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The Chicago Restaurant, Bar, and Nightlife Blog 2018-07-19T16:00:02-05:00
Updated: 5 hours 11 min ago

Entertainment Giant IMG To Host New Food Festival Next Month in Chicago

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 16:00

Tastemaker is banking on the spirit of collaboration

A new food festival debuts next month in Chicago hoping that the spirit of collaboration between some big-name chefs can differentiate it from other events in the city. Tastemaker Chicago comes from the backing of IMG, the behemoth entertainment group which produces sports tournaments, pageants, and more. It takes place on August 17-18 at Revel Fulton Market and pairs local chefs together to create a series of dishes exclusive to the event.

The event is positioned to undercut more-expensive festivals, such as Chicago Gourmet. Tickets are all-inclusive and cost $65. Tastemaker debuted in May in Toronto and the goal is to every year hold roving food festivals throughout North America in 10 to 12 cities.

Chicago attendees will be able to eat food cooked collaboratively as the lineup features pairings include Sarah Rinkavage (Marisol) and Jonathan Zaragoza (Birrieria Zaragoza). Rinkavage welcomed the pairings as a way to freshen up the sometimes stale food festival scene. Festgoers can tell when a chef isn’t engaged at a cooking demonstration that’s been repeated over and over again: “We get bored, too,” Rinkavage said.

The chefs will prepare two to three items for the festival. Each item will be two to three bites. They haven’t released the menus yet, but Rinkavage said she’s already met Zaragoza to brainstorm over goat tacos at Zaragoza’s family restaurant in Pilsen: “It’s safe to say we’re going to have some goat,” Rinkavage said.

The event is a like a fantasy draft for fans of dining pairing up chefs like Abe Conlon (Fat Rice) with Jason Hammel (Lula Cafe). Erling Wu-Bower (Pacific Standard Time) is working with Ian Davis (Band of Bohemia). Other participants include Aya Fukai (Aya Pastry) and Danny Grant (Maple & Ash), Graham Elliot and Matthias Merges (Gideon Sweet), and Michael Hunter (Antler Kitchen + Bar in Toronto) and Ryan Pfieffer (Blackbird). Chicagoans may know Hunter from the viral video earlier this year of him breaking down an animal while vegan protesters looked on outside through the restaurant’s window in dismay. They’ve since worked to mend fences.

And don’t think the event isn’t vegan or vegetarian friendly. Other vendors, such as Art of Dosa, will serve vegetarian food. Most of the collaborative pairs will also have at least one meat-free option, said Judy Merry, an IMG culinary director. Besides the pairings (known officially as the Capitol One Savor Tastemaker Kitchen chef participants), they’ll have 40 restaurants including Baptiste & Bottle and BLVD.

“You’ll never be able to try these dishes at another place,” Merry said.

IMG is an event producer which organizes the Miss USA pageant, and various golf, soccer, and tennis tournaments around the world. They began to take a stronger interest in the culinary world about five years ago, said Justin Clarke, senior VP and managing director for culinary at IMG. Clarke has held various “Taste of” festivals in London and elsewhere. No, it’s got nothing to do with Taste of Chicago. These festivals were more restaurant oriented, Clarke said. Tastemaker is more centered around chefs.

Clarke admitted that there is an oversaturation of festivals in Chicago and elsewhere, but he feels Tastemaker has a niche. “We think by doing interesting things with a great value for the money that you’ll have an inspired room,” he said.

Behold Bixi Beer, Where Nerds Reign High Above Logan Square

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 14:00

After three years, this ambitious brewpub with roof deck is here

The turtle god’s reign has almost arrived in Logan Square, as after three years of planning and determination, Bixi Beer could open as early as Monday; they are waiting on a city approval and management is reluctant to commit to a date. This creative Asian-inspired brewpub is from Bo Fowler, the chef and owner of Owen & Engine and Fat Wily’s Rib Shack. Her third restaurant is an ambitious space that brews beer using Asian ingredients and serves food inspired by Fowler’s childhood in South Korea.

The space has room for 200 over two levels with a roof deck that faces out to Milwaukee Avenue. Fowler and friends handled the design themselves. Her brother, a glassblower in Ohio, made the glass light fixtures that hang overhead. Won Kim, the chef behind Kimski, is also an artist who created a mural for the staircase. Fowler gave him direction and Kim painted a tree with dark silhouettes with greenery. It’s got a creepy feel on par with Stranger Things and some of the nerdy sci-fi TV and movies Fowler watches. The tree lacks greenery on its branches for a dramatic effect.

Fowler also called on DC Comics comic book artist Eduardo Risso to craft a mural behind the bar. Risso created the mural from his native Brazil, and it was recreated in Chicago. Fowler is friends with Risso’s collaborator, Brian Azzarello. Azzarello is a loyal customer at O&E and will eventually write back stories behind Bixi’s beer. Look for beer with jasmine tea, sorachi hops, and lemongrass. More beer coverage will come next week.

Take a tour through the space below. Bixi, named for the Chinese turtle god, is almost here. After three years, everyone can muster a little bit more patience.

The first-floor dining room greets diners. The design was handled in house. The view from the bar. The bar is wide enough to enjoy a meal. Comic book artist Eduardo Risso designed this mural. The mural depicts the turtle god hanging out on Lake Michigan. The brewery equipment peeks out from the back. The four booths are ideal for groups. The stairs on the left lead to the second floor. Won Kim, the chef behind Kimski, painted this mural with lights made by Bo Fowler’s brother. The second-floor bar is brightly lit thanks to the skylights. A living wall on the second floor. Step onto the patio where visitors can see the Willis Tower if they stretch their necks. A longview of the outdoor space. The lounge area. Comfy chairs. Family portraits.

12 Chicago Restaurants Overlooked for Michelin Stars

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 12:30

These stellar eateries deserve extra credit

Chicago is one of four American cities with a Michelin presence, which is simply a testament to the strength of the local culinary scene. The Windy City currently counts 25 restaurants with Michelin stars, in addition to a number of Bib Gourmands (Michelin’s accreditation system which typically highlights less formal eateries). For those who have felt that Michelin may have missed a few, here’s a list of excellent Chicago restaurants that do not have Michelin stars (yes, some already have Bib Gourmands), but should.

Note, this includes a mix of high and low—don’t forget that two years ago Michelin began to grant stars to street vendors and food stalls: look no further than Jay Fai in Bangkok and Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle in Singapore.

Uptown’s Upcoming Fine Dining Restaurant Should Open in Late August

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 11:13

Brass Heart has hired a scientist as pastry chef and announces its GM/beverage director

The staff behind Brass Heart, the upcoming restaurant replacing 42 Grams in Uptown, is ready to fill a niche in Chicago’s fine dining scene when they hopefully open in late August. Chef Matt Kerney’s crew has recently been bolstered by two hires. New GM/beverage director Sarah Traynor worked at Blackbird and at various restaurants in Austin, Texas, and pastry Shawn Anderson worked with Kerney at Longman & Eagle as well as at Graham Elliot Bistro and Art Smith’s Table 52.

Brass Heart will be a sleek 20-seater at 4662 N. Broadway Street with Italian marble tables and art from local artists hanging on the wall. Traynor said the buildout is complete. They’re still working on the menu, and thus she doesn’t want to reveal what she has in mind for the wine list. The 12- to 15-course menu will cost $175 per person with an optional wine pairing for $110. Traynor only said it will be “small, but very precise”: “Everything with beverage will mimic what the chefs do in the kitchen.”

Earlier, some critics were crying that the sky was falling as fine dining restaurants such as Grace, 42 Grams, and Tru all closed in rapid succession — all for a myriad of reasons. Traynor feels that’s overblown. For example, tourists have plenty of reasons to visit Chicago, and when they’re in town they often want a special meal from a Michelin-starred or Beard Award-winning restaurant.

“I feel there always is a place for restaurants of that caliber,” she said.

Anderson, the new pastry chef, has a doctorate in science and mathematics with a focus on agricultural education from Oregon State University. That background gives him an advantage as he knows precisely how chemicals react, he said. Anderson most recently worked at Regards to Edith in Fulton Market. He’s a big fan of Kerney’s from their time at Longman & Eagle: “I just like his techniques and his drive to always to try something new and innovative.”

He mentioned Kerney’s approach with savory flavors and said the philosophy is similar to how he makes his desserts. He wants approachable dishes that are recognizable but with a twist: “I think we’re goin to see a little bit of whimsy,” Anderson said.

Brass Heart’s opening is now pegged for late August. Stay tuned for more details.

Ex-Lettuce Entertain You and United Airlines Mixologist Charged With Rape in New Orleans

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 09:41

Police arrested Adam Seger in connection to a 2015 allegation

A Chicago mixologist who’s worked for companies including United Airlines and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises was arrested on Wednesday in New Orleans stemming from a rape allegation the dates back three years. Adam Seger, 48, was jailed in Orleans Parish Prison and charged with a count of third-degree rape, according to court documents. Seger allegedly raped a man at a July 2015 party Seger hosted during the Tales of the Cocktail conference that’s annually held in New Orleans.

Seger is well regarded in Chicago’s restaurant industry. He’s created cocktails for restaurants such as Maple & Ash, Tru, and Nacional 27. United also employed him two years ago to train its bartenders and create drinks for its frequent fliers and club customers. He’s been splitting his time between Chicago and New York and was in Chicago for the James Beard Awards in May. Seger is a cocktail consultant and worked as executive bartender and corporate sommelier for iPic Entertainment, a luxury movie theater company based in Florida with more than 100 locations across the country. The company has fired him following the news of the allegations, according to a company statement. The company said they weren’t aware of the allegations before hiring him in 2016.

The alleged incident happened on July 17, 2015, according to records obtained by The Times-Picayune. The victim reported the incident to police on July 20, 2015. After passing out at the party, the victim woke up and said he found Seger performing oral sex without consent, according to the newspaper. A warrant was signed for Seger’s arrest last year on July 25, 2017. The police records reportedly contained photos of Seger and the victim with Seger asleep in the man’s lap. After the alleged incident, Seger reportedly repeatedly apologized to the victim. According to reports, he sent a bottle of champagne to the victim’s table two days after the incident while at an event the two attended separately.

Seger was held on a $25,000 bond. He posted the requisite amount and was released on Wednesday night, according to Orleans Parish Prison records. His next court date is August 15. An email sent to Seger on Wednesday produced an auto response stating that he was out of the country. Tuesday was Seger’s birthday.

Read a portion of iPic’s statement below:

“We take allegations of sexual misconduct seriously. It is our highest priority to uphold policies that ensure iPic Entertainment remains a safe and supportive environment for our team members and guests. These acts are inconsistent with our values as a company and are in no way reflective of the over 2,000 team members employed by iPic.”

Alpana Singh’s The Boarding House Shutters After $1.5 Million Back Rent Lawsuit

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 16:00

But Singh says she sold her stake in the River North restaurant last year

The Boarding House, the restaurant that Alpana Singh opened more than five years ago, abruptly closed on Tuesday night in River North. The swanky multi-level restaurant at 720 N. Wells Street was known for its wine list, vegetarian menus, and Singh’s involvement. The shutter comes a day after a Cook County judge issued a citation against the restaurant’s owners to pay $117,723 in back rent to the building’s landlords who had filed a lawsuit against the restaurant in March.

The ongoing lawsuit seeks more than $1.5 million in back rent extending back to December, according to court records. The restaurant owners in October 2015 had agreed to a five-year extension to bring the current lease to January 2021. The courts on Monday issued a judgement in favor of the landlord, in this case a trust formed by Eugene Chesrow, a well-known commodities trader. The next court date is August 6.

Singh is the master sommelier whose popularity rose after 10 seasons as host of PBS Chicago’s Check, Please! She texted on Wednesday afternoon writing that she sold her stake in Boarding House in October. That’s the same time she sold her stake in Seven Lions, a downtown Chicago restaurant. Singh still owns Terra & Vine in suburban Evanston. She also texted the same statement she shared with the Tribune thanking staff and customers: “We will definitely miss everyone but leave with incredible, truly unforgettable and loving memories in our hearts,” part of her statement read.

Singh added that she wasn’t “able to answer questions pertaining to the restaurant’s legal matters.” She directed inquiries to co-owner John Ward. Ward wrote, via email, that he also couldn’t discuss the legal proceedings. He expressed shock in the shutter, writing that The Boarding House “was a great place and I feel for my employees and my investors.” An email to the plaintiff’s attorneys wasn’t returned.

Singh is returning as host of Check, Please!, but her first restaurant will not return.

Wrigleyville Late-Night Bar Trace Will Close After 17 Years

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 14:00

The 4 a.m. bar has been sold to new owners

After 17 years of 4 a.m. bar hijinks along Clark Street, Trace is closing in Wrigleyville. It won’t happen immediately, but Bottleneck Management (Boundary in Wicker Park, Howells & Hood off the Mag Mile), has sold its first bar. The new owners, Last Call Tavern Group (Full Shilling in Wrigleyville, Butcher’s Tap in Lakeview), will run Trace through the end of the Cubs season at 3714 N. Clark Street. They’ll then close Trace with the intentions of opening a new bar by the end of year, according to a news release.

Wrigleyville’s transformation has been well documented, as new construction has created new restaurants such as the ones inside the Hotel Zachary across the street from the stadium. That was a factor for selling, said Bottleneck’s Jason Akemann, but it wasn’t the driver. Bottleneck wants to continue to grow its national presence, especially with City Works. City Works is a bar and restaurant that’s expanded to seven locations since 2016. It’s already in Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami, D.C.-area, and Pittsburgh. Bottleneck also has plans for Boston, Buffalo, another in D.C. and a trio in the suburbs. A Schaumburg location should open in March, while locations in Vernon Hills and Wheeling should arrive next year.

“We couldn’t give [Trace] the attention it deserves,” Akemann said.

But Trace was Bottleneck’s first, and selling the bar closes a chapter in the company’s history. The group has grown from one bar to 25 in 17 years.

“Because it’s the first, it will always hold a special place in my heart,” Akemann said.

Trace was a rare bar in Wrigleyville that had a 4 a.m. late-liquor license. Akemann didn’t know what Last Call planned to do with the space. A Last Call rep didn’t respond to a request for details. So stay tuned.

The 11 Essential Korean Restaurants in Chicago

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 12:35

Pass the kimchi, please

One of life’s greatest pleasures is seeing the onslaught of dish after dish of banchan filling up a table. Yet with fusion spots and fancy restaurants adding a little fine dining flair to traditional dishes, Chicago’s Korean restaurants have much more than Korean barbecue. From bibimbap to a big bowl of soup or a hearty Korean pancake, here’s where to eat some of Chicago’s excellent Korean fare.

Chicago Tribune Food Critic Reveals Face After 29 Years of Anonymity

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 11:06

Phil Vettel wants to even the playing field

After 29 years, Chicago Tribune restaurant critic Phil Vettel is finished with his charade of anonymity. The Tribune published a photo of Vettel on Wednesday morning next to a column where Chicago’s longest-running critic admitted that after nearly three decades many Chicago restaurant owners and employees recognize his face — despite going to great lengths to protect his identity. “Shedding the mask” won’t affect how he writes, he said, but it may give him a chance to make the occasional public appearance or appear on a Tribune video without feeling he’s compromised.

Vettel also cites the chance at evening the playing field. Some restaurants may recognize him and thus pay more attention to him all the while without leading on that they’re giving him preferential treatment. That’s unfair to the restaurants that don’t recognize him and aren’t pandering to the critic. Chicago’s restaurant world is a competitive one, and Vettel doesn’t want to reward savvy restaurants who pretend to serve typical meals when in truth they’re treating Vettel like a VIP.

Five years ago, many critics began revealing their identities. Some use fake names while making reservations to try to preserve the integrity of their reviews. Some critics continue to protect their identities because they don’t want the special attention. Eater’s own ethics statement reads “Eater critics will strive for anonymity when reviewing restaurants, meaning they will make reservations under assumed names, avoid posting photos of themselves publicly, and refrain from revealing their identities when introduced to chefs and restaurateurs.”

Within Vettel’s piece, he cites Los Angeles Times critic Jonathan Gold and Allison Cook of the Houston Chronicle as two who have already revealed their identities to the public. Perhaps Chicago will eventually see plaques hanging around Chicago restaurants with Vettel’s face in the same vein as how Steve Dolinsky’s (The Hungry Hound) mug adorns several walls.

The Tribune published his reviews with an empty box where the writer’s photo should be. The paper hasn’t yet managed to add a photo to the box, but it appears it’s finally time for Vettel’s close up.

Here are few reactions to Vettel’s move, the first from former Tribune writer Kevin Pang. Pang’s now the editor in chief of the Takeout:

I worked there for 11 years and this is the first time I've seen what @philvettel looks like

— Kevin Pang (@pang) July 18, 2018

Michael Gebert, the Chicago food writer behind Fooditor, made a similar joke:

First time I've seen what @philvettel looks like, too

— Fooditor (@Fooditor) July 18, 2018

Alinea Group co-founder Nick Kokonas also chimed in. His Fulton Market restaurant, Next, has been the recipient of several positive reviews from Vettel, no matter what the rotating restaurant serves:

This is smart to do-there is no anonymity anymore. That said, one of my favorite things to do over the last 15 years is to introduce myself to critics who think they are anonymous, and let them know we are doing our jobs correctly! Always made our staff squirm, but it was honest

— nick kokonas (@nickkokonas) July 18, 2018

Cubs to Serve Rick Bayless’ Acclaimed Mexican Food at Wrigley Starting Tomorrow

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 10:00

Plus, a boozy Taco Bell is slated to come to Lincoln Park next and more intel

Rick Bayless is the next prominent chef to serve food at the home of the Cubs. Starting Thursday, July 19 until July 26, Bayless and his Frontera staff’s menu features hatch green chile tacos, carnitas tacos, toto elotes, Frontera guacamole, and “Mexico Calling” lager from Cruz Blanca for the next installment of the Wrigley Field chef series. Look for it at the Sheffield Corner space in right field.

— Lincoln Park is slated to be the next Chicago neighborhood to get a boozy Taco Bell. A community meeting is on the docket for July 24 for a proposed Taco Bell Cantina at 2407 N. Clark Street, a space that used to house Ponzu Sushi. Since America’s original boozy bell opened in Wicker Park in 2015 more have popped up in the Loop, Streeterville, and another is coming to Logan Square.

— Next month Chicago is getting a popup exhibition called the wndr museum which will feature, in addition to Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms, some interesting food experiences. Among those are an “edible cloud” prototype which lets people taste a variety of traditional food and drink in cloud form, which former Moto executive chef Richie Farina will help with. Tickets and more information for the popup at 1130 W. Monroe Street, which starts August 17, are available here.

— New ownership has taken over former Lakeview mainstay J.P. Burke’s Tap and a new concept is slated to open in the space at 2913 N. Lincoln Avenue “in the next few weeks,” according to social media, but there’s no word yet who or what it will be. The bar shuttered in January after five years in business.

— And finally, organizers of the second annual Taste of Black Chicago have revealed a partial list food vendors for this year’s fest, coming to 7351 S. Stony Island Avenue on August 18. They include Brown Sugary Bakery, Luella’s Southern Cuisine, Royal Caribbean Jerk Cuisine, and many more.

TAO Chicago Renderings Reveal a Sneak Peek at Upcoming River North Hot Spot

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 16:42

A giant Buddha statue and more

As September inches closer, the owners of TAO are cranking up the hype machine for the opening of their Chicago restaurant and nightclub. They’ve released more renderings showcasing how design teams are transforming the 126-year-old building that housed the original Chicago Historical Society and several nightclubs including Limelight and Castle.

The 34,000-square-foot space has been split in levels at 632 N. Dearborn Street. Designers told Forbes that they hoped to make the Asian-inspired decor look like it had been left inside for centuries. The club’s entrance resembles a Japanese temple gates with lanterns illuminating the path. They’ve retained the Rockwell Group, the same New York firm that designed the first TAO in 2000.

TAO has a reputation in LA, Las Vegas, and New York as a space where fans hope to catch glimpses of their favorite celebrities. Chicago may not be a as much of a celebrity magnet as those other cities, but TAO founder Rich Wolf said he feels the city will welcome his restaurant’s Pan Asian cuisine. It’s also a very lucrative business, as the Vegas locations is the most profitable independent restaurant in America.

Take a glimpse at the renderings below and keep it here for updates.

The entrance is inspired by Japanese temple gates. Designers saved the exposed brick from the original building. A giant Buddha statue is a TAO signature. The building is divided into several spaces for dining, drinking, and more.

Acclaimed Cocktailers Take Over Johnny’s Grill Space in Logan Square

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 15:48

The bartenders behind Sportsman’s Club and Estereo have a new project

Nine months after Johnny’s Grill and Mezcaleria Las Flores — a critically acclaimed diner and mezcal bar — closed in Logan Square, there’s news of a new project in the space from the braintrust behind several of Chicago’s top bars. Wade McElroy and Jeff Donahue, Eater Chicago’s 2014 bartenders of the year have something brewing at the space at 2545 N. Kedzie Avenue. Mezcaleria Las Flores was Eater Chicago’s bar of the year for 2017 before the shutter.

McElroy and Donahue worked with Heisler Hospitality on Sportsman’s Club in Ukrainian Village and Estereo in Logan Square. More recently, they branched out by themselves and started a new company, Leisure Activities. Their first independent project was the overhaul of the Orbit Room in Avondale as they opened Ludlow Liquors.

A spokesperson for Leisure confirmed the duo were working on a project in both Johnny’s Grill and the Mezcaleria Las Flores spaces. Workers were coming in and out of the space on Tuesday afternoon. They’ll be in touch with more information at a later date.

The cheeseburger at Johnny’s Grill became crowd pleasure from chef Sarah Jordan. Jordan’s gone on to work as the food and beverage director for the company behind the upcoming Wheelhouse Hotel in Wrigleyville.

Block Club Chicago first reported the news by noticing a repair permit stuck to a bottom window. Ludlow Liquors has a food component, and it appears the new project will also serve food. Stay tuned for more info in the coming weeks.

New Korean Barbecue Brings Charred Kalbi to West Loop

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 12:45

Take a look inside SoJu BBQ

The owners of SoJu BBQ will officially unveil their West Loop restaurant on Thursday for dinner service. Co-owner/chef Jake Lee will roll out his first restaurant in stages and eventually expand the dinner menu and add lunch service. He wants to nail down a truncated menu for Korean classics such as marinated, slow-roasted short rib and thinly sliced pork belly.

Lee is a Korean immigrant who’s adamant on keeping “the spirit of tradition” when it comes to the food his mother taught him to make. But he’s also keen on allowing his travels to shape his perspectives. He talks about visits to China and trying Sichuan barbecue. Customers may taste a hint of cumin in SoJu’s marinades: “No Korean uses that,” Lee said with a laugh.

SoJu applied for a liquor license, but for now it’s BYO. Eventually, it’ll add appetizers, more vegetable items, and soups. When lunch starts in a few weeks, it’ll open at 11 a.m.

Take a look at the photos of the space and food below. SoJu BBQ will open at 5 p.m. on Thursday at 36 S. Ashland Avenue. Contact the restaurant before visiting as hours will be in flux right after the debut.

The entrance at Ashland and Monroe. It’ll have room for about 30 people. The owners will add lunch and expanded dinner service at a later date. It’ll open with a truncated menu and add soups and appetizers later. Ownership hopes to add a liquor license. A bento box with pork belly, rice, and pickled veggies. The kalbi is made with a traditional marinade plus a hint of cumin. A spicy chicken and rice bowl.

Chicago’s First Raw Cookie Dough Bar Has Opened on the Mag Mile

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 10:23

Scooped Cookie Dough Bar debuted in Water Tower Place

Last year, raw cookie dough started sweeping the country with cafes in New York, North Carolina, and Nebraska gaining attention for selling the edible treat in scooped form. The trend has arrived in Chicago at Water Tower Place thanks to Scooped Cookie Dough Bar. The shop is an offshoot of a San Antonio company and like the Texas location, the Chicago shop sells chilled scoops in a variety of flavors with sprinkles and other toppings.

Scooped San Antonio features combos such as Mexican Hot Chocolate (dark chocolate with cayenne), Cake Batter (vanilla cake batter cookie dough with the customer’s choice of toppings), and Monster (peanut butter cup, M&M’s, chocolate chips, oatmeal). They’ve become a popular Instagramable treat. Scooped opened in San Antonio in November.

Now open in Chicago! We're mixing up fresh, safe to eat raw cookie dough every single day at Water Tower Place on Michigan Ave. Bring your friends and come check it out today! #scoopedcookiedoughbar #chicago #chicagofood #chicagowatertower #dessert #cookiedough

A post shared by Scooped Cookie Dough Bar (@scoopedcookiedoughbar) on Jul 10, 2018 at 9:38am PDT

Cookie dough isn’t new to Illinois, but cookie dough cafes are a different matter. There are retailers like Cookie Dough Creations in suburban Naperville and Cookie Dough Cafe in Normal that have been around for years.

Some experts feel that cookie dough is a “forbidden fruit.” Parents teach their kids that raw foods could result in sickness. That temptation makes the dough more alluring. Cookie Dough Creations’ website reads: “Be Bad. EAT IT RAW!!”

Last year, Dō — a New York-based cookie dough shop that opened a brick and mortar in 2017 in Manhattan — was at Windy City Smokeout. There were long lines for festival attendees who wanted something sweet to wash down stomachs full of barbecue.

Whatever the attraction, the trend has finally hit the city of Chicago. The city’s first cookie dough cafe is here.

Scooped Cookie Dough Bar, on the ground level of Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Avenue, open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

This New Logan Square Brewpub Will Serve Italian Beef Baos and Chinese Noodles

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 16:41

After three years, Bo Fowler is ready to open Bixi Beer

The wait’s almost over as after three years of planning, Bixi Beer — the Chinese-inspired brewpub from the owner of Owen & Engine — is opening this month. Owner and chef Bo Fowler has unveiled the menu for her new 200-seat brewery and restaurant at 2515 N. Milwaukee Avenue. For Fowler, a Korean immigrant who arrived in America as a child, the restaurant represents an opportunity to finally cut loose and cook the way she’s always wanted.

She is close to sharing an opening date for Bixi but the crew’s waiting to solve a few obstacles first. Fowler announced the restaurant in February 2015 and she’s battled swirling economic conditions as she opens her third restaurant. Down the street from Owen & Engine, her first restaurant — Fat Wily’s Rib Shack — continues to serve customers. At Bixi, they’ll brew beer on site and use ingredients found at Chinese restaurants. Fowler is notorious for sourcing quality, organic ingredients at her restaurants. She’ll continue those practices at her new spot.

For the last week or so, Bixi staff has invited friends and family to the restaurant. While they aren’t ready to release the opening date, when they do open the space will be fully operational. That includes a rooftop and 10-seat counter that will serve noodles until late into the night.

Baby bao burgers, five spice, American cheese, not so secret sauce, house Sichuan bacon, pickle! #bixibeer

A post shared by BiXi Beer (@bixibeer) on Jul 13, 2018 at 11:54pm PDT

Fowler is particularly proud of her belt noodles which come dry or as soup. Known as biang biang noodles, they’re a Chinese staple and popular at places like Xi’an Famous Foods in New York. The hand-pulled noodles are wide and shaped like a belt. Bixi will serve them “Yibin” style or with a choice of protein in a broth.

Owen & Engine is known for its griddled burger with two patties and a British-style bap baked at the restaurant. Bixi will have its own burger served on a bao with Chinese bacon and five spice. There’s also a bao tribute to Chicago’s Italian beef with “Sichuan giardiniera.” Larger plates include an impressive-looking whole crispy fish. That’s only a sample of what to expect. Bixi brass has yet to share details about its beer which will complement the food from master brewer Eymard Freir.

The interiors are a mix of modern and classical. DC Comics writer Brian Azzarello (Wonder Woman) and artist Eduardo Risso (100 Bullets) are contributing design elements for the project. Named after the mythological Chinese turtle king (a dragon covered by a turtle shell), Bixi is about ready to roar in Logan Square giving Chicago one the city’s most unique restaurants. Read the menu and look for more coverage later this week.

Bixi Beer’s menu

Revival Food Hall Adds Lito’s Empanadas to Lineup

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 14:46

Black Dog Gelato is now available via a cart

Lito’s Empanadas, a casual spot that’s been serving Latin American pastries for 11 years in Lincoln Park, has opened a new location inside Revival Food Hall in the Loop. Lito’s has displaced Black Dog Gelato; Black Dog’s frozen treats will now be available from a cart that will roam the hall. Revival is the food hall operated by 16” on Center, the company behind venues including Dusek’s Board and Beer in Pilsen, the Empty Bottle in Ukrainian Village, and MONEYGUN in the West Loop.

Owner/chef Ernesto Guzman opened his first Lito’s in 2007 in Lincoln Park. A year before that he opened a full-service restaurant, Chilango Mexican Street Food in Little Italy on Taylor Street. Earlier this year, Guzman opened a Lito’s inside Chicago’s French Market. He took over the Aviato Eats space. Lito’s recently hooked up with a few new investors who are making the expansions possible, according to a spokesperson for Revival Food Hall.

The changeover from Black Dog to Lito’s happened last week. Lito’s is one of 16 food vendors at Revival. Take a look at the menu below.

Lito’s Empanadas, 125 S. Clark Street inside Revival Food Hall.

Michigan Avenue’s New Star-Studded Restaurant Debuts in the Former Hard Rock Hotel

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 12:05

Read Free Rein’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus

Free Rein, the restaurant inside the St. Jane Chicago hotel, opened this morning giving hotel guests, tourists, and downtown workers a compelling new option for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Restaurant executive chef Aaron Lirette comes from GreenRiver, the shuttered cocktail bar and restaurant from Danny Meyer (Shake Shack) and company where his cooking earned a Michelin star. The desserts come from Evan Sheridan, a pastry chef who impressed Michelin inspectors as executive pastry chef at Sixteen, the restaurant inside the Trump International Hotel & Tower.

The St. Jane was once the Hard Rock Hotel and Free Rein has replaced Chuck’s: A Kerry Simon Kitchen. Its owners are going for a type of Midwestern brasserie by using French technique and local ingredients. The breakfast menu features recognizable items like pancakes and smoothies. A breakfast sandwich comes with Calabrian sausage on an English muffin. Staff will serve salads, sandwiches (a soft-shell crab BLT), and entrees like halibut or a chicken pot pie for lunch. Large-format dishes come out for dinner including dover sole, a 40-ounce dry-aged beef ribeye, and a whole-roasted chicken.

Check out the menus below. Free Rein is now open.

Free Rein, 224 N. Michigan Avenue inside the St. Jane Chicago hotel, open 6:30 a.m. to midnight on Monday through Thursday; 7:30 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday; 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Reservations available via OpenTable.

Free Rein Breakfast Menu by Ashok Selvam on Scribd

Free Rein Lunch Menu by Ashok Selvam on Scribd

Free Rein Menu Dinner by Ashok Selvam on Scribd

A Chicago Food Truck Trailblazer Is Opening a Lincoln Park Restaurant

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 11:11

The Fat Shallot is taking over the Igor’s Pelmini space on Clark

The owners of The Fat Shallot, a gourmet sandwich food truck that’s been around for five years, plan to open a full-serve restaurant this fall in Lincoln Park. The wife-and-husband ownership team of Sarah Weitz and Sam Barron have taken over the space at 2468 N. Clark Street that last housed a Ukrainian dumpling restaurant called Hugo’s Pelmini. They also run a location inside Revival Food Hall in the Loop and a second food truck.

Barron and Weitz are still developing the menu, but Barron called it a collection of their greatest hits — like their grilled cheese and BLT — mingled with new items that he’s not at liberty to divulge. They’ve applied for a liquor license to serve house cocktails and boozy slushies. Barron’s not sure of the space’s seating capacity, but they hope to throw a few picnic tables outside for a sidewalk patio.

The restaurant The Fat Shallot is replacing opened in October and lasted six months. At some point during that time, they also switched names to Igor’s Pelmini. “They left us with a pretty blank canvas,” Barron said.

The Fat Shallot is a Chicago pioneer as one of the first food trucks that could legally cook items onboard the vehicle. After a contentious debate between food truck owners and the restaurant lobby who saw trucks as a market threat, city lawmakers loosened up those restrictions that crippled the industry and set it behind other cities with thriving food truck businesses like New York and L.A. Barron, who worked at Everest and the Pump Room, was worried at first that fans would only flock to The Fat Shallot because of the novelty of a food truck. Immediate success showed him that the truck was more than a fad.

A full-fledged restaurant will provide them more space and eliminate some anxiety. They won’t have to burn gas roaming the city hunting for legal parking spaces — they’re at a premium thanks to laws hurt these small businesses. Barron pointed out that while Chicago has about 500 food trucks, N.Y. and L.A. have 2,000. While restaurant life isn’t easy, the increased peace of mind will hopefully lead to tastier food: “If you forget the ginger, nobody can go to the walk-in cooler and get the ginger,” Barron said of the food truck life. “Somebody has to get into an Uber and get the ginger.”

The Revival location will continue, and with The Fat Shallot graduating to a full brick-and-mortar restaurant, this could be a filed as a Revival success story. The owners of Revival have touted the food hall as an incubator. They can give potential restaurant owners experience without assuming the real estate risks or other costs. The Revival experience gave Barron confidence.

“It really restored our bravery,” he said. “I think Revival gave us, in a sense, the bravery to take this risk.”

Check back for more details in the coming months.

West Loop’s Randolph Row is Losing a Michelin-Recommended Indian Restaurant

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 10:00

Plus, check out Pitchfork’s food lineup and more intel

— The West Loop will lose another longtime restaurant. Jaipur, the Michelin Bib Gourmand Indian restaurant that’s been open for nearly 11 years and predated most of the chef-driven spots on Randolph Restaurant Row, will shutter on July 22 at 847 W. Randolph Street, ownership revealed earlier this month on social media. The restaurant is offering a plethora of half-off drink specials until closing day. There’s no word yet what will take over the prime space.

— The full food lineup has been announced for the 2018 Pitchfork Music Festival, happening this weekend in Union Park in the far West Loop. This year’s vendor highlights, which are available on the Pitchfork website, include Bang Bang Pie Shop, Leghorn Chicken, Estrella Negra, and The Chicago Diner. And as previously reported, newly-crowned James Beard Award-winner Fat Rice will serve dishes in the festival’s exclusive Plus+ section upgrade.

— In more Pitchfork news, the festival will also sell an exclusive beer collaboration between Goose Island and Canadian band Japandroids. “The Hops That Heaven Built” is a 5.2 percent ABV brew that a news release describes as the “Ultimate Canadian Style Pale Ale.”

— What’s billed as “Chicago’s first food boat” — a Texas-style barbecue spot aptly named Smoke on the Water — will open on July 21 on the lake shore downtown next to the Columbia Yacht Club, Crain’s reports.

— And finally, sophisticated West Loop favorite RM Champagne Salon will launch brunch service this Sunday (July 22) for the first time in its nearly-six-year existence. Dishes include caviar toast (sturgeon caviar, creme fraiche, cucumber, radish, brioche, dill, lemon) and “Eggs RM” (two poached eggs, Champagne hollandaise, spinach, artichokes, vol au vent).

RM Champagne Salon [Official Photo] RM Champagne Salon’s caviar toast

A Critic Gives Zero Stars to Sodikoff’s ‘Half-Assed’ Japanese Restaurant

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 15:20

Plus 3 Squares Diner overpromises and underdelivers

Jeff Ruby gives Radio Anago zero stars and calls it a “half-assed afterimage of its [Hogsalt Hospitality] predecessors.” Steamed pork buns are “tragically undercooked, lending the meat the springy texture of a lukewarm Sausage McMuffin” while wagyu tartare is a “gloppy, oversweet” mess. The nigiri are “forgettable slabs” of fish “slathered with so much potent sesame oil that even the boldest-tasting fish drown[s] beneath it.” The worst dish, though, is the “disturbing” Houji fried chicken. It arrives “overbattered, burnt” and resembling “something between a trio of burgers left overnight on a grill and decomposing limbs in a serial killer’s basement.” The skin has an “off-putting tang and a rancid flavor” and is covered with gold flakes for a “top note of bullshit.” All in all, it’s the “worst new dish of the year. Maybe the decade.” And worse yet, the “food isn’t memorable--except when it’s memorably terrible.” [Chicago]

The food at 3 Squares Diner “appeals yet consistently fails to live up to its promise” according to Mike Sula. The “Chicago Pastrami Dog” is “simply a pastrami sandwich dressed up in a Halloween costume of Chicago-style hot dog toppings.” Even worse, the meat seems “undercured” and the brioche bun is “old.” Duck confit hash features potatoes that “don’t harmonize with the bird” while lamb bacon “consists of scraps of irregular, gnarly flesh that appear[s] to have been reheated.” There are a few highlights: Drop biscuits are “moist and warm” and a vegan chocolate-peanut butter milkshake is “thick, delicious, and pretty convincing.” But on the whole, 3SD is more bark than bite. [Reader]

Graham Meyer checks out lunch at the reborn Palm. For $26, the three-course power lunch “feels more than reasonable, especially compared to the overpriced remainder of the menu.” Steaks “excel at a level notably beyond the pedestrian rest of the dishes.” The 10-ounce New York strip spots a “light char” and “fatty juices” while the filet medallions emanate “beefy flavor despite their low fat content.” It’s best to stick to the prix fixe because on the a la carte side, there’s a “wan” lobster bisque and a “dull, underseasoned” hamburger. [Crain’s]