Buzz List for May 7, 2018

Radio Anago has a sushi secret, Nouvelle Next, take a Chicago pizza tour with a hungry hound, and in memoriam to Judson Todd Allen and members of the families behind Superdawg and Italian Village

Michael Gebert
Carrot toast at Bellemore

It’s a light press week with the Beards awards on Monday, so here’s things to read while you’re not day drinking:

BREAKING: I was at a Beard Awards party at River Roast, talking to Joseph Hernandez from the Tribune, when the news came that Tronc, faced with a unionization drive that had already signed up 85% of Tribune staff, recognized the union. (They’d already lost one such vote, at the L.A. Times in January.)

A few weeks ago I wrote that after talking big TED talk stuff for a couple of years, Michael “The $5 Million Dollar Man” Ferro’s Tronc legacy was a tawdry sex scandal. But that’s no longer true: now his legacy is that he so eroded any trust between staff and management at a major media company that even Col. McCormick’s heirs had to recognize the inevitability of worker participation in the management of the paper.

This doesn’t instantly solve the paper’s challenges in a new media era—but it does mean no slick-talking digital visionary-conman type will ever be able to loot it quite so thoroughly with no one to stand in his way. Congrats to the Tribune-Redeye-everybody else staffs—and to Mr. Ferro on his place in history.

1. SOUTH SIDE SPREAD

South Side Weekly’s annual food issue covers a wide range of topics, including some high-level think pieces about food deserts and institutional racism and that sort of thing, but I prefer the nitty gritty pieces that actually talk to people doing stuff. So here’s a good piece on a rare South Side Cuban spot, Yesenia’s, here’s one on a place bringing pizza to the pizza desert of Bronzeville, and here’s one on a line of hot sauces made from peppers grown in Pembroke, an African-American farm community in the Kankakee area.

2. SPICE DIET/TABLE 222 CHEF DIES

Shocking news: Judson Todd Allen, who made his name on “The Next Food Network Star” and as the author of The Spice Diet, and served as “culinary lead” for the West Loop’s Table 222, died of a suspected heart attack at home Saturday morning, at age 36. Allen used spices to help drop nearly 200 of his one-time 400 pounds, an experience that shaped his book, which came out in January. (Sun-Times)

3. THE CHAN CLAN

Mike Sula buries the lede in his review of Radio Anago—there’s another Chan brother! “The rice and fish at Radio Anago are prepared by Hari Chan, a surname that will be familiar to fans of brothers Kaze and Macku Chan, whose exploits in the sushi business (Momotaro, Macku Sushi, Mirai, Heat, and on and on) are well documented.” Anyway, his feeling about the latest trendy Hogsalt spot is that “restraint is Radio Anago’s winningest feature. The fish is fresh, and it’s treated with respect. Given that level of humility, you might be surprised to learn there’s a plate of fried chicken on the menu that’s served sprinkled with gold leaf. That’s right—chicken for the Trump era.” (Reader)

4. NOUXT

Phil Vettel actually skipped a Next menu, Classique (as in French food, if you didn’t get that), but he returns for Nouvelle, giving it four stars: “The most dramatic dish is a contemporary twist on coddled eggs. A domed dish conceals a steamer insert holding blanched turnips, within which is truffled egg custard topped with truffle puree; below the insert, a dry-ice-dispelled liquid delivers vanilla and Earl Grey aromas. To the side, a second domed dish holds fig and truffle soup, and the dome is topped with golden sunchoke bread (think savory banana bread).”

5. LUPO DE LOOP

Kinda forgot Bar Lupo existed (in the former Graham Elliott/Oak & Char space), but Graham Meyer says it’s worth checking out for lunch: “Bar Lupo’s lunch began life centered around takeout hoagies, but as of April, the restaurant offers a full-service lunch all five weekdays. (Takeout hoagies are still available.) The formalization—which, granted, leaves the experience still casual of center—justifies itself, as the pleasant room and service add value to the already worthwhile food.”

6. PIZZA CITY USA

Steve Dolinsky has a pizza book of that name coming out in the fall, but in the meantime, knowing people come to Chicago for pizza (and often end up with not very good pizza near their hotel), he’s launched a series of pizza tours, taking you to four places each demonstrating different styles available in the city. I went on a media preview to one that took in Coalfire, Salerno’s, D’Amato’s and Piccolo Sogno in the West Town area, and it was fun—as often as I’ve hit D’Amato’s, I’ve never gone in back to see their vintage coal oven, now over 100 years old.

I don’t entirely agree with his theories of pizza (he’s pretty anti-deep dish; my feeling is that deep dish is the pizza food writers hate but tourists love), but he knows enough to make his case (he says he ate at 185 pizza places for his book), and you’ll definitely learn something as well as get pretty stuffed (and walking about a mile over the course of the tour will barely put a dent in it). Here’s the info.

7. GRINGO CHEESEHEAD

Road trip season is coming—check out what Titus Ruscitti has to suggest in the way of gringo Mexican in Wisconsin. I’m sure no matter where you go, there will be cheese on it.

8. KOMPLET COVERAGE

We’ve been talking a lot about the Komplet Lepinja at the new Astoria Cafe lately, and lepinja—basically a Serbian bun—turns up in this story at Sandwich Tribunal about pljesksvica, Serbian hamburgers, titled with a clue toward pronunciation, Pleased Ta Meet Cha, Pljesksvica!

9. HANBUNSKI

Beloved Korean spot Hanbun returns for a day May 21 at Kimski in Bridgeport, serving some of its greatest hits. No advance tickets—just be there.

10. THE SUBTERRANEANS

How hipster is Chicago dining getting? I don’t think you can find anything more emblematic than the fact that a chichi French place in a Loop skyscraper, Pearl Brasserie, where Jason Paskewitz (The Blanchard) has been of late, is closing to be replaced by… a Loop outlet of West Town’s junk store-decorated, funky food and drink spot Beatnik. The Trib has details, if you need more.

11. HEROLD TRIBUNE

Hospitality Design looks at the work of restaurant designer Karen Herold, including the space she did twice—Embeya, now Bellemore.

12. OCEAN VERDE

Want to go on a cruise, but fear the monotonous added-poundage of cruise-type food? Sarah Grueneberg is among the chefs and somms who will be doing Windstar cruises this summer—read the press release.

13. POD SAVE CHICAGO

Michael Nagrant and Penny Pollack have launched a podcast called Dining Out Loud; the first three segments (I haven’t listened yet, too many Beard awards parties to go to this weekend!) are here. But just for Penny: “It’s too long!”

Meanwhile, I was on The Feed this week, plugging The Fooditor 99 a little, mostly just hanging out talking about restaurants we like. (I haven’t listened to it either yet, but I think the conversation was good.) If you like restaurants, listen to it.

14. IN MEMORIAM

We lost two heads of families of long-running Chicago businesses this week. Flaurie Berman, partner in love and work of the late Maurie Berman at Superdawg, and Frank Capitanini, whose family has run Italian Village since 1927. RIP and thank you both.

WHAT MIKE ATE

In movie reviewing a “stiff” implies a certain kind of failure—a film made by good people with sincere intentions and all the ingredients for success, but it just doesn’t work. (Downsizing is a recent example.) Restaurants, of course, can always improve, but for now I’d have to call Tied House a stiff.

The space is beautiful, and the somewhat green service will get better, but the menu—and we ate about half of it—was strikingly lacking in appealing-sounding dishes, and when they came they were often lacking in appealing textures. A porridge with Nordic flavors reminded me of the excellent beet agnolotti at Daisies, if they were swimming in an inch of liquid; the gorgeous-looking duck egg pasta was like chewing raw pasta (again, in an inch of a liquid that was said to be dashi). The redeeming dishes were seafood ones—a pretty good monkfish dish, a very good dish of cured mackerel—though even they were mixed with unexciting flavors (a lot of grains and near-raw vegetables), and almost everything was hampered by arriving at the table (intentionally or not) lukewarm. I’m not asking for comfort food, but at least some level of craveability as well as proper execution that this spartan menu isn’t hitting.

Speaking of Daisies, I went there again the week before and it was just wonderful, sensually supple pastas full of likable flavors. It’s not that far from Lakeview, so if you’re looking for somewhere new to go, you won’t go wrong heading there.

Finally, I went to Bellemore for lunch before shooting Key Ingredient there (I dined courtesy of their PR, fyi). Lunch runs a gamut from a ham sandwich with raclette cheese (I admire their willingness to make this swanky restaurant smell like hot stinky cheese) to wild boar served with Thai-Vietnamese flavors, which was terrific. With that wide a range of styles, I’m not sure quite what Jimmy Papadapoulos’ approach is yet—I need to go back for dinner—but I know it tastes good.

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