Exposure Tapas Supper Club
Don't come to this South Loop spot expecting traditional Spanish tapas; this newcomer goes contemporary-American with small plates--with full-sized entrees and a raw bar to boot. Highlights include the Lobster Cocktail, fresh Maine lobster tail served atop of bed of greens, gingered veggies and chive creme fraiche ($19). Other options:braised oxtail gnocchi ($9) and a bacon-wrapped filet mignon with rosemary demi-glace ($29). The bi-level restaurant is still waiting on a few finishing touches, but already has perky punches of red velvet and glitzy oversized chandeliers. Owners will add music to the mix when they open a live music-focused lounge beneath the restaurant later this year.
Jon Young and Stephen Dunne, the partners who produced Roscoe Village's Volo, are putting finishing touches on their latest enterprise, this two-level space in River West (located at the former 4Taste address); they hope to open by next week. Young says he's trying to create a stylish, comfortable nightlife ambience (there will be pool table on the lower level, for instance), without skimping on Dunne's chef-driven approach to cuisine. "You won't have to sacrifice on the menu for the atmosphere," he says. The menu will have everything from duck confit ($18) to Kobe tri-tip steak ($22), but Dunne is trying to keep the food beer-friendly; Paramount will serve beer flights and "shorty glasses" for those times when you just want a taste.
Niu Japanese Fusion Lounge
This handsome Streeterville Asian spot (pronounced "new") makes a good pre- or post-movie option for those headed to the AMC River East (it's located next door in the former home of the short-lived Max & Benny's). The interior is sleek and minimalist, with warm, dark tones pervading. The menu offers plenty of maki basics--California, spider, et cetera--but also a full page of fun, fusion twists such as the Sexy Mexican, a roll of shrimp, spicy crab and jalapeno, topped with avocado. There's also a late-night lounge featuring signature cocktails and nibbles.
Don't get confused: This new Wicker Park BYOB, named Su-Ra, which owner Euiha Hwang tells us means "royal feast" in Korean, is not related to Sura (3124 N. Broadway 773-248-7872), the new Thai-fusion spot in Lakeview with a name that ironically translates to "liquor" in Thai. (And which, more ironically, is still waiting for a liquor license.) The menu takes traditional Korean dishes in a modern direction. You'll find heirloom pork in the dae ki bulgogi ($16) and free-range chicken in the dak kalbi ($15)--high-end ingredients you don't see at most corner Korean joints.
Franconello Italian Restaurant
Fans of Franconello Italian Restaurant won't have to trek to Beverly for their fix anymore. Owners recently launched a sib in the old Maxwell Street Market near UIC. The menu offers banana peppers stuffed with crumbled sausage ($9), sun-dried tomato and smoked mozzarella pizza ($14), braised short ribs with creamy polenta ($22) and, of course, tiramisu ($7). The stylish space features burgundy booths, expansive windows and an open display kitchen; owners hope to debut a spacious off-street outdoor cafe around Labor Day weekend.
We're looking forward to the opening of this Lincoln Square breakfast-and-lunch-only spot--hey, it's not like we can get pannenkoeken (PAN-eh-kook-en), a Dutch-style pancake, at every breakfast boite. What makes these cakes different from the typical buttermilk pancake, you ask? Mostly, it's the size and thickness--co-owner Gina Salgado tells us they measure about 11 inches in diameter and they're slightly thicker than a traditional crepe. Plus, the cakes come with atypical toppings like chocolate and banana or bacon and cheese. Target opening date: early September.
Although the menu at this Humboldt Park favors comfort food and Southern favorites, there are plenty of Latin and Southwestern-inspired dishes in the mix. Expect choices like sausage gravy with buttermilk biscuits, French toast and a breakfast burrito for early-risers; chicken and waffles and huevos rancheros make the weekend brunch menu (remember to bring your own hangover helper, CJ's is BYOB).
Even though Rosebud joints are best known for mammoth portions of pasta, marinara and meatballs don't make the menu at this incarnation (a smart move, since one of its pasta emporiums, Rosebud Theatre District, is almost right across the street). Instead look for signature offerings from Rosebud Steakhouse, like a 18-ounce bone-in filet mignon with wild mushrooms ($41.95), a prime beef burger ($11.95) and a steak salad ($15.95). Fresh fare includes buttermilk-fried chicken ($19.95) and crab and Brie-stuffed tilapia ($29.95). The lunch lineup lists downsized seafood, steaks and chops, plus selections like a Maryland crab cake sandwich ($14.95) and a citrus grilled salmon salad ($15.95).
The long-awaited restaurant from Oprah's personal chef, Art Smith, opened in the adorable house that most recently was Albert's Cafe & Patisserie. The space has been updated, but it's still smallish, with just 35 seats in the main dining room. The restaurant's concept is influenced by Smith's 2001 bestselling cookbook, "Back to the Table," so expect Southern flair. Though the weekday menu will feature lighter fare, you'll still find comfort-food faves on weekends, including biscuits and gravy with grits, and fried chicken and waffles. A wood-fired oven will turn out pizzas. The chef de cuisine is Rey Villalobos, who will oversee the kitchen when Smith is away.
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