Looking over everything we're excited about in this week's issue—ongoing Oktoberfest celebrations, the first-ever Chicago Craft Spirit Week, the wine-heavy Chicago Gourmet—it dawned on us: Is this the best drinking week over? More evidence that we might be on to something: On October 1, Letherbee—Chicago-proper's second craft distillery—will introduce the first in a series of limited-edition, seasonal releases: Letherbee Gin Autumnal Fall/Winter 2012. Per Miriam Matasar, who runs Letherbee with distiller Brenton Engel, "Letherbee Autumnal Gin maintains the high spice content of the original label Letherbee with additional overtones of clove, nutmeg and allspice." To those who say gin-and-tonic season is ending, Letherbee says all you have to do is "swap out your lime for an orange and enjoy the fall months with a Letherbee Autumnal gin and tonic."
Taste Letherbee Gin Autumnal at the Whistler as part of the Left Coast v. Third Coast Gin event on Tuesday, Oct 2 from 6–9; at Life's a Cabernet on Thursday, Oct 4 from 7–9pm; and at Lush Roscoe Village on Saturday, Oct 6 from 4–6:30pm.
Letherbee Autumnal will be available in limited quantities beginning Oct 1 at Provenance, In Fine Spirits, Lush, and Life's a Cabernet and in special seasonal cocktails at Longman & Eagle, Vincent and the Violet Hour.
Lee Greene of the Scrumptious Pantry discovered that a certain heirloom vegetable called the Beaver Dam Pepper—which was brought to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, by a Hungarian immigrant in 1913—was near extinction, so she convinced a local farmer who had six plants to grow the pepper in large quantities to preserve it for future generations. These mildly spicy peppers are making an appearance at restaurants across town this weekend, in celebration of the Beaver Dam Pepper Centennial. Try them at:
Restaurants (Dishes available today–Sunday, Sept 23)
Birchwood Kitchen: Beaver Dam Pepper Brunch: Peperonata, lemon-garlic Swiss chard, grilled bread, poached eggs, beaver dam pepper relish
Green Zebra: Basil Cavatelli, roasted summer fennel, Beaver Dam Chili coulis, and pea tendrils
Lula Café: Grilled Snake River Sturgeon, Beaver Dam peppers, crispy broccoli leaves, Chinese sausage, parsnip, chile oil
Standard Market Deli: Beaver Dam Pepper Quesadillas
Uncommon Ground (Edgewater): Extra virgin olive oil–dressed, blistered Beaver Dam Pepper with prosciutto
Uncommon Ground (Lakeview): Housemade chorizo and Cedar Grove cheese curd–stuffed Beaver Dam Pepper, organic black bean cake, creamy sweet corn
Bonny's (2417 N Milwaukee Ave), the late-night Logan Square bar that opened less than two years ago, is closing its doors this weekend—reluctantly. "Business is great," says Bonny's co-owner Mandy Tandy. But, unfortunately, "all that money goes to lawyers." Beginning four months after its opening, Bonny's has been in a protracted legal battle with its landlords. While the case is in court, the city has let Bonny's stay open on appeals, but "the appeals have run out," Tandy says. She declined to speak about the nature of the dispute but she says: "We're on the right side of litigation against our landlord, but the city needs an answer from the court case; they can't wait to see who's right or wrong, so they don't want anybody operating until there has been a decision made....Our hands our tied." There is a chance that the dispute could be resolved at the last minute, but "we're not holding our breath," Tandy says. In the meantime, she and co-owner Andy Gould are focusing their attention on their other bar, Scofflaw, and are considering other locations for a bar. "It's not the end for Bonny's or the dance party it's had for the last two years," Tandy says. Nine DJs will be in house at Bonny's tonight, with dance parties continuing through Saturday night; stop by to bid the bar farewell.
Will Von Hartz just called to say that summer is officially over. Well, he put it a little differently: Coziest Place to Hibernate at last year's Eat Out Awards? Not depressing at all. In fact, awesome. And making it even better: All the shop's staples—pour-over coffee, Valhrona chocolate cake, grilled-cheese sandwiches on housemade bread—will return, and Von Hartz has teamed up with Alfredo Nogueira, a.k.a. Big Star bartender Fredo, to oversee the food offerings. (It's Fredo's first chef gig, but after attending a dinner party at Fredo's house, Von Hartz was convinced.) What exactly Nogueira has in mind is not finalized, but Von Hartz says that, among other things, they're working on some sort of pasty/empanada/meat pie. Von Hartz has one other thing in the works, too: Flipside may not be a pop-up for long. He dropped the Miko's from the name because come April, the shop will be looking for its own permanent digs, hopefully in the same neighborhood.'s Bucktown location has closed for the season, he informed me, and he's gone to work moving out the freezers, rebuilding the bar and repainting, in preparation for the reopening of his seasonal pop-up, (formerly known as Miko's Flipside Café). The end of summer festivals? Of local tomatoes? Of fun? Depressing. But the opening of the Miko's Flipside Café, an enclave we adore so much we gave it a Critics' Pick for
Flipside Café (1846 N Damen Ave, 773-645-9664) is slated to soft-open around October 5th.
As a child, January Overton (a former TOC account manager) was on vacation with her parents when she saw a figurine of a jackalope—a mythical animal that's a cross between a jackrabbit and an antelope—in an antique store. "Later I found out [jackalopes] weren't real, and I was heartbroken," Overton says. Still, she continued to love the folklore and mystery behind the jackalope, so much so that when she and her husband planned their coffee house, they named it (and decorated it) in the creature's honor.
Overton, a proud Bridgeport native, has dreamed for years of opening a social, community space in the neighborhood. "There's never been a doubt in my mind that I would open anything anywhere but Bridgeport," she says. "I can walk into any business [in Bridgeport] at any given time and know probably four people." It's that sense of community she hopes to foster at the Jackalope, a place, she says, where both longtime Bridgeport residents and the new influx of artist-types can be comfortable. That's why she wanted a larger space (Jackalope has two rooms) where students can come in and do study groups or stay-at-home parents can come in and have playgroups. "We're striving to have that good, social community vibe where people don't have to feel like they have to be really quiet," Overton says. Speaking of noise, Overton and her husband both play in bands, and the Jackalope is zoned for live music.
The Jackalope will serve Metropolis Coffee—drip for the first couple weeks, then adding a pour-over option later—Rishi Tea, and baked goods (such as bacon buns and ham-and-cheese croissants) from local institution Bridgeport Bakery, with a menu of soups, sandwiches and salads coming in November. The shop is slated to open next week, but friends and neighbors have already been by and noticed the jackalopes. "People come in and they're like, is that real?," says Overton. "And I'm like, of course it is!"
The Jackalope Coffee & Tea House (755 W 32nd St) is slated to open Friday, September 22.
Yesterday, Eater had the news that Frontera Fresco was opening at Northwestern University in Evanston. Today, in a bit of coincidence, Saigon Sisters sent out a note saying that they, too, will be expanding to Northwestern—Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Galter Pavilion (251 E Huron St).
The third Saigon Sisters won't open until later this fall/winter, but when it opens it should look pretty familiar: The space is being designed by the same folks who designed the Lake Street location, and the menu will be similar to that location as well. One change: This location will serve a breakfast menu including Vietnamese coffee and op la banh mi, a breakfast sandwich with eggs, pork and Chinese sausage.
A couple weeks ago, we heralded the fact that modern Asian cuisine seems to finally be trending on a large scale. A big part of that thesis depended on Embeya, a collaboration between Attila Gyulai (a former bigwig at the Elysian and Four Seasons) and chef Thai Dang (a veteran of RIA and L2O). Well, Embeya will quietly open its doors today, and looking at its menu, it's clear that, yup, modern Asian cuisine: still trending. Dang's menu appears to include influences from Thailand, China, Japan, Vietnam and France (or perhaps simply post-colonial Vietnam), and it reads contemporary and chef-y (see: stuffed squid with bone marrow and finger limes).
Embeya (which was designed by 555 International and features a riesling-focused wine list) is located at 564 W Randolph St (312-612-5640), an area of the West Loop that keeps getting more crowded (and we haven't seen the last of it yet: Grace is still on the way). The full food menu is after the jump.
Jonathan Zaragoza of the Birrieria Zaragoza clan has joined Masa Azul as its executive chef, but guess what? Goat is nowhere to be found on his first menu, which will begin being served on Tuesday, September 11. We're told this is not a philosophical thing, and that goat very well may pop up on future menus. But for now, Zaragoza seems to be telling the world that he will not, under any circumstances, have his identity confined to goat, nor his hands tied by goat handcuffs. As for Birrieria Zaragoza's other specialty, quesadillas? Those he doesn't seem to have a problem with.
Check out what else this guy is serving (grilled squab with mole!), as well as Masa Azul's new cocktail list, after the jump.
A blast of details were just released about Bar Pastoral (the neighborhood bistro from the owners of the cheese retailer), the most intriguing of which is that Chrissy Camba, formerly of, will be the chef. In case you were wondering whether Bar Pastoral would be more than wine, cheese and charcuterie, this is a solid answer in the affirmative: Camba's menu will include not only house-made pâtés and pickles, but also more substantial dishes, such as braised veal breast and sliced roasted lamb shoulder with Delicata squash. Cheese will play a starring role in many dishes, such as roasted ham with boiled heirloom potatoes and Spring Brook Raclette, a beet salad with Challerhocker, and warm Rush Creek Reserve with house-made sausage and crusty baguette, with prices ranging from $8–18.
But wait, there's more news: Bar Pastoral will feature a a cheese and charcuterie bar, overseen by Bryan Bland, third place winner of the International Cheesemonger Invitational, which we did not know existed but now are pretty much going to do anything to figure out how to attend. (Bland challenged "competitors with cheese-focused events including a blind tasting, cheese wrapping and cheese plate design," according to the press release.)
GM Mark Hayes will oversee the beverage program, which will include 16 by-the-glass pours priced at $10 per glass (also available in half-pours), and some rare finds like a sparkling wine on tap made exclusively for Bar Pastoral by Michigan’s L. Mawby. In addition to wine, the restaurant will have craft beer on tap and will feature one local distillery each quarter, offering three craft cocktails from a single distillery (e.g., Koval, FEW, Journeyman, North Shore Distillery).
Bar Pastoral (2947 N Broadway Ave, pastoralartisan.com) is slated to open in October.
Everybody has a Charlie Trotter story.
It's the story of the best meal of their life (or the most disappointing). It's the story of an encounter with Trotter himself (He was so nice! He was so rude!). It's the story of walking by his restaurant for years, never having the money or inclination to go in, but being aware that something crazy/special/interesting was happening inside.
Just the other day, Alpana Singh gave me her Trotter story (or one of them, anyway). "He was the first person to give wine that much respect. The first American to team with a sommelier like that." For Singh, famed Trotter's sommelier Larry Stone is just as legendary as the chef, though she's plenty enamored with Trotter, too—without him, what would she do for a living?
I have a couple of Trotter stories, too.