Combine a warm Chicago evening, two popular Food Network hosts, and a few good friends, and what do you get? An East Coast–style chow fest to remember
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You can take the Hearty Boys out of New England, but you can’t take away their clambake. Dan Smith, who grew up on Long Island, and Steve McDonagh, who’s from New Jersey, are best known as the hosts of Food Network’s Party Line with the Hearty Boys and for their local catering business, cooking school, and brunch spot (at 3819 N. Broadway). Ever since they bought their house in Rogers Park six years ago, they have been reliving their coastal youths by inviting friends over for an annual backyard feast of clams, lobster, Portuguese sausages, and more.
Smith and McDonagh’s signature summer party comes with a well-thought-out yet low-key setup. Butcher paper sprinkled with sand covers a long table set with vintage enamelware; beverages (including homemade ginger lemonade) are served in small Mason jars; and serious dinner napkins are eschewed in favor of workaday dishtowels.
With buttery roasted corn and lots of juicy clams on the menu, “things can get pretty messy,” says Smith, who owned a café in Maine for five years and had to wait until he had a big enough deck to bring his favorite New England tradition to Chicago, where he has lived for 12 years (McDonagh has been here for 15). “People start calling in about February to find out when this year’s party is so they can put it on their calendars,” he says.
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Photograph: Tyllie Barbosa
Styling: Barri Leiner