Daisies’ pastas are among Chicago’s best,” says Jeff Ruby, which is all you really need to say, right? But he goes on: “Thick, buttery stracci nestle under clouds of grated pecorino with delicate English peas in a lamb sugo made from house-butchered meat that’s been braised for three to four hours. Toothy, mint-kissed Piemontese tajarin (a yolk-rich pasta) is brilliantly counterbalanced by nubs of chicken cracklings and roasted asparagus.” Is it getting steamy in here? (Chicago)


Jeff Ruby gets to the problem with Zoe Schor’s faux fast food at Split Rail: “Clever doesn’t necessarily taste good. When it works, you get ingenious creations that tickle and tweak the palate, such as the loaded baked potato gnocchi, puffy-light dumplings topped with Nueske’s bacon, Hook’s five-year sharp cheddar, and crisp-edged potato skins. When it doesn’t, you get things like massive whiskey-battered chicken nuggets that don’t taste much different from the mass-produced ones we grew up on… Schor clearly has imagination to burn. Call me a wet blanket, but where some might applaud a skilled chef having fun, I see a burgeoning talent capable of much more than chicken nuggets.” (Chicago)

3. E=1 STAR

The Albert gets one star from Phil Vettel, a rarity and at first, one doesn’t see why based on the overall praise for the food: “Scallops, for instance, sit above a pool of curry sauce inlaid with peas and carrots, along with the surprise inclusion of pitted cherries… Another star is the meagre, a marvelous piece of fish whose clean flavors are contrasted by nearly blackened skin, and supported by a confit of golden tomatoes, intensely flavored tomato jam and black-garlic puree.” So what’s wrong with it? Service is a problem, enough to bring the rating down: “A consistent problem is the tendency for servers to place kitchen orders at a luncheonette pace. My first visit, our appetizers arrived about two minutes after cocktails did—and the cocktails arrived quickly. Entrees showed up soon after. We felt rushed. The same thing happened in my next two visits.”


Mike Sula seems to be in a trance from the menu at Blue Door Farm Stand: “The core of [chef Rey] Villalobos’s Farm Stand menu is salad. Salads for people who don’t want to eat anything but salad. They are heart-stoppingly sized salads. If you tried to eat that much pork in one sitting, you’d die in your chair. But it’s salad, and instead you’re going to eat it and live forever. OK, there’s bacon in a couple of them. But swine is forgiven, because these are monuments to arugula, romaine, and kale.” (Reader)


Nick Kindelsperger looks into why, when all of America eats pepperoni on its pizza, Chicago is the Big Sausage. He talks to several top local pizza places about it, and confirms along the way a suspicion I had after the first time I had Villa Nova’s pizza with its perfectly lined up balls of sausage: “Each sausage pizza comes with golf-ball-sized pieces of Italian sausage positioned precisely on the thin crust in a grid pattern so that every square slice has a sausage right in the middle.”


What’s wrong with opening a gyros place like Yeero Revolution in Evanston? The fact that you’re going to be down to scraps by 7 pm, says Titus Ruscitti: “What I received was a plate with a small handful of pork gyros that must have been the end of it. The pieces were barely bigger than a nickel. The first thing I think of when gyro plate is mentioned is a big ass plate of food and this wasn’t that. Maybe they ran out since they close so early? If so I cant see how this isn’t a constant problem with people coming in around 7p which isn’t all that late. The product itself was good but the delivery of it was pretty weak.”


Graham Meyer thinks that the revived Bin 36 under Top Chef alum Angela Bastidas is worth a business lunch visit: “Quality under Bastidas leans more positive than negative. The salmon, with crisped skin and a pallet of farro and dressed greens, merits its price. The pork cracklins share plate ($13) defied our expectations of a Publican-like hogpile of puffed pork rinds and instead delivered three zippy lettuce-wrapped tacos of pig-ear-like fried strips with chili peppers and onions. Misfiring, though, the clunker of a chicken sandwich ($13) put a crunchy but bland breading on dull meat, and then put the too-large-to-bite bird on a crumbly, soggy biscuit that lacked the structural integrity to be lifted.” (Crain’s)


The latest bummer among places that have closed in this, the Red Wedding of restaurant years, is Sumi Robata Bar, which just won a Jean Banchet award and got some James Beard attention. They made the announcement on Facebook. 


Well, at least there’s this: the people behind the rally to save the Wrigleyville Taco Bell said it was a joke, and took the Facebook page down. (Chicagoist)


More graphic lust for Daisies from Time Out, though why even bring up Olive Garden is beyond me, when you had something like this: “It was the unassuming tajarin that did me in: thin, eggy ribbons tangled with butter, green garlic and barely-cooked green beans, topped with crunchy chicken cracklins standing in for breadcrumbs. I absently started digging straight into the bowl while there were still a few strands left on my more civilized shared plate. It’s that kind of pasta—the supple yet textural, light yet indulgent, just garlicky enough, shameless face-stuffing kind.”


Hey, Boka Group can’t open all the new restaurants, somebody else has to open a few. You’re gonna read a fall preview somewhere, might as well read Matt Kirouac’s now. (Zagat)



A friend’s birthday got me back to The Bristol, which I hadn’t been to since Todd Stein took over running it as well as Formento’s (sending over Joel Heseman as chef de cuisine). Happy to report that it’s in strong shape again, still excelling at housemade pastas and Italian dishes (a corn risotto was summer crack), getting rich meaty flavors out of big hunks of meat, and—more surprisingly—working bright Asian flavors into vegetable dishes, with Indian-spiced cauliflower and green beans tossed with chilis and peanuts. Recognizably The Bristol, but trying some new things as well, it remains a star in town.