Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Giddy up, yo!

Upscale sports lounge The Pony (1638 W. Belmont Ave., 773-828-5055) jumps off with a grand opening on Thursday, and Time Out Chicago saddles up with this preview.

The 411 on aja

Earlier, I posted something about aja (660 N. State St.), the Asian-influenced steakhouse going into the new Dana Hotel and Spa.

Now, I've got even more info from their publicist:

"Opening early June, aja will offer the precision of Asian cuisine with the robust flavors of a modern steakhouse. The bold, progressive menu will offer a number of top-quality specialty cuts from authentic Japanese Kobe beef prepared by the ounce to artisan-raised beef and pork offered alongside yakitori, premium sushi and a boutique, savvy sake list. A modern, sophisticated restaurant, aja will feature two fireplaces and a second level 'floating' sushi bar, ideal for intimate meals and small gatherings. aja will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner."

Also during the summer, the hotel will unveil its rooftop lounge, Vertigo, which should give NoMI, Peninsula and Conrad Chicago some competition when it opens in August.

Hyde Park finally gets a trendy eatery

Park 52 (5201 S. Harper Ave., 773-241-5200), the much-needed upscale eatery in Hyde Park, finally arrives today. And even though the American-style bistro's destined to be a trendy after-work hang for the South Side's young urban professionals, what the neighborhood really needs is a late-night spot. But beggars cannot be choosy, right?!

Whatever the case, we're certain this will be a hit for the 'hood because not only is respected restaurateur Jerry Kleiner (Marche, Carnivale, Opera, Gioco, Red Light, Room21) behind it, but he's brought aboard Marc Brooks (also Room21), who has strong ties to the movers and shakers in the African-American community.

Back in the day, Brooks was known for throwing the hottest parties on the South Side that attracted celebrities, political heavyweights and the cream of the crop of the black party crowd. And even though he's mostly moved on from nightlife to dining, expect Park 52 to be jumpin' every weekend. Entrees range from grilled jumbo shrimp and grits ($24) to a 16 oz. bone-in Rib Eye with onion rings ($36).

Some deals . . . and a debut


Head to Lumen (839 W. Fulton Market) tonight for A Toast Heard Round the World, a Grand Marnier-sponsored event where you'll get the chance to sample exotic cocktails and listen to some groovy sounds. Award-winning mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim judges a contest sponsored by the liqueur and Conde Nast Traveler magazine. 9-11pm. Free with RSVP to 866-229-0728.

For a laid-back evening, make your way to Feast (1616 N. Damen Ave., 773-772-7100) for their weekly delight: Buy an entree and get half off on any bottle of wine—or BYOB.

And get a sneak preview of Andersonville's hot new Southern spot Big Jones (5347 N. Clark St., 773-275-5725) at this celebration to benefit eco-Andersonville, a comprehensive environmental initiative with the mission of promoting environmental, economic and social sustainability in the community. Guests will enjoy a sampling of the entire menu, cocktails and selected wines. 6-10pm. $50.

More spring things coming your way

Celebrated chef Graham Elliot Bowles is working overtime to open his eponymous "bistronomic" eatery by May 13. The former executive chef for Avenues (108 E. Superior St., 312-573-6754) is redefining fine dining with this River North spot offering hip music (including music performed and recorded by Bowles himself), dynamic gastronomy, and a lively and relaxed atmosphere. graham elliot: 217 W. Huron St., 312-624-9975.

Mixteco, boasting Mexican cuisine with a French twist, plans a May opening when it opens next door to Natalino's (1523 W. Chicago Ave., 312-997-3700) in West Town.

Starfruit (1745 W. Division St., 773-328-2900) is the latest to jump on the froyo bandwagon when it opens in the East Village on April 15. They're the country’s first frozen kefir boutique, with goodies like smoothies, frozen treats and parfaits.

Look for yet another steakhouse to open in River North this spring. AJA (22 W Erie St.) aims to be a high-end steakhouse with a full sushi menu.

And coming this summer is Draft Tavern and Urban Grille (2843 N. Halsted St., 773-549-3500) in Lakeview. Brian Galati, formerly of Old Town’s Suite Lounge, teams up with Mark Kwiatkowski from Bottle Bar (950 W. Wolfram St., 773-665-5660) for this project.

Good vibrations . . .

BOKA's Giuseppe Tentori (Photo: BOKA)

. . . go out to two local culinary stars who garnered major kudos from Food & Wine magazine last week:

BOKA (1729 N. Halsted St., 312-337-6070) Executive Chef/parnter Giuseppe Tentori was named as one of 2008’s "Best New Chefs" for his innovative menu revolving around seasonal ingredients.

And avec (615 W. Randolph St., 312-377-2002) Executive Chef Koren Grieveson—known for her penchant for simple, clean flavors presented without pretension—was named one of the pub's highly coveted "Rising Star Chefs."

Tentori, Grieveson and the other 2008 winners will be featured on the cover of the July 2008 issue and profiled as part of a 20th-anniversary package on foodandwine.com