In a recent hard-to-watch, less-than-fair reality show moment, Chicago chef Radhika Desai was a "Top Chef" casualty in the dreaded "Restaurants War" challenge. Chicago has traditionally been well represented on the popular Bravo series, with walking sound bite Dale Levitski winning us all over in Season Three, and, of course, Stephanie Izard, winning it all last season. So, what's up with our favorite toques now that they're back in the city that loves to eat?
Desai's intimate Wicker Park restaurant, Between Boutique Cafe & Lounge, brings to life what you saw chef Desai cook up on "Top Chef," with a globally influenced menu of small plates and a seductive, artsy atmosphere. The restaurant has certainly upped its game since she's been back, recently unveiling intriguing nightly specials, including "Make-Out Mondays," with a showing of a classic Hollywood romance accompanied by cocktail specials and Desai's own gourmet popcorn. Tuesdays feature half-priced bottles of wine, while Wednesdays offer half-priced signature martinis with complimentary tasting plates of chef Desai's mini mantou spicy burgers. Thursdays bring a complimentary bottle of wine with a $50 food purchase, while a $30 trio special with three sharing plates is offered from 6-7PM on Fridays. You can also try a $5 hot buttered rum pot for two, a $25 single malt scotch flight or a $30 tequila flight on Fridays. A "Liquid Stimulus" offer also heats things up from 10PM-2AM Thursdays through Sundays, with $4 cocktail specials.
Levitski is keeping Chicago foodies salivating over his mysterious West Loop resto, Town & Country, which as of yet has no opening date. In the meantime, we'll have to make do with "Dine With Dale," a weekly dining club at West Town's Relax Lounge. Taking place each Thursday night from 7-9PM, "Dine With Dale" will offer a $25 three-course menu that changes weekly. The talented chef will get to show off in this laid-back lounge setting known more for burgers and bourbon than gourmet grub. But somehow, you just know Levitski is up for the challenge.
As for Izard, her blog hasn't been updated since September, when she announced that she was "hoping to secure a space for the restaurant in the next couple of weeks." What we do know is that the venture is supposed to be called Drunken Goat, and that she's partnered with Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz of the Boka Restaurant Group. Here's hoping that she's been too busy writing her menu to update her blog.