Buzz List for January 8, 2018

Goss is gone, Grace gossip, what to do about disappearing restaurants, and Alinea: The Musical

Michael Gebert
Cosmo Goss getting his tongue gold-leafed at a Publican Dark Lord Dinner, in the old days of restaurant kitchens

1. GOSS & THE GOAT

Fired Publican chef/cookbook co-author Cosmo Goss will not be part of the opening team at Pacific Standard Time, the restaurant that started out being promoted as a partnership between him and fellow One Off Hospitality chef Erling Wu-Bower, but now seems to be a One Off restaurant (at least to judge by the fact that One Off co-signed the announcement that Goss was a goner).

Chicago is somewhat unusual in that our only kitchen sexual harassment scandal to date doesn’t involve a chef who was accused of being a harasser himself—just one who, as a manager, failed to take an incident of harassment as seriously as it deserved (or, more likely, as the lawyers eventually decided it needed to be taken to ward off a lawsuit). I’m sympathetic to the social media meme that before you feel too bad about men having their careers cut short by accusations, feel bad for the women who had their careers cut short by intolerable conditions of harassment that drove them out of the biz. And it seems safe to say that lots of managers have gotten lots of harassment response training since the story broke, which is surely a good thing.

But still, unless there’s more to this story than we know (a distinct possibility, of course), Goss seems more scapegoat than perpetrator, and it seems unduly harsh to basically shut down someone’s career for others’ behavior. For now, he seems (to judge by social media) to have gone back to the west coast, where he came from, and may find a second chance more easily out there. (Eater)

2. TODD UND VERKLARÜNG

Anthony Todd offers a look at all the farewells we had to say in 2017 at Chicago magazine: “The hardest loss for many Chicago food geeks was Vera, the Liz and Mark Mendez-helmed restaurant that brought great, simple Spanish food and a huge sherry selection to the West Loop. It closed back in July, and I instinctively still try to make reservations there at least once a month.” His advice is simple and to the point: “So what’s a diner to do? Don’t put off that dinner date. If there’s a neighborhood restaurant you love, make like a Chicagoan and go early and often.”

3. GRACE NOTES

No more breaking news on the Grace closure, though two things I’ve heard of late:

• A friend points out that the timing of GM Michael Muser’s firing, as reported in the Sun-Times, came when he would have been contractually entitled to gaining an ownership stake after five years. So December 2017 was baked into Grace’s future from the start, as the time when the Muser-Duffy team either got a piece of the action—or would have to go.

• Owner Michael Olszewski is telling people that Grace will reopen within a few weeks—with a great new chef! If there’s really anything to this, feel free to start speculating on who’s on waivers at the moment. Mike Sheerin just went to Mrs. Murphy & Sons, so it’s not him, but Jared Wentworth is a free agent at the moment—and there’s always Eric Aubriot.

4. GRANTED

Grant Achatz talks about future plans at Michigan Avenue Magazine, including the idea of a music-oriented dining experience in the former Moto space: “I think, even in New York, when you think of some of the iconic music venues—whether it’s, I don’t know, the Village Vanguard, or the old Stork Club, or whatever it may be—typically, you can go find great music or great food, but it’s really hard to find them both in the same venue. That’s always been a very interesting challenge for us conceptually because there’s so many factors.”

5. YIPPIE-KI-YAY

Longtime dive bar Ronnie’s is now Land & Sea Dept.’s “borderlands” Mexican restaurant Lonesome Rose, which as Mike Sula says, “sure sounds like they’re trying to avoid saying ‘Tex-Mex.'” He especially likes “a collection of larger dishes, not really identifiably border inspired, ranging from ‘truck stop nachos’ with black beans and carne asada to shrimp aguachile (a restrained version, with faded heat and acidity) to a griddle­-crisped double-stacked chorizo burger topped with a messy gob of aioli, shredded iceberg, roasted chiles, and chihuahua cheese.”

6. DELTA DAWN

Maggie Hennessy at Time Out joins the coterie of those who have found The Delta a superior laid-back hangout: “Executive chef-partner Adam Wendt’s (Dusek’s Board & Beer) country cooking is at times bold, though mostly stick-to-your-ribs craveable, while beverage director and partner Adam Kamin’s (Bottlefork) cocktail list leans sweet but not at the expense of depth and interest.”

7. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE SOUR TO LIKE…

One new Jewish deli within a year is a good year, so getting a second serious one after Steingold’s—the South Loop’s new Half Sour, a fine dining-ish take on deli food—is a surprise: “Executive chef Greg Hageli, formerly pastry chef at Band of Bohemia, who also worked at Acadia and Tru restaurants, interprets the deli influence with such dishes as shared plates of latkes ($8) with applesauce, but creme fraiche instead of sour cream plus charred scallions and house-made hot honey; whitefish croquettes ($9) made with house-smoked fish on dill aioli and pickled celery; and chopped liver ($8) laced with onion jam, grapes and a Port wine reduction.” (Tribune)

8. DIBS ON GIBSONS ITALIA

Hey, Crain’s found a business lunch spot it likes—Joanne Trestrail says Gibsons Italia “aims to please high-rollers and aspirants to that category just as strenuously as its sibling, but with an appealing list of pastas and other Italian favorites along with steak, crudo, antipasti and fancy shellfish. At lunchtime, bruschetti and panini are good, less flamboyant offerings. They’re going for classic here, rather than edgy, and so far seem to be hitting their mark.” Though some of what works in the Viagra Triangle may not fly in the Loop—she notes, “Maybe it was our imagination or just a fluke, but seating men in suits along the window wall and women-only parties inland, like a steno pool, is not just bad optics–it’s bad.”

9. COMING ATTRACTIONS

Might as well get started anticipating the most anticipated openings of 2018. Here’s Matt Kirouac’s list at Zagat.

10. MORE BEST OF 2017s!

Chris Chacko of Sparrow Coffee.

Fooditor contributor Amber Gibson names the best new restaurants, at Forbes.

Fooditor contributor Maggie Hennessy names ten best openings at Inside Hook—and guess which Fooditor-approved Chengdu street food place makes her list.

11. CLOSING TIME

More year-end closings, though the reports that Edgebrook burger spot Ivy’s, a 2017 Fooditor 99 choice as well as the subject of this moving piece by me, just closed are off—it’s been closed for some months (I don’t remember when I checked and discovered that, but it could be as far back as the summer). In other fast food news, LTHers report that CaPo’s, which Nick Kindelsperger wrote about and which was literally #99 this year, has shut in its present Grand Avenue with signs promising to reopen… somewhere. Hey, there’s still 98 more!

Aquitaine in Lincoln Park shut after seven years, as did a rare Greek dinner spot outside of Greektown, Mythos, in North Center. And finally, Au Cheval closed. No, not really—they’re just shutting down for a couple of weeks for renovations (probably the reel to reel tape player broke). I suggest lining up now for when it reopens.

12. ROOTSTOCK

The Root tours the African-American south side with Eric Williams—no, not the former MK chef, but a local shop owner—for a nice look at local businesses (including some food places).

13. GET YOUR JEAN BANCHET TICKETS

I won’t be on-stage at the Jean Banchet Awards this year, after two years as designated eulogist for food world figures for whom they couldn’t find a family member or close friend, but don’t let that stop you from being at Chicago’s one and only, highly Beards-influential culinary awards show, this Sunday. Get tickets benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation here. 

WHAT MIKE ATE

On a very cold night I popped into a pretty empty Gideon Sweet for an array of small plates things hitting most of the expected notes—there was hamachi collar (more than just collar, frankly) and bone marrow and a goat tostada and pigtail agnolotti. A few were off, some were pretty good—even with the filling a tad sweet, the agnolotti was pretty damn nice—but it all felt a little generic next to competitors like Proxi (whose fish collar with nam prik is a standout). It’s not a bad alternative when you can’t get into hotter places, but with the talent behind it (Merges, Elliot, Michael Shrader in the kitchen), 2/3 of whom were behind Old Irving Brewing’s menu which I thought was outstanding for a neighborhood beer place, I’d hoped to be more wowed, or at least walk away with a better sense of what they were trying to do.

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