Jimmy Bannos, chef at Heaven on Seven, was fresh out of cooking school when he began working at his parents' coffee shop on the seventh floor of the Garland building in the early eighties. At the time Jimmy was experimenting with Louisiana-style cooking; customers were sampling gumbo and red beans while sipping their coffee. When Garland's regulars became more interested in jumbo shrimp than java, Jimmy and his folks quickly revamped their plan and transformed the coffee shop into the first Heaven on Seven. These days the original location only serves dinner twice a month, so head on over to 600 N. Michigan if you're craving some Creole on any old night.
While the Michigan Avenue location is one of the newer Heaven on Seven locales, the Bannos family traditions remain intact. As always Jimmy's Wall of Fire, a collection of hot sauces from around the world, stands in spicy splendor. The menu is just as easy to swallow as ever. Must-try dishes include the fried green tomatoes and the Cajun fried catfish bites with Jimmy's homemade tartar sauce. Get your gumbo by cup or by bowl and save room for a bite of the po' boy sandwiches, which come stuffed with goodies including shrimp and Andouille sausage.
On the first Friday of every month, Jimmy offers cooking classes in the restaurant's Wabash location. Check the website for details.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Jennifer Berg