Is Dish List ( DL ) blue? The answer is decidedly "no" after dining at Blue 13 Restaurant ( 416 W. Ontario; www.blue13chicago.com ) , which offers contemporary spins on traditional American fare. ( By the way, it turns out that the "13" in the restaurant's name is lucky in tattoo culture so don't think it's a bad omen. )
Co-owner Dan Marunowski, 28, told DL that he was a little worried about his restaurant ( which opened last July ) standing out from the crowd after seeing the spate of other eateries that have similar names ( e.g., ZED451 ) , but he needn't worry—Blue 13 certainly has carved its own niche.
One of the charming items about Blue 13 is its décor; it's sleek, and complete with full-length mirrors that line one side of the restaurant. In addition—in a nod to Marunowski, a former performing musician—rock 'n roll is piped in instead of something softer. The result is an intimate setting ( maximum capacity: 65 ) that won't put you to sleep.
And then there's the food. Again, paying homage to music, the dishes are divided into "Opening Acts," "Headliners" and "Encores" instead of appetizers, entrees and desserts, respectively.
Chef and co-owner Chris Curren has come up with a largely appetizing menu. ( The line-up varies by season. ) However, there was an intriguing dilemma that developed over the course of the evening: Although the food was great, the best dishes were actually served at the beginning. Bread—which is so often crusty at other restaurants—was among the best DL and his dining partner ever had. And enough words cannot describe the "3 Birds" lobster pizza, which is topped with Manchego cheese, caramelized chipolini onions, roasted garlic puree, fine herbs. The truffled mac 'n cheese—which contains free-range Amish chicken, asiago and romano cheeses and white truffle oil—also deserves raves.
The entrees ( "headliners" ) also deserve props. The crispy pan-seared bass ( with applewood-smoked bacon ) was beyond appealing and the "steak and egg on acid" ( named because of its psychedelic appearance ) —grilled beef tenderloin with a quail egg cooked sunny-side up—was simply fantastic.
The desserts ( "encores" ) also had twists on the normal. The apple tartatin contains apples, honey-fried ice cream and mint paint; and "coffee and doughnuts" are homemade cinnamon and sugar doughnuts, whipped cream and "drip" coffee—a concoction you won't find at Dunkin Donuts. However, DL went for the tried and true: warm chocolate cake.
The night DL spent at Blue 13 ( and, at four hours, it was a night ) was especially intimate; there were only a few souls there, probably because of the dismal weather outside. However, this restaurant deserves to stick around—if for no other reason that it's not like some of those other places with similar names. ( Also, be sure to talk with Paul, the maitre'd/manager; he's a pretty engaging fellow. )
Note: Blue 13 is offering several specials, including Sunday Specials at 7 p.m. The cost is $20 per individual.
—Cupcake-related spots seem to have been popping up everywhere recently, and there's another on the way. Phoebe's Cupcakes ( 3327 N. Broadway; www.phoebescupcakes.com ) will offer more than 200 kinds as well as muffins, cookies and even Phoebe's Pup Cakes. Phoebe's Cupcakes, 3327 N. Broadway St., Chicago, IL 60657, 773-868-4000.
—Jamba Juice has outlined its latest green initiatives, which involves building upon its ongoing practices of reducing waste, introducing recyclables and utilizing more organic ingredients, according to QSR Magazine. Among other strategies is reducing electricity usage.
—Brando's Speakeasy, 343 S. Dearborn, is bringing back the Depression, in a manner of speaking. The restaurant is hosting "Speakeasy Burlesque" on Tuesdays in May at 7 p.m., complete with drink specials as well as free bread and soup.
—The 100-seat West African BYOB restaurant Iyanze ( 4623 N. Dearborn; 773-944-1417 ) has been earning rave reviews across the board, so don't be put off by its cafeteria-style setup. There are mostly Nigerian and Ghanaian dishes, with an emphasis on grilled and stewed fish.