Big congrats to Iliana Regan for being named a Food & Wine Best New Chef. At long last, I’d say; few rises have been as interesting and unique as Regan’s, who came up through every alt-career path imaginable—underground dinners built on foraged ingredients in her apartment, selling pierogi at farmer’s markets, then a small restaurant in what wasn’t much of a foodie neighborhood then, but is hot Lincoln Square now, and recently, a bakery and pop-up shop, Bunny, in Lakeview. I’ve covered her many times along the way, though my favorite is the time we went frog-giggin’ in Indiana.


I never met William Rice (though I did recently meet his wife, now widow, Jill Van Cleave at—ironically enough—Fat Rice), but long before I ever dreamed of being a Fooditor, I often read his food and wine coverage in the Tribune, and the first adjective that came to my mind turns out to be the same one Bill Daley uses for him the start of his memorial piece—urbane. Rice died this weekend at 77, and Daley’s memorial piece is essential reading for telling us about a journalist who came to Chicago at just the right moment to help usher our city into the big leagues of food. It doesn’t seem that long ago—and yet, it’s a lost world.


The Roister, the latest restaurant from the Alinea-Next crew, opened on April Fool’s, and at the same time owner Nick Kokonas took to Medium to tell the story of what it’s about. Among other things we finally learn where the name comes from—no, not the mid-1980s TV series with Chad Everett and Jim Varney (that was The Rousters) but “It means to enjoy and celebrate in a boisterous manner. To engage in noisy revelry. Think: bluster, rustic, without restraint.” There’s a lot of other explanation as to how they created the concept of a place where the kitchen is right in the middle of the room—like the Catbird Seat in Nashville—though in the end, for me it comes down to a Twitter exchange I had. A friend said she wasn’t excited by the concept, and I said, the concept of “Chef Andrew Brochu” works just fine for me. A fan since Kith & Kin, I’m excited to see him making full plates, more than bar snacks at The Aviary.

By Sunday Kokonas was crowing on Facebook how he’d revolutionized restaurant publicity again, “proving” nobody needs to pursue traditional media placements. Sure, it’s absolutely worth reading about a place straight from the guys who made it, when it opens. That’s one more example of the democratization of media in action, and hear hear. But in time you’re going to want to read reviews… that aren’t written by the boss, whether that means they’re by Phil Vettel, ChicagoFaceStuffingBlog, or Heidi S., Elite Yelper. Not to mention other things the boss can’t really do, like, oh… interesting interviews with his staff.


Then I had this dream where Alinea opened a popup restaurant in the old Moto space, and it was Alinea only it wasn’t really Alinea, because there was an artist involved and they called the meal a progression and improv dining and it was only going to be for three days, and you could only buy seats for two at $115 each, and even though no one understood what it was really going to be, it sold out in a couple of hours. A preview of what the newly rehabbed Alinea will ultimately be? Or just something odd they want to try once? We shall see. Maybe. Or maybe it’s all a dream.


Last week we missed Sula’s review of Bunny by an hour, and so by this week there’s a ton of stuff to read about food there. Start with artisanal toast at Bunny, which Sula describes beautifully: “no slice—probably no single dish in Chicago currently—has been so relentlessly documented as Bunny’s foie gras toast. It’s a buttery slice of brioche (or sturdier nut-berry), smeared with raspberry jam and topped with a tiny molded owl figurine made from foie gras mousse—so cute you’ll evacuate rainbows. It’s a breakfast made more for social media than for eating (which might be why no one complains that the heavy smear of preserves overwhelms the rich, creamy bird liver). But Regan is Chicago’s only magical-realist chef, and it’s a beacon of the whimsical style on display at her flagship restaurant.”

The lovely precision of that paragraph seems to have eluded him in trying to describe a somewhat botched-looking French dip at Cochon Volant; the abusive comments are more fun there. On the other hand, who better than Koreaphile Sula to look at the new cookbook Koreatown, which looks at our local scene among other hipster versions of Korean food: “All of the essential dishes are here, from jjampong to gamjatang to bossam to  japchae, plus a fascinating selection of forward-thinking recipes by accomplished chefs, like Danny Bowien’s seollontang with smoked brisket and sea urchin, Sean Brock’s cornmeal and shrimp pajeon, and Edward Lee’s red cabbage-bacon kimchi.”

Finally, Aimee Levitt takes a quick peek at the Nuevo Leon folks’ new Pilsen spot, Canton Regio, where brochetas make it “tempting to grab one and point it at the person across the table, and shout, “En garde!” But then a piece of meat or a shrimp might fall off and land on the floor, lost forever, and that would be sad because those brochetas really are quite tasty.”


And we’re not even in Cleveland! Everyone’s Tiki fave Lost Lake had a fire, and while they got it under control, they too will be doing pop-ups in the meantime until everything is cleaned up. In the meantime, they’re doing a fundraiser for the staff here.


Years ago I went to a place a few LTHers had talked about—a Chinese food court in a west suburban office building, in Westmont. The food was mildly interesting, the space was kind of soulsucking, and all in all it was nothing I ever raced back to try again… until now! Nick Kindelsperger reports on a Korean restaurant that has opened there, Hanbun, from a chef-owner who worked at Alinea, Tru and other places: “At Hanbun, the black bean sauce is brothy, with the stark black color of squid ink and the viscosity of rich beef stew. The rough-edged noodles latch on to the sauce like Italian pasta. Hidden in the depths are cubed chunks of plump pork. On top, a tangle of pungent fresh chives and, bizarrely, acidic Thai-inspired nuoc mam cucumbers. The dish is unlike any version of black bean noodles I’ve ever encountered, looking and tasting like a refined version of a comfort classic. Which is exactly how I’d describe Hanbun, one of the most ambitious Korean restaurants in the Chicagoland area.” (Tribune)


Anthony Todd observes sensibly of Chipotle’s new Asian food chain ShopHouse, “I’m usually kind of down on fast casual asian food, mostly because you can get better food, at a much lower price, if you go to an actual Asian restaurant that doesn’t have a menu tested by focus groups.” But he and two other Chicagoist writers like it all anyway. (Chicagoist)


Michael Nagrant had a nice poke at Aloha Poke Co. in the French Market: “You want the Crunch bowl. The veggies included—cucumber, scallion, edamame and jalapeno—are so crunchy and cool you’ll swear they’ve been sitting in the greatest lettuce crisper of all time. But what really makes the bowl is glistening tobiko, or flying fish roe, and tempura-fried onion. Each bite includes a salty, satisfying pop of that mix.” (Redeye)


Sarah Freeman has everything you want to know about why cider is hot right now, at Eater.


Had a pretty nice burger from Beard & Belly, which is a little window inside The Long Room. Only bummer—it’s a 21+ bar, so my kids and I had to take it to go. Finally got to The Angry Crab, admired the scale and efficiency of the operation—but honestly, just didn’t love the way everything tasted of the same 55-gallon drum of industrial seasonings. Breakfast at Kingsbury St. Cafe should come with a consultation with Wilfrid Brimley about the “diabeetus” it just gave you; I could tolerate smoked chicken on eggs Benedict, but not the sticky sweet bbq sauce any subtlety of hollandaise flavor was drowned in.