Category Archives: Chicago chefs

Culinary battle royale at Oyster Bah August 9

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Oyster Bah, 1962 N. Halsted in Lincoln Park, hosts a culinary battle royale on Wednesday, August 9, 2017. The knives will come out as Chef Donny Farrell of Oyster Bah and Chef Chris Evangelides of Ivy Room/Tree Studios get ready to rumble for a good cause. Beginning with a reception at 6:30 pm, the two chefs will pit their individual cooking styles against each other while dealing, Chopped-style, with the added challenge of four secret ingredients. The winner not only takes home the crown but also receives a $1,000 gift certificate to present to his charity of choice (the Mental Health Association of Greater Chicago for Chef Donny and the American Diabetes Association for Chef Chris).

Each course will be expertly paired with a beverage by Oyster Bah’s Mixologist and Sommelier team, Christina Smith and Nate Redner. So come ready to eat, drink, and judge because this culinary contest will be decided by YOU! The four-course dinner costs $59.95 per guest (not inclusive of tax and gratuity) and reservations are required. Call 773.248.3000.
English: Panoramic view of Chicago from the Sk...
English: Panoramic view of Chicago from the Skydeck at Willis Tower. Created using 52 individual images taken April 5, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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3 Chicago restaurants with late “winter” news

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It’s winter, right, people? 63 degrees? I don’t think so. 43 degrees? Not really. How about 70? Do I hear 70 degrees? In any case, it’s a great time to get out and try some of the delicious things going on at Chicago restaurants these days. Here are 3 of them.

Dim sum :Author: User:Das_O2 :Date: August 20t...
Dim sum :Author: User:Das_O2 :Date: August 20th, 2005 :Notes: Typical dim sum breakfast in Hong Kong. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Intro, 2300 N. Lincoln Park West, is now offering Dim Sum brunch, Sundays from 10am to 3pm.  The unique and delicious menu can be ordered a la carte, or shared family-style at $22.95 per person. Check out: Smoked Salmon Bao, “Everything Spice”, Caper Szechuan Aioli, Chinese Homestyle Eggs with Pork Belly and Congee Rice and Chinese Donuts with Cinnamon and Espresso Milk. Full menu here and call 773-868-0002 to reserve.

Dovetail Brewery Taproom dog friendly photo by Cindy Kurman
Dovetail Brewery is dog friendly

Not a festival, not quite a market but absolutely a great time. Dovetail Brewery, 1800 W. Belle Plaine, will be hosting some of the tastiest artisanal local craft vendors in its taproom from noon to 5 p.m. on March 25. Stop by and create your own charcuterie board of assorted breads, cheeses and meats to accompany your favorite Dovetail beers. And by popular demand, Dovetail has added a 1 pm. tour on Saturdays. Stop by the brewery at either 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. to enjoy an informative and fun tour. Tour admission is $15 which includes your choice of three Dovetail 0.3L servings of beer.

Ēma, 74 W. Illinois, another LEYE restaurant, is having its first-ever wine dinner on March 29 at 6:30. For $75 a person (plus tax and gratuity) you’ll be treated to a mezze feast of Ema favorites and specialty dishes crafted by Chef CJ Jacobson and accompanied by wines from Sandhi Winery in Santa Barbara, California. Leading the event is winemaker and James Beard beverage book winner Rajat Parr, author Secrets of the Sommelier, and recipient of the 2015 James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Professional.  Call 312-485-5778 or email emaparties@leye.com to reserve.

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3 days only! 312 Chicago celebrates 19 years with $19 specials

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312 Chicago celebrates 19 years!

As a thank you to customers in celebration of 19 years in Chicago’s bustling Theater District and across from City Hall,  312 Chicago, 136 N. LaSalle, and Chef Luca are offering *all* dinner entrees for $19 each as well as $19 bottles of select red and white wine. Starting on their anniversary, 3/12/17 and evenings through Tuesday 3/14, you can get everything  at the party price – check the list below. Reservations are encouraged.

Here’s the complete menu:

  • Salmone, $27: Roasted Faroe Island Salmon, Tri-Colored Lentils, Cippolini Onions, Baby Spinach, Lemon Sauce
  • Branzino, $28: Mediterranean Skin-On Sea Bass, Cauliflower Puree, Manila Clams, Zucchini and Yellow Squash, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Garlic White Wine Sauce
  • Cacciucco, $29: Sauteed Scallops, Shrimp, Tuna, Mussels, Clams, Lobster, Light Spicy Tomato Broth, Grilled Garlic Crostini
  • Pollo, $23: Roasted Chicken Breast, Beech Mushrooms, Crispy Onion, Sweet Grilled Corn, Creamy Polenta, Chicken Succo
  • Maiale, $26: Roasted‎ Pork Chop, Black Tuscan Kale, Potato Cake, Prosciutto, Brandy Cream Sauce
  • Filetto, $35: Grilled Beef Tenderloin, Tri-Colored Fingerling Potatoes, Truffle Butter, Porcini Mushroom Sauce
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“Real American” fast food vegan-style opening in Uptown

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Kal’ish, 1313 W. Wilson, a short-order vegan restaurant that promises a 100% animal-free menu, opens in Chicago on January 14. That day at 1 pm you’re invited to stop by for complimentary samples of the restaurant’s hot cocoa, cookies, grilled cheese and tomato soup.  Gina & Andy Kalish, operators of the Ravenswood Event Center, are excited to be opening the restaurant in the neighborhood they’ve called home for over 20 years.

“We’ve always wanted to open a vegan restaurant that could satisfy vegans and omnivores alike,” says Gina. “Kal’ish offers indulgent plant-based alternatives to favorites found at traditional fast food restaurants.” 

Diners can expect a wide range of animal-free takes on classic Americana dishes, including gluten and nut-free options. Kal’ish makes from scratch all meat-like protein replacements, using legumes, roots, nuts, yeasts, wheat, vegetables, starches and more to find the right flavor combinations. To do so, the kitchen has become somewhat of a laboratory, testing ways to create animal-free versions that any eater would enjoy. Favorites from the menu include:

  • K Burger: a classic beefy patty, horseradish kale mayo, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion, served on a classic bun
  • Pulled Pork-N-Jack: pulled braised jackfruit, smoky sweet q sauce, purple slaw and pickles, served on a classic bun
  • Chili Cheese Fries: skin-on salted fries topped with savory house chili, cheese sauce and spicy pico de gallo
  • Farmer Brown Plate: steamed and griddled vegetables with Midwest curry on a bed of brown rice

In addition, Kal’ish also offers an all-day breakfast menu and Sunday brunch, with options including:

  • K-Eggs, Potatoes & Toast: a plant-based riff on traditional scrambled eggs with griddle potatoes and onions and a side of buttered toast
  • Clucker Crisp & French Toast: just like fried chicken & waffles, but plant-based
  • Biscuits & Sausage Gravy: southern classic fluffy biscuits with homemade vegan gravy and fennel sausage

Take out or eat in the bright, minimalistic space, designed by vegan architect Ferdinanda Marcic.

 

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2-night chance to do dim sum at Intro

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2 nights of dim sum at Intro. Photo credit: Anjali Pinto

If you haven’t experienced the joys of cuisine delivered by top chefs being given a chance to shine – and experiment using their highest skills, to the great enjoyment of guests – how about trying it this week? Wednesday, December 28 – Thursday, December 29 reserve your spot at Intro for a modern dim sum pop up. For two days only, three former Intro visiting chefs are taking the entrepreneurial skills that they learned at Intro to take over the restaurant with a menu inspired by their travels – in particular the nine Asian countries Chef Gillanders recently toured.

An a la carte menu and pre-fixe option are available will feature elevated dim sum, noodles and rice and family-style feasts. A limited number of reservations are available from 5:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. next Wednesday, December 28 and Thursday, December 29 for this special a la carte menu. To make a reservation or view the menu, visit www.introchicago.com or call the restaurant at 773.868.0002.

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Eden opens tonight in hot new W. Lake district

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Eden Restaurant, 1748 W. Lake St., opens its doors tonight, bringing refined cooking, impeccable hospitality, and unwavering conviviality to the dining community. Principal Jodi Fyfe, Chef/Partner Devon Quinn, and Chef de Cuisine Miles Schaefer deliver stellar cuisine and a rustic ambiance.

Beautiful, clean, creative cuisine at Eden in W. Lake district

The new 95-seat restaurant draws inspiration from Portugal, Spain, Lebanon, and more and offers a fresh, farm-forward menu that epitomizes clean cooking. A biologist by nature with a passion for hyper-local ingredients, Chef Quinn applies the bounty of his onsite 1800-square foot greenhouse throughout the menu, which means fresh flavors year-round. Think creative options like Umami Doughnuts, Roasted Baby Beets, Braised Duck Lasagna, and Portuguese Spiced Chicken.

Eden’s Pastry Chef Stefano Tulipano, General Manager and Sommelier Arif Rahman, and Mixologist Alex Rydzewski each offer distinctive drinks and desserts that work beautifully with Eden’s menu.

The restaurant is designed with careful craftsmanship using local resources and features rustic touches and authentic finishes. Original exposed brick speaks to the neighborhood’s industrial history, while graphic black and white tile highlight the exclusive chef’s counter and expansive bar.  Eden is now open for dinner. Preview the menu here, and for reservations visit  or call (312) 366-2294.

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New Knife honors and elevates the steakhouse concept

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Knife, 4343 N. Lincoln Ave., opened for business this week. Steak and seafood abound, and every creative item on the menu is presented with passion, precision and love in a warm and intimate atmosphere. Knife is brought to you by David and Paula Byers and Chef Tim Cottini, the team behind the popular Lincoln Square restaurant, Fork.

At first glance, the handsomely designed menu is understated and traditional-sounding, but the element of surprise will be ever-present in each dish. “We want to take the essence of a classic dish and re-create it in a unique way,” said Chef Cottini, who understands that, “We first eat with our eyes before we eat with our mouths. The visual impact of the food will be almost as important as the taste.” Throughout the menu, Chef Cottini maintains a high standard using locally sourced, quality seasonal ingredients, as he transforms the traditional into the unexpected.

Chef Tim Cottini low res.jpg
Chef Tim Cottini

Knife is modernizing the old-school steakhouse mentality and ambiance. It will raise expectations of what a steakhouse can be while paying homage to menu classics. Promoting culinary creativity and cultural fusion is what makes this restaurant truly American.

Menu Rundown
The dinner menu is clearly organized into six sections: Appetizers, Chilled Plates, Salad & Soup, Entrées, Steaks and Sides. Appetizer choices include Fois Gras Terrine, seasonal jam, brioche, market greens and pickled vegetables ($19); Oxtail Doughnut Holes, aupoivre sauce ($10); Lobster Tail Tempura, arugula & ginger-orange sauce ($22); and Shrimp De Jonghe, puff pastry, garlic, fine herbs ($17).

Lobster 300
Lobster at Knife

Chilled Plates feature seafood, including Oysters on the Half Shell (market price); Ahi Tuna Tartare, avocado, fresno chili, endive ($14); and Shrimp Cocktail, horseradish & candied lemon ($16). The ala carte Bread Service offers two house-made choices:  Parker House Rolls with whipped butter & sea salt ($6) or Focaccia with seasonal dipping sauce ($6).

Salad & Soup choices include the Heirloom Tomato & Burrata Salad, basil pesto, marinated red onions & basil ($16); Lobster Bisque, crème frâiche, tarragon ($11); Tableside Caesar, white anchovies, focaccia croutons, parmesan & pecorino ($19); the Market Salad, shaved market vegetables, Urban Till greens with sherry vinaigrette ($9); and the Grilled Wedge Salad, Urban Till baby iceberg, green goddess, lobster mitts, bacon, bleu cheese, tomato, scallions ($18). The Tableside Caesar can be prepared tableside for three or more persons.

ECS-Pork chop 1 300 pixels.jpg
Pork chop at Knife
28 day bone in ribeye for two at Knife 300 pixels.jpg
28-day aged bone-in ribeye for two at Knife

The Entrées section of the menu includes the non-steak main courses, and there are seven from which to choose, providing plenty of variety for guests who prefer alternatives to steak. The Pork Chops are served with candied sweet potatoes and butter-bourbon gastrique ($27). Lamb Chops are accompanied by stuffed zucchini & hollandaise sauce ($27). The vegetarian Pasta entrée is built on a foundation of pappardelle, with market vegetables, basil pistou & parmesan ($18). Poultry lovers will enjoy the Green Circle Farm’s Chicken, a braised thigh with macaroni gratin, chicken jus ($24). Fish entrées include Wild Salmon, caramelized cauliflower, béarnaise ($27); Ahi Tuna, green beans amandine, smoked tomato butter ($28); and Halibut, pipperade, creamed kale, lobster demi ($30).

Knife’s Steaks section clearly emphasizes the restaurant’s keen philosophy: “Knife is proud to offer locally-sourced, house dry-aged beef. This premium product hails from local farms in Illinois and Iowa that uphold humane standards and practices as well as conservation.” There are five selections from which to choose and all steaks are served with house-made Journeyman steak sauce and choice of onion strings or hand-cut frites. Guests may order the Sirloin (10 oz, $27), Beef Tenderloin (6 oz, $33); Trio of Medallions with Bleu Cheese Crust (8 oz, $25), or the Boneless Ribeye (12 oz, $34). Knife’s signature steak is a 28-Day Dry-Aged Ribeye for Two, carved tableside and served with twice baked potatoes, green beans and au poivre ($89).

ECS-Zucchini-019 300 pixels.jpg
inspired zucchini dish at Knife

Embellishments to the steaks are plentiful. Guests can choose a Lobster Tail ($19), Shrimp ($4), Foie Gras ($9), Oscar Style ($14) or Bleu Cheese ($5). Several sauces are available as well: Béarnaise ($3), Barolo ($2), Hollandaise ($2), Butterbourbon ($2), Au Poivre ($3) and Smoked Tomato Butter ($2).

Rounding out the dinner menu are nine creative side accompaniments, including Smoked Frites, lemon aioli ($6); Onion Strings, roasted pepper aioli ($6); Macaroni Gratin, parmesan, Jarlsberg & lemon ($7); River Valley Ranch Mushroom en Pappiotte, portabella, cremini, shiitake, rosemary & roasted garlic ($9); Stuffed Zucchini, basil roasted peppers & parmesan ($7); Caramelized Cauliflower, sultanas, balsamic & capers ($8); Green Beans, almond tuile & butter ($8); Twice Baked Potato, bacon, fontina, scallions, crème frâiche ($8); and Whipped Potatoes, confit garlic with cream & butter ($7).

Dessert selections continue to showcase Chef Cottini’s modern interpretations of steakhouse classics. Choices include Flaming Gran Torino, bruléed spumoni, sponge cake with vanilla, pistachio & brandied black cherry ice creams ($13); Profiteroles-gluten free-with chocolate & Tahitian vanilla ice creams with house made fudge sauce ($9); Key Lime Version 3.14, raspberries, ginger graham crust, whipped cream ($11); Chocolate Layer Cake, chocolate mousse, fudge sauce, white chocolate ($12); Blossoming Apple Tart, Honeycrisp apples, almonds, cranberries, caramel, Saigon cinnamon ice cream ($13).

Sophisticated preparation and exciting presentation are the foundations of Chef Cottini’s food
The menu descriptions purposefully understated on paper, belie the sophisticated preparation and exciting presentations that guests will experience, creating a memorable dining experience.

For example, the Grilled Wedge Salad starts with iceberg lettuce raised locally by Urban Till in Chicago specifically for Knife. The smaller lettuce heads enhance the natural flavor, and are grilled to add a charred smokiness. The traditional toppings, bacon, tomatoes, cucumbers, and blue cheese are scattered around the plate, but Chef Cottini has gone the extra mile, dehydrating the bacon for twelve hours to make it extra-crisp.

Other appetizers, such as the Heirloom Tomato & Burrata Salad, are re-invented at Knife as well. The tomato is peeled, hollowed, and filled with a locally produced Burrata, infused with local basil-pesto and roasted. The Oxtail Doughnut Holes are savory bites filled with classically braised oxtail and served with an au poivre sauce. Bread offerings are baked in-house with Parker House Rolls served fresh from the oven and an artisan, potato-based Focaccia provides a dairy-free option.

Steaks are served uncut. “We wouldn’t dare deprive our customers of the joy of cutting into an exceptional, tender steak with ease. It’s an experience unlike any other,” says Chef Cottini. The special 28-Day Dry-Aged Ribeye for Two is carved tableside – such a  pleasure to watch the juices flow.

The Pork Chops have an intense marbling and flavor, served with a side of candied sweet potatoes seasoned with a spicy Saigon cinnamon, then topped with marshmallows and a butter bourbon gastrique. In a completely different category than any candied sweet potatoes many of our moms used to make.

Sourcing quality ingredients is a cornerstone of the Knife philosophy. The Wild Salmon is prepared with Skuna Bay Salmon, a top quality fish from a Vancouver Island, British Columbia vendor who exemplifies the sound ecological raising of farm-raised salmon. Sides are thoughtfully designed to enhance each flavor profile. The River Valley Ranch Mushroom en Pappiotte is a marinated portabella cap filled with shitake and cremini mushrooms, rosemary and roasted garlic. The Macaroni Gratin is jazzed up with a blend of cheddar and jarlsbergcheeses with lemon. The Stuffed Zucchini is sourced from local farmers, hollowed out and stuffed with a zucchini puree.

Knife bacon-wrapped potato
Knife bacon-wrapped potato

One example of Chef Cottini’s creativity is the Twice Baked Potato. This steakhouse standard side dish takes a contemporary turn as it stands up on its side, filled with an Italian fontina cheese, wrapped in bacon, and then roasted.

About Knife
Knife, located at 4343 N. Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, is a new contemporary steakhouse from David and Paula Byers and Chef Tim Cottini, the team behind the popular Fork restaurant in Chicago’s Lincoln Square. Knife is inspired by traditional steakhouse food and beverages and gives them a modern interpretation, using fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Knife is open for dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed on Sunday and Monday. All major cards will be accepted; ample street parking is available. Knife also will be available for private events. For more information, please contact Knife at (773) 799-8283. Visit the website at knifechicago.net. Like Knife on Facebook at Facebook.com/KnifeChicago; follow on Twitter atTwitter.com/KnifeChicago and on Instagram at Instagram.com/KnifeChicago.

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Fried chicken and bubblies, oh my!

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English: Several pieces of fried chicken.
English: Several pieces of fried chicken. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next Saturday October 22 from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm, hundreds of Chicagoans will be on hand to enjoy the 2nd annual Fried Chicken & Champagne Fest. Proceeds from the event go towards financial assistance for hospitality and culinary arts students through the Kendall College Trust. A dozen award-winning Chicago chefs fry up their best recipes, and attendees munch those chicken renditions while sipping on a vast array of bubblies have been curated by Master Sommelier Serafin Alverado of headlining sponsor Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. And let’s just say, with the likes of Chef Lee Wolen from Michelin-starred Boka Restaurant participating, you are bound to exerience way beyond ordinary.

With over 60 different offerings from around the world – including luxury labels like Moet Imperial Rose, Dom Perignon and Palmes D’Or – everyone can find a perfect pairing or two. For a full list of Champagne, click here.  Get more info and tickets here.
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The NEW Chicago Restaurant Examiner

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Welcome to the new ChicagoRestaurantExaminer online magazine. Join us as we navigate the culinary scene around town. You’ll get glimpses of it through the eyes of writers, chefs, restaurant owners, and the makers of wines and spirits.

We are gradually uploading material from our archives from the former Chicago Restaurant Examiner site. Stay tuned.

Open the door to Chicago's rich culinary scene
Open the door to Chicago’s rich culinary scene
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Jeff Mauro gives thumbs up to LeadBelly winner of RedEye Burger Battle 2015

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Food Network star Jeff Mauro (The Kitchen, Star Salvation, Sandwich King) took time out from his crazy-busy schedule recently to host the 3rd annual RedEye Battle of the Burger 2015 presented by Amstel Light. More than 500 guests enjoyed the beautiful summer evening on the patio of the Chicago History Museum where they sampled the between-the-bun, mainly-beef specialty offerings from nearly two dozen of the city’s well-known eateries and cast their votes for Chicago’s best burger. Winning burgers are at the end of this article–and man, they taste good with Amstel Light.

Jeff was kind enough to do a brief Q&A about being a Food Network star. Jeff originally wanted to be a comedian, but after years of cooking and working in delis and four years as a private chef in a big jeff mauro leadbellycorporation, he also knew he wanted to be on Food Network. So, on his third try at the contest, he finally got cast.

What’s your favorite story about how you got started?

“I was in NY for 11 weeks. My son was 2 years old. We just got done living in the basement with my in-laws. It was so stressful leaving, but I was pursuing this dream. When I came home from the call, I was in the top two and I knew I was going to make it. I went to my house—that I’d saved up for so long—and after thirteen years, my house, family, son. I was elated to be with my family again.” He went on to win the Food Network star competition.

How do they choose contestants for competitions on Food Network TV?

“The show’s producers hire a casting company and these folks do an incredibly thorough job of vetting contestants. First, you make and submit a video, then you wait for a casting call. Then you go and then wait for a call back, then you compete. They do background checks, psychological testing, incident testing, on-camera test, ask very personal questions, and so on. They want to be very sure that this person will make a good appearance on television in terms of behavior, attitude and strength of character. It’s a long process. But my wife just knew that last time that I’d make it. She told me, ‘This video is going to get you there. Your life is going to change forever.’ She was right.”

How did you become known as the “Sandwich King”?

“When we were in the midst of the competition and I’d been mentioning all the diners and delis I worked at, Bobby Flay said to me, ‘So, you’re gonna be the sandwich king, eh?’ And it stuck. That became my name henceforth. That had been my point of view for years as I went from butcher shop to sandwich catering company. I knew I was good at constructing those.” For handy hints on making a non-slip sandwich, visit Mauro’s Sandwich King web page.

What do you enjoy most—besides money!—about being a Food Network star?

“All the travel is hard, but it’s great that I can include my family and travel places and experience foods. You get treated a certain way in restaurants. It’s unique. I don’t take it for granted. We still live in the same house and same neighborhood. I love making television. I’ve been doing it four years now.”

What do you like most about Chicago as a foodie heaven?

“I’ve been in LA and NY. I’m in New York four to five times a month. I go to all the great restaurants everywhere, but I absolutely adore Chicago. It is a place where chefs can exercise their creative chops without the intense pressure that chefs in, say, New York have to face every moment when they’re paying tens of thousands of dollars a month in rent. Chicago allows chefs to experiment and feel comfortable with trying new things, without always worrying about being first or how high they are in the competition.”

What are some of your favorite restaurants in the Chicago area?

“I’m a neighborhood guy as opposed to downtown. I like, for example, Boka (Michelin star 2015) is one of my favorites right now. Boho (Bohemian House)—phenomenal schnitzel and housemade sausages. Jimmy’s Place in Forest Park for pizza, Vesuvio Bakery and sandwiches, Gibson’s. Hot dogs at Gene and Jude’s, in River Grove. Johnny’s Beef & Gyros.”

Jam Restaurant in Logan Square is owned by a Jeff Mauro, but that’s not the same guy.

“Yeah, it’s a different Jeff Mauro who owns Jam Restaurant. I actually had him appear as a guest on my Sandwich King show.”

What would you say to anyone who aspires to become a famous chef?

“Work in the kitchen at a restaurant for a summer. That’ll tell you whether you really want to cook and whether you can stand the life. Short order cook, work the line, whatever—for free most likely. Save yourself 30-40 grand for culinary school.”

Is there a book in your future?

“Maybe. Probably a memoir, though, not a cookbook. Anybody can get my recipes from TV. If I do write one, it’s more likely to be the story of my life.”

Anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

“God bless America!”

Top 3 winning burgers

3rd Annual Redeye Battle of the Burger sponsored by Amstel Light

  1. Leadbelly (Portage Park and Gladstone Park): Old Time Religion Burger – Roasted tomato, goat cheese, arugula and truffle aioli (and I might add, try their fabulous housemade butter cookies).
  2. Beef & Barley, 3001 N. Ashland: The “Smang It” Burger – Chipotle mayo, Spanish chorizo, avocado, jalapeno, lettuce, tomato and pickle.
  3. Whisk, 2018 W. Chicago: House Burger – Chihuahua cheese, chipotle mayo, guacamole and tortilla strips.

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