ML - Michigan Avenue

2015 - Issue 2 - Late Spring

Michigan Avenue - Niche Media - Michigan Avenue magazine is a luxury lifestyle magazine centered around Chicago’s finest people, events, fashion, health & beauty, fine dining & more!

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Page 85 of 139

Order Up Forget the Fine dining Fuss. From ambitious taverns to upscale diners, some oF chicago's coolest gourmet spots are all about casual. by sarah freeman When it comes to fantastic foodie destinations in Chicago, white-tablecloth restaurants no longer rule the roost. These days, some of the city's top chefs are rolling up their shirtsleeves and focusing on superior cuisine with a distinctly low-key f lair. Take former Four Seasons chef Kevin Hickey, who first dipped his toe into the gourmet-casual scene last year at River North's Bottlefork (441 N. Clark St., 312-955-1900;, known for its succulent crispy oyster-topped lobster roll and braised beef-cheek poutine. Now Hickey has ventured back to his native South Side with The Duck Inn (2701 S. Eleanor St., 312-724-8811; to cook "hamburger sandwiches" and Chicago-style duck fat dogs. The Bridgeport space blends the best of both worlds with a 1960s-inspired remodel, complete with vintage record player and sloe(r) gin(nier) fizz cocktails, as well as a dining room that serves seasonal fare like spot prawns and Nantucket lemon sole. Just as familiar as the corner tavern is the neighbor- hood diner, a concept that's benefiting from a gourmet makeover thanks to the likes of Brendan Sodikoff and Stephanie Izard. At West Loop smash Au Cheval (800 W. Randolph St., 312-929-4580; aucheval, griddled cheeseburgers topped with fried eggs and house-made bacon aren't the only things enticing customers to wait up to three hours for a table. With dim lighting that barely illuminates the brown leather booths and open kitchen, the atmosphere is equal parts understated and elegant. "Food's too indul- gent, room's too small, music's too loud, and staff's having too much fun," quips Sodikoff. "I need someone smarter than me to explain how that works." Meanwhile, the initial bakery concept for Izard's Little Goat (820 W. Randolph St., 312-888-3455; changed when the large Randolph Street location became available. "My husband, Gary, and I would always be out looking for a good meal at odd times of the day, around 3 pm, when most spots are closed," Izard recalls. "I thought, Let's do a diner that serves anything anyone wants to eat at any time throughout the day." Offering dishes ranging from pancakes made with sourdough-buttermilk batter (using the house bread starter) to a goat Sloppy Joe with rosemary slaw and served on a squash roll, Little Goat has gained acclaim for its locally sourced ingredients and global culinary inf luences. Hoping to match Izard with an Art Deco–inspired diner hit of his own is Rick Gresh, who recently unveiled Miss Ricky's (203 N. Wabash Ave., 312-940-4400;, inside the new Virgin Hotel. Open Sunday–Thursday from 6 am to 11 pm and Friday and Saturday from 6 am to 1 am, Miss Ricky's is staking its claim in the Loop with fried chicken-stuffed waff les topped with fried chicken skin, as well as knife-and-fork doughnuts filled with peanut marshmallow f luff, roasted bananas, and honey-glazed bacon. Guests are invited to get nostalgic for tried-and- true 24-hour East Coast diners at the 14-seat soda counter, or glam up Hollywood-style in the casting room, decorated with vintage spotlights and a gold-embellished ceiling. "There's something so comforting about American diner classics," notes Gresh. "Miss Ricky's easily embod- ies that level of comfort while bringing elevated touches to favorite dishes." MA Housed in a pre-Prohibition-era tavern in Bridgeport, The Duck Inn boasts a 1960s vibe, complete with a vintage record player. right: It's always snack time at Little Goat, where the Machos Nachos— with house masa chips, barbecued pork, pickled peppers, and avocado—are available all day long. 84 taste Cuiscene

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