WOOD Is On Fire!

Longevity is a rarity in any new business venture, but in the restaurant industry, the odds are always against the establishment. However, sometimes the stars align and the right people come together with a solid concept in the perfect location. That is exactly what has occurred with the opening of WOOD, located on the corner of Halsted and Buckingham in Boystown.

back left: Salad with Tomato, cucumber, olive and white anchovy: Front: Spaghetti with Manila clams, white wine and herbs.

The vision of WOOD came from Franco Ginanni whose late father was in the woodworking business, manufacturing high-end office and wood furniture in the Chicago/Cicero area beginning in 1945. That coupled with the notion that master Chef Ashlee Aubin, wanted a wood-burning oven to prepare many of his dishes and the naming then became a no-brainer.

Franco is no stranger to the industry. After college he worked for the Hyatt Corporation as the assistant food and beverage manager then went to Big Time. The list goes on and on, including Crow Bar and Angelina’s. Mr. Gianni explains he was even a waiter at Ooh, La, La, which once occupied the space WOOD now inhabits, coming full circle. Franco tells ShowBiz Chicago that the moment the “For Rent” sign went in the window of the old Firefly (which shuttered last year), they immediately began negotiations to occupy the space. The transformation is aesthetically astounding and is the only intimate, yet lively restaurant of its kind in area (or for most of Chicago for that matter).

Mixologist: Gustavo Bapista

WOOD is owned by three partners, Gary Zickel, Theodora Koutsougeras and Dean Hervochon all of whom bring years of knowledge and passion to the venture. From the moment you step through the doors you are instantly welcomed and attended to with fantastic hosts (which many times maybe one of the owners). WOOD also has very knowledgable and friendly bartenders/mixologists and waiters.

All that aside, a restaurant is only as good as its Chef and on that level, WOOD hits a home run. Chef Aubin’s lineage includes Alinea and Zealous which shows not only in the way he manages his kitchen but also in the staff of the restaurant proper. Front of house staff works seamlessly with back of the house chefs to create a upscale yet down to earth experience.

Chef Aubin has established a creative environment to work in and explains he has assembled the best team imaginable with the notion of keeping farm to table at the forefront of their menu. A few lucky ones have followed Chef Aubin from Alinea as they were looking for what to do next, which he admits is very difficult when you leave an environment like that. His kitchen staff comes in early and leaves late, making sure everything is perfect for their guests. Chef Aubin is also finding much joy in mentoring some of the younger chefs just as he was mentored by Chef Grant Achatz and Chef Matt Chaucer.

CHARCUTERIE: Pork Rillettes; Pâté; Chicken Liver Mousse; Country Ham.

When asked what he brings to WOOD, Chef Aubin says that it is the standards of the prior restaurants he worked at and to strive for that type of excellence every day. Chef Aubin explains that “even though the food is a bit more rustic, the effort that goes into preparing it for our guests is the same as Aliena or any restaurant of that caliber”.

I asked Chef Aubin what he wants customers to come away with after dining at WOOD. “We want them to enjoy the food and drinks. We want people to know that we are part of the community and that we are a neighborhood restaurant. We want everybody in the neighborhood; gay, straight or whomever they may be to come in and feel comfortable and just enjoy.”

WOOD also has a late night walk-up window call Back-Wood’s, which serves Belgian-style fries with about 15 different dipping sauces.

I have dined there on numerous occasions and have sent many of my friends and colleagues and the response has been unequivocally unanimous. WOOD is AMAZING!! It is also perfect for our readers who are going to neighboring theatres and comedy clubs. WOOD is a definitely a labor of love for its owners and Chef. Mr. Gianni told me that for him, WOOD is a final tribute to his father. Well, Franco, you have done your Father proud.

For more information, visit www.woodchicago.com 3335 N HALSTED ST | CHICAGO, IL 60657 | (773) 935-WOOD {9663} BAR SUN-FRI: 5:00 PM-2 AM, SAT: 5:00 PM-3 AM | DINNER SUN-THU: 5:00-10 PM, FRI & SAT: 5:00-11 PM BRUNCH SUN: 10 AM-2:30 PM | BACKWOODS SUN & MON: 10 PM-MIDNIGHT, TUE-SAT: 10 PM-LATE NIGHT

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Interview with Chef Ted Allen

It is great to see when success happens to nice people. Emmy Award winner Ted Allen is the perfect example.  From his days as Senior Editor and restaurant critic of Chicago Magazine to one of the Fab Five on Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, and now host of the hit show Chopped on The Food Network, Ted has always remained a kind and generous humanitarian who constantly gives back to the community. Read more

Showbiz Chicago Interview: Celebrity Chef Ted Allen

It is great to see when success happens to nice people. Emmy Award winner Ted Allen is the perfect example.  From his days as Senior Editor and restaurant critic of Chicago Magazine to one of the Fab Five on Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, and now host of the hit show Chopped on The Food Network, Ted has always remained a kind and generous humanitarian who constantly gives back to the community.

Mr. Allen will be emceeing the Howard Brown Health Center (HBHC) and its Lesbian Community Care Project (LCCP) fourth annual Garden of Eve, a signature fundraiser benefitting women’s health and wellness services and programs for uninsured women, taking place Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. Read more

Wild on WILDE!!

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.” -OSCAR WILDE

As my second pairing in pairing restaurants with currently running theatres and shows, I am so excited to feature one of Lakeview’s newest and most exceptionally beautiful restaurants, Wilde Bar and Restaurant, 3130 N. Broadway, named after the famed Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde. With its welcoming library equipped with a cozy fireplace, exquisite handmade Victorian bar and gorgeous stained glass dome accents, this is an upscale Irish pub that is accessible to every cross section of patron. Owners Martin Cournane and Paul Sheahan, have painstakingly poured their soul into this establishment and it shows, from the amazingly friendly and competent staff to their choice of picking Alan Katz as their executive chef who as put his own twist on pub food, making it downright mouthwatering.

General Manager, Patrick Rodgers, took me on a guided tour of the restaurant and gave me an overview of the history of the space, which was a former hardware store. Patrick pointed out the amount of intricate craftsmanship and architectural detail that when into constructing Wilde’s, creating this warm and inviting treasure.

For my visit, Chef Katz prepared a lightly breaded and flavorful Jumbo Lump Crab Cake; Katz’ classic Fish & Chips (flakey Atlantic cod), which is quickly becoming known as the best throughout the city; Sheppard David’s Pie, which I was glad to see this dish come back to its classic roots as I use to get when I lived in London; Wilde Macaroni & Cheese baked with cheddar, that I actually craved the whole next day, as well as an array of desserts. Throw into this a fantastic and dense beer catalogue and extensive wine list and you are in for one of the best restaurant experiences you will encounter in the city.

One must spend some time at Wilde’s to truly appreciate the quality, warmth and since of community that is a throwback and an homage to the tradition of Irish pubs which is meant to be a gathering place for friends and neighbors.

For more information on Wilde’s, please visit their websitewww.wildechicago.com

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” -OSCAR WILDE,

So as this is a pairing, pair I shall! This city is honored to have for over the past 25 years the groundbreaking Bailiwick Repertory Theatre, 1229 W. Belmont, headed by Founder and Artistic Director, David Zak who has brought to his theatre a musical adaptation of the 1994 Albert Finney film, A Man Of No Importance. The show’s description from the press release states that the musical explores the life of a bus conductor in Dublin who enchants his passengers with poetry readings by day and spends his evenings directing the local community theatre in plays by his idol Oscar Wilde. Through the course of tumultuous rehearsals for a production of Wilde’s Salome he learns much about life and art, and begins to come to terms with his own true nature.

This Jeff recommended show is from the creative genius of playwright Terrence McNally, lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime & My Favorite Year) while under the masterful direction of Scott Ferguson (co-Founder- Theatrebam Chicago).

A Man of No Importance was initially part of the Lincoln Center Theater 2002-3 season, and ran from Sept. 12-Dec. 29, 2002 were it was awarded the 2003 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical. Bailiwick has put their own stamp on this production and the critics have hailed it has one of the must see shows of the season. This production stars one of the brightest and up and coming musical theatre actors in Chicago, Ryan Lanning, who won a Jeff for his work in Kiss of the Spiderwoman last year.

So for an evening out of your ‘Wildest’ dreams, take in Wilde’s for brunch or dinner, then head over to the Bailiwick and take in A Man of No Importance. Then you will truly know how this one poet has effected not only his generation, but many generations to come with his poignant philosophy on life and how to life it.

For more information on A Man of No Importance, please visitwww.bailiwick.org

Photo: Ryan Lanning (front left) in A Man of No Importance at the Bailiwick. Photo by: David Zac

Lobster Week at Stout Barrel House & Galley from August 20 – 26

 Stout Barrel House & Galley, where executive chef Chris Curren serves elevated American comfort food in River North (642 North Clark Street), will host Lobster Week from Monday, August 20 thru Sunday, August 26 that will feature a different Maine lobster dish each night as well as New England beer specials.

One of Chef Curren’s dishes during Lobster Week will be his Lobster Pizza – a signature dish when he was the chef/partner at Blue 13 restaurant. The full Lobster Week menu is below.

Patrons ordering any of the Lobster Week dishes can also get the following New England beers on special only $3 each: Allagash White (Maine), Allagash Black (Maine), and Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale (New Hampshire).

Monday, August 20
Maine Lobster Rolls (order of three) … $17

Tuesday, August 21
Maine Lobster Bake with Mussels, Chorizo, Marble Potatoes, and Corn … $28

Wednesday, August 22
Linguine with Maine Lobster and White Wine Sauce … $19

Thursday, August 23
Maine Lobster Pizza with Roasted Garlic Puree, Roasted Cipollini Onions, and Three-Month Aged Manchego Cheese …  $18

Friday, August 24
Steamed Whole Maine Lobster with Drawn Butter … $24

Saturday, August 25
Seafood Stuffed Maine Lobster … $30

Sunday, August 26
Maine Lobster Pot Pie … $18

About Stout Barrel House & Galley: Executive Chef Chris Curren (formerly the executive chef and partner at Blue 13) has teamed up with The LGN Group (Michael Bisbee, Michael Kaulentis, and Tim Hendricks) to open Stout Barrel House & Galley – a 5,000 square-foot chef-driven “nitro pub” that features elevated American comfort food, a uniquely curated beer selection featuring 20 on draft and another 30 in bottles extensive beer, and a market-driven cocktail list. Located at 642 North Clark Streetin River North (312.475.1390), Stout Barrel House & Galley serves dinner and a late-night menu daily along with weekend brunch. Stout Barrel House & Galley is open from 4pm until 4am Monday thru Friday, 10am until 5pm Saturday, and 10am until 4am on Sunday. Check http://www.StoutChicago for full menus and more information, “Like” Stout Barrel House & Galley on Facebook athttp://www.facebook.com/StoutChicago and follow Stout Barrel House & Galley on Twitter athttp://www.twitter.com/StoutChicago

Bleeding Heart Bakery & Cafe Revamps into West Town Bakery & Diner

Bleeding Heart Bakery & Café in West Town (1916 W Chicago Ave) will revamp into West Town Bakery & Diner and will no longer be associated with the Bleeding Heart brand.

Bleeding Heart Bakery & Café in West Town will close for cosmetic remodeling at 9pm on Sunday, July 22 and is aiming to reopen to the public as West Town Bakery & Diner at 7am on Saturday, July 28. Read more

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