A big restaurant closing and opening this week—sort of. Pacific Standard Time, One Off Hospitality’s River North restaurant, is being rebranded as a second location of the group’s Avec. The Tribune has the story.

Vast and airy PST could hardly be less like Avec 1.0 with its long, narrow wood-paneled bar space (Donnie Madia recently told me it was supposed to evoke wine barrels, though I’ve always said “sauna on a space station”). But it’s a logical move. PST’s initial concept was to showcase California food and the connections to purveyors there of then-chefs Erling Wu-Bower and Cosmo Goss, who left before opening.

But Wu-Bower had been chef of Avec and worked there for a good chunk of his time with the company. And the menu ended up being reminiscent in spots of Avec’s pan-Mediterranean—perhaps the distinction between “California cuisine” and “modern Mediterranean food cooked in America” is too subtle to be clear to diners.

Wu-Bower left last year and in the meantime, One Off’s strongest brand has been Avec—I’ve had food or meal kits from there several times since lockdown and they’ve always been full of flavor and easily turned into hot dinner. So not surprising, that a restaurant that seemed like it was kind-of-Avec all along should take on that brand. We’ll have to wait until things generally reopen to see how the restaurant succeeds on making itself live up to the image and branding of a tiny, hard-to-get-a-seat bar.


Congrats to Stephanie Hart of Brown Sugar Bakery, who won a $10,000 small business grant during an appearance on Good Morning America last week, (Tribune)


Ethiopian and semi-vegetarian/vegan restaurant Ras Dashen has apparently passed to the second generation and owner Maritu Tqkala is raising money to keep it going for the Uptown community.

Buzz 2


A familiar name opens an upscale restaurant in St. Charles—Chris Curren, most recently of Fulton Market Kitchen and before that Seven Lions, Stout Barrel House and Galley and Blue 13, will be the chef of a posh new restaurant on the Fox River called The Graceful Ordinary.

Also in the burbs—we’re approaching trend story levels here—Ryan O’Donnell (Gemini, Coda di Volpe) is opening a French brasserie-inspired restaurant in Winnetka called Pomeroy.

Sepia and Proxi, both big enough for proper social distancing, are open, Proxi with its global small plates, Sepia offering a four-course prix fixe menu.

Topolo 2.0, as they call socially distanced dining in the Frontera library/test kitchen, started up again as of last Friday. Here’s more about the menu they’re doing and how it works; I tried it back in September.

Foodhaul is a “tecbnology platform that partners with notable chefs to create delivery-only virtual restaurant brands.” In other words, branding for food coming out of ghost kitchens. They’re launching two brands with Fabio Viviani (Bar Siena)—”Toscana by Fabio Viviani, which features traditional Italian and beloved family recipes, and Burgers ’n Wiches, which offers a variety of elevated burgers with house ground patties and gourmet toppings.” Be the first on your block to order from our post-restaurant future here!


A roundup of Valentine’s specials and other things I’ve gotten word of:

Leña Brava has w0odfired Mexican food and a very gooey chocolate cake to judge by photo, but more intriguing, if not for V-Day, is Paella Wednesday. Bet you haven’t had that since lockdown.

Boka has indoor dining as well as a surf and turf meal kit for V-Day.

Daisies offers a four-course prix fixe carryout meal all V-Day weekend; it looks verrra Italiano, which Daisies isn’t always, order here.

I’d suggest dining in for V-Day at The Bristol, but they seem to be pretty booked up for the weekend, so you’ll have to order a 6-course prix fixe carryout here.

Homestead on the Roof has V-Day carryout dinners with sweets from West Town Bakery—go here to order.

Besides V-Day dinners, Travelle offers something different— a breakfast in bed kit (though you’ll have to get out of bed to pick it up). See it and other choices for dinners and desserts here.

More sweets for your sweet from Black Dog Gelato—but you have to order by Monday here.

Roots Handmade Pizza has heart-shaped pizza, heart-shaped cheesecake and more for your themed V-Day pizza feast.

Miki’s Park—the Korean nightlife-inspired spot in River North—has a V-Day prix fixe of sliders and sparkling wine, though I couldn’t find where to order it.

And V-Day isn’t the only holiday this month—all through February Jerry’s Sandwiches has a Mardi Gras menu with bread in the style of New Orleans’ Leidenheimer bakery, made for them by Phlour Bakery.

You’ve got till Wednesday to get your order in for a takeout Chinese New Year feast at Sun Wah Barbecue. Call or text the restaurant but they ask you to be patient with the phone, given reduced staff in the restaurant.


Last year it was people ignoring COVID and packing bars for St. Patrick’s Day that prompted a lot of the lockdown legal action. Not this year—St. Patrick’s Day festivities have been canceled. Eater Chicago:

Chicago officials are determined not to let last year’s scene repeat, when revelers crowded bars to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, angering Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other elected officials worried about the spread of COVID-19. Now a year later, a member of Chicago’s City Council says the city has canceled the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade for the second-straight year.


Triple Crown Restaurant has been in Chinatown since 1996, but it hasn’t been able to pay its rent since last April, reports the Tribune, which says owner Spencer Ng plans a COVID-based defense:

Ng is challenging the eviction based on an “impossibility of performance” defense, citing the unprecedented restrictions imposed on indoor dining establishments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In court proceedings Tuesday, Ng said the restaurant’s revenue fell 76% after shutdown orders were introduced in Illinois. The restaurant, which was founded by Ng’s mother at its original location on 22nd Place, has occupied the space at 2217 S. Wentworth Ave. since 2008.


This would bound to happen—there’s a little commercial strip on Rockwell in North Center that now is home to a ghost kitchen. And per a Sun-Times piece, the steady flow of drivers is annoying the neighborhood:

Ald. Matt Martin (47th) said dozens of delivery drivers, as many as 70 an hour during the lunch and dinner rush, clog the street as they pull up to the building to pick up food orders. Deliveries from semi-trucks are a problem, too, he said.

“We get multiple complaints daily,” Martin said. “It’s the single biggest business issue we’re dealing with right now in the ward.”

If a full-fledged Chik-Fil-A wanted to open in the middle of a neighborhood, I’m sure they’d have to satisfy somebody as to anticipated traffic impact, so a virtual one should have to do the same. A spokesperson for Cloud Kitchens wages full-on class warfare against the supposed richies living there on behalf of the workers at the ghost kitchen:

“The interests pressuring Ald. Martin include $7 million riverfront mansions and a luxury pet hotel that are seemingly happy to throw away the jobs of 71 of his constituents and countless small restaurant businesses in favor of their desired gentrification,” [manager Claudia] Suber said in an email.

Cloud Kitchens is owned by ex-Uber CEO and Friend of the Working Man Travis Kalanick.


Steve Dolinsky goes on WGN Radio with Bob Sirott to talk about what he’s going to do next; listen to him being diplomatic about an old school pizza place I know personally is not among his favorites. In the meantime, Dolinsky’s not gone from ABC 7 yet—he offers pieces on  two classic South Side businesses, Harold’s, celebrating 70 years and Old Fashioned Donuts.  (P.S.to everyone ragging him on Twitter over an ABC 7 tweet about hot sauce at Harold’s—read his actual piece, he gets the mild sauce orientation of Harold’s correct there, I’m sure the tweet is from the station.)


Last week when Michael Muser’s Amuzed podcast had Phil Vettel on, they mentioned John Kessler’s infamous article in Chicago magazine. So I suggested a good future guest would be Kessler himself. Which he is this week, though they spend much of the episode saying I suggested it in hopes that they would end up talking negative stuff about Chicago. This is ridiculous, as everyone knows that when it come to Chicago dining, I am the sultan of sentiment. Anyway, it’s a fun conversation about how Chicago is perceived and perceives itself as a restaurant town, and gets really interesting as Kessler starts grilling Muser about the logistics of Ever’s burger spinoff, Reve Burger.


Mike Sula talks about his love for salsa macha, the Mexican equivalent of the Chinese chili crisp that all the cool kids are trading back and forth, and about Bar Sotano’s chef de cuisine, Rishi Manoj Kumar, who has three versions of the condiment for sale:

Kumar has been studying salsas macha for all seven years, both in the restaurants and in his travels around Mexico. “It’s what all the top chefs in Mexico like to use right now,” he says. “In my case I like to refer it back to Asian cooking. It’s the sambal of Mexican cuisine. You can just throw it in, give a quick sauté to your vegetables, and man, it just elevates your whole meal to a more restaurant kind of complexity.”


David Hammond talks about the relative thinness of Deli culture in Chicago and one of the new entrants. Rye Deli & Drink. To wit, the Rye Bagel:

“I wanted to take bagels and pastrami to a new level,” says chef Billy Caruso of Rye Deli + Drink, which opened in November 2020. “There’s a New York bagel and a Montreal bagel, but I wanted to make a Chicago bagel. We build on the New York bagel, but I wanted a bagel that had a little more pull, a little more crunch, made of regionally sourced flours.”


One of the last of the old time Chicago hot dog stands in the Loop was Max’s Take Out on Adams; I went there with my son when we had tickets to see John Williams conducting at Orchestra Hall a couple of years ago. Sunday night Amani Zara, who says his dad who emigrated from Kenya owns it, announced on Twitter that it was closing. Read his whole thread here.


H/t to David Hammond for this Buzzfeed video about two Italian millennials trying New York and Chicago pizza; they’re not very pleased by the New York version, saying that it has too much sugar “like everything in America,” but admit to enjoying  Chicago deep dish, which one compares to a “salty cheesecake.” Since the video was made in LA, though, it’s hard to say how authentic a Chicago pizza what they tried was…


Remember Emily Nunn, who wrote for the Tribune and the New Yorker before that? She launched a Substack newsletter a while back called the Department of Salad which uses salad as a takeoff point for whatever she wants to write about—like, this week, Burmese cookbook author Mimi Aye, who talks about the unrest in that country. Followed by a recipe for a Burmese salad. Anyway, check it out  and subscribe.


Eater has an obituary for Finnie Haire, owner of Haire’s Gulf Shrimp, one of the top fried shrimp spots in the city and reportedly the first black vendor at Comiskey Park.


Cedar Palace is a new middle eastern restaurant in a spot on Armitage in Lincoln Park that has been many such places; I selected it pretty randomly for takeout one cold, benighted night this week. It turned out to be super-solid on all the classics—chicken shawarma, kefta kabob, really nice baba ghanoush, and though I wound up as always with more rice than I could eat in a month, I am an instant fan of their garlicky cabbage salad, which I got three of (as an automatic side) and have been eating all weekend. Check it out!