It’s really no surprise at all, but huge congrats to Noah Sandoval for his utterly deserved presence on the latest Food & Wine Best New Chefs list—as they say, “Here is a chef with gob-smacking vision, who convinced us in the space of 16 sublime courses, that the country’s best new fine dining experience can be found up a freight elevator at the end of a West Loop alleyway.”


“Like an overloaded taco teetering on the edge of structural collapse, Quiote is nearly too much,” says Nick Kindelsperger of the all-day Mexican restaurant and nighttime mescal bar. He especially praises lunch, which is mostly tacos: “Just about anything would taste great on tortillas like these, and fortunately Quiote doesn’t overthink the fillings. Start with the suadero ($4), confit brisket that has been cubed and sauteed to order, resulting in ultra-savory nuggets of crisp beef. But you really can’t go wrong with any of the choices. The thinly sliced carne adobada ($4) is laced with a red chile marinade and capped with pickled red onions. Camarones ($4) pair plump shrimp with sweet, juicy pineapple.” (Tribune)


Ella Elli has two female names and at least a half-female crowd as the newest Four Star Group spot (just off) very female Southport, says Michael Nagrant: “The handsome décor also included three huge globe lanterns that looked like giant disco balls. There were copper panels on one wall and curvy, vase-like pendant lamps over some of the high-top tables. Ella Elli’s marble bar was flanked with a couple of gray suede couch-like seats. They were so comfortable that I felt like I was ready to binge watch HBO instead of chowing down on a multi-course meal.” There’s also food: “Chef Nolan Narut is putting out some destination-worthy plates in a sexy space built for a special night out.” (Redeye)


“This is no carbon copy of Gene & Georgetti. They’re always happy to see you at Mirabella,” says Mike Sula, summing up why Mirabella, in which a Gene & Georgetti executive chef serves G&G-style old school steaks in the former Mirabel space, is a weird retro pleasure to have suddenly in the neighborhood (Ravenswood Manor, I guess?) and an improvement on the famously snobbish original. “Nearly everything you could possibly order at G&G is on the menu at Mirabella, at significantly lower prices. Boost your lipids with the bacon with blue cheese dip or its ostensibly healthier alternative, a wedge salad tottering under a blue cheese avalanche, itself carpeted with crushed bacon… it’s all there, with no concession given to the culinary currents of the day.”


Phil Vettel gets downright orgasmic at Trench, the former Trenchermen taken over by Jared Wentworth: “My toes first curled with the sizzling platter of roasted mussels hit the table; the mussels, tossed in olive oil and dusted with smoked pimenton and sea salt, are wonderfully aromatic, and while the mussels taste wonderful by themselves, a quick dunk in the harissa-butter sauce provides a where-have-you-been-all-my-life moment. A disk of headcheese, exactly the size of the sunny-side-up egg that covers it, is another hit, redolent of pastrami spices and resting on a bed of slow-cooked sauerkraut with a dab of Thousand Island dressing.” (Tribune)


Smyth’s food is highly, at times almost forbiddingly refined, but Elizabeth Atkinson argues that the atmosphere is anything but: “Even with all these cheffy details, Smyth maintains a down-home, come-as-you-are feel that sets it apart from other fine-dining restaurants we’ve seen this year. By the time you walk out the door, you’ll feel like you know the Shieldses on a more personal level—from their time spent in Smyth County, Virginia, to their favorite dining menus framed in the bathrooms.” (Time Out)


“Love or loathe this symbol of the area’s evolution, there’s no finer place to observe the bustle than from a marble-topped table in the sun-drenched, ground-level cafe,” says Carly Boers of the new Cafe Robey at Wicker Park’s main intersection. “A super-pleasant experience compliments of the atmosphere and staff. But foodwise (what you really care about!), there are stronger, more memorable brunch games nearby.” (Chicago)


David Hammond talks to chef Kim Dalton, behind the newly opened The Texican, about what makes Tex-Mex: “Chili con carne comes to mind as the quintessential Tex-Mex dish. Beef and a common topping of yellow cheese is definitely not indigenous Mexican except for chili peppers… It’s often said that there should not be tomatoes. And Texans can get weird about beans in chili just like Chicagoans with ketchup on hotdogs.”


Chicagoan Prof. Bruce Kraig (whose Street Foods book is finally getting a paperback edition) is one of the authors of this tribute to the best dogs in every state. (First We Feast)


This piece in Town & Country magazine has a weird definition of what a Chicago classic is—it starts promisingly old school and then kicks off with Avec. But the pictures are uncommonly pretty for a listicle, I’ll say that.


Friend of Fooditor Eve Studnicka worked on this student short film about the Belmont Snack Shop, absolutely my first choice for cheap diner breakfast in Chicago, which is, well, a student film at heart but gets across some of the real flavor of the place, one of the last few outposts of Algrenesque Chicago.


That’s kind of how I feel about this Eater piece on automated restaurants in Chicago—I accept that they exist, but I’m not convinced they’re happening, even after an Eater piece.


High on the list of Mike’s faves he did not expect to see turn up twice in food media this week would be Mezquite Express, beloved grilled Mexican chicken spot. Yet it not only made Nick Kindelsperger’s Mexican choices for the Trib’s Mex slideshow, but landed in Eater with the news that they’re opening a second one at 51st and Pulaski—not, alas, much closer to me than the original at 55th and Kenzie.


Astonishingly brutal reviews are par for the course for British reviewers, and I wish we had a little of their slashing wit (but not their vicious reviewing culture). That said, Jay Rayner’s quickly-celebrated review of Michelin 3-star Le Cinq is a marvel not only because of one great line after another (“The canapé we are instructed to eat first is a transparent ball on a spoon. It looks like a Barbie-sized silicone breast implant… My companion winces. ‘It’s like eating a condom that’s been left lying about in a dusty greengrocer’s,’ she says.”), but because Rayner posts his own snaps of the offending dishes—which indeed look far more depressed and desolate than the glossy styled photos the restaurant provided. That’s a public service that should be talked about in internationally-publicized restaurants like this for a long time.


Baching it with younger son, so we tried a bunch of newish modest-priced places this weekend:

I liked the tacos I tried at The Texican quite a bit, though I was bummed that they wouldn’t make me a breakfast taco at 1 pm (I doubt there’s any technical reason why that couldn’t be possible). I doubt I’ll get to its unparkable location (on former Cabrini Green land, or close to it) at 8:30 am any time soon, alas. Feel free to open #2 closer to me!

Went to Ryuu Asian BBQ with Keng of the Strange Foods Festival (who recorded it here) and really liked the bright, funky flavors. It looks like generic Asian fusion joint in up and coming neighborhood—but it isn’t.

And we had breakfast at The Growling Rabbit in Edgewater, which was slammed on Saturday morning, but easy going and perfectly pleasant and neighborhoody. I had a very good breakfast burrito, though my son’s biscuits and gravy were one of those things that don’t get better as they get fancier—just weirder. Pro tip: order a cinnamon roll to take the edge off while you wait for breakfast to get to you.