Category Archives: Openings and Closings

Rockit Takes over Martini Ranch with Ay Chiwowa

.When partners Billy Dec, Brad Young and Arturo Gomez
heard that Martini Ranch, a legendary neighborhood gathering spot for
Chicagoans over the last 20 years, would close and be sold, fond
memories of their own at the former hotspot over the years made them
jump at the chance to give it new life! So without knowing what to do
with it, they brought it into the Rockit Ranch
family, and began to think about how it could become appreciated again,
an opposite approach as most operators normally have a concept
developed before they find a home for it. 

Because the venue held so much nostalgia for so many different people, the Rockit Ranch
team wanted to share the process of the venue’s evolution with the
entire city, so the partners made the unprecedented move of inviting the
public to help them choose the next concept. The majority of voters wanted to see a play on “dive bar” comfort and
accessibility with a Mexican cocktail and food component. And with
President Arturo Gomez’s family from Mexico, the team enthusiastically
took on the challenge.
 Making minimal yet impactful upgrades to the space to maintain its
integrity while incorporating Rockit Ranch’s signature design
personality, the team has created a balance of “old AND new.” Meanwhile,
they flew Arturo’s father (Arturo Gomez Sr.) in several times, to work
alongside Rockit Ranch’s partners, chefs and mixologists, taking
inspiration from his favorite drinks and bites from local bars and
street stalls in Mexico, including dry fruit aged tequila, a house-made
double reposado, and extraordinary tequila flights, liquors and
specialty drinks, as well as his street fare favorites, such as tacos,
tortas and tostadas.
!AY CHIWOWA! is born!

Rockit Ranch Productions looks forward to sparking renewed excitement on Chicago Avenue later this winter with ¡AY CHIWOWA!.
Hours will be: Thursday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to 4 a.m, extended to 5
a.m. on Saturday. By summer, the venue hopes to be open seven days a
week. Ay Chiwowa is located at 311 W. Chicago Ave.

More information at AyChiwowa.com

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Del Friscos Double Eagle Eye Popping Steak House

I was so sad to see the Esquire Theater go bye bye. But I have to say, the new Del Friscos Double Eagle Steakhouse is SPECTACULAR!

Chicago may be full of steakhouses, but the new Texas-based Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House  taking over the Esquire theater space, is certainly creating a big buzz. 
Many
elements of the old theater were incorporated into the design of the
24,000 square-foot restaurant, including the original marquee. The large
chandeliers, winding staircase and sprawling bars evoke a sense of old
Hollywood glitz and glamor. The goal being to keep the memory of the
Esquire alive, not destroy it. Thank goodness.
Seating for 500!  Yes, 500. Four private dining spaces, and a stunning 47 foot wine
tower and a balcony on the second floor that will be a great space to
overlook shoppers on Oak Street.

Steaks include their signature 32 oz. wagyu ribeye “longbone”.
There are also quite a few seafood options, like their signature crab
cakes, along with hearty sides-king crab gnocchi; spinach supreme with
bacon; and lobster mac & cheese.

The bar menu pays homage to Chicago including hometown favorites:
mini deep dish pizzas with housemade sausage, hand crushed tomatoes and
fresh mozzarella; Kobe dogs served Chicago style; and Italian Beef
sliders with their own giardiniera.

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House planted its roots in Dallas more than 20 years ago. We embody the rich tradition of fine American steak houses, amazing guests through our impeccable chef-driven cuisine, extensive award-winning wine list and unparalleled hospitality. We offer our guests an unforgettable experience in a stunning, energetic atmosphere perfect for special occasions, business affairs or a grand night on the town.

58 E. Oak St.
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Tel: (312) 888-2499

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Revolucion Mexican Steak House Opens in Lakeview

Revolución (3443 N. Broadway), is a a new Mexican steakhouse from the folks behind El Mariachi (3906 and 3420 N. Broadway). To my knowledge this is Chicago’s FIRST Mexican Steakhouse. 

 Revolucion Mexican Steakhouse is a rustic hideaway of juicy Steaks, Chops, Seafood with a Mexican flare. And price ranges for everyone.whether you want a lite snack, or maybe a burger, or a full 2-3 course meal. It’s all here.
 Amazing selections including 3 different kinds of Guacamole ($8-9).
 3 different kinds of Ceviche ($8).
 Lots of soups and salads. Over a dozen appetizers ($7-$11).
Steaks galore! From Rib Eye to Filet Mignon to Lamb Chops (average $32). And they can come with different types of rubs, signature crusts and sauces. Best of all, the steaks are NOT all ala carte. Steaks and chops include bread service, house salad and choice of potatoes. The chipotle mashed potatoes are worth the trip on their own!
 Over a dozen house specialties to choose from ranging from including a 1/2 pound house burger for $11, over roasted chicken for $14 and grilled salmon for $17. 
Plus an awesome Taco selection to pick from including Chicken, beef and pork (all done with different recipes)  as well as   Achiote rubbed Tilapia, Shrimp with Chipolte cream sauce and Sausage with Potatoes (4 tacos for $14). The price points are spot on in this restuarant, the portions are perfect and this restaurant is so what Boystown and Lakeview needed! Great food that is not overpriced. 
 If your are thirsty, there is a full service bar with an extensive wine selection, tequilas, craft beers (5 beers from local brewery) and hand crafted  margaritas (The Cucumber Jalapeno and the “Manhanttan” margarita were probably my two favorites!) and other cocktails.
3443 N Broadway
(at Hawthorne Pl)

Chicago, IL 60657

(773) 697-9314

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City Winery Chicago Opens in August

Chicago’s FIRST operational winery, event space with concert hall and restaurant will open in August!  1200 W. Randolph.

We told you about it in January, and this past weekend we had the chance to sample a couple of their wines. EXCELLENT! 

“We take great pride in sourcing our grapes from some of the finest
vineyards in the world – Cabernet Sauvignon from Bettinelli in Napa,
California to Pinot Noir from Hyland Vineyards in Willamette Valley,
Oregon or even Malbec from the esteemed Catena Vineyards in Agrelo,
Medoza Argentina. We are proud to focus on terroir–the French
expression of certain varietals growing better in specific climates and
soils. Being a winery in the middle of the city allows us the luxury to
seek the most expressive and world-class fruit for our customers.

But we are not just winery behind closed doors—our aim is to give
fans of wine, food, and culture the chance to touch and feel all the
aspects of the winemaking process—the crush, the fermenting, the blend
and ultimately, the opportunity to create your own private barrel, or on
a smaller scale to bottle a few cases of our wine with your custom
designed label.”

City Winery is the brainchild of Michael Dorf, founder of the legendary
Knitting Factory, who wanted to create a space in The City where he
could combine his passions for wine and music. The core target audience
of City Winery are people who share those same passions. We cater to
urban wine enthusiasts who desire the experience of making their own
wine, but who are not going to leave their comfortable City lifestyle to
decamp to a vineyard.

First launch in NEW YORK city, and now in Chicago!

“CW Chicago is our 2.0.  We learned a lot in NY and have improved the
physical layout, the operational logistics, taken the best of our menu,
programming, and put together an all-star management team. Very excited
to open in August.
” — Michael Dorf, Founder and CEO

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BLT Closes and BONGO ROOM Opens

Chicago can be fickle about it’s food. One day you’re in – and the next day, you’re out. Or something like that.

Laurent
Tourondel had it all – the passion and skill of a French-trained chef,
and the sensibility and style of a New York restaurateur. Thanks to this
dynamic combination, the BLT (Bistro Laurent Tourondel) concept has
taken flight, culminating in three premier New York City restaurants:
BLT Steak, BLT Fish, and BLT Prime. But he did not make it work in Chicago.

EATER  says, “After just five months and a number of lackluster reviews, Laurent Tourondel’s BLT American Brasserie
is now officially closed. Eater received two separate tips this morning
that the restaurant, which took over the massive Brasserie Ruhlmann
space, served its last meal on Sunday, and Tourondel just confirmed the
rumors. “We did close yesterday,” Tourondel said. “We made the decision
to close yesterday after brunch.”

I was in Staples last month chatting with an employee who is also a big foodie and she told me she heard that the Bongo Room was coming to Uptown, near the recently opened  Baker and Nosh on Wilson.  – Frankly, I had doubts Baker and Nosh would survive on Wilson, but they are doing great!  And I am happy. Because I live right there and we have all been waiting for the area to “change” and I think finally, it HAS started.

Back to Bongo Room.  Long known for their long lines, word came down this week, their new eatery WOULD NOT be in uptown, but instead be in Andersonville.   Eater said today, “After a couple of deals fell through the duo, John Latino and Derrick Robles,
have finally opened their third spot, this one at 5022 N. Clark. Bongo
Room officially opened its doors this morning at 8 a.m. and will be open
seven days a week for breakfast and lunch.”

The Bongo Room originally  opened in July of 1993 in what was then a very different Wicker Park.  The neighborhood was just becoming the dining and shopping destination that it is known for today.  Our original concept was simple:  serve fresh, seasonal Breakfast & Brunch food in a unique way. 

While the idea took some time to develop, within a year, customers’ feedback was fantastic.  In fact, a few of the original items remain on the menu to this day.  The Breakfast Burrito, The Croissant Sandwich and the Vegetarian Croissant Sandwich are as popular now as they were then.  But it is the seasonally changing pancakes & French Toast creations that continue to draw in new customers, entice die-hard regulars and bring back the  original patrons year after year.

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Dale Levitski Opens Frog N Snail Today!

Chicago EATER ran photos of the interior of Dale Levitski’s (Top Chef Season 3 and Top Chef All Stars)   new restaurant  on Broadway, with its natural woods and stone, custom-made wood back bar, exposed Edison pendants and more. 

Dale is a self-taught chef – worked at Sprout – and now is super excited about his own place in Lakeview.

Frog N Snail will  open Friday March 30th  for lunch and dinner hours start April 4th. 
3124 N. Broadway

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Chicago’s Sweet Miss Givings to Go National

Dear Friends of Chicago House and Sweet Miss Giving’s,

 

SMG LogoWe have some exciting news to report from Sweet Miss Giving’s Bakery!

 

Sweet Miss Giving’s has
attracted the attention of a national wholesale baker who will be
entering a licensing agreement to take part of our product line to a
larger audience. We are very excited to be working with him and for the
potential that this move holds for both our Transitional Jobs/Internship
Program as well as for the potential benefits to Chicago House and its
mission. You will be hearing more about which products he takes on and
where they can be found as the last of the details fall into place.

 

Unfortunately, in order to
successfully make this transition we will need to consolidate our
current operations. Beginning April 1st we will be closing our retail
location at the French Market as well as ending our wholesale and
catering businesses. We thank our customers and donors so much for the
support and encouragement you have given to the bakery and our employees
since we opened our doors in 2008. That support is what has allowed us
to be given awards and exposure like the 2010 Chicago Tribune Good
Eating Award, which ultimately allowed this next step in our growth.

 

Know that the many lives
that have been transformed through our jobs program will remain living
testimonies of the support that our friends have given to Sweet Miss
Giving’s over the years. 

 

Thanks again to all of you
for the role that you have played in the life of Sweet Miss Giving’s! My
gratitude and best wishes to each of you.

 

  

 The Reverend Stan J Sloan

CEO

ORDER  ONLINE  at  SWEET  MISS  GIVINGS

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Wine Bars Arrive at O’Hare Airport

Do you remember about 30 years ago, you would walk into the airport, and there was  MAYBE, 2-3 places to get some bad awful airport food?  Then, fast food came to airports!  Followed by Starbucks, which was then followed by big chains. Now anything your heart desires is at the airport!

Two new wine bars opened over the weekend at the O’Hare airport – Bubbles Wine Bar in Terminal 3 (complete with piano!)   and Beaudevin Wine Bar in Terminal 1.

Both are operated by airport foodservice firm HMSHost.

Travelers can drop by either bar to enjoy fine wines and sparkling
wines, which can be paired with gourmet entrées or small plates.

Beaudevin offers more than 20 red, white and sparkling wines by the glass, bottle or flight, along with small plates .

The Bubbles Wine Bar is in Terminal 3 near Gate H4, and focuses on
sparkling wine and craft beer joined with sushi roll pairings. The bar
chain was first introduced by HMSHost at Schiphol International Airport
in Amsterdam, and has been named by Executive Life magazine as one of
the “chic-est airport bars,” the Department of Aviation said.

Sidenote – Starbucks has started offering beer and wine in select cities – I am sure it won’t be long for that trend to arrive at the airport.

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Revolucion Mexican SteakHouse Comes to Lakeview

The owners of  El Mariachi restaurants, both on Broadway in Lake View, plans to open a
Mexican steak house—on Broadway, naturally—this spring. The 120-seater
will serve classic prime steaks such as New York strip, rib eye, and
filet mignon with Mexican sides and margaritas as well as guacamole and
seviches, and will be called Revolución Steak House (3443 N. Broadway;
no phone yet). The liquor license is in place and they plan to be late Spring!

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Chicago’s Bistronomic Now Open for Lunch


 Chef Martial Noguier, renowned for melding classic French technique with locally sourced ingredients while at the helm of the lauded restaurants One sixtyblue and Cafe des Architectes, now applies his innovative twist to traditional bistro fare at Bistronomic, a warmly inviting new boite in the heart of Chicago’s famed Gold Coast.

Located  at 840 N Wabash Chicago, IL 60611 phone: 312-944-8400 –  they are now open for lunch and brunch everyday. Sandwiches, Salads, breakfast dishes and more – Tuesday – Friday 11am -2:30 pm. Weekend brunch hours  coming soon.

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Trader Vics Closes Chicago Location


It’s a sad day in the tiki universe and Mai Tai world;  Trader Vic’s (1030 N. State St.) has closed, just 2 1/2 years after relocating to the Gold Coast (from its longtime Loop location). 

Eater received a statement from Trader Vic’s corporate HQ, located in Emeryville, Calif., that the Chicago outpost is no more. Interestingly, it was learned that all Trader Vic’s, save the flagship in Emeryville, are independently owned and operated outposts of the brand, according to a spokeswoman for the company. In fact, a new location in Portland is opening  in 2 weeks.

Victor J. “Trader Vic” Bergeron packed more excitement, enjoyment and exotica into his 82 years than any other man.


Among Trader Vic’s more tantalizing legacies is the original Mai Tai, the bracingly refreshing rum cocktail he created at the restaurant in 1944 and introduced to the Hawaiian islands in the 1950s. Tahitian for “the very best,” Mai Tai became the slogan for his entire operation.

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NEXT Restaurant – Paris 1906 Menu is Next!

 I really think NEXT Restaurant is the most genius concept. It is like  selling seats to special performances! It’s a wonderful idea!

Here is how it’s going to work:

We are pleased to let you know that you may now purchase tickets to our inaugural menu, Paris 1906 — Escoffier at the Ritz. Please be aware, however, that we have been experience very heavy traffic loads. Every day we release another 20 tables for May through June, but they have been getting purchased incredibly quickly. We believe that this will settle down over time.
 
Please navigate to: Next Restaurant
,  (Do not use Internet Explorer) type in your email address, and click “Generate Password”. Once you receive your unique password by email, you may then log in to our site and purchase tickets. Please note that a very small percentage of users have had an issue with their passwords… please generate a new password one more time — and only one more time.
 
It is VERY IMPORTANT that once you log in you complete your diner profile at Manage Account and attach a credit card to your profile. All credit cards are verified and held securely by Authorize.net. You may then go to “Tickets” to choose a date, time, and beverage choices as you wish. If you browse first, then update your account, your reserved ticket will not be held during that process.
 
Over the next several weeks we will release additional tables for each night on a rolling basis in order to create a fair chance for everyone to purchase seats on their preferred dates. Pricing for Paris 1906 will vary between $ 65 and $ 110 for our main dining room depending on the day and time you are dining. Our kitchen table features an expanded 16+ course menu for 6 diners with a private room overlooking the Next kitchen and is fixed at $ 165 per person.
 
Beverage pairings range from still or sparkling water to reserve wine pairings. All pairings include coffee / tea service. Once you select the beverage pairings for each diner and let us know of any dietary restrictions that we can accommodate from the menu, simply click proceed to payment to complete the transaction. Please note that any dietary restrictions not specifically listed cannot be accommodated for this menu. For example, a vegetarian option does not exist for Paris 1906 due to the nature of the cuisine… but will certainly be available for future menus.
 
Finally, we have made every effort to create a simple to use, secure, and logical ticket system. We did, however, run into issues with our system running on Internet Explorer and have chosen, for the time being, to require Firefox, Chrome, or Safari. We hope to address this issue shortly.
 
We look forward to welcoming you at Next and sharing what we have spent the last two years creating.
 
Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas


So what you want to do is get signed up. The May and June reservations SOLD OUT in less than 48 hours! But  if you want to go, get on the mailing list and get your password for the next table and menu release.


Best of the Best Dining in Chicago

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Q&A with Fois Gras Bad Boy Doug Sohn

This is a post from Zagat’s interview with Doug Sohn in April of 2007 when he was gaining publicity and subsequently fined for serving fois gras.  Based on the repeal of the ban here in Chicago and all the new buzz it’s been generating, it’s good to take a listen to Doug…LH


ZS: You have been one of the more outspoken critics of the ban. Why?
Sohn: Foie gras is just not that big of a deal. I don’t think it’s the job of the city council to decide what we can and cannot eat. It’s just a big waste of time, energy and resources. There are much more egregious crimes in and out of the food industry.

ZS: Foie gras is normally served in the most upscale restaurants. Why do you think Hot Doug’s got busted before higher-end establishments?
Sohn: At most places it is so expensive that it affects a very small number of people. We sell it for an affordable price, which makes us an easy target and a good story.

ZS: Reading descriptions of the force-feeding process is enough to make even the most ardent meat eaters cringe. Have you ever visited or seen footage of a foie gras farm?
Sohn: Yes, I’ve been to foie gras farms, hog and cattle farms and slaughterhouses. The animal production process is not pretty. But the information coming from the animal rights organizations is one-sided. If you go to a place like France, where the production of foie gras is much more artisanal, it’s a lot more humane than, say, a hog farm in the U.S. If people saw the way hogs were farmed, they’d probably never eat another pork chop. It’s hypocritical to focus on foie gras, to make a distinction between how foie gras is produced and, for example, how eggs are produced. It’s an easy target because it’s expensive and it’s not on a lot of menus. It makes people feel good without having a very large effect on the larger problems of the industry.

ZS: By taking foie gras off their menus, chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Charlie Trotter are taking a stand on the responsibility of chefs to regulate what is served in their restaurants. As a restaurant owner, do you set any personal standards for the treatment of the animal products you sell?
Sohn: Wolfgang Puck, if he wants to do that, God bless him. I respect them both even if Puck is still serving things like caviar that animal rights organizations have on “do not eat” lists. Trotter I respect because he’s against foie gras, but he’s also against the ban. He thinks people should be able to make their own choices. Look, we eat animals like they are commodities, so it doesn’t make sense to be drawing these moral lines. Of course, it’s not all dollars and cents. I try to get better products when I can because my major concern is the quality of the food. At the same time, you can’t deny that this is a commercial business and there is a cost aspect as well. Organic and free-range products can be prohibitively expensive.



ZS: Chicago recently banned smoking inside restaurants and is considering a ban on trans fat. Do you think all of these bans are an infringement on restaurateur and consumer choice?
Sohn: The trans fat ban to me is attacking a minor issue. It’s a Band-Aid on a much larger problem. If you want to get rid of problems with obesity, then get rid of poverty. Smoking is different. If you want to sit down next to me and eat a big bowl of trans fat, then that’s fine with me, because it’s not affecting me. But smoking is a different story because it affects other diners and, more importantly, the employees that are exposed to secondhand smoke everyday.


 Doug Sohn


ZS: Immediately after receiving the citation you closed Hot Doug’s and went on a vacation in France, where a law designating foie gras part of French cultural heritage was recently passed, protecting it from the type of ban Chicago has adopted. Did being in the home of foie gras strengthen your resolve?
Sohn: Yes. I ate foie gras like it was legal!ZS: With spend a lot more time in France.




THE HISTORY OF FOIS GRAS


April 1912: The last dinner served on the Titanic was to include foie gras with celery. The foie gras would have been marinated, enhanced with truffles and baked en croute.


1950s – 1970s: French chefs begin to establish high-end French restaurants in Manhattan. Despite New York’s reputation for sophistication, foie gras remains mostly known among German, Jewish and French immigrants. Foie gras begins to become more mainstream once it starts appearing on the menus of restaurants like Lutèce, opened in 1961.


1974: Norway’s Animal Welfare Act bans force-feeding of all animals.


1991: Denmark bans forcible feeding of animals unless it’s for medical purposes.


1993: Germany and the Czech Republic enact animal protection laws that outlaw force-feeding.


1996: Finland’s Act on the Protection of Animals prohibits forcible feeding of animals for fattening purposes.


1999: Poland outlaws fattening geese and ducks for the purposes of harvesting their livers.


August 2000: The United Kingdom bans the production of foie gras.


January 2004: Force-feeding of birds becomes illegal in Italy.


September 2004: California bans the sale of foie gras and will end the practice of force-feeding by 2012. (Currently, only two U.S. farms — one in New York and one in California — produce foie gras.)


April 2005: Foie gras production becomes illegal in Israel.


April 2006: Chicago bans the sale of foie gras. The ordinance does not mention foie gras production.


February 2008: Prince Charles removes foie gras from all royal menus.


May 2008: Chicago overturns its ban on foie gras. (history compilation courtesy of WSJ.com)


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