Phil Vettel is generally pleased with Cantina 1910’s return from assorted troubles, under new chef Scott Shulman: “Shulman’s approach, much like [Diana] Davila’s before him, is to interpret Mexican cuisine with local, seasonal ingredients. This permits more than a little creativity, evidenced by Shulman’s arroz con pollo, which arrives as a massive fried ball containing chicken mousse, poached egg and ancho puree, supported by a base of risotto with poblano, peas and corn ragu and topped by cilantro-jalapeno gremolata. The online Authenticity Police’s collective head may explode, but it’s a delicious dish.” But the front of house needs work: “Nothing egregiously bad, understand, but there’s a lack of efficient flow to service that is borne out by the time it takes drinks and even food to arrive.” (Tribune)


After a couple of grumpy reviews, Mike Sula seems happy to have something of the caliber of Giant to write about: “At Lula, along with owner Jason Hammel, [chef Jason Vincent] focused on the quality of product and the restaurant’s relationships with producers more than adherence to any particular style of cooking, a fluidity he developed further at Nightwood, becoming known as a chef who cooks deceptively simply; that is to say, with an outward emphasis on recognizable, appealing food prepared with expert technique and complex execution that never overplay their hand…. Eat a few meals at Giant and you’ll realize that the best thing about it—much like Nightwood and most assiduously seasonal restaurants—is that it will never bore. So long as Vincent continues to be inspired by what’s happening around him, the food won’t fall into a rut.”


We expect to get condescending New York pieces about how you won’t entirely die from a lack of decent food in Chicago, but—a guide for the “New York skeptic” toward Chicago from Edible Manhattan? You’d think they’d have a little respect for the midwest where things grow, but this piece is awful—from only focusing on places with a New York connection to calling us the land of ribeye and brats (that’s Wisconsin, thanks). And it’s all framed as if he’s doing us a great service bringing us the clueless of New York to discover that our city’s not that bad. Honestly, Edible, WTF.


The lede is buried in Phil Vettel’s review of Il Porcellino, the latest Lettuce Entertain You River North Italian restaurant, in the space previously known as Paris Club, which he finds pleasant enough for one star (“Pastas, in addition to being a bargain, are extremely good”). The last we heard, Aaron Martinez, one of the Intro chefs (and before that the chef of a short-lived experiment at Elizabeth), was going to be in charge. But Vettel says “Executive chef Doug Psaltis oversees the operation, as he does for the rest of the Melman-siblings restaurants, but day-to-day cooking falls to chef de cuisine Craig Degel, plucked from Eataly’s Baffo.” What happened to Martinez? Has anyone seen him? Is he on a milk carton somewhere?


“Bursting with potential,” says the headline for Michael Nagrant’s review of Ema from Intro chef C.J. Jacobson. In other words, though he has high praise for some things, it ain’t there yet: “Our server pushed the fried eggplant ($8.95) like a used car salesman encouraging an extended warranty plan. The first few bites were OK, but eventually the plate became an exercise in monotony. Some of the bigger hunks of eggplant were soggy, raw in the middle and tough to chew. The best bits were the thinly sliced ones, especially when dunked in the side of chickpea miso dip. Like a couple of other tables serviced by our waiter, we left half the plate untouched. A lamb and beef kebab ($13.95) glistened with olive oil and had a fine smoky char. The meat was juicy but woefully in need of salt.”


As we’re all watching John Oliver this morning, why does good reporting at the Tribune matter to us? Here’s why: their investigative series on the pollution nightmare that is factory pork. Not that you don’t know this from Michael Pollan or Pig Perfect etc., but newspapers keep familiar stories going by bringing them home, and that’s what this series does. Unfortunately, so far as I can tell there’s no main page for the stories (or there is one but it immediately bounces to the home page), so search for “The Price of Pork” and you’ll find at least some of the stories.


You hardly need me to point you to John Oliver’s tronc polemic, but Chicagoist has good commentary on it (as well as the embedded video). Ironically, the popularity of this clip partly proves the value of the general strategy tronc is pursuing—make something people want to watch and promote it on social media, and they will watch it. It also proves that if the product (which in HBO’s case is HBO) and the audience have some relation, promoting yourself via social media will work (at least a few folks will be more interested in subscribing now). Unfortunately, the part tronc’s strategy misses is that… HBO did not make 2000 videos out of security cam footage and happen to catch John Oliver ranting for 20 minutes on one of them. They actually make shows and pay for the talent to make them.


John Lenart tries to appreciate sherry as a wine guy: “Maybe you’re like me, and you approached sherry with an open mind, and were poured a nice fino sherry. You wanted to like it because everyone said you’d love it. But that oxidized first sip and somewhat thin mid-palate texture just didn’t wow. But to just sip a sherry takes it out of context. And that’s really the problem that sherry faces.” (Chicagoist)


Is Chicago the unsung city of barbecue? That’s what Fooditor’s own Hunter Owens argues in Saveur. Bonus: check out that swell video he links to—about 500 people have in the last week!


Bittersweet story by Kevin Pang about how his dad became a YouTube star making traditional Chinese food… and what it meant for their relationship.


Crain’s looks at why everybody’s doing artisanal food halls all of a sudden: “‘People are moving away from the dingy, low-lit food court with a Taco Bell next to a McDonald’s,’ [real estate investor Michael] Marsal says. ‘People are demanding to know what ingredients go into their food and who the chef is.’”


Last week Mike Sula threw a harpoon at the poke at Mahalo, and this week he explores the question, what’s the deal with all the poke all over the place suddenly? “As poke has swept the mainland, all sorts of things have been thrown into the mix in what the conspiratorial might whisper is an effort to disguise the insalubrious qualities of inferior fish, but is more generally in tune with our mass fast-casual efforts to put all our sadness in a bowl.” (Reader)


I think I ran this guy’s list of black-owned restaurants once, but Joseph Hernandez has a piece on Toure Muhammad’s efforts to promote African-American owned places to eat via Black Chicago Eats week. If nothing else, go have one of Stephanie Hart’s caramel cupcakes, you’ll be glad you did. (Tribune)


Steve Dolinsky follows along on a walking tour of Wicker Park and Noble Square, along the way learning what happened with Authentaco—it’s moving into the space of the same owner’s Picante, while the Ashland building, with its tile announcing hamburgers, will achieve its destiny and become a burger joint again.


Munchies has a good interview with Maria Marszewski… the Maria of Maria’s bar.


This was a cook at home week, but I did manage to check out Chiya Chai, subject of two rave reviews last week. Surprisingly, I wasn’t wild about the momo, the Nepalese dumplings, with their gummy wrappers. On the other hand the flaky pies with savory Nepalese fillings are wonderful. And even though chai isn’t really my thing, the chai was pretty fine, too. It’s a find even if I’d give the momo a while to improve.