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 dog...got 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 cookies...like 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."