Thursday, May 28, 2009

Get a load of this . . .

(Photo: Jake Melnick's Corner Tap)

Just in time for Father's Day, Jake Melnick's Corner Tap unveils the Big Daddy Burger.

It's nine ounces, hand-crafted, stuffed with bleu cheese, basted with homemade steak sauce, and topped with black peppercorn bacon, horseradish havarti, crispy onion strings, aioli, lettuce and tomato on a pretzel bun. If that's not enough for you, it comes with a Phin & Matt’s Extraordinary Ale and fries for $9.95.

On Dad's day, he gets it for half price.

Going Once, Going Twice, Gone!

Chaise Lounge's Cary Taylor might whip up his signature Chaise Tacos at your home. (Photo: James R. Lasky)

312DD's been gushing about the Swan Creek Live Twitter Auction all week long, but at 9pm it comes to a close.

So time is ticking if you're still trying to place a bid on one of 15 of Chicago's prominent chefs to come cook at your home, including Paul Virant (Vie), Troy Graves (Eve), Suzy Crofton (Crofton on Wells) and Cary Taylor (Chaise Lounge).

To find out who placed the highest bids, head to a party happening at Goose Island Clybourn tonight. Your ticket includes beer, snacks, giveaways and a chance to win your very own wine-tasting event at Juicy Wine Co. 6-9pm. $25.

Of course, there's so much more going down this weekend. . .


Make sure you wear a cute jacket or cozy sweater (and gloves!) if you plan on attending Red Kiva's patio party celebrating the summer. They'll be doling out mojito samples, drink specials and complimentary flatbread pizza to go along with live entertainment by Those Guys. 6-9pm. No cover.

Those looking for a hot new space to entertain this summer might want to check out the party happening at Gallery 1028 (1028 N. Hooker St.). They're doing an open house with a tour of the venue. Complimentary cocktails. 5:30-8:30pm RSVP to for admittance.

Indulge in a South of the Equator Tasting at the WineStyles on Belmont. You'll learn about vino from Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, plus sample flavored grape seed oils from WildTree. 6-8pm. No cover.


Get 20 percent off your bill at Lockwood with proof of a ticket purchased for the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago (111 S. Michigan Ave.). It's good for lunch or dinner daily, so you can finally get your hands on that World Famous Lobster Dog. (NOTE: Discount does not include alcohol or tip.)

Since our city's outlawed real happy hours, MORE, the cupcake boutique in the Gold Coast, offers the next best thing. Every Friday, they're hooking up comped, cocktail-inspired cupcakes in flavors like margarita, piña colada, Cuba libre, mojito and Kir Royale. 5-7pm. Free.


Do Division Street Festival, Wicker Park's first official street fest of the year, happens today and Sunday. All the little edgy shops, eateries and bars will have deals all weekend, plus look for live music by Flosstradamus, Dark Meat and Menomena 1-8:30pm. Hop on over to The Fifty/50, Boundary, Moonshine and Enoteca Roma while you're in the area.


How does French toast sound to you right about now?! How about if it's topped with macerated Door County cherries, bourbon syrup and cracked hazelnuts? That's one of the highlights at Farmerie 58's new brunch service, which launches on its new patio this weekend. We also like the sound of the Crab Cake Benedict and Quiche Duo, made with housemade sausage, bell peppers, spinach and Gruyere. A comped Mimosa comes with each entree. 11am-3pm.


Vie's celebrated chef Paul Virant serves as special guest bartender during Shift Mondays at Pops for Champagne. Not sure what he's shaking up, but you're certain not to be disappointed. Rock star mixologists Debbi Peek and Bridget Albert will also be on hand, donating all their tips to Gilda’s Club. 9pm-2am. No cover.

And keep your fingers crossed for awesome weather so you can hang on ENO's patio for this summer-focused soiree. They're pairing five seasonal wines with cheese. 7-8pm. $25. RSVP to venue.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Publican gets BIG props from NYT

(Photo: Bob Briskey Photography)

Awwww, man.

Publican's truly hit the big time now.

New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni anoints the West Loop eatery "an outstanding newcomer" in his review and continues to gush:

"What is ultimately striking about the new generation of restaurants like Publican, which appeal as much to the glutton as to the gourmand in you, isn't their informality. It's their gaiety, an emotional tone much different from the subdued rapture so many chefs once asked you to feel."

Absolutely fantastic!

Twenty-four hours to go . . .

Hot Chocolate's Mindy Segal (Photo: Mindy Segal)

Let's get it crackin', people!

The Swan Creek Live Auction ends 9pm tomorrow (May 28), so you've still got a shot at bidding.

Who wouldn't want one of Chicago's hottest chefs cooking at their homes?! Peep the list for stars like Mindy Segal (Hot Chocolate), Koren Grieveson (avec), Randy Zweiban (Province) and Jason Hammel (Lula), who are all going for big bucks . . .

Good things come in threes

Beef & Blue Cheese Wrap, one of the offerings at Café at Wild Things! in Lincoln Park Zoo (Photo: Levy Restaurants)

OK now, we're getting closer to high tourism season in the city, and you're certain to have guests visiting.

C'mon, suck it up, you're going to have to go to places you would never go to this time of year. Luckily this summer's a little bit different, with some new dining offerings that'll make your trip as special as theirs:

Café at Wild Things!, the seasonal spot inside Lincoln Park Zoo, returns for the second year in a row. Managed by Levy Restaurants, the cafe specializes in locally grown and organic ingredients in sandwiches, salads and wraps. They're whipping up healthy tastes like the Beef & Blue Cheese Wrap, Go Bananas Pressed Sandwich and a Roasted Cauliflower and Chick Pea Salad. The restaurant's open through Labor Day weekend.

For shopaholics who find themselves along the tony Rush Street strip, a trip to Fred's at Barneys New York is inevitable. The stylish, sixth-floor restaurant feels like it's right out of New York with ultra-trendy crowds, clean lines and a simple menu of original flatbreads, pastas and entrees. And if you get there at the right time, you just might be able to snag one of those coveted seven tables on the outdoor terrace.

And speaking of outdoor dining, there's no worries getting one of the 60 tables on the terrace at Terzo Piano, Tony Mantuano's casual Italian eatery inside the Modern Wing of the Art Institute. The award-winning chef from the glamorous Spiaggia has toned down the menu here with whole wheat pasta dishes and a wonderful burger entree, Uno, Dos, Tres Burgers (mini beef burger, lamb burger, shrimp burger), paired with housemade organic fries. Open for dinner on Thursdays only. Through June, it's reservations only.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

'We are "aLIVE" and well . . .'

Lonie Walker, owner of Underground Wonder Bar.

. . . proclaims a note on Underground Wonder Bar's site about its future since the hotel Elysian bought the space in which it's housed more than two years ago. The note goes on to state that the legendary after-hours music venue will remain open until May 2010, but this morning 312DD got some conflicting information.

A spokesperson for the venue said there is a possibility that date may change as the Elysian, which is directly across the street, is scheduled to knock down the building sometime in August.

As of now, Elysian has not disclosed immediate plans on what's going into the space, so Underground owner Lonie Walker is keeping her fingers crossed the demolition doesn't go down at that time. Four o'clock licenses are not easy to come by in the city, and they aren't transferable to another location.

"We're on borrowed time, but we want a 4am license," said the spokesperson. "(Lonie) opened the club 20 years ago to be a musicians' hangout, so that 4am license is key."

In other nightlife news, Addiction Sports Bar and Grill is closing.

Writes an Ultimate Insider: "So sad that Addiction bar is for sale by owner. Why can't we have a neighborhood place on Lake stay open for more than 6 months."

Not sure what happened there, but we'll keep you posted . . .

UPDATE: Underground Wonder Bar sent this message to 312DD via Twitter: "We don't know beyond May 2010. Hopefully we'll get another reprive - if not we'll move in the neighborhood."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Weekend Tweet Beat

Paul Virant of Vie (Photo: Paul Virant)

What were Chicago's top toques up to this weekend?! 312DD checks out their Twitter accounts:

Ron Aleman (Aria): "Sushi special is rockin'! Great reviews so far. 1 more hour and then it's off to red wine spritzer country. Yes, I did say spritzer."

David Beran (Alinea): "Quote of night (from girl): 'I would rape every guy in that family and use their tears as lube' ... Saturday night crowds are frightening!"

Rick Gresh (David Burke's Primehouse): "Deciding what beer to brew for my upcoming event on June 24, Market Mystery Soiree. Six Chicago chefs cooking from the Green City Market."

David Richards (Sweets & Savories): "I'm going to run out of all my brunch prep today, unpredictable reservations. Good for business bad for prep."

Todd Stein (Cibo): "Duck eggs and morels for breakfast yesterday, dinner at Salpicon, and watching the Indy 500 today, pork and wine for dinner, nice weekend!"

Paul Virant (Vie): "Just broke down a half cow in under 2 hours, wrapped and cleaned up. Not too bad."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

World's First Live Auction Twitter NOW in progress!

Get dinner cooked at home by Perennial's Ryan Poli before it's going once, going twice, gone!

This is what I looooove about the Internets. People come up with some of the most offbeat events that you cannot pull off in print.

Right at this moment, the world's first ever live auction twitter is going down to benefit Swan Farm Creek's George Rasmussen, who lost his only truck in a recent fire.

Fifteen of Chicago's most celebrated chefs are coming to his aid by auctioning off their talents to come cook at your home. Just some of the chefs include the likes of Mark Mendez (Carnivale), Ryan Poli (Perennial), Bill Kim (Urban Belly), Dirk Flanigan (The Gage), Mindy Segal (Hot Chocolate) and Stephanie Izard (The Drunken Goat).

To participate, all you have to do is sign up here; all proceeds go to Swan Creek to get them back in action.

The auction ends at 9pm May 28.

UPDATE: Vie chef/owner Paul Virant's going for $1,500, Cary Taylor (Chaise Lounge) $1,000, Giuseppe Tentori (Boka) is up for $1,000 and Stephanie Izard's bid is up to $700!

Let the Games begin . . .


Everyone knows summertime is the best time to be in Chicago. The Parties. The Festivals. The Alfresco Drinking and Dining. And.So.Much.More.

This holiday weekend also welcomes the debut of three hot openings. Exotic live-music venue The Shrine hits the South Loop; sexy tapas lounge Eivissa takes on Old Town; and the peepshow-themed night spot Theatro settles into the Warehouse District.

If that's not your speed, there's so much more going down the next few days . . .


When was the last time you went to a good old-fashioned bake sale?! Atwood Café participates in Share Our Strength's second-annual Great American Bake Sale, offering home-style apple butter, granola, specialty cakes, pies, cookies, muffins, brownies and more. That's from 10am-2pm. The restaurant also fetes its 10th anniversary with $10 classic dishes during lunch and dinner through October. Executive Chef Heather Terhune's whipping up fish & chips in May.

Another amazing cause is Real Men Cook, the annual Father's Day event where high-profile and everyday dads come out to grill out on the South Side for hundreds of hungry folks. They're doing a fundraiser tonight at Park 52 to sell the advance $20 tickets and raise additional money. The June 21 outdoor benefit includes three hours of food (over 150 dishes!), entertainment and more. 6-9pm. Cash bar.

Tonight's the night for the monthly Secret Supper at Southport Grocery. You'll get four courses of a seasonal prix-fixe menu. 7pm. $45. Limited seats, so call to reserve.

Unisex boutique and salon Guise Chic (2128 N. Halsted St., 773-929-6130) celebrates its one-year anniversary with complimentary salon services, drinks, appetizers, music and an Earnest Sewn denim trunk show. Attendees also get 25 percent off apparel purchases. 6-8pm. After-party happens at Cagney’s. 8-10pm. RSVP to


Channeling the scandal-ridden The Box in NYC, Theatro combines peepshow-type performances with nightlife. Look for them to go all out during this holiday weekend. 9pm-2am. No cover.

The bar at One Sixtyblue should be jumping, now that they have a brand-new Friday night deal. You'll get a Neapolitan-style pizza and a prosecco (or a craft beer) for $9.

COCHON 555 (5 Pigs, 5 Chefs, 5 Winemakers) happens Sunday at The Drake Hotel.


COCHON 555 (5 Pigs, 5 Chefs, 5 Winemakers!), the only national chef competition promoting heritage pigs and breed diversity, happens this afternoon at The Drake. Each hand-selected chef prepares a heritage breed hog from head to toe, to be judged by a group of professional judges. Participants include Patrick Sheerin (The Signature Room at the 95th), Chris Pandel (The Bristol), Sam Burman (bluprint) and Stephen Dunne (VOLO/Paramount Room). In addition to pig-a-licious portions, guests will get beer from Three Floyds and bacon-infused chocolates from Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Benefits Farms for City Kids. 5pm. $125.

Three spots are left for the Chicago Singles Brewery & Beer Tasting Tour, happening at Goose Island. Who knows, you might find the love of your life over a beer or two or three. RSVP here to attend. 1-3pm. $19.99.

If you're looking for a place to watch the Cubs and Blackhawks games, head to Bull & Bear for the Bullpen BBQ. $5 Bloody Marys, wings and more . . . all day.

French-themed Le Passage goes All American on us for the Memorial Day Weekend. The venue and staffers will be decked out in patriotic style, as deejays Jem and Sye Young spin. Get there early for the VIP-hosted party from 2200 to 2300 hours. Also, a percentage of proceeds from every Purple Heart cocktail benefits Operation Homefront, an organization dedicated to supporting our troops and helping the families they leave behind. 10pm-4am. RSVP to for VIP admission to the reception. Active military personnel receive free admission all evening.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Kuma, Kuma, Kuma!

The Kuma, the signature burger with bacon, cheddar and a fried egg, is one of Playboy's "Best Hamburgers in America." (Photo: James Trevenen/Playboy)

Ask any of Chicago's amazing culinary kings and queens (from avec's Koren Grieveson to Lockwood's Phillip Foss) where they go for burgers and you'll hear this repeatedly: Kuma's Corner.

So it comes as no surprise that Playboy has added this heavy metal burger bar to the list for America's Best Hamburgers in its June issue:

"Take a look at that menu of 20 intriguing half-pound black Angus burgers named for the owners' favorite bands: Dark Throne (with chipotle peppers, goat cheese, pico de gallo); Melvins (basil, prosciutto, mozzarella); Motorhead (goat cheese, kalamata olives, oregano, tzatziki, onion, tomato). They're all well thought out and carnivorously debauched beyond words—but the centerpiece is the Kuma burger, a masterpiece piled with bacon, cheddar, and a fried egg on a puffy Labriola pretzel roll. Ask for yours rare, and rest assured there will be blood."

Your exclusive sneak peek of The Shrine!

(Photo: Doug Fogelson)

Here's your first-ever look inside The ShrineJoe Russo's glamorous, Out of Africa-themed night spot opening in the South Loop Thursday.

If you've never heard of Joe Russo, you've likely heard of his past projects, including the ground-breaking Funky Buddha Lounge, Italian-focused Thyme restaurant, and Sinibar, a swanky dessert and deejay-driven lounge adjacent to Thyme.

With The Shrine, a venue that's been in the works for more than two years, Russo brings to the South Loop a nightlife destination that's sorely needed. Live music (ranging from hip-hop, soul, Neo-soul and R&B) and deejay-driven nights will be the focus, but in addition to locally grown talent, he plans to bring in marquee names.

(Photo: Doug Fogelson)

We're looking forward to Eyes Wide Shut, Shrine's signature event series aiming to take on venues like House of Blues with exciting live music events. The monthly series happens on the first Thursday of every month and plans to draw national A-List, local and up-and-coming talent from the hip-hop, R&B, reggae music world and more.

The various VIPs certain to be rolling through will want to chill out in the Coup d’état at The Shrine, the venue's private lounge with its own separate entrance, deejay booth, bar and more. Here, guests will also have the choice to order from a menu of specialty handcrafted cocktails or the premium bar.

For the sneak peek Rebirth of Chicago Cool party Thursday, Russo teams up with urban tastemaker A.J. Johnson (full disclosure: A.J.'s 312DD's hairstylist!) for one of the best parties this city's seen in years—especially in the South Loop.

A.J.'s known for attracting Chicago's most glamorous party goers, plus Jesse De La Peña is spinning, so if I were you I'd RSVP ASAP to to get in. 9pm-2am. No cover; cash bar.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Best Pizza in America?!

Great Lake's Mortadella Pie is the number one pizza in America, according to GQ magazine. (Photo: GQ)

GQ food writer Alan Richman seems to think so about Andersonville newcomer Great Lake, whose Mortadella Pie topped the list for the Top 25 Pizzas in the country in the June issue:

"[Nick Lessins's] cheese pie, prepared with fresh mozzarella made in-house, grated Wisconsin sheep’s-and-cow’s-milk cheese, and aromatic fresh marjoram instead of basil, was slightly shy of unbelievable. The next day I returned to try the same pie topped with fresh garlic and mortadella, the dirigible-sized Italian sausage that looks like bologna, tastes like salami, and is usually cut into chunks. He sliced the meat very thin and laid slices of it over the pie the moment it came out of the oven. The mortadella, with its combination of burliness and creaminess, was a meaty addition to the earthy, bready crust. This pie—creative, original, and somewhat local—represents everything irresistible about the new American style of pizza-making."

Well done, Great Lake!

Toast to Tuesday deals


There's so many amazing things to cheer to today. The Weather. The Blackhawks. The fact that you've got so many dining and drinking deals to choose from:

Who needs a Big Mac when you can get $2 Black Angus burgers at The Beer Bistro every Tuesday?! You can order the burger any way you like and enjoy with something from their extensive selection of craft beers. Outdoor patio is also open today.

It's the perfect day to finally settle on Chaise Lounge's breezy rooftop area. Tonight's deals include $5 martinis, a three-course, prix-fixe dinner for $25, gourmet tacos piled high with fish or pulled pork (two for $6), and carafes of margaritas or mojitos for $18.

The simple, yet contemporary award-winning fare at Crofton on Wells is a little on the expensive side, but not if you get there between 5-7pm Monday through Friday. Thirty-five dollars gets you three courses, or $55 if you pair with vino.

Fried chicken lovers can eat as much as they like on Tuesdays at Kitsch'n on Roscoe. For $10, you get the deal, plus a glass of wine or beer.

Top Chef finalist Dale Levitski's whipping up a number of specials at Relax Lounge for a special party hosted by Zipcar. Enjoy one comped Ziptini cocktails ($3 after), plus $3 Goose Island 312 drafts, $2 select domestics and $5 burgers. 6-9pm. RSVP to for admittance.

And pinot lovers will dig tonight's wine event at the Tasting Room, as the intimate wine lounge honors various styles of the grape from around the world. Taste more than 30 wines paired with appetizers. 6-8pm. $30. Reservations required.

Monday, May 18, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Popular sushi spot to shutter; plans to reopen soon


Just found out trendy Gold Coast sushi restaurant, Tsunami, serves its last meal on May 31.

An Ultimate Insider tells 312DD the husband-and-wife owners had a farewell party over the weekend, but plan to reopen at some point in the area:

"Tsunami is still open until the 31st!!! And they had a beautiful 'going away' party over the weekend...Steve & Melissa will definitely be back with a new space soon."

We wish them luck.

Weekend Tweet Beat

Stephanie Izard is the executive chef/owner of The Drunken Goat, set to open in the fall. (Photo: Stephanie Izard)

What were Chicago's top toques up to this weekend?! 312DD checks out their Twitter accounts:

David Beran (Alinea): “Ashed almond cheese.. paired with violet mustard, brined/burnt grapevine, evo poached grape, cured lamb and frisee... new Alinea course.”

Efrain Cuevas (ChEfrain): “Getting up at 7. Gotta prep: venison rack, lamb shanks, duck and shrimp. Served a couple hundred tonight. Learned some new BBQ tricks.”

Rick Gresh (David Burke’s Primehouse): “Going to Underground with (David) Burke. Where will the night lead?”

Stephanie Izard (The Drunken Goat): “Just ate at Taxim, so tasty! Great food and fun vibe, check it out. Ming Tsai was there too!”

Rob Leavitt (Mado): “Busiest night ever, and I'm all out of sweetbreads! Coming soon...crispy rabbit confit with pea tendrils, lake perch and porchetta!”

Debbie Sharpe (Feast, Goddess & Grocer): “Drank gin & beer & whiskey this weekend... separately. First time in 35 years. Days of my wild youth relived.”

Carol Wallack (Sola): “Sola won the NRA BBQ Challenge, again! Stoked!”

Friday, May 15, 2009

This just in . . .


Everyone's excited about the Blackhawks in the conference finals for the first time since 1995, so of course you'll find plenty of deals around town.

We especially dig the one going down at Moonshine, which pays homage to the team with deals on drinks and food on game days.

Specials include "Kane's" Hot Wings (named after Forward Patrick Kane) cooked in a signature 88 hot sauce; “Big Buff" Buffalo chicken pizza; and You Gotta "Havlat" (named after Forward Martin Havlet) drink specials of $3 Moonshine micro beer drafts, $3 Jim Beam shots and cocktails, and $5 Cazadores tequila shots and cocktails.

Moonshine will also give away an official Blackhawks jersey, valued at $150, every game day.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Oops! Shuttered Red Lion Pub makes Esquire's Top Bar List


Here's the problem with these annual lists big-time magazines do every year.

They cannot possibly hit every bar they cover, like what just happened in Esquire's Best Bars in America list.

For Chicago, they included A-List spots like The Violet Hour, the cocktail-crazed lounge in Wicker Park, and The Matchbox, but also included the very closed Red Lion Pub. The number listed on their website was disconnected, and sources tell 312DD that the venue's been closed "for renovation" since summer 2008.

Did Esquire lay off the factcheckers?! Sheesh.

UPDATE: Apparently the Red Lion Pub inclusion was corrected in the print version, but not online.

Dirty Bird Bubble Bath boozier than ever

Rodney Alex of Juicy Wine Co. (Photo: Juicy Wine Co.)

We love Juicy Wine Co. for its stinky cheese and quirky events, like the weekly Sunday soul brunch, Dirty Bird Bubble Bath.

It's been going down for about a year at the River West wine bar, but now owner Rodney Alex's stepping it up by introducing his latest creation, Allagash White Ale Waffles.

That's right, there's beer in these here waffles that he promises will "lighten up" the texture and pair perfectly with crunchy Harold's Fried Chicken. Also, don't forget the bubbly, which is half off all day. And because you cannot have a soul brunch without the beats, DJ Puff-E spins classic funk and R&B. Brunch happens 11am-4pm.

Here's even more events popping off this weekend:


In line with American Craft Beer Week, Bistro 110 hosts a Two Brothers tasting, pairing more than four beers with heavy appetizers. The Warrenville, Ill.-based brewery's owners Jason and Jim Able will lead the tasting of Domaine Dupage, Dog Days Dortmunder Lager, Ebel's Weiss and Cane & Ebel. 6-8:30pm. $25.

A number of fashion-focused events happen today, including Walk the West Loop for 20 percent off on 11 boutiques offering cocktail parties until 9pm; SUB 51's first-ever fashion show with School of the Art Institute students showing off their creations at 9pm; edgy Wicker Park boutique Bonnie & Clyde showcases its stylish lines at Manor at 9pm; and Maven's Diva Series returns to Crimson Lounge with a trunk show featuring Julia Failey Jewelry and Fashion Heist (6-9pm).

Party like an animal—and with your animal—as pet accessories boutique Tails in the City (1 E. Delaware Pl., 312-649-0347) marks five years with a benefit at Level. The $40 ticket includes an open bar, hors d’oeuvres, activities for pets and goodie bags. All proceeds go to The Anti-Cruelty Society. 6-9pm.


You just might be able to score a ticket to the baddest bash of the week: A Late Night Celebration of the Modern Wing. The party is hosted by the likes of some of Chicago's top young influencers, including bar owners Claudia Gassel (Debonair Social Club) and Arturo Gomez (Rockit, Sunda, Underground), so you know the room will be full of heavy hitters. Benefit includes food, open bar, live entertainment and more. Try your luck at getting in here. 10pm-2am. $75.

Between exec chef Radhika Desi is moving to NYC! (Photo: Between Boutique Café and Lounge)

The dana hotel's ajasteak just introduced a budget-friendly bar menu that's also available on the patio. We love the idea of Kobe fat fries in chile vinegar, the market-fresh salad that comes in a Mason jar, Wok-steamed mussels, and an open-face fried green tomato and crab sandwich.

The Rockhouse debuts this weekend in Lincoln Park, with surprise bands coming in to perform. The late-night spot throws a nod to L.A.'s Sunset Strip rock bars like Viper Room. Free all weekend, with $4 Crystal Head vodka cocktails and $3 Bud bottles. 10pm-4am Friday; 10pm-5am Saturday.

As exclusively reported here, Top Chef Season 5 contestant Radhika Desai is moving to the Big Apple. Her farewell fete happens tonight at the restaurant with complimentary appetizers (prepared by new chef Noah Sandoval) and cocktails. 8pm-midnight. No cover.

O-K. Outfit Events throws its first-ever F*ckin' Catalina Wine Mixer at Lumen for its third-year anniversary. What the f*ck is that, you ask?! They're requesting guests to wear f*ckin' "country club" attire to complement the f*ckin' cheap wine and cheese reception from 9-10:30pm. Oh, and f*ckin' DJ Spider from L.A. is the celebrity spin star. Fun! 9pm-2am. RSVP to for free admission before 11pm.


Lottie’s Pub in Bucktown celebrates its 75th anniversary under a tent with daylong events, including a flippy cup tournament, drink specials and a few surprises. Would be interesting to see how many old-timers come out to support.

It's Beer & Chocolate Night at Drinks Over Dearborn with craft beer paired with locally based Vosges Haut Chocolat treats. 6:30-8:30pm. $30 in advance; $40 at door.


It's gonna be a beautiful day, so why not take a stroll during the Second Annual Andersonville Wine Walk. Co-sponsored by In Fine Spirits and Andersonville Development Corp., the fest includes wine tastings at 22 area retail stores. You'll certainly be wobbling by the end of the day! Call 773-728-7552 for tickets. 2-5pm. $25 in advance; $30 day of event.

Sunday-night supper will be served up at MADO, which is doing a special family-style feast featuring produce, grains and meat from the Stewards of the Land farms. Bring your appetite. 6pm. $65


And get a sneak preview of the massive new Whole Foods Market at 1550 N. Kingsbury St. You'll get to sample produce, check out the new restaurants and indulge in various goodies certain to be set before you as you stroll around the enormous venue. 6:30-8:30pm. Get the $25 tickets here.

Get your Brass Monkey on Monday

Bristol exec chef Chris Pandel serves up Brass Monkey cocktails at Pops for Champagne Monday. (Photo: Chris Pandel)

Monday is the hottest night in the city.

Just ask the industry types who head over to Pops for Champagne for Shift Drink Mondays, where Chicago's top chefs and mixologists go behind the bar and shake up their favorite cocktails.

This past Monday's event was the most successful (since the series started last year) when the L20 kitchen staff's bartending stint brought out more than 300 people.

Expect about that many in attendance Monday when The Bristol's popular executive chef Chris Pandel guest bartends. He's pouring Ransom Gin Fizzes, Brass Monkeys and a Yampagne (made with yam and ginger preserve and Champagne).

Now that we think of it, this'll likely be the best one to date, seeing how National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show attendees are in town.

Event happens 8pm-2am May 18. No cover.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cheers to All-American ales


We're right in the middle of American Craft Beer Week, so it's time to give props to those local watering holes really spotlighting the best suds around:

Bluebird: Bucktown joint offers a hefty list small-batch, organic and biodynamic beers paired with flatbreads, wings and one of the best mac 'n' cheese entrees in town.

Bristol: Another Bucktown bar boasting an inventive menu of wild game and pork, Bristol also perfectly pairs beers with their daily specials.

Duchamp: Known best for its signature burger (which Chicago Magazine proclaimed "the best in the city"), the casually upscale eatery features an impressive list of hand-crafted beers.

Goose Island: With an on-site brewery and a new, more chef-focused (yet still downscaled) menu of mussels, burgers and flatbreads, Goose Island continues to be hotter than ever.

Moonshine: The Wicker Park pub installed their own on-site brewery last year—thanks to the efforts of a former Goose Island brewmaster. The beers not only complement the typical lunch and dinner offerings, but the Mexican-inspired brunch dishes as well.

Paramount Room: Daily dinner deals and sudsy steals are the focus at this River West spot in the middle of nowhere. Definitely a destination for the daily, hand-crafted beer flights, too.

Publican: The design may be all old-school Euro, but the beer list reads like an American classic. From rare finds that'll cost you $$$ to reasonably priced locals, nothing disappoints.

Risque Cafe: Surrounded by frat-boy bars and sports hangouts, this Lakeview lounge shines for Smut Night movie nights, bottomless bowls of mac 'n' cheese, $2 PBRs and an impressive list of ales made in the U.S. of A.

Sheffield's: The Lakeview bar with the massive outdoor beer garden offers more than just another large list of beers; every so often, Sheffield's hosts Beer School 101, dropping knowledge with interactive sessions.

Small Bar: There's actually nothing small at all about the beer and burger list at this Division Street bar popular with neighborhood types. And the daily specials, including $4 Half Acre drafts and $1 off Two Brothers, keep 'em coming back.

Sign of the times . . .


There's been two more casualties of the economy: Asian-focused eatery Le Lan, in River North; and the American contemporary Soul in Claredon Hills.

Owner Howard Davis (a former partner in Marche, Red Light, Gioco) had this to say about the closings:

“We had to close due to a downturn in business that we attribute to the current economic situation. We appreciate all of the great effort our staff made over the years in creating very high quality restaurants and we are grateful to all of our customers who supported us over the years.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Update on Mercadito River North opening

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

Here's an update on the River North outpost for Mercadito that was exclusively reported here back in the winter.

An Ultimate Insider tells us New York's famed Mexican spot is still planning to open, but it's now pushed back to the summer. We'll keep you posted . . .

Oodles of noodles . . . and beer

Urban Belly's lamb and brandy dumplings (Photo: Chicagoist)

Chicagoist food writer Chuck Sudo reminds us of why noodle joint Urban Belly is one of the best things that ever happened to Logan Square. His experience at last night's beer-focused dinner got a glowing review, with his praising the chef and Goose Island brewmaster:

"Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall told a sold-out house that he's had every dish on the Urban Belly menu twice over, while chef Bill Kim expressed his desire to host a beer dinner with Goose Island for years, dating back to his days at Le Lan. For this dinner, Hall and Kim didn't try to expand past what they already did well. . . . This was also one of a handful of dinners where most of the attendees left without feeling like they committed a cardinal sin. Too often at these events either the pours or the food are too much for one to bear. Kim struck the right notes in making the first two courses communal, whetting the guests' collective appetite for an amazing udon with ground pork and Chinese black bean. Meanwhile the pours meted out by Goose Island's PJ McNulty and company were manageable and not intended to get diners drunk."

Wine, wine all the time


There never seems to be a shortage of wine events around the city, so we rounded up some noteworthy gigs you don't want to miss:

Head to the River West beer-focused Paramount Room for a deal on dinner and drinks. We're used to the Friday night fish fry, but here they do it Tuesdays. Get all-you-can-eat fish and chips, paired with half-priced bottles of vino.

You'll also get half off on bottles of wine at both Feast locations (Gold Coast and Bucktown). All you have to do is buy an entree. It's also BYOB night at the Bucktown location.

Head to La Madia between 4-6pm for comped pizza in the lounge and $5 glasses of WOW (wine of the week). Or, make your way here after 9pm for the late-night fixe of a salad, pizza, glass of WOW or beer for $27 a couple.

And tomorrow's the Wine Spectator Grand Tour, happening at Navy Pier from 7-10pm. But if the $200 is a bit too steep, head to the pre-party at InterContinental's ENO wine lounge. They're hosting winemaker Nick James-Martin of d’Arenberg, who will pour a number of signature wines paired with ENO's amazing artisan cheese and chocolates. 4-6pm. Free with RSVP.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Weekend Tweet Beat

Theo Gilbert of Terragusto (Photo: Theo Gilbert)

What were Chicago's top chefs up to this weekend?! 312DD checks out their Twitter accounts:

Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill): "Shooting final scenes of Mexico: One Plate at a Time at Casa del Pueblo in Pilsen."

Theo Gilbert (Terragusto): "$48 a pound for morels (at the farmers market) - after all the rain & cool nights/warm days - "What are you people, on crazy pills?!?"

Troy Graves (Eve): "Chefin' it up with Tallulah's (LOBSTER!) deviled eggs for the Cerebral Palsy's chef's tasting party."

Stephanie Izard (The Drunken Goat): "DC is pretty fun once you get past all the politics. Off to kill 35 lobsters for tomorrow's event, not very pc of me at all."

Mark Mendez (Carnivale): "1,200 reservations tomorrow for Mother's Day. WTF!"

David Richards (Sweets & Savories): "I am chaining myself to the oven to get Mother's day brunch pastry prep done!"

Bruce Sherman (North Pond Cafe): "Only 12 hrs til my spellbinding Green City Market demo! Ok maybe I exaggerate. Deliciously engrossing? Think asparagus and radishes."

Sarah Stegner (Prairie Grass Cafe): "The Green City Market was beautiful today if only there was more Sun! Great greens, delicious cheddar!"

Guiseppe Tentori (BOKA): "Just changed 75% of the menu, very yummy, peas- pigs feet, green olives and pinenuts, green curry, black garlic and corn."

Friday, May 8, 2009

100 Top Bars in U.S. include 5 Chicago spots


Food & Wine just released its Cocktails 2009 volume, and yes, Chicago represents well.

Five of our most treasured taverns made the list for America's Top 100 Bars, ranging from the Al Capone-era Green Mill to The Violet Hour and its world-class, modern mixology program:

C-House in the Affinia Chicago hotel: “Cocktails that tend toward the sweet, like the Honey B (vodka, alfalfa honey and chamomile syrup).”

The Drawing Room: “Guests can opt to have their drinks prepared tableside, accompanied by a cocktail history lesson.”

Green Mill: “A Chicago landmark . . . Uptown jazz club evokes the thirties and forties.”

Nacional 27: Where “mixologist Adam Seger . . . makes superfresh cocktails (both frozen and otherwise).”

The Violet Hour: “Modeled after early-19th-century English clubs and French salons” boasts “floor-to-ceiling curtains frame the bartenders as if they were on a stage.”

Guess I know where you're going this weekend . . .

Thursday, May 7, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: More on the return of Melvin B's!

(Photo: Melvin B's)

Soooooo, here's the dealio with the return of Melvin B's as exclusively reported Wednesday on 312DD :

Apparently, the team behind Manor and RiNo secured the landmark Gold Coast space at 1114 N. State St. and will change the name to Cedar Hotel when it opens in a few weeks.

And they've brought on the boys from The Fifty/50 to upgrade that menu with more upscale bar bites. Thank god because even though Melvin B's and its neighbor, Cactus, were the hot outdoor spots in the summer, the food was pretty bad.

So there you have it, but details are still trickling in . . .

Here's to Mom!


It's going to be a loooong Sunday if you're spending time with your family for Mother's Day, so make the best of the rest of the weekend if you can:


Hey, guys, this one's for you. Whether you're shopping for a last-minute gift for your mom or baby momma, you might want to check out the annual Beers & Babes event at Kickin' (2142 W. Roscoe St.), the hip maternity, workout apparel and baby boutique. The Village Tap hosts a beer tasting paired with gourmet sausage and cheese. And with every purchase of $100 or more, you'll get a $20 gift certificate to Village Tap. 6-9:30pm.

Colorful restaurateur Jerry Kleiner's a generous cat, and this KDK Crawl featuring four of his many restaurants proves why his spots continue to shine. You'll get to travel by trolley to Marché, Opera, Gioco and Red Light and sample signature bites and cocktails. Call Marché for the required reservation. 6:30-9:30pm. $50.

Custom House and 312 Chicago both just launched $10 bar menus you don't want to miss. Get to 312 Chicago right after work for light Italian fare, or head to Printer's Row for Custom House's casual cuisine of oysters, pork cracklings and crostinis.

So glad these girls are back! DJ Numinous Radio (aka Chaka T) cellist Alison Chesley and violinist Inger Carle have been blending their hypnotic mix of down tempo, trip hop, acid jazz and chill out with original, live string arrangements since 2000. And now they're bringing their show to Juicy Wine Co. Sip wine and eat stinky cheese as you check them out. 7pm-2am. No cover.

Expect even more funky grooves as Braziliance returns to Sonotheque for its monthly residence. The Brazilian-focused bash includes music by DJ Joe Bryl, exotic cocktails like the Ipanema and a special Brazilian menu next door at Flo. Those who dine first at Flo get comped entrance. $5. 9pm-2am.

Samantha Ronson's in town for a two-day stint. Tonight she's doing a live acoustic set at Angels & Kings that has absolutely nothing to do with Lindsay Lohan. 9pm-2am. No cover.


Ronson returns to her regular gig at Crimson, where she'll spin her usual pop music set, attracting a bottle-service loving crowd. 9pm-2am. Guests who arrive before 11pm avoid the cover charge (which they never seem to tell us!).


Genuine Entertainment's still killing it over at Lumen on Saturdays with resident DJ Jem and one of the most fabulous crowds in the city. And if you get there between 9-10pm, the cocktails are on them. Party happens until 3am. Cover varies.


Of course, it's Mother's Day, but it's also the launch of No Menu Sundays! at Bonsoirée. Chef/owner Shin Thompson's whipping up whatever fresh ingredients he discovers at Green City and Logan Square Farmers markets. Reservations recommended. 5pm-9pm. Four courses $45; seven courses $75. BYOB.


And Monday Mix happens at In Fine Spirits in Andersonville with a tasting of the new Copper Fox Rye Whisky. $15 gets you three whiskey cocktails paired with appetizers. 8-11pm.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Melvin B's coming back?!

(Photo: Melvin B's)

Could this be true?!

Just in time for summertime shenanigans, word is that Melvin B's—the Gold Coast's most notorious outdoor bar—is back!

An Ultimate Insider tells 312DD that it's resurfacing in its old home at 1114 N. State St., and will be reopening in about three weeks.

Former owner Donnie Kruse (who also owns Stanley's), says he's not behind this second incarnation, so we're on the case to find out who's in charge.

This is sooo developing!

If She Had It Her Way on Mom's Day

Michelle Garcia (left) of Bleeding Heart Bakery and her mom, Sharon (Photo: Bill Lambert/Erickson Design)

They're truly the queens of their kitchens, so they almost never get a day off to relax.

312DD managed to catch up with some of Chicago's busiest chefs—who just happen to be moms—to find out their idea of the perfect Mother's Day:

Malika Ameen, executive pastry chef and co-owner of the exotically sexy Aigre Doux, manages to run a tight ship in the kitchen with her husband Mohammad Islam even though they have three sons under age seven. A blissful Mom's Day for her would be huevos rancheros served to her in bed by her family. And no housework.

Favorite Menu Item at Aigre Doux: Black Truffle Pizza with a wood-fired crust.

Tru's Gale Gand, the tireless pastry chef, author, TV personality and restaurateur, is also the mom-in-chief of three children (two girls and one boy). Her special fantasy day would consist of homemade cards from her kids, just-picked Daffodils from her garden, foot rub from her husband and movies. Of course, there'd be breakfast in bed, seeing as the award-winning artist just released Gale Gand's Brunch!: 100 Fantastic Recipes for the Weekend's Best Meal (Crown Publishing Group; 2009). She'd want her family to whip up her recipe for Blanched Asparagus with Poached Eggs and Shaved Parmesan paired with fresh-squeezed OJ (with strawberry puree, passion fruit juice, and a shot of Cava).

Favorite Menu Item at Tru: King crab, white asparagus, pineapple, and tarragon appetizer; also the gianduja cremeux with concord grape sorbet, basil and manchego cheese dessert.

Author, TV star, pastry chef and restaurateur Gale Gand.

Punk rock mom and pastry chef Michelle Garcia has two children and two popular, organic-focused North Side bakeries, Bleeding Heart and Smash Cake. And if she managed to get a day off for Mother's Day, she'd want to be lavished with gifts from Lush (the cosmetics store with handmade organic products, not the spirits shop!). Also, for her son not to hit her in the head with his Star Wars' lightsaber.

Favorite Menu Item at Bleeding Heart: The infamous tattoo cakes that put her store on the map. Get the organic goodies in whatever flavor you like with the Mom heart tat surrounded by flowers.

Sarah Stegner may have more prestigious awards than children (one daughter, one Robert Mondavi Culinary Award Of Excellence, two James Beard Foundation awards), but she takes her role as mom to heart. As co-owner and co-executive chef at Prairie Grass Café in Northbrook, she always works on Mother's Day, but if she had the chance to get away she'd spend every precious moment with her daughter.

Favorite Menu Item at Prairie Grass Café: She keeps it simple with spaghetti and roasted chicken.

For an extensive list of Mother's Day events, go here and for freebies, check this out.

May is National BBQ Month . . .

David Burke (left) and Marcus Samuelsson (Photo: XA, The Experiential Agency)

. . . so you can either fire up that grill and try your luck at getting it right this year, or allow two of the nation's most recognized chefs to show you how it's really done.

Meat master David Burke (Primehouse) and seafood specialist Marcus Samuelsson (C-House) join forces to host a grilling demo and tasting at the Affinia hotel's C-View rooftop lounge.

But that's not all. The first-ever Land & Sea BBQ Bootcamp also includes a cocktail reception and information Q&A with the chefs. They'll be whipping up BBQ short rib tacos, grilled oysters and more, plus guests will leave knowing exactly how they did it. A gift bag will include the day's recipes.

Event happens 1-3pm May 16; call C-House for the $75 tickets. It's happening the same weekend as the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, so this thing will sell out!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chuck Bass in Chicago . . .

"Gossip Girl" star Ed Westwick will be in Chicago Wednesday.

Attention: Gossip Girl fans.

Just got word Jessica Szohr and Ed Westwick (a.k.a. Chuck Bass) of Gossip Girl notoriety will make a special appearance at Wednesday's launch party for Target's Bullseye Bazaar.

Hosted by Rockit Bar & Grill, this VIP party takes place at 445 N. Michigan Ave., and includes hors d'oeuvres, cocktails, and a chance to be first to shop this exclusive "pop-up" store.

To get in, just RSVP at 7-10pm.

We'll take the 5th . . . sip . . .


So many, many choices today as you go out and celebrate Cinco de Mayo:

If you're looking to do something good in the 'hood, Cinco Del Soul's happening at Society for Arts (1112 N. Milwaukee Ave.), benefiting Youth Technology Corps. Event includes authentic Mexican food by Jordan's Food of Distinction, an open bar of margaritas and music by Jesse de la Pena. 6:30-10:30pm. $40 in advance; $50 at door. Get tix here.

Test your wine knowledge at BOKA's new monthly Guess the Mystery Wines party for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate to dine at the hot Lincoln Park eatery. Four stations will be set up to pour a mystery win out of a decanter for sampling, and if you get the most answers right, you win! It's that simple. 6:30-8pm. Free with appetizers.

North Center's Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro is doing its monthly Beer of the Month Passport Series, with ales from Indiana-based Three Floyds. For $10, you get snacks and samples. 7-9pm.

Mexican-owned Ceja Winery makes a stop at Just Grapes for a free tasting you can check out right after work if you're in the Loop. 6-7:30pm.

Indoors and outdoors at The Fifty/50 gets busy at 4pm with tequila and margarita specials, plus bar personality "Shorty" wanders the bar rocking a sombrero filled with gratis chips and salsa. If you're still standing at 9pm, a seven-piece mariachi band plays all the classic songs you remember from your last trip to Cancun. Also, bring in your ticket stub from the Blackhawks playoff game and get 20 percent off your entire bill. No cover.

You know the scene will be hot over at Nacional 27, known for its lively music, munchies and hand-crafted margaritas. For $27, you get passed tapas and cocktails, plus DJ George Perez spins Latin grooves. That's from 6-9pm, then the dance party continues until 1am.

And they'll also be kickin' it late night at Fuel Kitchen & Cocktail Lounge, where Miles Maeda hits town to spin a very special set. Early arrival highly recommended as this event is free. 9pm-2am.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Weekend Tweet Beat

Tim Graham, executive chef at Tru.

What were Chicago's top chefs up to this weekend?! 312DD checks out their Twitter accounts:

Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill): "Flight to NY for Beard Awards/editor mtgs for new book. Dreaming of yesterday's breakfast: Fage Greek yogurt, ripe/orange strawberry, milk & honey granola."

Phillip Foss (Lockwood): "Spending the day off with great friend Frank Brunacci (Sixteen) and our families.... beer, burgers, beer, kids, beer, and sunshine!"

Tim Graham (Tru): "Saturday service going smooth, layering on gougeres filled with caviar cream. Spring lamb coming next week."

Rick Gresh (Primehouse): "Spent the morning working on webpage & blog page, should be up and running soon. off to work, & then Art Chicago & C-View kickoff party."

Paul Kahan (Blackbird): "Looking forward to hiding out in New York this weekend."

Mark Mendez (Carnivale): "Thinking of doing something with deviled eggs, organic deviled egg with Iberico ham?"

Mark Mendez (Carnivale): "Got crushed by tsunami of people, 700 resos, 450 in private dining, much pain."

Friday, May 1, 2009

Meet the Beard Nominees

Koren Grieveson, chef de cuisine at avec. (Photo: Jessica Tampas Photography)

We've gotta give it up to MenuPages Chicago, which has done a pretty thorough job interviewing several of the James Beard nominees, who will find out Monday in New York whether they go home with an award or not.

Helen Rosner, the site's tireless editor, snagged some pretty sweet interviews with BIN 36 Wine Director Brian Duncan; chefs Paul Kahan (Blackbird, Publican), Koren Grieveson (avec), Mindy Segal (Hot Chocolate) and Sarah Grueneberg (Spiaggia); as well as food writers Monica Eng and Phil Vettel from the Chicago Tribune and Mike Sula at the Chicago Reader.

We loved them all, but especially the one with Greiveson, who even talked about her favorite haunts:

"I'm kind of a creature of habit – I go to the same bars, the same restaurants. I was just at Volo last night, had a great dinner there. It’s nice to see (chef) Christophe David over at NoMI, to sit at the bar. I like Urban Belly."