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Plus Aussie meat pies are the star at Barangaroos

Cebu’s “generous, meaty comfort dishes have a transportive quality that takes you somewhere warmer but also familiar,” writes Maggie Hennessy. The Wicker Park restaurant dabbles in Cebuano-style specialties like sisig made with pig face, duck livers, and jalapenos and topped with a poached egg. Lumpia crackles to reveal “juicy-sweet bits of marinated pork and shiitakes,” while roasted lechon belly crunches “like hard candy; the succulent, lightly smoky meat beneath whisper[s] of spicy star anise and sweet lemongrass.” Halo-halo, the classic Filipino dessert, is an “amalgam of textures and temperatures” that gets “more flavorful as it melt[s] and osmose[s].” [Time Out]

Australian meat pies have made their way to Chicago. Mike Sula samples the savory treats from Down Under at Barangaroos in Lakeview. The “uniformly sturdy, pliant, pastry-encased casseroles” come in a number of varieties, such as minced ground beef with melted cheddar that’s “like an Anglo-Saxon Juicy Lucy.” Tikka masala is a “sweet, lightly curried vehicle” while the chicken and mushroom combo “seems to build a sturdy bridge between English sobriety and midwestern blandness.” There are also “deliberately Yank-targeted” pies like buffalo chicken and “Mexican” (steak fajitas, black bean, cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo). [Reader]

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America’s first Kinton Ramen opens on Saturday

Chicago’s booming ramen scene gets a new contender from up north in a prime location this weekend. Kinton Ramen, a very popular chain based in Canada, opens its first restaurant in the United States on Saturday at 163 N. Sangamon Street in the West Loop.

Kinton focuses on customizable pork or chicken ramen bowls, plus izakaya-style small plates including rice bowls, karaage fried chicken, gyoza, and more. Diners can choose from 18 add-ons for their ramen bowls, including Swiss cheese. Cocktails, including a matcha colada and a “saketini” are also available, as is beer, wine, sake, and nonalcoholic drinks such as housemade yuzu lemonade. The full menu is available below.

The space is modern with a dark brown color scheme. It has 56 seats at wood communal tables and a counter. A 14-seat patio is coming soon.

Parent company Kinka Family is Canada’s largest Japanese restaurant chain and also now operates restaurants in Tokyo and Seoul. It chose Chicago to kick off an ambitious United States expansion plan, which includes a Wicker Park location at 1426 N. Milwaukee Avenue that’s slated to open this summer. The company also plans to open three new Chicago locations by the end of the year as well as restaurants on the East Coast.

Chicago diners can try it out starting tomorrow in the West Loop, when it will open at 5 p.m. for dinner only through May 27. Regular hours, including lunch service, begin May 28. The first 50 customers on May 28 will receive a free ramen bowl and ramen will also be half-off starting at 11:30 a.m. for everyone. Take a look around the space, read the menu, and see the regular hours below.

Kinton Ramen, 163 N. Sangamon Street, open 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday beginning May 28.

A look inside Kinton Ramen Most of the seating is at wooden communal tables There’s also counter seating in front of an open kitchen Kinton’s pig logo is on the entryway The ramen bowls have a chicken or a pig on them One of the chicken ramen bowls Gyoza Karaage fried chicken Lychee martini
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Carrie and Michael Nahabedian are teaming up with the Gwen: A Luxury Collection Hotel

James Beard Award winner Carrie Nahabedian plans on opening a new restaurant inside a downtown hotel this summer. The force behind Brindille and the recently closed Naha in River North is once again collaborating with cousin Michael Nahabedian on an unnamed restaurant inside the Gwen: A Luxury Collection Hotel. The fifth-floor restaurant is replacing Circa, a restaurant that opened in 2016 inside the building that houses the hotel and Nordstrom’s at 521 N. Rush Street.

Carrie Nahabedian isn’t ready to reveal what she will be cooking. She told the Tribune that it won’t be overly fancy with white tablecloths. The new restaurant also isn’t a replacement for Naha. When the Michelin-starred restaurant closed in March, Carrie Nahabedian said she was looking for a new space to move the restaurant into.

At the new restaurant inside the Gwen, Michael Nahabedian will manage the beverage program, with his cousin creating the menu, according to a news release. Tom Nahabedian — Michael’s brother — will design the space. He’s also a Beard winner, earning the 2016 Outstanding Restaurant Design award for his work with the Nahabedian’s other restaurant, Brindille.

Stay tuned for more details when they become available.

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Plus, high school students allege a gyro shop employee made homophobic comments and more intel

Chicago’s first organic fast food chain closes all Chicagoland locations

Chicagoland’s first organic fast food chain is no more — at least in Chicagoland. Nic’s Organic Fast Food closed all three locations — in suburban Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg inside the Woodfield Shopping Center, and in the Loop — as founder Benjamin Brittsan said he is focusing on West Coast expansion. Nic’s debuted organic burgers, fries, and more in Rolling Meadows in February 2017 amidst Brittsan’s ambitious expansion plan to open 50 locations in three years. Brittsan denied to comment further on his new plan. The West Coast is home to America’s first totally organic chain, San Francisco’s Organic Coup.

North Center gyro spot in hot water after homophobic comments

A North Side gyro spot is in hot water after a group of high school students allege that a man behind the counter directed homophobic comments toward them. Five Lane Tech High School students say they were at Big Boy Gyros at 3541 N. Western Avenue on Monday when after two male friends hugged each other the employee first yelled “no hugging” at them before eventually yelling “Get out of here! We don’t want your kind in here,” Block Club first reported. The students have since called for a boycott, the restaurant’s Yelp page has been besieged by angry comments, its Facebook page was too and now has been taken down, and Lane Tech’s administration released a letter supporting “any students, staff and community members that choose to not support Big Boy Gyros.”

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams to open new location in the western suburbs

The western suburbs are getting one of the area’s most popular ice cream shops. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams plans to open a new scoop shop in Oakbrook Center this summer, a rep says, with patio seating and a waffle cone-making station. The Ohio-based chain most recently opened on Randolph Restaurant Row and also has Chicago locations in Lakeview, Wicker Park, and more.

One of Chicago’s hottest cocktail bars is expanding

Kumiko, the uber-hot West Loop Japanese-inspired cocktail bar and restaurant from Eater Young Gun Julia Momose and the Oriole team, will open a new omakase bar in the basement on May 22. Named Kikkō, the new 10-seat counter will offer seven-course dinners for $130 per person with beverage pairings available for an additional $65, the Tribune first reported. Dishes will include golden osetra caviar with cured Hudson Canyon scallop, finger lime, and smoked soy. The existing eight-seat bar on the main floor will become available for walk-ins.

Some Illinois restaurants could start taking food stamps

And finally, a new bill proposal in the Illinois House would allow food stamps to be redeemed at restaurants. According to multiple reports, SNAP benefit recipients who are disabled, elderly or homeless; or their spouses would qualify for the “Restaurant Meal Program.” It’s not yet known which restaurants would accept the benefits, and if the bill becomes law it would take effect on January 1.

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Stone Flower is Bickelhaupt’s first restaurant since Michelin-starred 42 Grams closed after he attacked his ex-wife

Stone Flower, the new restaurant from Jacob Bickelhaupt, formerly of Michelin-starred restaurant 42 Grams, opens tonight in Bucktown. 42 Grams abruptly closed in 2017 after Bickelhaupt attacked his ex-wife and business partner, Alexa Welsh, at the restaurant during an argument.

Bickelhaupt’s new fine dining restaurant features a 12- to 15-course tasting menu that costs $300 per person after service charges. That would rank it, as Fooditor pointed out, as the second-most expensive tasting menu in Chicago, second only to three-Michelin-starred Alinea. 42 Grams lasted three and a half years and earned a two-star Michelin rating in its first year. Bickelhaupt said that he hopes to earn three stars with Stone Flower.

The restaurant, which occupies the space that once belonged to Dixie and Takashi at 1952 N. Damen Avenue, has a 12-seat chef’s counter and serves a tasting menu, just like 42 Grams did. According to its website, the menu will be “ever evolving,” and “pay tribute to the ingredients with a sense of time and place.” Also: “A thoughtful wine list is intelligently sourced from all around the globe and a focus on living life to the absolute fullest. We would love to welcome you to what we consider our home for creativity and a place of community.”

In March, Bickelhaupt held dinners at Stone Flower’s unopened space and on social media he wrote that the meals raised money for a domestic violence support charity, Between Friends. In a follow-up post on Instagram, he claimed that he raised $2,000 for the charity.

Between Friends, which provided services to Bickelhaupt’s ex-wife Welsh as she recovered from the June 2017 attack, told Eater that it was not directly involved in the dinner events and only became aware of them through social media. Last week, a Between Friends rep said he was unsure if it had received the money.

“I guess it’s longer than the normal amount of time between a fundraiser and us receiving those funds,” Joe Macaré, Between Friends’s individual giving and communications manager told Eater on May 10. “We have not received [the donation], unless it was made by another name that we didn’t recognize — to the best of our knowledge — we haven’t received anything from Jacob Bickelhaupt.”

When contacted earlier today, Between Friends Executive Director Shailushi Ritchie wrote the organization had since adopted a new policy of not confirming or denying donors or clients to preserve confidentiality. Bickelhaupt did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the status of the donation.

Bickelhaupt pled guilty to battery in 2017 for the attack on Welsh. This year, he unveiled the One Flow Foundation, to “host pop up benefit dinners by Chef Jacob Bickelhaupt to raise money that will go directly to fund educational groups led by professional counselors.” The effort is described as a nonprofit with a mission of “raising awareness of how substance abuse and emotional health affect chefs in the kitchen.”

Reservations for Stone Flower are available exclusively via Eventbrite. The 5:30 p.m. Thursday dinner was sold out for opening night. At the time of publication, the ticketing website showed seats remaining for the later 8:30 p.m. Thursday dinner. Tickets remained for every other dinner through June 1, according to the ticketing pages.

Bickelhaupt did not respond to multiple requests for comment asking about the One Flow Foundation, Stone Flower’s opening date, further plans for the restaurant, or other details.

Stone Flower, 1952 N. Damen Avenue, open Wednesday through Sunday with seatings at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays in May will be reserved for private events; tickets available via Eventbrite.

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Robert’s Pizza and Dough Co. is back with a riverside patio

It’s the season for comebacks for Chicago’s restaurant industry as Robert’s Pizza and Dough Co. is set to return on Friday inside a new location two years after its abrupt shutter. Founder Robert Garvey is back inside a large space serving thin-crust pies using a dough recipe he spent two decades tinkering. The spot is off the Chicago River at 465 N. McClurg Court.

Both Garvey and wife Dana Hokin have a mantra: “pizza is a journey.” That’s literal and figurative, as a three-week road trip in 1997 crossing through Wisconsin, South Dakota, Iowa, Idaho, and Nebraska inspired the restaurant’s decor. Hokin took a batch of Polaroid photos that designer Karen Herold and Studio K used in her plans. The journey may also refer to a court battle with a former business partner. That makes the reopening, now two years later, even sweeter.

“It’s been incredibly inspiring and uplifting with so many in the community stopping and asking Robert, to express their excitements about the pizza being back in Streeterville,” Hokin said.

Garvey, a former Marine engineer, would host dinners at home serving pizzas baked in ovens he altered to drive the temperatures up more than the manufacturer intended. Specialty pies including Peking duck and grilled sausage with caramelized onions. There’s a seafood pie and the “Finocchio” with braised fennel, fennel fronds, fennel sausage and pollen, fresh mozzarella, and honey. The experimenting continues as Garvey said he’s playing around with a thinner pizza stone. The stone recovers heat quicker versus traditional stones. This allows for more evenly crisp crusts.

They’ll have five to six beers on tap along with rosé and prosecco on tap. There’s a riverside patio with room for about 70 and an 18-seat bar. A private dining room and to-go window round out the space.

The journey continues for Robert’s Pizza. They’re back open on Friday.

Robert’s Pizza and Dough Co., 465 N. McClurg Court, (312) 265-1328, open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m Sunday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; delivery to be available via Chow Now, Caviar, and on the restaurant’s website.

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The acclaimed Randolph Street restaurant will pop up this weekend at Lost Lake

Good news from the West Loop: Bad Hunter, the former Eater 38 Randolph Street restaurant that closed after a November fire, is on target to reopen in early June. Reconstruction is to the point where management is back holding meetings inside the two-level space. Bad Hunter, from Heisler Hospitality, gained popularity among vegetarians and vegans as a restaurant that had plenty of meat-free options.

At the same time the restaurant also satisfied omnivores, making it a hot reservation on trendy Randolph Restaurant Row. Even Chicago Bulls star Lauri Markkanen and his vegan wife, Verna Aho, dined there. Heisler’s co-founder Matt Eisler said they’re putting on the finishing touches and are about four weeks from reopening at 802 W. Randolph Street.

“We should consider ourselves lucky,” Eisler said. “A lot of fires of this magnitude lead to places being closed for a year or more.”

At first, Heisler wanted to quickly reopen, but after talking to the insurance company and consulting with other parties, the opening was delayed. The space should feel the same to customers as it did before the fire. The second-floor “Herbarium” private event space has been rebuilt. The restaurant’s plants that were housed inside Heisler’s corporate offices will return. Eisler said they just made a few upgrades to the kitchen.

Eisler added he wasn’t privy to damage estimates, as that’s in the hands of insurance adjusters. He did stress how important it was to have strong insurance to help his company and employees cope with the closure. Most of Bad Hunter’s staff will return to their jobs, and many of them have been working at other Heisler restaurants and bars.

Chicago’s restaurant and bar industry has been supportive for Heisler as it recovers from the fire. That goes back to the night of the blaze when staff at Hogsalt Hospitality’s Maude’s Liquor Bar took in Bad Hunter workers and fed them down the street. The support continues this weekend in Logan Square as Lost Lake, the popular tiki bar, will host a Bad Hunter pop-up on Saturday and Sunday. Bad Hunter’s bar staff, including bar manager Vinny Starble, have toured the country during the last six months to hold pop-ups. Bad Hunter is billing the Lost Lake event as a way to say goodbye to favorites on the Bad Hunter cocktail list as they make room for new drinks. They’ll also preview those new concoctions. Lost Lake chef Fred Noinaj is also paying homage to Bad Hunter with an inspired menu with items like a sweet potato and mushroom dumpling, french fries with a ramp ranch, and a pork rillette.

As for a silver lining, Eisler said Bad Hunter is getting the spring opening that the company originally wanted. The restaurant opened in whatever season Chicago felt like observing in October 2016. Chef Dan Snowden will hopefully get to incorporate all the ramps he wants, along with other spring produce when the restaurant reopens. Using his time away from Bad Hunter, Snowden started serving N.Y.-style pizzas next door at Heisler’s bar Lone Wolf.

Eisler feels Bad Hunter is in a good place. More Chicago restaurants are featuring vegetable-focused menus, including Clever Rabbit in Wicker Park and Pacific Standard Time in River North. Eisler said Bad Hunter was “ahead of the curve” when it opened.

“It’s a great time to be a restaurant like Bad Hunter right now,” he said.

Check back from more details on Bad Hunter’s return in the coming weeks and read the menu for this weekend’s pop-up below. It goes from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Good Drinker in Paradise Pop-up Menu OLD FAVS

Spicy Carrot Cooler — La Troussepinette Blanc, Blanco Tequila, Giffard Banana, Carrot, Lemon, Pineapple, Jamaican Jerk Bitters

Topo Americano — Cocchi Rosa, Byrrh, Hendricks Gin, Key Lime Cordial, Topo Chico

Sloe Fashioned — Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, Coconut, Sloe Gin

NEW FRIENDS

Silken Sunrise — Santa Teresa 1796,Tofu, Masala, Bual Madeira, Leblon Cachaca, Giffard Banana, Jamaican Rum *Also available as large format

Ursula — Lustau Vermut Blanco, Botanist Gin, Blanche Apple Brandy, Muscadet, Kombu

Re:Birth — Nigori Sake, St. George Pear Brandy, Chamomile Grappa, Singani, Blueberry Sage Tea

SPRITZ

Bitter Berry — Aperol, Campari, Strawberry, Sparkling Wine

Coffee — Aperol, Don Ciccio Cersaum, Coffee, Sparkling Wine

GOOD DRINKER IN PARADISE

Beer and a shot of Bitter Berry or Coffee Amaro

Topo Chico and a shot of Bitter Berry or Coffee Amaro

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Read Bunny the Microbakery’s menu in North Center

Chef Iliana Regan of Michelin-starred Elizabeth has brought back her adorable pastries after a three-year hibernation. Regan’s Bunny the Microbakery and Workshop returned Thursday morning inside Kitsune in North Center. The new incarnation of Bunny features breads, caneles, gougères, and doughnuts, as well as breakfast and lunch entrees.

Customers will find a sidewalk sign as the only indication Bunny is open from the outside of Kitsune, 4229 N. Lincoln Avenue. It’s counter service inside using Kitsune’s seating.

For many fans, the biggest news may be the return of Bunny’s foie gras toast, an item that became a sensation shortly after the original Bunny’s debut in Lakeview. Not only is the sweet and savory item back in all of its glory, but the foie gras topping now comes in different shapes. For opening day, customers may see a miniature brain sitting on top of their jam and brioche. Regan has plans to incorporate other shapes such as Darth Vader and Stormtroopers from Star Wars. They’re not available immediately. At the Lakeview shop, which closed suddenly in 2016 despite success, the foie gras was shaped like an owl.

Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago The only sign that Bunny is back outside of Kitsune.

Other items include thick-cut bacon and eggs. Two tartines and other breakfast items are available for those who don’t get to the bakery early enough to scoop up a pastry. Those baked goods are in limited quantities; the caneles sold out shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday. There’s also a lunch menu with a ramen of the day (that’s convenient as that’s one of Kitsune’s specialties), a spatzle with bone reduction, and pasta carbonara.

Regan has been waiting for the right time to bring back Bunny and earlier in the year the chef launched a Kickstarter to help bring the dream to a reality. It raised more than $36,000, about double the $18,000 goal.

One of Chicago’s most respected chefs has brought back one of her passion projects. Bunny is back in town, giving Regan’s Kitsune space a little more hop for the mornings and afternoons. Check out the menu below.

Bunny The Microbakery and Workshop, inside Kitsune, 4229 N. Lincoln Avenue, open 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday; 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

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The second-annual Chicago Style conference took place last week

Finding ways for bars to better support marginalized communities was one of the many subjects covered last week at the second-annual Chicago Style conference, an event that gathered bartenders and others in the beverage sector to discuss social justice topics including those affecting LGBTQ and people of color. The women-led conference, a four-day event, drew more than 500 attendees, according to a spokesperson.

Tavern culture has been a rich part of Chicago’s history, but there have been attempts to stifle political discussion. Chicago taverns were closed on Sundays to prevent immigrants from gathering in the mid-19th century. Immigrants had little access to places to meet with bars being an exception, and lawmakers wanted to stifle any political talk. Currently, there seems to be an emerging trend to once again sanitize bars from having anything to do with social justice. SJW (social justice warrior) is a dirty three-letter acronym that triggers outrage.

Panelist Alex Maynard of Starline Social Club in Oakland provided a history lesson. Bars owned by African Americans have had to battle racism as white lawmakers didn’t want them to hold liquor licenses and when they did, it came with tight regulations. Often so-called “negro bars” were legally mandated to serve food “to avoid problems,” Maynard said. This type of policy extends to cities across America, including in Chicago where there’s a scarcity of bars owned by African Americans. Maynard said African American customers often light up when they find out that he’s one of Starline’s co-owners.

Another panelist, Dan Q. Dao, a journalist who writes about the beverage industry, pointed to the legacy of Boston’s Green Dragon Tavern, a bar established in the 1800s on the Freedom Trail. Dao, a Houston native with a public relations background, remembers organizing a fundraiser in Texas for Democratic candidates. Politics were a change of pace for him, as he was used to holding events for charitable organizations. Despite what angry social media comments may belay, Dao encourages bar owners to take the plunge, even in smaller cities with more homogeneous populations.

“Building culture takes time because there are a lot of steps to it,” Dao said.

The only local member of the panel, Slo’Mo’s Kristen Kaza, last year helped organize an event at Navy Pier for LGBTQ pride. She called the effort “queer the pier,” and said it was an example of appealing to the masses. In this case, it was taking over Navy Pier, traditionally a mess of tourists. Kaza also wants bar staffers to drop the defensiveness and learn to take criticism better. An example used was one of a bar customer of color frustrated that she wasn’t greeted by a bar’s host. Other customers in her group, all white, were. That customer asked to speak to a manager, and the manager denied any wrongdoing, it was an accident. This ignores impact versus intent, Kaza pointed out. These types of situations should be handled with better care.

“It’s a gift that she brought that to her attention,” Kaza said. “She could have gone to social media.”

Starline opened in 2015 in Oakland, and Maynard and his crew aimed to open a bar where locals could drink comfortably. But as the bar’s popularity grew, it began drawing affluent customers from other neighborhoods. They worried about safety, but had different priorities than Starline’s owners. The new customers felt unsafe in the area, worried that their car would be broken into after visiting the bar, Maynard said. Meanwhile, Starline’s priority was to give minorities and women a safe spot to have a drink without worry of harassment.

While not everyone can take drastic steps to protect their bars from creeps, Maynard demonstrated the lengths he’s taken to keep his bar safe. He recalled times when he and his staff cruised the bar for creeps. They’re usually men that approach women and harass them. They found one and he and a staffer sat on opposite ends with the offender in the middle. They proceeded to “freak them out and show them what it feels like and hope they never come back.”

Chicago Style raised $25,000 for Chicago Period Project and the James Beard Foundation’s Women Leadership Programs. The conference was founded by Shelby Allison (Lost Lake), Caitlin Laman (beverage consultant, former Ace Hotel Chicago beverage director) and Sharon Bronstein (Fords Gin).

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90th Meridian is the latest from the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group

After opening Steadfast in 2016, Scott Weiner and his Fifty/50 Restaurant Group became enamored with the Loop, and now his company is poised to open another downtown restaurant. 90th Meridian should open in late June or early July at 231 S. LaSalle Street. That’s the Central Standard Building, a 23-story structure built in 1924.

The restaurant is a 160-seater on the ground floor where the lobby’s been renovated. Weiner sees it as a lunch and happy hour destination, with Loop workers staying for dinner. Look for oysters, fried clams, salads, and a scallop roll. It’ll be closed on the weekends.

Fifty/50 has brought on Miles Schaefer as chef. He’s worked at a few of Andrew Zimmerman’s restaurants including Sepia in the West Loop. He’s also worked at Blackbird and Big Star for One Off Hospitality Group. Schaefer will work with Nate Henssler, the chef at Portsmith, Fifty/50’s River North seafood restaurant.

Given the talent in the kitchen, Weiner had this to say: “It’s not going to be a burger joint.”

While it’s not the focus, don’t worry, it’ll also serve burgers. It’s a busy time for Fifty/50. They’re opening a rooftop bar with the Second City comedy club this summer in Old Town. This year will also see the addition of two new Roots Handmade Pizza spots, bringing Quad City pies to Old Town and South Loop. Fifty/50’s first restaurant was a Wicker Park sports bar that opened in 2008. They’ve also opened the Sixth, a Lincoln Square cocktail bar, West Town Bakery (a second location stands across from Wrigley Field), and Homestead on the Roof in West Town.

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