Op La at Saigon Sisters; Photo: Aregoni International
Spawned from their popular booth at the Chicago French Market, the "Saigon Sisters" Mary Nguyen Aregoni and Theresa Nguyen opened their restaurant in the Fulton River District to bring Southeast Asian street food to even more Chicagoans. At lunch, the counter-service offerings include traditional yet contemporary dishes like pho (noodle soup), goi cuon (spring rolls) and nine banh mi sandwiches, ranging from The Classic to The Porky, with braised pork belly, pho flavors, hoison glaze and mayo.
At dinner, the restaurant changes gears to offer a rotating menu of small and large plates like the meaty Op La--over-easy eggs with Chinese sausage, cured ham, Viet pork and pork belly--and tuna tartar with grapefruit confit, pickled ginger, scallion oil and lotus chips.
I first heard about IPO--the new restaurant at the W hotel--at Gourmet Chicago, where I sampled chef Trevor Hoyte's grilled melon block, a sweet and savory combination of lump crab, granola, arugula, apples, oranges, passion fruit and a sweet and sour sauce. Hoyte calls his food "new urban cuisine" and serves this and other shareable plates, like seared scallops, braised pork belly and blue cheese polenta cakes, in a shiny silver and purple snakeskin-decorated space. I haven't had a chance to visit the restaurant yet, but I can't wait to try the signature chocolate and popcorn dessert, a rich piece of chocolate cake with corn sorbet, cilantro, fleur de sel, brown butter, blood oranges and pieces of freshly popped popcorn.
The Taylor Street renaissance roared on this month with the opening of Three Aces, which joined other newcomers Davanti Enoteca, Stax Cafe, One. Six One and Bar 10 Doors on this once-quiet block. Chef Matt Troost--of the too-short-lived Fianco on Southport--serves dishes like crispy arancini with oxtail, housemade pasta with braised lamb and egg yolk, and wild boar sausage with bacon hash and a poached egg in a rock 'n roll, gastropub atmosphere. Looking for something to do after you eat? Try the pool table, photo booth or Elvis pinball machine.
Why open three locations of the same restaurant within a mile of each other? Because Loop lunchers can't get enough of Roti's tasty Mediterranean food, ordered the way one orders a burrito at Chipotle. First choose a sandwich, salad or Mediterranean plate, then choose your meat (chicken or steak roti or chicken, steak or salmon kabob), falafel or vegetables, then pick all of your favorite toppings like hummus, feta, olives, tahini sauce, and tomato and cucumber salad.
The newest location on Dearborn also serves a small breakfast menu, which features a few specialty sandwiches like the Conquistador, with chicken sausage, eggs, avocado, feta and spicy sauce.
Last month in Andersonville, La Tache turned into Vincent. This month, Charlie's Ale House underwent a similar transformation and reopened as Acre, which has two menus for its two rooms. In the dining room, look for contemporary comfort foods like pan-roasted rabbit, venison, butternut squash and apple risotto, and trout rillette. In the tap room, expect more casual but equally inventive dishes like a lamb burger, grilled sausages, and chorizo and egg tacos. In both rooms, experience ingredients fresh from the farm and an extensive selection of craft beers, specialty cocktails and food-friendly wine.
Blokes & Birds; Photo: DLM
Blokes & Birds
Opening Nov. 2, Blokes & Birds is set to up the class factor on Wrigleyville's rowdy Clark Street. The English pub has two levels, with stone fireplaces, communal seating and a wraparound bar made from salvaged wood serving as the main decor elements. The menu features updated English and American fare like shepard's pie, saffron lobster risotto, Atlantic salmon and a foie-topped burger.
For drinks, choose from 70 imports and American craft beers, custom cocktails and a long list of whiskey, scotch, cordials and more.