Neighborhood restaurants still cooking through the ban

By Stephanie Racine, Elisa Shoenberger, and Daniel Patton

 

The Chicago culinary community is not taking a backseat during the restaurant shutdown. With Illinois’ shelter-in-place order planned through April 7, local restaurants have had to alter their methods of feeding the community.

 

Volare Ristorante is a great friend to have

Benvenuto “Benny” Siddu, owner of popular Streeterville eatery Volare Ristorante Italiano, is responding to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis by helping others.

Benvenuto “Benny” Siddu, owner of Volare Ristorante Italiano

“Twice a week, we donate food for 50 people at the Ronald McDonald House,” he said. “We are not allowed to go in, but we drop it off and we do whatever they need.”

Helping the Ronald McDonald House, which supports the families of children who are hospitalized, is just the beginning of Siddu’s generosity. He is also doing everything possible to retain the staff that has helped his restaurant thrive for 23 years.

“We’ve got 120 employees,” he continued. “Yesterday, everybody came to pick up their check, and we offered to feed them all.” When the restaurant order is lifted, he hopes to “have a general meeting with the entire staff and hopefully compensate them for the time that they have taken off.”

Located at the intersection of E. Grand Ave. and St. Clair St., Volare has become renowned for an extensive menu that includes traditional pasta, robust chops, gilled calamari, and spaghetti and meatballs. Siddu, who was born in Italy, says that his favorite dish is the linguine with zuppa di pesce — linguine with fish soup.

Besides serving its full menu every day, Volare has also increased the size of its pasta dishes for the duration of the in-person order. “We do 16-ounce portions,” he said. “That’s a one-and-a-half order.” The restaurant also plans to repeat a half-priced special on steaks that ran last week and sold out the entree.

And if Viddu is available when the food is ready, he’ll make the delivery in person.

“The neighborhood has been more than gracious to us,” he explains.  “They have made me who I am today, and I love what I do.”

Entrees from Volare Ristorante Italiano

To place an order, call (312) 410-9900 or visit volarerestaurant.com.

 

Sweet Mandy B’s still baking away

Business at the Streeterville bakery has been “pretty solid with online delivery” during the in-person restaurant ban, according to, Assistant Manager Laura Amelang.

“We have temporarily reduced staff, but we look forward to being fully staffed when things get back to normal,” she explained. “We had to figure out a lot of changes very quickly because we had just opened when the in-person prohibition was issued.”

Amelang says that the most popular items are the cupcakes, with red velvet, peanut butter chocolate, lemon among the favorites, but she likes the confetti best. There is also a big demand for birthday cakes.

To order, visit sweetmandybs.com any time between 10 a.m. 5 p.m., when the last online order is taken. Customers have until 6 p.m. to pick up their goodies.

 

Miki’s Park open for takeout & delivery

Calling itself “a Korean bar with Seoul,” the new River North restaurant located at 109 W. Hubbard opened up just in time to greet the in-person dining ban, but that hasn’t stopped it from cooking away.

“We are currently doing a carry out and we are available on caviar,” said Chris Johnson.

He remained in high spirits while speaking with New Eastside News on a drizzly Saturday afternoon. “We are all keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that sooner than later we can be open again. I’m spending 13 hours a day at this takeout window on a street that’s usually really busy, and there’s not a soul on it right now.”

The takeout menu is available every day from 11a.m.-11p.m. To order, visit mikispark.com.

 

Cupitol Coffee & Eatery working as a team

Owner Sellia Georges thanks her staff for being adaptable and rolling with the tide. “Everyone is working more as a team now,” said Georges, “My barista is helping run food, or my food runner is making a smoothie”

Georges has retained employees who relied on Cupitol as their sole job, and is hoping to re-hire everyone back when this is over.

But customers are being generous with tips, and new people are ordering for delivery services and pickup at their 455 E. Illinois location. Coffee and all of the morning sandwiches seem to be the most popular orders, according to Georges.

Cupitol is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for delivery and pick-up. Visit, cupitol.com to place an order.

DineAmic unveils big fat Greek venue for Fulton Market

Innovative restaurant group DineAmic Hospitality is adding a lot of opa! to the Fulton Market District. The award-winning developer of Siena Tavern and Barrio has announced that its next venture will be an ambitious and wholesome Greek restaurant in the hip hovel just west of downtown Chicago.

The “soon-to-be-named” venue at 905 W. Fulton Market will offer Mediterranean ambience and fresh cuisine in an 8,000-square-foot space inspired by “Greek wellness ideologies,” according to an official press release.

The heart of the concept will be suspended high above the dining room, where a large open-kitchen and burning hearth will complement chefs and kitchen staff who “theatrically showcase the restaurant’s cuisine.”

An outdoor wraparound patio bordering Peoria Street and Fulton Market will encircle the venue, which is slated to open this fall.

DineAmic partners David Rekhson and Lucas Stoioff say that a recent trip to Greece inspired them to pursue this Hellenic dining ideal.

“I’ve learned a lot about how their culture promotes a strikingly high life expectancy,” says Rekhson, who married into a Greek family and travels there every summer.

“It’s really important to us that we effectively bring the wellness aspects of the Greek lifestyle to Chicago,” adds Stoioff

The menu will reinforce the restaurant’s dedication to the “true wellness ethos of Greek cuisine.” Offering fresh seafood, sustainable proteins, and local vegetables, it will focus on whole ingredients and from-scratch fare while avoiding overly processed items.

Cooked over open flames on wood-burning grills, the majority of the rustically flavored dishes will offer “sophisticated renditions of authentic Greek favorites.”

A modern mess hall

by Jacqueline Covey

Only hours before opening day at 8 a.m. on Nov. 21, people mindlessly pass the entrance attempting to arrive for the 6 p.m. pre-opening party at TimeOut Market Chicago, 916 W. Fulton Market.

“There’s people inside, it has to be open,” one passerby says to another.

They want to be a part of the group behind the window, receiving wristbands and cards good for a taste of food and drink at Chicago’s newest culinary destination.

The 50,000-square-foot spin-off restaurant of Time Out Chicago magazine, open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., has three levels, 18 kitchens, three bars and a wide-open eating space. Filled with long tables, the center of the market resembles a mess hall, but the “food fights” are via conversation rather than flinging food.

“It’s very full, very cutting edge,” said David Lissner, also known as The Food Dude with Dining Chicago.

Among the first to sit at the high tables, Lissner tasted signature chef John Manion’s grilled oysters. The oysters, $14,  are served with a sweet corn aioli, pimenton hot sauce and potato crumble.

“It’s delicious,” Lissner said, while wishing the restaurant “a lot of good luck.” 

Manion and other house chefs will remain at TimeOut Market for at least a year.

On the top floor, visitors can take a demo class with a visiting chef, a new one each month. 

The mission of the place is “simple” according to its website: “Bring the pages of Time Out Chicago to life with the help of our favorite chefs, the ones who wow us again and again.”

In their own, intimate kitchens the lineup includes: Abe Conlon, Arami, the Art of Pizza, Band of Bohemia, Bill Kim, Brian Fisher, Dos Urban Cantina, Decent Beef, Duck Inn Dogs, FARE, John Manion, Lost Larson, Mini Mott, Pretty Cool Ice Cream, the Purple Pig, Secret Sound, Split-Rail, Sugar Cube and Thai Dang.

Farm-to-Table comes to West Loop

(Published Aug. 1, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

            Farm-to-table eating is not a new trend, but it has had a resurgence in recent years. One restaurant in West Town incorporates farm-to-table to their own rooftop garden. Homestead on the Roof opened in 2012, but Chef Jesse Badger came on last year. Walking through the rooftop garden, Badger pointed out the herbs and vegetables they use on their summer menu.

            Summer was late this year though, according to Badger. Summer crops were difficult to grow in such wet and muddy fields, even if they were planted, there was a possibility for the plants to get waterlogged. Now, the rooftop garden is flourishing. Badger pointed out his favorite item, the nasturtiums, an edible flowering plant. The flowers taste like pepper and are used at Homestead to garnish their mussels dish. Other plants located on the rooftop garden include poblano peppers, mint, chamomile, tomato vines, and eggplant.

            Homestead combines their farm with local farms for their farm-to-table experience, but Badger works with farms in a different way than most restaurants. “A lot of what I’m thinking about is how to use the farmers we work with,” says Badger. Badger asks the farmers what they want to sell, not the other way around. His ultimate goal is to help and support local farmers. Currently, their burger on the menu incorporates this technique. It’s a pork burger; with bacon ends and ground pork from Catalpa Farm. 

Homestead also tries to be as sustainable as possible. Their Walleye comes from the Huron tribes and Jake Country Meats out of Michigan. According to Badger, the Huron tribes are practiced in keeping the ecosystem in balance. They know when to fish and when not to fish for Walleye. Badger tends to work with farmers who are looking at the bigger picture as well, as it comes to sustainability and our place in the ecosystem.

Visit Homestead on the Roof at 1924 W Chicago Ave. (773) 332-2354. homesteadontheroof.com. 

The Food Hall Craze: How Fulton Galley Differs

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Fulton Galley opens on June 22 in Fulton Market, bringing five unique food stalls to the community. From Italian to Thai, Fulton Galley promises to help and support new culinary endeavors, as starting a new restaurant in Chicago can be a difficult task. Most of the restaurants are new concepts, except for Steingold’s Deli, which has two other locations in the city in River North and North Center. Steingold will keep to its “Jew-ish American” offerings, according to a press release.

Italianette will feature Italian classics using local farms for ingredients. Pastas like malfade made with a short rib ragu will be available. Fairview is a rotisserie meats-focused stall, with Latin influences. Created by Publican’s former chef de cuisine, Dennis Bernard, Fairview will offer items like veal brisket with mole. “Pink Salt [is] a family-style modern Thai concept,” according to the press release. Chef Palita Sriratana wanted to recall memories of cooking with her grandmother and traveling to Bangkok with Pink Salt. Srirtana’s version of Tod Mun Kapod will have corn fritters with sweet cucumber relish and kaffir lime leaves. Taco Mucho will focus on Mexican classics with American twists like Nacho Fries and a Chorizo Burger.

Besides the new food options, Fulton Galley has full bar that will stay open until midnight on weekends. They also have a half-off happy hour during the week. Drinks are designed and curated by Bar Manager Mike Karberg and Galley Group Beverage Director Tim Garso. Cocktails have pop culture themes, like The Five Dollar Shake, made with La Colombe Cold Brew, Luxardo espresso, and whipped cream.

The décor is sleek and comfortable, and will showcase rotating art from local Chicago artists. Currently, artist Evan La Ruffa is being highlighted.  

Fulton Galley is located at 1115 W. Fulton St. For more information visit their website at fultongalley.org.

Japanese bar Kumiko crafts luxury into cocktails

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer
(Published March 18, 2019)

Julia Momose has been busy.

She is one of the partners behind Kumiko, the newest Japanese restaurant in the West Loop and while she has an exacting eye for excellence, this project is a bit more personal than her first outing, Oriole.

The group kept their new restaurant in the West Loop because they wanted to open the bar near Oriole, which is just around the corner, and because they felt The West Loop is the epicenter of Chicago’s restaurant scene. Beyond that, Momose was born and raised in Japan, and Kumiko is inspired by the cocktail culture, cuisine and hospitality of her home country.

At Kumiko, Momose heads up the bar and is creative director, meaning she directs the drinks as well as the drink ware. Each drink has its own glass, hand-picked by her or her husband on trips to Japan and Momose has designed drinks that carefully pair with Kumiko’s tasting menu.

No matter what guests eat or drink, Momose said she expects patrons will enjoy the dining experience.

“We wanted the things that they would put their fingers and lips on to be beautiful,” she said.

Her other restaurant, Oriole, earned two Michelin stars, and guests at Kumiko can expect the same attention to detail.

Momose explained one of the drinks she’s most proud of is the high ball, the traditional cocktail made of whiskey, ice and club soda. A relatively simple drink but not so for Momose.

“You think of it being simple, but for us it’s much more than that,” Momose said. “It’s about the glass, the ice, the whiskey and all the little things that make something simple so much more.”

Besides the alcoholic drinks, Momose said she’s also proud of the extensive spirit-free drinks on the menu.

Momose is constantly on the lookout for ways to improve.

“We’re continuing to look to see what else is out there and make small adjustments,” she said. “My husband returned from Japan several days ago and I asked him to bring back some wooden spoons and glasses. We’re constantly discovering new ways we can improve and so it’s never going to end.”

Kumiko is located at 630 W Lake St. For more information, visit barkumiko.com or follow the Kumiko story on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter.

[Kumiko team]

Caption is the file name.

A classical take on the Beatles delights City Winery audience

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer
(Published March 18, 2019)

The Chicago Philharmonic Chamber Players performed classic Beatles hits during “All You Need is Love” at City Winery on Feb. 17, making for a fun-filled show perfect for Valentine’s Day weekend.

The event is part of an ongoing series of collaborations between the Philharmonic and City Winery.

The chamber group featured Katherine Hughes and Jeff Yang on violin, Benton Wedge on viola and Matthew Agnew on cello for the hour-long afternoon performance. Wedge arranged all of the Beatles songs the quartet performed.

The concert included more than 15 Beatles songs, including “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “Eleanor Rigby” and “Yesterday.” Expertly arranged, the songs breathed new life and emotion into the band’s most iconic hits. “If I Fell” included lovely pizzicato from the viola and cello. Benton strummed his viola like a guitar for “Norwegian Wood” and brought out a guitar for “Blackbird.” Agnew drummed on his cello in a snappy version of “Come Together.” The group played an impromptu “When I’m Sixty-Four” for a guest’s birthday, and audience members were encouraged to sing along with “All You Need Is Love” and “Hey Jude,” the last song in the program.

The atmosphere in the venue was lighthearted—the audience laughed at an unexpected note or technique, or at teasing from the quartet. More than once, the chamber players joined in, smiling as they played.

Wedge said playing Beatles songs is a lot of fun for the musicians, and it’s a good way to make classical music more accessible to audiences who may not seek it out otherwise.

The next Philharmonic event at City Winery is “Pinot and Piano” at noon on April 28. Visit chicagophilharmonic.org for information. City Winery is located at 1200 W Randolph St.

[The  Chicago Philharmonic Chamber Players at City Winery in February. Photo by Elliot Mandel]

Restaurant Week extended for one week

For the News

Choose Chicago and its partner restaurants announced today that Chicago Restaurant Week has been extended through Feb. 12. 

More than 235 restaurants will participate in the extension, which will continue to offer specially designed prix fixe menus, starting at $24 for brunch and lunch, and $36 and/or

$48 for dinner (excluding beverages, tax and gratuity).

“We are excited to offer locals and visitors an extra five days of dining deals at some of the city’s best restaurants,” said David Whitaker, Choose Chicago President & CEO. “There’s no better time to get out and enjoy some incredible meals at equally incredible prices and catch a show or two during Theatre Week.”

Chicago Restaurant Week’s extension coincides with the 7th Annual Chicago Theatre Week which kicks off on February 7 and runs through February 17, allowing diners to combine an amazing culinary experience with a night out at the theatre.

Presented by the League of Chicago Theatres in partnership with Choose Chicago, the 7th annual Chicago Theatre Week will again provide visitors and residents the opportunity to choose from more than 120 productions and sample the extraordinary range of theatrical offerings in Chicago.

“This year, Chicago Theatre Week kicks off The Year of Chicago Theatre, reminding people of the rich theatre tradition in Chicago. Certainly, in this city of innovators, risk-takers and big hearts, the standard of excellence by both the theatre and restaurant scenes set Chicago apart from other cities,” said Deb Clapp, Executive Director of the League of Chicago Theatres. “With the overlap of Theatre Week and Restaurant Week, audiences will once again be able to take advantage of both of these great deals to create a quintessential Chicago experience.”

For a listing of restaurants participating in the extension, visit EatItUpChicago.com. To learn more about Chicago Theatre Week shows, tickets and venues, visit ChicagoTheatreWeek.com

The Walnut Room adds a dash of magic to any meal

By Angela Gagnon | Staff Writer

What’s it like to dine in the Walnut Room during the holidays? Whether it’s your first time setting foot in the elegant 17,000 square-foot dining room located on the seventh floor of Macy’s Department Store on State Street, or you’re a seasoned veteran, a visit there will put you right in the holiday spirit.

The Walnut Room opened in 1905 and has become a cherished landmark in Chicago. Come holiday time, the Walnut Room is transformed into a festive wonderland with the famed 45-foot Great Tree as the centerpiece. Suspended from the ceiling, the iconic Great Tree is adorned with more than 2,000 ornaments and features thousands of sparkling lights.

“Dining in the Walnut Room during the holidays is a beloved Chicago tradition,” said Carolyn Ng Cohen, Director of Media Relations at Macy’s. “With already plenty of magic in the air inside Macy’s Walnut Room, princess fairies can make it even more special for believers of all ages.”

The Walnut Room fairy princesses come each year upon the arrival of the Great Tree to spread magic and Christmas cheer, flying in from the North Pole, Candyland, Sugarplum Island and other magical places. Dressed in gowns, the fairies will charm guests of all ages. By customer request, they’ll appear tableside, asking patrons to make a wish and sprinkle some glittery fairy dust to help the wish come true. You may even get a visit from the Fairy Snow Queen, Jade Nicole, who has been sharing her fairy magic with Walnut Room diners for over a decade.

Nicole first came to the Walnut Room 11 years ago as the Keeper of Christmas Wishes from the North Pole.

“Each day I would give children and adults the chance to make a wish with a little fairy dust and a magical song. Then, I would bring their magical wishes to Santa Claus,” said Nicole.

“Some wishes are simple—a toy or a present, but some wishes are much bigger—peace on earth, comfort for the sick, hope and happiness. I like to give everyone the chance to make three wishes,”  the Fairy Snow Queen said. “A wish for yourself, a wish for someone else and a wish for the world.”

“This will be our sixth year making our annual trip to the Walnut Room,” said New Eastside resident Elizabeth Johnston, who goes with her 6-year-old daughter Dillon and a group of friends. Their evening starts with a visit to Santa in Macy’s Santaland on the fifth floor, and then they head to the Walnut Room for dinner and fairy princesses.

“Our favorite thing about the whole experience is the fairy princess,” says Johnston. “It’s so cute to watch the little girls and boys admire her. It’s a heartwarming experience to say the least, which is what brings us back year after year.”

The Walnut Room menu includes both a Holiday Great Tree buffet offered daily, as well as a la carte options. Guests can also sample Mrs. Hering’s famous original chicken pot pie which features the same recipe that has been served since 1890. For more information about dining in the Walnut Room, including holiday hours and pricing, visit http://macysrestaurants.com/walnut-room/.

Getting the hottest summertime seats

Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

It’s patio season and restaurants and bars across the city are opening up their sidewalks, decks and outdoor spaces for sunshine seating. 

City Winery at 11 W. Riverwalk South. Photo by Taylor Hartz

When it comes to a good view, City Winery at 11 W. Riverwalk South can’t be beat. Situated right on the water, start off with a view and then enjoy the Italian burrata made with marinated tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and toasted ciabatta before diving into a menu filled with salad and sandwich options.

There’s a variety of win, but the best is the pink rosé, a generous pour of a watermelon, peach, strawberry and cantaloupe flavored wine.

For something more summery, get a frosé. This icy pink wine is served with a striped straw and fresh raspberries and will beat the heat.

The bar features six house wines including Riverwalk Red, a blend that will be available all summer. The bar also offers Goose Island beers and a variety of seasonal cocktails. The waterfront spot is located on Marina Plaza between State Street and Dearborn Street and will feature live music on weekends. City Winery is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, weather permitting.

Gibson’s Italia, 233 N. Canal St., has a great view of the river from its third floor patio. Enjoy angus steaks, sirloin and a selection of fresh seafood. 

Bar Cargo, 605 N. Wells St. Photo by Taylor Hartz

One of River North’s newest outdoor hotspots is Bar Cargo, 605 N. Wells St., a roman style pizzeria.

The restaurant has about eight tables on its sidewalk patio, but they plan to add to the outdoor seating soon. In addition, a beer garden is in the works on the back patio, which will seat at least 60.

Bar Cargo offers a variety of cocktails including the strong Tuscan Sunset is a bit strong. For something more mild, try the limoncello, a refreshing frozen lemonade.

The calamari is perfect and the the pizza was a great option though it’s not Chicago deep dish or thin crust. The Queen pizza includes a classic red sauce, basil and mozzarella, though for something a little more meaty, try the Chicago, a meat covered pie with sausage and peppers.

Point and Feather, 113 W. Hubbard St., offers refreshments, food and entertainment. 

Bar Cargo, 605 N. Wells St. Photo by Taylor Hartz

The patio isn’t open yet, but the inside offers a fun variety of bar games and eats like pretzel bites, chips and cheese curds, Detroit-style deep dish pizzas, or sandwiches

House favorite cocktails include the Queen of Thorns made with beefeater gin, pineapple, dried rose and lemon. They’ve also got a bunch of craft beers, ciders and cocktails and with boozy shakes.

For a fiesta fix the tiny patio space at Fat Baby Tacos, 109 W Hubbard St., is worth the wait. This River North spot has a small but mighty outdoor area that is first come first serve, so get their early.

In addition to margaritas and sangria by the pitcher, there are made-in-house agua frescas in cucumber chia, hibiscus ginger lemonade and horchata de coco.

Guests can design their own taco burrito or bowl and choose chicken, steak, carnitas, shrimp or veggies.

Get any dish in classic, American, street or spicy style and add extras for flavor.

For late nights out, they have a special menu after 10 p.m. that highlights tamales, tacos and tequila shots.

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