Until I tasted the oat milk cappuccino with vanilla at Graze (1632 W Division), I’d summarily dismissed all of the alternative milks, juices and waters. But as I reminded myself, there’s a growing market out there that embraces these same options, and if I’m going to write about the current food scene, I have to at least sample them. Graze, as it turns out, is a good place to do precisely that.
Chef/owner Mason Edelson began working in restaurants when he was 16, and his resume is crowded with excellent restaurants and a degree in hospitality. Even so, it wasn’t until he spent time on the West Coast that he started developing the business plan that led to the opening of the first Graze in the Revival Food Hall, followed by venues in both of Studio 3’s locations. Edelson continued to tweak the menu, eventually expanding the concept enough to switch out the venue in Revival Hall for the new stand-alone space on Division.
Graze’s decor is as “now” as its menu, a sleek mix of 21st-century furnishings and artwork that’s attractive, uncluttered, and relaxing. Better yet, everything on the menu is gluten-free, plant-based and “thoughtfully” sourced, in addition to being “fresh, nutritious” and “mindfully prepared.”
Encouraged to sample the menu while Mason and I talked, I ordered the aforementioned cappuccino and a tasty bowl made with a base of dragonfruit, vowing to try one of the acai (a-sigh-ee) bowls and a smoothie on my next visit.
Note: Acai is a grape-like berry that’s harvested from acai palm trees, which are native to the rainforests of South America, and it-along with goji berries, dragonfruit and an expanding goup of other interesting fruits, vegetables and grains-is touted as a superfood.
Graze, 1632 W Division 773.904.8722
Chicago French Market
Given the escalating rents in many of the city’s neighborhoods, food halls are a more affordable option for local restaurants interested in tapping into River North, the Loop, Streeterville and adjacent neighborhoods than a single vendor restaurant. On the other side of the equation, food halls offer a mix of convenience and diversity. The Chicago French Market, for example, has 30-plus vendors, making it possible for someone who offices nearby to eat there for a month without ordering the same thing twice.
Included in the Market’s current line-up are venues offering Cajun/Creole, Ethiopian, Belgian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Turkish, Mediterranean, Italian, Caribbean and a host of other cuisines. For a complete list of vendors, click on the following link: https://frenchmarketchicago.com/vendors
Chicago French Market, 131 N. Clinton, 312.575.0306
North Pond is unique, from its decor and location to its cuisine and early emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. It’s also a restaurant in transition, with chef Tim Vidrio replacing chef/partner Bruce Sherman, who recently retired after heading up the kitchen at North Pond for more than twenty years.
North Pond was originally built in 1912 as a warming house for ice skaters. More than eighty years later, the building was redesigned in accord with the Arts and Crafts tradition and then reopened as a restaurant. During Sherman’s tenure, North Pond gained a reputation as one of the city’s best, a restaurant known both for the quality of its food and for the skill and creativity of its chef.
None of this fazes Vidrio, who joined the North Pond staff in early 2011 and was promoted to chef de cuisine in 2016. While he’s planning a subtle transition, he’s included two new dishes on his inaugural tasting menu: pan roasted venison loin with poached huckleberries and a spruce “pesto” and pan-seared scallops with a pumpkin mole.
Dinner at Chez Moi on the last Thursday of Restaurant Week 2020 was delicious, and with entrees like bouillabaisse and beef Wellington on the $36 menu, it was definitely a good buy. Kudos to chef/ owner Dominique Tougne.
Chez Moi, 2100 N. Halsted 773.871.2100
Aba Restaurant, 302 N. Green Street,773.645 1400
Le Sud has added a Wednesday night prix-fixe to its calendar. Priced at $36, the three course dinner includes a starter, main course and dessert. Expect main courses like steak frites, Provencal rabbit stew, and trout almandine.
Le Sud, 2301 W Roscoe St.,773.857.1985
Two Lights Seafood & Oyster
Two Lights Seafood & Oyster is Wednesday night is doing an all-you-can-eat mussel special on Wednesday nights for $19.95. Guests have the option of sampling all three of the available sauces: white wine, sweet & spicy ginger, and tomato saffron.
Two Lights Seafood & Oyster, 227 W. North Ave., 312.929.3091
Torali, Italian Steak at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago
Torali, Italian Steak is celebrating Leap Year Day with an entree and a glass of wine for $29. Entree options include Waygu tenderloin, shrimp risotto, scallops, various pastas and chicken Vesuvio.
Torali, Italian Steak at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago, 160 E. Pearson Street 12th floor 312.573.5160