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People traveled to gobble up Gaetano Di Benedetto’s food at La Piazza in Forest Park, but Di Benedetto closed it in mid-February after partner disputes. Now, he’s moving on to prepare regional Italian food at restaurant Gaetano’s, sans-partners, nearby. The menu will change almost daily. There also will be prix-fixe dinners, and kids can design their own pizzas. But don’t call it a pizza joint—it’ll be anything but. Pastas will be made in-house and almost everything will get cooked in a wood-burning oven. Gaetano’s, 7636 W. Madison St., 312-366-4010.

Lick your chops in anticipation of chef Marcus Samuelsson’s soon-to-open C-House, a seafood spot in the Affinia Chicago that will emphasize fresh, local ingredients, and with nautical photos, an open kitchen and raw bar. In the lounge, expect to find the likes of sea urchin, fluke with iced melon and sweet shrimp. (For those who don’t know, Samuelsson is the chef and co-owner of Aquavit, Riingo and Merkato 55 in New York City.) On the main menu, fresh fish can be grilled, roasted or steamed and served with a choice of salsas, vinaigrettes and chutneys. Also on hand will be small and large plates like seared beef carpaccio with pickled vegetable relish and grilled Scottish langoustine in coconut-saffron broth. C-House, Affinia Chicago, 166 E. Superior St.

Restaurateur Peter Karpinski (Denver-based Sage Restaurant Group) and executive chef Jose Garces (Chicago native and owner of Spanish restaurants Amada and Tinto in Philadelphia), opened Mercat a la Planxa in The Blackstone hotel. On the menu: cut-to-order charcuterie and cheeses as well as fresh seafood, steaks and chops—all inspired by Barcelona and Spain’s Catalan region. A few to look for: black cod confit with haricots verts salad, morcilla-potatoes and orange-saffron emulsion, and slow-cooked short ribs and diver scallops with shaved Parmesan and artichokes. Mercat a la Planxa, Blackstone Hotel, 638 S. Michigan Ave., 312-765-0524.

Get all kinds of Asian food in one place at the newly opened Miss Asia, a BYOB restaurant that emphasizes Thai but also trots to Japan, Korea, Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia, India, China and Singapore. Miss Asia, 434 W. Diversey Pkwy., 773-248-3999.

Mediterranean small plates have arrived at Randolph Street’s Nia. Included in the roster of Italian-, French-, Greek- and Turkish-infused dishes are braised oxtail-filled piquillo peppers with orange demi-glace, paprika oil and chives as well as coveted pata negra, ham that comes from Spanish black-footed pigs. Nia, 803 W. Randolph St., 312-226-3110.

Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ Frankie’s Scaloppine—a revamp of Tucchi Benucch—has opened in the 900 Shops. No surprise here: it serves tons of its namesake preparations, including versions with chicken, pork, veal and portobello mushrooms. Beyond that, you can expect standbys like spaghetti bolognese. Frankie’s Scaloppine, 900 N. Michigan Ave., 312-266-2500.

Morton’s, The Steakhouse just opened another of its clubby outposts in west suburban Naperville. You can expect the same royal treatment as at other Morton’s, The Steakhouse locations, from super-cold martinis to tableside displays of meat and seafood. Morton’s, The Steakhouse, 1715 Freedom Dr., Naperville, 630-848-3200.

The Libertine, a bi-level gastro-lounge, is making waves among industry types. Unfortunately, most of its regular-Joe clientele might not see past the gothic décor and thumping beats for Tony Galzin’s superior late-night menu of pissaladière and gnocchi in brown butter. In the past, Galzin worked alongside Dale Levitski and Mary McMahon at Trio Atelier. Industry nights bring top toques in as guest bartenders. The Libertine, 1615 N. Clybourn Ave., 312-654-1782.

Crisp has acquired a serious cult following because of its intoxicating Korean fried chicken with garlicky sauce, takes on bi bim bop and outrageously hip setting (including a hard-to-miss orange exterior). Crisp, 2940 N. Broadway St., 877-693-8653.

Have a sweet tooth? Keep your eyes peeled for Chocolate Grape, which plans to open soon with a focus on wine and chocolate pairings. Of course, it’s not just dessert they’re talking about: Pat Karpowski, the Sheraton’s executive sous chef, dreamt up a menu with curry and dark chocolate-crusted scallops. There will be over two dozen wines by the glass. Chocolate Grape, 2113 W. Division St., 773-772-3990.

The Oak Park arts district is about to benefit from another interesting place to nosh. Briejo, which is expected to open in May, will come from Brigette Lytle, who enlisted the help of Jody André (Speakeasy) and Nicole Parthemore (She She). The food will be eclectic American. Briejo, 211 Harrison St., Oak Park.

Well-executed Mexican dishes are the name of the game at La Cocina de Frida, an Andersonville joint from sisters Marlene and Lidia Benitez, who created the place in honor of artist Frida Kahlo. Made-from-scratch sauces and tamales are among the stars at the vibrantly colored, comfortable spot. La Cocina de Frida, 5403 N. Clark St., Chicago, 773-271-1907,

Jerry Kleiner’s Hyde Park venture—which is tentatively named Park 52—is aiming for a March opening. On its coattails will be an eclectic Italian-rooted eatery in downtown Hinsdale that should open this summer.

Chicagoans love a good breakfast joint, so it’s no surprise they’re descending on Violet in Lakeview for its unusual a.m. eats (think Creole Benedict and coffee-batter pancakes). But the lunch sounds sweet, too—at least if you’re the sort who’d dig a sweetbreads sandwich. Violet, 3819 N. Southport, Chicago, 773-327-0234.

Campagnola owner Steve Schwartz plans to open Wild Geese, an eclectic small-plates and wood-burning-oven-cooked pizza place, any day. Wild Geese, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston.

Harry Caray's Tavern will open near Wrigley Field in time for baseball season. The sports bar will feature mahogany walls and live late-night entertainment. Not surprisingly, you’ll also find some specialties from Harry Caray’s Italian steakhouse, including its chicken Vesuvio, calamari and Dutchie’s salad. Harry Caray’s Tavern, 3551 N. Sheffield Ave., 772-348-1732.

Tony Hu, the guy behind Chinatown and Westmont stunners Lao Sze Chuan, is spreading himself thin these days. He opened two regional spots in Chinatown Square–Lao Shanghai and Lao Beijing–in January. The former has offerings like stewed sea cucumber, while the latter features tea-smoked or Peking duck. Plus, Lao Shanghai is one of a handful of places in the area where xiao long bao (Shanghai-style soup dumplings) can be found. Lao Shanghai, 2163 S. China Pl., 312-808-0830; and Lao Beijing, 2138 S. Archer Ave., 312-881-0168,

Those who love Wicker Park’s Piece can now grab it to-go (or get it delivered) from the recently opened, adjacent Piece Out. The expansion also made way for additional brew tanks, which means more notable beers are sure to follow. Piece Out, 1923 W. North Ave., 773-772-4422.

Skip the Greektown nonsense and head to Mythos, a bright blue-hued Ravenswood taverna that’s dedicated to authentic Greek dishes like pastichio and oregano-laden chicken regante. Mythos, 2030 W. Montrose Ave., 773-334-2000.

Bucktown’s just-opened Takashi restaurant offers a Japanese-inflected French-American menu from Takashi Yagihashi. It includes a New York strip with fresh wasabi, miso-glazed fingerling potatoes and fried salsify. Sounds like a far cry from the ramen noodle dishes he slings at Noodles by Takashi Yagihashi in Macy’s on State Street. Takashi, 1952 N. Damen Ave., 773-772-6170,

Feeling the chill of winter? Time to head to Rustik, a Logan Square restaurant that channels a modern cabin with a glassed-in atrium, antler chandelier and a menu of dynamite-sounding comfort food dishes. One to try is the Boursin-stuffed meatloaf with caramelized onions. Rustik, 2515 N. California Ave., 773-235-0002.

Shoppers along the Mag Mile have a new (and appealing) option: King Café Gourmet & Go. Located on the 900 Shops’ main floor, its highlights include truffle oil and Fontina-accented scrambled eggs and Maine lobster salad. King Café Gourmet & Go, 900 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-280-6122,

Perhaps it’s the super-affordable prices—or maybe the homespun feel—but people are eating up Lito’s Empanadas by the fistful. It’s all they do, mind you. There are about half a dozen empanadas to choose from, including beef with olives, raisin, potato and onion and a version that bursts with slow-cooked barbecue pork. Lito’s Empanadas, 2566 N. Clark St., 773-857-1337.

Fans of the celebrity chef can get their fill at the newly opened kosher eatery Spertus Café by Wolfgang Puck, located in the just-opened Spertus Museum. It’s a grab-and-go joint that serves everything from a classic Caesar and a hummus platter to a rare roast beef sandwich with basil aïoli, arugula and sun-dried tomatoes on ciabatta bread. Spertus Café by Wolfgang Puck, 610 S. Michigan Ave., 312-322-1700.

Spice seekers are aflutter over Ja’Grill, a Jamaican spot in the unlikely neighborhood of Lincoln Park. It’s invitingly hip with plenty of jerk on the menu, plus faves like beef patties. And to wash it down, you’ll find Red Stripe and, of course, rum punch. Ja’Grill, 1008 W. Armitage Ave., 773-929-5375,

There’s a new place for oenophiles to get their drink (and eat) on: Connoisseur, a dozen-table spot from Gerald Lott. Located on the near west side, it serves up wine-friendly snacks, including cheese plates. Connoisseur, 1041 W. Grand Ave., 312-738-3055.

The Wilde Bar & Restaurant

If only for the cozy setting, we’re thinking not much can beat a stop at The Wilde Bar & Restaurant–named, yep, for Oscar Wilde–on a cold winter’s eve. The wood-heavy spot is outfitted with a fireplace and mock library and sports comfort food-minded dishes like mac ‘n’ cheese. The Wilde Bar & Restaurant, 3130 N. Broadway, 773-244-0404,

Marcello Cancelli, who clocked management time and developed wine programs at spots like Carlos’, North Pond and Michael, is overseeing Sopa, a Mediterranean-inspired place that emphasizes grown-up comfort food prepared using precise, classic cooking techniques. A case in point is the grilled pork tenderloin with crispy pancetta, caramelized apples and rosemary-cider jus. Sopa, 752 Sheridan Rd., Highwood, 847-433-3434.

We know cupcakes are a well-documented fad, but with the opening of Lincoln Park’s Molly’s Cupcakes we can understand why it’s sure to be an ongoing trend. The sweet spot sells pre-made versions like red velvet, but you also can design your own (think chocolate with buttercream or cream cheese icing). Molly’s Cupcakes, 2536 N. Clark St., 773-883-7220,

Heat has been replaced with Korean barbecue spot Red Top Grill, which allows you to cook staples such as galbi and bulgogi at the gas grill-outfitted, former sushi bar. Red Top Grill, 1507 N. Sedgwick St., 312-981-1775.

Greek fare gets a fresh face at Mythos, a newcomer from sister-partners Toni Di Meola and Vicky Zervas, whose low-lit but vibrant-colored storefront serves less-familiar items like loukaniko (aromatic grilled pork sausage) and revani (honey-saturated, egg-loaded semolina cake). Mythos, 2030 W. Montrose St., 773-334-2000.

Uncommon Ground recently opened a second, eco-friendly restaurant and music venue near Loyola University on Devon. While taking in tunes, you can dive into the likes of a Compart Family Farm bone-in pork chop with seedling ginger-pear glaze, sage-pear salsa and Green Acres butternut squash risotto. Uncommon Ground, 1401 W. Devon, 773-465-9801,

Lettuce Entertain You chairman Richard Melman and chef Laurent Gras will debut L.2O, a modern high-end seafood restaurant in the former Ambria space in Spring 2008. The restaurant’s name combines an abbreviation for Laurent with the elemental formula for water and emphasizes chef Gras’ affinity for seafood and the ocean. Sourcing from small suppliers around the world will be a high priority, from Spanish octopus from the Galicia region to the organic milk used to make the butter in-house. L.2O will offer a four-course pre-fixe menu and several tasting menus, which may include dishes like raw Shimaaji cured with salted red cedar, then lightly smoked and finished with apricot oil and Murray salt. L.2O, 2300 N. Lincoln Park W., Chicago,

The folks at Lettuce Entertain You have been busy. Frankie’s 5th Floor Pizzeria, located in front of Tucci Benucch, is open to serve classic and Sardinian-style pizzas, including margherita and potato and rosemary versions. Then there’s Pizzeria Via Stato, which is located adjacent to Osteria Via Stato and sports Roman-style pizza with classic presentations, artisanal ingredients and a crisp, thin crust. As if that’s not enough, the Reel Club opened and is officially roping in diners with a selection of fish, crab, lobster and Prime steaks—all showily created by Mychael Bonner (Di Pescara). Check out its Baracuda Lounge, too, which hosts happy hour Mon.-Fri., 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Frankie's 5th Floor Pizzeria, 900 N. Michigan Ave., 312-266-2500; Pizzeria Via Stato, 620 N. State St., 312-337-6634; Reel Club, Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook, 630-368-9400,

Le Colonial partner Joe King plans to open King Café Gourmet & Go in the lobby of the 900 Shops any day now. Shoppers can start their day off right with a cup of eggs topped with Fontina cheese and truffle oil before moving on to a Maine lobster roll. King Café Gourmet & Go, 900 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-280-6122,

Everyone is waiting with bated breath for Jackson Park Bar & Grill (it’s expected to open in January). Its man with a plan is Jason Paskewitz (Wave), but he has other things on his mind in the meantime. Watch for his other venture—this one unlikely. The 621 Diner is aiming for an early December opening and will serve road food classics like patty melts and shakes. The 621 Diner, 621 E. Roosevelt Rd., Lombard.

Robert LaPata (La Petite Amelia, Über Burger) opened Italian joint Omaggio. It’s a lively joint with a pizza and antipasto bar as well as a salumeria. Omaggio, 1639 Orrington Ave., Evanston, 847-570-0500.

The boom in Bolingbrook shows no signs of stopping. Among the most recent openings is the dimly lit, casual-but-upscale Woodlands at the Promenade from Dallas-based Food Friends and Company. Expect twists on classics. Woodlands at the Promenade, 641 E. Boughton Rd., Bolingbrook, 630-739-3000.

Folks in the Pilsen neighborhood and beyond are going nuts for Honky Tonk Barbeque. The pit is manned by caterer Willie Wagner, who made the rounds at fests this past summer to rave reviews. His BYOB spot serves all the mainstays–pulled pork, ribs, brisket and rib tips–all to the tune of the restaurant’s namesake musical style. Honky Tonk Barbeque, 1213 W. 18th St., 312-226-7427,

The city is about to experience yet another force to be reckoned with, dining-wise: Powerhouse. Proving right out of the gate that it’s no slouch, the team includes partner-GM and Trotter’s management alum Mitchell Schmieding and executive chef John Peters (ex-Naha). Located in a Beaux Arts-style structure that once was part of the Chicago & North Western Railway Terminal Complex, it’ll serve classic American cuisine with a modern edge. We can’t wait to try dishes like the dry-aged strip loin with sunchokes and chili flakes and seared venison with dried fruit-wild rice ragoût and huckleberry jus. Powerhouse, 215 N. Clinton St., 312-928-0800,

As part of its no-holds-barred renovation, The Palmer House Hilton is now home to Lockwood. Located on the lobby level, it replaced Windsor’s Bar and serves French- and Italian-inspired dishes like prosciutto-topped eggs Benedict and a trio of buffalo meatball sliders. Lockwood, 17 E. Monroe St., Chicago, 312-917-3404.

Clarendon Hills is about to get another notable restaurant when Le Lan’s executive chef Bill Kim opens Soul. It’ll feature a rotisserie-centric menu of meat that’s overseen by Karen Nicolas (Gramercy Tavern in NYC and Aureole in Vegas). Look for it to open in early ’08. Soul, 1 Walker Ave., Clarendon Hills.

Looking for an out-of-the-gate hit? Check out Thalia Spice, an affordable Asian spot in West Town that dishes up everything from Malaysian roti with curry to Thai-style grilled pork with chili sauce and saké baby-back ribs. Though rumored to be less impressive, there is a sushi bar as well with plenty of maki, nigiri and sashimi to choose from. Thalia Spice, 833 W. Chicago Ave., 312-226-6020.

A MANO, the new restaurant from the Bin 36 crew, is alive and well. The contemporary Italian trattoria in River North serves everything from salumi and small plates to brick oven-fired Neapolitan pizzas to the masses. A MANO, 335 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, 312-629-3500.

Marcus Samuelsson (Riingo and Aquavit in New York) has announced plans to open seafood spot C House in the Affinia Hotel come early spring. C House, 166 E. Superior St., Chicago.

There’s no shortage of happy foodies given the fact that Jackie Pluton (Pluton) plans to open a new spot in the former MK North space. His new eatery, Haussmann–which is slated to open at the first of the year–will be a modernized (but classic) brasserie. Haussmann, 305 S. Happ Rd., Northfield.

Short-lived Xel-Ha will soon be home to Prosecco. Named for the Italian sparking wine, it’s from Kathryn Sullivan-Alvera (Narcisse) who brought on Mark Sparacino as chef. Look for perks like a carpaccio bar and dishes such as risotto. Prosecco, 710 N. Wells St., Chicago, 312-951-9500.

It's official. The much-anticipated Brasserie Ruhlmann SteakHouse, opened by the Japonais team in what used to be the Montgomery Ward & Co. headquarters, is packed to the hilt. Though a follow-up to the nostalgic French Brasserie Ruhlmann in New York, it paves its own way with a steak-centric focus while offering a nod to its predecessor with Parisian-inspired, Art Deco details. In the kitchen is Christian Delouvrier (he worked with Alain Ducasse at the Essex House and Lespinasse in NYC), so you can expect classic preparations like grantinée a l'oignon and cheese soufflé as well as oven-roasted pork tenderloin with mustard sauce and caramelized endive, a strip steak with maître d' hotel butter and Peking duck with pommes gaufrette. Brasserie Ruhlmann SteakHouse, 500 W. Superior St., 312-494-1900.

Remember a few months back when Sura Thai Bistro made a splash with its futuristic take on Thai? Well, the same owners are at it again with the newly opened Thai Urban Kitchen in the Ogilvie Transportation Center. Don’t expect a full-fledged menu just yet—right now it’s just breakfast and lunch with dinner to come in the next few weeks. But there’s no reason to wait to savor kaffir lime sugar-zapped brioche French toast in the a.m. and black noodles with spinach, egg and black soy vinaigrette as the day wears on. Thai Urban Kitchen, 500 W. Madison St., Chicago, 312-575-0266.

You can officially check out Paramount Room, the venture from Volo’s Jon Young and Stephen Dunne. High-end craft brews and spirits are emphasized, and the menu capitalizes on the gastropub craze, giving it a global spin. Dishes to try include a burger constructed of Argentinean grass-fed beef, beer-battered pickles and mussels steeped in ale. As for the backdrop, expect massive, plush banquettes and cranked-up, punky tunes. Paramount Room, 415 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 312-829-6300.

Call it a new trend: Dutch pancakes. At least that’s what it looks like given the waits at newly opened Pannenkoeken Café in Lincoln Square. A bit thicker than crêpes, they come crowned with stuff like bacon and cheese or apples, cinnamon and a poof of powdered sugar. Pannenkoeken Café, 4757 N. Western Ave., Chicago, 773-769-8800.

We’ve heard of wine tastings—heck, even olive oil tastings—but pizza tastings? A fancy pizza joint at heart, the soon-to-open La Madia will feature a private wine and pizza tasting room. Seasonal ingredients atop its pies, pasta and risotto are the name of the game. The one responsible for this excess is Jonathan Fox, one-time COO for Maggiano's Little Italy. La Madia, 59 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, 312-329-0400.

The city is abuzz about not only the restoration of the Palmer House Hilton but also the French-Italian-inspired Lockwood, which will open in November. At the helm will be executive chef Phillip Foss (Bistrot Margot, Le Cirque in New York). Lockwood, 17 E. Monroe St., Chicago, 312-726-7500.

Table Fifty-Two

Art Smith, Oprah’s chef, finally opened Table Fifty-Two in the former home of Albert's Cafe & Patisserie. Inspired by his cookbook, “Back to the Table,” the menu features Southern-ish dishes like an ancho-rubbed pork chop, blueberry buckle and a fried green tomato Napoleon, which are prepared by chef de cuisine Rey Villalobos when Smith’s more pressing duties call. Table Fifty-Two, 52 W. Elm St., Chicago, 312-573-4000.

The latest venture from the guys at Bin 36 is A MANO in River North. Those involved: managing partner Dan Sachs and partners John Caputo (executive chef), Brian Duncan (wine director) and James Terlizzi (general manager). The concept is updated Italian, so expect top-quality imported and domestic salumi, handmade Neapolitan-style pastas, rotisserie-roasted fish and meats, a daily selection of made-in-house gelati and Italian wines. A MANO, 335 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, 312-629-3500.

When you’re in the area, check out The Cellar Bistro, one of Wheaton’s latest hotspots—this one a small-plates concept with dishes like fiery, jalapeño-zapped shrimp with creamy chipotle sauce. The Cellar Bistro, 132 N Hale St., Wheaton, 630-653-6299.

Patrons of the theater have themselves another option. The latest Rosebud offshoot to reveal itself is Rosebud Prime, which features some signature preparations from Rosebud Steakhouse (like the wild mushroom-topped, bone-in filet) as well as seafood selections like crab-and-Brie-filled tilapia, Dover sole amandine and pan-seared scallops. Rosebud Prime, 1 S. Dearborn St., Chicago, 312-384-1900.

Niu Japanese Fusion Lounge—pronounced “new”—opened in the space that briefly housed Max & Benny’s. Located by the AMC River East, it offers a hefty list of ordinary and specialty maki rolls—the latter more interesting—like the White Angel with spicy tuna, cream cheese and avocado wrapped in soy paper and topped with ono, caviar and lemon zest. Niu Japanese Fusion Lounge, 332 E. Illinois St., Chicago, 312-527-2888.

Two buzz-inducing Turkish spots opened recently, Nazarlik Turkish Cuisine and Café Orchid. The former, named for a good luck stone, serves minced meat-topped Turkish pizzas and advance-notice-only cigkofte in a mostly carryout setting, while the latter dishes up kebabs and hard-to-find specialties like balik sarma, sardine-stuffed dolma. Nazarlik Turkish Cuisine, 1650 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, 773-327-5800; Café Orchid, 1746 W Addison St., Chicago, 773-327-3808.

Everybody loves pie—especially the variety served at Lovely, a new spot known for its mini versions, including apple, cherry and pecan. Sweet cupcakes, iced tea and homemade jam further the Southern country appeal. Lovely, 1130 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 773-572-4766.

There has been a flurry of noteworthy restaurants and restau-lounges opening of late. One that’s generating some buzz—if only for its breezy, open-air, South Beach style and rooftop and sidewalk seating—is Chaise Lounge. The grub—which includes braised short ribs with scallion polenta and roast venison with apple cider reduction and chestnut, cipollini and raisin relish—is from Isaac Holzwarth of RL. Chaise Lounge, 1840 W. North Ave., Chicago, 773-342-1840,

Trattoria Trullo

Trattoria Trullo relocated its Evanston digs and now is rooted in the quaint Lincoln Square neighborhood. Serving the same high-flavor, familiar dishes like chicken saltimbocca, it features a café and deli in front and comfortable wood-trimmed dining room in back. Trattoria Trullo, 4767 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773-506-0093,

Foodies are abuzz about Market District newbie Sepia with a menu from Kendal Duque, who has worked with chefs like Rocco DiSpirito and Jean Joho. Look for flatiron steak with fingerlings and rocket greens. Sepia, 123 N. Jefferson St., Chicago, 312-441-1920.

Otom also is officially on the scene. A more approachable sib to Homaro Cantu’s Moto, its menu comes from former sous chef Daryl Nash (think andouille and anise mac ‘n’ cheese and braised carrot agnoletti). No high-tech wizardry here. Otom, 951 W. Fulton Market, Chicago, 312-491-5804.

Shikago, Kevin and Alan Shikami’s follow up to Kevin, opened for a brief stint in late June, shuttered briefly and opened again to serve seafood dishes in the Philip Johnson building. Shikago, 190 S. LaSalle St., Chicago, 312-781-7300.

When in the Loop, check out comfy-casual—but still upscale—Tavern at the Park from the group behind Keefer’s. Located across from Millennium Park, executive chef John Hogan (Everest, Kiki’s Bistro) serves French-infused American dishes like pulled, herbed chicken fondue with garlic croutons, filet mignon and blue cheese sliders and double-cut pork chops with cherry-cola barbecue sauce. Tavern at the Park, 130 E. Randolph St., Chicago, 312-552-0070,

Despite the goofy name (Italian for “flask”), Il Fiasco is generating a lot of buzz. Maybe it’s the starters like bacon-wrapped dates, affordable pasta dishes and grilled lamb chops with mint vinaigrette, puréed peas and zucchini fritters, but we smell a winner. Il Fiasco, 5101 N. Clark St., Chicago, 773-769-9700.

Going for the unusual, Between Café and Lounge is turning comfort food on end with sharable plates from Radhika “Rad” Desai (Vermilion). Bites include savory Moroccan-spiced, Belgian meatballs with fries and creamy tomato sauce and the lobster trifecta with lobster and crispy potato roll with mango rice and chive and mango cardamom vinaigrette; curried lobster bisque; and wild mushroom-lobster risotto cakes with black pepper truffle aïoli. Between Café and Lounge, 1324 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 773-292-0585.

An offshoot of Blu Coral (locations in Chicago and Woodridge), Blu Restaurant and Sushi Lounge debuted in Narra’s former home in the tony Hotel Orrington. Snag out-of-the-ordinary eats like blue snapper. Blu Restaurant and Sushi Lounge, Hotel Orrington, 1710 Orrington Ave., Evanston, 847-491-9220.

Watch for a new concept from Dan Sachs (Bin 36), who will open Italian restaurant A Mano below the restaurant this fall. It’ll have a panini bar and house-made gelato thanks to exec chef John Caputo. Bin 36, 339 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, 312-755-9463.

After the dust settles and everyone dries their eyes, they’ll see there is something to look forward to. Ambria may have closed for good on June 30, but in its place will be a Melman spot courtesy of Laurent Gras (Fifth Floor in San Francisco). Serious seafood is expected to be the name of the game–and it’ll probably open by the end of the year. 2300 N. Lincoln Park West, Chicago, 773-472-5959.

People have been salivating over Crust, an organic pizza place with wood-fired pies (flatbread, actually) that’s located in the former Settimana space. Among the pies is a BLT version. Crust, 2056 W. Division St., Chicago, 773-235-5511.

Although Chaise Lounge–located in the one-time home of Iggy’s–is currently BYOB, you can expect that to change soon. The place features grub from Isaac Holzwarth, the former executive chef at RL. Expect an eclectic mix with everything from massive short ribs to nosh-able marinated olives. Chaise Lounge, 1840 W. North Ave., Chicago, 773-342-1840,


We reported last month about the pending opening of the Merchandise Mart’s tasty new tenant, Bluprint. There’s more good news: the fare will be prepared by Sam Burman (former exec chef at Tramonto’s Steak & Seafood that also had stints at TRU, Zealous and Avenues). So, expect eats like hamachi tartare, duck confit nachos and heirloom pork chop. Bluprint, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, Ste. 135, 312-410-9800, Chicago.

All-amuse-bouche concept V.I.C.E. boutique is about to open on Randolph Street’s restaurant row. Look for bites like Wagyu carpaccio. The man with the plan is Dan Krasney who partnered with Jerry Kleiner on Vivo. V.I.C.E., 840 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 312-733-3379.

The next time you’re hankering for a hunk of meat, check out Uber Burger, a new gourmet concept from Robert LaPata, also of the adjacent La Petite Amelia. The draw–Angus burgers aside–are the sauces: roasted garlic and whole grain mustard aïoli, chipotle ketchup, green chile salsa, curry mayo, wasabi mayo and horseradish ketchup. Oh, and the fried pickles, too. Uber Burger, 618½ Church St., Evanston, 847-866-5200.

Otom (“autumn”), a palindrome and offshoot of Moto with Daryl Nash as the executive chef, is located at 951 W. Fulton Market, Chicago, 312-491-5804.

Pick one thing and do it right: that’s the thought behind Tamalli, a tamale joint that is expected to open mid-July thanks to Maiz owner Carlos Reyna. Tamalli, 2459 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, 773-276-1441.

Speaking of meat, make fast tracks to Caoba Mexican Bar & Grill, a Bucktown spot serving parilladas. Caoba Mexican Bar & Grill, 1619 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, 773-342-2622.

Another Lettuce Entertain You concept is in the works in the shuttered Papagus space in Oak Brook Center. Prime steaks and seafood with a TBD name.

Elevated bar food—sound familiar? Check out English, a gussied up pub. English, 444 N. LaSalle St., Chicago, 773-832-4000.

Nobody would call sleepy Clarendon Hills a dining destination, but soon there will be a reason to head there for a meal. Maijean, a bistro from Nadia Tilkian (Zinfandel, Barrington Country Bistro, Bistro 110), will open soon. Maijean, 30 S. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills,

Naperville has been steadily gaining steam, culinary-wise, for some time. Now, it can add East African spot Masala Yangu to the mix. It’s from Kenya native Rahila Young. We especially like the sound of the kababu, pan-fried, minced beef and turkey balls spiced with cilantro, garlic and green chili and the seared tilapia with cassava leaves in a peanut curry sauce. Masala Yangu, 43 E. Jefferson Ave., Naperville, 630-922-9999.

Located in a newly booming area not far from the second Chicagoland Ikea is Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, a wood-heavy American brewpub with beers crafted on site. Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, 639 E. Boughton Rd., Bolingbrook, 630-739-6036,

More cheers will be heard from the ’burbs when Fahrenheit opens up in St. Charles sometime this summer. It’s from Pete Balodimas (Spiaggia, Tin Fish). You can expect wood-burning-oven creations, including prime steaks, as well as seafood. Fahrenheit, 1890 W. North Ave., St. Charles.

Get ready for a twist on the Brazilian concept with Edgewater’s Al Primo Canto. It’ll feature chicken that’s cooked in a wood-burning charcoal grill (all you can eat) and served with things like fired eggplant and pita. It’s from Georges Elbekai (Caliterra Bar & Grille). Al Primo Canto, 5414 W. Devon Ave., 773-631-0100.

Alhambra Palace

Alhambra Palace, a lavish Moroccan-French restaurant, has opened in the West Loop. It’s no surprise it’s creating quite a stir given Eric Aubriot is in the kitchen. Alhambra Palace, 1240 W. Randolph St., Chicago,

Design-your-own religion at Olé Lounge, a new tapas spot in Lakeview that’s housed in a former Mennonite church. It features deejays and sangría, too. Olé Lounge, 2812 N. Lincoln Ave., Lakeview, 773-388-3500.

It’s not like Geno Bahena wasn’t already busy with his newcomer, Tepatulco. Now he’s also preparing to open two more spots, Delicioso Restaurant and Sabroso Grill in early May. The former will serve up mole dishes and preparations made from local organic ingredients, while the latter will be an affordable taqueria. Delicioso Restaurant and Sabroso Grill, 10468 S. Indianapolis Blvd., Chicago, 773-374-6089; Tepatulco, 2558 N. Halsted St., Chicago, 773-472-7419.

Whether veggies are your thing or you just like to switch things up once in a while, it’s time to head to Veg Out, an all-salad joint in Lakeview that’s from the guys behind nearby Melrose restaurant. Start with the greens (baby spinach, romaine or mesclun) and custom-design with fillers like apples, tofu, anchovies and cheese. Next up: dressings that include avocado-dill. Veg Out, 3176 N. Broadway, Chicago, 773-880-6452.

Oak Parkers are now benefiting from the 25th Bar Louie location. Smack in the heart of downtown shopping, this one, too, serves the fab Luigi steak sandwich. Bar Louie, 1122 Lake St., Oak Park, 708-725-3300,

Neapolitan pizzas will be the focus of La Madia, a spot slated to open in River North this summer. It’s from Jonathan Fox, who was behind the development of Maggiano's Little Italy and Papagus. La Madia, 59 W. Grand Ave., Chicago.

Ingredients Used at Aigre Doux

When you’re hot, you’re hot. Aigre Doux, a restaurant and bakery in the former pili.pili space in River North, is the brainchild of executive chef Mohammad Islam and executive pastry chef Malika Ameen, a married duo who first met in the kitchen at the Ritz and went on to spiff up the kitchen at Chateau Marmont in L.A. Given their pedigrees, prepare to salivate over dishes like seared ahi with jicama and cumin-infused citrus salad; Colorado rack of lamb with truffled grits alongside fennel, apple and fava bean salad; and a finale of passion fruit-lavender cookies. Aigre Doux, 230 W. Kinzie St., Chicago, 312-329-9400.

Looking for bistro fare? Check out Côtes du Rhône, an Edgewater newbie serving up French fare. It’s from Brian Moulton, who left Café Bernard to open the place. Expect dishes like escargot, bouillabaisse and cassoulet as well as elaborate specials that go beyond the norm. Côtes du Rhône, 5423 N. Broadway, Chicago, 773-293-2683.

The folks behind Japonais have set their sites on the old Montgomery Ward Building. Enter Brasserie Ruhlmann, an installment of the New York French bistro and raw bar, which will transform the space in months to come. Stay tuned for more.

Andersonville has a new tenant: Pasticceria Natalina, a Sicilian pastry shop from 24-year-old chef-owner Natalie Zarzour. Finds include cannoli, orange blossom water-infused rice pudding and buttery fruit-and-nut-filled tarts. To wash it all down? A stiff cappuccino, of course. Pasticceria Natalina, 5406 N. Clark St., Andersonville, 773-989-0662.

Watch for Northern Italian spot Erba (4520 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-989-4200), a new sibling to Brioso (4603 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-989-9000), to open in late July. Everything will be house-made, and there will be a patio for wining and dining.

Head over to newcomer Fiorentino’s Cucina Italiana (2901 N. Ashland Ave., 773-244-3026), a Southern Italian BYOB serving up beef spiedini that’s filled with prosciutto and provolone in white wine sauce. It’s from Frances Fiorentino, a one-time partner at Bella Via in Des Plaines.

Sad about having to say “goodbye” to Geneva’s lauded 302 West? The good news is much of its front staff and kitchen staff has bonded to soon open modern American restaurant Niche a block down the road in the Chez Francois space (14 S. Third St., Geneva). It’ll feature the cooking of chef Jeremy Lycan, with sips courtesy of sommelier Jody Richardson.

As if they weren’t already busy enough, Doug and Mike Dunlay of Dunlays on Clark (2600 N. Clark St., 773-883-6000), D.O.C. Wine Bar next door and Logan Square’s Dunlays on the Square now have Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar (3358 N. Paulina St., 773-248-5222) to brag about. The Lakeview spot is all about wood-fired Neapolitan pizza.

In need of a seafood fix close to the office? McCormick & Schmick’s will roll out the red carpet at 1 W. Wacker Dr., formerly Nick & Tony’s, in early July.

Wishbone has been dishing out grub at legendary music venue Fitzgerald’s (6615 Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn, 708-788-2118) since early this year, but owner Joel Nickson decided to take things a step further by opening a Wishbone restaurant next door. Stay tuned.

Kee Chan, the mastermind behind Heat, just opened Mulan (2017 S. Wells St., 312-842-8282), a Chinese-meets-Japanese spot with innovative cuisine. Plus, there will be Asian-accented takes on desserts like crème brûlée.

On the horizon is Flatwater (321 N. Clark St., 312-644-0283), a soon-to-open comfort food restaurant that has docking space along the Chicago River. Narcisse’s Jay Vohra is behind the venture, which will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just be sure to check out the outdoor bar.

Those looking to bypass dogs when heading to U.S. Cellular Field might try Trattoria 31 (605 W. 31st St., 312-326-3500), a BYOB Italian restaurant with better-than-ballpark dishes like rosemary-marinated chicken.

Chef Paul Kahan of Blackbird (619 W. Randolph St., 312-715-0708) recently went public via podcast announcing his plans to open an upscale gastropub that focuses on pork and beer.

One to watch for: Tamarind (614 S. Wabash Ave., 312-379-0970), a pan-Asian newcomer from Taiwanese chef-owner Lisa Ko, formerly of Charming Wok.

If for no other reason than to check out the koi pond, a visit to Aki Sushi (2015 W. Division St., 773-227-8080) is in order. The Wicker Park Japanese spot even offers free valet parking. Eats include the Aki Dragon roll, eight pieces of broiled unagi and avocado over shrimp tempura, crab, avocado, masago and cucumber that’s plated around flaming Bacardi 151.

Get your booze and bite on at Bourbon (3244 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-880-9520), a new spot from Peter Mitchell, a former bartender at spots like Four Farthings, Ruth’s Chris and Tavish Bar & Grill. Not surprising given the name, diners can expect a big selection of Irish whiskey, Kentucky bourbon and scotch whiskey. There’s even a Knob Creek crème brûlée on the menu.

Check out the latest small-plates spot to hit the dining scene: Fixture (2706 N. Ashland Ave., 773-248-3331), the sister restaurant to the much-loved Meritage Café & Wine Bar (2118 N. Damen Ave., 773-235-6434). Eclectic American dishes are served with an international wine list full of hard-to-find choices that’s guided by Michael Willison, wine director. Grab some pasilla-marinated lobster ceviche with jicama salad and cactus-pear emulsion while you’re there.

Stone Lotus, a fancy spa with boozy benefits, is slotted to open in the former Pluton space in June. Chef Dale Levitski, formerly of Trio Atelier, will concoct the menu. Stone Lotus, 873 N. Orleans St., 312-440-9680.

Check out weeks-old Sage Grille, a contemporary American bistro. At the helm is Greg Darrah (of now-defunct Acqualina in Chicago), and he's dishing up eats like beef Wellington and shrimp de Jonghe. Sage Grille, 260 Green Bay Rd., Highwood, 847-433-7005.

In the mood for pasta? Visit newcomer Tony Rocco’s River North, a neighborhood joint with familiarly inviting fare like antipasto salad, chicken Parmigiano and lasagna. River North, 416 W. Ontario St., 312-787-1400.

Tagine, the newcomer from Eddie Maettaoui (Ann Sather's, NoMI), features fare accented with house-ground spices imported from Morocco. Tagine, 4749 N. Rockwell St., 773-989-4340.

Looking to heat things up? Make a trip to Ole Ole, an Andersonville spot featuring sultry dishes from Cuba, Argentina and Spain. Its must-try dessert: Strawberry-filled mango mousse atop pistachio cake. Ole Ole, 5413 N. Clark St., 773-293-2222.

Terragusto Italian Café, a new BYOB that opened on V-Day, serves up dishes concocted from organic, sustainable, often local, ingredients. Stop by for three squares a day. Terragusto Italian Café, 1851 W. Addison St., 773-248-2777.

David Burke’s Primehouse is slotted to open later this month. The former VP of culinary development for Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group and chef-proprietor of davidburke & donatella and David Burke at Bloomingdale’s in New York plans to give Chicago’s meat-centric peers a run for their money with steaks that are dry-aged on site. Primehouse, James Hotel, 616 N. Rush St.; 312-660-6000.

Bradley Rubin, who worked with Michael Kornick at MK, is preparing to open Jewish deli Eleven City Diner in the South Loop later this month. Consulting for Rubin are Norman Robinson, owner of the city’s original Pickle Barrel, and Kornick, who helped develop the menu. Eleven City Diner, 1112 S. Wabash Ave., 312-212-1112.

People are flocking to recently opened Haro, which features traditional and communal seating. The shtick? Pintxos—the Basque Country's version of tapas. Entrées—like roasted chicken topped with Serrano ham, goat cheese and a chorizo-pimiento demi-glace—are present as well. Haro, 2436 S. Oakley Ave., 773-847-2400

Keep an eye out for Block 44, a soon-to-open concept from Kendall College grad Brian Storey. It will feature a set price selection of small plates, which can be matched with half-glasses of wine. Block 44, 4365 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-868-4404.

Wine lovers on the North Shore are about to get their fix nearby with the opening of Sam’s Wine and Spirits (1919 Skokie Valley Hwy, Highland Park). Expect to choose from more than 3,000 wines and 1,000 liquors, plus there’s classes, a wine lounge with by-the-glass selections and gourmet grab-and-go grub.

Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants fave, Riva, already located at Navy Pier, will open another in Naperville next month (2020 Calamos Ct., 630-718-1010). The menu will be like-minded and is expected to include steaks, seafood and pasta. In the same development: office space, a boutique hotel, a performance space and dining and retail space.

Brad Cousen, the guy behind Gramercy Lounge, opened Duke’s Bar & Grill (2616 N. Clark St., 773-248-0250) in Lincoln Park. The lounge-meets-lodge features almost two dozen burgers, low lighting and a flickering fireplace.

The tough-in-cheek funny guys behind Twisted Spoke, (501 N. Ogden Ave., 312-666-1500 and 3369 N. Clark St., 773-525-5300) have opened Lush Wine and Spirits (1306 S. Halsted St., 312-738-1900), a specialty retail spot focusing on artisanal producers and small batch wines. Tastings are poured on a regular basis and customer computer stations help patrons record—and remember—purchases down the line. Also here: high-end spirits and unique microbrews.

Bistro Campagne (4518 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-271-6100) Owner Michael Altenberg plans to open a wood-oven-fueled, organic pizzeria in early summer.

Newcomer Il Mulino (1150 N. Dearborn St., 312-440-8888) opened in the former Biggs space. Like the New York original, rustic fare is order of the day, and heaping portions are to be expected. Tables already are tough to get.

Say “hey” to Sola (3868 N. Lincoln Ave.), the brainchild of self-proclaimed “surfer girl” and former chef to Hollywood celebrities, Carol Wallack. The restaurant is a hot pot of American, Hawaiian and Asian cooking. Bites include pork dumplings with steamed ginger, Asian chicken broth and Fuji apple chutney and Hawaiian Red Snapper en papillote pineapple, shiitake, mint and cilantro.

Smoking is not exactly en vogue these days—except, perhaps at the new Marshall McGearty Lounge (1553 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-772-8410), a luxe tobacco café from R. J. Reynolds Tobacco. The vibe is hip, and snacks come from nearby bakery Sweet Thang. Wines by the glass, bottled beers and premium liquors are on hand to wash things down. And the interesting smoking paraphernalia here makes puffing away fun again.

Gibsons and Hugo’s Frog Bar have a new sibling, Quartino (626 N. State St., 312-698-5000). The new River North wine bar features small Italian plates, artisanal cheeses and house-cured meats from chef John Coletta. Another twist? Wines by the glass are served in—what else—quartinos.

Dine (733 W. Madison St., 312-602-2100) opened nearby the Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro Hotel. The shtick? It’s a 1940s-inspired spot with plates like homemade doughnut holes and salmon with black rice and fennel relish. There’s also a martini bar. Trevor Hoyte (Caliterra, Tru) is at the helm, and the pastry chef is Kate Milashus (Zealous, Pili.Pili). Retro? Maybe not.

Lettuce Entertain You’s latest venture, Di Pescara (2124 Northbrook Ct., Northbrook, 847-498-4321), is popular already. The fare is “coastal Italian, ” meaning there is a lot of seafood and plenty of good vino.

Looking for a bite of heat? Check out WOW Cafe & Wingery (717 West Maxwell St., 312-997-9969), a Louisiana-based wing chain with 17 sauces, including Bombay curry. The owner is Rodrigo Miranda (312 Chicago and Ben Pao). Rumor has it, additional locations—beyond the existing one in Shorewood—will be opening soon.

Check out Bin Wine Café (1559 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-486-2233), the new scaled-down Wicker Park joint from Bin 36, which features—you guessed it—36 wines by the glass as well as 21 cheeses, a menu that includes hangar steak with Gorgonzola butter and fries and a vibe that’s warm and inviting. The cool kids are loving it already.

Extra Virgin (741 W. Randolph St., 312-474-0700) is the latest venture from folks behind Bar Louie (and former Bluepoint Oyster Bar, which once resided in the same location). The place is an enoteca—or Italian wine bar—and offers a lengthy menu of small plates and a great world-wise wine list. The crowd that frequents this hang is grooving on eats like flatbreads topped with spicy salami and porcini mushrooms.

Mod replacement Del Toro (1520 N. Damen Ave., 773-252-1500), a tapas spot with a Spanish wine list and far-out interior with Antonio Gaudi-inspired mosaic-tiled walls, just opened, and the house has been packed to the hilt ever since. Sample items like pork loin with green apple, pistachio, green chilis and shaved manchego.

Grownup scene-seekers are flocking to Saltaus (1350 W. Randolph St.; 312-455-1919), a newcomer from Michael Taus of Zealous and Chicago surgeon and first-time restaurateur Nader Salti. The restaurant and upstairs lounge—both decadent in every way—feature Mediterranean and Asian bites like hummus with crisp teriyaki mushrooms and black sesame seed flatbread and chilled rock shrimp salad with sweet potato mousse, spiced almonds and za'atar aromatics.

Fulton's on the River

Fulton's on the River (315 N. LaSalle St., 312-822-0100), officially opened its doors to the tune of prime steaks and one of the largest selections of oysters in the Midwest.

After gorging on great grub, Randolph Street diners are dropping by Fulton Lounge (955 W. Fulton Market, 312-942-9500), a tucked-away, loft-like “living room” where cocktails flow freely and hand-tossed pizzas afford a late-night bite.

Maura McCartney, Don Hladko and Stephen Hill—Chicago restaurant pros who paid their dues at Bistrot Margot, Francesca’s, and Levy Restaurants—will be opening two new restaurants within days in west suburb Downers Grove. So, keep an eye out for come-as-you-are Italian spot Trucchi Italian Bistro (5141 Main St., Downers Grove, 630-434-7700) and lively Mexican eatery Comida Bebida (5139 Main St., 630-434-0300). Chef Mitch Garcia, formerly of Rosebud on Rush and The Cheesecake Factory, will man both kitchens.

Cuatro (2030 S. Wabash Ave., 312-842-8856) opened without its liquor license, which is still to come. The Nuevo Latino restaurant is already gaining a following.

Jerry Kleiner (Gioco, Red Light) has done it again with the opening of his over-the-top, buzzy Carnivale (702 W. Fulton Market, 312-850-5005), which resides in the former home of Drink. Pan-Latin eats and sexy sips are the name of the game, and swank decor includes oodles of velvet and elaborate light fixtures.

Banana Moon

Recently opened is upscale American restaurant Banana Moon (730 Waukegan Rd., Deerfield, 847-948-1110). It's the brainchild of chef-owners Alan Wolf (formerly of Carlos) and Jason Gottlieb.

Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises plans to open Di Pescara (2124 Northbrook Ct., Northbrook), an Italian steak and seafooder sometime in December in the former Bice space. Mark Dorian, chef-partner at Petterino’s in Chicago, will head the kitchen.

The Kohl Children’s Museum is about to get a new twist with Kim & Scott’s Pretzel Bakery and Twisting Café (2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview, 847-832-6926), a kid-friendly spot that does pretzel sandwiches and lets the little ones play with dough to create their own masterpieces. Plus, there’s a cocoa bar for tykes. What could be better?

Northshore fave Max & Benny’s (461 Waukegan Rd., Northbrook, 847-272-9490), plans to open a spot downtown (332 East Illinois St.) around the holidays. It’ll feature a similar menu, along with fresh grab-and-go grub.

Hinsdale lifestyle boutique and bistro, Kokopelli, packed it up and moved to the town’s historic movie building and is now called Embrace (29 E. First St., Hinsdale, 630-325-1996). It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is still equal parts restaurant and shop. The creative American spot serves bites like Australian rack of lamb with mint pesto persillade, jus and whipped potatoes. Incidentally, Kokopelli (30 E. First St.) is still there, but it’s a holiday shop that’ll be open only through December 31.

Crestfallen followers will be happy to know that Café 36 (Calendar Court, La Grange), which shuttered in June, is preparing—fingers crossed—to reopen shortly. New owners will be Terry and Carol Gilmer, who are buying the restaurant from Reinhard Barthel Sr. Apparently, they’re hoping to bring back a lot of the restaurant’s beloved staff.

Fulton’s on the River (315 N. LaSalle St., 312-822-0100) recently had a “soft opening.” The Levy Restaurants venture is housed in the revamped Bob Chinn’s space and dishes up prime steaks and burgers, a massive oyster selection and plenty of seafood selections.

Blue Point Oyster Bar, which closed a few weeks ago, will be Extra Virgin (741 W. Randolph St.), an enoteca—a.k.a. an Italian wine bar—that serves flatbreads courtesy of Roger Greenfield and Ted Kasemir.

Irish fare goes upscale at the new, two-floor Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro (3905 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-248-3905). The place, which is from Rick Hall (ex-Blue Stem) and the wife of Jim Murphy (ex-Murphy's Bleachers), serves items like sweetbreads with meat and cabbage, grilled, grass-fed New York strip with pepper-whiskey sauce and colcannon and sea scallops atop seafood broth with fingerling potatoes.

Michael Lachowicz, one-time chef at Le Français and Les Deux Gros,
opened French restaurant Michael (64 Green Bay Rd., Winnetka; 847-441-3100) in
early October.

Bin Wine Café, sister restaurant of the acclaimed Bin 36 restaurants in Chicago and Lincolnshire, will open its doors this fall (1559 N. Milwaukee Ave.) in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. The menu will be divided into starters and entrees, accompanied by a handful of thin-crust pizzas, a selection of 20 artisanal cheeses and simple, yet creative desserts. Dishes will be presented on mix-and-match china, and lazy Susans made of slate will sit atop tables, allowing guests the option of sharing an assortment of plates. A sneak peek at eats: sautéed crispy skate with black olive oil and hand-cut lobster pappardelle and bouillabaisse broth with gold beets, fennel and tarragon.

Rick Bayless

Keep an eye out at Marshall Field’s (111 N. State St., 7th floor, 312-781-1000) as Rick Bayless plans to open Frontera Fresco, a grab-and-go take on Frontera Grill soon. You can expect bites like huaraches (fried, stuffed masa), quesadillas and aqua de jamaica, a nonalcoholic drink made from dried hibiscus flowers. Not surprisingly, Bayless' Frontera salsas, hot sauces, guac seasonings and chips will be on hand, too.

Looking for a swank place to shop? Check out Sage Restaurant (2465 N. Clark St., 773-348-7243), a café, foodie grocer and wine shop manned by Sean Tehrani, owner of neighboring Basil Leaf Café (2460 N. Clark St.; 773-935-3388). The shop plans to have cheese, wine and beer tastings and to offer lots of great-sounding sandwiches topped with things like Serrano ham. Other bites include pizzas topped with goodies like potatoes and rosemary and entrées such as venison in port wine sauce with mushrooms.

Gibsons and Hugo’s Frog Bar have a new sibling: Lux Bar (18 E. Bellevue Pl., 312-642-3400), an upscale-casual watering hole with mahogany walls and ceilings and filet mignon sliders and bellinis

Jerry Kleiner (Gioco, Red Light) just opened the sexy Carnivale (702 W. Fulton Market, 312-850-5005), a pan-Latin stunner serving guacamole, ceviche, empanadas and fried plantains topped with braised beef to the tune of thumping Latin beats.

Chiyo Tozuka, a partner and owner of Chicago Kalbi (3752 W. Lawrence Ave., 773-604-8183) just opened multi-course, all-kaiseki Japanese restaurant, Matsumoto Restaurant (3800 W. Lawrence Ave., 773-267-1555). Beyond sushi, you can expect items like raw squid in a sake-squid liver sauce, but there is no menu and eats are the chef’s choice.

Feel like a game of bowling but aren’t up for the skuzz factor? Check out Lucky Strike Lanes (322 E. Illinois St., Chicago, 312-245-8331), where retro-chic décor, a fireplace-decked wine bar—yes, wine bar—and gourmet grub, like flank steak sandwiches with roasted garlic mayo, roasted tomato, arugula and crumbled blue cheese, strike a chord with regulars. There’s also a sports lounge where you can catch games.

The all-suite Omni Chicago Hotel is opening American-bent brasserie 676 Restaurant and Bar (676 N. Michigan Ave., 312-944-6664), on its fourth floor to replace its now-closed Cielo.

Christopher and Mary Spagnola (of now-shuttered of Maison) are brainstorming about Emilio’s Sunflower Bistro (30 S. La Grange Rd., La Grange, 708-588-9890), which will open in Maison’s place. It’ll have a martini lounge, raw bar selections and cheeses.

Move over, Bin 36. Wicker Park sibling Bin Wine Café (1559 N. Milwaukee Ave.) will open soon, offering artisan cheeses, grub cooked in a wood-burning oven and, of course, vino galore.

Michael Noone is getting ready to roll out Francesca’s Forno (1576 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-770-0184), which will offer an antipasto bar as well as wood-fired dishes, in the onetime Soul Kitchen space. The menu will have a few of Francesca’s greatest hits, including beef carpaccio, too.

Wicker Park has another newcomer: Parlor (1745 W. North Ave., 773-782-9000) is nestled into the former Soju space. Chef Kevin McGuinnis, formerly of Naha and Avenues, and chef Tim Small, from Monsoon and Room 22, have partnered to design a contemporary American menu that is rooted in traditional American cuisine with a modern slant. Expect everything from burgers and shrimp cocktails to comfort fare like pork chops, mac and cheese with aged cheddar, brick and goat cheeses and a grilled cheese sandwich with house-smoked bacon.

French bistro Tournesol has been refashioned into Cork Wine Bar & Café (4343 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-477-8820), a small-plates spot with an affordable, international wine list—thirty of which are served by the glass. Bites to try include eggplant caponata with grilled toast points, marinated hangar steak with tomatoes, spring onion and salsa verde, and a warm mussel salad with herbs and shallots.

Old Town fave Bistrot Margot (1437 N. Wells St., 312-587-3660) just opened another like-minded location in west suburban Naperville (216 S. Washington St., 630-778-1944). The kitchen is manned by Thomas Donnelly, formerly of Le Bouchon and Bistro 110. The menu at the new outpost will be the same as the downtown original.

The guys behind John Barleycorn in Lincoln Park are throwing caution to the wind and opening Moe’s Cantina, 3518 N. Clark St., 773-281-8399, which will serve small, tapas-inspired Mexican plates that focus on parrilladas (tableside mixed grills) and skewered meat.

If you’ve been to the grocery store of late, you’ve surely seen Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce. Well, founder David Raymond is ready to compete with the likes of Weber Grill. He opened Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Wood Dale, 249 E. Irving Park Rd., Wood Dale, 630-238-8261, a mostly carry-out joint with meat-centric dishes like ribs, smoked chicken, beef brisket and pulled pork.

Gangster-themed trattoria Romeo Romeo, 1415 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-227-6636, opened in the former Ezuli space. Expect dishes like espresso-crusted beef tenderloin alongside sautéed polenta cake, roasted shallots and a Brunello reduction and fettuccine Alfredo dressed up with peekytoe crab, white wine and parsley.

Sensational Bites, 3751 N. Southport Ave., 773-248-2271, is a new bakery endeavor from Gina Sedivy a former veteran of Sweet Mandy B’s, Tru and Artopolis Bakery. It brims with coffee cakes, cookies, éclairs, tarts and buttercream-lacquered cakes.

A fire closed the original Maiz on Division Street a few years back, but it’s been reincarnated at 1041 North California St., 773-276-3149. Owner Carlos now serves up affordable faves like huitlacoche quesadillas and antojitos stuffed with pork, chicken, chorizo or beef Reyna in Humboldt Park.

Weber Grill is preparing to open its fourth Chicagoland restaurant the middle of this month, 1010 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg.

If you’ve noticed a bread-like scent wafting about on your way to the office, it may be the ovens at Hannah’s Bretzel (180 W. Washington St., 312-621-1111) at work. The spot, which recently opened in the Loop, bakes up crunchy-yet-chewy German-style pretzels with an organic bent. Other options include soups, sandwiches, and 20-plus varieties of chocolate.

Keep your eyes peeled for eatZi's gourmet take-out market and bakery (2828 N. Clark; 773-525-1245), which is about to open shop in Lincoln Park. It’ll offer made-from scratch salads, 50-plus breads—including white chocolate apricot and olive oil boule—sushi, entrees like churrasco sirloin with chimichurri sauce and sweets such as key lime pie.

Vines on Clark (3554 N. Clark St.; 773-327-8572) recently opened in the shadows of Wrigley Field. Although you wouldn’t suspect it from the approachable, affordable menu of pastas and sandwiches, the team behind this joint previously worked at top-tier spots like Everest, Tru, and The Pump Room.

Odd as it may sound, Charlie Trotter is matching wits with Equinox Fitness (200 W. Monroe St.; 312-252-3100). When its new club opens in October, it’ll feature the star chef’s take on healthy, spa-inspired dishes.

Sleepyheads say “hello” to Cereality (100 S. Wacker Dr.; 312-506-0010) the latest concept to hit the, um, breakfast scene. The shtick is simple and nostalgic: Blends of your favorite cereals, Frosted Flakes, for example, get amped up with marshmallows or crushed malted-milk balls. For entertainment, TVs are tuned to retro cartoons. Choose from about 30 cereals and more than 20 toppings or opt for predesigned bowls, smoothies and baked goods.

Trevor and Micheal O’Donoghue, a sibling duo from Ireland, opened The Kerryman which serves upscale takes on pub staples and traditional, slow-cooked Irish dishes nightly until the wee hours. The Kerryman, 661 N. Clark St., 312-335-8121.

Hossein Jamali, the owner of Mesón Sabika in Naperville, plans to open mosaic tile-and waterfall-laden Tapas Valencia in June. It’ll serve—you guessed it—tapas until midnight. Tapas Valencia, 241 E. Lake St., Bloomingdale, 630-582-1500.

Still counting carbs? Brazzaz will open in early June as the latest carnivorous contender to Fogo de Chão and Sal & Carvao Churrascaria. It’ll boast more than fifteen varieties of meat which will be offered tableside, and there will be a massive, all-you-can-eat salad bar. To wash it all down? Mojitos and caipirinhas, of course. Brazzaz, 539 N. Dearborn St., 312-595-9000.

A Milano Italian Grill, pictured, is the latest brainchild of Michael Kornick, famed chef-owner of MK, who turned suburban MK North into an Italian trattoria with wood-fired pizzas, panini, pastas and veal osso buco. A Milano Italian Grill, 305 S. Happ Rd., Northfield, 847-716-6500.

Butter opened in the former Green Room space. Owner Jason Chan, who consulted on dynamos like Thyme, MK and Gioco, imagined a spot complete with wine tones—from Cabernet to Chardonnay—and herb-stuffed chicken with polenta cake, Mediterranean vegetables and saffron butter, plus wood-grilled New York strip steak with roasted new potatoes, caramelized cauliflower and red wine sauce. Butter, 130 S. Green St., 312-666-9813.

Looking for some elevated bar food? Jack Binyon and Donnie Kruse (of Stanley’s Kitchen & Tap and Melvin B’s) just opened a gastropub called BB’s. In case you’re not in the know, that’s fancy-speak for upscale pub grub, and here it translates to Hungarian goulash with spätzle, beef stroganoff with buttered noodles and sour cream and pork shank with sausages and kraut. BB’s, 22 E. Hubbard St., 312-755-0007.


Zocalo, a feisty, small plates Mexican restaurant has officially opened in Chilpancingo’s former home. It’s from Edgar and Marcos Castañeda (Zapatista, Nacional 27 and ¡Salpicón!). In addition to tapas-type plates—a guac trio and ceviche, for example—you’ll find heftier dishes like the cazuelas, saucy concoctions baked in terra cotta pots. Zocalo, 358 W. Ontario St., 312-302-9977,

Want some sushi in the suburbs? Keep an eye out for Blu Coral, which comes from restaurant veteran Andy Park, executive chef (Starfish, Sushi Ai), and David Yi, partner (Sushi Ai). Set to open sometime in September, it’ll feature sushi classics plus specialty maki like the crazy spider, which is rolled with black rice, soft shell crab, cucumber, avocado and asparagus, then rolled again with a soybean sheet and served with eel sauce and red miso. Blu Coral, 6320 Rte. 53, Woodridge, 630-719-8808.

For those who shed a tear at the passing of 302 West in Geneva, a trip to newcomer Niche—the brainchild of many of the restaurant’s former staff members—is more than warranted. Located where Frenchie Chez François used to be, the menu might feature dishes like chipotle-lime roasted prawns with orange-avocado mousse on fresh jicama. Hmmm…sounds like a winner already. Niche, 14 S. Third St., Geneva, 630-262-1000.

No one can fault you for not wanting to return to the city after having just come from working downtown. Enter Brockway Chophouse, a sophisticated steakhouse with an urban vibe. The menu, while replete with meaty greatest hits, does include a few twists of its own. Courtesy of chef George Zimmett, a Palatine resident who previously worked at Nick's Fishmarket & Grill, McCormick & Schmick’s and Victoria & Albert’s at Walt Disney World in Florida, you’ll find more than a dozen steaks—all of which can don crusts—alongside smoked Gouda-topped, scalloped potatoes. Brockway Chophouse, 110 N. Brockway St., Palatine, Chicago, 847-963-0600.

While burgeoning on many fronts, the south ’burbs still hunger for fab fare. Among the newcomers trying to change that is Ginger Asian Bistro. At the helm is Kelvin Cheung who, incidentally, is the son of Eddie Cheung (Phoenix). The stylish spot dishes up elegantly presented plates, including ribs that have been braised in Chinese tea. Ginger Asian Bistro, 15700 S. Harlem Ave., Orland Park, Chicago, 708-633-1818.

Have a hankering for a meaty meal? Check out Ted's Montana Grill a Ted Turner-backed steakhouse where hand-cut beef and bison steaks are order of the day and Arts & Crafts-inspired décor further drives the all-American vibe home. Personally, we’re most partial to the crispy pickles that are brought to the table before meals. 930 Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, Chicago, 847-413-8337,

Talk about a room with a view. DeLaCosta, a new Nuevo Latino spot in Streeterville, has a solarium that overlooks the Ogden Slip on the Chicago River. What’s more, it’s outfitted with custom-designed cabanas. The brains behind all the beauty: Suhail of del Toro and Sonotheque fame. As for the food, you can thank chef Douglas Rodriguez who fashions dishes like hamachi “fish and chips” with sour orange nectar, jalapeños, root vegetable chips and hucayna sauce—one of the menu’s several takes on ceviche—as well as tapas options (think chorizo in a blanket with corn arepa, anise and green olive tapenade). There’s also Argentinean churrasco steak with Dungeness salad, roasted asparagus and basil chimichurri. DeLaCosta, 435 E. Illinois St., Chicago, 312-321-8930.

On-trend foodies in search of Latino grub know to head to the city’s South Loop, which, in addition to Cuatro and Zapatista, has thrown La Cantina Grill into the mix. The not-too-pricy eatery serves straight-up favorites like steak tacos and chicken with mole sauce for a song. Fruit-flavored margaritas sweeten the deal. La Cantina Grill, 1911 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-842-1911.

Contemporary Indian restaurant Marigold offers a swanky alternative to the Devon Avenue Strip with cooking courtesy of Monica Riley (Meritage, Zinfandel), who prepares interesting eats like grilled, garam masala-dusted scallops; achaari lamb chops, which have been marinated in yogurt and mustard seeds and cooked in a tandoori oven; and coriander-crusted halibut, which is presented atop daal. Sips deviate from the norm to include the Kashmir, a concoction with vodka, pomegranate liquor and a curried spice rim. Marigold, 4832 N. Broadway, Chicago, 773-293-4653.

Breakfast is about to get a bit more interesting with the opening of the South Loop spot Yolk. The main draw: french toast prepped several ways, including a number inspired by a banana split. It’s from Taki Kastanis, owner of Egg’lectic Café. Yolk, 1120 S. Michigan Ave., 312-789-9655.

The North Shore is now home to Nick's Fishmarket Grill a more cost-effective offshoot of the Nick’s Fishmarket restaurants. Nick's Fishmarket Grill, 483 Lake Cook Rd., Deerfield, 847-412-4800,

Looking for a change of pace? Make the trek to Tay Do, a just-opened Vietnamese eatery from Saigon natives and siblings John and Kevin Ngo. One of the main attractions is a packed-to-the-hilt seafood, noodle and veggie firepot that’s designed to feed a family. Tay Do, 1232 Bloomingdale Rd., Glendale Heights, 630-462-8888.

Wildfish is planning to open another northwest suburban location early next year in the former Banana Moon space. The contemporary Japanese spot is known for its innovative takes, as evidenced in the Jazz Spring Roll, a mélange of eel, salmon, super white tuna, asparagus and mint leaf, wrapped with a soybean sheet and zapped with eel sauce and chili oil. Wildfish, 730 Waukegan Rd., Deerfield.

Streeterville is buzzing thanks to newcomer Viand. Sure, it’s got a great locale—it’s nestled into the Courtyard by Marriott—but more importantly, Steve Chiappetti (Mango, Rhapsody, Grapes and, more recently, Café Le Coq in Oak Park) is the leading man in the kitchen. Expect a traditional American bistro with tableside preps and familiar eats like roast chicken for under $20. Incidentally, if his name sounds familiar beyond the restaurant scene, don’t be surprised. He’s part of the Chiappetti family, longtime local butchers known for their top-tier lamb and veal. Viand, 155 E. Ontario St., 312-255-8505,

Not that the city doesn’t have enough burger joints already, but now it can add Patty Burger to the mix. The quick-serve burger concept features hand-pattied, seasoned mouthfuls in single, double or triple sizes on buns that are baked in-house daily and dressed with hand-cut lettuce, tomato, cheese and its signature sauce. Also available is a list of toppings that include mushrooms, bacon, avocados and grilled onions. Patty Burger, 72 E. Adams St., 312-987-0900,

Keep an eye out for The Gage, a casual, vintage-Chicago-outfitted tavern across from Millennium Park slated to open before the end of the year. It’ll feature a menu courtesy of exec chef Dirk Flanigan (Meritage, Blue Water Grill). The Gage, 24 S. Michigan Ave., 312-372-4243.

Who knew the west ’burbs were the next locale to be graced with pristine sushi? The latest spot to hit the scene is Blu Coral. It’s from Andy Park (Starfish, Sushi Ai) and David Yi (Sushi Ai), and the menu offers up rolls like the Crazy Spider with black rice, soft shell crab, cucumber, avocado and asparagus, then rolled again with a soybean sheet and served with eel sauce and red miso. Blu Coral, 6320 Rte. 53, Ste. 100, Woodridge, 630-719-8808.

Keep your eyes peeled for Sapore di Napoli, a soon-to-open BYOB pizzeria with a specialty oven that heats up to 800-degrees. It’ll feature handmade crust and will serve gelato, too. Sapore di Napoli, 1406 W. Belmont Ave., 773-935-1212.

Newsies and Mag Mile shoppers have another place to dine. Amira a modern Mediterranean bistro, has nestled into the NBC Tower in the former Pazzo’s space. Look for staples like tabbouleh, baba ghanouj and hummus to start things off, followed by oven-roasted chicken breast atop pea-basil risotto with red pepper cream and kalamata olive tapenade and sumac-glazed salmon with coriander-infused couscous, sautéed asparagus and curry-scented orange sauce. Amira, 455 N. Cityfront Plaza, 312-923-9311.

The former home of Trio is now occupied by Quince, an American concept designed by François Genève (Spring, Custom House). Joe Ziomek, one-time Trio staffer and former assistant sommelier at Alinea, is the GM, and Mark Hannon, who was sous chef at Azul in Miami, will be wearing the toque. Quince, 1625 Hinman Ave., Evanston.

In the same vein, star chef Rick Bayless launched nearby Frontera Fresco where huaraches, corn flatbread layered with black beans and chipotle sauce with grilled chicken, chorizo, steak, sausage or peppers, are order of the day. Frontera Fresco, 111 N. State St., 7th Fl.


Say hello to Krem, a South Beach-inspired spot—sans sand—featuring the stylings of chef Scott Donaldson (Spiaggia, May Street Market). It’ll be a bottle service kind of joint with fancy small plate bites like pumpkin and duck confit raviolo accented by frisée, walnuts and truffle vinaigrette. Krem, 1750 N. Clark St., 312-932-1750.

Fans of Steve Byrne’s former west suburban charmer, Bistro Banlieue, should keep an eye out for Sequel, which occupies the same space. This time around, diners can expect elevated new American cuisine from chef Mark Downing, which translates into Thai curry-spiced ahi tartare and foie gras with roasted orange-pomegranate salad and black-pepper caramel sauce. Sequel, 44 Yorktown Convenience Ctr., Lombard; 630-629-6560.


Billy Berk’s, once located in Old Orchard in Skokie, closed.

Something is now missing from the culinary landscape: Kevin in River North closed at the end of February. Owners Kevin and Alan Shikami will turn all their focus to Shikago in the Loop, which serves Asian tapas and dishes like bulgogi-marinated rib-eye with scallion pancakes, ginger-roasted shiitake mushrooms and a red wine-soy reduction. Kevin, 9 W. Hubbard St.; Shikago, 190 S. LaSalle, 312-781-7300.

Meritage Café & Wine Bar has officially closed. Owner Christopher Peckat is now focusing on newly opened barbecue joint Risque Café and soon-to-open Purgatory Pizza.

Old Town’s La Fette is no more. La Fette, 163 W. North Ave.

John Bubala has decided to close Timo (the revamp of Thyme). Their last bash was on New Year’s Eve. Timo, 464 N. Halsted St., 312-226-4300.

Hinsdale, which isn’t exactly a destination spot for diners, has lost a winner. Innovative Latin restaurant Salbute has rolled up the red carpet. Salbute, 20 E. 1st St., Hinsdale, 630-920-8077. We can’t imagine it has anything to do with the opening of Zak’s Place, a new by-the-books, upscale American restaurant from Yamandu Perez with executive chef Marc Stein (the two met at Gabriel’s in Highwood). A recent meal there made us feel like we were eating in a country club dining room, minus the impeccable service. Plus, the play-it-safe-food was only so-so. Zak’s Place, 112 S. Washington St., Hinsdale, 630-323-9257,

Two years after opening, gourmet carryout Eatzi’s in the Century Shopping Centre (2828 N. Clark St.) has closed.

After more than ten years, Meritage Café & Wine Bar will close on Jan. 1. Owner Christopher Peckat will then open Risqué Café sometime before the end of the year as well as adjacent Purgatory Pizza next door the following month. Risqué Café, 3419 N. Clark St.; Purgatory Pizza, 3415 N. Clark St.

Chef Michael Carlson closed his seriously hyped Schwa. No word on what comes next.

Did anyone see this coming? Butter has closed. Not only has it closed, but for the time being, at least, it’s done so to focus solely on private parties. Citing slow business as the reason, we’re sad to see it go. Butter, 130 S. Green St., 312-666-9813.

When it opened in 2005, Saltaus was the talk of the town. The spot was owned by Nader Salti and featured the culinary stylings of Brad Phillips–who came on as chef post-Michael Taus. Now, it has closed.

Although it was a welcome change on the Chinatown dining scene, Mulan couldn’t cut it. It’s lights out for the Pan-Asian place.

Wolfgang Puck Grand Café (1701 Maple St., Evanston), a popular spot in part because of its near-cinema locale, closed without notice in mid-September. It’s not a total loss for the celeb chef, however. He’ll launch Spertus (618 S. Michigan Ave.), an on-the-fly kosher café, in late November.

It didn’t last long—at all. Geno Bahena’s duo-concept Delicioso Restaurant (moles, dishes from local, organic ingredients) and Sabroso Grill (a taqueria), which opened in the spring, has closed. Delicioso Restaurant and Sabroso Grill, 10468 S. Indianapolis Blvd., Chicago.

Dudley Nieto’s Xel-Ha shuttered within a matter of months. Now you can sample his touted Oaxacan moles at Zócalo, the modern small plates Mexican spot in River North. Zócalo, 358 W. Ontario St., Chicago, 312-302-9977.

It’s lights out at the much-hyped Baccala (1540 N. Milwaukee Ave.) from John Bubala (Timo), which closed after half a year of business.

Allen’s, the American favorite among River North gallery goers, has closed. Allen's, 217 W. Huron St., Chicago.

David Richards’ (Sweets & Savories) short-lived (and reconcepted) Barcello’s shuttered and is looking to reopen as a revamped establishment sometime this fall. Barcello’s Restaurant, 1647 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.

You’d think it’d be some kind of record. Gourmet-to-go spot Sugar & Brown’s, a River North newbie, is no more—even though it opened only months ago. Sugar & Brown’s, 158 W. Ontario St., Chicago.

Cereality—that shticky, design-your-cereal bar with locations in Evanston and Chicago has given up ship.

Stephanie Izard’s touted restaurant, Scylla, will officially close on August 25. She’s sold it to Takashi Yagihashi, who is expected to open a different concept in the space a few months later. Scylla, 1952 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, 773-227-2995.

Ambria is now a thing of the past. R.I.P.

It’s hard to believe after only a few months, but small-plates establishment Graze (35 W. Ontario St.) has already given up ship.

Still no word on what, exactly, is going on at Le Français. We’ll keep you posted.

Melvin B’s, a staple since the 1960s, is calling it quits in early September. Grab a burger and beer while you still can. Melvin B’s, 1114 N. State St., Chicago, 312-751-9897.

Gabriel Viti’s Mexican spot, Pancho Viti’s, closed to make room for La Casa de Isaac Mexican Restaurant (431 Temple Ave., Highland Park, 847-433-5550), a spot from Isaac Nava. His mom—a real pro at making chicken enchiladas—came from Acapulco to (wo)man the kitchen. Since the family is Jewish and wants to spend Shabbat together, don’t expect to dine here on Fridays after sundown. It’s also closed Saturday.

The writing was on the wall, and Papa Milano has officially closed (951 N. State St.).

Le Français

Suffice it to say foodies have been more than a little worried since word got out Le Français "temporarily suspended operations" early this month. According to owner Mike Moran, it will reopen after repairs are complete. Yet chef Roland Liccioni, who returned to the restaurant in 2005 after leaving in 1999, has been quoted as being less than certain about the reasons for closing, and there has been much talk about suffering sales being the reason its hallowed walls are no longer dishing up saucy meals. The restaurant shuttered once before in June 2003 and opened again in November of 2003. Back when it was originally opened by chef and owner Jean Banchet in 1973, Le Français (269 S. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling) was touted as one of the world's top French restaurants. As for whether it's au revoir once and for all this time, we'll have to wait and see.

Brett Knobel has closed her Brett's Café Americain (2011 W. Roscoe St., 773-248-0999). She’ll head to Mexico to open an inn. In its place will be another outpost of breakfast fave, Orange.

It’s hard to believe after so many years, but Ambria will officially close on June 30. Several events have been planned in order to give the circa-1980 restaurant a proper send-off, including a “best of Ambria” showcase menu to be offered through June 29 and a farewell tribune dinner on June 30. In the meantime, guests are being asked to send their favorite photos and memories of Ambria to [email protected]. They’ll be posted in an online scrapbook. Ambria, 2300 N. Lincoln Park W., Chicago, 773-472-5959.

Benihana will shutter its longtime Superior Street location in mid-May, but the three suburban locations in Lombard, Wheeling and Schaumburg will remain intact. Benihana, 166 E. Superior St., 312-664-9643,

Right after Ambria officially announced its plans to close, another Lettuce Entertain You restaurant followed suit. Papagus Greek Taverna—the last remaining of two—closed this month. It’ll be replaced by another Lettuce spot with a summer opening. The new place will feature prime steaks, fish, crab and lobster.

Tuan Nguyen has closed his Vietnamese restaurant, Pasteur. He has now turned all his attention to Simply It, a more casual spot in Lincoln Park with fabulous pho. His brother and sis-in-law can be found at Viet Bistro. Viet Bistro, 1344 W. Devon Ave., 773-465-5720; Simply It, 2269 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-248-0884.

It created quite a stir when it opened in 2005, but small-plates spot X/O (3441 N. Halsted St.) has closed. In its place in the near future: Halsted’s Bar & Grill, a burger-type eatery, which too will come from owner Mark Liberson.

It’s lights out for the Chicago location of Buca di Beppo, which recently lost its lease and decided not to renew.

Les Deux Autres is no more. It’s been sold to chef Michel Saragueta and now is home to Bistro Monet. The mid-price French spot serves up elegant comfort fare, including the likes of foie gras. Bistro Monet, 462 N. Park Blvd., Glen Ellyn, 630-469-4002.

It’s sad, but true. Bistro Banlieue (44 Yorktown Convenience Ctr., Lombard, 630-629-6560) will close at the end of July. Owner Steve Byrne plans to open an upscale American eatery in its place. Stay tuned.

Menagerie (1232 W. Belmont Ave., 773-404-8333) will close its doors after more than three years and reopen as Cooper’s—A Neighborhood Eatery (773-929-2667). Sometime during the month of June, diners can expect to score upwards of 50 brews, intriguing paninis and a few of Menagerie’s former faves.

Heaven On Seven on Clark (3478 N. Clark St.) closed this spring.

Closing after just seven months is Banana Moon (730 Waukegan Rd., Deerfield). No word on what comes next for chef-partner Alan Wolf.

After nearly twenty years, 302 West (302 W. State St., Geneva) has closed. There are plans under way for a May opening of Toscana, a Northern Italian spot owned by Jim Ginger, who also owns newcomer Rain Restaurant (27 N. Bennett St., Geneva, 630-232-2222). Expect dishes like veal piccata and spaghetti and meatballs.

Say “adios” to the suburban outpost of Bin 36 (275 Parkway Dr., Lincolnshire) and hello to Great Lakes Fish House, also from owner Dan Sachs.

Chilpancingo, brainchild of Generoso Bahen, will close. Ixcapulzalco, his other venture, was sold to his brother about five years back. Now, Bahen plans to open spots in Las Vegas. Chilpancingo, 358 W. Ontario St., 312-266-9525.

Matsumoto, which featured a seven-course kaiseki menu, closed in December but will reopen as Chiyo. The new restaurant will serve sushi, shabu shabu and the like. Chiyo, 3800 W. Lawrence Ave., 773-267-1555.

Settimana Café (2056 W. Division St.) in Wicker Park closed five years into the game and, despite the fact that it hasn’t even been open a year, Michael Kornick’s MK North morph A Milano Italian Grill (305 S. Happ Rd., Northfield), is no more.

Hotel 71 (71 E. Wacker Dr.) has seen its share of changes, and more are to come. This spring the boutique hotel will become Solís Hotel Chicago, but prior to that Porter’s Steakhouse will say “adios.” A contemporary American place is expected to fill the space this summer.

A sad day for foodies, North Shore staple Trio (1625 Hinman Ave., Evanston, 847-733-8746) will close at the end of February. The restaurant is given props for launching the career of many an influential chef, including Rick Tramonto (Tru), Shawn McClain (Spring, Green Zebra, Custom House), Grant Achatz (Alinea) and Gale Gand. No word on what Henry Adaniya, owner, plans to do next.

First Marshall Field’s. Now Trader Vic’s, which resided in the Palmer House Hilton since 1957. The tiki spot shuttered after it’s final New Year’s Eve bash. The institution will reopen in with new owners: the Harry Caray restaurant group.

Another sad one: The Berghoff (17 W. Adams St., 312-427-3170) will officially close on Feb 28. The space will be leased to a catering company run by the Berghoff's daughter. In addition to being a tradition for so many Chicagoans and visitors, the restaurant was granted the first liquor license after Prohibition ended in December 1933.

Charlie’s on Leavitt (4352 N. Leavitt St.) gave up ship. Co-owner Charlie Socher will keep the wheels turning at Café Matou (1846 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-384-8911).

Sweet tooths, it’s hard to believe, but River North dessert bar Sugar (108 W. Kinzie St.), which received tons of praise when it opened three years ago, closed. Although nothing is final, a new concept—one that includes more than just dessert—might be on the horizon.

Say "See Ya!" to West Loop gourmet market, Cyd & D’Pano (1325 W. Randolph St.), which recently closed shop.

French bistro JP Chicago (901 W. Weed St.), packed it up after opening less than a year ago. Maybe the nearby club kids weren’t ready for grownup fare. Chef/partner Jason Paskewitz and partner Marc Bortz are hush-hush about their upcoming endeavors.

Masck, which just opened its new outpost in Deerfield, gave up ship on its River North location (35 W. Ontario St.) after a mere nine months.

Monsoon (2813 N. Broadway) called it quits. Sam Youkhanna, owner of Room 22, has plans to open a place called O Lounge there.

Foodie favorite, the Chopping Block, 1324 W. Webster St., is shuttering its Lincoln Park cooking school in favor of an 8,000-square-foot space in the Merchandise Mart slotted to open in late summer. Don’t worry. The Lincoln Avenue location isn’t going anywhere.

Say goodbye to west suburban bistro Maison (30 S. LaGrange Rd., La Grange; 708-588-9890). As of late June, it closed up shop. Be on the lookout, though, since Christopher Spagnola, chef and partner, is scouting for another venture in the near future.

Consider Crab House (315 N. LaSalle St., 312-822-0100), predecessor of not-so-distant Bob Chinn’s Crab House, shuttered. After severing ties with the Chinn’s early this year, Levy Restaurants will take over to open—with flourish—steak and seafooder Fulton’s on the River sometime in June.

Say goodbye—at least temporarily—to Pasteur (5525 N. Broadway, 773-878-1061), a decade-old Vietnamese veteran that will close late this year. Rumor has it the space will be converted into condominiums upstairs. A newfangled Pasteur, dishing up French-Vietnamese tapas, is expected to open in its place more than a year down the road.

Rushmore (1023 W. Lake St.) has officially closed up shop. The restaurant is currently for sale, and as of now chef Ryan McCaskey has yet to make his next move.

Satiate your next sushi craving at minimalist newcomer Kansaku. Its menu is upscale with options like a spring roll of spicy tuna, lettuce and crab meat wrapped in rice paper and topped with sliced pear courtesy of Joon Kim (Tsunami). Kansaku, 1514 Sherman Ave., Evanston, 847-864-4386.

The former Pili.Pili space will soon be home to River North restaurant and bakery Aigre Doux, a spot from husband and wife team Malika Ameen and Mohammad Islam (former executive chef at L.A.’s Chateau Marmont). Aigre Doux, 230 W. Kinzie St., 312-329-9400.

Indulge in all of your favorite guilty pleasures at Eno, a cheese, wine and chocolate lounge on the main floor of the InterContinental Chicago. Move effortlessly from dozens of cheeses from around the world to hand-fashioned truffles and hundreds of bottles of vino. Not sure how they’ll all fit together? Ask the staff, all of whom are trained to suggest perfect pairings. Eno, InterContinental Chicago, 505 N. Michigan Ave., 312-321-8738.

Throngs of shoppers (and curious foodies) are no doubt flooding Noodles by Takashi Yagihashi. The chef’s eat-and-run lunch spot dishes up twists on ramen noodles, spring rolls and pot stickers. Noodles by Takashi Yagihashi, Macy's, 111 N. State St., 7th Fl., 312-781-4483.

Chocolate shops are opening up at a rapid-fire rate in Chicago, and Wicker Park’s Coco Rouge is among the latest to grace the scene. The chandelier- and exposed brick-decked space tempts sweet-tooths with elegant options like truffles, including a white chocolate ganache variety with blueberries, Tahitian vanilla and Egyptian jasmine. Prior to opening the stylish storefront, they sold their stuff to Seasons restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago. Coco Rouge, 1940 W. Division St., 773-772-2626.

Brazilian steakhouse Sal & Carvão in River North (739 N. Clark St.) has closed and will reopen as Zed 451 during the summer of 2007. The new spot will feature charcoal-grilled meat and seafood.

It’s sad for many, but true. Circus-themed Skokie deli Barnum & Bagel (4700 Dempster St.) is no more. You’ll have to go elsewhere for your gefilte, brisket and potato pancake fix.

Chef Shuffle

Chris Macchia has been promoted to executive chef at Coco Pazzo; previously, he was the executive chef at its more casual sister, Coco Pazzo Café. Tony Priolo has left the role at Coco Pazzo with plans to open Piccolo Sogno in the former Timo space this summer. He’ll serve food cooked in a wood-burning oven that’s a carryover from John Bubala. Piccolo Sogno, 464 N. Halsted St.

Giuseppe Scurato (ex-Boka, mk and Fox & Obel) partnered with Branco Palikuca (Amber in Westmont) to open contemporary American spot Topaz in the spanking new center in Burr Ridge. The team expects to roll out the red carpet this month with dishes like homemade gnocchi made by executive chef Jose Hernandez. Topaz, 780 Village Center Driveway, Burr Ridge, 630-654-1616.

Daniel Kelly left Avenue M and has been replaced by Mariano Aguirre (Charlie's on Leavitt), who will overhaul the menu. Avenue M, 695 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312-243-1133.

Cary Taylor (Blackbird, Avenues, Ambria) has replaced Isaac Holzwarth as chef at Chaise Lounge. He’ll debut a new menu. Chaise Lounge, 1840 W. North Ave., 773-342-1840.

Andrew Brochu (Alinea) has been appointed executive chef at Pops For Champagne. Among other things, he’ll be creating rabbit rillettes with white bean, endive and celery root and pork tenderloin with fingerling potatoes and bacon. Pops for Champagne, 601 N State St., 312-266-7677.

By now, pretty much everyone has heard the news: chef Graham Elliot Bowles is leaving Avenues to open a self-named restaurant, Graham Elliot, in late spring-early summer. It’ll be housed in the former Harvest on Huron space (217 W. Huron St.). Defining his fare as “bistronomic,” diners can expect more down-to-earth haute-level cuisine that’s served in a setting to match. Replacing Bowles will be Curtis Duffy, who worked by Grant Achatz’s side at Alinea. Duffy’s other stints include Trio and Charlie Trotter’s. Duffy’s new menu is expected to be in place in Avenues around April 15.

Saigon-born, Chicago-raised Ryan McCaskey (Rushmore) will head the kitchen at Courtright’s, where he’ll revamp the menu and add 4-, 7- and 11-course chef’s tastings. Courtright's, 8989 Archer Ave., Willow Springs, 708-839-8000.

It’s anyone’s guess how long Eric Aubriot (Aubriot, Tournesol, Fuse) will stick around—much less where he’ll pop up next. Though still part of Taste Food & Wine in Rogers Park, he’s now the executive chef at Il Fiasco. Over time, Aubriot will infuse the menu with dishes of his own making. Il Fiasco, 5101 N. Clark St., 773-769-9700.

After nearly four years of service, chef de Cuisine Graham Elliot Bowles is departing Avenues at The Peninsula Chicago to open his own restaurant in Chicago. Curtis Duffy, recently of Alinea and Trio, will take over as chef de cuisine for the restaurant as of April 2008. Avenues, The Peninsula Chicago, 108 E. Superior St., Chicago, 312-573-6754.

A replacement for Cenitare Restaurants’ departed sommelier Belinda Chang, who left for a post as wine director of Danny Meyer’s The Modern in New York, has been found. In her place as corporate director of wine and spirits is Molly Wismeier (Charlie Trotter’s, Ambria and Cru Café & Wine Bar).

Jeffrey Mauro is no longer the executive chef at La Pomme Rouge and has been replaced by Brian Jupiter (Narcisse, Bella Lounge).

Everyone who wondered what happened to Eric Aubriot (Aubriot, Tournesol, Fuse) can breathe a collective sigh of relief. You’ll spot him at Taste Food & Wine, a gourmet shop selling wine, cheese and sandwiches along with packages goodies. Taste Food & Wine, 1506 W. Jarvis St., Chicago, 773-761-3663.

Giuseppe Scurato–who was replaced by Giuseppe Tentori at Boka–is now the executive chef at gourmet grocery Fox & Obel. He’ll oversee all the prepared foods, including the deli, catering and café. Fox & Obel, 401 E. Illinois St., Chicago, 312-410-7301,

The Ritz-Carlton Chicago named Eric Estrella–who compiled and organized two of renowned French pastry chef François Payard’s upcoming books–as executive pastry chef. Estrella and his staff of ten are responsible for all dessert creations served in The Café, The Greenhouse and The Carlton Club, and they also handle creations for banquets and room service for the 435-room hotel. The Ritz-Carlton Chicago, 160 E. Pearson St., Chicago, 312-573-5223.

Jonathan Harootunian has departed from Courtright’s. The search is on for a replacement. Courtright's, 8989 Archer Ave., Willow Springs, 708-839-8000.

Rick Gresh is the new executive chef at David Burke’s Primehouse. Gresh studied at the Culinary Institute of America, landing an externship at The Waldorf=Astoria in New York. Gresh’s résumé also boasts Chicago hotel experience including the Celebrity Café at Hotel Nikko and Caliterra Bar & Grille at the Wyndham Chicago. He’ll dish up new items like braised beef short ribs with pumpkin risotto, fresh sage and squash chips. David Burke’s Primehouse, The James, 616 N. Rush St., Chicago, 312-660-6000,

Saul Roman, formerly of Zócalo, is now at Zapatista (1307 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago, 312-435-1307).

Christian Delouvrier, who worked with greats like Alain Ducasse, will be at the helm at the soon-to-open Brasserie Ruhlmann from New York. Brasserie Ruhlmann, 18 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago.

Roland Liccioni (of the mysteriously closed Le Français) will resurface at Old Town Brasserie Market, which is opening within weeks and comes from the owners of Toulouse. It’ll offer a bit of everything, including—rumor has it—a few favorite dishes from Le Français. Old Town Brasserie Market, 1209 N. Wells St., Chicago, 312-943-3000.

Mike Ditka’s suburban location grabbed a hold of Mark Mavrantonis (Fulton’s on the River), who now is its executive chef. Those pork chops sound all the sweeter now. Mike Ditka’s, 2 MidAmerica Plaza, Ste. 100, Oak Brook Terrace, 630-572-2200.

Blue Water Grill

Changes are on the horizon at Blue Water Grill, which just took on Joel Dennis (a vet who worked with Alain Ducasse as sous chef as well as in the kitchen at TRU) as its executive chef. Expect the menu to be kicked up a few notches (think line-caught halibut with fresh morels and fava beans as well as day boat cod with chickpea purée, chorizo, tomatoes and espelette pepper. Blue Water Grill, 520 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, 312-777-1400.

Sergio Navarro is now the corporate pastry chef at SushiSamba Rio. Formerly of Nobu Miami Beach, Navarro will dish up unexpected eats like arroz con leche with saké gelatin, fresh mango and dulce de leite ice cream as well as tres leite with guava espuma and cachaça-flamed mango. SushiSamba Rio, 504 N. Wells St., 312-595-2300.

Rick DeLeon has stepped into the toque at Fulton’s on the River. Fulton’s on the River, 315 N. LaSalle St., Chicago, 312-822-0100.

Kleiner hotspot Room 21 replaced exec chef Aaron Whitcomb with Gioco’s Fred Ramos (for now). Room 21, 2110 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago, 312-328-1198.

Green Zebra is losing its chef de cuisine, Christine Kim. Stay tuned for what comes next.

Saltaus has welcomed Chad Starling (Blackbird, TRU) into the kitchen.

Here today, gone…already. Last month, we reported the opening of Alhambra Palace, a showy Moroccan nightspot with Eric Aubriot in the kitchen. Well, he’s not there anymore. Daniel Wright (Blackbird, Souk) and Bouchaib “Bouch” Khribech, owner of Marrakech Expresso, have replaced him. Alhambra Palace, 1240 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 312-666-9555.

Deleece has lost its chef, Steven Obendorf, who is moving to head up a kitchen in Alaska. In his place is sous chef Josh Hansen. Deleece, 4004 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, 773-325-1710.

Randolff Mattson, a Johnson & Wales University grad and former chef de cuisine at Petterino’s, has been named executive chef at Lawry’s The Prime Rib. Lawry’s The Prime Rib, 100 E. Ontario St., Chicago, 312-787-5000.

Michael Dean Hazen has decided to leave ristorante We, where he’s been manning the kitchen since fall. No word on what comes next for Hazen—or the Tuscan steakhouse. ristorante We, W–Chicago City Center, 172 W. Adams St., Chicago, 312-917-5608.

Whether or not you live in (or frequent) the south suburbs, you’ve probably heard the buzz about Ginger Asian Bistro. Potentially bad news: Kelvin Cheung, the talked about chef, has left. In his place is Peter Han. Ginger Asian Bistro, 15700 S. Harlem Ave., Orland Park, 708-633-1818.

Anyone wondering what happened to Todd Stein, the former chef at mk? The word is he’s headed for the Twin Cities where he’ll be the chef at Bank, a newcomer located in Minneapolis’ Westin hotel.

Giuseppe Tentori, longtime chef de cuisine at Charlie Trotter’s is now chef at Boka. Ben Browning, Landmark’s original chef de cuisine, is now the exec chef at that restaurant. Boka, 1729 N. Halsted St., Chicago, 312-337-6070; Landmark, 1633 N. Halsted St., Chicago, 312-587-1600.

Butter Restaurant

Local foodies are shedding tears over the departure of Ryan Poli, the innovative executive chef at Butter who has left to open a spot in Scottsdale, Ariz. In his place: the restaurant’s former sous chef, Lee Wolen, who clocked time in the kitchen at Moto. Wolen will introduce his own creations in the near future. Butter, 130 S. Green St., Chicago, 312-666-9813.

Alex Stupak, pastry chef, is leaving Alinea (1723 N. Halsted St., 312-867-0110) and heading to wd-50 in New York in July. Grant Achatz, who wore that hat while at Trio, will take on the role himself.

Park Grill (11 N. Michigan Ave., 312-521-7275) just teamed up with Christine McCabe, formerly of the now-shuttered Sugar dessert bar. Something super-sweet is about to happen.

Soirée Bar & Restaurant (4539 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-293-3690), located in Logan Square, just snagged She She’s former chef, Nicole Parthemore, who previously worked in the same space when She She was there.

Michael Foley—of departed Printers Row—will consult in the kitchen at Le Petit Paris (260 E. Chestnut St., 312-787-8260), which is housed in the former Zaven’s space. Under his direction, the Continental restaurant will feature a bistro menu and a wine bar upstairs with small bites.

Drue Kennedy, the executive chef of Vivere (71 W. Monroe St., 312-332-4040), is departing in early May. He’ll be replaced by Robert Reynaud, sous chef, who worked with Vivere’s original chef, Peter Schonman, at Biaggi’s.

Kevin Hickey, the executive chef of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, has taken over the toque at Seasons as its full-time executive chef. For months after chef Robert Sulatycky departed, he was running between both kitchens. Consequently, Mark Payne, executive sous chef at The Ritz, will take the lead there. Both chefs will aim to have their new menus firmed up by mid-May.

Henry Bishop, the sommelier at Spiaggia for more than two decades, has departed. He’s being replaced by Denise Beckman, a 12-year Spiaggia vet.

After Michael Hazen’s abrupt departure from Cité, co-executive chefs Oscar Ornelas and Justin Frankenberg have been named as replacements.

The duo of west suburban restaurants, Trucchi Italian Bistro (5141 Main St., Downers Grove, 630-434-7700) and Comida Bebida (5139 Main St., Downers Grove, 630-434-0300) named Tim Edstrom (of Spiaggia and Everest) as exec chef.

Dirk Flanigan, of the late Blue Water Grill, is now the new executive chef for Blue Plate Catering.

Ted Cizma, formerly of Elaine and Grace, is now the chef at Shedd Aquarium and will help the museum restaurant drive its Right Bites program, which helps increase awareness about environmentally conscious fish eating.

Aria (200 N. Columbus Dr., 312-444-9494) recently promoted Leon Gunn, a former Green Peace volunteer and graduate of the CIA with a background in biology, to the position of chef de cuisine.

Jordan Beverung, former sous-chef at Green Dolphin Street (2200 N. Ashland Ave., 773-395-0066), has replaced Pete Manfredini as exec chef.

Deleece’s chef and partner Carol Wallack will depart to open Sola, 3868 N. Lincoln Ave., sometime this fall. Asian and Hawaiian-influenced California-style dishes will comprise the menu.

Robert Sulatycky, executive chef at Seasons, 120 E. Delaware Pl.; 312-649-2349), is leaving his post as of July 8 to head to sunny California. While they’re searching for a new chef, Kevin Hickey, executive chef at The Ritz-Carlton, will assist the kitchen as a consultant.

With the departure of Sandro Gamba (pictured), Christophe David, previously executive chef at the Park Hyatt Paris–Vendôme, has assumed executive chef duties at NoMI (Park Hyatt Chicago, 800 N. Michigan Ave., 312-239-4030).

Gioco has lost chef Jim Kilberg, but he’s been replaced by Fred Ramos, formerly of Pili.Pili. Gioco, 1312 S. Wabash St., 312-939-3870,

Founding exec chef Michael Shrader has returned to N9NE Steakhouse after departing to help open the sibling restaurant in Las Vegas. N9NE Steakhouse, 440 W. Randolph St., 312-575-9900.

Bin 36 hired Matt Kelley, who previously created divine confections at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, as pastry chef. He’s currently showcasing an end-of-summer pastry menu with locally grown, late-summer ingredients. So, snag melon carpaccio marinated in a spiced syrup with candied almonds and crème fraîche sherbet or mascarpone panna cotta with strawberry gelée and strawberry balsamic salad while you can. Bin 36, 339 N. Dearborn St., 312-755-9463,

Timothy Dahl, formerly of Naha, has replaced pastry chef Tara Lane at Blackbird. Blackbird, 619 W. Randolph St., 312-715-0708.

Bob Zrenner
has departed his post as chef at X/O Chicago. As of now, it’s Aaron Bischoff, prior sous chef, who is at the helm. Justin Hall, who put in time as sommelier at Charlie Trotter’s, will now head things up front. Watch for some changes to the menu. X/O Chicago, 3441 N. Halsted St., 773-348-9696.

Changes are in store at MK which has just seen the departure of Todd Stein, the chef de cuisine. Replacing him in early November is Erick Simmons, former sous chef at Las Vegas’ Bradley Ogden. Both new and signature dishes will comprise the soon-to-be-updated menu. As for Stein, his future is yet-to-be-determined. MK, 868 N. Franklin St., 312-482-9179.

Ristorante We has a new executive chef: Michael Hazen (Rushmore). Ristorante We, W-City Center, 172 W. Adams St., 312-917-5608.

Michael Sheerin, previously sous chef at wd-50 in New York, has returned to his hometown and is now working as sous chef at Blackbird. Blackbird, 619 W. Randolph St., 312-715-0708.

Bella Lounge got a new executive chef: Joe LaMantia, who used to work at Carmine’s. The late-night crowd has no qualms about digging into his barbecue duck flatbread pizza with caramelized shallots and smoked mozzarella. Bella Lounge, 1212 N. State Pkwy., 312-787-9405.

Mary McMahon has signed on as pastry chef at Courtright's. That means she’s once again joined forces with Jonathan Harootunian, executive chef. They last shared kitchen space at Vivere. Courtright's, 8989 S. Archer Ave., Willow Springs, 708-839-8000.

Who knew Jerry Kleiner (Opera, Carnivale, Marche, Gioco, The Victor Hotel) had his sights set on snoozy west suburban Hinsdale? He’ll unveil an Italian-themed restaurant in the historic Schweidler's building, but anything beyond that—including the target opening date—has yet to be revealed.

Andy Motto, opening chef de cuisine at Le Lan, has departed. He’s already been replaced by Bill Kim, one-time chef de cuisine at Charlie Trotter’s and former sous chef at Trio, who will revamp the whole menu when he arrives in early January. Le Lan, 749 N. Clark St., 312-280-9100.

Michel Saragueta (Ciel Bleu, Suzette’s Crêperie) has filled the vacant role after Steve Chiappetti left Café Le Coq. The menu at the west suburban bistro will remain French bistro focused, but Saragueta will put his spin on everything when a new menu is revealed in early 2007. Although they aren’t giving out any secrets, rumor has it there will be an emphasis on seafood, along with staples like roasted chicken. Café Le Coq, 734 W. Lake St., Oak Park, 708-848-2233.

News Byte

What’s He Thinking?
David Agazzi (ex- Yak-Zie’s) bought gastropub Fixture and plans to change it into a bar. Fixture, 2706 N. Ashland Ave.

Spring in OTOM
OTOM has introduced its new spring menu, featuring familiar dishes with “sci-fi” twists. Entrees include fried short-rib ravioli with parsnip-vanilla puree, sweet potato butterscotch, fennel and brown butter powder, as well as a “TV Dinner” made up of a chicken fried kidney-bean disc, edamame and carrot pie, cauliflower puree, and coffee gravy. For dessert, diners can have “The Coffee Break,” which offers a donut, honey brioche and strawberry jam. OTOM’s spring menu is the first menu developed by The Moto Management Group, formed by chef Homaro Cantu and Joseph DeVito. Under the new partnership, DeVito and Cantu are now equal partners in both OTOM and Moto. From here on, DeVito will spearhead the management of all restaurants, while Cantu will lead all menu development. They’ll team to create new “out-of-the-box” restaurants nationally and internationally. OTOM, 951 W. Fulton Market, Chicago, 312-491-5804.

Bling, Bling
Charlie Trotter (Charlie Trotter’s) finally opened his seafood spot, Restaurant Charlie, in The Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas. He’s in good company since Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali also set up shop in the hotel. Restaurant Charlie, The Palazzo, 3325 S. Las Vegas Blvd., casino level, Las Vegas, Nevada, 702-607-4300.

Finger-lickin’ Chicken
Pollo Campero, known for its Guatemalan fried chicken, has added another option for chicken fiends to find a Latin flavor fix. The new citrus-infused grilled chicken features a blend of lime and orange juices, red bell peppers, rosemary and oregano, and is a fine complement to other menu items like sweet, caramelized plantains. Pollo Campero, 2730 N. Narragansett Ave., Chicago, 773-622-6657.

Have a Buck, Can Dine
After 5 p.m. daily, A Mano is serving up bar bites like polenta fries with sun-dried tomato aïoli for five bucks. A Mano, 335 N. Dearborn St., 312-629-3500.

Satiate That Nic Fit
Viet Bistro & Lounge is answering smokers’ woes in light of the 2008 statewide public smoking ban with the introduction of the Nicotini, which can be ordered sweet (with chocolate espresso-infused liquor) or savory (straight up with tobacco liquor, an aromatic vodka and gin-based liquor). The restaurant comes from Dan Nguyen of Pasteur, who essentially relocated his French Vietnamese concept to this spot. Viet Bistro & Lounge, 1346 W. Devon Ave., 773-465-5720.

What Smelts?
Looking to get out of town? Consider attending the 58th annual American Legion smelt fry on March 29 with the folks from Shaw’s Crab House. The all-you-can-eat extravaganza will take place at the American Legion Post #82 in Port Washington, Wisc. Chartered busses will depart from both Shaw’s locations in Chicago and Schaumburg at 10 a.m., returning around 9 p.m. Call Emily Grimm in Chicago, 312-527-2722, or Toni Minnick in Schaumburg at 847-517-2722. The event costs $75 and includes sunrise Bloody Marys and mimosas; juices and breads; motor coach transportation with Goose Island brews; a box lunch; entrance fees for the smelt fry; and a stop in Cedarburg, Wisc., to learn about the art of smelt fishing.

Hooray for Dory
Executive chef Joel Dennis of Blue Water Grill will feature roasted John Dory with braised baby fennel, tomato confit, Taggiasca olives and Ligurian olive oil for $28 during the Lenten season. Look for the special on Fridays, Feb. 6-March 23. Blue Water Grill, 520 N. Dearborn, 312-777-1400.

Fat & All of That
La Casa Del Gordo–which means “house of the fat man”–has tweaked its tasty Nuevo and authentic Mexican menu to include lower prices and tapas dishes like shredded duck and caramelized onion pizzas. La Casa Del Gordo, 2014 First St., Highland Park, 847-266-1411.

Penny for Prime?
Drake Bros.’ steakhouse is offering diners a second of its Prime steaks on Tuesdays for a penny. Drake Bros’, Drake Hotel, 140 E. Walton St., 312-932-4626.

Laurent Gras Blog
Curious about how things are coming along at L.2O, the soon-to-open restaurant starring chef Laurent Gras? Check out his blog: L.2O, 2300 N. Lincoln Park West.

Gourmet Grocer News
Fox & Obel is expected to seal a deal with Vulpes, LLC. Although the concept and main players will stay the same, the move will mean the gourmet grocer can make good on its dreams of expansion. Fox & Obel, 401 E. Illinois St., 312-410-7301,

Kevin to Close
Kevin plans to close up shop at the end of February, citing slow business. Siblings Kevin and Alan Shikami will instead focus on their months-old venture, Shikago, 190 S. LaSalle., 312-781-7300. Leading up to the closing, the restaurant will feature specials. Kevin, 9 W. Hubbard St., 312-595-0055.

News from Schwa
People expected a lot of Michael Carlson, the hyped chef-owner behind Schwa. Then, the place suddenly closed after serving major chefs like Ferran Adrià, Heston Blumenthal, and Wylie Dufresne for Charlie Trotter’s 20th anniversary bash in October. What gives? Carlson was burned out. Now, he’s back and—he hopes—better than ever. His plan is to honor canceled reservations and go from there. Schwa, 1466 N Ashland Ave., 773-252-1466,

Hailing All Hot-Heads!
Jake Melnick's Corner Tap–an already energetic neighborhood hang–is turning up the heat during March Madness season with its "Seriously Ridiculously Over-the-Top Hot Wings," made from Red Savina, the Guinness record-holding pepper. And get this: anyone who tries them legally is required to sign a waiver due to issues like palate burning, eye damage and extreme discomfort. But fear not: each order comes with a bell; give Melnick's staff a jingle, and they'll come running with extinguishers that include sour cream, milk, ice cream, oranges, sugar and white bread. Jake Melnick's Corner Tap, 41 E. Superior St., Chicago, 312-266-0400.

Chicago's Restaurant Week
The Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau is introducing Chicago's first Restaurant Week. Diners will have the chance to enjoy special three-course lunches and dinners at dozens of the city's restaurants, including Aigre Doux, Blue Water Grill, Landmark Bar & Grill, and Naha. Lunches are priced at $22 and dinners are priced at $32. Beverages, tax, and gratuity are not included. For more information, visit

Sather Switch
Now in its 62nd year, Swedish-American eatery Ann Sather has opened in a new location, six doors east from its former outpost at 929 W. Belmont. The new space boasts hand-painted murals by Norwegian artist Sigmund Aarseth, and there’s a video display depicting the restaurant’s history. Ann Sather, 909 W. Belmont Ave., 773-348-2378.

Rooftop Wednesdays
Head to the hottest rooftop in town on Wednesday nights when SushiSamba Rio hosts its weekly rooftop party, complete with deejay-spun tunes from Mixin’ Marc and Alex Peace from 9 p.m. to close. SushiSamba Rio, 504 N. Wells St, 312-595-2300.

Grant Achatz

Achatz Update
Alinea chef Grant Achatz, who was diagnosed with advanced stage squamous cell carcinoma, has completed his course of chemotherapy and radiation at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Luckily, the doctors were able to achieve a full remission without invasive surgery. All the while, Achatz demonstrated a deep commitment to Alinea–missing only 14 restaurant services while undergoing treatment. Alinea, 1723 N. Halsted St., Chicago, 312-867-0110.

Art Start
On January 1, all restaurants and bars in Chicago will be smoke-free. In response, West Town Tavern’s Susan Goss and The Architrouve gallery have decided to spearhead a funky, fun art installation aimed at raising money for charity. Hundreds of ashtrays, which will be collected from area restaurants, will be turned into art in“Ashes to Art,” an exhibition to be displayed at both locations (West Town Tavern, 1329 W. Chicago Ave., 312-666-6175; The Architrouve, 1433 W. Chicago Ave., 312-563-0977) from Feb. 19-26. On the 26th, an art auction–complete with bites from Goss–will take place from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at The Architrouve; proceeds will benefit community service organization Erie Neighborhood House. Restaurants can drop off ashtrays at The Architrouve Jan. 2-4 from 10 a.m.-6p.m.

Wine Flight
Belinda Chang, corporate wine director for Rick Tramonto’s (Osteria di Tramonto, Tramonto's Steak & Seafood) and Gale Gand’s Cenitare Restaurants, left her post to head the program at The Modern (9 W. 53rd St., 212-333-1220), the American eatery from Danny Meyer in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Chi-Town Chefs Visit Beard House
Props to Jeremy Lycan and Jody Richardson, respectively the chef and sommelier of Niche, who have been invited to cook for the James Beard Foundation at The Beard House in January. Niche, 14 S. Third St., Geneva, 630-262-1000.

Lockwood News
Lockwood restaurant–the splashy eatery that just opened in the restored Palmer House Hiltonhas temporarily closed for some additional fine-tuning. You can expect it to reopen mid-December. Lockwood, Palmer House Hilton, lobby level, 17 E. Monroe St., Chicago, 312-917-3404.

Bowling and Bears
Lucky Strike Lanes is celebrating Sunday and Monday game nights with a Game Day menu of hearty faves. Ones to try include a blue cheese-onion burger and Bloody Marys with a skewer with 15 ingredients. Die-hards will appreciate this set-up: there also will be two computers with complimentary Internet access to check rankings online. Lucky Strike Lanes, 322 E. Illinois St., Chicago, 312-245-8331,

$5 Lunch at La Casa Del Gordo
Eat great for a song at La Casa Del Gordo where chef Fructoso Sandoval's $5 Lunch Menu is loaded with $5 eats like nachos, a burrito and two quesadillas. La Casa Del Gordo, 2014 First St., Highland Park, 847-266-1411.

Dale Rising
“Top Chef” season 3 finalist Dale Levitski is currently consulting on the cocktail menu at Sola where he’s waiting tables while, well, waiting for his new restaurant—a breakfast, lunch and dinner spot with an upscale diner bent—to open up. Look for it, hopefully, in early 2008.

Let’s Hear it for the ’Burbs
The newly opened outpost of Adobo Grill in Lombard is courting fans of Monday night football with half price guac and chips (normally $7.99). Adobo Grill, Shops on Butterfield, 356 Yorktown Shopping Center, Lombard, 630-627-9990.

New and Improved
Le Passage, which closed to revamp, was bought by the folks behind nightlife spots like Cans Bar and Canteen and Salud Tequila Lounge. When it reopens, the new-and-improved Le Passage will feature a menu developed by Shawn McClain (Green Zebra, Spring, Custom House), although he won’t be in the kitchen. It’s expected to open by early November, and will include small plates. The former Yow Bar in back is expected to morph into The Drawing Room. Le Passage, 1 W. Oak St., Chicago, 312-255-0022.

Unhappy Birthday
Just over a year ago, foie gras was officially banned in Chicago. And while the ruling—instigated by animal activists—has yet to be overturned, some restaurants are getting around it by giving away the indulgence, rather than selling it. For those not into partaking in illicit acts, foie gras merits a trip to the ’burbs as dining establishments outside of the city can still serve the delicacy without incident.
Check out what other Gayot readers have to say and weigh in on the foie gras controversy in our forum.

Meating Demand
While it’s one of our favorites of the bunch—and we do mean bunch—Texas De Brazil is planning to open another outpost of its churrascaria concept in River North sometime next year. Texas De Brazil, 5 Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, 847-413-1600.

Sky High
Exec chef Kevin Hickey of Seasons in the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago is now cultivating herbs and veggies in a new rooftop garden. Located on the 10th floor of the building, it was created by City Escape Garden and Design and is part of a green roof provided by JMB Realty Corporation and The Residences at 900. So, when you detect a hint of rosemary, coriander, French tarragon and basil you can rest easy in the fact that it didn’t travel far from farm to plate. Seasons, Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, 120 E. Delaware Pl., Chicago, 312-649-2349.

Wish Him Well
It was announced that 33-year-old Grant Achatz (The French Laundry, Trio and, now, Alinea) has advanced stage squamous cell carcinoma and will undergo chemotherapy, radiation therapy and, possibly, surgery. For now, he plans to continue working at the restaurant as much as he can. Alinea, 1723 N. Halsted St., Chicago, 312-867-0110.

Brunch in Highwood
French-Cuban bistro Miramar has begun offering a Sunday brunch buffet in place of its weekend dance parties with dishes like a Mexican skillet, brioche french toast and roasted salmon. Miramar, 301 Waukegan Ave., Highwood, 847-433-1078.

Nothing to Wine About
Spiaggia got a new wine director: Steven Alexander, previously the Italian wine buyer at Sam’s Wine and Spirits. Spiaggia, 980 N. Michigan Ave., 312-280-2750.

Lombard, a Hotspot?
Get ready for the newest dining destination…west suburban Lombard, which has a slew of spots opening in coming months, including Flat Top Grill (target date July), Brio Tuscan Grille (target date June), Adobo Grill (target date August), D.O.C. Wine Bar (target date fall), Lucky Strike Lanes (target date July), RA Sushi (aiming for July), Harry Caray’s and its first-ever seafood offshoot, Holy Mackerel! (in the soon-to-open Westin Lombard in August) and Boudin Bakery (probably in July). It’s all due to the Shops on Butterfield, a lifestyle extension of Yorktown Mall.

Star Power
It’s official. Dale Levitski (Trio Atelier, La Tache, Orange, Stone Lotus) is a TV star. He’ll represent Chicago as a contestant in Bravo’s soon-to-air season of reality cooking competition, “Top Chef.” He’s also working on opening a massive American spot in the West Loop sometime this fall.

Carry On
If you’re the type who doesn’t always finish your bottle of vino by meal’s end, good news has arrived. Chicago restaurants can now participate in Illinois’ cork and carry law, which means unfinished bottles can be re-corked, sealed in a clear, tamper-proof bag and brought home. The catch is you must have a dated receipt.

Surf ‘n’ Turf
The former home of Prairie Rock Brewing Company will have a new resident come summer when outposts of Pete Miller’s Steakhouse and Davis Street Fishmarket move in.

Enoteca Merlo Wine Bar

Vino Venue
Merlo is now home to Enoteca Merlo, a wine bar located in front that serves flights and glasses along with a low-key menu of cured meats and cheeses. Merlo Ristorante, 2638 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773-529-0747.

Select Salmon Offer
Shaw’s Crab House on Hubbard Street is celebrating a very special fish: Yukon River King salmon, whose fishing season begins June 15 and is anticipated to last through late June or early July, until the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says enough have been caught. What makes these finned creatures so special—up to 34 percent oil content aside—is that they swim 2,000 miles up the Yukon to spawn. The restaurant is getting the fish from Fair Trade Federation-certified Kwik’Pak Fisheries, which ships only fish caught by Yup'ik Eskimos. Shaw’s will present the filets in simple style, grilled and paired with a light basil-specked tomato relish. (We can attest—it’s delish.) Get it while you can. Shaw’s Crab House, 21 E. Hubbard St., Chicago, 312-527-2722.

Hotel Dining Duo
Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz, the guys behind Boka and Landmark, will be opening a new restaurant in the 200-room Park View Hotel, a boutique establishment in the Days Inn Gold Coast. Expect a late summer opening. Park View Hotel, 1816 N. Clark St., Chicago.

Chestnut Redo
Chestnut Grill has gotten a facelift. It’s now called now 200 East on Chestnut, a comfortable place serving pasta, Prime steaks and burgers. 200 East on Chestnut, The Seneca, 200 E. Chestnut St., 312-266-4500.

Changes Ahead?
Although nothing has been finalized yet, Ambria will likely undergo a major revamp in the near future. While everything is still up in the air, rumor has it all cards are on the table, from a remodeling to reconcepting. The bottom line: the higher-ups are taking their time deciding what to do. Ambria, 2300 N. Lincoln Park West, Chicago, 773-472-5959.

More Visible Vino
Call it a sign of the times, but Merlo (2638 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-529-0747) will soon change its front dining room into—what else—an enoteca. It’ll have lots of wines by the glass, plus artisanal cheeses and meats.

Moniker Makeover
In the process of morphing Le Meridien Hotel into the Conrad Chicago (521 N. Rush St.), its Cerise restaurant (312-645-1500) also will get a name change, but the final result is yet-to-be-determined. In the meantime, go for global tapas that include a dim sum basket.

Foie Gras Fracas
Chicagoans are on both sides of the fence regarding the upcoming foie gras ban. The Chicago ordinance affords restaurants until the end of June to quit offering foie gras, the fattened liver of specially raised ducks and geese. Needless to say, chefs—and foodies—are up in arms. Chef Rick Tramonto, for example, said that while he can’t serve the delicacy at his restaurant, Tru, it will appear on the menu at the new steakhouse he’s opening in Wheeling.

Here are a few places you can get it while the getting is good:

  • The Chopping Block (multiple locations) will offer a three-hour class on preparing the dish on June 10. Call 773-472-6700 or 312-644-6360. Cost is $225.
  • Graham Elliot Bowles, chef at Avenues in The Peninsula Chicago (108 E. Superior St., 312-573-6754) is dishing up a foie gras tasting menu for $238.
  • one sixtyblue (1400 W. Randolph St., 312-850-03030) has a special menu featuring an appetizer of Hudson Valley foie gras with farm cherry seedlings and homemade brioche and an entrée consisting of foie gras and glazed Thumbelina carrots and mashed potatoes with foie gras butter.
  • Hot Doug's (3324 N. California Ave., 773-279-9550) will offer up the following special in coming weeks: duck sausage that’s accented with foie gras and Sauternes and served with truffle-and-foie gras mustard sauce for $7.50.

Further on Foie Gras
Michael Tsonton (Copperblue) and Cyrano's Bistrot & Wine Bar (Didier Durand) are starting up an organization called Chicago Chefs for Choice in response to the pending foie gras ban. The group will fight for consumer freedom and one’s right to choose.

$5 Dining
Located near the Music Box Theatre, eleven-year-old Strega Nona experienced a quickie overhaul to become Take Five (3747 N. Southport Ave., 773-244-0990). The shtick? Everything costs $5.

Drink ‘n’ Dine
Rise N Dine has morphed into Juicy-O (2942 Finley Rd., Downers Grove, 630-932-4260), a diner with a juice bar that also serves milkshakes and bubble tea and is open for breakfast and lunch. It’s in part from Jimmy Bannos of Heaven on Seven.

Wine Break
The Stained Glass (1735 Benson Ave., Evanston, 847-864-8600) now offers half-off its selection of ninety bottles of wine each Sunday.

Tea at NoMI
Things are getting uppity for certain when places start getting a tea sommelier, but if it’s your cup of, er, tea, head to NoMI where Bou Chu can suggest pairings. NoMI, Park Hyatt Chicago, 800 N. Michigan Ave., 312-239-4030.

Deleece Gussies Up
Deleece got a revamp, which includes new décor, lower prices and a menu that includes a three-course, $20 prix-fixe meal on Mondays and Tuesdays. Deleece, 4004 N. Southport Ave., 773-325-1710.

Lunch on State Street
Petterino’s just added Saturday lunch starting at 11:30 a.m. That’s good news for State Street shoppers. Petterino’s 150 N. Dearborn St., 312-422-0150.

Via Veneto’s 20th Anniversary Savings
Via Veneto is celebrating its 20th birthday by offering a free bottle of vino with the purchase of two entrées at dinner. You only get one bottle per table, though, and you need to mention the special when ordering. Via Veneto, 6340 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-267-0888.

Hilary’s Urban Eatery closed its doors at the end of February but will reopen on Division Street between Ashland and Western Avenues later this year. Hilary’s Urban Eatery, 1500 W. Division St., 773-235-4327.

Levy Restaurants Inc. managed food service in the Sears Tower for more than 20 years, but caterer and facilities management company Sodexho USA, a branch of Charlotte, N.C.-based Compass Group USA, has abruptly taken over. All of the building’s Levy venues are expected to be reinvented.

Oddly, Larry and Randee Estes, owners of Fluky’s hot dog stand, changed the name to U Lucky Dawg without warning. “On the one hand, it's the end of an era since the name Fluky's on Western has been synonymous with the finest Chicago Hot Dogs,” said Larry Estes. “On the other hand, it's the beginning of a new tradition at this famous location, one that's based on the original Fluky's concept but with some surprises to come. We will continue to serve the classic Vienna pure beef Chicago Hot Dog that was served by Fluky himself.” The Esteses, who also own Max's Italian Beef (the home of the nationally known “Ghetto Fries”) and the popular catering business, Catering by Max's, are making the change as a matter of contract. “We have operated at this location using the Fluky's name for eight years,” Estes added. “During this time we have established ourselves for our friendly service, quality products and our commitment to the community.” U Lucky Dawg, 6821 N. Western Ave., 773-274-3652.

Hazen's Leave is Hazy
Michael Dean Hazen, the chef behind the pending Cité (Lake Point Tower, 505 N. Lake Shore Dr., 312-644-4050) revamp made a quick exit. No word on what’s going to happen to the to-be-rolled out City.

McCormick & Schmick's
McCormick & Schmick's (41 E. Chestnut St., 312-397-9500) is preparing to open a follow-up location in the former Nick & Tony's spot at State and Wacker this summer.

Hop, Skip and a Pops For Champagne
Lakeview jazz and bubbly bar Pops For Champagne (2934 N. Sheffield Ave., 773-472-1000) has plans to relocate to the corner of State and Ohio in May. Fans of adjacent Star Bar (773-472-7272), located next door, can expect the place to be renamed and refashioned into a wine bar.

Rush the Steak
David Burke, the guy behind Smith & Wollensky and Park Avenue Café, has plans to open a still-unnamed prime steakhouse in the soon-to-open James Hotel on Rush Street.

Aubriot and Taus Make Exits
Eric Aubriot exited six-month-old Narra (Hotel Orrington, 1710 Orrington Ave., Evanston, 847-556-2772), and Michael Taus made an even speedier departure from weeks-old Saltaus (1350 W. Randolph St., 312-455-1919). Taus will continue at Zealous; Brad Phillips (Tru, Blackbird, NoMI) will replace him as exec chef. No word yet on Aubriot’s next step.

Café 36 Lives On
To the pleasure of west suburban foodies, Café 36 (22 Calendar Ct., La Grange, 708-354-5722) reopened with new owners Terry and Carol Gilmer and chef Jacki DiCola (ex-Bistro Banlieu). Expect many of the menu items to be the same.

Chow at Ciao
Glen Ellyn loveable Ciao Bella recently relocated nearby (18W333 Roosevelt Rd., Lombard, 630-620-0090). Loyalists can expect to find familiar bites like fried calamari, bruschetta and, of course, pasta aplenty.

Icy Intentions
Coco Pazzo’s (300 W. Hubbard St., 312-836-0900) new pastry chef, Erika Masuda, has come up with some pretty interesting gelatos and sorbets—from coconut-basil to lemon-sage, licorice and prickly pear.

New Chef for mk
Chef Todd Stein was just named executive chef of mk (868 N. Franklin St., 312- 482-9179). Michael Kornick will continue to pursue new ventures for the company and oversee mk. Currently, Michael Kornick Consulting is opening seven venues in 2006 in partnership with the Nine Group including an additional Nine Steakhouse, the new Playboy Club Las Vegas and the upscale Italian restaurant, Nove.

What a Dish
River North sushi bar Kizoku Restaurant (358 W. Ontario St., 312-335-9888) is the latest in a long line of Japanese predecessors to up the extreme eating ante. Its shtick? Serving “body sushi.” Here’s the drill: You make reservations at $500 a pop for four people and gorge on an all-you-can eat sushi “buffet” atop a model’s bod. Of course, her unmentionables are cloaked with bamboo leaves.

No go the Fugu
The Tsuki Japanese Restaurant and Lounge (1441 W. Fullerton Ave., 773-883-8722) has taken the potentially deathly torafugu blowfish off its menu after discovering that they were unintentionally importing the delicacy illegally from Japan without approval from the FDA. The restaurant will no longer serve fugu and apologize for the misunderstanding.

Restaurant Revamps
Bistro Marbuzet (7600 W. Madison St., Forest Park; 708-366-9090) underwent a quickie revamp to become Madison Street Grill. The casual spot now serves chicken, ribs and burgers. Jack Jones’ The Corner Grille (5200 N. Clark St., 773-271-3663) in the city’s Andersonville neighborhood also is slotted for a makeover.

Photo by Peter Riskind

Better Beef
The Tavern (519 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville, 847-367-5755), just started serving a New York Strip Steak from organically raised cattle from Uruguay. For more than 100 years, beef cattle in Uruguay have grazed on native organic wheat grasses from the 80% of the country land that has been set aside for this purpose. The cattle selected for the Tavern are fed organic corn, without any antibiotics, hormones, pesticides or animal protein, for 120 days. The meat is offered with a choice of garlic mashed potatoes or freshly cut corkscrew-style French fries for $30.

A Room with a View
Although Cité (505 N. Lake Shore Dr.; 312-544-4050), located on the 70th floor of Lake Point Tower, certainly is a room with a view, food wasn’t always considered its forte. Now, Michael Hazen, formerly of Rushmore, is giving the place a revamp and will roll out the red carpet in early 2006. It’ll be called City and the restaurant will, apparently, cater to chic diners with dishes like foie gras with Valhrona chocolate alongside Pinot Noir Bing cherries and coffee aroma.

Good Karma
Karma (Crowne Plaza North Shore, 510 E. Route 83, Mundelein, 847-970-6900), which opened three years ago to rave reviews, now reaches for further heights of sophistication with its new menu of Asian-inspired cuisine with French flair from recently appointed chef Hagop Hagopian. Eats include seared foie gras atop custardy brioche French toast and sweet-tart blueberry preserves, double-seared filet mignon in sherry-ginger reduction with wasabi mashed potatoes and wild-mushroom ragout, grilled prawns with pineapple relish and South Asian-style garam masala, and a salad of lobster-tail confit with sweet corn, black beans and chipotle dressing.

Rioja Reigns on Clark

Jack and Michael Jones (Bistro Marbuzet, Jack's on Halsted, Corner Grille) did a quick revamp on former seafooder Atlantique. The new spot, Spanish-Mediterranean Rioja (5101 N. Clark St., 773-275-9191), features dishes like serrano-wrapped, deep-fried shrimp with melon relish. Gone are the fish sculptures that adorned the walls. In with the new: framed posters of bulls and tile mosaics.

HB’s for Upscale American
Buzz-worthy caterer and gourmet sandwich shop Hearty Boys, which rolled out the red carpet in 2000, will open its doors any day as HB, an upscale American eatery. The reason for the makeover? Owners Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh will appear on the Food Network reality show, “The Next Food Network Star.” According to McDonagh, “It seemed like a good time.” Expect eats like pan-fried soft shell crab atop watermelon, feta and mint salad. Hearty Boys, 3404 N. Halsted St., 773-244-9866.

Swanky Fast Fare
Headed to a show at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park? Dashing to see the symphony at Ravinia? Tuscan hotspot Ristorante We will offer Tuscan Picnic Bags for foodies on the fly. Executive chef Charlie Brown will load ‘em with a choice of sandwiches on crusty bread (try the grilled tuna Riviera salad sandwich), cured Italian meats and cheeses, marinated salads (think fresh mozzarella with toasted walnuts or grilled baby artichoke salad with shallot and herb vinaigrette) and spreads like smoky mussels with garlic-tomato sauce. Every bag includes tableware, a bottle of sparkling water, a fresh loaf of ciabatta bread and biscotti cookies. Ristorante We, W Chicago City Center, 172 W. Adams St., 312-917-5608.

Eye-Catching Offer
When you dine al fresco at 312 Chicago, you’ll score a pair of sunglasses during your meal. Like your look? Make a donation to Green City Market and you can keep them. 312 Chicago, 136 N. LaSalle St., 312-696-2420.

And the James Beard Award Goes To...
Chef Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia received the culinary equivalent of an Academy Award when he was proclaimed the American Express Best Chef: Midwest at the 15th Annual James Beard Foundation Awards ceremony, held Monday, May 2 at New York’s Marriott Marquis. The restaurant was additionally nominated for Smithfield Foods Outstanding Service Award and the Kitchenaid Outstanding Photography Award for The Spiaggia Cookbook: Eleganza Italiana In Cucina.

The Liccioni's New Plans
Following on their personal split, Roland Liccioni and Mary Beth Liccioni have parted ways at Les Nomades, with Mary Beth taking control of that restaurant and Roland returning to the stoves at Wheeling’s Le Français as chef-partner. Liccioni will reportedly continue in his partnership with Arun’s owner Arun Sampanthavivat at Le Lan (pictured), the elegant French/Vietnamese restaurant opened by the pair in 2004.

Sampanthavivat Goes Clubbing
Meanwhile, Sampanthavivat is busy with his own new project, Shanghai Club, which he plans to open in May on the site of the former Biggs restaurant. Sampanthavivat is working with colorful architect and designer Jordan Mozer to create a 1930s-style supper club, serving an upscale Chinese menu.

Yagihashi Returns To Chi-Town
There’s more big news: Takashi Yagihashi, who worked at Ambria about a decade ago, has returned to Chicago and will open a Japanese-inflected small-plates spot next summer. In the meantime, he’s working with Marshall Field’s—scratch that, Macy’s—and has plans to open a noodle and sushi spot in the department store this fall. Takashi left the city to man Tribute, an award-winning restaurant in Farmington Hills, and went on to work at the new Wynn Las Vegas resort.

Foie Gras Alternatives
Okay, so the foie gras ban is in effect. While you can head out of the city to enjoy the luxurious treat, you can bank on also finding spots with alternatives that are equally taste-tempting. Among them: Tru (676 N. St. Clair St., 312-202-0001), which has doctored up a faux version foodies likely gobble up just the same. Or, head to Spiaggia (980 N. Michigan Ave., 2nd Level, 312-280-2750) where chef-partner Tony Mantuano has created an all-vegetarian dish that mimics the flavor profile and consistency of a foie gras terrine; it instead contains ingredients like ceci beans, vinsanto and extra virgin olive oil. The terrina di fegato grasso vegetariano is currently served as in antipasto in the restaurant’s main dining room as part of the Degustation Dello Chef ($135), but guests also can order it as an à la carte item.

Ann Sather's Reborn
After reporting Ann Sather’s in Andersonville closed up just a few weeks ago, a collective sigh of relief can be heard. The neighborhood favorite opened once again, thanks to the one-time catering manager of the Belmont location, John Alexander. Ann Sather's, 5207 N. Clark St., 773-271-6677

Edible Ink at Moto
Just when you think you’ve heard it all. Homaro Cantu, the executive chef at Moto, decided to create food-based inks, which he prints on paper that’s—huh?—good enough to eat. Here’s how it plays out. Soybeans and cornstarch bind to form edible paper, which is then flavored, emblazoned with images of, say, maki and used to wrap rolls. Menus are sometimes flavored like main course dishes, and pictures might take on sensory properties (i.e. an image of a cow smacks of steak). Rumor has it that Cantu also is experimenting with liquid nitrogen, helium and superconductors in order to make foods, well, float. Moto, 945 W. Fulton Market, 312-491-0058

Foursome to Open Gastropub
It’s a go, and it’s no stretch to say the whole world—or, at least, nation—will be watching. Paul Kahan (Avec and Blackbird) has officially partnered with Terry Alexander (Mia Francesca, del Toro and Sonotheque), Eduard Seitan (Avec, Blackbird) and Donnie Madia (Blackbird, Avec and Sonotheque) with the intent to open a gastropub on Fulton Street’s Warehouse District. But don’t expect anything to open earlier than, at least, spring 2007.

Flat Top Breakfast Buffet
Looking for something different to eat on a weekend morning? Head to Flat Top Grill in Oak Park, Old Town or Lakeview for a buffet breakfast on Saturdays or Sundays. The approach, like its stir-fries, is create-your-own—but in this case diners can nab omelets, egg scrambles, pancakes and french toast. Flat Top Grill, 319 W. North Ave., Chicago, 312-787-7676,

Drinks to Chase the Winter Chill
Eleven City Diner is determined to warm things up this winter with its new Hot Toddy & Night Cap menu. Other cozy sips include the Edmund Mary Joseph, a hefty shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream and coffee with whipped cream and a wafer, and the hot gin toddy where revelers name the gin and enjoy it with sugar cubes and hot water. Eleven City Diner, 1112 S. Wabash Ave., 312-212-1112,

Trotter Project at the Elysian
Here’s some seriously good news for foodies: Charlie Trotter is opening his first fine dining restaurant since launching his eponymous locale, Charlie Trotter’s, in 1987. It’ll be housed at the Elysian Hotel and Private Residences (11 E. Walton St.), the flagship location of an under-construction, ultra-luxury brand slated to open in 2008. Catering to a savvy dinner crowd, the restaurant will also feature a second dining room that will be open all day. Trotter will also oversee in-room dining, plus banquet and catering facilities, so plan on spending the night.,

Hello Health-Conscious!
If you’re looking to watch your health come the New Year, here’s some news for you. The Clean Plate Club Restaurant Group (Davis Street Fishmarket, Merle’s #1 Barbecue, Pete Miller’s Seafood & Prime Steak) has issued a total ban on smoking and the use of any artificial trans fats.

Spiaggia Salutes the White Truffle

White truffle season is here, and Spiaggia is making the most of the ingredient by preparing a special (yet-to-be-determined) six-course menu in its honor. Last year, dishes included Yuppie Hill Farm organic scrambled eggs with porcini mushrooms and hand-crafted Fontina pasta with cardoons and Castelmagno cheese. Spiaggia, 980 N. Michigan Ave., 2nd Fl., 312-280-2750.

Gayot's Annual Awards wants to congratulate the following for their selection to our Top 40 Restaurants in the U.S. list published in our Annual Restaurant Issue for 2006:

Charlie Trotter's
Le Francais
TRU would also like to congratulate Custom House for its selection to our Top Ten New Restaurants.


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GAYOT's Annual Restaurant Awards honor America's best chefs, as well as promising newcomers and a top restaurateur.

VEGETARIAN FOODWith GAYOT's lists of the Best Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants, you can discover where to find the best meatless meals.