New & Noteworthy

Thu. July 19, 2007 12:00 AM
by Andy Farriester

Chicago's dining scene runs parallel to Chicago's weather..Give it five minutes and it will change. During the past ten years that I have been lucky enough to call Chicago home, I have personally witnessed no more than 10 restaurants change hands, owners, all together shut down. I know there are many more, but I was only talking about my neighborhood.

In lieu of reviewing these new and noteworthy restaurants, I felt it best just to give you, the reader, a head's up so that you will hopefully get out there and check them out. I, for one, only hope that these restaurants stick around for a long time to come.

Noodles & Company, 2813 N. Broadway (773) 661-0977
A chain with a heart of gold. Noodles & Company recently settled into what was once an Indian restaurant cum nightclub. The interior space is large and airy with neutral tones to help ease you into some of the best pasta dishes around. The menu covers the globe in search of the best noodle-centric dishes. Asian, Mediterranean and American Classics with such offerings as Udon noodles with fresh veggies, Pesto Cavatappi, perfectly al dente curly pasta smothered in a creamy pesto sauce and tomatoes. Although my favorite offerings are those comfort classics such as Mac & Cheese and Egg Noodles. All dishes can be made to your liking. Add as many veggies, sauces and proteins as you see fit.

Sura Thai Bistro, 3124 N. Broadway (773) 248-7872
What's all white with funky interiors and serves amazing Thai cuisine? Sura Thai Bistro, of course! Sura quietly opened a few weeks ago in the space which once housed Mars. The brains behind Sura are stars in their own rights, having already conquered the finicky New York market with some uber-sexy spots that dot that island.

Once inside the all white space you'll find a curvy bar takes up the main front room with a few bean bag chairs along the floor and a few egg chairs hanging from the ceiling. The entire back area of the restaurant is dotted with four tops and large banquettes on the side walls. Ample seating for close to 100+.

The menu at Sura does away with Pad Thai, instead opting for unique takes on Thai classics. Such as Braised Duck in Pinot Noir, Crab Meat Fried Rice, etc. Sura also offers a staggering number of Thai tapas. As with any "tapas" joint, one can make a meal of a few small plates or substitute some tapas as a starter prior to main entrée. Everything is beautifully plated that only adds to the amazing flavor combinations. For now, Sura still remains BYO as it patiently awaits for another Chicago restaurant to close so that they will be able to acquire their own license.

Pops for Champagne, 601 N. State (312) 266-7677
Pops for Champagne isn't considered "new" but definitely "noteworthy" as they have vacated the space on Sheffield where they became whom they are today 25 years ago. Noting that changes in the neighborhood and a desire to introduce Pops for Champagne to a larger audience, Tom and Linda Verhey; Pops owners, up and moved into the River North area..Not just any old space, though. Pops for Champagne is now housed in the beautiful, protected landmark Tree Studios. Housed in over 6,000 square feet with a Jazz Club in the lower level, Pops has been able to maintain the vibe and energy from Sheffield while also upping the ante to become one of the preeminent "must see" spots of Chicago. Sparkling Wine and Champagne are still the main focus and food is served appetizer sized, albeit with massive, exploding flavors.

Pops for Champagne also boasts the only retail space in America which is solely dedicated to Sparkling Wine and Champagne, ONLY! The Pop's Shop, as they call it, also hosts Weekly seminars on Wednesday evenings from 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. Usually ranging in price from $10-$20.

This fickle business that we lovingly call "the restaurant biz" tends to be swayed by trends. What's hot in the world of beverages, what's the newest culinary trend but there are those restaurants for some reason or another can't seem to get the upper hand and are forced to shutter their windows and move on. Sometimes it's about location, other's say it's a cursed location. Hopefully, if a new restaurant, bar moves into your neighborhood and you find yourself impressed with it..Get the word out. Scream it to the mountains. Don't horde that new restaurant to yourself for fear that everyone will hear about it and it will become crowded. These restaurants want these patrons. Keep Chicago's business in business. Support your local gay-friendly businesses.