Fire Closes Sabri Nehari
November 25, 20060 Comments

Two nights ago, a large fire on the 2500 block of West Devon avenue destroyed many apartments and businesses including Sabri Nehari, one of Devon's best and most popular businesses.

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Earlier this year, Khan BBQ, one of my favorites, had a fire and closed for most of the year. They've recently re-opened at the southwest corner of Devon & Western. They're as good as they were in their pre-fire location.

Here's hoping that Sabri Nehari rises from the ashes as successfully as Khan's did.


David Burke's Primehouse
November 24, 20060 Comments
It takes a big pair of rocky mountain oysters to be the newcomer on the expensive steakhouse scene in Chicago. We've got big, homegrown classics like Gibson's, top-notch chains like Smith & Wollensky , modern spots like N9ne , and plenty of other options on and off the beaten path.

Famed New York restaurateur, and former Smith & Wollensky executive chef David Burke entered this scene recently with a new steakhouse in the James Hotel, David Burke's Primehouse. The restaurant is an even mixture of classic steakhouse components and flashy nouveau touches (on and off the menu).

The guideline to dining at Primehouse is to stick with the classics. A flashy steakhouse without top-notch steaks isn't going to last very long, and Primehouse delivers. The dry-aged steaks live up to my expectations of a steak that's dry aged in a "Himalayan pink salt-lined aging cave" (O.K. that's a huge gimmick in my book, but it sounds great). My bone-in ribeye (pictured below) was cooked a perfect medium-rare and fantastically flavorful as was the bone-in fillet (light aged).



As far as other accouterments, the only standouts were the light and chewy popovers and the classic caesar salad, prepared table side. Both of these were perfect complements to the outstanding beef. Other sides were not as successful. Chorizo whipped potatoes tasted like spicy baby food and the tempura green beans are fine, but I would have rather had some fresh green beans without the lifeless breading. Both of those are perfect examples of a chef trying to put a spin on a classics that didn't need to be spun. Further down the scale, our chocolate cake dessert was a dry, tasteless, miserable failure.

The bar at Primehouse is small but comfortable, shaking up pretty good martini's along with a few signature drinks. Next to the drinks, are some of the tastiest bar snacks in town: warm, buttery pretzel sticks in a bit of curried oil, served atop a hunk of the famous Himalayan salt (which is nothing more than a conversation piece).



As far as the meat is concerned, Burke clearly has what it takes to compete with the other steakhouses in town. Still,Primehouse fell somewhere in the middle of the pack in the Chicago's group of steakhouse options. I think you get a much better steak here than you do at a place like Wildfire, but for the total package (where everything is delicious) I'd stick with a place like Gibson's or Smith & Wollensky.

David Burke's Primehouse is located in the James Hotel at 616 N. Rush (at Ontario) 312.660.6000.

The Pocket Guide to Chicago's Great Neighborhood Restaurants
November 04, 20060 Comments

The good people behind LTHForum.com (disclaimer: I am one of those good people) have made their list of Great Neighborhood Restaurants available as a printable pocket guide. Just a few minutes of printing, folding, and cutting and you'll have a really cool business card-sized guide to great places to eat all across the Chicago area.

When you're in front of your computer you can always use my GNR map. When you're out and about around town, I can't think of a better guide to eating to have in your pocket.


A Special Kind of Corner Bar
October 04, 20062 Comments

There are excellent neighborhood bars in Chicago. These places serve good beer, going beyond the basics to tap a few interesting kegs. These places treat you like a regular even if you just stop in once in a blue moon. Every time you have a drink at one of these places you wonder why you don't come back more often.

There are excellent neighborhood restaurants in Chicago. These places serve a plate of food that tastes like it was put together with care, forethought, talent, and good ingredients. The food is comforting at these places. Every time you eat at one of these places you wonder why you don't come back more often.

Rarely do these two types of places intersect. The great neighborhood bar that serves that special plate of food is pretty rare. Sure, there are bars that make good wings (Bird's Nest), grill a decent burger (Jury's), or fry up a good plate of fish and chips (Chief O'Neils), but when you find the neighborhood bar that's hiding something special inside, you've really struck gold.

Kuma's Corner has been pouring pints and serving food in Avondale for well over a year now. My first visit took place not long after they opened. They had not yet received their liquor license. The menu was predictable bar food with a couple twists. The food was hit or miss. It's no wonder that it took me over a year to return.

A liquor license, a bartender who knows his beer, and a new chef have turned Kuma's into that special kind of corner bar that we all want in our neighborhood. The beer selection is interesting and thoughtful. The staff is welcoming. The menu now takes simple bar food to another level and provides an bit of Italian flair.

The seared scallop appetizer is a testament to the joys of a simple seafood preparation. The chicken saltimbocca is a classic, full of flavor and executed well. The Kuma's Burger is the ultimate bar burger--8oz of angus with cheddar cheese, bacon, and a fried egg served on a pretzel roll. The "make your own" mac and cheese (choose your ingredients) and specials like broiled lamb chops keep the menu interesting.

Behind the bar, the selection of bottled domestic micro brews and Belgian ales is impressive and the six taps are used wisely on interesting rotating selections. Recently, excellent beers from local brewery Two Brothers and Petaluma, California brewery Lagunitas have been featured selections.

If they only poured pints of beer, Kuma's would be a great neighborhood bar. The selections are terrific, the staff is great, and the place is comfortable. (Those who don't appreciate aggressive music may not find it as comfortable as I do).

If they only served food, Kuma's would be a darn good comfort-food cafe.

Fortunately they do both. They've quickly become one of my favorite bars in town.

Check out Kuma's Corner, 2900 W. Belmont (at Francisco) in Chicago. 773-604-8769. Street parking.


Welcome, Tribune Readers
September 20, 20060 Comments

What a nice way to return from a summer vacation from Blogging.

Bill Daley's article in today's Trib gave me and my grandmother a nice mention. Give it a read, but ignore the part where I call some of her desserts "a letdown". I'm a much better grandson than that. (Registration may be required to read the article on-line).

I've been eating a lot of interesting things over the past few months and building up a lot of new favorites. I'll be posting a lot more in the coming weeks and hope to do a bit of re-organization of this site. If you're new to this site, please check out the archives to the right.