Thursday, January 10, 2008

Rockit Ranch guys go Asian

Rockit Ranch Productions partners Brad Young (from left), Billy Dec and Arturo Gomez.
(Photo: Rockit Ranch Productions)

The guys behind Rockit Ranch Productions (Arturo Gomez, Billy Dec and Brad Young) have been mad successful with Rockit Bar & Grill (22 W. Hubbard St., 312-645-6000) and their late-night sensation, Underground (56 W. Illinois St., 312-644-7600), which opened in 2006.

Now word comes that they're teaming up with world-renown designer Tony Chi to open a 13,000-square-foot Asian concept this summer. The as-of-yet unnamed venue will be in River North—within walking distance of Rockit Bar & Grill and Underground.

Developing. . .

New chocolate boutique opens in the Loop


Just in time for Valentine's Day, another Ethel's Chocolate Lounge
opens, and this time it's going into the Loop's Renaissance Hotel (1 W. Wacker Dr., 312-372-7200) in early February.

It's certain to be the new chill-out space when you want to settle in their cozy lounge atmosphere with gourmet chocolates and more. In the meantime, the following locations are open: 520 N. Michigan Ave., 312-464-9330 and 900 N. Michigan Ave., 312-440-9747 on the Mag Mile; and 819 W. Armitage Ave., 773-281-0029 in Lincoln Park.

First-ever Chicago Restaurant Week is coming soon

NAHA is just one of many local eateries participating in the first-ever Chicago Restaurant Week, happening in late February.
(Photo: NAHA)

Save for Valentine's Day, winter is a pretty rough time for the local dining scene. So in order to drive traffic during the slowest season, the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau (CCTB) is sponsoring the first-ever Chicago Restaurant Week.

It's scheduled for Feb. 22-29, with participating restaurants offering a three-course, pre-fixe lunch and/or dinner (excluding all beverages/alcohol, taxes and gratuity) either for non-weekend (Sunday through Thursday) or for the full promotional period (Friday through Friday).

At this time, they've signed up 25 restaurants, but 312 Dining Diva will keep you updated and in the mix!

Here's a partial list:

Bistro 110 (110 E. Pearson St., 312-266-3110)

Blue Water Grill (520 N. Dearborn St., 312-777-1400)

Brazzaz (539 N. Dearborn St., 312-595-9000)

Café des Architectes (20 E. Chestnut St., 312-324-4063)

David Burke’s Primehouse (616 N. Rush St., 312-660-6000)

Devon Seafood (39 E. Chicago Ave., 312-440-8660)

Fulton’s on the River (315 N. LaSalle Dr., 312-822-0100)

NAHA (500 N. Clark St., 312-321-6242)

Nick’s Fishmarket Grill (51 S. Clark St.,312-621-0200)

Park Grill (11 N. Michigan Ave., 312-521-7275)

Pump Room (1301 N. State Pkwy., 312-266-0360)

Roy’s (720 N. State St., 312-787-7599)

Shula’s (301 E. North Water St., 312-670-0788)

Smith & Wollensky (318 N. State St., 312-670-9900)

Sushi Samba Rio (504 N. Wells St., 312-595-2300)

Jazz Showcase returns to its glory

The city's first nonsmoking jazz lounge finally gets a new home since it closed its doors on Dec. 31, 2006.

Jazz Showcase, whose last home was at Grand and Clark, plans an opening at 47 W. Polk St. by month's end. Look for owner Joe Segal, who's been operating the venue in various locations for almost 50 years, to offer the same outstanding local and national talent Jazz Showcase has become famous for.

Risque Cafe is open and ouch!, a 'review' is in

So a poster from just checked out the new smokehouse Risque Cafe (3419 N. Clark St., 773-525-7711) in Wrigleyville, from the team behind the recently closed Meritage, and it sounds like they may want to tighten it up a bit:

"Unfortunately, the bbq did not measure up, although there is some hope. I tasted the brisket, pulled pork and baby back ribs (no spare ribs offered). Let me first start by saying that they offer dinners and sandwiches. Strangely, although the only difference between the two is that the dinners (at least for the pork and brisket) come with coleslaw and a piece of bread, the dinners are about $5 more (again, if I recall correctly) than the sandwiches. In fact, it seemed as if the sandwiches contain more meat. The dinners themselves offered inexcusably tiny portions and this must be changed for me to consider returning. I refuse to pay $18 (the approximate cost of my brisket and pork combo) for a few slices of brisket and tad bit more pork. I would have expected to pay a little more than half of that amount at Smoque for a slightly larger portion."

Here's the full post.

Update on the Trump Tower's Rebar lounge

We reported here exclusively on the Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago's fabulous Rebar lounge back in November.

Now word comes that because the hotel's construction plans are running behind schedule, so is the opening of this bar overlooking the Chicago River. Look for it to open now in late February. 401 N. Wabash Ave., 312-588-8000.

Your guide to the hot weekend activities

Red-hot "Rescue Me" star Daniel Sunjata heats up Crobar's weekly "Pop-arazzi Fridays" tomorrow night.

Speaking of hot, that's exactly what I dig about this town. No matter what your friends say, there is always something going on during the weekend. So make those dinner plans with a sig other or your crew and head over to:

Jbar (610 N. Rush St., 312-660-7200). Tonight's limited-series party spotlights the talents of the one and only Jesse de la Pena. Known for his unique skills behind the turntables, he goes back to his roots with rare groove and other stuff we all need to be up on. The Sounds Good series occurs every Thursday until further notice, and also features "live" art. Tonight only, Dom Perignon hosts the first hour with a complimentary champagne reception. 9pm-2am. No cover.

Uncommon Ground (3800 N. Clark St., 773-929-3680). For something completely chilled out, grab a seat in the cozy new lounge at this Lakeview coffeehouse for the Green Room Sessions, a free monthly live music and eco-awareness seies featuring complimentary appetizers (provided by a local farmer or producer). This event occurs every second Thursday of the month (tonight!), and you'll be entertained by Green Elvis and the Andrew Thomas Band. Mora & Mahogany, who supports not-for-profit groups by providing them with a fair-trade fundraising program, hosts the event. The featured farmer is Heartland Meats, who is nationally recognized for bringing high-quality naturally raised beef with no hormones, animal by-products or antibiotics to Chicago. Also, the Green Room features the TreeTini, made with organically produced Rain Vodka. For every TreeTini ordered, Live it Green plants a tree.

Room 21 (2110 S. Wabash Ave., 312-328-1198). Also launching tonight: Infusion Thursdays features this trendy South Loop restaurant's unique infused cocktails for $8 (regularly $13). Get winter warm-ups now, including the Dewars Infused, with vanilla beans, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, hot water, served with a sugar rim and lemon wedge; and Woodford Reserve bourbon infused with green apple and clove (hot apple cider, simple syrup, served with a cinnamon sugar rim and garnished with a lemon twist).

Crobar (1543 N. Kingsbury, 312-266-1900). FX fans take note: Red-hot actor Daniel Sunjata, who stars on the Golden Globe and Emmy nominated show "Rescue Me," is the latest celebrity to heat up Crobar's famous Pop-arazzi Fridays tomorrow. Chicago firefighters—including the 12 firemen from the 2008 Calendar—will hit the stage for a runway show where guests can vote on Chicago's Sexiest Firemen. Following the runway show, the firefighters will be available for photographs and to autograph purchased copies of the 2008 Chicago Firemen's Calendar. All ticket proceeds and calendar purchases will be donated to firefighter's charities—Ignite the Spirit, The Gold Badge Society and the Firefighters Chaplains Fund. 9pm-4am. Friday. $20.

David Leonardis Gallery River North (217 W. Huron St., 312-863-9045). Art lovers should head to the River North area as this gallery as well as many in the area are hosting receptions from 6-9pm Friday. David Leonardis's new installation, Boom Box, should be a hit with visitors. Free.

House of Glunz (1206 N. Wells St., 312-642-3000). Every Saturday, this venerable Old Town wine store hosts an in-store, open house tasting featuring new arrivals, seasonal specials and end-of-bin deals. Tastings are 2-6pm and no reservations are required. Free.

Congress Theater (2135 N. Milwaukee Ave.). Eyeliner-loving rocker Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy hits the 'tables for the Malibu Winter Beach Bash, an indoor beach party hosted by Malibu Rum. Doors open at 9pm, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres are free, and all you have to do to get in is RSVP to