Buzz List for September 4, 2018

Phil Vettel discounts Terrace 16, street fight over Mini Mott, a hipper San Soo Gab San, and Mike didn't like bacon (!)

Terrace 16/Facebook

1. TERRACE FIRMA

Is how good a restaurant is, a function of how much it charges? No one would exactly say that, even if we acknowledge that there are aspects of quality—care and precision in the cooking—that strongly correlate with having more money to spend on ingredients and kitchen labor.

But it is often an unspoken assumption, and Phil Vettel’s review of Terrace 16, the less-expensive successor to Sixteen in the Trump Tower, seems to imply that goodness is indeed a function of check size: “In a nutshell: Terrace 16 is not as good as Sixteen was. It isn’t intended to be… It looks like every playing-it-safe hotel menu you’ve ever seen—seen-it-before food at premium prices. What’s different is the execution by executive chef Nick Dostal, who maintained Sixteen’s two Michelin stars after the previous chef, Thomas Lents, departed in January of last year. Dostal is an extremely skilled chef, and he takes some of these dishes to surprising heights.” Almost as if he intended them to be as good as Sixteen was!

2. SAN SOO GAP KIDS

The second-generation version of San Soo Gab San in River North gets approval from Mike Sula: “[Christopher] Kim did go a little rogue, adding a few dishes his parents don’t have, like kimchi fried rice; or gyeran jjin, a ceramic bowl of burbling steamed egg scrambled with concentrated beef stock; or a thin, crispy kimchi pancake to pair with its cousin, an eggy seafood pajeon snappy with squid, shrimp, and mussels… The rest of the menu is a pared-down selection of SSGB’s regular offerings, straightforward Korean classics with little hint of the culinary cross-pollination most kids go for these days. ‘My mom hates fusion,’ says Kim. She ‘actually comes in and checks up on me. She makes sure I’m not messing up.'”

3. MOTT’S EAT

Mini Mott’s cheeseburger, count Nick Kindelsperger a fan: “The griddled double cheeseburger ($9.95) starts with some very standard toppings like gooey American cheese, tart pickles and aromatic onions. But the rest show Kim’s culinary skills. Hoisin aioli adds a creamy sweetness, pickled jalapenos lend acid and heat, miso butter adds a strong umami meatiness and, finally, a dramatic handful of sweet potato frizzles adds crunch. It’s easy to understand the appeal.”

Mini Mott’s cheeseburger, count Michael Nagrant a foe: “But then they destroy the patty until it’s a Trump-friendly well done and swaddle it in gooey American cheese. Even if it had flavor, you’d never find it…Frankly, I think this is why people have been so floored by the Impossible burger. We’ve gotten so used to flavorless commodity beef, that the standard for replacement is as low as Death Valley.”

4. THE KANDY-KOLORED TANGERINE DREAMFLAKE SASHIMI BABY

Look at the crazy sprinkles on these doughnuts! Wait, they’re not doughnuts, they’re… “TOMI arrives at Revival Food Hall to hawk Japan’s trademark, traditionally hand-rolled dish. The forthcoming vendor will likely appeal for its use of a mechanical sushi-maker along with its promise of super high-quality fish, sold at affordable prices and presented in eye-catching color.” They claim the machine mimics the hand movements of a traditional sushi maker… at least one with an 8-year-old’s color sensibility. (Chicago)

5. TIKKAWHOOPS

Crain’s reviews lunch at Tikkawala—though according to Eater, they’d stopped doing lunch service a few days earlier. Anyway, many of the same comments apply to dinner: “They roast, toast and grind their own spices, producing dishes in small batches from fresh ingredients that communicate clearly without knocking you over with heat. It’s food we can easily picture enjoying in a much fancier place at fancier prices.”

6. TITUSLANDIA

If you follow him on Instagram or Twitter you know Titus Ruscitti is already in Beijing and Hong Kong, but his last trip was to Portland (Oregon) and here’s his report.

7. PANCAKE MAN

I’m not sure what to think about this Christopher Borrelli piece on a lifelong busser at Walker Bros. in Wilmette, Othea Loggan. I guess it’s good that he doesn’t just ladle syrup all over the story of a man who’s served others and seen the generations grow up… the Trib has published plenty of those over the years. But he seems to almost be pestering the guy, and the reader, over economic justice—”There is only a man whose choices (amid a systemic lack of choices) offer snapshots, of the changing nature of work, of the lack of opportunities for people of color, of the assumptions we make about ambition.” Anyway, read it, see what you think, see if you think it’s onto something or doesn’t know what it’s about, see if you think it’s expecting too much of a working man and his life to make a neat story and a clear point.

8. HOGSALARY

Meanwhile, speaking of how much people get paid in the restaurant business… labor issues are the subject on The Feed, in which they talk to Brendan Sodikoff of Hogsalt and Kevin Boehm of Boka, though as much direct insight comes directly from co-host Rick Bayless on how the restaurant scene is shaped by the labor market.

9. BEER STORY

Greg Trotter (the Trib’s best food and drink reporter who isn’t a food and drink reporter) has a poignant story about Glenview’s Machushla Brewing, whose founder—a member of the Hackney’s family—died suddenly at age 44, just months after the brewery opened.

10. BOUNTY

Good news: 5 Loaves Eatery, closed by thieves who stole copper wiring (again), reopened quickly this time. Block Club Chicago has more.

11. BERNICE’S TAVERN

Here’s a great story in South Side Weekly for anybody who went on my South Side tour, or wanted to: an interview with Steve Baduskas, owner of Bernice’s Tavern (next door to where Healthy Food used to be), talking about the old Lithuanian Bridgeport.

12. ELBOY

Phillip Foss has a cousin, Timothy Foss, who’s an artist. And now Phillip Foss (and EL Ideas, and his family) are the stars of an ongoing comic, Life in El. Follow it here or on Instagram.

13. MEAT THE BUTCHER

It launches abruptly and I feel like the intro must be missing, but if you know who Rob Levitt is, you will find this chat with him at a podcast called Meatblock interesting.

14. THE GLAMOROUS LIFE

Ultimately, this piece at a blog called Stay Cool, Mom by Maggie Hennessy ends with a recipe, but it gets there by way of the reality of life as a freelancer: “Because I wrote two articles a day, I usually spent my morning doing a couple interviews, transcribing them and writing feverishly; then I’d break for ‘lunch’ (aka shoveling alternating slabs of cheese, bread and tomato into my mouth) before repeating this insane ritual in the afternoon.”

15. A VOICE SILENCED

Did the Village Voice review restaurants? It probably did though when I read it, in the 80s (in Kansas—yes, you could find a New York alt-weekly there) and into the 90s here, it was for Andrew Sarris and Jim Hoberman on film, and Robert Christgau on music, and Nat Hentoff and Wayne Barrett and Arthur (not Art) Bell and so on. I hadn’t picked it up in years, and obviously alt-weekly allegiance moved to the Reader, where I lived and for which I eventually wrote, but every alt-weekly’s death diminishes me. The Reader’s Aimee Levitt has a good Twitter thread (irony noted) on how this news feels, and what you should do: buy an ad and support a journalistic outlet you read, while it still exists.

WHAT MIKE ATE

Let’s start at the bottom. I made a second attempt to eat at Forum 55 (food hall at 55 East Monroe) after a dentist appointment, the first having fallen apart because… well, it proved surprisingly hard to find out at 2:10 that it closes at 2, from either signage (none) or people (incommunicative). This time it was open, unfortunately for me.

Butcher & Larder’s sandwich stall appears to be quietly gone, so one son and I decided now was the time to try Pork & Mindy’s. I went with their signature excess of a BLT with, it turned out, candy-coated bacon. Imagine a candy corn sandwich on one of those crappy-fancy supermarket brioche buns, with a hint of overcooked pork that’s been in the refrigerator for a week. Literally inedible—as in, two bites, the second one to confirm the initial diagnosis, and into the trash. I got a caprese sandwich from another stand to replace it, and though sloppily overdressed, it served the same function as prison nut loaf, ie., minimum life-sustaining nutrition. Second son made the only apparent wise choice—Friends’ ramen isn’t bad. If this dreary food hall, clinical depression in retail form, still exists by January 15th I’ll be amazed.

Fortunately, I was saved from flinging myself in front of the Brown Line by memories of Quiote the night before, my first try of the menu since the evolution that was talked about in this Fooditor piece. It’s less authentic Mex, more fantasia on Mexican themes—and I’m sure some find that objectionable (another food writer mentioned afterwards that he’s gotten some of that trying to take out of town food media there—Mexican by white guys, egads). More for me! is all I can say to that; imaginative blending of Mexican flavors with midwestern ingredients, cooked with high precision at a moderate price, like the whitefish-serrano salad that Dan Salls gleefully calls “Jewish Mexican”—there is nothing in that sentence that does not make me happy. Nor did we mind having a third chance to eat ice cream pops from Pretty Cool Ice Cream in four days (Salls knows somebody there).

Neo-German/Central European food is a dream that Chicago keeps having, neo-Southern food is too, and those two comfort foods come together jokily at Funkenhausen. One dish shows you what that could be: ricotta dumplings (okay, that’s Italian, but it could as easily be Southern) in a meaty gravy of kielbasa, is everything both your grandmas (the Polish one and the Southern one) could dream of. (It needs a bigger portion option, though—the small plate version had all of three dumplings.) Most of the rest—smoked pork ribs (very strongly pushed by the server), some elotes-ish corn, broccolini—was fine, but didn’t seem gonzo enough to really bring this fusion concept to life, and one was simply weird—beef tartare in lettuce wraps as a strange visual joke on golabki. (I just ate the tartare out of the lettuce.) I think this has promise and will come into focus with time—but it needs to bring on da funk!

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