At the corner of Armitage Avenue and the Kennedy expressway, some only see a Volvo dealership and a neo-Georgian red brick office building, a bland dereliction of architectural duty. Though it has long been demolished, I instead see myself at 3 a.m. sitting in the corner booth at Marie’s Riptide lounge where minutes ago I’ve dropped a dime and conjured Patsy. The gifts of Willie Nelson and my bourbon-addled brain are en fuego as Cline does her glissando slide amidst a honky-tonk piano tinkle into the opening line… CRA-zeee! Shots roll from the bottle, proffered by THE Marie (Wuczynski), the bar’s snowy-bouffant-crowned namesake. Though she is geriatric, she is always game. She pours one for me, and one for her. I am, whether I like it or not, and oh, God do I, paying for both.
The King of Spain was not waiting in the bar tonight. But, if he were, I know I would have been seated first. I cannot blame the King of Spain for not yet dining at Pacific Standard Time (PST), the new restaurant from the partnership of One Off Hospitality (Paul Kahan, Donnie Madia, et al.) and Underscore Hospitality (Erling Wu-Bower, Joshua Tilden). Like me, he probably heard the name of the restaurant and shook his head. Which is to say, it feels a little weird to have a restaurant that is an homage to California produce and “California coast soul” (sadly, Marvin Gaye is not involved) named after a Western time zone open in Chicago. I suppose I’m being provincial, but if you opened a restaurant named Central Standard Time in Los Angeles serving Italian beef and tater tot hot dish, Jonathan Gold might just resurrect the LA Times rating system just to award no stars at all.
In the last few years, “dad rock” has been used as pejorative shorthand for critics to dismiss bands or music of a certain ilk. Such music is usually plaintive, nostalgic, seemingly simplistic, maudlin or sometimes just fringe complex and weird.
The true character of a restaurant is often measured by what its crew does when no one is watching. Great restaurants do what’s right or go the extra mile even if diners don’t see the details or have specific expectations. New York’s Eleven Madison Park (EMP), for example, sends guests home with a parting gift of homemade granola so good it could put Nature Valley out of business. To mitigate what is often the most awkward restaurant service act, presenting a bill, they bring a bottle of apple brandy and offer gratis pours of the spirit with the delivered check so that guests don’t feel like they’re being rushed.
The good news is the restaurant ceiling didn’t fall on my head. When I dine at chef Iliana Regan’s restaurants, weird things happen. When I reviewed Regan’s Elizabeth, I went to the restroom, and when I closed the door, ceiling tiles fell on my head. I didn’t mind. The tiles were soft and I was so buzzed on the foraged pre-fixe meal (and, to be honest, a little too much Hermitage blanc wine), I wouldn’t have felt pain anyway. That night, Regan and her crew were very gracious and apologized for the mishap. Regan and I had a good laugh about this when we spoke last week about her new spot, Kitsune, a Japanese-skewing restaurant in North Center. “I think the bones of this place are much more solid,” she said