Thursday, January 31, 2008

The revival of the local coffeehouse?!

She's the spokesperson for Dunkin' Donuts, yet even celebrity chef Rachael Ray couldn't resist the local flavor with a cup of cocoa at Lakeview's Uncommon Ground. (Photo: Uncommon Ground)

This story from the New York Times comes as Starbucks is now going in a new direction in an effort to remain "on top." From the recent new marketing campaign that includes advertising for the first time in the company's history to the new budget-conscious $1 coffee, it's evident that Starbucks is finally shaken down to the bottom of the cup.

So, let's celebrate with a cup of java with the resurgence of the local coffeehouse because, after all, they've been here all along:

Atomix (1957 W. Chicago Ave., 312-666-2649). It's got a lived-in feel, a ton of espresso drinks and an authentic coffeehouse atmosphere.

Bleeding Heart Bakery (1955 W. Belmont Ave., 773-327-6931). The new Roscoe Village location continues the charge with organic goodies to go along with their multiple coffee drinks.

Bronzeville Coffee House (528 E. 43rd St., 773-536-0494). Freshly brewed coffees, homemade pastries and a never-ending schedule of community-focused events draw crowds to this South Side spot.

Iguana Cafe (517 N. Halsted St., 312-432-0663). It's got a very Euro feel, with a cozy setting that makes you want to stay all day. Also, their coffee selections are particularly strong.

Cafe Jumping Bean (1439 W. 18th St., 312-455-0019). The bottomless cup of joe, plus specialties like the Screaming Bean and Mocha Almond Delight are bonuses at this artists retreat.

Caffe de Luca (1721 N. Damen Ave., 773-342-6000). The Italian-flavored fixture in Bucktown gets the nod for selections like Bam Bam (honey, espresso, coffee) and one of the best espressos in the area.

Intelligentsia Coffee (3123 N. Broadway, 773-348-8058). The menus at many local high-end establishments proclaim "We proudly serve Intelligentsia Coffee," so you're getting it straight from the source here!

Kopi: A Travelers Cafe (5317 N. Clark St., 773-989-5674). At this Andersonville stopover, you can get up to five shots in your espresso. Also, a number of teas, specialty coffees and hot chocolate are on tap.

Star Lounge Cafe (2521 W. Chicago Ave., 773-384-7827). This Ukrainian Village newcomer has finally found a customer base for its homestyle sandwiches and unique coffee drinks.

Uncommon Ground (3800 N. Clark St., 773-929-3680 or 1401 W. Devon Ave., 773-465-9801). What started off as a simple neighborhood coffeehouse is now a phenomenon in Lakeview and Edgewater with this venue that embraces local, sustainable and fair trade products as well as local talent.

Second ENO wine bar arrives in late spring


So the good folks over at the Fairmont Hotel (200 N. Columbus Dr., 312-565-8000) in the North Loop give up the goods on what's going on with that second ENO outpost. The boutique wine-chocolate-cheese lounge, which took off like crazy when it opened in the Inter-Continental Hotel (505 N. Michigan Ave., 312-944-4100) a little over a year ago, is set to open in late April or early May in the Fairmont's lobby.

Thank GOD they're not replacing Aria, that perfect date spot offering exotic cocktails and Japanese bites. But it'll be interesting to see how they carve out this space for ENO because in the Michigan Ave. digs they've got that cool leather floor and custom-designed wine cellar that also serves as a showpiece for the room. We'll see soon enough. Developing . . .

File this under: WTF?!?!?!??!?!


Would you eat a cheeseburger in a can?!

What not to do when you go out

Just dug up this really helpful thread from the Zagat boards on how to conduct yourselves at restaurants. It's a pretty lively discussion between industry types and customers. Good stuff!

Where to bag a millionaire

Digging for gold?! CitySearch tells you where to go around town if you want to flirt for a fortune, including Peninsula Chicago Hotel (108 E. Superior St., 312-337-2888) and Capital Grille (633 N. Saint Clair St., 312-337-9400). But how could they leave the Four Seasons Lounge (120 E. Delaware Pl., 312-280-8800), The Martini Bar (401 S. LaSalle St., 312-377-6111)—where all the traders hang—and the bar at one sixtyblue (1400 W. Randolph St., 312-850-0303) off this list?!

Party people out and about

(Photo: Darkroom Demons)

The Rehab Round 4 party at evilOlive (1551 W. Division St., 773-235-9100) brought out some seriously interesting characters—as always—when it happened the other day.

Be a weekend warrior . . .

There's just too much going on this weekend to worry about the weather, so suck it up and get into weekend warrior mode. You'll want to check into a host of Mardi Gras events, and even though the Bears aren't in the Super Bowl this year, you can still have fun at various celebratory parties around town. And, there's always the usual fun happenings:

Meet the Pastry Chef. This dessert and bubbly tasting happening tonight formally introduces Room 21's new pastry chef Kate Milashus (formerly of Avenue M, Dine, Karma, Birch River Grille, Pili Pili, Zealous, D. Kelly). She'll create an assortment of sweets, including mini Red Velvet cakes, rum balls, chocolate malted sandwich cookies and pink champagne truffles, to be devoured in the restaurant's private dining room. 5:30-7:30pm. $15 per person. 2110 S. Wabash Ave., 312-328-1198.

Sounds Good Thursdays. Versatile DJ Jesse De La Pena continues his Thursday night party with live art and experimental beats. 8pm-2am. No cover. JBar, 610 N. Rush St., 312-660-7200.

Bright Pink. One-hundred percent of ticket sales from this cocktail party helps efforts to provide education and support to young women who are at risk for breast and ovarian cancer. The event includes cocktails and appetizers. 9-11pm Friday. Tickets are $25-$50 (VIP with champagne reception from 8-9pm, gift bag and private entrance). Purchase tickets at Be Bright Pink. Le Passage, 1 W. Oak St., 312-255-0022.

Unibroue Beer Tasting. Come for the complimentary tasting on Friday 6-9pm of the beer that everyone's talking about. You'll get to sample: Ephmere Apple, a white ale brewed with fruits and spices; La Fin Du Monde, a strong triple style golden ale; and Chambly Noire, a deceptively dark black ale. Appetizer pairing also in the mix. Taste Food & Wine, 1506 W. Jarvis Ave., 773-761-3663.

Super Bowl Beer Tasting. Even more beer can be sampled at this pre-Super Bowl event. Just Grapes (560 W. Washington St., 312-627-9463) hosts this event on Saturday, 1-4pm in which guests will learn about artisanal beers. Experts will be available to discuss brewing styles, types of beers, and flavor profiles as you sample some of the world’s finest beers.

Sunday Brunch Carnival Bash. If you're not feeling football, get the fever for this traditional Rio de Janeiro carnival-style brunch. Costumes are optional, plenty of dancing and it's BYOB. Sunday, 2-6pm. $30. Sinha's, 2018 W. Adams St., 312-491-8200. Reservations required.

Super Bowl Parties:

The Third Annual Widows of the Super Bowl allows both men and women to enjoy the game. Held at Motel Bar (600 W. Chicago Ave., 312-822-2900), the event includes all the usual festivities for the guys and the opportunity for ladies to enjoy manicures and martinis in the back.

10pin Bowling Lounge. They've got extra-large high-definition screens to watch the big game, plus eight theater-sized screens stretching across the 24 bowling lanes. Guests can purchase premium tickets for reserved laneside tables with front-row viewing. The $75 (per guest) premium package includes an all-you-can-eat tailgater buffet, four-hour open bar, unlimited bowling and shoe rental. For non-bowlers, $50 per guest includes the all-you-can-eat tailgater buffet and four-hour open bar. 330 N. State St., 312-644-0300.

At Amphora (7547 N. Clark St., 773-262-5767), they're doing two events: the Mardi Gras party on Saturday, 11pm-4am with drink specials, shots and music spun by deejays Kruzito, Caprichoso and 2-Sucio. $5; ladies free. And on Super Bowl Sunday, come back for free munchies (BBQ rib tips, salsa and chips and more) and drink specials.

Celtic Crown (4301 N. Western Ave., 773-588-1110) will offer $3 Miller Lite mega mugs and $2.75 Bloody Marys.

Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap wants guests to settle into their Ultimate Living Room Floor for the game. A 35-seat private room will be crammed with big, comfy couches, an all-you-can-eat chef’s table and monster-size TVs. The chef’s table will include the restaurant’s signature 8-lb. "monster" burger, BBQ brisket, hot wings, nachos, salad station and brownies. $35, and also domestic draft beers for $2. 41 E. Superior St., 312-867-4908.

Only $10 at the door gets you a tailgate buffet at Junior’s Sports Lounge until halftime. 724 W. Maxwell St., 312-421-2277.

At Luxbar (18 E. Bellevue Ave., 312-642-3200), you can take advantage of the special buffet in the second floor dining area beginning at 4pm. Grub includes a chili station, sliders, salads, hummus, chicken tenders, quesadillas, roasted salmon, macaroni and cheese, and a variety of desserts. The game will be shown on multiple screens, of course. $25.

There's a great party package at MIX (2843 N. Halsted St., (773-528-7569) that includes all you can eat and drink for five hours. And they'll have projection screens and multiple TV screens so you don't miss any action. $30.