoy cabbage or roasted scallops. Also: free valet parking.

It'll cost you several hundred dollars to get to Brazil this time of year, but Cat's Meow's festive, Brazilian-themed bash will only cost you twenty bones. The night will feature samba dancers, $5 Caipirinhas, midnight bubbly, buffet and live entertainment from Planeta Azul Trio playing Samba, Funk, Forro and Brazilian pop. Deejays also spin. 9pm-2am. Free parking in adjacent lot.

At Cuatro, in the South Loop, the Latin-American menu is a la carte for dinner, but if you just want to party you'll only pay $10 if you get there by 10pm ($20 after). Deejays David Sabat and Craig Alexander spin deep house, classics and Latin grooves. Cash bar or $60 per person drink package from 10pm-1am. Specialty cocktails include mojitos, blood-orange margaritas, Caipirinhas and Cuatro's signature sipper, the Forbidden Fruit Sangria. 10pm-2am.

The James hotel and David Burke's Primehouse lobby bar transform into a relaxed and liberated party environment, with music by DJ Dani Deahl and a cocktail menu featuring new seasonal winter libations. Biggest bonus: complimentary passed appetizers and champagne for the midnight toast. No cover.

In Ukrainian Village's Enoteca Roma, guests may indulge in a five-course, regional Italian dinner paired with wine for $55. Two seatings: 7:30 and 9:30pm. Those who stay for the late seating (and midnight champagne toast) will be treated to fresh-baked muffins from the adjacent Letizia's Natural Bakery for their New Year's Day breakfast.

Order from the regular menu or chef specials at The Gage, and at midnight, guests get party favors and a complimentary Champagne toast. They're also featuring the Bubble Bliss champagne cart with selections starting at $10 a glass, from crisp blanc de blancs to rich and toasty vintage Champagnes. Those not having dinner can also hang out in the front-room lounge, which is no cover.

The Black & White Party. Think Truman Capote's infamous celebration in the late 1960s that brought out New York elite and celebrities. They're recreating the spectacular event for NYE at In Fine Spirits, with black and white themed appetizers and party favors. Guests, of course, are encouraged to dress in black tie and/or black or white. 4pm-2am. $20.09 in advance; $25 at door (drink specials for $9 all night).

Juicy Wine Co. offers a pretty good deal in River West. For $45, they're hooking you up with a four-hour premium open bar with spirits and wines picked out by owner Rodney Alex himself. Snacks include Harold's Fried Chicken, plus you'll get traditional party favors, midnight champagne toast and music by DJ Puff-e. 9pm-1am.

Deejays spin offbeat dance, '80s and hip-hop at People Lounge, the popular Wicker Park tapas bar. Here, you'll also get a premium open bar until midnight for $60. Also, midnight champagne toast. 9pm-2am.

With spectacular views of the Navy Pier fireworks and its glamorous setting, the Trump Hotel's Rebar will be one hot ticket come Dec. 31. And check this out: NO cover charge. . . . NO bottle service requirements . . . and NO reservations. We recommend you doing something a little different this year and ordering the Winter Magic Punch Bowl, which comes tableside in a heated crock filled with brandy, red wine, cinnamon sticks, cloves, oranges and cognac-marinated cherries. ($115 punch bowl serves four; $13 by the glass). 5pm-2am.

You never know what DJ Uncle Milty is going to do when he's behind the turntables and expect NYE to be no different. His throwdown's happening at the W Chicago-City Center with discounted bottle service and drinks. He's spinning deep house, hip-hop, rock and R&B. 9pm-2am. No cover.

Monday, December 8, 2008

EXCLUSIVE: Finally! Some good news . . .

Naha is one of many returning participants in "Chicago Restaurant Week…eat it up!," happening in February.

Just got word that Chicago Restaurant Week…eat it up! returns in 2009, and this time it's boasting more than 140 restaurants.

That's triple the amount the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau had in its inaugural year, so we're looking forward to newcomers like The Drawing Room, Lux Bar, Le Colonial, La Madia, Topolobampo, Prosecco and others offering some great deals. River North's swanky Naha is one of many returning participants.

Look for Chicago Restaurant Week to happen Feb. 20-27, with three-course prix-fixe menus of $22 for lunch and $32 for dinner (excluding beverages, tax and gratuity).

Developing . . .

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Last call at copperblue


Just received this sad news from copperblue owner/chef Michael Tsonton:

"Not often in life does one get the opportunity to see their dream come to life. A dream founded on work so hard, so daunting, so tireless, anything less than joy would have made it a nightmare.

Copperblue became that dream. A dream we shared with you. We have sold copperblue, and are closing her doors on Saturday, December 13th, 2008. After so many years on the same road, I and my business partner, chef and best friend, Victor, have decided to travel different paths.

I hope you will find time to join us for a 'last meal' before we say goodnight. One more week, one more memorable evening."

Sign of the times.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Repeal Day!

A Flapper-esque server with Manhattans at Plan B on Thursday. (Photo: Mariah Karson)

And now to get you into "Repeal Day" party mode, here's a quick pic from Thrillist's Prohibition Repeal Party last night at Plan B.

It was a blast from the past!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

EXCLUSIVE: Room 21 to revamp concept


This just dropped in from an Ultimate Insider:

"Word has it that Room 21 is going to close down, revamp and come back as an Italian spot—supposedly with all waiters from Italy."

A call to the restaurant confirmed that they are indeed reconcepting, but not closing, with the manager adding that the plan goes into effect immediately after their New Year's Eve event.

Rad's still in the running for next 'Top Chef'


The Stew recaps "Top Chef," and our homegirl Radhika Desai of Between makes it through to the next round:

"Radhika's dish, Sweet Heat Shrimp, seems a winner: Loaded with flavor from chili sauces, but not too complicated. A dish designed to entice viewers in that it's exotic enough to be different, but within the range of most home cooks to tackle. Plus shrimp cook quickly—much faster than Alex's creme brulee. But time runs out before she even finishes her vinaigrette.

In neither case did Radhika do so badly that she lost or was even in the bottom tier—Colicchio didn’t have to run off set to spit out her food (too bad, Melissa)—but again, she certainly didn’t hit it out of the studio."




This weekend we celebrate your right to drink.

That's it. Because without the repeal of Prohibition, we'd all be sipping sodas right now. 312DD's rounded up a bunch of bashes right here for your pleasure.

Of course, there's so much more going on this weekend:


No doubt Galleria Unico (44 E. Superior St.) will be filled with all the local stylistas, as Havilah Boutique hosts a Passion for Fashion holiday runway show. Nosh on appetizers by Adobo Grill and HUB 51; all proceeds benefit Kids Fight Cancer, with DJ Rock City spinning. 7-10pm. $10 suggested donation; RSVP to

When DJ "Jazzy" Jeff (of "Fresh Prince" fame) spun at Lumen last summer, the place was packed with old heads and new schoolers jammin' out to everything from soul to salsa. This time he's slinging the beats at Underground, and hopefully he brings along another hot MC. Only New Yorkers can get away with that. 9pm-4am. $20.


Doesn't it feel good to give?! Go all out at Imerman Angels' third-annual toy drive at Le Passage. The high-energy cocktail party includes an open bar and appetizers from 6-8:30pm, but the festivites continue till 10. It's technically a toy drive, but this time $10 of each ticket goes directly to purchasing Children’s Memorial Hospital a mobile, technologically advanced "fun center" that'll have a Wii video game. $30 in advance; $40 at door.

More than ever these days we need to network and Rednofive's providing an ideal atmosphere with Face2Face, a social networking party for online friends. Comped gift bags, appetizers and cocktails. Proceeds benefit the Sue Duncan Children's Centers and Friends United for Juvenile Diabetes Research. 8pm-4am. No cover?! (Maybe or maybe not)

Iconic local spin star Jesse de la Pena returns to Cuatro for his First Fridays event. He's certain to rock out with hip-hop, Latin, funk, soul, rock and house. 10pm-2am. No cover.


If you dare brave the crazed shopping strip of the Mag Mile—bursting with SNAILS and tourists—you'll need to slip into La Boule de Noel, the Park Hyatt's seasonal Parisian macaroon boutique. Located on the first floor of the hotel, it's cranking out a number of delicious housemade treats in flavors of white chocolate peppermint, cranberry pecan, rum chestnut, chocolate Earl Grey, orange spice cake or brandy cherry white chocolate. They're $2 (each); $24 (dozen); $35 (two dozen) and go great with an espresso or hot tea. 800 N. Michigan Ave., 312-335-1234.

For those skipping the downtown crowds, there's no better place to be than the Do Division Holiday Walk happening on Division Street (from Ashland to Leavitt). Stop at the Barefoot Bubbly Cocktail locations (Caffe Gelato, Pump, Porte Rouge) for champagne; indulge in a free horse-drawn carriage ride; or just hang out in numerous bars and restaurants along the stroll. Noir (1726 W. Division St.) will also host a party where you'll get up to 25 percent on apparel, appetizers and cocktails. Noon-until.

Salsa lovers, rejoice! The Hot Salsa Kitchen is back, but they're partying in a brand-new venue at Dance Connection (3117 N. Clybourne Ave.). This one's actually an all-ages event, with DJ Kimani Rashad spinning and a dance lesson by Elba Diaz. Get ready for salsa, mambo, cha-cha and a little bachata. 9pm-1am. $10.


OK. And if you're shopping for someone who has unique taste, why not check out the Goth Wintertime Craft Faire?! Who knows what you'll find, as the affair will have more than 20 local Gothic artists and crafters offering jewelry, toys, leather, candles and more. Noon-8pm. No cover.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Scoops galore

Ladies, he's single and can cook! Strapping new one sixtyblue executive chef Michael McDonald reportedly turned down an opportunity to be on "The Bachelor." (Photo: one sixtyblue)

There's all kinds of hot tips going down on Dish, from the re-opening of Tiny Lounge (finally!) after a two-year absence to new one sixtyblue exec chef Michael McDonald turning down ABC's "The Bachelor" reality dating show (whoo hoo, he's single!) because he's so swamped in the kitchen.

And speaking of hot bachelors, nightlife/dining impresario Billy Dec (Rockit Bar & Grill, Underground, Sunda) just announced that he got engaged over the weekend. Party girls everywhere are shedding tears . . .

I wanna be like Mike


Hungry Mag head honcho Michael Nagrant gives us a taste of what it was like to experience last night's $1,500-a-head Thomas Keller/Grant Achatz feast at Alinea:

"Tonight, I asked Grant Achatz if I could hug him. Fortunately, he had the foresight to preserve our collective dignity, and he said no. It wasn’t just the glass of Jean Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc, Rhone 2000 talking, either. Rather, it was a dish named Chestnut, quince, chocolate, baked potato."

Lucky @#$%^&*()@^!

Ouch, Alpana . . .

Feast of Fools host Fausto Fernós (left) with Alpana Singh (Photo:

Local wine diva Alpana Singh gets called out by MenuPages for over-promoting her real job on her new vino-themed blog:

"FoodLife is owned by LEYE. And Alpana? Is the director of wine and spirits for LEYE. And as such presumably has a hand in selecting these $4.95-per-glass wines and signing off on the signs for the singles-friendly wine tastings.

Don't get us wrong—we know that when a restaurant employee blogs about his or her professional life, the blog serves as an extension of the restaurant brand. No one expects, say, Philip Foss to go on a screed against hotel dining, f'rinstance. But this kind of wide-eyed who-me advertorial gets our undies in a bunch."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Toast to Repeal Day!


I'm not going to get all wordy about the history behind Repeal Day, and by now you know the 75th anniversary's coming up on Dec. 5.

If you want to read up on which current local bars thrived during the Prohibition era and which ones were the first to get their liquor licenses after it ended, you'll find that here, here and here.

In the meantime, if you just want to party, a number of events happen Friday, but Thrillist just had to be first out the gate with theirs on Thursday. They're doing it at Wicker Park's Plan B with a complimentary whiskey tasting, burlesque dancers and even shoeshine boys! That's going down 7-10pm, but you must RSVP here to get in.

Didja know there was a Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails?! Chicago's new chapter hosts two parties on the big night. They're encouraging guests to dress in period clothing and head over to Clark Street Ale House right after work for the first one from 6-9pm. And, if you're still standing by 10pm, make a move to part two over at The Drawing Room. For $33, they're doing a Prohibition-era, prix-fixe food and drink pairing. There's also live music by the Ron Mills Orchestra, and a portion of the proceeds benefits Chicago's Greenhouse Shelter, which assists abused women.

At Andersonville liquor shop and lounge In Fine Spirits, the festivities include more pre- and post-Prohibition-era cocktails, 1930s music and staffers dressed like gang-stars. Go ahead and order The Capone (a citrus-y cocktail with Templeton Rye Prohibition Era Whiskey), Prohibition Cocktail (gin cocktail with a touch of apricot) or The Volstead Toddy (spicy-smooth blend of Batavia Arrack, Pendleton’s Whiskey and a touch of pastis that's served warm). 3pm-2am. No cover.

Moonshine mixes it up with professional swing dancers, live music, period attire and a special Dewar’s toast to Repeal Day. They're also giving guests “Dewar’s Dollars” to buy things like an old-fashioned shoe shine, barber shop shave and even more cocktails. 8pm-2am. No cover, but use the password "Dewar's" for admittance. Come dressed to thrill.

Servers at Room 21 will be dressed up as gangsters and flappers, and guests may order from a special menu for $19.33 that includes one Dewar's specialty cocktail. All Dewar's cocktails, such as the Old Fashioned or one infused with vanilla beans, are $5 for the night. 5:30-10pm.

Spring teams up with former Violet Hour mixologist Kirk Estopinal for a night of fun in the lounge. He's shaking up a host of new and classic libations like the G&T (North Shore #11, housemade tonic on the rocks) and The Spice Cart (brandy, triple sec, lemon, five spices). They're also introducing a new bar menu with savory items like maki rolls, squash wonton and short rib Gyoza. No cover.

New West Town sports bar The Fifty/50 celebrates with a dress-up period party and specials on classic drinks. 8pm-2am. No cover.

And Lush doles out the goodies in both the University Village and Roscoe Village locations. They're pouring free samples of classic cocktails from 6-9pm. No cover.

Why hasn't anyone talked about this?!


An astute reader brought to my attention late last week an interesting tidbit:

Turns out the controversial Indian-British novelist and essayist Salman Rushdie—who was once married to former supermodel/"Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi—is an investor in the newly opened New York restaurant At Vermilion (480 Lexington Ave., 212-871-6600).

This Indian-Latin focused eatery is an offshoot of the Chicago original, which Lakshmi once told 312DD was "the best Indian restaurant in the country."

What makes it even more interesting is that "Top Chef 5" contestant Radhika "Rad" Desai, who's still in the running and is the exec chef at Between Boutique Cafe and Lounge, was the opening sous chef at Vermilion and has gotten major props for that menu's success today.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Back of the House on Xmas

Adam Seger of Nacional 27 (Photo: Brenden Lekan Photography)

Restaurant Intelligence Agency's new Back of the House feature highlights holiday memories from local food and beverage stars:

What will be on your holiday dinner table this year?

Jill Barron (executive chef, MANA food bar): Oysters and caviar for Christmas Eve.

Tim Dahl (pastry chef, Blackbird): I grew up with kjottboller and lefse. This year it'll be lasagna and seafood soup.

Dirk Flanigan (executive chef, The Gage): Turkey with garlic and basil under the skin; crown of oyster and foie gras stuffing, with duck confit; the now famous Brie, bacon and Brussels sprouts; vanilla sweet potatoes with Spanish chorizo; cavatelli with a pot of my wife's homemade sauce.

Josh Kaplan (general manager/sommelier, mk): Traditional fare. My family does the cooking, not me. Although, every year my favorite item is the caramelized onion tart from Foodstuffs.

Carrie Nahabedian (executive chef, NAHA): For Christmas, we always do prime rib, whole-roasted with great rich side dishes: compote of pearl onions with bacon and cognac, celery root dauphinoise, roasted squash with hickory nuts. And all of my aunts' favorite cookies: cherry wonders, cream cheese chocolate chip cookies, toffee squares, nut cups, buckeye balls, cherry jewels.

Adam Seger (manager, beverage director, Nacional 27): A deep-fried turkey, a pumpkin pie made with fresh pumpkin from the Green City Market with a real lard crust and a two-year aged black-walnut-fed Newsome's country ham from Kentucky.

Erick Williams (executive chef, mk): Turkey dressing (as opposed to stuffing) -- a traditional family recipe that my mother makes using cornbread instead of regular bread. Giblet gravy, braised mustard and turnip greens, beef roast, turkey, tomato-stewed green beans, chitterlings, sweet potato pie, bread pudding, pecan tart.

Shelley Young (chef/owner, The Chopping Block): Traditional for sure. Mom cooks Christmas.

Observe World AIDS Day


Today's the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day, so if you're looking to commemorate, 312DD's rounded up a few events:

Join others at W-Lakeshore's Living Room for an online viewing party for the launch of RED (WIRE), a new digital music magazine launched by U2 frontman Bono. For a $5 monthly fee, subscribers get access to exclusive tracks from artists like John Legend, Sheryl Crow, Coldplay and Jay Z. A portion of the proceeds benefits programs combating AIDS in Africa. Monitors will be set up carrying the live feed, as well as computer kiosks for people to sign up. All evening, you can also order the INSPI(RED) pomegranate-infused cocktail, with a portion of those proceeds benefiting (RED)WIRE). 3-11pm. No cover.

Green Dolphin Street's weekly Boom Boom Room observes the occasion with a special set by global spin star Ron Trent. He'll spin deep house, Latin and Afro-Latin beats, but arrive early for a special AIDS-themed fashion show produced by Fashion Empire. $5 Effen cocktails. 9pm-4am. $10.

And tickets are still available for the annual World of Chocolate party happening at the Chicago Hilton and Towers (720 S. Michigan Ave.) on Dec. 3. Sponsored by AIDS Foundation of Chicago, the party features sweet treats from more than 30 local restaurants, caterers and chocolatiers in an effort to fight HIV/AIDS. Participating restaurants including China Grill, Bistro Campagne, Mado and Terry's Toffee. You'll also get appetizers, open bar, live jazz and a holiday bazaar for those last-minute gifts. 6-10pm. Tickets start at $75.