Posts for April 10, 2012

Byron's, Zephyr Owner Dies

Let us now pay tribute to a man whose name you didn't know, but who almost certainly fed you if you lived on the north side: Byron Kouris. Born of Greek immigrant parents, in the mid-1960s he started a chain of sandwich shops called the Lunch Pail, but his best known restaurant chain started when he opened the first Byron's Hot Dogs on Irving Park near Wrigley Field. He also opened an ice cream parlor with an art deco theme called Zephyr on Wilson near the Ravenswood train tracks, which enjoyed a 30-year run serving oversized sundaes and diner food until 2006. He died March 30 at 76, according to this Sun-Times obituary. His business was inducted into the Vienna Beef Hot Dog Hall of Fame, and on the recommendation of Senator Dick Durbin, Byron's dogs were served from a replica stand on the White House lawn for the 2010 congressional picnic. [Sun-Times]

Tamarkin vs. Sula on Au Cheval; Kramer vs. Campagna on RPM

The hamburger au cheval at Au Cheval.Photo: courtesy Au Cheval

It's compare-and-contrast week at The Other Critics, so let's start with our first contestant, Au Cheval, squaring off against Mr. Tamarkin and Mr. Sula. Mr. Tamarkin's verdict on Brendan Sodikoff's diner-meets-luxe-in-a-French-brothel joint is that it's "not so much a diner as it is a pit stop. You can eat here, and you can eat well. You just can’t eat dinner." He has high praise for some items: chopped chicken liver "goes on thick challah with soft salted butter, a combination that is (sorry, but I’ve got to be a drama queen here) so delicious it’s devastating." But other dishes seem like indulgence without a foundation: "The omelette boasts a smooth, puffy, unblemished surface that looks like butter, but also literally tastes like butter, so much so that it’s hard to take more than one bite. A ham 'sandwich' with cheese fondue is not a sandwich at all, but rather a crock of melted cheese dotted with ham and served with toast points." In the end, "Such excess doesn’t mean this food is bad. It’s just food you have to eat when you’re drunk." [TOC]

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Lagunitas Brewing Co. To Open Chicago Plant

The next time someone like a spouse gives you guff about all the beer you drink, just tell them you're creating jobs on the south side. Because that's basically what just happened with Lagunitas Brewing Company, the northern California-based brewer which is widely popular in bars with serious craft brewing lists in Chicago. Per Chicagoist, as Lagunitas owner Tony Magee tweeted it last night, he looked at what it cost to ship all that beer we were drinking from California to the midwest and realized that it would basically pay for a plant in Chicago. He found a space in the former Ryerson steel mill at 18th and Rockwell (these days mainly home to a movie and television soundstage) and plans to install a 250-barrel system by a German company called Rolec, which makes industrial brewery-in-a-box systems for brewers including Stone Brewing, Magic Hat, Brooklyn and others. (Follow the link if you want to beer-geek out.) At the moment the plan is to have it built by July 2013 with the first brewing happening late in the year. The Tweet-text of Magee's announcement follows below.

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Are the Chicago Police Going After Food Trucks?

Crime in progress at the Duck N Roll truck.Photo: courtesy Duck N Roll

Any food truck operator can tell you that they're going to get a certain quantity of tickets, just for existing. But far from the popular view that food trucks are coming to be an accepted feature of the scene, there are signs that in fact the police are acting on a concerted agenda— from somewhere— to crack down on them and basically chase them out of the downtown area. That's the claim made in Mark Brown's Sun-Times column today, and also in a piece posted recently at the website Food Truck Freak. Ironically, Brown says food truck operators seem to think that this is fallout from a meeting they had with the city a month ago to make their case for a pro-food truck ordinance:

During that meeting, [DucknRoll truck owner Amy Le] said, city officials casually asked about the best truck locations. In the days immediately afterward, police showed up at each spot and either ticketed the trucks or ordered them to move. Among the popular spots targeted were: Randolph and Franklin; Superior and Fairbanks, and 600 W. Chicago near the offices of Groupon, whose employees not surprisingly are very fond of food trucks.

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22 Other Things Pizza Hut Should Stuff Into Its Crusts

This is only the beginning.

Now that Pizza Huts in the UK are offering pizza crusts stuffed with hot dogs, it would seem we've reached the pinnacle of human achievement. Hardly. Here's a bunch of other crap that, to the best of our knowledge, has yet to be stuffed into a pizza crust.

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Moto, iNG Chefs Team With Clandestino For Backwards Pop-Up April 22

You knew that Europeans call a Quarter Pounder a Royale with Cheese, but you may not realize that they also eat salad after their entree. If that sounds deliciously perverse, you could have an entire evening of such pleasures à rebours on April 22, when Clandestino's Efrain Cuevas launches a new dinner series with Ben Roche of Moto and Thomas Bowman of iNG entitled Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, or WTF. They will serve a six-course backwards meal, starting with coffee service and running through dessert, a cheese course, entree, salad and concluding with soup. Of course, given the cast of chefs involved, we're not expecting these to be exactly conventional takes on these things— we notice that the "coffee service" includes duck pancetta and redeye gravy, and the cheese plate involves sturgeon and asparagus. The dinner is $75 exclusive of gratuity and is BYO; get more information here.

Crofton On Wells Closes To Reconcept; Suspect Described as Blobby White Tire Mascot

Suzy Crofton.

Crofton on Wells, a longtime if little-talked-about fine dining restaurant in River North, closed after service on Saturday to reconcept. Eater reports that chef-owner Suzy Crofton said that "last year we had a good year, but this year has been painfully slow" and she plans to "reconcept the restaurant to make [it] more accessible." What happened between last year and this year to change things so dramatically for a restaurant open since 1997? Part of it, of course, is the pace of new openings, which makes it easy for older ones to fall off the radar of diners. But the other thing that happened is that Crofton on Wells is, quite probably, Chicago's first Michelin victim. In Michelin's first year, Crofton on Wells won a Michelin star; the next year, ignominiously, it was the only restaurant to lose its star without a major life event like changing chefs or downscaling. For the loyal, probably older dining crowd who pay at least some attention to such things, Michelin's demotion, just or not, was probably a call to shake things up a little and try a few new spots.

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