The latest in Chicago dining news.
Michael Taus learned a thing or two about perfectionism from his former boss and mentor, the late Charlie Trotter. “He makes you wake up in the morning and think, ‘What would Charlie do?’ It’s all about excellence.” For 20 years that drive took shape at Taus’s fine-dining fixture Zealous; now the chef is focusing his energies on Taus Authentic, an ode to the family members who instilled in him an appreciation for high-quality ingredients, located in the former Prasino space in Wicker Park. “Now you hear ‘farm-to-table,’ but before, it was just how we were taught,” he says. The focus on ingredients— whether inspired by his grandfather’s garden or the boquerias of Barcelona—has led to creations like ravioli with braised oxtail, butter-poached lobster with snap peas, and cauliflower soup with nutmeg, grapes, and almonds. And while Taus maintains that drive for excellence, he’s looking forward to executing a more casual bill of fare. “At Zealous I felt like I had to fit everything into this seven-course menu all the time,” he says. “Here, it’s about doing great French technique with a more global influence—but I want it to be an everyday restaurant, too.” 1846 W. Division St., 312-561-4500
This month head distiller Tremaine Atkinson and his team at CH Distillery unveil the latest in their line of award-winning spirits: eau de vie made entirely with Traverse City cherry juice. The undertaking was inspired by the friendships he forged last summer at Green City Market. “We realized there is beautiful fruit that is locally grown and available to us,” says Atkinson, who suggests trying the spirit on its own or in the distillery’s whimsically named Game of Footsie, a punch bowl for two featuring CH’s London dry gin, amaro, and orange curaçao. 564 W. Randolph St., 312-707-8780
The signature pulled-pork sandwich from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.
Chicago is honoring spring with a hybrid of tasty offerings, from the spicy hot to the cool and creamy. Having featured the live music of Chicago blues artists in its original Syracuse location, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (923 W. Weed St.) founder and pitmaster John Stage will open his first Chicago outpost (and ninth location) in the Clybourn Corridor this spring. The East Coast barbecue haven will showcase its signature ribs, brisket, pulled pork, wings, and fresh-cut fries as well as new dishes reflective of local flavors. Meanwhile, sundaes get serious at Parlour at the Pavilion (330 N. Wabash Ave., 2nd Fl ., 312-923-7710). Here, Executive Pastry Chef Scott Green serves decadent ice cream offerings featuring ingredients both familiar and surprising, from Garrett’s caramel popcorn to 24k gold (don’t miss the boozy fl oats, which include sweet imitations of classic cocktails like the Manhattan). And post-work Loop crowds can soon return to the refreshed Atwood (1 W. Washington St., 312-368-1900), which plans to reopen in March with modern updates such as white subway tile, tufted leather banquettes, and expanded bar seating to enhance the cavernous space. New chef Brian Millman helms the menu with seasonally focused offerings that are decidedly Midwestern.
“It's a natural next step in the restaurant’s seasonal and local focus,” says Café des Architectes’ chef Greg Biggers of Chestnut Provisions, the restaurant’s new product line featuring cave-aged cheeses, charcuterie, preserves, and jams. For spring, Biggers is looking forward to sourcing everything from ramps, rhubarb, and green strawberries for preserves and jams to spring lamb for charcuterie and raw goat’s milk for cheese. Says Biggers, “We were already using some fantastic products from local farmers but wanted to take that idea to the next level.” 20 E. Chestnut St., 312-324-4063
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIEL KRIEGER (PULLED PORK)