Cold Comfort

Thu. January 10, 2013 12:00 AM
by Rick Karlin

January through Valentine's Day is usually a slow time for restaurants. To help entice people to come in from the cold many spots around town are offering special menus, deals and inaugurating new programs. Here's a sample of what's going on.

Pie Hole is coming to Andersonville! Rumor has it that the popular Lakeview pizza joint, Piehole, will be opening a second location in the former Clark's on Clark space at Ainslie and Clark. They couldn't have timed the opening better as rumor also has it that the much-lauded Great Lakes Pizza is closing its doors. No word yet on whether Great Lakes has a new space in mind.

Speaking of second locations, the uber-popular (and rightfully so) Kuma's Corner is bringing its heavy metal, biker bar influenced menu to Lakeview. The folks behind Kuma's have signed a lease to take over the former Counter space at 666 W. Diversey. Wonder if the address was an added incentive?

El's Kitchen & Bar, 1450 W. Webster, in Lincoln Park is hosting a re-launch party on Thursday, Jan. 31. Stop in between 7 and 9 p.m. for free appetizers in addition to select beers, wines, and cocktails. Check out the old school jukebox, video games and albums covering the walls. El's Kitchen & Bar will host a video game contest. The high score of the evening will receive a grand prize of dinner for two.

After disastrous reviews, City Winery has brought in the executive chef from its New York location, Andres Barrera in an attempt to shake things up. His first order of business was streamlining Chicago's production and table service by unveiling a revised, small plates/sharing-and-pairing menu. Let's see if the management can solve its front-of-house issues as well.

David Burke's Primehouse Executive Chef, Rick Gresh, will demonstrate how to grill, broil, bake and heat foods on salt blocks in a Jan. 29 class at the recreational cooking school's Merchandise Mart location. Gresh will share his recipes and tips to using salt blocks during his demonstration class at The Chopping Block. Students will also receive a salt block valued at $30, which is included in the $60 price of the class.

Bistro Voltaire, 226 W. Chicago, has expanded its Monday night prix fixe menu through Thursday, to accommodate the theatre crowd. From 5 to 7 p.m. the three-course menu is $29.

Brasserie 54 in Andersonville will offer brunch followed by a special Sunday supper menu for dinner. The supper menu is a three-course family style meal featuring a choice of soup or salad, three entrée options including fish, meat and vegetarian, two family style sides and a choice of two desserts for $20 per person. In addition, a featured 17-ounce carafe of wine will be available for an additional $14. The regular menu will no longer be available on Sundays.

Lillie's Q chef/owner Charlie McKenna will open a second Lillie's Q location inside the Chicago French Market in the West Loop in late January. At the French Market location, McKenna's will serve about half of the same menu he serves at his Lillie's Q restaurant in Bucktown. One dish that will only be available at the Lillie's Q in the Chicago French Market will be scratch-made kettle chips dusted with either pimiento cheese powder.

Mercadito announced the donation of $4,017 to benefit Share Our Strength, a culmination of a year-long fundraiser. Mercadito's "Tacos for Strength" featured a signature specialty taco by a different celebrated chef each month with five percent of proceeds benefitting Share Our Strength in the fight against childhood hunger. Due to overwhelming support from the chefs and guests, Mercadito will continue the campaign for a third year beginning in January 2013. A new lineup of talented chefs and notable personalities in the community will create inspired tacos for Mercadito restaurants in New York, Miami and Chicago. Part of this year's lineup includes the following chefs and personalities, Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia (January), Ingrid Hoffman of Latin Burger and Taco Food Truck (March), Chef Gene Kato (Sumi Robata) and Todd Erickson of Haven (November).Since many of the chefs utilize flavors outside of Mexican cuisine, signature tacos represent the featured chef's style of food, restaurant, and community.