Thursday, June 28, 2012

Who Made Wine Enthusiast's Coveted 'America's 100 Best Wine Restaurants' for 2012?!

Longman & Eagle is one of seven Chicago restaurants to make Wine Enthusiast's "America's 100 Best Wine Restaurants of 2012" list. (Photo: Longman & Eagle)

Big ol' props go out to seven spectacular Chicago spots that made Wine Enthusiast's annual America's 100 Best Wine Restaurants list in the August issue.

According to the magazine, the 100 restaurants stood out to the editors because of their innovative menus, excellent hospitality and extraordinary wine service. Here are the Chicago honorees:

Shots Fired: Graham Elliot Kicks Steve Dolinsky Out Of G.E.B.

Graham Elliot (Photo: Anthony LaPenna)

This is absolutely the craziest ass story of the week.

So, according to Eater Chicago, celeb chef Graham Elliot put the word out to his staff at g.e.b. "not to allow (Steve) Dolinsky to eat there." When the acclaimed food writer and television personality showed up for lunch Thursday, he was kicked out after the third course. KICKED OUT.

Michael Simon To Leave Acadia

Acadia bartender Michael Simon. (Photo: Acadia)

There's been a bit of shuffling in the bartender world lately, with Debbi Peek leaving Balena/The Bristol as well as Charles Joly resigning from The Drawing Room for a career-changing opportunity at The Aviary.

Now comes word that the talented Michael Simon's last day at Acadia is Saturday. He posted to Twitter Thursday:

The Gage Fetes 5 Years with $5 Brews, Bourbon and 5-Course Menu

The Gage's Basil Escargot with goat cheese risotto arrives piping hot in a miniature cast iron pot. (Photos: Freddy Love)

Dirk Flanigan reflected fondly Wednesday night over the dish he believes nailed him the job as executive chef at The Gage:

"When I was auditioning at (owner) Billy Lawless' house, I made basil escargot with goat cheese risotto," he said. "I truly believe this was the dish that got me the job."

Five years later finds the creamy and decadent appetizer back on the menu in time for the award-winning Loop restaurant's anniversary celebration. And through July 12, guests will be able to order it as well as a number of specially priced a la carte dishes and libations.

The Gage's lamb chops done two ways: grilled and in a stew Vindaloo.

During the two-week promotion, they're also serving up commemorative beverages that are each priced at $5. Highlights include The Gage Single Barrel 9-Year Bourbon and Goose Island Luciana—a smoky, Belgian double created annually in collaboration with Goose Island Brew Master Jared Rouben.

See the entire anniversary menu below:

Take The 'Fatso Po'Boy Challenge'

The six-pound shrimp Po'Boy with a pound of fries that patrons will have 60 minutes to eat in the "Fatso Po'Boy Challenge." (Photo: Phil's Last Stand)

Phil's Last Stand in Ukrainian Village just launched a contest that sounds like an impossible task:

"Contestants will have 60 minutes to put away a 6-pound shrimp Po'Boy, a pound of fries and a 32-ounce drink. Each time a guest fails to complete the Po'Boy Challenge, Phil's Last Stand adds $100 to the winner's pot: the last successful eater walked away with $1,000 on top of a $50 gift card, a T-shirt and, most notably, his name engraved on the coveted winner's plaque."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Charles Joly Named Head Of The Aviary's Award-Winning Beverage Program


Beginning at the end of July, the award-winning mixologist Charles Joly will leave The Drawing Room to take over the beverage program at The Aviary, which was recently vacated by Craig Schoettler.

The Aviary partners Nick Kokonas and Grant Achatz announced Wednesday in a statement:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Arami Sushi Chef B.K. Park Signs Off

Arami Sushi Chef B.K. Park. (Photo: Arami)

Eater Chicago delivered a shocking blow to fans of Arami Tuesday afternoon: Talented sushi chef B.K. Park resigned his position on Monday.

As a result, the popular Ukrainian Village restaurant has shuttered until mid-July to retool the menu:

Monday, June 25, 2012

New Proposed Food Truck Ordinances Ignore South Side

Haute Sausage's truck working overtime during lunch. (Photo: Haute Sausage)

The city's department of Business and Consumer Protection hosted a meeting Monday with food truck operators to preview two versions of ordinances that will allow them to finally cook on the vehicles.

According to an article by Crain's Chicago, in one version "they'll face major parking restrictions, limitations on the number of trucks, steeper licensing fees and hefty fines for breaking the rules."

Included in the eight new rules proposed were three mobile food truck loading zones: The first: Addison Street to Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street to Western Avenue. The second will extend from Lake Michigan to Ashland Avenue to Diversey Avenue to Irving Park Rd. The third: Lake Michigan to Des Plaines Street and North Avenue to Jackson Boulevard.

Former San Fran Chef New Rising Star at The Bristol

The Bristol's newly crowned chef de cuisine Tony Quartaro. (Photo: Twitter)

Since rock star chef Chris Pandel has been so busy working his magic over at Italian hot spot Balena, it made perfect sense to get a replacement at The Bristol.

That replacement comes in the form of Tony Quartaro, a young chef who left his post two months ago at New York's Fedora to work alongside the award-winning culinary artist. Previously, he worked at New York's Pulino's as well as San Francisco's Nopa and A16.

Get Ready For Firefighter Friday!

(Photo: Sauza Tequila)

Clear your calendar on June 29 because on this day only you'll get to meet the Sauza Tequila firefighters.

That's because Sauza's "Regional Rescue Tour" makes a stop in our fair city at River North hot spots Public House and Cantina Laredo.

Now, for some of y'all, hanging out with these certified hotties is enough, but there is more:

It's a Wrap for Sarah's Pastries & Candies

Pastry Chef Sarah Levy (Photo via

Here is some very sad and shocking news I just received in my inbox:

"Thank you to all of our loyal customers, it has been a great seven years. We are so honored to have been a part of so many of your celebrations - from making your birthday and weddings cakes to sending out your holiday gift baskets and pouring your morning coffee. We feel fortunate to have been a part of your lives.

What's Hotter Than July?!

Sepia celebrates five years in July with complimentary cocktails when diners purchase an entree such as the signature flat-iron steak with Bearnaise. (Photo: Sepia)

June is pretty much over, so let's take a look to see what July has to offer:

• You can finally check out your fave celeb chefs on the cheap at City Porch. Each month, a different high-profile toque headlines the menu at the brand-new Navy Pier pop-up concept. In July, look for Italian eats from Tony Mantuano (Bar Toma, Spiaggia).

• All day-dining spot Hash House A Go Go is set to open by the end of July. The concept is "twisted farm food" with dishes like Andy's Sage Fried Chicken Benedict and HH Famous Roasted Chicken Pot Pie. The address, at 1212 N. State Pkwy., has been sort of a deadweight in the area, so here's hoping they have more success.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Major Shakeup at Urban Union: Owner Steps Down

(Photo: Jason Chan)

Jason Chan, the principal partner behind Urban Union, exclusively tells 312DD that he's stepping down as operator of the popular Little Italy restaurant to pursue another dining project.

"I'm still the founder and owner, but I'm no longer the operator on a day-to-day basis," Chan said. "It's extremely important to me that all the customers who came to support me know that I am no longer there. I wish Urban Union all the luck in the world."

Your New Plans on 'Funday Sunday'


If you don't mind being a little sluggish on Monday mornings, you should make plans to head out to these best new Sunday soirees on the scene:

Beauty Bar. For those who like to get down, A Sunday Love Affair happens every last Sunday of the month. Deejays Jaytoo and Seano spin extreme deep house, funk, global grooves and soul for a mature, sophisticated crowd. Drink specials include $3 Old Style, $6 Sophia sparkling wine, $3 tequila shots, and $10 martini and manicures. It's 5-10pm, so my recommendation is to have a late brunch nearby at Branch 27, Butterfly Sushi or Flo and then head over. No cover.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Big Night For Peter Vestinos, City Tavern

Mixologist and cocktail consultant Peter Vestinos. (Photo: Peter Vestinos)

City Tavern was supposed to open Sunday, according to Eater Chicago reports, but after a few technical difficulties it has finally debuted.

The restaurant, helmed by Kendal Duque (Chicago Firehouse, Sepia), offers an old-timey tavern atmosphere . . . right down to the cocktails.

And that's where the acclaimed mixologist Peter Vestinos comes in. The San-Francisco-based bartender previously worked with Duque at Sepia, so it made sense to bring him in on this South Loop project.

His opening cocktail menu highlights his take on some extraordinary classic cocktails, from The Fish House Punch of cognac, black tea-infused Bermuda rum, peach brandy and lemon that was created in 1732 in Philadelphia to the always flavorful Sherry Cobbler that's topped off with champagne and seasonal fruit.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

'The Soiree Series' Underground Party Returns

The Chicago Cabaret Project's "The Soiree Series" is an underground live performance/party taking place in fabulous Chicago homes. (Photo: Chicago Cabaret Project)

My favorite party people last year were the mad talented performers from the Chicago Cabaret Project. Their The Soiree Series targets those no longer into the bump 'n' grind bars, but still enjoy having a good time out.

What sets their parties apart from the usual performance-art as well as nightlife-oriented events is that they're held inside some spectacular-looking Chicago homes. To date, guests have been whisked inside a massive Lincoln Park mansion with a Miami-like pool and patio as well as an elaborate 1894 home in the historic Prairie District. The intrigue is that guests don't know the location until day of the event.

Plus, the soirees include all the elements for a glamorous night out: cocktail party, a room full of dazzling people you want to get to know, and live entertainment.

Thus far, they've done quirky, original numbers as well as some of the most memorable scenes from the Broadway hit, "Cabaret." But it's the third soiree, taking place at 8pm June 29, that promises to take this series to the next level.

Debbi Peek Now At Southern Wine & Spirits

Mixologist Debbi Peek. (Photo: The Bristol)

Balena/The Bristol's magnificent, award-winning bartender Debbi Peek has moved on to take on the role as Southern Wine & Spirit's new Illinois mixologist.

In her fabulous new position, she will "continue the message of community, education and fresh cocktails."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Annual 'Bloody Mary Fest' & More . . .


It's a Chicago thing.

Seriously, the Bloody Mary can be traced back to the Windy City because the New York bartender who invented it in a Paris pub had the hots for a girl named Mary.

And because of that, you'll find more versions of the famed crimson cocktail here than anywhere else. That's what inspired some folks out in Highwood to create the Bloody Mary Fest, which takes place 10am-5pm Sunday in Highwood's downtown festival area.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mmmmmm, '100 Days of Tarts' at NoMI!

One of NoMI's signature tarts featuring berries from Seedling Farms. (Photo: NoMI Kitchen)

Just think of the possibilities . . .

Market-fresh strawberries ... peaches ... cherries ... apples and more. Nothing says summer more than a tasty little tart topped with a heaping scoop of house-made ice cream.

The thought of these possibilities was so exciting for NoMI Kitchen pastry chef Meg Galus that she decided to celebrate with a 100 Days of Tarts campaign, featuring signature sweets throughout the season. It kicks off June 18 and concludes Sept. 25.

Galus has been working on this project since winter, so look for some of her creations to be based on movie titles ("Clockwork Orange"), classic desserts (Bananas Foster) and summer's best bounty. You, dear reader, can also get in on the action by helping her name these tarts as well as offer suggestions for additional ingredients to make them extra special. Each month, through September, one lucky winner will get the tart of the month for two, paired with wine in NoMI's lounge or garden.

How does it work?!

These Girls Are On Fire!

Kristine Subido of Pecking Order in Uptown. (Photo: Pecking Order)

Time Out Chicago recently featured a sweet little essay on how more women are embracing Chicago's vibrant dining culture. This is especially cool because it's not another story about how we're soooo obsessed with shoes, handbags and lipgloss.

And as ladies who lunch transform into dimes who drink and dine, we're certain they'll support a fresh trio of female-owned restaurants opening this summer—from Kristine Subido's Filipino-focused Pecking Order to Alpana Singh's globally influenced The Boarding House.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Aviary's Signature Stout is on its Way


I cannot wait to see the price tag on the black truffle beer called The Forager that The Aviary is working on now with Denmark-based brewery Mikkeller.

There's no word yet on when it'll be available at the famed gastronomy molecular cocktail lounge, but we'll be the first to tell you . . .

A Crosstown Classic . . . With Cupcakes?!

Magnolia Bakery's first-ever Crosstown Classic cupcakes represent the White Sox and Cubs. (Photo: Magnolia Bakery)

The biggest debate this time of year is whether the Cubs or White Sox represent Chicago best.

And this time around, New York transplant Magnolia Bakery wants to put it to rest by holding the first-ever Crosstown Classic—with cupcake flavors representing both teams.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Give Dad What He Really Wants . . .

McGee's "Classic Car Brunch." (Photo: Freddy Love)

How come Dad always gets the short end of the stick when it comes to his big day?!

Wack-ass ties. Cologne that smells more like shoe polish. And frou-frou brunches fit for a queen, not a king.

Not this year. Instead, give him what he really wants and take him to an event like the annual Classic Car Brunch at McGee's Tavern.

In its seventh year, CCB occurs on Father's Day and showcases the retro rides of his wildest dreams. Look for classic cars to line Webster Avenue at Sheffield all afternoon. There's a bonus if you've got a muscle car to flex yourself: Park it and you'll get brunch for free. 10am-3pm Sunday.

Leave the corny Father's Day stuff to Mr. Brady. Poppa won't preach if you treat him to even more cool happenings at

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cheers: It's Global Negroni Week!

Barrel-aged Negroni photo via

I was doubled over with excitement because of National Lobster Day until I found out that it is also Global Negroni Week.

This is serious business if you're like me and have a secret love affair with both gin and Campari.

A few sweet places where you should consider checking out the classic Italian aperitif:

Craig Schoettler is OUT at The Aviary

Alinea chefs Dave Beran (from left), Craig Schoettler and Grant Achatz discuss The Aviary build out. (Photo: The Aviary)

The award-winning, yet controversial Executive Chef Craig Schoettler is apparently no longer working at The Aviary—according to his latest tweet:

"Good luck The Aviary."

Under Schoettler's leadership, the molecular-focused cocktail lounge has garnered a number of awards and accolades, including being named a Tales of the Cocktail finalist for World's Best New Cocktail Bar (The winner will be announced when the annual cocktail and spirits conference takes place in New Orleans July 25-29). Schoettler did this final interview about The Aviary's innovative cocktail techniques with the Daily Meal Video Network last week.

Schoettler's girlfriend, Jennifer Contraveos, who tends bar at Barcito, tweeted this curious message Monday afternoon:

"Can you post all your genius recipes now? :) Good luck is right."

This looks like there's an interesting story behind those tweets. We'll keep you updated with more details . . .

UPDATE: Looks like he was fired.

We reached out to The Aviary partner Nick Kokonas, and he had this to say:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Let's Scream For SPIKED Iced Cream

Spiked milkshakes from 25 Degrees: Salty Caramel (from left), Turkish Latte, Guinness Milkshake, Drunkin’ Berries. (Photo: Potluck Creative)

It's hot as ##$%^&)#^&(!@*! outside, so it's time to check out these tasty frozen treats from the likes of 25 Degrees, Paramount Room and Bucktown newcomer Red Door.

Stay Cool!

Friday Is National Lobster Day!

Shaw's Crab House celebrates the decadent crustacean in June with "Lobster Festival." (Photo: Shaw's Crab House)

You could be having the absolute worst week of your life, but this news should most certainly pep you up: June 15 is National Lobster Day.

Here's where you should go to celebrate:

Head to South Loop hot spot Acadia for a special deal on chef Ryan McCaskey's pretty legit lobster roll. You'll get it with house-made salt & vinegar chips and an Allagash White beer for $18. Here's a tidbit that should get your mouth watering: McCaskey's so hardcore about his lobster roll that he gets the buns FedExed in from a small market in Maine.

Over at Fishbar, in Lakeview, chef Michael Kornick's pretty obsessed about his signature lobster roll as well. You'll find his stuffed to the gills with fresh lobster and the buttery rolls made in-house.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Bryce Caron Now at Graham Elliot

Award-winning pastry chef Bryce Caron via

This is fantastic news to end the week:

Bryce Caron, the talented, award-winning pastry chef who was recently let go at Blackbird, has a new gig as graham elliot's first-ever pastry chef.

"I couldn't be more excited to have chef Caron join chef (Andrew) Brochu and the talented culinary team at graham elliot,” Graham Elliot said Friday in a release. "We're confident his artistic creations will play an integral part in our restaurant's quest for culinary excellence."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Black Bull Charges Into Wicker Park Thursday

Black Bull's tapas. (Photo: Black Bull Tapas)

And a busy week for restaurant openings continues:

Black Bull, the next chapter for the guys behind Hubbard Inn, debuts Thursday in the former home of Angels & Mariachis.

Their latest venue is a throwback of sorts to their beginnings when they first opened the stylish sports bar and tapas lounge Barcelona in the early 2000s. Hubbard Inn chef Bob Zrenner will helm the kitchen.

And since we're talking about openings, look for Drumbar to finally open on the rooftop of the Raffaello Hotel Friday.

Our friends at Urban Daddy Chicago offer a cool account of what to expect:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Where You Should Have Been Last Night!

Schwa's Michael Carlson plating uni ice cream cones during collaborative dinner at Arami. (Photos: Arami)

If you were one of the lucky ones who scored seats at an apparently under-the-radar dinner between Arami and Schwa on Monday night, we'd like to buy you a beer.

Have no fear if you missed out on it like us because it was such a success that they're planning on doing it again soon. We're also pretty impressed that those guys from Arami got the ultra-elusive chef Michael Carlson to even participate. Here's what we all missed last night:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Where to Feast During the Fests . . .

(Photo: Bistrot Margot)

Heading to Wells Street Art Festival and/or Andersonville Midsommarfest this weekend?!

Here's where you should be drinking and dining . . .

Stout Barrel House & Galley Opens Thursday

(Photos: Stout Barrel House & Galley)

It's an exciting week for restaurant openings with Cru Café & Wine Bar returning to the Gold Coast, Graham Elliot's G.E.B. debuting in the West Loop, and the former Manor guys transforming that space into Stout Barrel House & Galley.

Here's an exclusive, first look at what to expect on the menu at Stout Barrel House & Galley, when it opens Thursday:

Friday, June 1, 2012

National Seafood Month Off To Great Start

Skuna Bay salmon entrée from Telegraph. (Photo: 312 Dining Diva)


Because if you're a salmon fan, you're in for something special now that Skuna Bay is on the menu at some of the top restaurants in the city.

The executive chefs at Ceres' Table, Girl & The Goat, Telegraph and other hot spots are using North America's only craft-raised salmon in exciting ways, and you definitely don't want to miss out during National Seafood Month.

Read all about it at