Delicious DIRT. JUICE WE LOVE: To Open -> To Check Out: Balena’s Desserts, Storefront Company’s Short Rib Fried Rice, and Old Town Pour House’s Brews

DIRT Inside: Balena, Storefront Company, Old Town Pour House, Bottleneck Management Group, Paul Katz, John Madden, Boka Restaurant Group, Bristol, Chris Pandel, Amanda Rockman, Wicker Park, Debonair Social Club, Bryan Moscatello, Food & Wine, Gary Weidner

Balena’s Got It: Chef Pandel and Pastry Chef Rockman Steal Our Hearts

Pistachio gelato with nougat and burnt-orange caramel. Photo: Jeff Kauck

Thanks to the lovely boys at Boka Restaurant Group and the Bristol crew, Balena is opens today (and for DD readers, that’s two amazing openings in one day). Balena and chef Chris Pandel have been on our To Open radar for some time now and it’s totally work the wait! We’re into their house-made pastas, wood-burning pizzas and amaro-based cocktails… oh yes, definitely worth the wait. This Tuscan-inspired spot’s tagline is “Italian inspired. Honest cooking” so look for Italian-style foods but with the benefit of being sourced from Midwest farms. We are loving all of this local attention! Speaking of attention, we cannot take our eyes off of pastry chef Amanda Rockman‘s sweet creations – watch her in action. And a Delicious DIRT insider: the Balena wine list is incredible, featuring 300+ labels of 95% Italian wines -> BONUS, there’s a glossary. Check out the full menu, and check out Balena for yourself. 1633 N. Halsted.

In Wicker Park: Storefront Company = Now Open

Photo via Storefront Company Facebook

Another long-awaited opening: Storefront Company in Wicker Park… and even better, this creation from the masterminds behind Debonair Social Club and chef Bryan Moscatello is now open! What you have to know: Chef Moscatello was a 2003 Food & Wine Best New Chef; Storefront is bringing a seasonal menu of farm-to-table goodness to the table; and the century old space features an enormous 34′ x 13′ mural by local artist Gary Weidner.

All reasons to check this joint out ASAP. Want even more reason? Chef Moscatello is offering quinoa fries; quail with a pistachio sausage-stuffed leg, polenta and blood orange; and monkfish with short rib fried rice. We have to get that short rib fried rice into our mouths NOW. Full menu here, but you know you wanna get the real deal. Yes to walk-ins and reservations @ 773.661.2609. 1941 W. North Ave.

Old Town Pour House Starts Brewing Big

Photo via Old Town Pour House Facebook

Bottleneck Management Group‘s Old Town Pour House (OTPH) is NOW open! OTPH = a modern version of a classic tavern, with an emphasis on beer (of course) and American comfort food. With over 90 beers on tap, that’s the most in Chicago, ladies and gents! And OTPH is also GREEN: 8 wines will be on tap made from reusable keg containers, meaning no need for any glass bottles! And food, food, food: the menu was created by corporate chef Paul Katz (of Bottleneck Management), but will be put into action by executive chef John Madden. Here’s what to expect: bar snacks like fried cheese curds and pork shank wings; small plates that include Calvados house cured salmon with frisee, grape tomatoes and grilled asparagus topped with a citrus mustard vinaigrette; and crab fondue made with jumbo lump crab, Humboldt fog goat cheese, and chives served with garlic crostini; sandwiches and entrees like Guinness-braised shortribs; a Wagyu burger; and blackened red snapper tacos. Want to check out the whole menu?  Eater’s got it. We learned via the OTPH Facebook that the opening week schedule will be Tuesday 3/13 and Wednesday 3/14 from 11 AM – 2 AM, Thursday 3/15 thru Sunday 3/18 from 10 AM – 2 AM, and regular business hours will start up on Monday 3/19. They are: Monday through Tuesday from 4 PM to 2 AM, Wednesday through Friday from 11 AM to 2 AM, Saturday from 11 AM to 3 AM and Sunday from 11 AM to 2 AM. See for yourself @ 1419 N. Wells.

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