By Audarshia Townsend
Mark my words: 2014 will go down in history as Chicago’s busiest year for restaurant and bar openings. And not just any old restaurant openings; we’re talking the cream of the crop of restaurateurs and chefs setting up shop all around town.
From the winter arrivals of Kinmont (from the team behind Nellcote, Old Town Social, RM Champagne Salon) and Cicchetti (former Blackbird chef helms this one) to summer hot spots The Promontory (Longman & Eagle, Dusek's Board & Beer guys), RPM Steak (Lettuce Entertain You) and River Roast (Levy Restaurants), it’s been one helluva year thus far. It’s so busy, in fact, that it’s impossible to visit them all, which is why we’re excited for several chef-related events coming up. Not only do they benefit some awesome charities, but they also give you a grand opportunity to check out a bunch of chefs/new restaurants in one fell swoop:
Chicago Gourmet. Beginning August 18 (and through Sept. 18), you can visit up to five restaurants to earn a ticket to the annual upscale food frenzy featuring local and internationally acclaimed chefs. The Dining Around program offers you a chance to discover some hot new spots or become re-acquainted with some of your favorites. You just have to spend a minimum of $35 at each spot. The actual Chicago Gourmet event takes place Sept. 27-28, featuring the likes of Duncan Biddulph (Kinmont), Thomas Lents (Sixteen) and Matt Troost (Three Aces). This year, 100 percent of the proceeds from the online auction and raffles will be donated to the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation to provide scholarships for aspiring chefs and hospitality professionals. Click for tickets.
Father and son team Jimmy Bannos Sr. and Jimmy Bannos Jr. at Chicago Gourmet in 2013
Rockin’ Lobster Bash. For this annual event, you’ll get to sample seafood-focused dishes from a number of Michelin-starred, James Beard-honored chefs. WXRT-FM and Supreme Lobster Co. team up again to present the likes of Curtis Duffy (Grace), Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill), Mindy Segal (Hot Chocolate), Cary Taylor (Big Star) and a host of other culinary stars. They’ll serve aboard the Columbia Yacht Club (111 N. Lake Shore Dr.) 6-10pm August 11. Rockin’ Lobster Bash benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. It’s $85 per person. Click for tickets.
The Sound Opinions Summer BBQ. Benefiting the WBEZ-FM public radio station, this first-ever BBQ will be held on the station’s Navy Pier terrace and hosted by media personalities Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis. For $50 per person ($40 for WBEZ members), you’ll get to sample ‘cue from the likes of Leghorn Chicken, The Butcher & Larder, Kuma’s Corner and Parsons Chicken & Fish. It takes place at 7pm August 20, with fireworks at 9:30pm. Click for tickets.
Nellcote's Jared Van Camp at Share Our Strength's "Taste of the Nation." (Photo: Galdones Photography)
Taste of the Nation. Share Our Strength’s annual affair returns to Navy Pier Ballroom, featuring some of the hottest chefs and mixologists in town. At the top of the list: The likes of Richie Farina (Moto), Stephanie Izard (Girl and the Goat), Michael Sheerin (Cicchetti), Anthony Martin (Tru), Matthew Kirkley (L2O), Fabio Viviani and David Blonsky (Siena Tavern), and Charles Joly (The Aviary). It’s $125 per person ($250 for VIP) and happening 7-10pm August 13. Click for tickets.