Mike Sula profiled Diana Dávila, defended her food at Cantina 1910 against alleged Yelp philistines, and now raves about her self-opened spot Mi Tocaya Antojeria and the way it evokes her memories: “Dávila isn’t overreaching for originality. Many of her dishes are born out of personal memory and family history. Her uncle’s lengua con salsa de cacahuate is rendered as chunks of pillow-soft tongue (minus the papillae) and seared half radishes drizzled with thick ropes of smooth, creamy arbol-spiked peanut salsa. The restaurant’s logo is the cactus, chosen in part for the ubiquity of nopales in the Mexican diet, and here Dávila presents them in a thick, chunky guisado with the surprising addition of some lightly fried cheese curds and a garnish of the most potently herbal papalo I’ve ever whiffed.”


Chris Borrelli has a pretty good piece on the ongoing conversion of Fulton Market from actual, gritty meatpacking district to gritty-esque restaurant attraction, though I think the picture he paints of meatpacking as “an Epcot simulacrum of a place that existed, where immigrants sweated and livestock bloodied the white smocks of assembly-line workers” is exaggerated—I don’t deny that it’s well on its way there, but there’s still a lot of forklifts running in the area Monday through Friday.

More surprising is this: “Restaurants, however, led the invasion: Paul Kahan’s Publican in 2008, then Grant Achatz’s Next in 2011 opened on Fulton Market, the street.” That those two places “led” the invasion would surely have been news to Moto (opened 2004) or Follia (even earlier, c. 2003), not to mention Rushmore, which was in Vera’s Lake Street space between sausage and corned beef makers by 2000. (In that light, it’s amusing to read Phil Vettel’s 2001 Rushmore review, which starts by painting the desolate scene along Lake back then: “an industrial corridor cast in permanent shadows by the ‘L’ tracks overhead, [it] has almost nothing to attract the evening visitor. Indeed, when the markets and other businesses close up, the street takes on the unsettling, deserted look of a place where Something Bad is about to happen.”)

All that said, still worth reading for the quotes from the guys on Fulton we rarely hear from—the meatpackers, not the chefs. (Tribune)


The “original” location of The Budlong is finally open in Lincoln Square, and Anthony Todd dances with hot chicken joy: “The joy of this particular style is the combination of hot, savory and sweet, which leaves your mouth burning but craving more at the same time… The slight burn is addictive, and I’m willing to bet you’ll find yourself munching away at a bird that is, frankly, too hot to eat comfortably, since waiting for it to cool would involve a level of willpower that I just don’t have.” (Chicagoist)


Elizabeth Atkinson is only so-so on the food beyond the scene at Ronero: “If you’re in the neighborhood, there’s no harm in stopping by for small plates and a drink, like the spicy cadejo blanco made with rum and chimichurri greens. But when it comes to the main course, consider taking your business elsewhere. After all, if you’re on Randolph Street, you can do better than a pretty face.” (Time Out Chicago)

Meanwhile, she had a good harvest at Bad Hunter: “Chef Dan Snowden (Nico Osteria) makes veggies the main course here, and it totally works. Start with the beet tartare, presented ruby-red and tender (just like its beef counterpart) alongside house-made flaxseed chips… The end result is so savory and hearty that you won’t miss your usual steak.” (Time Out Chicago)


The Trib’s Mexican month is still going on, but they put up an essential Mexican list co-written by Nick Kindelsperger and Phil Vettel. And even if they hadn’t id’d the entries by author, it would have been easy to tell that La Chaparrita and Cemitas Puebla are Kindelsperger’s—and all the upscale places are Vettel’s, from Topolobampo to Mexique to… Don Juan Restaurante in Edison Park. I pretty much agree with it as a list of the all-stars, but they’re only the beginning of Mexican in Chicago. (Tribune)


Joanna Trestrail thinks that sounds-silly whiskey and toast place, Slightly Toasted, is actually kind of great: “The toast is served—and shines—all day, starting at 7 a.m. Much more than simply an artisanal spin on white, rye or whole wheat with butter and jam (though that’s available, too), the housemade bread provides a meaningful foundation for savory sandwiches and sweet treats. Open-faced hummus toast ($4), for example, embellished with pickled beets, avocado, feta and chives, is a big enough deal to be a satisfying lunch for lightish eaters. There’s also a meal-in-itself toast with hanger steak tartare, roasted garlic aioli and a sous vide egg ($7).” (Crain’s)


“This tastes like Germany,” says Aimee Levitt’s friend at Income Tax, which is the point—and tasting like France, Italy and Spain. They have some trouble feeling full, but “It’s dark and cozy, the service is not frantic, the music plays at a civilized volume, and they let you sit and drink and grumble for as long as you need. There is also no other place like it on the Red Line north of Uptown.” (Reader)


David Hammond just went on a big mescal trip to Mexico and has a piece on people in both Mexico and Chicago trying to ensure that mescal’s popularity isn’t its doom, too. (Tribune)


Speaking of Vera’s location in a changing area, Mark Mendez of Vera says I Miss Those Old School Joints: “I worry those places are going away. They are not cool enough, not hip enough, nor wacky enough. They don’t have pickle programs, ice chefs, tea sommeliers, or celebrity chefs. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of tired, apathetic, and just plain awful restaurants out there that probably should be closed. But I’m talking about those special unique places that are fading away like pay phones. My favorite kind of place is where the owner is working the floor, talking to customers, running food, greeting guests, cleaning, you name it. It’s not about breaking culinary ground or the chef showing you what a badass he/she is, it’s about the customer. It’s about making people feel welcome, making them feel appreciated, cared for, nurtured. It’s called hospitality.”


I heard that there were some changes happening at my neighborhood seafood shack—New England Seafood Co.—and Eater has an interesting account of a place that got publicity and kind of lost its way: [Owner Jeffrey] “Mazza stared at his shop’s walls, looking at TV appearance plaques and clippings. They remind him that New England has strayed too far from that original intent… His original vision was a seafood market/crab shack, the kind of beach shacks that the Boston-area native remembered from growing up in New England. They want to have fun with that again.”


Chicago mag profiles hot mushroom scientist Patrick Leacock, who discovered a uniquely Illinoisan chanterelle, and thinks we have quite a fungus scene to uncover.


What are the fanciest unknown restaurants in the city? The ones inside Chicago’s downtown private clubs like the Union League and the University Club. Long bastions of skillfully tame cuisine and starchy manners, at least three of them are looking at the popularity of Soho House and hoping to appeal to the same co-working crowd of younger movers and shakers, says Chicago. Will it work? Should they have started 20 years sooner? Possibly yes to both….


One part of print that’s managed to hang on is glossy print publications aimed at society folk and fashionistas, which includes high-end restaurant coverage. Chicago has had two, CS and Michigan Avenue Magazine, but now we have one, sort of—Modern Luxury, publishers of the former, have purchased the latter. They say they’ll keep both going, but who knows? (Business Journals)


Fooditor is not one of those lifestyle sites that feels the need to keep you up to date on the doings of hiphop personalities like Chance the Rapper, but just in case you have not seen it, somehow, the Harold’s Chicken birthday cake that Adam Moro of Alliance Bakery made for Mr. Rapper is some sort of Chicago masterpiece.


Rick Bayless shared this Scientific American piece, which offers evidence that the strong recommendation for vegetable fats over animal fats, which has ruled dietary policy all along, was a mistake from the beginning: “[Christopher] Ramsden, of the National Institutes of Health, unearthed raw data from a 40-year-old study, which challenges the dogma that eating vegetable fats instead of animal fats is good for the heart. The study, the largest gold-standard experiment testing that idea, found the opposite, Ramsden and his colleagues reported on Tuesday in BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal).”


Well, I was going to add my two cents to Sula’s on Mi Tocaya—but I arrived at 5:30 last night to find that they’re closed on Sunday, no matter that I had a reservation for exactly that time on Reserve. (They’re not the only one who thought that; Eater says they’re open 5-9 on Sunday too.) Fortunately we were only a block from the other new Mexican star of the moment, so… Quiote was terrific as always. Someday…

And I was invited by Big Jones to a special dinner for the author of a book on Appalachian cuisine, Victuals. I like Big Jones any time, but the specials dinner on a theme that they do periodically are one of the best, kind of unknown things that happen in Chicago dining, full of interesting food and views into a new aspect of Southern culture. You should watch for the next one.