Summertime, and the living is easy…and humid. Happily, there are lots of new restaurant openings to keep things cool.

Red Meat and More

In Highwood, PM Prime (310 Green Bay Road, Highwood, 847-433-0600) is making waves in the old Gabriel’s location. With James Beard Award-nominee Chef Dominic Zumpano at the helm, they’re putting a new spin on the steakhouse. Sommelier extraordinaire Robert Bansberg (another James Beard Award nominee) is running the front of the house, and after decades spent in some of Chicagoland’s finest restaurants (including Ambria, The Pump Room and Gabriel’s), he knows a thing or two about wine and great service.


It’s Burger Time

Vernon Hills welcomed Smashburger (426 Hawthorn Center, Vernon Hills, 847-984-0240) to the Westfield Hawthorn Mall in June. One of America’s fastest-growing gourmet burger joints, they feature a smashed and griddled burger on a toasty artisanal bun. Try the Windy City Burger (sharp Cheddar cheese, haystack onions, lettuce and tomato on a pretzel bun) with Veggie Frites and a Nutter Butter Shake. Yum.


Family-Style Italian

Also new at Westfield Hawthorn Center is the new Maggiano’s Little Italy (307 Hawthorn Center, Vernon Hills, 847-918-0830), which opens on July 21. Executive Chef Arturo Alvarado is introducing a “Lighter Take” menu, which will first be available at this location before rolling out nationwide later this year.

Coffee and Sweets

Caffé Bene (1749 Milwaukee Ave., Glenview, 847-257-7340) arrived in Glenview via South Korea, where it’s the leading coffee franchise. It’s a European-style café with a distinctly philanthropic bent—they champion responsible business practices, use fair-trade products, and offer scholarships. All this, and Belgian waffles and Italian gelato, too! It’s a hot place to cool off.


Craft Brews

Evanston is the location for yet another new opening: Smylie Brothers Brewing Co. (1615 Oak Ave., Evanston, 224-999-7320), the latest brewery to hit the North Shore. They’re serving up wood-fired pizzas and barbecue, the perfect match with their many varieties of beer, brewed on site by Brad Pulver. This craft brewery and smokehouse is the dreamchild of owner Mike Smylie, who has paired with Executive Chef Grant Carey to build a very beer-friendly menu.

New In The City

Went to the grand opening of the super-luxe Fig and Olive (104 E. Oak St., Chicago, 312-445-0060), the new Midwest outpost of the New York mini chain. It’s a two-story, 10,000-square-foot restaurant and retail space that features more than 20 different olive oils, aged vinegars, specialty olives and spreads. The Crostini bar is truly awe-inspiring, with many inventive options, such as Braesola with Dolce Gorgonzola and Almond, or Crab with Heirloom tomato, Avocado and Apple Aioli. Open for lunch, brunch and dinner, it’s the new place to be seen. Molto buono!


Best Food Fest of the Year: July 17!

This is one my favorite summer events, a wild picnic of sorts held each July in Lincoln Park. Chicago’s best restaurants and chefs (nearly 100 of ‘em) provide the ultimate al fresco experience featuring gorgeous fresh produce, dairy, meats, grains and condiments from the Green City Market. It’s truly a Who’s Who of Chicagoland’s best, accompanied by wonderful libations, including beer, wine, and hand-crafted cocktails. Tickets cost $125 for general admission and $250 for VIP early access. Thursday, July 17, Green City Market in Lincoln Park, 5:30-8:30 pm. Tickets can be purchased here.

Happenings in Highwood

It’s all happening in Highwood. Sunday, July 27 is their 5th annual Bloody Mary Fest, with more than 5,000 people expected to attend the fest in Everts Park from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Professional and amateur mixologists alike will vie for the title of “Best Bloody Mary in the Midwest” in a contest judged by, among other local celebs, Make It Better’s own Marjie Killeen, our Sex & the Suburbs columnist. You’ll also find the Bloody Buddy Challenge 5K, lots of great live entertainment, a farmer’s market, food and drink, and more. The Highwood Craft Beer Festival follows on Saturday, Aug. 2 with more than 40 participating breweries, 80 different craft beers to taste, great music and fine food.

Inspired by the Farmer’s Market?

The Happ Inn (305 Happ Road, Northfield, 847-784-9200) is offering a Farmer’s Market Cooking Class on Saturday, July 26 from 10 a.m. to noon. You’ll work with Chef Freddy Sanchez and everyone’s favorite host, Carlos Nieto, to create three farm-to-table courses, which you will enjoy afterward with lovely paired wines. You’ll be making Michigan Sweet Corn Soup, Heirloom Tomato Salad with Herb Champagne Vinaigrette; and Zucchini Spaghetti with Blue Hawaiian Prawns and Tomatoe-Mushroom Ragu. $50 per person includes lunch, wine pairings, recipe cards, tax and gratuity.