Hotel restaurants are like a mash-up of The Twilight Zone and the Bermuda Triangle. Weird stuff happens. Models eat carbs in sweatpants next to dudes in Beats headphones making music on Macbook Pros, while ingenues like Scarlett Johansson fall in love with washed up old men. Ok, that last part was a movie, but you know what I mean. Hotel restaurants also swallow up chefs’ careers like the Triangle claims ships and airliners. Advertisements
The world is pretty fucked up right now. Because I’m a lib, this means that certain ideas like arming children don’t really resonate with me. But, maybe you are different. Maybe you are mad because Purdue pharma worked really hard to misrepresent the safety of certain opiates, and you’re stuck in a vicious cycle of fear and loathing that you’ve channeled in to a crippling and destructive fear of the other. Either way, for both of us, the world is not working the way we expected.
When I first walked in to Green Street Smoked Meats, I remember telling owner Brendan Sodikoff to fuck off.
I felt like I’d walked into the secret love nest of Hugh Hefner and a crazy old bird lady. I know that sounds crazy. Like why would Hefner shack up with a bird lady? But, the dude loved quaaludes, so anything is possible. And even if he never did, Bellemore restaurant’s interior design looks like what would have happened if he had.
On the weekends, when the bankers flee to the ’burbs, filching swigs of liquor on the Metra, the LaSalle Street canyon goes dark. The corridor between Jackson Boulevard and Madison Street becomes a lonely hearts club, inhabited by scant hotel dwellers and a few stragglers purged from revelry at The Berghoff or Miller’s Pub. It’s precisely the kind of noir landscape you’d expect Batman might perch above on a skyscraper cornice, contemplating his existential doom.
Like George Clooney, cocktails get better with age.
Ronero, a new Latin American/Cuban restaurant in the West Loop, is the kind of place where I’d imagine dictators or Scarface spending a night away from the rigors of managing a cartel. You could easily picture Fidel Castro hunkered down in one of the rattan peacock chairs, smoking a Cohiba and regarding the glass chandeliers while stroking the straggly tendrils of his prodigious beard.
If you’ve ever dated someone who uses really good-smelling shampoo, you’ve probably found yourself leaning in to catch a whiff. Or maybe it wasn’t shampoo, but a cologne or a scent on a T-shirt or the lingering tang of lip balm after a kiss. The point is, you’re kind of intoxicated or haunted by that scent depending on your experience with its wearer. I had the same reaction to the first dish I tried at Elske, a new West Loop restaurant from husband-and-wife duo David (Blackbird) and Anna Posey (The Publican).
There’s a semi-famous painting called “The Treachery of Images” by Belgian surrealist René Magritte. It’s not as well-known as the artist’s painting of a man in a bowler hat with an apple in front of his face, but you’ve probably seen it. It’s a painting of a pipe with the caption “Ceci n’est pas une pipe,” or in English, “This is not a pipe.
From the street, you might gaze longingly into Ema, a new River North spot from chef C.J. Jacobson (Intro) and Lettuce Entertain You, and see an oasis. Sheer curtains flutter in the breeze, wicker pendant light fixtures sway and glasses of rosé drip with condensation. White string lights hanging across an indoor trellis cast a gauzy light against green vines.