What kind of a restaurant name is Powerhouse, anyway? Yes yes yes it’s in a former coal power plant and all that, but just because there’s an excuse for an in-your-face name doesn’t mean there’s a justification for it. Indeed, David Tamarkin takes John Peters (of Alinea and Naha fame) to task for laziness on some of his dishes and laxity on the part of his service staff. The bar is set high by the chef’s provenance and ambition and prices (average entree is over $30), and many dishes are quite successful (the lunchtime pulled-pork sandwich is a good bet), but the restaurant still has a ways to go before it lives up to its potential.
Meanwhile, Heather Shouse finds that potential has been met and exceeded at Violet, a delightful new neighborhood cafe in Lakeview. It does not hurt that chef Scott Reading got his start at Le Francais, and was recently cooking at Avec. See, because the trend is little understated places that forgo the pomp and circumstance for simply good food.
The pièce de résistance of this week’s section is the “100 best things we ate and drank this year (in no particular order),” we being none other than David and Heather. The list reads like a high-low bible of this year’s culinary treats, but unlike the real Bible, this one comes with a handy checklist to help guide your dining adventures. Of course, many of these things won’t exist by the time you could get around to them, but it’s the thought that counts.
It is no holiday at Time Out Chicago. In addition to the main reviews and the Best Of list, there’s also reports on the new Uncommon Ground and its green ethos, a tiny empanaderia in Lincoln Park called Lito’s, the best seasonal beers, and what’s going on with donuts (it will make you never want to eat chain store donuts again).
Next issue: predictions for 2008?