Oprah's former personal chef, Art Smith, opened his long-awaited restaurant TABLE fifty-two in the heart of Chicago's Gold Coast this summer. The menu is centered on comforting fare, epitomized by his signature buttermilk fried chicken, which is, somewhat maddeningly, available only during the restaurant's Sunday Suppers. And since Ms. Winfrey, as Smith still calls her, featured the restaurant on her show this week, forget about Oysters and Pearls or Hot Potato Cold Potato—that golden, juicy bird, and its essential, encrusted three-cheese macaroni side, will be the most desirable and hard-to-get dish in the country. Tucked into an intimate, whitewashed cottage, TABLE's one dining room holds only 37 seats at very cozy tables. But if you're lucky you'll snag one of five padded stools at the bar. It's a food bar overlooking the hearth-like Woodstone oven, and the stools are thoughtfully reserved for walk-ins only. Smith can not only be found at the restaurant. When he's not teaching kids about field-to-table fare, through his Common Threads programs, he's often serving guests himself. He may bring you the tender deviled-egg amuse-bouche, served in a hen-shaped egg cup and nested in a tiny bed of mesclun. And instead of a standard bread service, Smith offers hot goat cheese biscuits, direct from the wood-burning oven, flipped tableside from small cast iron skillets to reveal their caramelized bellies. A tireless advocate of organic, local produce, Smith buys much of his product from the farmers and producers and the Green City Market. An upstairs tea salon, Teaspoon, is scheduled to open later this year. And how do we say this delicately…? Now we know why The Big O was so Rubenesque.
TABLE fifty-two 52 W. Elm St., Chicago (312-573-4000; tablefifty-two.com)