The Pioneer Tavern Group, the folks behind the Pony Inn in Lakeview and Lottie's Pub in Bucktown, have announced that their new project, Frontier (1072 N. Milwaukee, 773-772-4322, thefrontierchicago.com), will open in West Town on Thursday, February 10. Executive chef Brian Jupiter will be tapping into two trends: oysters (there will be eight to ten varieties) and whole-animal cookery, spit-roasting entire pigs, lambs, goats, or boar for groups of eight to 12; there's also a chef's table. His menu features items like wild boar served with sweet potatoes and wilted dandelion greens and a shepherd's pie made with braised elk roast. The western-themed space includes a 40-foot bar with 16 craft beers on ice taps, scads of flat-screen TVs, and an upstairs lounge where DJs will spin. There are also plans for a 2,500-square-foot outdoor beer garden.
Justin Hall and Molly Schemper of FIG Catering are planning a pop-up restaurant called Cupid's Pop-Up for Valentine's Day. It'll be open at the Space Station Studio (3348 N. Pulaski, figcatering.com) from 6:30 to 8:30 PM and offer three- and four-course prix fixe menus with optional wine pairings; you can also BYO. Choices include sweet potato souffle, country pork pate, Pleasant Ridge mac 'n' cheese with shaved black truffle, pan-seared local trout, a coffee-rubbed rib eye with Gorgonzola custard, molten chocolate cake, and honey-lavender panna cotta. It's $70 for three courses, $85 for four, with pairings an additional $50. Reservations required; call 773-793-1035.
In a news conference held at Bridgeport's Growing Power Iron Street Farm Tuesday, mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel said he leaned toward allowing food trucks with onboard cooking, suggesting—as has Illinois Restaurant Association head Sheila O'Grady—that they might play a role in eliminating food deserts. (Numerous attempts to reach O'Grady concerning the IRA's position on the issue have been unsuccessful.) According to the Sun-Times's Fran Spielman, Emanuel "also vowed to rewrite zoning laws that prohibit produce grown on urban agricultural sites from being sold on-site." His challenger Miguel del Valle (the only candidate we were able to contact) said he is also in favor of food trucks, but dismissed the notion that they are an answer to the problem of food deserts: "What we need are stores and small businesses—we need to build up communities." Not to mention that residents of poor neighborhoods on the south and west sides are hardly likely to be in the market for an $8 Gaztro-Wagon naanwich.
David Najman, chef at Glenn's Diner for the last five years and partner for three, has moved to over to Ellen Haran's Lincoln Park restaurant El's Kitchen, where he says he'll be "deconstructing" and refining the menu of American food with "southern flair" and some Cajun and creole influences. Brisket will continue to be smoked in-house, and the restaurant's fried chicken—described by our reviewer as "the best we've had in years"—isn't going anywhere.
Maybe there's something in the air: last week saw the openings of both Lincoln Park's Taco Joint Urban Taqueria and Cantina, a late-night spot from Edgar Castaneda of Zocalo, and Lakeview's Barrio Urban Taqueria, which has an extensive menu including huitlacoche sopes, cochinita pibil, and posole made with pork from Duroc Farms. It's open till 11 PM nightly; carryout is in the works.
Lincoln Park's La Trattoria del Merlo closed last month. Merlo sales and marketing director Landon Heck says the owners, executive chef Luisa Silvia Marani and her husband, Giampaolo Sassi>, haven't yet decided what they'll do with the space.