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Chicago Chef Damarr Brown Impresses ‘Top Chef’ Judges with Smoked Brisket and Giardiniera

Also, ’90s theme restaurant relic Rainforest Cafe could become a huge pot dispensary in River North

Top Chef - Season 19
Chicago’s Damarr Brown smokes the competition.
Photo by: David Moir/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Chicago chef Damarr Brown did his city proud this week on Thursday’s episode of Top Chef: Houston, keeping his wits about him as he took on one of the competition’s most high-pressure Texas-style challenges yet: pit-smoking a brisket in 12 hours. Though Brown (who is the chef de cuisine at Virtue) could have gotten sidetracked by a Texas toast Quickfire challenge where the winner gets immunity and $10,000 — “$10,000... for toast?” he intones — he ultimately delivered a smoked brisket with candied yams, braised cabbage, Worcestershire consume, and giardiniera that judge Tom Colicchio deemed “fantastic.” Though he didn’t win the brisket challenge (the honor went to Houston’s Evelyn García), Brown’s strong performance gives Chicagoans a good reason to tune in week after week. Find a full rundown of the episode on Eater Houston.

River North’s nostalgic ’90s restaurant nugget could flower into a huge pot dispensary

In what feels like a natural evolution, the former River North location of the Rainforest Cafe — the infamous jungle-themed restaurant chain with waterfalls, animatronic and live animals on the corner of Ohio and Clark streets — may become a mammoth weed dispensary serving medical and recreational customers, according to Block Club Chicago. This relic of ’90s theme restaurant madness (immediately recognizable for a giant frog named Cha! Cha! installed above the entrance) closed in August 2020 after 23 years at 605 N. Clark Street. Progressive Treatment Solutions, a company that runs a suburban growing operation and dispensaries, will present plans to relocate its Norwood Park location to River North at a community meeting at 6 p.m. on April 27.

Chicago’s massive food event raises half a million dollars for Ukrainian refugees

Chicago Chefs Cooks for Ukraine, the massive event in March where 70 chefs gathered at Navy Pier to support the Ukrainian victims of the Russian invasion, raised more than $500,000 to feed refugees through celebrity chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen, according to Axios Chicago.

In-person craft beer week is back for the first time since 2020

Illinois Craft Beer Week is returning with in-person events for the first time since the pandemic began. The event will run from May 13 to May 20 and will include Beer Under Glass, the Craft Beer Guild’s major fundraiser that takes place at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Check out the full lineup online.

A Brite and Pretty Cool idea: ice cream and doughnut mash-ups all weekend

Some of Chicago’s favorite sweets spots will present a fun switcheroo over the weekend: Pretty Cool Ice Cream and Brite Donuts will riff off one another on Saturday and Sunday with doughnut-inspired ice cream bars at Pretty Cool and ice cream-inspired doughnuts made by Brite at Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits and Metric Coffee. Combinations will include sweet corn with blueberry, Metric lavender latte with chocolate, and taro with toasted marshmallow.

Rainforest Cafe

306 South Avenue, , MN 55425 (952) 854-7500 Visit Website

Pretty Cool Ice Cream

709 West Belden Avenue, , IL 60614 (773) 697-4140 Visit Website

Metric Coffee

2021 West Fulton Street, , IL 60612 (312) 982-2196 Visit Website


2021 W. Fulton Street, Chicago, IL 60612 (312)-772-6536 Visit Website

Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits

2051 North California Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 276-8888 Visit Website


1462 E. 53rd Street, Chicago, IL