The only thing anybody will click on about food is a list, of course, so the Trib has taken the last few years of Phil Vettel’s writings and created Phil’s 50, a Vettelian ranking of the best places to eat in the city; here’s his intro, and here’s the list. It’s a mainstream list, but mainstream is pretty damn good in Chicago and it does at least touch on some more ethnic neighborhood choices like Lao Sze Chuan and Sun Wah as well. And it jumps ahead of 9/10ths of the lists out there for the simple fact that we know Vettel has actually eaten at these places—he didn’t just Google them!


Or something; Julia Thiel at the Reader finds the mega-steakhouse Maple & Ash “a fine environment in which to spend lavishly. Opulent yet modern, the enormous 600-seat restaurant is decorated with an elegant chandelier and imposing floral displays.” And the steaks measure up: “A 28-day dry-aged rib eye, well marbled with fat, had the most complex, earthy flavor I’ve tasted in a steak, while the perfectly rare interior of the strip steak contrasted beautifully with its smoky, lightly charred exterior.” But “there aren’t many side dishes I’d order again.. The server highly recommended the “baked and loaded” potatoes… The rich potato dish, generously laced with braised short ribs and topped with raclette cheese, bacon, truffle, and fried onions, was delicious but made a terrible match for the fatty steak; the brussels sprouts, drowning in bacon grease, had the same issue.”


“Dos Urban Cantina is the most important Mexican restaurant to open in Chicago since Topolobampo. Which, not coincidentally, is where chef/owners Brian Enyart and Jennifer Jones worked,” Phil Vettel begins his three-star review of the most serious of recent Latin food openings, Dos Urban Cantina. “The cooking, Enyart and Jones say, is Mexican inspired, and the menu is a very personal expression of Mexican flavors. There are echoes of the American South, Asia and Eastern Europe here and there, and they only add to the appeal.”


Mike Sula has expressed admiration for barman Benjamin Schiller before, and no surprise he finds his Lincoln Square The Sixth “the place to be… The Silly Rabbit, served over brightly colored Trix-inspired ice cubes in flavors like “lemony yellow” and “grapity purple,” could well be the most Instagrammed cocktail in the city right now. What makes the drink fun is its interactivity: the cocktail itself, a concoction of Ford’s gin, soda, lemon, and simple syrup, is served in a small carafe alongside the glass of ice. Add it a little at a time to get the flavor of just one ice cube or all at once to combine the flavors; as the ice melts, the drink becomes fruitier.” (Reader)


Sula was kind of down on Dudley Nieto’s Rojo Gusano last week, but in Redeye, Michael Nagrant went to the same one I went to: “My favorite taco featured creamy curls of shrimp slathered with bright Thai green curry topped with a nest of crunchy Napa cabbage ($3.50 each or $10 for three). I also loved the arrachera taco ($3.50 each or $7.50 for three) stuffed with juicy nuggets of freshly grill-caramelized carne asada dripping with garlicky mojo de ajo sauce.” But his favorite is more of a South American taste: “an empanada stuffed with creamy farmer’s cheese, epazote leaf and roasted portobello mushrooms ($3). The half-moon-shaped shell dappled with flaky pockmarks from the fry oil was a killer pastry.” (Redeye)


Moto closed last week, and there were a couple of ending tributes, but the most interesting take on the restaurant’s legacy is from David Hammond at New City, talking to Amanda Barnes, a Moto vet now at Celeste, about how she uses one aspect of Homato Cantu’s thinking there—his predilection for “wrecked food”: “It’s expertise—and tech support—that adds value. In fact, it takes vastly more expertise to serve a piece of delicious trash food than it does a piece of Wagyu beef, which arrives in the kitchen with built-in deliciousness.” (New City)


How long did it take the cider bar The Northman to open? Long enough that Cleetus Friedman is out at The Fountainhead, which was behind it, to be replaced by Sean Sanders of the late, eco-conscious Browntrout. Chicagoist has more; Eater has the announcement on the Northman opening, now March 8.


Once the Google building had walls of ice feet thick; now it just has oysters on crushed ice in Cold Storage, the seafood bar inside Swift & Sons, and Joanna Trestrail is impressed: “Shellfish arrays behind the raw bar that dominates the space are things of beauty and mighty tempting. High rollers spring for seafood towers of mussels, shrimp, clams, crab and more ($20 to $75 per person), while the rest of us roll a la carte. Nicely presented oysters from both coasts ($3 each, or $17 for six), daily varieties of which are posted around the room, made us want to come back a few hours later — they’re just $1 each (and draft beers are $3) from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.” (Crain’s)


At Facebook, Eater’s Sarah Freeman has a short but trenchant comment on a Bon Appetit piece that went looking for signs of Brooklyn civilization in the midwest. (There’s a cringe-inducingly clueless quote from the piece—”I tell Brooks how I’m in Indianapolis to find Brooklyn, and to see how America’s dominant food trends play out in a place with an emerging restaurant scene. I see his face drop, like I’ve delivered the ultimate insult…” Not “like,” old man.) Anyway, Freeman stands up for the midwest having its own food culture and New York media not getting it. My only question is, why aren’t they publishing commentary as sharp as this at Eater Chicago?


Welcome to Elizabeth Atkinson, who takes over for Amy Cavanagh at Time Out Chicago.