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 with Coda di Volpe

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.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Chef Recommends: Carolina Diaz of Filini

Italian No Comments »
Carolina Diaz/Photo: Lauren Knight

Carolina Diaz/Photo: Lauren Knight

When you go out to a restaurant, you’re hoping to get a taste of the best the kitchen has to offer. A menu can be a mystery, so why not go straight to the source? Chef Carolina Diaz of Filini Bar & Restaurant tells us a little about herself… and what she recommends you try from her menu.

Diaz started cooking at a young age, mostly out of necessity. In a family of six, someone had to make dinner, and that usually fell to Diaz and her sister. It wasn’t until later in life that cooking began to have an allure of its own. The Food Network was on the rise with its chef-focused shows; the stars made cooking look “so glamorous,” Diaz says. She was hooked. She dropped out of her psychology studies and enrolled in culinary school. Read the rest of this entry »

Love and Jamón: Spanish Square

Lakeview, Spanish No Comments »

 

Manuel Moreno and his seductive jamón/Photo: Rosemary Lane

Manuel Moreno and his seductive jamón/Photo: Rosemary Lane

Enter the Spanish Square (1358 West Belmont), and you’ll walk into a love story that began in—where else?—Spain. Mara Baer and Manuel Moreno, owners of this new restaurant/tapas bar/market in Lakeview, met seven years ago in southern Spain. Mara was teaching English at a local high school. One night, her friends brought her to a housewarming party at Manuel’s, a native who lived above the city’s main plaza.  Read the rest of this entry »

Mardi Gras in Your Mouth: Muffuletta at J.P. Graziano Grocery

Sandwiches No Comments »
Muffuletta at Central Grocery/Photo: David Hammond

Muffuletta at Central Grocery/Photo: David Hammond

The muffuletta was created at Central Grocery in New Orleans. This classic sandwich is basically antipasti—salami, mortadella and/or ham, mozzarella and provolone with a splash of olive salad—on a round sesame seed bun.

Last weekend, I sampled two muffuletta variations in the city where it all began. Read the rest of this entry »