Andros Taverna, Chicago
Decorated Chicago Chef Doug Psaltis is opening a contemporary Greek restaurant in the Logan Square neighborhood and he’s quick to point out it’s a passion project built on love for food, fam and community. Psaltis is joined by his pastry chef wife, Hsing Chen (Manresa Restaurant, The French Laundry, Jean-Georges Restaurants) and another power couple, Ryan and Anna O’Donnell of Ballyoo Hospitality.
With the two power couples in place, Andros planned a Valentine’s Day weekend takeout-only special Valentine’s feast for two to kick things off (whole chicken, kalamata crispy pork or lamb souvla charred on the custom-built rotisserie hearth; signature Greek salad, mezes, kataifi cheese pie and more)
Continuing the full-on love theme, Andros Taverna’s mission statement includes the Greek word philotimo, a word that’s tough to define, but representative of a deep-seated awareness of goodness and generosity.
The opening takeout menu reflects the Mediterranean diet in a craveable way with a strong salad/veggie focus, premium seafood like tender grilled octopus, slow roasted meat and more. Also available: fun options like the Philotimo Feast for two and the Simple Spartan, an individually portioned meal with a choice of protein, dip, small salad and pita.
Epic Rita at Agave & Rye
Founder Yavonne Sarber says the idea of margaritas and bourbon drinks dominating the menu equally is a bit of “something for everyone,” a balancing act for all restaurants, not just upscale casual spots. Case in point: a bourbon, black cherry-mango-habanero slushee resides on the beverage menu next to the Little Red Corvette, a dressed-up margarita with a strawberry swirl and an edible rose.
Crown Jewel taco at Agave & Rye
A hallmark of upscale casual: taking a familiar form, then riffing on it with flavors from your team’s imagination. Takes on tacos include the Bama Jamma (Alabama-white barbecue chicken and tobacco onions), the Easy Ranchero with tater tots, cowboy candy and a fried egg, the Cousin of Vinnie with ground beef, vodka sauce and a “queso cushion.”
A bit of Rome in Los Angeles
Oste — short for Osteria — the new Roman-style pinseria and osteria opened last month for delivery and takeout. According to a press release, this is one of the only places in the state of California you can find pinsa, a distinct style of pizza from ancient times.
In case you’re wondering, the Latin word pinsere means to press, and the pizzas here boast recipes dating back to the Roman empire. As any pizza geek will tell you (repeatedly), one of the key differentiators is the flour used. Oste has it covered with a secret-sauce blend of premium flours including rice, soy and wheat that’s used to create the dough, resulting in a unique pie that’s said to be easier to digest. In case you’re wondering, the Latin word pinsere means to press, and the pizzas here boast recipes dating back to the Roman empire. As any pizza geek will tell you (repeatedly), one of the key differentiators is the flour used. Oste has it covered with a secret-sauce blend of premium flours including rice, soy and wheat that’s used to create the dough, resulting in a unique pie that’s said to be easier to digest.
Legacy of a Chi-town street corner
Ever since the early 1960s, this certain corner in Chicago — Morgan and Fulton — has held a friendly local spot where everyone feels welcome. (That Midwestern friendliness is coming in handy in an era of healing and rebuilding.) Marvin’s Food & Fuel is carrying on that tradition (they opened during the BLM riots of summer) with a low-key, relaxed vibe inhabiting the space. The heated pergolas (pictured) are semi-permanent, enclosed wooden structures.
Netflix and eat
Marvin’s Food & Fuel is making its mark with an homage to the American classic TV dinner. Who among us isn’t eating in front of the TV during this pandemic? Bonus: the wistful evocation of a time gone by. The $15 dinners are freezable and ready to heat for customers’ next big binge watch.
Marvin’s Chef Mitch Cavanah’s current TV dinner offerings includes lasagna with ricotta and beef Bolognese, roasted cauliflower with pine nut gremolata and berry crumble; barbecue turkey meatloaf topped with whipped potatoes and parmesan, chocolate chip bread pudding and a smoked mushroom enchilada with black beans and Mexican chocolate cake.
Lasagnetta love in Washington, D.C.
D.C. sister restaurants Napoli Pasta bar and Napoli Salumi put together a pop-up by Executive Chef Andy Clarke that offers a four-course meal with a wine pairing for $40 per person for dine-in, carryout or delivery. Limited menus and pop-ups allow upscale casual restaurants to quickly do what we all know we must: pivot.
Celebrated chef Roberto Santibanez is behind Mi Vida Restaurante in the District Wharf neighborhood of D.C., part of Knead Hospitality’s portfolio. For three decades now, Santibanez has been exploring his beloved Mexico, and this is his latest journey. The name “Mi Vida” was reportedly chosen because it means “my life,” but also is a term of endearment bestowed on close family and friends to signify love, care and importance.
The words churros, pozole, chile rellenos and even ensalada seem to warm up winter on the menu. All of those and more are heating things up at Mi Vida, which offers several private and semi-private dining spaces, plus tailored menus in customized family style.