WBEZ | big star http://www.wbez.org/tags/big-star Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 5 ways Big Star shows why Chicago is America's 'best food city' http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-05/5-ways-big-star-shows-why-chicago-americas-best-food-city-107126 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/big_star_xmas_trees.jpg" style="height: 290px;" title="Photo of the Big Star Christmas Tree selection during the winter time. (BigStarChicago.com)" /></div><p dir="ltr">This week, the Munchies Awards named Chicago the country&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/09/chicago-best-food-city-th_n_3247468.html">best food city</a>, citing local hot spots like Black Dog Gelato in Wicker Park, Intelligentsia Coffee in Lakeview and Streeterville&rsquo;s Bar Toma as some of Chicago&rsquo;s best food attractions. However, no restaurant better emblematizes Chicago foodie culture like the visionary Big Star, the hub of Wicker Park&rsquo;s cuisine scene. Big Star is a love letter to Chicago, a testament to our city&rsquo;s endless capacity for invention. When it comes to food, we are second to none.</p><p dir="ltr">There are an endless number of reasons you should be a Big Star regular&mdash;or a self-described &quot;fan girl&quot; like myself. Here&rsquo;s five.</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>1. Big Star makes great food accessible.</strong></h2><p dir="ltr">Big Star is located in the heart of Wicker Park, a latte&rsquo;s throw from the neighborhood&rsquo;s popular Wormhole Cafe and the shops that line Milwaukee Avenue. They say that business is about location, but dining at Big Star turns geography into a mindset. Although The Girl and the Goat (tucked away in the West Loop) might get the haute cuisine cred, Big Star succeeds by bringing quality to the masses. Nothing is over $10, and it&rsquo;s the rare establishment that can bring together college students, poor artists and the neighborhood&rsquo;s influx of young professionals.</p><p dir="ltr">Big Star feels like a part of the community. There&rsquo;s no better testament to that than Big Star&rsquo;s drive-thru, which caused many to scratch their heads when it opened a few years ago. However, this is exactly what I love about Big Star: They blend the affordability of fast food and the experience of a great night out with friends at the neighborhood&rsquo;s hottest restaurant. It&rsquo;s the best of both worlds: mobile cuisine for a society of multi-taskers. It&rsquo;s also incredibly helpful on days where you don&rsquo;t feel like battling the crowds for a seat.</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>2. They think outside the taco.</strong></h2><p dir="ltr">From a name inspired by California honky-tonks to a website that looks more like a Tumblr page than the home base of Chicago&rsquo;s finest dining, Big Star is a restaurant bursting with creativity. At Big Star, style meets substance in a way that brings joy and wit to the table. Their menu lists every entree in a different font, giving every dish its own distinct personality.</p><p dir="ltr">Although the restaurant is known for its Taco de Panza and Taco Al Pastor, the Walking Taco is a fan favorite. The chefs transform a simple bean and corn chip dish by serving it in a Fritos bag, a take on the Frito Pie that&rsquo;s charmingly tongue in cheek. The price? A whole $2.</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>3. Did I mention everything is delicious?</strong></h2><p dir="ltr">With most restaurants I frequent, I know what dishes I like and which are the lemons of the bunch. But with Big Star, you can&rsquo;t go wrong. The menu is petite and deceptively simple, allowing the chefs to focus on getting each dish exactly right. Although customers gravitate toward certain options, I&rsquo;ve never been disappointed with taking a risk on the potato-based Taco de Papas con Rajas or Tostada de Nopales, with a chief ingredient of cactus. I never thought something so prickly could be so tasty. (Watch out, Sonic the Hedgehog. I&rsquo;m onto you.)</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>4. The service is bonkers good.</strong></h2><p dir="ltr">In addition to being universally attractive&mdash;always a dining plus&mdash;the staff at Big Star are helpful and attentive without being pushy. The last time I visited, I grabbed a spot at the bar, my preferred dining arrangement. (I like to be on a first-name basis with those liquoring me up.) I made the mistake of ordering the Sonoran Hot Dog, a delicious (and giant) take on the Chicago staple that turned out too spicy for my tender taste buds.</p><p dir="ltr">After attempting to power through, I crapped out a quarter of the way in, confessing to my server that I couldn&rsquo;t finish. I wasn&rsquo;t strong enough. Three glasses of water later, he comped the hot dog and helped me find something more favorable to someone who orders Indian food &quot;negative spicy.&quot; As the hot dog is one of his favorites, he suggested I order the jalapeno on the side next time. Duly noted.</p><p dir="ltr">Also, for a place as perpetually slammed at Big Star is, the service is so fast it&rsquo;s practically rocket-fueled. Maybe they all eat the hot dogs before work to give them that jalapeno power.</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>5. Big Star offers an experience you take with you.</strong></h2><p dir="ltr">Many establishments pride themselves on being hidden treasures, and if you journey to Violet Hour, that&rsquo;s part of the shtick. It&rsquo;s the speakeasy mentality: that greatness should be hard to find. However, Big Star is great because it feels so open. Don&rsquo;t let the long lines fool you. The interior of Big Star is expansive enough to seat the cast of <em>Downton Abbey</em>, giving guests an ambience that feels warm and inviting. Instead of a dim space where you barely see your food, Big Star lets the light in.</p><p dir="ltr">Big Star fosters its convivial ambience with a structure recalling the great diners of the 1950&rsquo;s, and there&rsquo;s no better seat in Chicago than Big Star&rsquo;s patio in the middle of summer. Like a French bistro, the patio blends seamlessly with the sidewalk traffic, and it&rsquo;s not uncommon to see passersby running into friends and family enjoying a meal. At Big Star, it&rsquo;s the more, the merrier; if they can&rsquo;t accommodate more, you can take the experience to go and find a spot at a park.</p><p dir="ltr">It&rsquo;s almost summer. The three months of paradise Chicagoans wait for. Why else would we put up with the winters? There&rsquo;s no place in the world like Chicago in the summertime, so get out and enjoy it however you can. If your enjoyment includes tacos, even better.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Nico Lang covers LGBTQ issues in Chicago...and sometimes tacos. You can find Nico on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/nicorlang">Facebook</a>, <a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang">Twitter</a> or <a href="http://achatwithnicolang.tumblr.com">Tumblr</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 10 May 2013 11:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-05/5-ways-big-star-shows-why-chicago-americas-best-food-city-107126 SXSW Night Two: Big Star and Cardinal celebrated http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-03-16/sxsw-night-two-big-star-and-cardinal-celebrated-97347 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-16/Stringfellow.JPG" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-16/BSAuer.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 395px; margin: 7px;" title="Jon Auer, Chris Stamey and a cast of dozens perform Big Star. (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)"></p><p>AUSTIN, TX—Sharing a place on the short list of rock’s very best “dark night of the soul” masterpieces—right up there with Neil Young’s <em>Tonight’s the Night </em>and the third album by the Velvet Underground—<em>Big Star Third</em> (a.k.a. <em>Sister Lovers</em>, recorded in 1974 but released in the sketchiest of ways in 1978) is by far the most complex and emotionally turbulent music that the influential cult heroes from Memphis ever crafted.</p><p>It also is the most timeless, ultimately the most rewarding and arguably the best way to pay tribute to Big Star’s legacy and long-ranging influence.</p><p>As much of the assembled music media shuffled off to catch an invite-only showcase by Bruce Springsteen on Thursday night, what seemed like all of the rest filled the Paramount Theatre for part two of the <a href="http://blogs.suntimes.com/music/2010/03/sxsw_2010_ends_with_a_lot_of_l.html">Irish wake spontaneously held during SXSW 2010</a> when Alex Chilton’s sudden death derailed a scheduled Big Star reunion show.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-16/BigStarFilmmakers.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 217px; margin: 7px; float: left;" title="SXSW's Janet Pierson with filmmakers Danielle McCarthey, Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori. (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)">The evening started with some crossover to the film festival and a work-in-progress screening of <em><a href="http://www.bigstarstory.com/">Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me</a></em>, a new documentary by Drew DeNicola. The director and producers emphasized that they did not want reviews of the film, since it is not yet completed, and it does need to be trimmed in a few spots and briefly fleshed-out in others. But surely they won’t object to a one-sentence reaction.</p><p>The movie is brilliant—a boon to Big Star fans, as well as an indispensible primer for anyone who ever has wondered what artists such as the dB’s, R.E.M., Matthew Sweet, the Bangles, the Replacements, Teenage Fanclub, This Mortal Coil, the Posies and literally thousands of others found so inspiring.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/216ea1lJcMQ" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe></p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-16/jodystephens.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 207px; margin: 7px; float: right;" title="Jody Stephens (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)">The second half of Big Star Tribute Night was just as fulfilling as the band’s last surviving member, drummer Jody Stephens, and long-time fans Chris Stamey and Mitch Easter led a large ensemble complete with Mellotron, horns, string section and a parade of guest vocalists through a rendition of <em>Big Star Third/Sister Lovers </em>in all of its soul-wrenching sloppiness and haphazard perfection.</p><p>The procession of cameos included some big names—R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, the Replacements’ Tommy Stinson, Wilco’s Pat Sansone, M. Ward and of course Posies and latter-day Big Star members Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer—but just as valuable were the contributions of many younger and lesser-known musicians who’ve passed through Stamey’s <a href="http://www.chrisstamey.com/">recording studio</a> in Chapel Hill, N.C. All of them clearly loved the album and poured all they had into songs beloved by fans who never thought they’d get to hear them live: the rousing “O, Dana” and the despondent “Holocaust,” the frightening “Kangaroo” and the furious “Kizza Me,” all building up to a “We Are the World” sing-along on the perfect tune to stand as the band’s epitaph, “Thank You Friends.”</p><p>Various combinations of the musicians then returned for a shorter mini-set of songs from Big Star’s first two records and the solo work of founder Chris Bell, but the transcendent “Thank You Friends” was a tune that couldn’t be topped.</p><p>The second big draw of the night for this blogger was a set by Cardinal,another cult-favorite band that has proven to be nearly as revered and influential to a different generation of fans. Its (until recently) sole self-titled album in 1994, a collaboration between Australian psychedelic-folk singer and songwriter Richard Davies and American trumpeter and arranger Eric Matthews, started a revival in orchestral pop that inspired the Flaming Lips, the Polyphonic Spree and many other bands, culminating with the impressive success of the Arcade Fire.</p><p>Alienated for quite some time, Davies and Matthews reunited for a new album, “Hymns” (Fire Records), released in January; “We didn’t rush the second album,” Davies joked onstage at Beale Street Tavern. But Matthews shuns live performance, and the version of Cardinal that performed songs from that first album and the new disc at that tiny venue consisted of Davies, three backing musicians and, sadly, no trumpet or any of the other orchestral instruments that make <em>Cardinal </em>an undeniable classic.</p><p>Yes, it was fun to hear those songs live, even in ramshackle garage-rock versions. But one couldn’t help wondering how magical the experience could have been in a setting like the Paramount Theatre and with the orchestral backing that Stamey brought to the Big Star project.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/VIT3-ka0qdk" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 16 Mar 2012 06:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-03-16/sxsw-night-two-big-star-and-cardinal-celebrated-97347 Top 5 margaritas in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/2011-05-05/top-5-margaritas-chicago-85980 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-May/2011-05-04/margarita.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" height="675" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-May/2011-05-04/margarita.jpg" title="house margarita from Salpicon!" width="450"></p><p>Today is Cinco de Mayo, a relatively minor holiday on the Mexican calendar (Independence Day, Sept. 15, ranks much higher), but it somehow has become an excuse to party. Kind of like Hallmark turned "Secretaries Day" into an unofficial holiday requiring lunches, gifts and of course, greeting cards. With today's event, the fine folks at ________ beer company have deemed this a day worth partying, and therefore, we give in to this annual bacchanal, and hereby crown our top 5 sources for utterly quaffable margaritas. They all use great tequila - always 100% agave - (usually blanco, sometimes reposado, but rarely an aged añejo); freshly-squeezed lime juice, and a range of additions such as brandy, Cointreau or even mezcal. Cheers.</p><p>1. <a href="http://www.fronterakitchens.com/restaurants/restaurants.html">Frontera/Topolobampo</a><br> 445 N. Clark St., 312-661-1434</p><p>2. <a href="http://www.salpicon.com/">Salpicon!</a><br> 1252 N. Wells St., 312-988-7811</p><p>3. <a href="http://www.mercaditorestaurants.com/chicago/location.php">Mercadito</a><br> 108 W. Kinzie, 312-329-9555</p><p>4. <a href="http://www.adobogrill.com/oldtown/index.aspx">Adobo Grill</a><br> 1610 N. Wells St., 312-266-7999</p><p>5. <a href="http://www.bigstarchicago.com/">Big Star</a><br> 1531 N. Damen Ave., 773-235-4039</p></p> Thu, 05 May 2011 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/2011-05-05/top-5-margaritas-chicago-85980 Something you should eat: Sonoran hot dog from Big Star http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/2011-02-22/something-you-should-eat-sonoran-hot-dog-big-star-82598 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/hotdognew.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/20177720?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;color=c40215" frameborder="0" height="449" width="599"></iframe></p><p>All of the talk about <a href="http://www.bigstarchicago.com/">Big Star</a> has centered on its brown liquors, crafty cocktails and ridiculously inexpensive-yet-highly-delicious tacos and other Southwest honkytonk fare. Yet in the city that practically created the hot dog, it's little surprise to see an all-beef Vienna on the menu, albeit one with Arizona roots. The Sonoran dog here gets a proper sheath of bacon, as well as some <em>frijoles charros</em>, plus a healthy squirt of mustard, mayo and green chile hot sauce. Roughly-chopped white onions and red tomatoes reflect its Chicago home. The entire package is sealed in a sturdy, starchy Mexican <em>bolillo</em> roll from <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps/place?client=safari&amp;rls=en&amp;oe=UTF-8&amp;um=1&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;q=artemio%27s+bakery+chicago&amp;fb=1&amp;gl=us&amp;hq=artemio%27s+bakery&amp;hnear=Chicago,+IL&amp;cid=11261820446938667015">Artemio's Bakery</a> down the street on Milwaukee Avenue. Served with a Mexican Coke (that means pure cane sugar, no high fructose corn syrup), it's going to taste even better once that patio opens up in a month or two.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 22 Feb 2011 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/2011-02-22/something-you-should-eat-sonoran-hot-dog-big-star-82598 GT Fish & Oyster preview and Big Star to go http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/gt-fish-oyster-preview-and-big-star-go <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/tacos.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="332" width="500" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-07/13049_207306229142_162760584142_3102630_6154841_n.jpg" /></p><p>Amid all <a href="http://chicago.eater.com/archives/2010/12/02/new-gt-fish-oyster-video-reveals-some-interior-plans.php">the</a> <a href="http://chicago.eater.com/archives/2010/11/23/10-things-you-want-to-know-about-gt-fish-oyster.php">hype</a> surrounding the early 2011 opening of <a href="http://gtfishandoyster.wordpress.com/">GT Fish &amp; Oyster</a>, owner Giuseppe Tentori has decided to give anxious foodies an early holiday treat. Tomorrow, Tentori will team with <a href="http://twitter.com/wherezthewagon">Gaztro Wagon</a> owner Matt Maroni to offer a mobile preview of GT's menu. Tentori will serve a lobster roll and clam chowder combo for $12 out of the truck, which will be parked in front of the GT space at the corner of Wells and Grand from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.</p><p>Speaking of hype, the always-crowded <a href="http://twitter.com/BigStarChicago">Big Star</a> launched its &quot;Big Star at Home&quot; program yesterday, in which customers can pick up all of the ingredients to assemble their tacos, tostadas, chips, guacamole and salads at home. The catch? The minimum order is 30 tacos, and customers must allow one hour between placing the order at the taco hotline, (<span class="status-body"><span class="status-content"><span class="entry-content">773-680-7740), and pick-up, and the program's hours are from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., which means orders must be placed by 7 p.m. But despite the program's limitations, avoiding the Big Star mayhem and bringing home 30 (or even 50) tacos to enjoy certainly isn't a bad deal.<br /></span></span></span></p></p> Tue, 07 Dec 2010 22:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/gt-fish-oyster-preview-and-big-star-go