Dining and food culture in Chicago

The Chef Recommends: Mariela Bolaños of MAD Social

New American, West Loop No Comments »
Mariela Bolaños and her Chicken & Waffles/photo: Lauren Knight

Mariela Bolaños and her Chicken & Waffles/Photo: Lauren Knight

Need a recommendation when scanning the menu at MAD Social (1140 West Madison)? Take a hint from executive chef Mariela Bolaños.

Bolaños came to the kitchen on a whim. When she was eighteen, a commercial for the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago piqued her interest. The scenes of culinary students looked interesting and fun. Her parents encouraged her to go check the school out. “’It might stick,’” she recalls them saying. They were right. Read the rest of this entry »

Opening Soon: Billy Lawless Takes On Southern Italian Cuisine

Italian, Lakeview, News etc. No Comments »
Billy Lawless, Chef Chris Thompson, and Ryan O’Donnell

Billy Lawless, Chef Chris Thompson and Ryan O’Donnell

The cranes and forklifts navigating construction at the corner of Southport and Henderson in Lakeview aren’t toting flooring or brick just now. Instead, they’re hoisting a massive Italian-made wood-fired oven into the basement kitchens at Coda di Volpe, the Southern Italian restaurant that Billy Lawless is opening this summer with partner Ryan O’Donnell (of Gemini Bistro and the now-closed Rustic House) and San Francisco chef import, Chris Thompson. Read the rest of this entry »

Master Pasta Maker: Sahro Mollim’s Long Journey from Mogadishu to Chicago

Italian, News etc. No Comments »
Alisa Miriam Roadcup, Executive Director, Heshima Kenya, and Sahro Mollim

Alisa Miriam Roadcup, executive director, Heshima Kenya, and Sahro Mollim

By Sarah Conway

Seven years ago, Sahro Mollim was a teen living at a safe house in the bustling city of Nairobi, Kenya. Now, two years after resettling in the United States, Mollim holds the start of an impressive culinary resume thanks to support from Hogsalt Hospitality, one of Chicago’s largest restaurant groups. Hogsalt, headed by Brendan Sodikoff, owns the popular Gilt Bar and Au Cheval, as well as Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf, where Mollim has enjoyed personal and professional success as a prep cook preparing pasta.

Here’s how all that happened.

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Big Heat: Chicago’s Food & Drink Fifty 2016

The Big Heat 3 Comments »
Manny Hernandez, Sarah Grueneberg, Tom Van Lente/ Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

Manny Hernandez, Sarah Grueneberg, Tom Van Lente/ Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

Big Heat, 2016, is Newcity’s list of chefs, bartenders, bakers and other food producers who are, undeniably, very good and sometimes great. The best? YMMV.

Lists are fundamentally flawed in that they suggest an objectivity impossible to attain because, you know, we’re talking about taste, which is individual, subjective, difficult-to-impossible to verify.

To compile our list, we took input from leaders in Chicago food culture, people who’ve been on the list before and others in the industry. We based our decisions on those recommendations as well as upon the performance and promise of candidates. Throughout, we kept thinking of other names we wanted to include, names that one could argue should be included; yet we have space for only fifty. Some omissions may be obvious and some, arguable. Why, for instance, isn’t Grant Achatz on the list? Because Alinea is closed for re-concepting. Why aren’t dozens of other worthy men and women on this list? Because tough decisions had to be made.

A particularly painful omission was that of Jean-Claude Poilevey, chef/restaurateur of Le Bouchon and La Sardine; Poilevey died in a traffic accident shortly before we went to press. Long a member and mover of Chicago’s restaurant community, Poilevey was so much a part of the local culinary landscape that we, admittedly, lost sight of him, as did many who in the last decade or so compiled such lists. We’re not seeking forgiveness for such omissions; simply understanding.

Although you may disagree with a call this way or that, we hope that, for the most part, you agree that all the people listed here should be on the list—and, no doubt, many more. (David Hammond)

Big Heat was written by John Carruthers, Sarah Conway, Robert Gardner, David Hammond, Rebecca Holland, Monica Kass Rogers, Lauren Knight, Rosemary Lane.

Cover and  inside photos: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux Read the rest of this entry »

Restaurateurs of the Moment: The Family Zaragoza

Archer Heights, Mexican, The Big Heat No Comments »

 

The Zaragoza family–Jonathan, John-Juan and Norma/ Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

The Zaragoza family–Jonathan, John-Juan and Norma/ Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

By David Hammond

Driving south on Pulaski, between 48th and 49th, even if you’re looking hard for Birrieria Zaragoza, even if you’ve been there before, you might drive right past it. It’s a small, family-run restaurant, seating around twenty. This well-kept, humble place doesn’t have any flashy signage. It probably doesn’t need it, judging by the crowds inside who regularly chow down, elbow-to-elbow, on what might be the finest birria tatemada you’ll find anywhere (except, perhaps, Jalisco, Mexico).

The birria is prepared and served up by John-Juan, his wife Norma, and their children Jonathan, Erik, Tony and daughter Andie.

The hungry horde that comes to eat at Birrieria Zaragoza is frequently so large that a storefront next door is opened up for people to sit in several rows of chairs, like at the DMV, patiently waiting for a table or take-out.

In early 2016, the Zaragozas accepted the Jean Banchet award for “Best Ethnic Restaurant,” the first time this award was given to anyone. We strongly suspect this category was created specifically to honor the family’s work in perfecting birria tatemada in Chicago. Birria tatemada is goat meat, steamed for hours, slathered with mole sauce, and then roasted to create a beautiful blend of textures, crunchy crisp in places, lushly soft in others, with good spice but not so much that the goodness of the goat is obscured.

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Chef Recommends: Joey Beato of Community Tavern

American, Portage Park No Comments »
Joey Beato/photo: Dirk Matthews

Joey Beato/photo: Dirk Matthews

While still in high school, Chef Joey Beato of Community Tavern taught himself how to make breakfast food, though not much else. “Breakfast for dinner” was common, and he became a master at omelets. He discovered the kitchen was where he wanted to be. He enrolled at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago (now Le Cordon Bleu).

Studies complete, he went straight to work at Quince in Evanston. Right away, the chef “gave me a case of rabbits and a case of beef chuck and was like, ‘Do this.’ And I had no idea what I was doing, but I did that for a month. It was the first thing I did there.” Butchery became one of the first professional skills Beato mastered, helping to develop his skill and respect for meat that would become a cornerstone of the Community Tavern menu. Read the rest of this entry »

The Tiniest Bakery in Town: Behind the “Small, Bread-Focused” Restaurant Trend

Pastry, Trends & Essays No Comments »
Baker Miller/Photo: Rosemary Lane

Baker Miller/Photo: Rosemary Lane

Iliana Regan is more than two months into her newest venture, Bunny, the Micro Bakery, described on her website as “perhaps the tiniest bakery in town.” It may well be: it’s only 700 square feet.

Every day, Regan makes five-dozen whiskey donuts, sixteen loaves of bread, and often chicken and dumplings in her mom’s old Dutch oven. Though small, the Lakeview bakery is mighty in its innovation, showcasing seaweed sourdough, brioche and mushroom tea from Elizabeth, Regan’s Michelin-starred restaurant.

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Let Them Eat Cake: Dessert, Beauty and Camera-Clubbing

Events, News etc., Pastry No Comments »
Janette Allier Design

Janette Allier Design

If alcohol, pastries, models and the louche appointments of the Stan Mansion are your bag, you’ll be thrilled.

Let Them Eat Cake is a Marie Antionette-themed photo shoot/pastry event that promises a French-style Rococo set design by Shari Cornes of The Boutique Photo Loft (boutiquephotoloft.com). Cornes will be hauling in furniture and draperies to transform the place into quarters worthy of “Madame Défecit.” So far as concept events go, it’s a brilliant blend of the famous teen queen’s decadent and infamous taste for sweets with showy fashion, drinks and… well, more sweets.

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A Growing Spirit of Cooperation: The Dill Pickle Co-op Expansion Brings Way Bigger Space and Full-Service

News etc., Organics, Produce No Comments »

150924_dill pickle composite rendering-2

By Michael Workman

Those who like to eat good food, as well as those who support the cooperative business model, will be thrilled to learn that the Dill Pickle Food Co-op is planning a major expansion.

We recently sat down with Sharon Hoyer, Dill Pickle’s general manager (and Newcity dance editor) to hear how the currently rather tiny, much beloved Dill Pickle is going to be getting a lot bigger and better. Read the rest of this entry »

Tony Mantuano Talks Olive Oil: Finding and Caring for the Real Thing

News etc. No Comments »
Tony Mantuano/Photo: Jeff Kauck

Tony Mantuano/Photo: Jeff Kauck

We’re guessing that everyone reading this has a bottle of olive oil on their kitchen shelves… or so they think. Olive oil is one of the most commonly counterfeited commodities on the market, right up there with honey. So we asked Chicago’s chef Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia, Terzo Piano, Bar Toma) to set us straight about how to select an olive oil that’s good and, we hope, actually olive oil.

Mantuano has a few names he trusts, but believes “it’s not so much about the store but about finding reputable producers and distributors, like Gustiamo or Viola.

“You have to get away from whatever is on the grocery shelves,” recommends Mantuano. “I would never trust an olive oil that didn’t say on the bottle that these are Italian olives and it should say the harvest it’s from. Reputable producers will put that information on there. I wouldn’t go near an olive oil that didn’t do that.” Read the rest of this entry »