Friday, January 30, 2009

Someone's Having a Birthday!

Shin Thompson is the chef/owner of Bonsoiree in Logan Square. (Photo: Shin Thompson)

Let's wish these guys a Super-Sized bday:

Crescendo is back and better than ever, and if you want VIP service, then Joe Russo (Jan. 25) is your man. The former owner of Funky Buddha Lounge, Thyme and Sinibar is getting ready for a big year.

Mark Mendez (Jan. 28) is the man behind the magical Latin-icious meals at colorful eatery Carnivale.

The bigger-than-life Matthew McCahill (Jan. 30) holds down the fort at exotic luxe bar Crimson Lounge as the general manager.

And Shin Thompson (Jan. 31), chef/owner at Bonsoiree, puts Logan Square on the map for fine dining. His tight catering biz is known for putting on some of the most unique events ever, plus if you're not up on the Underground, then you'd better ask someone. Also: Peep Chicago Dining's cool video interview with chef/owner Kurt Chenier here.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Local Tourist makes our job easier

The Gage is one of many restaurants participating in the second-annual Chicago Restaurant Week. (Photo: The Gage)

Thank The Local Tourist for creating this nifty little map pointing you in the direction of every restaurant on board for the second-annual Chicago Restaurant Week.

That happens Feb. 20-27, with more than 130 participants, including La Sardine, The Gage, Merlo on Maple and Klay Oven.

Dine with Dale . . . tonight


We've got the scoop on what former "Top Chef" star Dale Levitski is serving tonight at his brand-new event at Relax Lounge:

Amuse: bitters and citrus salad. Main course: Chicken with sausage and artichoke gausetto. Dessert: stewed winter fruit with vanilla goat cheese.

Sounds like a great deal, plus it's $25 per person and diners get 20 percent off on all wine, cocktails and bubbly by the glass. They're only doing 40 servings, so get on it! 7-9pm every Thursday.

A Super-Sized weekend lined up


Now that we’re finally over our beloved Bears losing the Super Bowl two years ago, we can finally relax and enjoy the game.

If you’re partying it up at home, Suzy’s got you covered for last-minute ideas, but if you’re heading out, rest assured that every bar in town with a TV will be tuned in to the action.

So here’s what else is happening this weekend:


The Originals Restaurant Week happens tonight and tomorrow, and also Feb. 2-6, where diners get three-course deals on lunch ($24.09) and dinner ($29.09). Participating restaurants include a host of independently owned faves like Cyrano's Bistrot, Kiki’s Bistro, Café Matou and Sweets & Savories.

A pre-Super Bowl bash kicks off at the new Halo [For Men] salon (654 W. Diversey Ave.), where guests get to score free beer, specialty cocktails and appetizers from Matisse. Football fans will also have the opportunity to win memorabilia autographed by Chicago Bear kicker Robbie Gould. 6-8pm. RSVP to for admission. $10 suggested donation; all proceeds benefit the Goulden Touch Foundation.

Sample suds and snacks at Bistro 110 during the Winter Beer Reception. Executive Chef Dominique Tougne will pair signature small plates and appetizers with a diverse lineup of drafts. 5:30-7:30pm. $40.

Twitter addicts should meet up at Crimson Lounge for a "tweetfest" hosted by local meteorologist Jerry Taft. Of course, there will be specials, including $3 wine and beer, as well as 50 percent off food. 6-8pm. No cover.

Check into the Victor Hotel for the kickoff bash for the American Black Film Festival. Party aims to create buzz for the event taking place in Miami at the end of June. 6-9pm. No cover.

Butta Soft Sol, the underground hip-hop party happening at Butterfly Social Club, is a hit. Deejays Mark Fullaflava and C-Vicious spin rare grooves, classic hip-hop, soul and house to a room so crowded that you'll see a line down the street. 9pm-2am. No cover; $5 drink specials.


Here's a chance to save a few bucks. Feast waives the corkage fees for BYO throughout February, plus they've unveiled a new $5 bar menu.

DJ Dez of Slum Village fame spins at Funky Buddha Lounge. The once red-hot club may be on its last legs these days, but they're certainly bringing in a host of talent you don't want to miss. 9pm-2am. $10 before 11pm when you RSVP here.


Genuine Entertainment Group unveils Lumen's new look. Really didn't think they needed it seeing how it's been open less than two years, but it'll be interesting to see what's up. That happens 9pm-3am, with a cocktail reception from 9-10pm. $20.

Groove Parlor hits up The Silver Room with its monthly Soul Joy party. Deejays Vick Lavender, Mario Romay and Celeste Alexander spin deep house, soul and Latin. Open bar. 11pm-5am. $10 donation.


Chuck Bass . . .

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Obama chef a 'total hottie' . . .


. . . says MenuPages blog editor Helen Rosner about former avec chef Sam Kass and former personal chef to the Obamas:

"He's also dedicated to sustainable and organic agriculture, as evidenced by his menus and philosophy at his private chef service, Inevitable Table. He grew up in Chicago, went to the University of Chicago, and, as evidenced by this picture, is a total hottie."

He'll be working under current White House chef Criseta Comerford.

UPDATE: Ummmm, Gawker just put their snarky spin on his appointment:

"Hah, the Obamas brought their own personal home chef with them to The White House. And oddly that bit of crazy elitism will please all the hippies.

Because Sam Kass—who will just be one of their personal cooks, with White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford keeping her job!—is 'one of the new breed of chefs who are concerned about the environment and about poor eating habits in this country.' Americans eat like shit, and this chef would like to change that, with his 'private chef service in Chicago that, according to its Web site, is the client’s "link to clean, healthy food."' Oooooh, the smug liberalism on display here is enough to make us want to read The Corner."

Uhmmm, Goat Brain Ravioli?!

The Bristol's Chris Pandel is whipping up offal in the form of Goat Brain Ravioli at his Bucktown hot spot. (Photo: Chris Pandel)

Local food writer Lisa Shames gushes on the latest dining trend of offal—think liver, kidneys, heart, head and other animal innards and extremities—on menus at The Bristol, Mado and Publican:

"'Offal is the most intensely flavored part of the animal and really rings true to what it tastes like,' (Bristol chef Chris) Pandel says.

'If done correctly, offal can be delicious. That's the eye-opener for a lot of people,' says (Publican chef Brian) Huston, who sheepishly admits his mom's overcooked liver doesn't fit the bill.

In addition to its flavor, these eco-conscious chefs also cite respect for the farmer and the animal as another strong motivating factor.

'Farmers can't raise just a rack of lamb,' (Mado chef Rob) Levitt says. 'They have to raise the whole animal and these other parts need a home.'"

Sinatra and Biggie?!


More than 3,000 ballots were cast for Landmark's first-ever poll for the 40 Greatest Songs of All-Time...Countdown.

If you want to find out who made the cut, you'll need to check out the party happening tonight at the Lincoln Park eatery. All we could get out of owner Kevin Boehm is that you're definitely gonna hear some Sinatra and Notorious B.I.G., plus the Top 5 get the live music treatment. Starts at 7pm, so arrive early for those comped appetizers. No cover.

Also happening tonight:

It's snowing again. But you can get a taste of summer with the newest dish on the Smoke Shack menu. Those with uber-hearty appetites can go for The Taste of Smoke Shack that comes with two St. Louis ribs, two Baby Back ribs, 1/2 pulled pork, 1/2 brisket and Argentine chorizo. Mmmmmm, break out the picnic utensils!

The ultimate networking events are always wine-tasting parties and these two are no exception: Quartino returns with the monthly wine affair spotlighting favorites from 2008 in its upper-level party room at 7pm. $20. And Bin 36 hosts a walkaround social where you'll also get deals on special bottles. Starts at 6pm. $25.

And The Local Tourist has a hit on its hands with Chef's Table, a monthly cocktail party highlighting the talents of our local culinary kings and queens. Tonight's event with master mixologist Adam Seger at Nacional 27 is, alas, sold out, but get in touch with them about their sweet soiree happening at Sugar Bliss Bakery on Feb. 18.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Alinea's Achatz to become movie star?!

Photo: James Beard Foundation

MenuPages (who dug up the info) and The Stew report that Grant Achatz of Alinea fame is going Hollywood on us:

"Fly-on-the-wall filmmaker R.J. Cutler, whose celebrated history with cinéma vérité documentary includes producing 'The War Room' (about the 1992 Clinton presidential run) and directing 'A Perfect Candidate' (about Oliver North’s Senate candidacy), is headed to Chicago for a new film about chef Grant Achatz, the acclaimed chef and owner of Alinea. The title? 'Taste.'

Cutler said the Grant Achatz story—Innovation! Legend! Tongue cancer!—will probably be his next project, but he is not sure when the shooting starts. He said he flew to Chicago for a meal at Alinea and decided 'Grant is one of the great maestros. His work gets to the essence of what food is—of what creativity and taste is.'"

'Daily Candy has lost its shit' . . .

. . . was the email diss that just dropped in my inbox over this morning's Daily Candy newsletter "profiling" new one sixtyblue exec chef Michael McDonald:

"Mike McDonald cooks for you, E-I-E-I-O,

New chef at One Sixtyblue, E-I-E-I-O,

Taught by Trotter, he got game, E-I-E-I-O,

And a brand new claim to fame, E-I-E-I-O,

It’s a real fine treat, and, boy, do you eat,

Meat, wheat, oh, it’s sweet, no one can compete-pete,

Dinner with Michael is its name, E-I-E-I-O,

Five-course tasting, vino, too, E-I-E-I-O,

Especially designed for you, E-I-E-I-O,

First he’ll come to your chair with attention and flair,

You’ll declare, if you dare, what you care for in your fare,

Dinner with Michael is its name, E-I-E-I-O,

Seasonal is his MO, E-I-E-I-O,

The food is fresh and goes down slow, E-I-E-I-O,

With some pickle butter here and some tuna tartar there,

Gumbo, risotto, yellowfin, and lamb, yo,

Dinner with Michael, we proclaim,



'King of New York Clubs' speaks out on industry


The scope of nightlife has changed for the worst, say experts, who add that in order to revive it, we must go back to the basics.

Peter GatienKing of New York Clubs and best known as the mastermind behind Limelight, Palladium, Club USA and Tunnel—weighs in on what's next:

"We will be re-opening the Tunnel in the upcoming future. I have been gone for a while but I am now returning. Due to the failing economy we think the people have spoken and are looking to express creatively again and not this cookie cutter nightlife we have most recently been exposed and sucked into.. we lost our sense of community and togetherness.. we lost our appeal to be unique and think outside the box and where we once went out because the music drove us."—from the comments section of Down By The Hipster.

Who will take the charge in Chicago?!

Canadian export debuts in Lincoln Park

(Photo: Courtesy of Thrillist)

Thrillist checks out the chow over at Canada's famed sports lounge, Firkin & Pheasant, now open in Lincoln Park:

"The traditional menu (beer-battered fish n' chips, Guinness steak & mushroom pie, bangers & mash) is augmented with daily specials (clam chowder in sourdough breadbowl) and American action like The Firkin Angus Burger: jack, bacon, bourbon chipotle onions, and a house steak sauce whose recipe's kept as locked down as the Queen's box."

Monday, January 26, 2009

MK chef's latest sensation


MK's new commander-in-chef Erick Williams pleasantly surprised Saturday night's diners with a delicious new dish he's been tinkering around with in the kitchen.

Those in the packed dining room got a comped Duck Carbonara (made with fettucine, duck egg, duck confit, crispy duck skin) personally delivered to them by the chef. It was such a hit that they've decided to put it on the menu beginning this week, and believe us when we tell you that it's the perfect entree for cold winter nights.

Maybe, just maybe, Williams will put it on the menu as part of Wine on Wednesday, the wallet-friendly event for $25 that includes three wines and three small plates. Dishes rotate regularly so you never know what he'll come up with. And according to the flyer we were handed that night, the menu features new releases and old MK favorites paired with wines by sommelier Josh Kaplan, who's raiding the cellar each week.

That's 6-9pm every Wednesday.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Mercadito takes on Frontera Grill

Known for killer tacos and margaritas, New York's Mercadito opens a Chicago outpost in River North this spring. (Photo: Mercadito NYC)

We haven't had a New York invasion on the dining scene for a while, so you could imagine how gleeful 312DD was when an Ultimate Insider gave us the scoop on what's popping off this spring:

Union Square hot spot Mercadito—known for killer tacos, margaritas, mole and more—takes over the space quietly abandoned over the summer by La Pomme Rouge.

That's right, it's going to be right down the street from Rick Bayless' flawless Mexican spot Frontera Grill, so it'll be interesting to see how Mercadito takes off when it opens in March or April (that's what they're shooting for).

Mercadito means "little market" in Spanish, and owner/chef Patricio Sandoval's inspiration came from shopping experiences in Mexican markets with his mother as a child. He runs a tight ship in his three New York restaurants, so we're expecting him to bring it.

What we're really looking forward to is Mercadito's signature "tasting" menu, where guests can do samplings of guacamole, ceviche and dessert. But what will likely be the hit in its new home is the taco tasting, with perfectly portioned, savory options like the Pescado (sautéed tilapia, grilled corn, huitlacoche, manchego cheese, tomatillo salsa), Pastor (chile ancho-guajillo rubbed pork, grilled pineapple, chile de arbol salsa) and Estilo Baja (beer-battered Mahi Mahi, Mexican-style cole slaw, chipotle aioli).

That's one showdown we're looking forward to this spring!

She packed her knives . . .


Our girl Radhika Desai of Between Boutique Café & Lounge tells E! Online what she wants to do next, now that she's been booted from "Top Chef":

"I'm going to try to get the cast (of "Slumdog Millionaire") here so I can cook for them [laughs]. It makes me feel like going back to India. My family lives in all those areas that they showed. It's inspired me to go back."

Friday, January 23, 2009



Attention: Gossip Girl fans.

Chuck Bass . . . in your face . . . 7pm every Monday (starting Feb. 2) . . . drink specials . . . at Bar DeVille.


Someone's Having a Birthday!

DJ Bear Who? spins at Vain Nightclub every Friday. (Photo: Edwin Rios)

Cue up the Birthday Song . . . three local stars shine this week:

Edwin Rios a.k.a. DJ Bear Who? (Jan. 18) is one of the hardest-working entertainers on the local nightlife scene. Spinning his own brand of hard-hitting house music, the producer/remixer/deejay holds down the outrageous Zoo Fridays at Vain every week. Check out his remixes here.

Look out for former Courtright's executive chef Ryan McCaskey (Jan. 19) to debut with his first project in the Chicagoland area sometime this summer. The highly regarded chef's meeting with architects and working on the concept so we cannot wait to see what he creates.

And Michael Kaulentis (Jan. 21) is one of the partners behind The Lucky Lady, Manor, RiNo and Stay. The showy, celeb-magnet venues draw long lines on the weekend for performances by the likes of Akon, Benji Madden, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and others.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Suzy's Super Bowl picks!


EDITOR'S NOTE: Intern Suzy is back!

Come Feb. 1, football season reaches its ultimate Super Bowl climax and that means I’m on it with an amped-up house party to match.

Party task number one: Feed the masses. Since there’s just no avoiding the stadium-style food cravings an event like this brings, restaurants and caterers around the city stock up with a massive supply of wings, chili, quesadillas, and plenty of chips and dip. So while the Cardinals and the Steelers battle it out on the field, the only reason for being in the kitchen is to grab another beer.

Matt Bishop of 1st & Fresh Catering says the host shouldn't miss out on anything, and we like the way he thinks. He’s prepared a special football fiesta menu, bringing all the food you need hot and fresh to your door (with silverware and plate necessities included). Menu items include beef chili, a nacho bar, sub sandwiches and five different dips, including caramelized onion with potato chips. Prices range $1.99 to $4.99 per person with a $50 minimum.

For a little fun and some extra fuel on the football fire, America’s Dog offers their rivaling hot dogs. Served within a classic Vienna hot dog cart, these dogs are themed after the rivaling football teams. Regardless of the game’s outcome, guests can battle it out for the winner of the best dog by choosing between the Pittsburgh dog (topped with chili and spicy mustard) and Arizona dog (chorizo, nacho cheese, tortilla strips and jalapenos) or go for the original Chicago dog. Orders include chips, one side item and a dessert tray. $6.95 per person. Cart rental deposit and rental fee may be required.

For lovers of Latin, Carnivale presents a takeout menu of Latin fusion dishes to spice up your party. In addition to snacking on guacamole with chips, you can also graze on signature dishes like Ropa Vieja, empanadas, as well as Spanish meats and cheeses. Dishes serve two to four people unless you customize your order for a larger party. Prices range $7 to $25.

The Goddess and Grocer will keep all your guests cheering with its full Super Bowl menu, including house-made dips and chips, bite-sized burgers, wings, brats, quesadillas and a variety of other finger-food munchies. And for a sugar overdose, order a tray of cookies or festive iced cupcakes. Orders can be picked up or delivered for an extra charge. Entrees serve 10-12 guests and range from $50 to $125. Orders must be placed by 3pm Jan. 30.

For a French-Vietnamese take on your party, Le Colonial replaces typical game day staples with four options of Vietnamese take-out packages at all different prices and sizes. The first, second, third and fourth quarter sampler platters range $50 to $200 and include different combinations of Bo Bia, Cha Gio, Goi Cuon, Suon Nuong and chicken fried rice.

Salad Spinners offers a variety of appetizer platters and beyond with the ultimate finger food for your bash. Spinners Sliders can be mixed and matched with your choice of Italian beef, BBQ beef and roast turkey for $2 each (minimum 12). You can also try their homemade chicken potpie sliders with a creamy filling of potato, leeks, peas, carrots and sweet onions baked in its own pie tin (minimum 8).

And Silver Cloud celebrates the big day by giving you more for your money. The Cary’em Out menu features favorite classic comfort food in large quantities to go. Walk out with their kick-off Jerk chicken skewers, sack’em Swedish meatballs, blitzing buffalo wings and finish off with their 4th quarter chocolate layer cake. Prices range $25 to $50 and serve parties 12 to 40 people.—Suzy McMillen

At Last . . . props for S.Side dining


Our new First Couple may be in D.C., but Park 52 on the South Side near their Chicago home keeps them close to heart with a new daily $44 four-course, prix-fixe menu.

The meal comes with a glass of wine, and entrees include blackened catfish, penne pasta with roasted almonds and butternut squash, and the First Lady's favorite dish—Michelle's Grilled Skirt Steak, which comes with hand-cut fries. And speaking of Ms. Obama, at the restaurant's entrance is an original limited edition print of the First Lady by local artist Mickalene Thomas.

Also happening this weekend:


Another tribute to our new leader: The Presidential Pairing continues through tomorrow at wine and chocolate lounge Eno, with a glass of Graham Beck Brut (the Obama's fave sparkling wine) and a piece of Gail Ambrosius’ Dark Chocolate covered caramel topped with Fleur de Sel (The New York Times reported it's his fave). That's $15, but if you give the wine manager Obama's Secret Service code name, you'll get it for $10.

The best deal of the day is over at Lincoln Square delight Cafe Selmarie. For $20, you get three courses that includes their soup of the day, the choice between seafood, pasta or BBQ ribs, and a homestyle dessert from their irresistible bakery.

Former Sinibar owner Joe Russo makes a strong comeback with the debut of the Full Force Event Series at Sonotheque. The monthly event (every fourth Thursday) tonight gets the talents of NYC's Rich Medina, known best for his showstopping spoken word and deejay performances. Local homeboy Tone B Nimble also spins. 9pm-2am. $15.

People Lounge never skips a beat with its specials. Not only are they offering free live music from local rockers Stonelines, but also comped beer tastings by Magic Hat. Also, $4 Magic Hat drafts; $5 Bacardi O Bombs. 9pm-2am. No cover.


Several notable openings include the second Terragusto in Lincoln Park; Faith & Whiskey, also in LP; Tocco in Wicker Park; and Bull & Bear in River North.


It's all things Aussie at Sixteen, which celebrates the homeland of Executive Chef Frank Brunacci through Jan. 28. Tonight's Aussie Day, with a complimentary wine tasting followed by a special Australian-focused wine dinner with Master Sommelier Serafin Alvarado and Wine Director Steven Lee. Space limited to the first 16 people for the dinner. Tasting is 5:30-7pm. $175.


We love the sound of the King Cole Bloody Mary and Bel Air Bellini, now available on the new brunch menu at Petterino's. It's the ideal spot to check out before heading over to a matinee theater performance nearby. Dig into yummy dishes like the fresh lump crab omelet, baked French toast with apples and cinnamon, Bananas Foster waffle, or crispy chicken hash with poached egg. 11am-2pm. Free valet parking after 1pm.


Fans of hit Fox show "24" will appreciate the new Jack Bauer Power Hour Mondays at Kirkwood Bar and Grill with $8 Miller pitchers, $3 burgers and fries, $5 fish tacos and $14 buckets of Bud bottles. 9pm-2am. No cover.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

'Japonais is not going anywhere!'


. . . exclaims Joe King, one of the operating partners behind Le Colonial, the sister restaurant to Japonais—in response to a flurry of rumors circulating for a few weeks about the supposed closing of the trendy River North restaurant.

He adds that the Asian-themed eatery is one of the "top grossing restaurants in the city," so they're in no danger of closing any time soon.

So now you know!

A First Bite at Theory

(Photo: Theory)

The Stew's Monica Eng has mixed feelings on the theme at new sports lounge, Theory, but she likes the food:

"Our super friendly and efficient waitress recommended the burger and especially the barbecue, noting they smoke everything in house. So we started with three pieces of Brian's Bespoke Babybacks ($7), which were impressively, sweet, sticky, smoky and tender specimens arranged in an artful pyramid and served with a vinegary Carolina-style sauce and a tangy house sauce.

"Our $3 cup of chili (which like most dishes sports a 'clever' name: A Chili Notion) features seasonal hot peppers, sweet onions, andouille sausage, sweet potatoes and cold-smoked cheddar, among other things. Interesting blend of ingredients but it left us wishing for less sweetness and a little more kick."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What would they cook for him?!


Our friends at Restaurant Intelligence Agency rounded up local chefs and asked:

If you were invited to cook at the White House, what one dish would you make?

Jill Barron
(MANA Food Bar): I would make my mushroom and brown rice sliders.

Troy Graves (Eve): I would cook up a great macaroni and cheese.

Koren Grieveson (avec): My choice to make for him would be a sausage dish with lots of pork and guanciale.

Paul Kahan (Blackbird): If I was invited to the White House, I would cook country-fried rabbit and rabbit chorizo. It's one of Obama's favorites at Blackbird. He had it for his celebratory dinner after clinching the primary.

Joncarl Lachman (HB Home Bistro): I would make shellfish choucroute. Pretty much becoming the specialty of the house at HB, it's comforting, relaxing, delicious and a little off-the-beaten-path.

Chris Pandel (The Bristol): If I had to cook at the White House, I would make my Caja China and roast a piggy in his yard.

Debbie Sharpe (Feast): I would serve him a hearty meal of roasted chicken with pan gravy, accompanied by lots of vegetables.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cheers to the Chief!


Whether you're hanging at home or heading out to one of the hot Obama blowouts around town, from C-View to Stretch Run Sporting Club and Grille, 312DD's still got you covered:

Those throwing their own Barack bashes will need, of course, a signature sipper. We dig the idea of shaking up The $700 Billion Martini, generously made with Svedka Vodka. You can also find it at People Lounge and Seven Ten.

For something a little smoother, get Hennessy 44, a limited-edition cognac honoring the 44th prez. The bottle features a redesigned label, black capsule and special "44" seal with the date of the inauguration. Only 180,000 collectors' bottles are available and a percentage of the proceeds benefit the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Lucky guests at the glammed-out, VIP party at Park 52 on Tuesday will have a chance to sample Hennessy 44 cocktails.

And instead of the usual bubbly from Champagne, France, do your 'hood good and celebrate with a bottle of Cooper's Hawk Winery's Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine. It's the only local winery getting props at the Illinois State Society's Illinois Inaugural Gala in Washington, D.C.—plus they're pouring the First Lady's Toast, so you know the Obamas will be there!

Gotta have Faith

Faith & Whiskey opens to the public on Friday. (Photo: Faith & Whiskey)

312DD's secured the first sneak-peek pics of Lincoln Park's newest rock lounge, Faith & Whiskey, which takes over the old Ta'Too.

The laid-back and budget-conscious bar—with an imposing tattooed wall logo, antler light fixtures, encased guitars behind the bar and dark, narrow edges similar to Angels & Kings—is a far cry from owner Hunter Cannon's glamorous West Loop spot Bon V, which is known for hosting celebrity events, including the wrap party for "Public Enemies" last summer.

Even though Faith & Whiskey's in a more low-key 'hood, the guys behind this project are pretty hooked up in the industry, so you never know who'll turn up.

It opens to the public Jan. 23.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Even more news on the Cru closing


How can you benefit on the Cru Café & Wine Bar closing that was exclusively reported on 312DD?!

We just found out that owner Debbie Sharpe is selling off most of the merchandise on Jan. 25, the day after it closes until it transforms into Feast Gold Coast. She's selling off some of the higher-end wines, furniture, chandeliers and coffee tables. That'll happen 9am-noon.

Sharpe also has plans to open two additional Goddess and Grocer shops. One (with yet another Feast Restaurant + Bar) expands into Lincoln Square at 4743 N. Lincoln Ave. in June. And the former Solomon's Cookies at 2222 N. Elston Ave. will become the fourth location.

The original Feast is in Bucktown.

Friday, January 16, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Update on Cru closing


Appears that we jumped the gun on the Cru closing. Yet another tip comes in; this time from someone who lives next door:

"Cru is closing (last day is 1/24). The ownership is not changing. Cru is being reconcepted into Feast, just like the Goddess/Feast space in Bucktown. They are going to open as Feast 1-2 weeks after Cru closes. I live next door to Cru and in fact just left the place about 30 minutes ago and got the latest scoop."

Maybe they'll leave the Cru Club on the menu after all!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Cru Cafe & Wine Bar to close


THIS just arrived in the mailbox from an Ultimate Insider:

"Just heard Cru Wine Bar was sold to the owners of something called 'fiesta' and is getting a makeover, will be closing in about a week."

Naturally we checked out this tip with a quick call to the Gold Coast restaurant/lounge, and it's true. Goddess and Grocer, the adjacent cafe and upscale gourmet sandwich shop, will remain open.

So if you're a fan of the infamous Cru Club (made with mounds of grilled beef tenderloin, lobster, avocado and chipotle mayonnaise), you'd better get one before it's too late!

Someone's Having a Birthday!

Debonair Social Club's Claudia Gassel. (Photo: Claudia Gassel)

Some hot heavyhitters blow out the candles on their birthday cakes this week:

She's got sultry style and pin-up girl looks, but make no mistake, Claudia Gassel (Jan. 12), partner of hipster Wicker Park restaurant/lounge Debonair Social Club, is one shrewd businesswoman.

Nightlife promoter Rick De Allay Soul (Jan. 13) keeps house music alive over at Zentra, where he presides over Jack Fridays each week. He's made quite a rep with these parties, lining up local and nationally known spin stars who've found a brand-new audience in his eager young patrons.

Grooveparlor deejay and founder Mario Romay (Jan. 14) gets the underground house heads to bow down to his parties every week at Cuatro. And when you can't make them, you can always catch his mixes as well as those from other deejays here.

And super-girl promoter and all-around do-gooder Sarah Vargo (Jan. 16) made her mark with The Diva Series, honoring local women from the arts, media, fashion and entertainment industries. The party's now at Crimson Lounge on Thursdays (starting Jan. 22), but don't be surprised to find her name attached to other high-profile events.

Mmmmmmmm, soup's on!


You're probably cold down to your bones right about now, but 312DD's got the cure:


Look for the thermometer outside Salad Spinners's door to find out how much you'll pay for soup today. Owner Rich Levy will give you a free (if temp dips below zero) eight-ounce cup of butternut squash, French onion, Cajun jambalaya or chicken noodle when you buy a salad or sandwich. If it's above zero, you pay that price. Now that's a reason to brave the chill!

Speaking of freebies, tonight's the grand-opening party for Urban Joe (3324 N. Clark St., 773-529-5637) in Wrigleyville. It should be worth your while just for the free haircuts, beer and appetizers from Roadhouse 66. 6-8pm. No cover.

Head over to The Drum and Monkey for the hot new party hosted by DJ John Curley. The music, ranging from electronic house to hip-hop, will certainly keep you warm, but so will those $5 Effen Black Cherry bombs and $3 Jack Daniel's cocktails. 8pm-2am. No cover.


The dynamic Frank Orrall takes a break from touring with Poi Dog Pondering and Thievery Corporation to drop beats at Juicy Wine Co. Performing under the handle DJ El Dandy Charro, he'll spin stuff you won't hear anywhere else. 9pm-2am. No cover.


The guys over at Cellar Rat almost never do events anymore, so we were surprised when this one came across the desk: A wine and pizza tasting with eight vinos paired with pies. And it's free. 3-6pm.

Sheffield’s hosting its first-ever Beer School Beer Festival, with more than 15 rare and specialty suds—some not available to other Chicago bars. Brewery reps from the likes of Bells, Three Floyds, Dogfish Head, Peak Organic, Allagash, Surly, Two Brothers and Goose Island will also be on hand to answer questions, plus guests get to sample from four firkins of specialty brews under a heated tent. 1-4pm. $40 for 12 tickets (additional tickets available for purchase).


The long-awaited Bristol brunch begins today. Yummy a la carte menu items include giant prawn Benedict with biscuits and mustard hollandaise, malted waffle with maple-pecan anglaise, and the fried egg sandwich with grilled bacon.

If this doesn't warm you up, nothing will. Bistro 110 launches its Family & Friends Night, with chicken pot pie dinners every Sunday and Monday. For $15 a person, you'll get the traditional Chicken Blanquette dinner and French-inspired dessert, the Gateau Breton. Large carafes of wine are $10.

BIN 36 returns with Movies in the Loft, this time featuring "North By Northwest." Event includes a wine-and-cheese reception and three-course dinner paired with vino. 6:30-9pm. $48.

JUST ADDED: The Liquid Soul Reunion/All Star Show happens tonight at Double Door. This should be a fun party with almost everyone getting Dr. Martin Luther King Day off on Monday. Jesse de la Pena spins between sets, just like the old days. Doors open at 8pm; show starts at 9. $10.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

R.I.P. Blue Water Grill

The doors to Blue Water Grill didn't open today, and Crain's Chicago Business has the scoop:

"Blue Water Grill, an upscale River North seafood and steak restaurant, closed its doors Wednesday as part of a 'restructuring effort' by owner B.R. Guest LLC.

New York-based B.R. Guest decided not to extend its lease at 520 N. Dearborn St. after four years in the space. Blue Water Grill opened in River North in 2005, a year after Wolfgang Puck shuttered his Spago location following a seven-year run.

The B.R. Guest restaurant chain, known for Ruby Foo's in New York and Fiamma Trattoria in Las Vegas, is also scaling back operations in other cities."

OK, so today's shot . . .


. . . with the effing blizzard and all, so let's look to the future, why don't we:

Check out even more Obama inauguration events happening all over town right here. You won't find a more comprehensive guide to what's poppin' off, plus we've added the Chicago Young Republicans party (I know, right?!), Eno's Presidential Pairings and others.

And, in other news:

Word is that Lakeview Broadcasting Co. closes next week to re-concept as a Violet Hour-type tavern. They really need one up there!

The owners behind neighborhood faves Danny's and Black Beetle will debut Simone's Bar in Pilsen in early February. It'll be a similar venture.

And Branch 27 is on sked to open in West Town sometime in mid-February.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Common Threads' World Festival returns; opening date for Faith & Whiskey

Lisa Novick, TABLE fifty-two's Art Smith and a guest at last year's Common Threads' World Festival event at the MCA. (Photo: Common Threads)

It brought out all the culinary rock stars last year, and we're not expecting anything less when Common Threads' World Festival returns on March 23.

Founded by Art Smith (TABLE fifty-two), the organization raises funds for culinary programs for disadvantaged children. Just about every high-profile chef in town, as well as some famous national stars, whips up signature appetizers for this walk-around tasting event with live music, a host of celebrity appearances (including Gail Simmons of "Top Chef" fame), and silent and live auctions.

Just a partial list of chefs: Mindy Segal and Mark Steuer, Hot Chocolate; Giuseppe Tentori, BOKA; Chris Pandel, The Bristol; Koren Grieveson, Avec; Christophe David, NoMI; Radhika Desai, Between Boutique Café & Lounge; Rocco DiSpirito; Kendal Duque, Sepia; and Tyler Florence, Food Network.

On the nightlife front, the guys behind West Loop hot spot Bon V announce an opening date for their rockin' lounge Faith & Whiskey in Lincoln Park.

From partner Hunter Cannon: "The solid date for opening is Jan. 23. We will only be open Fridays and Saturdays until after the grand opening party which will be held on Feb. 12. The bar looks great and I'm sure you will love the staff. I can't wait to break it in."

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Smashing good time

Billy Corgan (left) hangin' with restaurateur Miae Liam and Lumen's Joachim Klatzkow on Saturday. (Photo: Lumen)

Look who was trying to be all low key over the weekend at Lumen.

Smashing Pumpkins' frontman Billy Corgan, with droopy hat pulled down to conceal his famous dome, made a rare club appearance with friends (including Miae Liam of Japonais) in the VIP section and drank only water, according to spies:

"He was trying to keep his presence concealed by keeping his hat on the entire night, but fans still recognized him. He was friendly with them, chatted with fans about his music and agreed to take photos."

What a nice guy that Billy is!

EXCLUSIVE: Sunda set to open Feb. 27

The Devil’s Basket with soft shell crab is one of Sunda's signature dishes. (Photo: Sunda)

312DD's first with the opening date for New Asian-focused Sunda. The late-night River North destination debuts Feb. 27.

Owned by the same team behind Underground and Rockit Bar & Grill, Sunda aims to be their most impressive project to date, as they've cut no corners in order to get it right.

Partners Billy Dec, Arturo Gomez and Brad Young traveled to several Asian countries and studied the traditional cuisines of Japan, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. And they secured New Asian cuisine pioneer Rodelio Aglibot to run the kitchen. Dubbed the Food Buddha by media, Aglibot brings with him an extensive background in Asian cuisine and culture as well as serving as exec chef at several renowned Asian-focused kitchens on the West Coast.

The menu, from what we've seen thus far, is shaping up to be quite the temptation, with mouthwatering offerings such as The Food Buddha’s Crispy Rice with Toppings (hand-cut spicy tuna, seared Kobe beef tartare and spicy shrimp empura), Crab-Crusted Ahi Tuna with Japanese Hot Mustard Soy Glaze and Longevity Garlic Noodles with Blue Crab.

Why can't it be late February now?!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Someone's Having a Birthday!

Swank Society's Christian Armand (Photo: Christian Armand)

It's a big week for Capricorns!

Nick Podesta (Jan. 6) is one of the brains behind Liquor Creek Management/Star 3, which owns two of the city's hottest properties: the modern French-American Duchamp in Bucktown; and Lumen, a Euro-inspired lounge with a bangin' sound system in the Warehouse District.

Christian Armand (Jan. 9), known for spinning smooth beats ranging from deep soul to hip-hop, has played just about everywhere, including Sushi Samba, Sonotheque and Double Door. You can catch his show online every Sunday 9-11pm CST here.

And the National Restaurant Association's ultra-fab Derrek Hull (Jan. 10) is responsible for keeping foodie journalists from around the world in the loop when they come for the NRA Show and International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event every spring.

Happy Birthday, guys!

EXCLUSIVE: Room 21 staff laid off


What a difference a month makes. In early December, 312DD exclusively reported that Room 21 was dramatically changing its concept to more traditional Italian fare. Management assured us that they would not be closing to make these changes.

Now, an email just dropped in the inbox from an Ultimate Insider telling us that the entire staff—including the executive chef—was laid off right after New Year's Eve. There's a possibility that they may be brought back in February to revamp, but who knows at this point.

A quick call to the restaurant, and we were told that they're closed in January, but "would be opening again at some point."

This economy really sucks.

It's cold outside, but it's hot in ...

Sonotheque hosts a "Brazilian New Year's Eve" similar to this one in South America.


Blue 13: Edgy River North eatery features half-price wines and a $35 three-course prix-fixe menu Tuesday-Thursday. Order anything (lobster pizza excluded), but we must have the Truffled Mac 'n' Cheese (with free-range Amish chicken), Steak and Egg on Acid (grilled beef tenderloin, sunnyside up quail egg) and "Drunken" Short Rib (Guinness braised!) right about now.

Rockit Bar & Grill: Elvis would've been 73 today, and to celebrate, get all shook up with The King (thick-cut French toast, peanut butter, bananas, whipped cream, topped with toasted peanuts) for $12. Rockit's serving it all day long.

Sonotheque: The monthly Braziliance party does a New Year's Eve in Rio theme, with Joe Bryl spinning exotic beats and specialty South American-themed cocktails like the Braziliance, which is a twist on the classic mojito with Maker's Mark. 9pm-2am. Free before 10pm; $5 after.

Celebrate Elvis' 73rd birthday today with "The King," only at Rockit Bar & Grill. (Photo: Rockit Bar & Grill)


Eno at the Fairmont: Big Willies can peel off $$$ for a tasting of the rare 1935 Barros White Colheita that's $90 for a one ounce tasting portion or $850 per bottle. If you go, 312DD will be happy to be your guest. 4-11pm.

Five Star Bar and Grill: Scotch fans can indulge in comped specialty Chivas 18 cocktails, or get their drinks neat or on the rocks. The rep will hit this hard rockin' West Town tavern 8:30-10:30pm. No cover.

Le Passage: The monthly Economic Stimulus Package Party happens tonight with comped drinks 10-11:30pm. RSVP to for free admission; stay for deejays spinning all the latest beats till 4am.

Park Grill: Did you have a hard time getting back in the groove this week?! If you're in the Loop, head to Millennium Park for another Chivas 18 event with signature scotch cocktails. 6-8pm. No cover.


Red & White: The minimalist Wicker Park wine shop hosts its weekly tasting with four different vinos from Cream Wine Co. 2-5pm. Free.

The Violet Hour: For the New Year, the trend-setting saloon has added new cocktails, including The Velvet Fog (Wild Turkey 101 rye, Punt e Mes, dark crème de cacao and Nux Alpina Walnut liqueur) and The Lady Clover (Beefeater, lemon, blackberry syrup, egg white and Peychaud's bitters). 9pm-2am. No cover.


Moonshine: The under-the-radar neighborhood favorite offers one of the best brunches in Wicker Park: $7 Bloody Mary bar; $3 drafts; $10 pitchers of Miller Lite; $9.95 homestyle fried chicken. And don't worry about dragging your ass out of bed early. It's served all day long.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Orange in South Loop closing


Drive-Thru scoops everyone on the news that Sunday is the last day you can do brunch at Orange on Harrison.

Never thought I'd see the day . . .

Blackbird's dining room. (Photo: Doug Fogelson/DRFP)

. . . when Blackbird would offer a three-course lunch for $15!

The trend-setting, West Loop restaurant launched the new program in December, but we totally missed it because of all the holidaze craze.

So the deal is that customers get a salad, the choice between Chef Mike Sheerin's short rib burger or Chef Paul Kahan's legendary fish sandwich (that puts Mickey Dee's Filet o' Fish to shame), home-style fries and dessert. The burger is a generous patty of short rib with Taleggio, black garlic, pommes frites and carrot tahini salad. And the seared whitefish sandwich, which has been on the menu since Blackbird opened, is served with lemon-and-herb aïoli, gribiche, roasted tomato and homemade potato salad.

A number of great desserts are on the menu, but we suggest getting those piping-hit donuts to enjoy back at work.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It's His Day!


Time to count down to Jan. 20—the historic day when Barack Obama takes his rightful place as the 44th President of the United States of America. And after he's sworn in during the day, he'll be partying all night.

While Obama's setting it off in D.C., we'll of course be partying our asses off here in his hometown, but if you don't have the dough to attend the official Inauguration Ball at McCormick Place, 312DD's got you covered with a number of happenings all over town:

Both Berry Chill locations (also at Ogilvie Station) are giving away free Berry Obama chilled yogurt to customers all Inauguration Day. That's five ounces of original chilled yogurt topped with fresh pomegranate, coconut and blueberries to signify the red, white and blue of the American flag.

Sip La Margarita Del Presidente (a red, white and blue margarita for $10) at Carnivale, as you watch the events unfold on one of the flat screens in the lounge.

Planning your own bash?! Get tips at the Dazzling Dinner Party Appetizers class at Chopping Block Lincoln Square. You'll learn how to whip up tight little bites like Yukon Gold potato blini with smoked salmon, caviar and creme fraiche; shrimp cakes with tarragon aioli; potato, truffle and fontina tart; and roasted beef tenderloin crostini with horseradish sauce. 7pm Jan. 12. $80.

Get on the list now for the party hosted by swanky hotel bar Crimson Lounge. Arrive early (8-9pm) for the cocktail reception; stay late for lounging. 8pm-2am. RSVP to for admission.

C-Change happens at C-View, the glamorous penthouse lounge on top of the Affinia Hotel. Indulge in a number of specialty cocktails (Bon Voyage, All American), plus comped appetizers and desserts like BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, chorizo mac 'n' cheese, Stars & Stripes cupcakes and chocolate brownies. Live music by the Josh Burke Duo. 6-11pm. No cover.

You can get half-price glasses of wine (regularly $8) at Chen’s Chinese and Sushi while watching the parties and recaps in the lounge.

Chill out in the sexy Cityscape lounge with panoramic views of the city and four flatscreen monitors to watch Obama dance the night away. Specials include the Obama-Tini ($7), plus $4 on house wine and domestic bottles of beer.

David Burke’s Primehouse offers a week-long inauguration lunch special happening Jan. 19-23. You get three courses of anything on the menu for $20.09. 11:30am-2:30pm. On Inauguration Day, you don't want to miss the Celebrate Change Cocktail Party happening in the lobby bar of the restaurant. Set includes complimentary nibbles from Executive Chef Rick Gresh’s new Small Bites, Big Flavor menu, including Firecracker Duck Rolls, Mini Burkers and dry-aged sirloin tacos. $5 mini cocktails like the Razzamatazz and Flapjack (Dewar’s, bacon & maple syrup) will also be served. 5-7pm.

Has Obama fever finally reached the Chicago Young Republicans?! Find out at Dugan's Drinking Emporium, as they host an Inaugural After-Party with cocktails and apps. 5:30-8pm. $20-$50 (free for members).

Get an early start on the celebrating at Dunlays on the Square, which opens at 10am for diners to view the festivities all day long. This is the spot to bring the kiddies to watch the historic occasion as they eat free from 4:30-6pm, plus you'll get a free glass of champagne. Also, don't miss out on the $5 OBOMB shots.

The Presidential Pairing happens Jan. 20-23 at wine and chocolate lounge Eno, with a glass of Graham Beck Brut (a reported Obama favorite sparkling wine) and a piece of Gail Ambrosius’ Dark Chocolate covered caramel topped with Fleur de Sel (The New York Times reported it's his fave). That's $15, but if you give the wine manager Obama's Secret Service code name, you'll get it for $10.

A wild time will be had at Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club as they celebrate with the Alternative Inauguration Day Ball. Party includes complimentary bubbly, half-price martinis (O-Bomb, Go Green), coverage on five giant, gold-framed screens and a Tarot card reader telling you your future under the new leadership. As expected, the sassy Kit Kat Divas will perform. Special party happens 5:30-8:30pm for $25; Kit Kat Divas perform 7pm-1am.

The All-Chicago People’s Inauguration Ball occurs on Jan. 18 at Martyr's, with live ethnic music, poetry and a dance party. Afro-pop ensemble Ghanatta and DJ Warp perform during the dance party, which happens 7-11pm. Hosted by Partisan Arts International. Doors open at 4pm for the all-ages event. $5 before 7pm; $15 after.

Nacional 27 master mixologist Adam Seger shakes up the Heirloom Apple Baracktail for you to enjoy at the restaurant or at home during your own celebration. The refreshing recipe serves four to six, and comes in a glass pitcher with fresh lemon juice, honey syrup, Northshore Gin, one fresh apple and orange slice.

More than 240 flatscreens will show the ceremonies at Stretch Run Sporting Club and Grille, plus they're serving up two $5 cocktails to fit the occasion: Barack on the Rocks (Blue Curacao, orange juice, Sprite) and Barack’s Blue Martini (Vodka, Blue Curacao, lemonade).

Tasting Room's monthly Third Tuesday Tasting event features a special theme to commemorate the day. They're serving up the best vino of 2008, which will include more than 30 rosés, whites and sparkling wine paired with appetizers in the city view lounge. Those wines will also be discounted that evening at the adjacent Randolph Wine Cellars. Space is limited; reservations required. 6-8pm. $30.

Monday, January 5, 2009

'Eat It Up Chicago' returns

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

312DD told you exclusively last month about the second-annual Chicago Restaurant Week…eat it up! returning in Feburary.

And, as promised, we've got more deets:

Host Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau just unveiled the official site for the weeklong fest here, which is taking place at more than 130 restaurants around town, including newcomers 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).

What's happening next?!

Tiny Lounge photo courtesy of Urban Daddy Chicago.

Stars to watch in early 2009:

We've been waiting for two years for the return of Tiny Lounge, and now word comes down that it's back on Wednesday. New home is in North Center/Lincoln Square, and in addition to the extensive cocktail menu, they'll offer small bites.

The guys behind Bon V bang out their second project at the end of the month. Look for Faith & Whiskey, a hard-rockin' joint with whiskey as the poison of choice, to open in the old Ta'too space in Lincoln Park.

Bar DeVille's been around since November, but they haven't officially unveiled what's going to set it apart from all the other 'hood spots in Ukrainian Village. A room way in the back holds a "speakeasy"-type lounge complete with deejay and a bar hidden in the wall. They're working on opening it by February.

Remember iCream?! That futuristic ice-cream parlor that opened in Wicker Park late last summer, then closed like two weeks later because something supposedly happened to the liquid-nitrogen tanks responsible for cranking out more than 31 flavors? Well, it's planning to reopen by the end of the month. Great timing, guys.

Purgatory Pizza's been around for a few months, but we're excited about the Sunday Hip-Hop Brunch Series starting on Feb. 8. For $13, you'll get MCs, deejays and an all-you-can-eat-and-drink fiesta. 11am-3pm.

River North's upscale sports lounge Bull & Bear, which had a few setbacks and was supposed to open on New Year's Eve, aims again for a mid-January opening. The same guys also own Stone Lotus and they're assuring us that they're on target this time.

Sunda, the highly anticipated Asian concept by Rockit Ranch Productions, debuts in late February in River North, right down the street from its celeb magnet Underground.

And we'd almost given up hope that Loft Six Ten would ever open in the old Paje space in Wicker Park. So much drama going on over there, but they're really, really working on opening in the next few weeks.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Someone's Having a Birthday!


Graham Elliot Bowles, whose stylish namesake River North eatery caused a stir in 2008 for its carefree takes on classic dishes and cocktails, celebrates his big day on Jan. 4.

Happy Birthday, Graham!

L20 tops Tribune's list for 'best new restaurant'

L20's "exotic preparations" of seafood dishes impressed the Chicago Tribune's Phil Vettel the most in 2008. (Photo: L20)

"Chicago's best new restaurant hands down was L20, the magnificent seafood restaurant in Lincoln Park where Laurent Gras oversaw exotic preparations of gooey duck clam, cold smoked Golden Eye Snapper, (an) amazing golden egg composition with pork belly and carpache, and some of the best soufflés I've ever had," said Chicago Tribune Dining Critic Phil Vettel in his year-end video of the city's Top 10 best new restaurants of 2008.

He also mentions a number of new hotel-based eateries, including Lockwood at the Palmer House, Sixteen at Trump Tower and Mercat A La Planxa in the Blackstone Hotel.

Peep the video here for the entire list.