Ashok Selvam | Eater Chicago | June 14th, 2017
The chef behind Butcher & The Burger in Lincoln Park hopes his new Italian restaurant will solve an enigmatic corner in Lakeview that’s struggled to keep tenants. Sal’s Trattoria, 2834 N. Southport Ave., opens tonight and Allen Sternwelier says he’s focusing on great service and affordable prices to hopefully find success. The seemingly cursed space at Southport and Wolfram has been a revolving door for restaurants: Mirador, The Bentley Tavern, Palette Bistro, and the troubled Lucca’s have passed through since 2011.
Sternwelier said he isn’t concerned with the past. “I can only surmise if the previous restaurant operators were doing something right that they would still be there,” he said, as well as that he’s only focused on attracting local families with a casual atmosphere. Sternwelier estimated his crews remodeled about 70 percent of the old Mirador space. He’s confident that the group’s hard work, including countless hours of recipe tasting, will pay off. Take a look at the menu here.
There’s an emphasis on comfort at Sal’s, as Sternweiler isn’t trying to be a downtown or West Loop fine-dining restaurant. There’s even a TV hidden in the corner. “Spiaggia isn’t our competition,” he said. Sal’s will also take a traditional approach to cocktails — he’s not hiring a mixologist.
This isn’t a dream, West Loop wine lovers. Multilevel wine temple the Lunatic, the Lover & the Poet (736 W. Randolph St., 312-775-0069) comes to Restaurant Row in late August.
Managing partner/sommelier Tom Powers hopes his A Midsummer Night’s Dream-inspired spot will stoke as much passion for vino among Chicagoans as cocktails.
“At most places, either wines or cocktails take the lead,” says Powers. “We have elected to bring cocktails and wine to forefront together.”
The bar features 21 wines on tap, another 30 (15 upstairs, 15 downstairs) by the glass, and 200 bottles. Half are American wines, 40 percent are classic European, and the rest avantgarde. On the “provincial”-style first floor, with a 15-seat bar and 40-seat dining room, wines start at $10 a glass. Upstairs in the more posh lounge, which seats 50 (plus a 40-seat private dining room), wines start at $15 a glass. Got all that?
Steve Carrow (Naha, Brindille) is helming the cocktail program, which focuses on modern interpretations of the classics. And, in what Powers calls a likely first for the nation, each will list alcohol by volume.
The team tapped longtime Spiaggia vet Erik Freeberg (also of Bar Toma) as executive chef, whose small plates and a few entrées will be identical on both floors. Freeberg’s “devilish riffs on classic wine bar cuisine” may include Tunisian-style lamb meatballs braised in tomato and harissa, served with pomegranate molasses, schug, and minty yogurt.
There will be no dessert, only cheese—a mix of classic European and unique American styles, like the wines. “We all love cheese and don’t know much about it other than it’s delightful,” Powers says.
Call us lunatics, but did he just make “no dessert” sound enticing?