Kelly Rizzo is a River North resident and host of the brand new archlive.tv show, Food Junkie: Chicago.
Food Junkie: Chicago—a new online show that covers the Windy City’s food culture through restaurant reviews, chef Q&As, and dining with the area’s top personalities—debuts today (October 23) on the all-new archlive.tv. The host and co-producer behind the series is Chicago native Kelly Rizzo, a pretty blond with an eclectic resume that includes 14 years in Windy City real estate before turning her passions for food, music, and travel into a blog (eattravelrockout.com), and now, Food Junkie. Here, Rizzo gives us a tour of her River North neighborhood and beyond.
Where in River North do you dine for a quick lunch? For a special occasion dinner? KELLY RIZZO: I live right next to Motel Bar (600 W. Chicago, 312-822-2900), and it's my go-to for a quick meal or fun drink with friends. The food is great with an amazing old-fashioned drink menu, and the music is killer. I always get the couscous salad with grilled chicken. For a special occasion, I love Mercadito (108 W. Kinzie St., 312-329-9555) because I'm a huge fan of authentic Mexican food, and Mercadito’s tacos and cocktails are unmatched. My go-to for a date night in the neighborhood is GT Fish & Oyster (531 N. Wells St., 312-929-3501)—it's upscale without feeling pretentious. The seafood is incredible and I'm a huge oyster fan, so they never disappoint. The chef Giuseppe Tentori is a fellow Paisan, so he always makes me feel right at home.
Which neighborhood or neighborhoods do you think are the best in terms of Chicago dining right now? KR: It [has been] so interesting to see River North evolve over the past decade. I remember [when] River North was all chain restaurants, and [didn’t have] a dining ‘scene’ until about 2004. Now, there are so many incredible restaurants, especially thanks to the Melmans, Rockit Ranch, and some other great restaurant groups. But the West Loop has really emerged over the last decade as well, especially in the last five years. Hats off to the Hogsalt/Brendan Sodikoff group of restaurants. They've killed it in this area. I love, love, love Au Cheval (800 W. Randolph St., 312-929-4580), Maude’s (840 W. Randolph St., 312-243-9712), and Gilt Bar (230 W. Kinzie St., 312-464-9544).
How would you describe your style, and where do you shop for the pieces that fit it? KR: My style is definitely more rocker-chic and I love to mix it up. The stores and brands that really fit my clothing style are Topshop (830 N. Michigan Ave., 312-280-6834), Allsaints [Spitalfields] (700 N. Michigan Ave., 312-283-0400), Intermix (40 E. Delaware Pl., 312-640-2922), and Akira (122 S. State St., 312-346-3034). However, I go all out on my footwear, belts, and handbags. I have close to ten pairs of Frye boots, which will never go out of style. I'm obsessed with Gucci and Christian Dior belts and bags; I make sure to buy ones that are versatile, yet unique. I love putting together an outfit like a rocker/band t-shirt, my purple Gucci python belt, jeans, and some Frye cowboy boots. Nashville is one of my favorite cities, so I love to represent it here in Chicago.
What are some of your favorite spots to see live music, and is there any one neighborhood you associate with Chicago’s music scene? KR: I'm a huge country music fan, [so] I am always at Joe’s Bar (940 W. Weed St., 312-337-3486). They get the biggest acts in country music; it's amazing to see such huge names in such an intimate venue. Now that the Joe's Bar owners teamed up with the Melmans, they brought live country to River North via Bub City (435 N. Clark St., 312-610-4200), another one of my favorite spots. Finally, I am happiest when I'm at Underground Wonder Bar (710 N. Clark St., 312-266-7761). I've brought so many of my out-of-town friends who are in the music and film industries there because they usually want something more low-key and culturally interesting—it has never failed to impress.