When A TASTE OF HEAVEN owner Dan McCauley learned a couple years ago that his landlord planned to convert the Ravenswood building that housed his cafe and bakery into condominiums, he started looking for a new space. He found one--nearly twice as large as the old location--and last month he moved his equipment, staff, and furniture to Andersonville. "I heard just last week that he changed his mind and a new restaurant will go into the space," says McCauley. "But we're so busy over here, it was a blessing in disguise." Four weeks after opening, the new place is already doing twice the business the old one, at Foster and Paulina, ever did. A lot of that comes from the cafe's rich treats, like raspberry crumble bars, orange poppy seed cake, giant sugar cookies, and heavenly mini apple pies, and McCauley plans to gradually add more lunch and dinner entrees to the cafe's menu, which already features spinach lasagna, chicken potpie, soups, salads, and sandwiches with meat piled high on homemade bread. "But we want to continue serving good, simple food and nothing else," he says. The cafe's new home is lovely as well as spacious, with natural light streaming in through two walls of windows. "I like the idea of sitting in the window watching all the cool people walk by," said one customer, smiling as she dug in to an oversize muffin and a big glass of iced tea. A Taste of Heaven is at 5401 N. Clark, 773-989-0151.
It seemed like the end of an era when CANDLELITE, a popular Rogers Park neighborhood tavern that had been gradually disintegrating for a couple of decades, finally shut down in late 2001. Nobody can pinpoint the year it opened: "It's all word of mouth, the history of this place," says Patrick Breslin, one of the managers. "There are lots of great stories. We're pretty sure it opened in the 50s, though." The doors stayed locked for two and a half years. Then this March, Evanston Athletic Club owner Pat Cunningham and his partners, Al Chalem, Pete Vernon, and Mike Axelrood, rejuvenated the place, adding 1,700 square feet of space, floor-to-ceiling windows, a pool table, and 17 televisions. "There's not a bad seat in the house," Breslin says, "not even in the bathroom," where there's a TV in each stall. His team hasn't messed with the comfy tavern feel or the old neon sign over the front door. The menu concentrates on pizza, sandwiches, and American entrees; daily specials include barbecued pork chops, grilled chicken in pesto cream with linguine, and fish tacos. The only holdover from the old menu--a thin-crust pizza that local families used to line up for--isn't quite the same, but it's still good. Currently there's live R & B on the second Wednesday of each month; there are plans to book more music. Candlelite is at 7452 N. Western, 773-465-0087.
Sam Youkhanna sold his long-lived Wild Onion restaurant in 2001 to devote more time to his general-contracting firm, National Painting and Decorating. "It was too hard to do both at once," he says. He kept a foot in the restaurant world, though, wallpapering, painting, and drywalling places like Le Colonial and Japonais. He's now back as majority owner of ROOM 22, a new River North restaurant and lounge that's taken over the former Jaipur Palace. (Jaipur's owner, Kamlesh Amin, owns 5 percent of Room 22, which employs some of the old restaurant's staff.) "I got some stronger managers at my company," Youkhanna says. "I have time now." The ambitious menu of mostly small plates is obviously the work of an experienced chef; Youkhanna can't yet disclose who this is, due to the chef's involvement with another River North establishment, but the chef de cuisine is Joseph Rossi, who's worked at Wave and One Sixty Blue. Toast points are topped with spiced duck rillettes and orange mash and drizzled with truffle honey; roasted candy-stripe and golden baby beets are accompanied by mildly salty ricotta and frilly microgreens; skate is coated with pistachios, sauteed in brown butter, and served with orange-braised spring onions and kumquats; braised lamb comes with hand-cut rosemary noodles and oyster mushrooms. Youkhanna's brought his contracting skills to the table too, collaborating with interior decorator Thomas Sorner to install gorgeous Brazilian walnut floors and a 40-foot teak-and-granite bar, paint and paper the walls in shades of brown and red, and upholster the chairs and banquettes with velvet, suede, leather, and vinyl. There's already a drinks-focused crowd descending on the place, but fickle as barhoppers tend to be, there may be more room soon for diners. Room 22 is at 22 E. Hubbard, 312-527-4900.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/A. Jackson.