Partners Jim Horan (Blue Plate, Rhapsody) and Matthew O'Malley (Chicago Firehouse, Tiny Lounge) won the food service contract for the long-awaited 24.5-acre Millennium Park, at the northwest corner of Grant Park between Randolph and Monroe. The prize includes multiple kiosks in the summer, a grab 'n' go sandwich-and-salad shop, and PARK GRILL, a 300-seat restaurant. The enormous space has views of the McCormick-Tribune ice rink and Michigan Avenue; every seat is a good one. If the scene outside isn't entertaining enough, you can watch sports on one of the two big-screen TVs in the raised bar area. But the solid American cooking of Bernard Laskowski (Bin 36, MK North) is what most people will remember. There's fried calamari with homemade remoulade, barbecued chicken wings with blue cheese, an array of salads, and several soups to warm skaters. Entrees from the grill are mainly for carnivores--a 16-ounce bone-in rib eye with horseradish cream sauce, a rotisserie-roasted then grilled double-cut pork chop, and a mushroom burger. The city has yet to give Park Grill a liquor license, so it's BYO for now. Park Grill is at 11 N. Michigan, 312-521-7175.
Juan Ortiz cooked for 28 years in other people's restaurants. Owning his own place was "always my husband's dream," according to Maria Ortiz, teacher by day, restaurateur by night. When the Colombian restaurant El Llano moved a block north on Lincoln, the Ortiz family jumped at the new vacancy and opened JALAPENO SABROSO. The space is nicely revamped, with coral-and-canary walls and large paintings by Pilsen artist Oscar Romero. The food doesn't break any new ground, but it isn't trying to. The Ortizes' home-style sopa Azteca (tortilla soup loaded with chicken, cheese, and avocados), fresh guacamole, and tasty carne asada all come with rice and beans. Fajitas and burritos are served piping hot and burst with distinct flavors, as does the house special, bistec de lomo a la pimienta (New York strip steak pounded thin, marinated in garlic and lime juice, then charred). Vegetarian specials are listed on the back of the menu, including chiles rellenos, quesadilla de espinaca (filled with spinach), and a burrito stuffed with beans, mushrooms, carrots, cheese, and cauliflower. Jalapeno Sabroso is at 3900 N. Lincoln, 773-281-0277.
The intersection of North, Damen, and Milwaukee hardly needs another restaurant. But that didn't stop Double Door owners Andy Barrett and Sean Mulroney from teaming up with John McNaughton (Redmond's) to open TRE VIA RISTORANTE, an ambitious Italian restaurant--their second in the area. (Santullo's is just around the corner and shares the kitchen.) The stools at the bar, which runs the length of the room, are popular, and you can order anything off the extensive menu from there, including thin-crust pizza with a variety of toppings and appetizers, like the moist and plump caramelized sea scallops wrapped in pancetta and glazed in fig vinaigrette. The veal skirt steak is nicely presented on a bed of wild arugula with a piquant lemon butter sauce. The risotto is done just right--each kernel has good bite and the wild mushrooms are fresh and flavorful. There are also casual options like pastas and salads and several appetizers that could make for a quick meal. The menu lists more than 50 Italian and domestic wines, with more than 20 poured by the glass. Tre Via is at 1575 N. Milwaukee, 773-227-7990.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Andre J. Jackson.