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James Beard Finalist Tanya Baker Exits The Boarding House

Plus, Sportsman’s Club brings in top restaurants for its new Backyard BBQ series

Tanya Baker
Eric Kleinberg

—Major chef shuffle news: Tanya Baker, an acclaimed up-and-coming chef that was a James Beard Award finalist in 2015 for Rising Star Chef of the Year, has left Alpana Singh’s River North gem The Boarding House — and Chicago altogether. Singh tells Eater that Baker moved to Brooklyn to pursue her next chapter and that she’s taking her time in hiring a replacement. “Tanya is great — we miss her,” the master sommelier and former “Check, Please!” host says. “We have been working with the existing team, many of who have been have been here since the it’s important to make sure this next person fits like a glove.” There’s no word on whether Baker is working in NYC or anywhere else yet.

—More chef shuffle news: a new person is running the kitchen at Bottlefork, Rockit Ranch’s popular eatery and drinkery on Clark Street in River North. Nicole Ella, who was a mentee of Kevin Hickey at the Four Seasons, is its new executive chef and has already added new dishes to its menu: nduja crusted scallops, mezcal-marinated wings with avocado green goddess dressing, and bourbon-rubbed hanger steak with tobacco onions and blue cheese celeriac purée. This move marks the second Rockit restaurant that Hickey has taken a step back from to helm the group’s expansion plans that include the newly-opened Otto Mezzo and forthcoming Sunda Nashville.

Nicole Ella
Rockit Ranch Productions

—A Chicagoan won Speed Rack, the top women’s bartending competition. Mony Bunni, who currently represents Boleo and The Kimpton Grey hotel, bested nearly 200 competitors from around the country in the regionals before capturing the title at the finals in Brooklyn on May 21. Liz Pearce (The Drifter) is a Chicagoan who previously won the Midwest regional, but Bunni is the first to win the whole thing.

Mony Bunni celebrating her Speed Rack victory

Sportsman’s Club brings back its popular backyard BBQ series with a slew of top local restaurants fittingly beginning this Memorial Day weekend. Birrieria Zaragoza kicks off the festivities on May 28, and the docket includes Monteverde, the forthcoming Split-Rail, GreenRiver, El Che Bar, Quiote, Bad Hunter, and many more. The events happen every Sunday until Sept. 17 where $20 buys a plate of food and a beer beginning at 4 p.m. each time at the acclaimed cocktail bar on Western Avenue.

The Polenta Bar in Fulton Market, billed as America’s first polenta-focused restaurant, is not just about polenta anymore. The new-ish restaurant was closed for two weeks for a “mini renovation” before reopening on May 19 with new menu items including salads, paninos, polenta fries, and tiramisu.

—And finally, here’s an interesting and unexpected appearance: Pat Sajak and Vanna White, the longtime “Wheel of Fortune” hosts, ate hot dogs and filmed at venerable Superdawg as part of the game show’s “tour of Chicago.” Photo evidence below.

The Polenta Bar

1002 W. Lake Street, Chicago, IL 773 - 999 - 1721 Visit Website

Superdawg Drive-In

3344 N Kimball Ave, Chicago, IL 60618 (773) 763-0660 Visit Website

The Boarding House

720 North Wells Street, , IL 60654 (312) 280-0720 Visit Website


441 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654 312.955.1900 Visit Website

Sportsman's Club

948 North Western Avenue, , IL 60622 (872) 206-8054 Visit Website


122 W Monroe St, Chicago, IL 60603 (312) 750-9007 Visit Website