Review Revue: Tribune & Time Out @ Chalkboard, Baccala, Hop Haus, And A Bunch Of Other Places

This week, the Trib and TOC do a thorough job choosing restaurants to review whose menus we don’t have. But that’s not going to stop us from summarizing the reviews (and previews) for you, because that’s what bloggers are for. Since so many spots were covered this week, we will deliver the news in our favorite format, alphabetical order (and we will have all these menus eventually, whether the restaurants like it or not):

200 East on Chestnut is a popular destination these days, especially for the over 40 set. An old-fashion-y supper club with smooth jazz and accessible Italian food, a night out at 200 East promises good times, dancing, and no whippersnappers [Terry Armour/Tribune]

• Anteprima is coming to Andersonville this week, where seasonal Italian home cooking will be served up in a relaxed setting. Expect to pick out your own antipasti off a large butcher’s block, and enjoy rustic, regional pastas and main dishes like braised duckling over soft polenta with capers, olives and balsamic [Heather Shouse/Time Out]

Baccala continues making the rounds, this time winning the praises of David Tamarkin. The cuisine is not for the faint of heart, because all the lard and butter and oil could certainly clog an artery. Like Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsey, chef John Bubala is not out to compromise or conform to standards of dietary decency; instead, he aims to transport the diner into a state of indulgent bliss, and his weapon is fat. This philosophy is borne out in the delicious food - failing that, the enterprise would be both sinful and hollow. If two inches of pure fat dangling from a braised pork butt does not appeal, then steer clear. Otherwise, welcome to heaven [David Tamarkin/Time Out]

• Chalkboard is a new American bistro in Lincoln Square that is notable for changing its menu every day (in fact, “chalkboard” refers to the medium on which the menu is presented). This is great for the diner, who gets to choose from a variety of fresh, seasonal, and au currant dishes, but profoundly inconvenient for MenuPages. This policy is not the product of a fussy, social-climbing chef who is just waiting to launch his restaurant empire; after all, without a written menu, how easily can things be replicated between venues? In fact, Chef Gilbert Langlois is devoted to being a neighborhood restaurateur for the long haul, and this shows in his accessible cuisine and attention to service. Phil Vettel speaks warmly of options like skillet-roasted pork, fried chicken and Indiana duck breast, all prepared in an unpretentious, down-home manner and available for $15-$25. He was also impressed by a bevy of staff jumping to attention in order to answer a patron’s offhand question about an ingredient, and the functionality of the bathrooms (high-powered hand blowers really do make life better). All in all, a great neighborhood spot. If only they had a sample menu for us… [Phil Vettel/Tribune]

• Coal Fire is an old school East Coast pizza place opening this weekend(ish) on W Grand Ave. Chef Jay Spilane will channel the best of New Haven and Brooklyn, using actual coal-fired ovens to produce the crisp, chewy, bubbly crust so many Chicago transplants crave, and on top of that, it’s going to be BYOB. What remains to be scene is whether real East Coast pizza can be produced with Chicago water in the dough [Heather Shouse/Time Out]

• Hop Haus, in River North, is a new venture from the Leona’s people that wants to bring a little consideration to your burger-and-beer experience by way of thoughtful beer pairings. Well, the beers are great, but the burgers could use some work. Evidently, the kitchen is not yet familiar with the temperature called medium rare. We think that a burger served medium well, which apparently happens not on request here, is anathema and ought to be punished by excommunication from the kitchen. Hopefully, for their sake, they will work this issue out [Heather Shouse/Time Out]

• Room 21 promises a bit of Prohibition-era cool in a giant, Rococo/speakeasy loft in the Near South. Evidently, Al Capone stored liquor in a space (called room 21, in fact) that’s connected to the former warehouse where Room 21 is now located; ah, how we cling to romanticized versions of the past. Anyway, expect classic American dishes and a sophisticated night out that, despite its connection to Chicago history, could as easy take place in LA or Las Vegas [Heather Shouse/Time Out]

Sura is the new Thai restaurant in Lakeview that’s getting everyone’s attention (including ours) for its space-age design and flashy menu. Meanwhile, despite its name meaning “liquor” in Thai, there’s no liquor license yet, so get in on that discount while you can [Heather Shouse/Time Out]

Note to Heather: we’re in awe of your prolific output this week!


Review Revue: Tribune & Time Out @ Chalkboard, Baccala, Hop Haus, And A Bunch Of