Chicago’s Cutting Edge Food Scene

Chicago has always been fertile ground for theater, not having to cater to commercial tastes to sell tickets like Broadway. Spanish director Calixto Bieito’s over-the-top production of Tennessee Williams’ Camino Real at the Goodman Theatre is currently the talk of the town, along with Donald Margulies’ intense drama Time Stands Still at the Steppenwolf. Haute cuisine is another matter, however, with the latest Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza, and Weiner Circle taking top billing. That changed dramatically when Grant Achatz came to town and opened Alinea. I reviewed his latest venture, Next, in The Boston Globe this past summer and was wowed by both food and concept. Every 3 months, the menu at Next changes to another part of the world and a different time period. I had the good fortune to dine at “Paris 1906” at the height of the Escoffier period. No surprise that Next was just nominated for Best New Restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation. Now Frontera Grill chef, Rick Bayless, known for his innovative Mexcan fare, is getting in on the fun, starring in a dinner theater production titled Cascabel. The limited engagement at the Lookingglass Theatre will run until April 22nd and received favorable reviews from The Chicago Tribune.