Just as the fall is a harbinger for new fashion trends, so is it a time for brand-spanking new restaurants. There’s a lot of news to share: restaurant openings (and closings – sob!), singular food and wine dinners, and special events. Get your stomachs – and wallets – ready.
Hot New Restaurants
“Top Chef” fan favorite Fabio Viviani has opened his second restaurant in Chicago, a close relative to River North’s Siena Tavern. Check out the West Loop’s new Bar Siena (832 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 312-492-7775), a rambling and rustic two-story bar and restaurant complete with DJ booth and an illuminated tree sculpture that fills the atrium space. They’re serving brunch, lunch and dinner, and their justifiably famous wood-oven fired pizza is available at all. Special bonus: the BomboBar walk-up window on Green Street, your go-to source for filled bombolini (heavenly Italian donuts).
Perhaps you read about the highly-touted overhaul of President Obama’s favorite Spiaggia restaurant, but did you know that Café Spiaggia (980 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-280-2750) was also given a much-needed facelift? Gone are the rococo flourishes and the Tuscan columns; it is light and bright and modern, the perfect stop for a bite during or after a shopping expedition. The crudos are pristinely fresh and the Farm Egg atop Lonesome Stone polenta with truffle shavings and a flurry of grated Grano Padano is a welcome decadence.
If foie gras is your spirit food, The Blanchard (1935 N. Lincoln Park West, Chicago, 872-829-3971) is your desired destination. Classically trained chef Jason Paskewitz is firing on all cylinders here with his contemporary take on French standards, like the rillettes à la fermier, a confit of duck, rabbit and pork served with brandied prunes, cornichons and grilled bread.
Flying high above Streeterville, newcomer GreenRiver (259 E. Erie St., 18th Floor, Chicago, 312-337-0101) has an impeccable pedigree. It’s a collaboration between über-restaurateur Danny Meyer (Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, etc. in NYC; Shake Shack everywhere) and Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry of NYC’s The Dead Rabbit, which has been voted World’s Best Bar by Tales of the Cocktail. GreenRiver is all about the celebration of the Irish spirit and history of Chicago. Each of the beautifully curated cocktails – and there are many of them – is rooted in an Irish-American Chicago story. Executive chef Aaron Lirette tells his own Chicago story in a thoughtfully chosen menu; the bar is presided over by Julia Momose (previously of The Aviary).
In Evanston, La Principal Restaurant (700 Main St., Evanston) is opening this week on the site of the old Lupita’s. Owners Eric Young and Derek Gaspar (of The Lucky Platter) plan to focus on modern Mexican street food, such as empanadas and tacos. Given their next-door proximity to the Main Street El and Metra stations, they’ve got a morning walk-up window on Custer Street just south of Main that will feature Mexican coffee drinks and churros. Get in line!
More from Make It Better:
- 10 Must-Try Vegetarian, Vegan and Gluten-Free Restaurants Around Chicago
- The Coolest Garden-to-Table Restaurants in Chicago
- Grandbaby Cakes: Cinnamon Roll Pound Cake
Gone But Not Forgotten
I could not be sadder to tell you that Evanston’s Quince at The Homestead has closed after a run of more than eight years. How such a wonderful and serene place could have failed to capture a sustaining audience is a mystery to me. Chef Andy Motto’s cuisine was inventive, beautifully plated and delicious. RIP, Quince. You will be missed. A recording from the restaurant says that a new restaurant will open in the space later this fall. Meanwhile, the bar at Q2 (1625 Hinman Ave., Evanston) remains open with drinks and light bites.
Another big closing: PM Prime Steakhouse in Highwood. Yes, they had Chicago steakhouse prices in the suburbs – always a difficult choice. But, they had excellent service under GM Robert Bansberg and chef Dominic Zumpano’s really tasty food. We are sorry to see them go. Zumpano moves to The Cotton Duck (941 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, 773-661-6131), a brand new art gallery-restaurant hybrid concept in Bucktown. Both art installations and Zumpano’s menu will change every three months; the menu is inspired by the art.
We also said goodbye to Los Marias, although we barely had a chance to say hello. Open for just over two months on Orrington, they closed their doors Sept. 20. Funny story: I went in to do a review of the restaurant on that date, and didn’t learn the bad news until after dessert. Talk about bad timing.
Food and Wine Happenings
Just had a fabulous meal at Embeya (564 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 312-612-5640), with the kitchen now in the sure hands of chef Michael Sheerin (formerly of Cicchetti, Blackbird, Trencherman). On Oct. 7, he joins with James Beard Award-winning chef Carrie Nahabedian (NAHA, Brindille) for a Spice Route Dinner. Cocktails and hors d’oeurves start at 6:30 p.m. and will be followed by a five-course dinner with wine pairings. Tickets are $125 per person, exclusive of gratuity. For tickets, click here or call the restaurant.
I’m excited about the upcoming Pop-Up Harvest Dinner with Tracey Vowell, Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris at Crumb/Sauce and Bread Kitchen (6338 N. Clark St., Chicago) on Oct. 22. It pairs produce from Vowell and Kathe Roybal’s Three Sisters Garden with the culinary prowess of Stegner and Bumbaris (of Prairie Grass Café fame) for a BYOB dinner that includes Slow-Roasted Maple Creek Farm Pork with Creamy Grits and Sustainable Fish (TBD) with Crumbs, Spicy Pecans and Parsley Butter. Tickets are $75. For reservations, call Prairie Grass Café (847-205-4433).
Feed Your Mind
Pilot Light, the chef-helmed nonprofit that empowers CPS schoolchildren to develop a healthy relationship with food, has their third annual fundraiser, “Feed Your Mind,” on Friday, Oct. 9 at the very cool Morgan Manufacturing in the West Loop. You’ll find signature tastings from some of the best chefs and restaurants in town, including BOKA, Yusho, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Balena, Nico Osteria and Mindy’s HotChocolate. Guest of Honor will be Michel Nischan, 2015 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year. There’s also a super-fun after party called “Feed Your Soul” starting at 10 p.m. upstairs, featuring premium cocktails and music. General Admission tickets run $125. For more info and tickets, click here.
Chicago, Bacon and Beer … Oh, My!
It’s time for the Bacon and Beer Classic, held at iconic Soldier Field (1410 Museum Campus Drive, Chicago) on Saturday, Oct. 10. There will be brunch (1-4 p.m.) and evening (7-10 p.m.) sessions. General admission ($59) includes three hours of non-stop bacon and beer samples, with generous tastes culled from over 40 craft breweries and 20 local restaurants, access to concourse and seating areas throughout the stadium, a souvenir glass, music, interactive games and more. VIP admission ($99) includes all of the above, plus early access to the event and exclusive VIP beers in the Midway Lounge. Click here for tickets.
Bright, Shiny Food Stars
On Friday, Oct. 23, the James Beard Foundation’s Third Annual Taste America kicks off in Chicago with a Night of Culinary Stars. It starts with a tasting reception at 5:30 p.m., then guests will feast on a four-course seated dinner designed by all-star chef Mark Ladner (Del Posto in NYC) and local stars Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim (Parachute) and pastry chefs Dave and Megan Miller (Baker Miller). The event will be emceed by Rick Bayless and Steve Dolinsky. Premier dining tickets are $400 here.