The secret cravings of Chicago notables
BY SANDY THORN CLARK June 12, 2012 11:34AM
Melissa Forman (left) and Jeanne Sparrow of "You & Me This Morning" sharing Jeanne's favorite Chicago dish, Ina's Egg White Frittata with Spinach, Tomato and Feta at Ina's, 1235 W. Randolph, Friday, June 1, 2012. | John H. White~Chicago Sun-Times.
Updated: July 14, 2012 6:01AM
It’s one thing to spy Da Coach Mike Ditka eating mahi mahi, crab, halibut or his favorite medium-rare bone-in prime rib at his namesake restaurant.
Or to catch His Airness Michael Jordan devouring the shellfish platter (shrimp, crab, oysters and lobster), a prime Delmonico, hand-cut fries with barbecue sauce rub and grilled corn-off-the-cob at his namesake steakhouse on the Mag Mile.
But it’s quite another to be in a Homemade Pizza Co. storefront or a Potbelly Sandwich Shop and have acclaimed Alinea and Next Chef Grant Achatz arrive for a take-out.
Welcome to the sometimes-wacky world of the way Chicago celebrities eat.
While Jennifer Hudson is getting foxier and foxier tabulating Weight Watchers points for a breakfast burrito with egg whites, black beans and pico de gallo, a lunch of mixed greens with beans and a protein, a chicken stir-fry dinner and snacks of Greek yogurt and fruit, Vince (“Wedding Crashers”) Vaughn might be munching on Angel Hair Arrabiatta and Lamb Chops at Gene & Georgetti and Deep-Dish Sausage Pizza at Gino’s East.
As steak-savvy Jay Cutler’s mommy-to-be fiancee, Kristin Cavallari, is craving ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese and Twix, Blackhawk Marian Hossa is hoarding Kit Kat bars and chowing down on Prime Filet with Chili Ginger Sauce or Yuzu Miso Marinated Black Cod with Pickled Red Onions at Roka Akor Sushi & Steak.
And at the same time that Bears running back Kahlil Bell enjoys the medium-well New York Strip with asparagus at Maestro’s and Bulls center Omer Asik enjoys the Whole Lobster with Spicy Ponzu and Wasabi Mayonnaise at Roka Akor, Bill and Giuliana Rancic both crave Mama DePandi’s Bucatini Pomodoro (an adaptation of Giuliana’s mom’s signature pasta dish) at their new RPM Italian restaurant.
Dolton native and Second City grad Jane Lynch of “Glee” and Barrrington native and international fashion designer Cynthia Rowley are outspoken fans of Garrett Popcorn’s Chicago Mix (the cheese-caramel duo made famous by Oprah). Chicago native Sherri Shepherd, a co-host of “The View” and “Dancing with the Stars” contestant, adores Chicago Mix so much she gave it to each guest at her Chicago wedding last summer.
What foods can’t other Chicago celebrities live without? What are their must-have favorites?
Blackhawks high-scoring forward, Chicago Magazine’s “Most Beautiful” Chicagoan, new daddy and heartthrob Patrick Sharp: Sapori Trattoria’s Crostini di Avocado, Prosecco’s Rigatoni Norcina, Rosebud on Rush’s Caesar Salad.
Famed chef of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, cookbook author and TV personality Rick Bayless: “I really can’t live without Garrett’s Popcorn — I like Cashew Caramel Corn the best; there’s a tin of it at my desk. And doughnuts — the Tres Leches, Blackout, and Peanut Butter and Jelly — at Doughnut Plant in New York City.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Nightwood in Pilsen (“the creative menu never fails to impress”), the cornbread and peach cobbler at BJ’s Market and Bakery (“a hidden gem” in Auburn-Gresham), the all-fruit-and-vegetable smoothie at Wishbone on North Lincoln Avenue, and the grilled chicken with lots of garlic over pasta and vegetables he makes for at-home Sunday night family dinners.
White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham: Shaw’s Oyster Plate, Paris Club’s Salmon Dip, Sunda’s Rock Shrimp, “anything on menu at RPM Italian.”
WGN-Channel 9 evening news anchor Micah Materre: French fries — “no ketchup, just the right amount of salt” — especially at McDonald’s and Five Guys. “I give fries up for Lent, and at midnight on Easter I’m in line at a McDonald’s drive-thru to get their largest bag.”
Bulls MVP Derrick Rose: Cheese and Pepperoni Pizza from Home Run Inn’s 31st Street location.
Rockit Ranch Productions Founder/CEO Billy Dec of Rockit Bar and Grill, Sunda, Underground: “Since kindergarten, my fave guilty pleasure has been barbecue ribs — especially Asian-style ribs — from all over the city.”
Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart of “Eric & Kathy Mornings” on 101.9-FM The Mix: Eric’s are Rise’s Ume Maki Roll, Hub 51’s Filet Steak Tacos and Sunda’s Lobster Wagyu Roll. Sicilian Calamari at Gianni’s Cafe in Palatine takes Kathy “to a happy place.”
Melissa Forman and Jeanne Sparrow of WCIU-Channel 26’s “You & Me This Morning”: Forman’s temptation is Mac ’n Cheese from Table 52. Sparrow’s is the Egg White Frittata with Spinach, Tomato and Feta at Ina’s in the West Loop.
Cubs retired but forever-favorite pitcher Kerry Wood: Garrett’s Three-Popcorn Mix (Butter, Cheese and Caramel) and the Red Velvet Cupcake at Swirlz.
Chef, TV personality and Lollapalooza Culinary Ambassador Graham Elliot: “Waffle Crisp cereal also known as edible crack. Best when eaten out of the box, by hand, without milk, while sitting on couch.”
Illinois Lottery “Lady”/hostess Linda Kollmeyer: “My downfall at night is potato chips — kettle-cooked, crinkle-cut potato chips from Costco. I love to read and eat chips with a glass of wine.”
Chicago Fire defender Dan Gargan: Sunda’s Sushi Rolls and Big Star’s Chicken Tacos.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle: Breakfast at Mellow Yellow on 53rd Street, Chicken Vesuvio at Pizza Capri, strawberry shortcake on biscuits.
Bears defensive lineman Israel (“I-Train”) Idonije: Sunda’s Brussels Sprout Salad “and I don’t even like brussels sprouts!”
Rich Melman, founder and board chairman of 80-restaurant Lettuce Entertain You empire: R.J. Grunt’s medium-rare Cheddarburger; boneless and skinless sardines with egg whites and tomato sauce for breakfast, his wife’s Thanksgiving dinners, and “any shape, any type of pasta with a wonderful red sauce.”
Jerry Springer, host of popular lowbrow TV show: Wildfire’s Cheeseburger.
High-profile Attorney Sam Adam Jr.: “Crown Lobster Tails smothered in cream, butter and egg sauce, dipped piecemeal into tangy brandy soy sauce at Ron of Japan.”
WGN Radio morning drive host Johnny B (Jonathon Brandmeier): The martini at Gibsons “personally shaken by Joe the bartender.”
WLS-Channel 7’s “Hungry Hound” Steve Dolinsky: Johnnie’s (Elmwood Park) Italian Ice, Homer’s Triple Berry Ice Cream, Smoque’s Brisket, Arami’s Nigiri Sushi, Great Lake’s Mona Pizza, Palermo Bakery’s Pistachio Amaro Cookies.
Comcast Sports anchor Sarah Kustok: Steak Tacos at Local Option in Lincoln Park and Irish BLT at Lizzie McNeill’s on the River.
Nationally syndicated radio host Mancow Muller: Pollo Alla Mancow at La Scarola “where my wife [Sandy] and I fell in love.”
NBC Sports and Chicago Blackhawks hockey color commentator/ analyst (and former Blackhawk) Eddie Olczyk: Lawry’s end-cut Prime Rib and four of his mom Diana’s “mean” Italian meatballs with a salad.
Oprah’s steady beau Stedman Graham: When in Chicago, he almost daily drinks Wheat Grass Juice from Foodlife Juice Bar in Water Tower Place.
Best-selling author (The Truth About Men: The Secret Side of the Opposite Sex), weight loss and fitness expert Dr. Ian K. Smith: Bandera’s Barbecue Beef Back Ribs with Hand-Cut Fries.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura: Peppercorn steak at Gibson’s, any pasta dish at Rosebud, any seafood at Shaw’s.
Sandy Thorn Clark is a local free-lance writer.