GP FRANKLIN'S, whose menu bears the sober legend "A Timeless Place," was designed to remind diners of an old five-and-dime. The decor is nostalgic (there's a tin ceiling, a soda fountain, a marble-topped fudge table, and posters of turn-of-the-century candy ads) and hyperpatriotic (pleated flags hang from the rafters and a mural depicting the storming of San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American war is painted on one wall). The fare is basic American burgers, sandwiches, and salads accompanied by comfort foods like baked beans, coleslaw, and potato salad. Kids' options include the obligatory stuff: chicken fingers, miniburgers, and mac 'n' cheese. But the highlights are the soda-fountain treats--hand-mixed cherry Coke, rich egg creams, and sundaes made with homemade ice cream. "All the recipes came from family and friends," says owner Gerard Prendergast, a veteran manager of local steak houses (Ditka's, Magnum's), who says his kids inspired him to open the new place. GP Franklin's is at 4767 N. Lincoln, 773-293-1900.
The team behind Le Passage--Billy Dec and Brad Young of the Bedroom and Dragon Room and Rick Wahlstedt and Joe King of Le Colonial--have just opened ROCKIT BAR & GRILL, a more affordable and casual version of their various restaurant-cum-nightclubs. They've hired consulting chef Patrick Robertson and executive chef James Gottwald (both of One Sixty Blue) to create and execute a menu that's more elegant than it reads. It features French-inspired dishes, including onion soup, lamb hot pot with radicchio, chicken paillard (flattened chicken breast with olives and feta), and steamed Prince Edward Island mussels with spicy chorizo, along with gussied-up tavern fare like Rockit Burgers (ground Kobe beef topped with foie gras and black truffles) and Black Angus meat loaf sandwiches. There's also a bar-food section with snacks like warm soft pretzels with mustard, jumbo chicken wings, spinach-and-artichoke dip, and frozen Snickers and Milky Way bars. Serious desserts include profiteroles and a dark-chocolate mousse served in a martini glass with tangerine glaze. (A modified late-night menu is served until 1:30.) The second floor is done up like a modern lodge: antler chandeliers, tables made from tree stumps, and four custom-made pool tables. Even the nine plasma screens are surrounded by antique-looking picture frames. The powerful sound system pumps what the press packet calls "innovative new sounds" but is actually the kind of unique medley you can re-create in your car by setting your radio to scan: Coldplay, Ozzy, the White Stripes, Duran Duran. The decibel level rises as the evening progresses. Rockit Bar & Grill is at 22 W. Hubbard, 312-645-6000.
The simply prepared food and minimalist interior at Alex Fournier, Steven Ford, and Quay Tao's Lincoln Square eatery ACQUALINA contrast dramatically with the tone of Ford and Tao's first endeavor, the over-the-top Mediterranean restaurant Tizi Melloul. While a few dishes at the new place are inspired by that region's cuisine--a perfectly cooked medium-rare pistachio-crusted lamb is served with garbanzo stew, and the grilled striped bass comes with shaved fennel drizzled in olive oil--chef Greg Dahare's menu emphasizes seasonal produce and pure flavors. A pan-seared scallop appetizer came dressed with a yellow squash caponata and bright green parsley essence, and a flatbread special was topped with intensely flavorful mission figs, blue cheese, and caramelized onions. The lyonnaise salad combines baby spinach and frisee, toasted pistachios, and lardons, topped with a poached egg and an earthy black truffle-sherry vinaigrette. The wonderful Amish chicken comes in aromatic tarragon jus with spring peas and baby carrots. The wine list has close to a dozen by-the-glass options between $5 and $8, and a limited but intriguing list of bottles from Italy, Argentina, Chile, and Spain, with a few French and American choices thrown in; most are $40 and under. The decor leans toward natural fibers--the floors are dark wood, the chairs are upholstered in leather, bamboo stalks surround the host stand--set off by orange light fixtures and chartreuse table lamps. The servers seem to anticipate your needs, refilling your water glass but not clearing plates too early. Acqualina is at 4363 N. Lincoln, 773-770-4363.
Other Recent Openings
Adobo Grill, 2005 W. Division, 773-252-9990. A Wicker Park offshoot of the popular Old Town Mexican restaurant.
La Bodega Chicago, 1851 W. Addison, 773-248-7560. A cheerful corner eatery serving breakfast and lunch, along with Intelligentsia coffee and espresso drinks.
Ember Grill, 320 N. Dearborn, 312-836-5499. Mediterranean-American newcomer replacing Celebrity Cafe inside the Westin River North.
Goddess and Grocer, 1646 N. Damen, 773-342-3200. Debra Sharpe of Feast tries her hand at upscale grab-and-go fare.
Katachi, 3911 N. Sheridan, 773-880-5340. A quaint 25-seat Japanese restaurant serving traditional dishes and sushi.
Lucky's Sandwich Company, 3472 N. Clark, 773-549-0665. The overstuffed sandwich with hand-cut fresh fries in the sandwich, popular in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, comes to Wrigleyville.
Miramar Bistro, 301 Waukegan, Highwood, 847-433-1078. Gabriel Viti of Gabriel's melds French bistro and Cuban food.
Turquoise, 2147 W. Roscoe, 773-549-3523. Turkish cuisine by a former Cousin's owner in a more refined Roscoe Village space.
Abu Nawas, 2411 N. Clark; Akai Hana, 848 N. State; Albert's Cafe & Patisserie, 52 W. Elm; Barro Cantina, 163 W. North; Hong Min, 221 W. Cermak.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/A. Jackson.