The Food Guy: A Trio of New Restaurants in Lakeview

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You’d never recognize the old Southport Lanes in Lakeview.

The former bowling alley and tavern is now three different concepts, offering a variety of dining experiences. There’s a little something for everyone – from Midwest rotisserie to Japanese robata – and lots of chicken. Here’s Steve Dolinsky tonight with the story.

Stephanie Izard is back in town, having re-opened her Little Goat Diner just this week, near a familiar corner in Lakeview. Comfy bowls like Chili Crunch Chicken and Dumplings fit in perfectly with the neighborhood vibe.

In front of the diner, GG’s Chicken Shop – named for the chef’s mom – is an all-day ode to the bird, where you can have it slowly cooked, spinning before your eyes. The kitchen will chop it up, or pull the juicy meat for use in sandwiches or salads. A bit of breading and a hard fry turns it into messy, two-fisted sandwiches.

“I was kind of raised with rotisserie, fried chicken, pot pies, as a kid, so I always wanted to do something in her name,” said chef and owner Lee Wolen. “We always have 30, 40 birds spinning on the rotisserie.”

“…Can I get a fried chicken sandwich please…”

Sandwiches are the stars here, but don’t sleep on the sides. Smashed potatoes are seasoned with chicken drippings; crispy Brussels sprouts are tossed with chili lime salt; Mexican-inspired sweet corn comes with lime, a dusting of chipotle and cotija cheese. Even the spice-rubbed waffle fries and dipping sauces are all made in-house. One more thing: save room for the oatmeal cream pie.

Next door, Itoko, which means “cousin,” is kind of a sister restaurant to Momotaro in the West Loop. That’s where Gene Kato worked previously, supervising everything from the sushi to the cooked items.

“Have all the great things about Momotaro – like the quality, the technique – but just make it a loose interpretation of Japanese food,” said Kato. “The handrolls are in the sushi category that we weren’t able to do at Momotaro.”

Don’t let those handrolls sit too long or the nori gets soggy. It doesn’t do the warm crab inside any favors. Kato’s skill in the hot kitchen is more impressive, especially at the robata, where blazing hot binchotan charcoals sear a number of skewers; the chicken thighs are particularly good.

“It’s also nice too, because you can order by the piece; most of our robata items are two pieces. It allows you to try different cuts of vegetables and meat,” he said.

Larger appetites should go for the roasted teriyaki chicken, topped with pickled onions, charred scallions and dried yuzu kosho, a condiment made from fermented fresh chiles.

“It’s cool to have a sushi/Japanese place, a fried chicken/rotisserie chicken and kind of an all-day diner to complement everything,” said Wolen.

Here's where you can go:

Little Goat Diner

3325 N. Southport Ave.


GG’s Chicken Shop

3325 N. Southport Ave.



3325 N. Southport Ave.


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