At Untitled, the River North "speakeasy" that announces its name only on a sign touting valet parking, Mike Sula finds an initially appealing hideout with imposing black doors, curtained booths, a back patio, a "secret" entrance, a "whiskey library," and performance spaces hosting jazz and burlesque. Given its scope and ambition, the food's impressive: chef Joseph Heppe makes good on promises of seasonality, offering "arugula with firm but sweet grilled peaches, delicately battered and deep-fried squash blossoms filled with warm farmer's cheese, favas and mache sprinkled about with bloodred bresola shavings." The success of other plates, like a loose, juicy bison burger, bodes well for the rest of the year. But alas, there's the rest of the place—servers disappear into the noise, there's no printed list available for what's claimed to be the "largest selection of American whiskey in the world," and pricey cocktails are atrociously executed. In Sula's view, despite its vastness, Untitled winds up seeming stuffy and claustrophobic, "the kind of party where you feel utterly alone."
In Cocktail Challenge, Paramount Room's Allison Hagio, challenged with Spam, rose to the occasion by grilling it with fruit and using the resulting liquid in her "OO Spam juice," a concoction made with Old Overholt rye and maple syrup. That supplies the fat and savor in her rum-based cocktail, Walk the Plank; lime juice, Luxardo cherry liqueur, and rhubarb bitters help keep the Spamminess in check. Next up is Luis Rodriguez of Carnivale, working with caraway seeds.