Early winter is a pretty slow time in the dining industry, isn’t it? That’s why everyone having restaurant weeks, we suppose. Anyway, just because there isn’t much to report on doesn’t mean the reporting stops - oh, no, not even for a moment! Even when everything else is stale, there are always reviews. Let’s start with those:
• Phil Vettel goes to Fahrenheit in St. Charles in Kane County, only an hour away by Metra! And then a two mile drive - sort of a toughy for the carless. But anyway, Fahrenheit is a foam-type New American in an area mostly bereft of such a thing. People seem to be liking it, even if the chef had to bump up the portion sizes to satiate the locals. Maybe if your parents live out there, they can take you or something. [Tribune]
• Bill Daley checks out Sabai-Dee, apparently Chicago’s only Lao restaurant. (Anyone who has evidence to the contrary, let us know!) The earthy, Thai-esque gets good marks, especially Pa-lo, a braised pork belly stew. Skip the Chinese half of the menu, obviously. [Tribune]
• Heather Shouse makes an ugly face at Lockwood, opening her review by observing that the “food’s disappointing, service is sloppy and the wine list assaults diners with boring bottles marked up, in some cases, 500 percent.” The menu is reasonably interesting, but the package is simply not worth the price at this time. Shame. [TOC]
• David Tamarkin has slightly better luck at Prosecco in River North. The wine (especially the Prosecco, duh) was very much appreciated, but the food fell a little flat. Not so impressive - if the best thing your restaurant does is pop a cork, that spells trouble. [TOC]
• Mike Nagrant is full on in lurve with The Painted Lady Organic Eatery, an offshoot of Bleeding Heart Bakery. He’s taken by their punk rock/riot grrl aesthetic, unexpectedly tasty vegan eats, and reasonable prices. If there’s anything not to like, you wouldn’t find out from this review. It’s nice to have some unabashed cheeriness in mid-January, though! [NewCity]
As for the day’s features, the highlight is certainly Monica Eng’s piece on Chicago’s salt cave spas. Yes, apparently you can go sit in a salt cave for an hour to cure all your ailments, or at least that’s what Polish people like to believe. But it’s probably true, and it’s no more quackish than oxygen bars! The justification for this article’s inclusion in the food section is that one of the caves contains a restaurant. Hmm, we wonder if they have a menu…
The runner up is Heather Shouse’s roundup of how the top 20 food trends of 2008 (according to the National Restaurant Association) play themselves out in Chicago. Not play themselves out as in, ceasing to be relevant, but come to think of it… Anyway, the trends on the list are really broad and have been rolling in for years now, but aren’t wrong, per se. Sustainable seafood, grass-fed beef and organic wines are no’t exactly cutting edge, but they are the mantra of right now.
Special mention! Kevin Pang graces us with his presence for a roundup of Asian noodle shops, because everyone likes noodles in January. Or all the time, really. None of the places listed were previously off-the-radar, though.
Oh yes, and At Play’s best-neighborhood-for-dining competition grinds mercilessly on. Since it began last week, as many as “dozens” of people have opined, but from the sound of it, many voted incorrectly. We’re implored to “nominate your favorite neighborhood – not a single restaurant, please – that you consider tops for dining,” a sign that the Tribune people must be pretty frustrated by now. For the record, we vote Hegewisch, or maybe the cultish enclave of Rosemont!
[Photo: a screencap from the video accompanying the salt cave article of the restaurant]