Filling the sprawling lobby of the nine-story Chase Apartments in Rogers Park is the new Chase Cafe, a multipurpose facility that's part coffee shop, part art gallery, part live-music venue, and part health club. Phil Tadros, who briefly owned Don's Coffee Club on Jarvis, has converted this unusual web of rooms--the building was originally an elegant hotel--into a neighborhood hangout. There's a lot going on: one room's a computer lab/copy shop doubling as a cyber cafe; another contains a pool table and a gift shop, separated by beaded curtains; and the most spectacular is the octagonal ballroom, where the stage is already booked through the next several months with live music and improv theater. Romano Machiato, an artist who lives in the building, painted the ballroom walls with a mural of the sky, which changes from dawn to dusk as it wraps around the room. In a bright cheerful space just off the ballroom, Tadros has brought in workers from Evanston's Center for Muscle Therapy to offer hourly massages; also in the works are yoga and tai chi classes. The last room, the only one that allows smoking, is a sitting area with couches, chairs, and a fireplace. The small but accommodating staff will fix panini, homemade soups, or a variety of vegetarian salads or heat up muffins brought in from Little Miss Muffin. Feel free to BYO; there's also a fresh juice bar and an espresso bar serving Intelligentsia coffee. Chase Cafe is at 7301 N. Sheridan, 773-743-5650.
Residential construction continues on West Madison, and the Maryland-style crab house crab street saloon intends to meet future demand. In the space formerly home to Via Bella, new owners have replaced the red-and-white-checked tablecloths with butcher paper and crab crates full of hot sauce, saltines, and rolls of paper towels, just like they do it in Baltimore. A brick wall is now covered with an aquatic-themed mural, and fish netting is draped from the magnificent refurbished turn-of-the-century bar running the length of the front room. Raw-bar selections include a daily assortment of oysters--one day there were Delaware, Salt Aire, and Fannie Bay--along with fresh clams, peel-and-eat shrimp, and chilled king or snow crab legs. For $15 each, three people or more can order the Crab Street Boil: a bucket of crab, shrimp, and oysters steamed with red potatoes and corn on the cob, spilled onto the table for interactive (and messy) dining. There are also the obligatory fried offerings--chicken, beer-battered cod, calamari, and popcorn shrimp--plus burgers. Management might be best off sticking to the east-coast theme, as their one foray into Cajun food--soupy jambalaya with andouille sausage, shrimp, crab, and more rice than anything--pales in comparison to the fresh seafood. House specialty drinks include fruity hurricanes and key lime margaritas, and there's an extensive selection of tap beers and wines by the glass. Crab Street Saloon is at 1061 W. Madison, 312-433-0013.
Classically trained chef Roy Yamaguchi opened his first namesake restaurant in Honolulu in 1988, serving a style of cuisine he called Hawaiian fusion. Now Roy's is a chain with 30 locations, though you wouldn't guess it from the stylish room and high-quality fare. This branch, located at the corner of State and Superior, is massive: the 7,000-square-foot room, which seats over 200 people, features 20-foot vaulted ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, crimson walls hung with striking modern prints, and a central exhibition kitchen crowded with the largest culinary staff I've ever seen. Service and food more than make up for the frenzied atmosphere and the overwhelming scale. An assortment of Roy's classics starts off the menu, executed by chef Tom Hope, a Chicago native who spent four years training with the company in locations from Hawaii to Denver. There's an appetizer of delicate Japanese-style misoyaki butterfish resting on baby bok choy in a sweet ginger-wasabi butter; another option is skewered coconut shrimp in a chili-spiked cocktail sauce. A salad of Asian poached pears, candied walnuts, and Maytag blue cheese lightly tossed in a lemongrass red wine vinaigrette has a lot going on, but it works. A category of entrees titled "roasted, grilled, and steamed" features a triad of Chinese duck preparations: sliced rare breast, an impressive confit, and a leg with wok-fried rice, all in a wonderful star anise mango sauce. A good option for sampling is the mixed plate, which changes daily; it might combine honey mustard short ribs and butterfish or blackened ahi and lemongrass-crusted shutome (Hawaiian swordfish) in a Thai basil peanut sauce. The wine list is particularly outstanding, with close to a dozen hard-to-find offerings by the glass and several bottles specially labeled for Roy's from such notable vineyards as Iron Horse, De Loach, and Au Bon Climat. The melting hot chocolate souffle with fresh seasonal fruit--which has to be ordered at the same time as the entree--is a must-try for chocolate lovers. Service is attentive and cheerful, although all the "alohas" can get a bit silly. Roy's is at 720 N. State, 312-787-7599.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Newberry.