Monday, November 30, 2009

Stage Bites: The Weekly Dining & Drinking Guide

"Death of a Salesman" is at Raven Theater through Jan. 16. (Photo: Raven Theater)

Every Monday look for the week's top performances paired with the best deals before and after the show:

Bear Down! at Fizz. Still salty about the latest Bears' loss?! Lick your wounds at this comedy featuring "Ghosts of Bears Quarterbacks Past," who'll give their thoughts on the disaster that is season 09-10. 8pm Wednesdays through Dec. 16. Get tickets here.

Frasca Pizza and Wine Bar: Wood-roasted pizzas and pastas made in a brick oven, with several seasonal delights. But we're still all about the signature Rustica pizza, topped with diced prosciutto, oven-dried tomatoes, basil pesto and smoked provolone.

Waterhouse: You're certain to be in a rowdy mood after the show, so head here for half-price wine (by bottle and glass), $4 beer selections and team trivia.

Wishbone: Pan-fried chicken and Southern-style vegetarian dishes are on tap every Wednesday, plus $3 pints of selected beers.

One of the signature pizzas at Frasca Pizza and Wine Bar. (Photo: Frasca Pizza and Wine Bar)

Death of a Salesman at Raven Theater. A highly regarded adaptation of Arthur Miller's depiction of traveling salesman Willy Loman, who's in desperate pursuit of the American Dream for his family. 8pm Dec. 5-6; 8pm Fridays, Saturdays and 3pm Sundays Dec. 11-Jan. 16. Get tickets here.

Big Jones: Load up on delicious, down-home delights with the Southern Table Dinner, which changes daily for $29. Plus, there's no other place in the area where you can chow down on fried-green tomatoes, fried frog legs and a fried chicken salad.

M. Henry: With so many yummy brunch options in Andersonville, it can be hard to choose from, but we'll go ahead and put this one in the number one slot. M. Henry gets it right when it comes to hotcakes, french toast and other breakfast favorites. What sounds good to us right now are the Mango & Sour Cherry Bliss Cakes, Cinnamon Raisin French Toast and Blackberry Bliss Cakes. Served till 3pm.

Uncommon Ground: The Honky Tonk Happy Hour's every Friday 6-8pm, and features live beats (this week it's The Dog Patch Ramblers), plus specials on Goose Island and shots of Templeton Rye whiskey.

Star Wars: In Concert at United Center. "Star Wars" fanatics should have the time of their lives at this event that includes a full orchestra and choir performing music from all six John Williams' scores, footage of films, plus an exclusive exhibit of "Star Wars" costumes, props, behind-the-scenes videos and more. 1pm, 6pm Sunday. Get tickets here.

Beer Bistro: They're doing 25 cent wings every Sunday, but if you hit them up before you head over to the early show order from the brunch menu. We're totally intrigued by the Biscuit Club—stuffed with eggs, bacon and avocado. There's also a breakfast pizza topped with sausage, bacon, cheese and three eggs sunny side up.

WestEnd Bar & Grill: Instead of getting caught up in crazy traffic at United Center parking lots, park here and take their trolley over to the show (they'll take you back to the bar too!). Tasty pre-show bites include Reuben rolls, Buffalo chicken rolls, and mini sandwiches of fish, burgers and pulled pork (three for $7; six for $11).

Ristorante We Due for Name Change?!

(Photo: Ristorante We)

Look for big changes to happen over at the W Chicago - City Center in early 2010 as ristorante we undergoes a major overhaul.

An Ultimate Insider tells 312DD that under its new executive chef (who started in November), the menu, decor and name will all evolve.

Right now they're cranking out pricey, Italian fare targeting mostly a corporate-card carrying crowd, but look for the menu to dramatically change to more approachable, economy-conscious courses soon.

As far as the name, that'll all be revealed next year . .

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Secret's Out: Kith and Kin to Open in Lincoln Park

David Carrier opens Kith and Kin in the old La Canasta in Lincoln Park in December. (Photo: David Carrier)

Lincoln Park Mexican joint La Canasta quietly closed a few weeks ago and in its place will be Kith and Kin, helmed by David Carrier, a chef who's worked at The French Laundry, Trio and most recently his own spot, Avenue Sea Restaurant in Apalachicola, Fla.

As exclusively reported by 312DD, Carrier's restaurant plans to open the first week in December, but it's looking more like the second, according to the chef.

They've been working on getting the space ready for about four weeks under the radar, transforming it from a vibrant Latin setting to a more downscaled, neighborhood spot. Carrier says the name Kith and Kin, which means friends and family, is based off a famous line from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation ("The most enduring traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin. Thith tree is a thymbol of the the thspirit of the Griswold family Chrithmath.")

Carrier says the menu will aptly complement the dining room, adding that it'll be "simple country food, no pretension, laid back and relatively inexpensive price points. Everything’s from scratch and we’ll shop locally when we can."

In the kitchen, he's assembled a merry crew of cooks, including Derek Crumpton, Matt Lair and Sam “Shotgun” Engleheart from his old Florida restaurant, plus former Pops for Champagne chef Andrew Brochu, who will lead the staff.

Carrier's also in talks with a number of local mixologists for consultation projects, but thus far the program is eight to nine beers on tap, 15 or so by bottle, and a number of affordable wines.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What Did Marcus Samuelsson Serve at the White House State Dinner?!


C-House executive chef Marcus Samuelsson had the honor Tuesday of cooking the Obamas' first-ever state dinner at the White House.

The esteemed guest list included the likes of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and First Lady Gursharan Kaur of India; CBS news anchor Katie Couric; ABC news anchor Robin Roberts; NBC news anchor Brian Williams; and Hollywood elite Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg, Alfre Woodard and Blair Underwood.

Samuelsson's menu, in honor of the Indian prime minister and first lady, fused Indian and American favorites, including curried prawns and smoked collard greens, chick peas and okra, basmati rice and red lentil soup, and a pumpkin pie tart to finish.

See the entire menu here.

Hot Floridian Chef Makes a Move to Chicago


It totally sucks that VTK's closing at the end of the year, but an Ultimate Insider dropped a dime in the inbox that should put a smile on folks' faces:

"Chef David Carrier who (owned) Avenue Sea Restaurant in Apalachicola, Fla., and who was Grant Achatz's sous (chef) at Trio and also an alum of French Laundry, is opening a spot in Lincoln Park next week. One of Chicago's finest will be helping him in da kitchen too. Juicy."

Begged my source to get me more deets, but no go. So, in the meantime, the questions that remain about this mysterious resto:

The name?!

The location?!

And the chef who's helping him in the kitchen?!

My guess for incoming chef would be former Pops for Champagne chef Andrew Brochu, who left in October and is also an alum of Achatz's famed Alinea restaurant.

We'll see what happens next week!

Lava Lounge is Closing!

Lava Lounge serves its last cocktail on Dec. 18, making way for a new concept in January. (Photo: Lava Lounge)

After only a few short years in its new location in Wicker Park, Lava Lounge is on the move again.

But this time the direction is its look, not location.

Owners Phil McFarland and Ty Fujimura (also behind SmallBar) have decided to shut it down on Dec. 18 to give it a complete overhaul—including a new name and concept.

Mixologist Peter Vestinos will be an integral part of the new post-Lava Lounge concept. (Photo: Peter Vestinos)

Also expect signature hand-crafted cocktails from master mixologist Peter Vestinos (who's consulted for the likes of Naha, C-View, Roof, In Fine Spirits), as well as exceptional wine, bubbly and craft brew lists.

Look for the new bar to open in January.

Turkeys, Tastings, Tina Turner!


It's one of the biggest party nights of the year, y'all.

Before you chow down on Turkey Day, 312DD's serving up the absolute best Black Wednesday bashes in town (plus a few extras for the weekend!):


Since most folks get off early, the line starts forming around 3pm at Butch McGuire's, the legendary Division Street bar known for its retro Christmas decorations and flirtatious crowd. This is the only night of the year they're charging at the door too, so you know it's good! Pros: Fun, professional crowd. Cons: No drink specials. 3pm-4am. $10.

Methinks they're starting a new tradition at HUB 51, which has come to be known as a great spot to gather for after-work shenanigans. Deejays Alex Rage spins in HUB, while Will Galvan works the 'tables in the lower-level SUB 51. Pros: Better food than Butch McGuire's. Cons: Guest list enforced in SUB 51. 4pm-2am. No cover.

House music icon Frankie Knuckles spins his annual Thanksgiving party at Green Dolphin Street. Arrive early, wear comfortable shoes, get ready to dance your ass off. Pros: The best dancers in the city come out to this party. Cons: If you cannot dance, get out of the way. 10pm-4am. $10; $20 after midnight.

Deejay Mark Fullaflava hosts and spins at this lively affair targeting an upscale urban crowd. It's held in the second-floor ballroom of the James Hotel, which also houses David Burke's Primehouse. Pros: The music will be amazing, with the latest in hip-hop, house and R&B. Cons: They can get mad shady at the door with the cover price. 9pm-2am.

Longtime sexy River North resto Kiki's Bistro hosts a complimentary tasting of Twisted Oak Winery's *%&@!" (Potty Mouth) red and Rueben's Blend white. They will also be doing by-the-bottle and glass options that'll go well with a number of small plates, including frog legs, lamb stew, smoked salmon and pommes frites. Pros: Ideal if you're looking for a low-key night with friends or a sig other. Cons: Seats at the bar typically fill up quickly. 5-9pm.

Bar owner Matt "Bird" Lindner—known for his massive afro—celebrates his birthday and 30 years in the biz tonight. It's going down at his after-hours dance club Le Passage, and the first 100 guests get an afro wig. Deejay White Shadow spins. Pros: C'mon now, the free 'fros! Cons: If you've been hangin' at the bars since early afternoon you might not last too long, this one goes late. 10pm-4am. Cover varies.

Jesse De La Pena's Backtrack party celebrates 10 years at Double Door. They're doing it up big with live performances, plus deejays de la Pena, 33 1/3 and Pumpin Pete spinning hits from the 1980s and 1990s. Pros: Jesse knows how to bring on the dance party, which is sorely needed in this town. Cons: We need to dance until 4am! 8pm-2am. $15.

The brothers behind McGee's, Duffy's, Durkin's, Redmond's, Wrightwood Tap and Maeve host their annual Turkey Trolley Trot. You'll get domestic drafts, punch, a food buffet and trolley service to all their bars. Pros: A great deal. Cons: Drunk, stumbling folks all over Lincoln Park. 8-11pm. $20.


Tina Turner turns 70 and she's still working those amazing legs! To celebrate her fabulosity, Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club throws its annual bash in her honor with half-price cocktails, 20 percent off entrees and a three-course special menu for $30. Also, female impersonator Traci Ross performs as Ms. Turner. Pros: Drink specials! Cons: Never enough performances.


The return of Red Dog debuts this weekend at Ohm, as it transforms into the legendary nightclub. This will happen every Saturday, featuring deep-house deejays such as Dennis Ferrer and Gene Farris. Pros: Multiple levels for gitting down. Cons: Only happens once a week. 10pm-4am. $10.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pass the Turkey to the Left Hand Side . . .


Five talented chefs. Five amazing Thanksgiving feasts—for those who love to get down when someone else is cooking.

If you're not getting a good ol' fashioned home-cooked meal this year, don't worry. 312DD's got you covered:

aja chef Josh Linton's hooking up a sumptuous, multi-course menu of all-Asian fare that's meant to share. Instead of traditional turkey, get ready for Chinese roast duck and "red cooked" smoked duroc pork with ginger and garlic. Wild mushroom fried rice with black truffle replaces the usual stuffing, and they've swapped the pumpkin pie for a chocolate hot pot of autumn cakes and cookies. Reservations recommended; 11am-9pm. $55 per person.

Philip Foss of Lockwood should make you smile for the unlimited champagne alone. An all-American buffet includes a carving station of maple honey molasses roasted turkey breast and mustard-glazed and clove-studded country ham; butternut squash ravioli; housemade biscuits; pan-roasted Alaskan halibut; and sweet potato marshmallow gratin. The regular menu will also be offered. 11am-5pm buffet; regular menu 5pm-close. Adults, $55; seniors (older than 65), $45; children (under 12), $25. Reservations required.

Expect a Southern-inspired menu over at Andersonville eatery Big Jones, whose kitchen is overseen by owner/chef Paul Fehribach. He's cooking up a five-course meal with Turducken (turkey stuffed with a boneless chicken that's stuffed with a boneless duck), wild striped bass, New Orleans-style crab cakes, fried green tomatoes and Red Velvet cake. Reservations highly recommended. 11am-8pm. $45.

Mercat a la Planxa's on a serious high this week fresh from its Next Iron Chef win for Jose Garces. Seats are filling up fast for the Spanish-focused, four-course feast created by chef de cuisine Michael Fiorello. Highlights include Serrano ham and fig salad; smoke-roasted turkey with sherry pan gravy and cranberry-orange compote; and chocolate croquettes with banana marshmallows, rosemary caramel and Arbequina olive oil. 11am-7pm. $65 per person. Reservations required.

Caterer/chef Jorgina Pereira spices up traditional Thanksgiving fare with Brazilian flair at Sinhà's. It's buffet style, and you can work all that stuffing and pie off on the dance floor to Latin, Samba and salsa before and after you eat. Three seats: 2, 3:30 and 5:30pm. Reservations required. $30 and BYOB!

Patrick Swayze Tribute at The Tasting Room


Not sure if Patrick Swayze was a big wine fan, but someone over at The Tasting Room is certainly a fan of his because they've dedicated a series of flights to the late legendary screen star's most memorable movies.

Embrace your eccentric side with the To Wong Foo white wine flight (2000 Dom Perignon, Epernay Champagne, Ruinart "Rose" Reims, Champagne and Serveau Fils ‘Blanc de Blancs,’) for $26, head for Spanish reds with Red Dawn (2005 Comenge Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero, Spain; 2005 Lanzaga Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain; and 2007 Pazo de Arribi Mencia, Bierzo, Spain) for $19; or indulge in a number of additional red wine flights Next of Kin ($25), Road House ($30), Point Break ($22), The Outsiders ($16) and the Donnie Darko ($14).

These picks sound like they have legs to me!

Say Hello to the Next Iron Chef!

"Next Iron Chef" winner Jose Garces. (Photo: Mercat a la Planxa)

Chicago-born-and-raised Jose Garces achieved "culinary immortality" Sunday as he was named the second-ever Next Iron Chef!

The executive chef/owner of Mercat a la Planxa pulled a victory over New York pastry chef Jehangir Mehta.

Their final challenge was to work with the secret ingredient of "ribs and racks" to produce a five-course feast exemplifying the ethnic melting pot of American cuisine. They worked with the likes of Baby Back short ribs, beef spare ribs, buffalo ribs and pork ribs, but Garces's approach of connecting Chicago's rich ethnic heritage to his dishes won over the judges. Garces told 312DD exclusively he was inspired by The Berghoff for a German-focused dish as well as Mexican neighborhoods on the Northwest Side and in Pilsen.

Highlights of his menu included a pizza topped with slow-cooked beef short ribs and balsamic bacon marmalade; slow-braised pork spareribs cooked "carnita" style; and a tribute to the South Side's soul food restaurants with baby back ribs drizzled with a spicy barbecue sauce, and served over mustard greens and bacon-infused grits.

Said an elated Garces upon winning: "It's amazing to be known, to be, the Iron Chef. ... This means everything. It puts me on a different level than most other chefs to be an Iron Chef. They're idols. They're gods. People really look up to the Iron Chefs and I'm really looking forward to taking my place alongside the others."

Here's GrubStreet's brief recap of the show and interview with Next Iron Chef Garces at what turned out to be a victory viewing party at his Philly-based restaurant Distrito.

Congrats, Jose!

Friday, November 20, 2009

NYC Restaurant Owner Snaps!


Times are tough in the restaurant biz, and while we understand restaurateurs need to think outside the box to get people in seats, this one right here takes the (*&%$#@#$%^?! cake:

Vadim Ponorovsky, the owner of Paradou in New York's famed Meatpacking District, fired off a "team-building" email to employees that was so full of expletives it made even us blush.

Here's a sample:

"How many times do we have to tell you how important it is that you collect emails. Everytime (sic) we have a slow night and you make no money and you sit there bitching about how you make no money, remember its (sic) because youre (sic) f**king lazy motherf**kers. YOU SHOULD ALL BE FIRED IMMEDIATELY!!!!! ALL OF YOU, INCLUDING THE HOSTS!!!!"

Oh, honey, it gets much worse! When one of the employees sent his crazy-ass email to, he decided to turn his anger on the New York media outlet to take out further frustrations on editors.

Word to bar and restaurant owners, if you want customers, this is not how you get them!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Next Iron Chef?!

Jose Garces of Mercat a la Planxa (Photo: Mercat a la Planxa)

We've got our fingers crossed tightly for Philly-based chef Jose Garces—who's also behind the Blackstone Hotel's hot Spanish property Mercat a la Planxa—to pull a victory over New York pastry chef Jehangir Mehta to become the Next Iron Chef.

The finals go down 9pm Sunday on Food Network, and you bet we'll be watching (even though the Bears will take down play the Philly Eagles at the same time).

312DD had the chance to hang out with Garces at Mercat a la Planxa earlier this week during the first-ever Olive Oil from Spain tasting where he created six dishes (and a cocktail!) with three unique varietals.

As the master of Latin cuisine, it's no surprise that Garces uses his Chicago trips to check out the competition around town. He usually makes his way to family-owned restaurants in Pilsen, but on this trip, he checked out Paul Kahan's much talked about Big Star in Wicker Park.

No word yet on how they measured up . . .

Bright Lights, Tasty Bites at Mag Mile Fest


For Chicago, the official start of the holiday shopping season happens once the first float makes its way down the street for the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival.

With weather sunny and in the mid-50s on Saturday, those checking out the festivities will catch a lucky break. Get excited also about the newest component of the festival, the culinary pavilion featuring some of the area's most popular restaurants. From 11am to 4pm on the hour, five executive chefs will demo signature bites, and the first 100 guests will get a sample.

Indulge in dishes from Cliff Ostrowski (China Grill), who's set to prepare tempura sashimi with hot mustard champagne sauce at 11am. Tavern on Rush chef John Gatsos makes a classic Day After Thanksgiving sandwich at noon. At 1pm, you'll find The Saloon Steakhouse's James Day getting the crowd all worked up over his veal Involtini with chestnut and Applewood bacon stuffing and cranberry demi glace. Scott Walton of Markethouse whips up butterscotch bread pudding at 2pm. And the Signature Room's Patrick Sheerin will make roasted squash soup at 3pm.

The culinary festival goes down at the foot of the Hancock Building on Delaware Street. It's also free!

'Tis the season to get out and about all weekend long . . .


Bistro 110 celebrates the release of the new Beaujolais with an after-work tasting event. You'll get to sample six wines paired with Charcuterie, cheese and additional light bites. 6-8:30pm. $25.

The Last Call For Fall event benefits the Auxiliary Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Young professionals will be mingling, drinking and eating for a good cause at District Bar. Get tix here. 6:30-9:30pm. $35 in advance; $40 at door.

November is Movember, which raises money for men's health awareness, specifically prostate and testicular cancer. You'll get to bid on hot bachelorettes and bachelors tonight at Basil Leaf Café, plus there's a raffle. Event includes appetizers and a cash bar. 8pm-2am. $20.

If you're looking to get into something completely different tonight, head to The Silver Room for a unique spoken-word set. Twenty random people will be selected to tell their stories. 8-10pm. $5 donation.

This is just way too much machismo in one night. Brew & View's doing a triple threat movie-a-thon: The Hangover, Inglorious Basterds and Pulp Fiction. You'll also get $3 drafts of MGD, High Life and Miller Lite. Starts at 6:30pm. $5.

Juicy Wine Co. owner Rodney Alex (at top) hosts "The Breakfast Club" every Saturday.(Photo: Rodney Alex)


Through Sunday, mention Week To Give Back at The Drawing Room for special deals. Ten bucks from your meal will be donated to the LUNGevity Foundation, plus you'll also receive a special dessert flight for the table. Now, that's sweet!


If you've got a big group and you're hungry after the Lights Fest, head over to Osteria Via Stato for a special family-style meal. For $38.95 per person ($19 for kids), get appetizers, two pasta dishes, a main course and side dishes. The Italian Dinner Party antipasti is $19.95 per person ($10 for kids), and add a pasta dish to your Italian Dinner Party antipasti for $24.95 per person ($12 children).

Juicy Wine Co. continues its weekly Breakfast Club with DJ LA*Jesus spinning classic 1980s hits. They're also hooking up late-night munchies like the Dirty Bird Bubble Bath brunch combo of fried chicken and waffles paired with champagne; and Swan Creek soft scrambled eggs with shaved summer truffles paired with Benton's smoked country bacon. OMG, soooo yummy! 11pm-2am. No cover.


New Lincoln Square eatery LM Le Restaurant puts the smack down with a French-focused brunch of a la carte items like banana- and pecan-topped buttermilk pancakes; the signature LM omelet with Camembert cheese, caramelized shallots and spinach; and brioche French toast with roasted pears and crème chantilly. Each guest also gets a complimentary croissant. 9am-2pm Saturday and Sunday.

And if you love chili, you don't want to miss Moonshine's first-ever Warm Up & Bear Down Chili Cook-Off. Sixteen contestants, both pro and amateurs, will compete for a grand prize of $1,000 in cold hard cash. Confirmed participants include Moonshine, Luxbar, Socca, Division Street Ale House and Timothy O’Tooles. The Bears will be playing the Philly Eagles, so expect the parking lot to be transformed into one big tailgating event. It's $10 or donate a winter coat for 1st Ward Ald. Manny Flores's annual Coats for Needy Families Drive. 3-7pm.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Peppermint Bar Opens for Seasonal Fun


Just in time for Friday's after-work shenanigans, the Doubletree Chicago Magnificent Mile transforms the lobby lounge into the Peppermint Bar.

A number of culinary students from the Illinois Institute of Art are behind the project. They're crafting an incredible (edible?!) gingerbread and hand-made peppermint candy facade that will stay up throughout the holiday season.

This should be an ideal spot to hang, plus since it's not on the Mag Mile, you shouldn't have to worry about hordes of shoppers and tourists getting in your way.

Just indulge in a number of seasonal cocktails made with hand-infused vodkas, including the Egg Nog Martini, Elf Iced Tea (with candy cane vodka!) and Spiced Poinsettia, which uses honey crisp cider.

The hotel's also home to the farm-centric MARKETHOUSE, helmed by Executive Chef Scott Walton.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Viagra Desserts Are Delicious, Trending Upward

Students training at a South American culinary school have been experimenting with this Viagra-based dessert. (Photo: AP)

Attention, restaurateurs:

Book your airline ticket now to Bogota, Colombia STAT.

Students training at a South American culinary school have been experimenting with a Viagra-based dessert, and according to Asylum, they created a "gelato-like combination of passion fruit and crushed blue pills that will have Ben & Jerry's panicking if a version makes it to North America."

Yeah, this is crazy all right, but it sure would make a ton of guys—and girls—happy!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stage Bites: The Weekly Dining & Drinking Guide

R&B king R. Kelly performs at Auditorium Theatre Tuesday and Wednesday.

Every Monday look for the week's top performances paired with the best deals before and after the show:

R. Kelly at Auditorium Theatre. The Pied Piper of PYTs hits the stage two nights in a row. 8pm Tuesday, Wednesday. Get tickets here.

Custom House Tavern: Hit two big events in one night! Winemaker Guy Davis (Davis Family Vineyards) will be on hand for a tasting paired with items from executive chef Aaron Deal's new menu. You'll also get to sample Apple-Ation, Davis's hand-crafted apple brandy made from fruit growing in a century-old orchard in Sebastopol. It starts at 6:30pm Tuesday, so you can valet here and walk over in a matter of minutes. $45.

Utopia International Caribbean Cuisine: If you're coming from the South Side, hit up this new-ish Jamaican joint in the South Loop for the specials: $5 for three jerk wings, $5 signature cocktails (Tuesdays); buy one entrée, get second for half off on Wednesdays. Prices for dishes (think jerk chicken, red snapper) range $10-$25.

The Shrine: Also going down in the SoLo is the Tuesday night affair featuring deejay Timbuck, who'll spin hip-hop, soul and R&B. There's no cover and $4 Patron shots. 9pm-2am.

Hang out at Roof for appetizers and cocktails before heading over to Chicago Theatre for "Banana Shpeel." (Photo: Concentrics Restaurants)

Calls to Blood at Royal George Theatre. Five performances left of New Colony's well-regarded dark comedy about a picture perfect couple trying to conceive. 8pm Thursdays-Saturdays through Nov. 28. Get tickets here.

Boka: Highlights on the fall menu include a black truffle and apple risotto with chamomile chicken thigh as well as an herb-crusted whitefish. Or, you can also take advantage of a special pre-theater menu that's seasonal, three courses and $35.

Landmark: Lighter fare faves include share-able pizzas (BBQ pork or Italian sausage and grilled sweet corn), cracked black pepper polenta fries, and oven-roasted mussels, drizzled with basil and white wine-garlic infused broth.

Vinci: You'll get traditional Italian dishes, plus the Cacciuco, or seafood stew of shrimp, mussels, calamari and fish in tomato herb broth for $23.95.

Cirque Du Soleil's Banana Shpeel at Chicago Theatre. The vaudevillian-like show, sprinkled with Cirque Du Soleil's signature death-defying acrobatics, is Thursday through Jan. 3. Get tickets here.

The Berghoff: They're doing a number of daily specials that you'll get to enjoy before the show. From 2:30 to 7pm, the nachos, veggie quesadilla and BBQ pork sliders are $3. You can pair that with the $6.95 signature Berghoff beer flight. And on Fridays, you can do a flight of three bourbons for $7.

Roof: Even more small plates can be shared at theWit's glamorous rooftop lounge. You cannot go wrong with the trio of mini lamb burgers, shrimp crostini, or apple and bacon pizza.

The Wine Bar at the Walnut Room: Small plates of cheese, olives and candied walnuts are perfectly paired with various vino. No reservations accepted ever, and since we're in the throes of holiday hell, get there as early as possible to nab seats.

Travel+Leisure, Celeb Chefs Diss Chicago


Six New York celeb chefs were gathered by Travel+Leisure to dish on their fave late-night dining spots around the world.

Not only was Chicago excluded in the roundup, but it was passed over for the likes of Vegas, New Orleans and Miami in the states, plus more "exotic" global spots like Shanghai, Paris and Delhi.

Anthony Bourdain, David Chang, Eric Ripert have all definitely dined in Chicago recently, so how in the world could they have dissed The Silver Palm (I guess Bourdain forgot how much he loved Dan Palm's Three Little Piggy Sandwich), Nick Lacasse's inventive small plates at The Drawing Room, the hand-cut fries and chargrilled Whoopskidawg at Superdawg and Pie-Eyed Pizzeria—which packs a perfect slice of New York-style cheese or sausage any time of the night.

Oh, and had Paul Kahan's new taco joint Big Star been around longer, we'd vote for that one, too!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Man Behind High-End Tea Scene

(Photo: Rodrick Markus)

Last week during an epic tasting party at the Elysian, as some of the city's top chefs handed off signature bites to guests, one guy was off to the side doing something we've never seen before at one of these events.

Rodrick Markus, founder of Cicero-based Rare Tea Cellar, was pushing a collection of unique, high-end loose teas. Seriously, tea at a party where guests typically go straight for the open bar?!

It's actually becoming a bit of a trend, thanks to Markus, and detailed here in an article in Crain's Chicago Business.

At Spiaggia, the 1949 vintage pu-erh tea goes for $195 per single-serve pot (they've sold about six thus far), plus multi-course, tea-focused dinners at L2O and Naha have ranged from $125 to $250 a person.

Yeah, we know that's a bit steep, so look forward to Thursday's opening of Bakin’ & Eggs, a breakfast/brunch/lunch spot that will sell Rare Tea Cellar products at more affordable prices.

Friday, November 13, 2009

First Look at Elysian Restos, Bars

Bernard's, the second-floor lounge at the Elysian. (Photo: 312 Dining Diva)

312DD was at the not-yet-opened Elysian for a private party Thursday and at least three key members of the staff said with straight-up confidence the Gold Coast property is set to open on Dec. 10.

While most people are waiting with excitement for the debut of the hotel rooms, we're especially ecstatic about Elysian's four gathering spots for dining, drinking and cavorting.

Bernard's, the second-floor lounge at the Elysian. (Photo: 312 Dining Diva)

The first-floor lobby lounge (which has a fireplace!) plans to be a key location for casual meetings during the day, offering Continental breakfast and coffee and tea. By evening, look for it to be a sweet spot to catch an early cocktail or two before heading out for the night.

When it comes to more sophisticated cocktailing, there's no doubt Bernard's—named in honor of one of Coco Chanel's lovers—will be up there in the epic ranks of Four Seasons Lounge and The Bar at the Peninsula. Dark accents, including chocolate-hued seats and banquettes, set the mood for mysterious nights out. Small plates of contemporary American fare will be served and it'll stay open daily until midnight.

The lobby lounge at the Elysian. (Photo: 312 Dining Diva)

The third floor houses two American contemporary-focused restos, Balsan and Ria—both overseen by Executive Chef Jason McLeod.

Balsan's the more casual offering, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Look for seasonal comfort food, with specialties such as whole-roasted fish, flatbreads from a wood-burning oven, and daily housemade sausages from sous chef Daniel Grant.

The look here is very Euro and contemporary, with low-slung chairs, high ceilings and an extended bar where you can settle in for signature cocktails and local microbrews.

Balsan, the third-floor, casual eatery at the Elysian. (Photo: 312 Dining Diva)

And for a more formal dining experience, Ria sets the bar high, but not so high that it's stuffy. The design is clean and modern, with an inviting parlor, silk wall coverings and silver leather chairs. Chef McLeod's approach complements the setting with seasonal, globally inspired "land meets sea" dishes.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Boka Bartender Crowned 'King of Mixology'

Boka's Ben Schiller (left) and Zach Friedlander of Relax Lounge face off in an "Iron Chef"-style challenge at Landmark Thursday. (Photo: Chris LaMorte/Urban Daddy Chicago)

It started in May.

The first-ever Sweet 16 of Mixology—created by Kevin Boehm (Boka, Landmark, Perennial)—had the city's most established bartenders competing against one another each week until it came down to two guys: Boka's Ben Schiller and Zach Friedlander of Relax Lounge.

The finals took place Wednesday at Landmark, with the contestants competing in an "Iron Chef"-style challenge for a grand prize of $500. The judges?! Yours truly, plus Chris LaMorte (Urban Daddy), Gary Wiviott (LTHForum, Low & Slow BBQ) and Amanda Puck (XA, The Experiential Agency). Our votes counted for 50 percent of the tabulation, while the audience's comprised of the rest.

Everyone at the party got to sample Friedlander's Autumnal Fire (made of Corzo anejo, Chrysanthemum honey liqueur, Yuzu sour, an egg white and garnished with sugar glazed and cinnamon dusted apple chips) and Schiller's Autumn Air (Bacardi eight-year rum, homemade heirloom apple, autumn spice liqueur, lime and bitters with a walnut emulsion). The judges also had to judge from two additional cocktails the bartenders had to create on the spot from ingredients that were only disclosed moments before in front of the audience.

It was a good thing this additional challenge happened because it turned out the popular vote was dead even at 88 to 88. And at least three out of four of the judges picked Schiller over Friedlander because he ran out of ingredients for his cocktail, which dramatically changed its overall taste.

But Friedlander's got a bright future as he'll be moving over to red-hot Gilt when it opens in January. He'll oversee the mixology program.

Schiller's keeping busy as well, as he'll be in charge of the drinks program at The Drunken Goat—the West Loop spot from Stephanie Izard, Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz.

More Chef-Related Drama (Blind Item!) . . .


This week has had more drama than an entire season of Real Housewives of Atlanta. This missive dropped in the 312DD inbox about a chef who never got paid for his/her services at a very popular Chicago restaurant:

"I want to let you know that [Chef A] left [Restaurant] because he/she wasn't paid for his/her time there. Unlike [Chef B], this chef was not a partner who was paid (or supposed to be) by profits; Instead, he/she was promised a bi-monthly salary that was never met. He/she chose to leave because he did not pay him/her or show any promise of paying him/her. [Owner] has owed [Chef A] a large amount of money for over 5 months. He also owes several purveyors, many cooks, and most of the FOH staff money.

I think people should be aware of what is really going on at [Restaurant], however, please keep me anonymous."

Burgers, Booze and Benefits . . .

DMK Burger Bar's "No. 4" (roasted hatch green chile, fried farm egg, Sonoma Jack cheese, smoked bacon) paired with sweet potato fries. (Photo: Ben Reid/

DMK Burger Bar is now open.

That's the latest collaboration between longtime buddies and biz partners David Morton (Morton's Steakhouse) and Michael Kornick (MK), who're also behind the powerhouse N9NE restaurants in Chicago and Vegas.

On its second night Wednesday, the rockin' burger joint was definitely jammed packed with neighborhood types who are probably grateful to have something like this in close proximity. You'll find 12 grass-fed and naturally raised burgers on the menu, and we tried to order damn near everything because they're all eight bucks.

Big winners were the No. 1 (aged Cheddar, smoked bacon, charred balsamic red onions, Rufus Teague’s BBQ sauce), No. 3 (NY pastrami, Grand Cru Gruyere cheese, sauerkraut, Leroy’s remoulade), No. 4 (roasted hatch green chile, fried farm egg, Sonoma Jack cheese, smoked bacon) and the No. 10 (grass-fed lamb, sheep’s milk feta, olive tapenade, tomato & onion salad, tzatziki)—which came highly recommended by MK exec chef Erick Williams (who was working the line that night).

And then there were the milkshakes.

They were chocolatey, malted and so thick that we had to scoop up all that goodness with spoons . . .

Speaking of scoops, you know 312DD's got you covered when it comes to the weekend:


Get a head start on that holiday shopping with the Women Helping Women benefit hosted by The Chicago Chapter of the Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails ("Chicago LUPEC") and Maeve. More than 10 West Loop boutiques participate, where you'll get discounts on merchandise and comped classic cocktails and apps. A portion of proceeds benefits the Greenhouse Shelter for Women, and you can find the complete list of shops here. 5-9pm. Donations/tips.

While the girls will be shopping till they drop in the West Loop, guys will flock to Haberdash (1350 N. Wells St.) in Old Town for the Try Something On Event. Spend at least $100 and get a $50 savings toward purchases, plus you'll be treated to wine, beer and pizza. A portion of the proceeds benefits Big Love, Little Hearts. 6-9pm. No cover.

The third-annual Chill event benefits the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. Taking place at LuxeHome at Merchandise Mart, the cocktail party includes tastings from some of our fave chefs, including Chris Pandel (The Bristol), Mark Mendez (Carnivale), Randy Zweiban (Province) and Roger Herring (Socca). Get tix here. 6-8:30pm. $85.


A new Greek BYO opened in Lakeview this week, and in addition to classic items, Melanthios Greek Char House will definitely get major props for its weekend roasts of whole pigs and lamb. Yum.

NYC’s DJ Kiss spins at Angels & Kings on Saturday. (Photo: DJ Kiss)


Discounted tix are still available for Pinot Days, occurring at Navy Pier. 1-5pm. $50.

A free wine-focused event goes down at the Goddess and Grocer in Bucktown, where author Jean Iversen will be on hand for a booksigning for BYOB Chicago. Get there early for samplings of her fave wine picks, plus apps. 2-4pm. No cover.

Sniff. Sniff. Tonight's the final night for Sonotheque, as the trendy West Town tavern has been sold to a New York entrepreneur. This last event will include performances by deep-house deejays Torin Edmond, Joe DePresser and Anthony Nicholson. 9pm-3am. Cover TBD.

DJ Kiss—New York's most glamorous spin star—returns for a late-night set at Angels & Kings. Look for her to rock the tables with soul, mashups, funk, hip-hop and of course, mad sex appeal. 11pm-5am. No cover.


If you think weekend nights are nuts over at 33 Club, wait until their new brunch service catches on. Jerry Kleiner's latest sensation in Old Town now serves up heaving plates of whole wheat banana pancakes, Challah French toast and several omelet dishes each Saturday and Sunday. Oh, and since the game's on in the lounge, expect a solid singles scene. 10am-2pm.


Shift Drinks continues one of the city's most popular industry nights at Pops for Champagne. Guest bartenders this week are executive chef Sarah Stegner and mixologist Daniel Sviland from Prairie Grass Cafe. 9pm-2am. Free.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Guess Who'll Appear on 'Check, Please!' as a Guest Reviewer?!


Just got a tip from an Ultimate Insider that NBC-5 weather anchor Ginger Zee will be on Friday's Check, Please! with the fabulous host Alpana Singh.

They'll be reviewing Chaise Lounge in Bucktown, Veerasway in the West Loop, and Port Edward in Algonquin, Ill.

The show airs 8pm Friday.

Update on Gilt—Set to Open Early 2010

Look for this space, the former home to Aigre Doux, to dramatically change come January when it becomes Gilt.

An Ultimate Insider just dropped this in the 312DD inbox on Gilt, which we first introduced to you in October:

"The space is still being built out, but the floor plan will be huge. The area on the left side of the picture on your site is all open now and will have additional seating, giving a much wider feel to the restaurant.

"There is a very large and interesting light fixture that is full of tendrils with seperate lights in the middle of the space still to be hung. ... The focus top to bottom is value and good food. Entrees at or under $20 and a tight, focused wine list, along with good, inexpensive beers. There was more talk as well of charcuterie - these folks seem really excited to hang there own cured meats and I can't wait to try it. One of the guys responsible for that was the charcuterie person at L20, I am told."

Opening date is still up in the air for Brendan Sodikoff's spot, but we're still hearing January.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Yet Another Dining Bombshell on a Very Busy Day!

Dale Levitski is the new executive chef of Sprout. (Photo: Ellen Malloy)

It's been a busy day in the dining world of Chicago.

The latest news to hit the Twitterverse this afternoon is that former Top Chef cheftestant Dale Levitski has now landed at Sprout, which just opened last week.

Here's what to expect on the menu, according to GrubStreet, but now that Levitski's in, we expect most items to change immediately except the so-called "deconstructed" burger.

This also makes us wonder: Is Levitski's Town & Country project now dead in the water?!

Lights Out for Sonotheque . . .

(Photo: Sonotheque)

We'd been hearing the rumors for a year, but Time Out confirms that hipster hangout Sonotheque will shutter on Nov. 15.

Paul Devitt, who's behind the Beauty Bar franchises in Brooklyn, San Francisco and Vegas, takes over as owner.

End of an effing era.

Big Star vs. Xoco!

Tacos from Big Star (Photo: Grant Kessler)

Rick Bayless tweeted Saturday that his casual Mexican eatery, Xoco, served more than 1,000 diners that day.

The River North resto's been mad busy since debuting in early fall, but now that Paul Kahan's Big Star has opened in Wicker Park, will the lines continue to snarl around the block?!

Both celeb chefs have put their unique spins on these ventures, and even though they're both Mexican focused, that's where the similarities end. In the end, it all depends on what you're looking for:

Early birds will continue to flock to Xoco simply because it opens at 7am Tuesday-Saturday. Plus, they serve a number of Mexican-accented hot chocolate and coffee drinks.

Caldos at Xoco. (Photo: Rick Bayless)

Big Star, on the other hand, will be the destination for late-night revelers as the kitchen stays open until 2am. They're also planning to feature occasional live music acts and deejays from sister spot Danny's Tavern.

On the food frontier, Xoco's menu offers an expansive menu of culinary bites, from breakfast goodies (vanilla sour cream coffeecake!) to tortas, caldos and desserts. Big Star's menu is very streamlined, only offering a short list of specialty tacos, chips and salsa, and the very mouthwatering paletas, or Mexican creamsicles.

And finally, while you'll be able to kick back with wine and Mexican beer at Xoco, Big Star's taking its cocktail program to another level. The Violet Hour's Michael Rubel has put together a list of all-American whiskies, small-batch tequilas, American beers and regional sodas.

A selection of straightforward cocktails is available as well, but as Rubel says, "It's not about the cocktails. It's about the spirits."

Grocery Bistro Loses Another Chef


It's not even been open for a year, but Grocery Bistro has had drama going on since day one.

First there was the controversial boycott by former chef Andre Christopher's family. Then, all summer there were rumors of additional legal actions being taken against the property.

Now comes word that the second chef, Monica Walters, is out.

An Ultimate Insider tells 312DD that she hasn't been back since the weekend.

UPDATE: A new chef's already in place. Jeremy Kiens, formerly of BIN 36 and the now-shuttered Tallulah, plans to kick it up a notch in Grocery Bistro's kitchen.

Says our Ultimate Insider: "He's a bad-ass chef and someone to watch out for."

UPDATE: Ummmmm, Kiens apparently is not in the kitchen yet, according to a spokesperson from the restaurant, adding: "The current chef is Dan Marquis, also of Pasha restaurant. The new menu, which was debuted last night, is all of his doing, and he is the one running the place."

Happy 40th Anniversary, Sesame Street!


Forty decades later and the world's most entertaining and educational children's television series is still going strong.

Whenever the likes of Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster and Grover popped up on the screen, little kids everywhere were glued to the tube no matter their socioeconomic status or ethnicity.

Even our local dining and nightlife professionals—who were all little kids at one time, too!—were drawn to the sunny days of Sesame Street. It's no surprise their fondest memories of the ground-breaking program helped shape their obsession with food.

312DD got several of them to reach back, waaay back and share some thoughts:

Todd Appel (Mixologist/Crimson Lounge): "I had a Cookie Monster hand puppet and played with my him all riled up and he went nuts whenever I put it on."

Curtis Duffy (Chef de Cuisine/Avenues): "Cookie Monster was my favorite character. I remember waiting to see him chomp the cookies and loved how aggressive he was when it was time to eat them. I also loved that he would not do anything unless he had a cookie in return. Cookie Monster, all that he could answer and think about was me and food!"

Michael Farah (Owner/Berry Chill): "I always wanted to see the inside of Oscar the Grouch's garbage can!"

Troy Graves (Eve): "I have a lot of 'Sesame Street' memories. One of them is the operatic orange singing Habernara from 'Carmen.' Another great one is the Alligator King and his seven sons. I remember a thing where they painted numbers on white bread with ketchup and mustard. I also remember seeing them show women in the streets rolling out tortillas."

Adam Seger (Mixologist/Nacional 27): "I loved Cookie Monster's food obsession. I could relate as a chubby kid."

Cary Taylor (Executive Chef/Chaise Lounge): "COOKIE MONSTER!!!"

Erick Williams (Executive Chef/MK): "My memories are Big Bird singing 'Sunny Day, sweeping the clouds away.’ Also, counting along with the count and holding the fond memory that one is the loneliest number you’ll ever see."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Stage Bites: The Weekly Dining & Drinking Guide

New Wave quintet Devo performs at The Vic Thursday.

Every Monday look for the week's top performances paired with the best deals before and after the show:

Inner Torments at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park. Fulcrum Point New Music Project's multi-media, movie-themed concert highlights signature selections from The Reader (composed by Nico Muhly), Being John Malkovich (Béla Bartók), Jacob ter Veldhuis’s Grab It!, and Randall Woolf’s score for Holding Fast, a new documentary about Tibetan refugees by Mary Harron (American Psycho) and John C. Walsh. Film excerpts accompany each work. 7:30pm Nov. 12. Get discounted tickets (when you use promo code 5519) here, which also includes a reception immediately following performance.

The Gage: Menu can get a bit pricey, but only if you don't know what you're doing. Choose from four sections of the menu, including snacks and small, share-able plates of wild game dishes. Best fall offerings: braised rabbit salad with crisp rice ($14); bison tartare with radish, pickles, cucumber, watermelon and curry ($16); fried chicken livers with spicy mustard ($8); and MacFarlane pheasant thigh with sherry, Seckel pears, beluga lentils and rosemary ($10).

Sweetwater: The guys behind Wicker Park sensation The Boundary have yet another hit on their hands with this lounge located a block away from Millennium Park. Expect a business casual, after-work vibe, plus Cajun shrimp rigatoni, a number of wraps, and a build-your-own burger option with toppings like chili aioli, caramelized onions and Oaxacan cheddar.

Tavern at the Park: A number of casual bites can also be found on the menu at this resto located directly across from the park. Miniature Tavern Teasers (prime rib, Buffalo chicken or sirloin cheeseburger; $7-$9) top the list, plus offerings such as fig & prosciutto flatbread and prawn risotto are also popular.

Sweetwater (Photo: Urban Daddy Chicago)

Devo at The Vic. New Wave's geekiest group takes the stage to sing 1980s hits Whip It and Girl U Want. 8pm Thursday, Friday. Get tickets here, including VIP tix where you'll get to meet and greet the artists.

Kirkwood: Attracts a mostly post-collegiate, young professional crowd. They're going for $1 mini burgers, $2.50 domestic bottles on Thursday; $5 Svedka vodka cocktails, $4 Blue Moon pints on Friday.

Trader Todd's: Before Thursday's show, head here for a special fiesta menu (every Thursday) with $2 quesadillas, nachos, chili, and chips and salsa, plus $5 margaritas. And on Fridays, folks flock here for the all-you-can-eat shrimp (with cole slaw and baby red potatoes) for $6.95. 5-8pm.

The Addams Family at Ford Center for the Performing Arts. See the show before it hits Broadway early next year. Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth star in the production based on the kooky television series. Nov. 13-Jan. 10. Get tickets here.

Bar Novo: It's a small, yet mighty menu with updated versions on classic bar bites. We cannot get enough of the deconstructed, smoked prime rib nachos, grilled Kobe beef sliders or mini Cuban sandwiches (which come with mini Coronas!).

State and Lake: theWit's first-floor gastropub is now doing microbrew flights of three, five-ounce pours for $7. Choose from All Hopped Up (Avery Brewing Co., IPA; Surly, Furious Dry Hop Pale Ale; Founders, Red Rye Pale Ale), Autumn in the Loop (Great Lakes, “Nosferatu,” Red Ale; Two Brothers, Cane and Ebel, Red Rye; Founders, Porter) or For the Love of Beer (Two Brothers, French Country Ale; Goose Island, Matilda; Left Hand, Milk Stout).

South Water Kitchen: Weeknights feature half-price off on the tavern menu (brick-oven flatbreads, a charcuterie plate, truffled eggs, pretzels with warm butterkase cheese and beer dip) 4-6pm. Also, check out the wallet-friendy wine list where all bottles are $15 everyday; and $3 for all draft beer on Thursday.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Don't Keep Phil Vettel Waiting!

(Photo: Mercadito)

Chicago Tribune critic Phil Vettel dropped by Mercadito one Saturday night and had to wait for a table for a mighty looooong time even though he had a reso:

"I arrived on a Saturday night, and my heart sank almost immediately. There were people clustered by the host stand, three-deep at the bar and taking up every available bit of floor space (and some not-so-available spaces). My prospects for immediate seating seemed poor.

So we waited. And waited. Every 15 minutes or so, we'd check back in for another 'just a few minutes' update. The hostess even tried the 'I was just looking for you' ploy (she had done no such thing). She assured us that the first round of drinks would be free, and later upgraded that offer by saying there'd be some free guacamole. A manager, or someone acting like one, apologized for the delay and said that when it came time for the check, he'd stop by the table with an adjustment that would, in his words, 'make you happy.'

When check-time came, our waiter comped a round of drinks, but the additional adjustments never materialized. Not that that matters much to me, because the Tribune reimburses me for my meals. But it was another promise unkept.

We did get seated, about 65 minutes after our reservation (tip o' the hat to the anonymous tout by the host stand), and things improved slightly."

The cost of Mercadito's growing pains?! They earned only one star from Vettel.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Grown 'n' Sexy Circus Comes to Town

Everything's bigger in Texas. And last weekend, nothing was bigger than
"The Most Interesting Show in the World," which took place in Dallas. The Dos Equis-sponsored show makes its way to Chicago Friday. (Photo: Dos Equis)

Who needs Ringling Bros. when you can check out The Most Interesting Show in the World, a traveling showcase of unorthodox acts put on by pale lager king Dos Equis.

Taking place at Park West Friday, the wacky event includes a number of amazing acts from around the world, from burlesque performers and The Human Slinky to a contortionist and a guy juggling chainsaws. Angelo Moore of Fishbone fame hosts the madness.

It's free, booze is on them, and it all goes down at 8pm. Find out more info here, but the free tickets are no longer available online.

Here's what else is happening this weekend:


Sushi Samba is 10 years old, so they're celebrating all month with a special menu highlighting some of the best dishes over the years. The $79 Omakase menu includes faves like lobster tempura roll, pan-seared scallops and the South American maki roll.

Hearty, the homey bistro from Stephen McDonagh and Dan Smith of Hearty Boys fame, debuts in Lakeview. We're looking forward to offbeat bites like rabbit corn dogs, lobster pot pie, and pork belly and beans. Yummy in that tummy!

There's a New Holland Brewing event at SmallBar on Division Street. That means you'll get to meet the founder, Brett Vanderkamp, and also have the rare opp to taste beers rarely found in Chicago. On draft you'll get New Holland's oak-aged Mad Hatter, Existential Hop Wine and Brother Jacob Dubbel. Starts at 8pm.


BIN 36 has been celebrating 10 years in business all year long, and this month's special is a doozy: jumbo shrimp and freshly shucked oysters for $2! And if you think that's awesome, wait until December—the actual anniversary month—when they unveil deals for $1. Cannot wait.

Speaking of monthly deals, Tiny Lounge, in North Center, has released its November menu and it looks pretty good. Sweet potato ravioli, grass-fed Wisconsin mini burgers and Ahi tuna tacos all sound good to us.

The annual Chili Cook-Off happens Sunday at Sheffield's.


A Sip for St. Ben's takes place in a pretty cool location. The wine-tasting party happens at Aquae Sulis showroom (2211 N. Elston St.). They've even gotten a sommelier from Scoozi! to answer your burning questions about wine. The party raises scholarship money for St. Benedict High School. 7-10pm. $50.


Attention, singles: Think about making HUB51 your brunch destination this fall. They're showcasing college football on Saturdays and the NFL Sundays on several large screens, which means the boys and girls will be out in full force. What sounds good to us: Be-A-Man Steak and Eggs, Cinnamon Skinny Pancakes and pulled chicken nachos. They're also doing something called a Bloody Samurai, which swaps out vodka for sake. 10am-2pm.

If you think your chili's the bomb, enter it in the annual Chili Cook-Off happening at Sheffield’s. The winner gets a $200 Sheffield’s gift card, but even if you don't compete you still win because you'll get to taste them all, plus chow down from a buffet of quesadillas, pork sliders, tater tots and more. 2-5pm. $15 ticket includes food and two beer tickets (three beer tickets for contestants).


Mmmmm, Big Star finally opens.

It's industry night at In Fine Spirits, in Andersonville. Monday Mix happens every second Monday of the month, and this month they're featuring barrel selected bourbon from Buffalo Trace distillery. Special guest bartender is award-winning mixologist Peter Vestinos. 8-10pm. Free.

And cast members from Young Frankenstein will perform during Monday Night Live at Petterino's. If I were you I'd get there early because the open-mic event is usually pretty crowded, but they're expecting an especially large turnout tonight. Starts at 7:30pm. $15 per person dining minimum.