Jeff Ruby in Chicago mag reviews two new ventures from fixtures on the scene. At Monteverde, Sarah Grueneberg’s “pasta deserves the hype. Some of Monteverde’s variations are blunt and beautiful, such as the wok-fried orecchiette arrabbiata with head-on Gulf shrimp, tomato chunks, and toasted garlic slivers. Others are understated but striking, such as the puffy packets of tortelloni filled with winter squash and soffrito and sprinkled with pieces of bacon and apple in a rich Parmesan fonduta.”

And at Swift & Sons, Chris Pandel “mixes creativity with good old-­fashioned predictability in a way even I can’t resist… Whether he’s pushing the envelope or not, Pandel knows how to please. The lamb from Pinn-Oak Ridge Farms includes a gorgeous chop and a thick, crisp-edged disk of shoulder and saddle with soft tarbais beans: a lamb lover’s fantasy. A tingly citrus-poached lobster with Champagne, fennel, and fines herbes has the complexity of a three-star dish.” (Chicago)


You know by now if Michael Nagrant hauling out the pop culture comparisons makes you want to go somewhere more—or run away. He gives Mad Social, the Madison-street hangout from Phil Stefani and daughter Gina, three exclamation points and compares it to places that the casts of Girls, Entourage, and Sex and the City would hang out. Then before long, he’s got Jon Snow turning up there too. “At first glance, Mad Social’s menu seems like a sociopathic fusion of Mexican and Italian cuisines, overusing the restaurant name with cutesy menu items such as the Madhattan, Mad soup, Mad burger and Mad poutine. It left me wondering why the food is so angry.” Can Tony Soprano be far behind? “But on careful consideration, most of the menu is mad genius. The Mad soup ($7) is like the love child of French onion and tortilla soups. A soulful chicken broth is fortified with the sweet perfume of caramelized onion and the slight fiery sweetness of toasted guajillo chilis.” (Redeye)


I mentioned last week that Sarah Freeman had a good rant about Bon Appetit searching for Brooklyn’s influence on the midwest—as if we haven’t been pickling and curing stuff all along—on Facebook. This week she turned the thought into a real article at Eater Chicago, trading her own ranting for sources and quotes and all that journalism stuff—and the argument only gets stronger.


One of our favorite up and coming chefs, Kevin McMullen, ex of The Brixton, went to Band of Bohemia to work under another EL Ideas vet, Matt DuBois—and now he’s gone after three months, per an announcement that’s about as shirtily phrased as we can remember: “Due to an internal matter that was handled by ownership, Kevin McMullen has decided to part ways with Band of Bohemia. Ownership and Executive Chef, Matt DuBois, have sincerely appreciated his talents and service during our opening months, and wish Kevin well in his future endeavors. The future of our kitchen always has been and remains in the supremely capable hands of our Executive Chef, Matt DuBois, who will continue to be the driving, creative force in leading Band of Bohemia’s culinary direction.” Too many cooks spoiled the band, perhaps? (Eater)


“I’m not a homesick Brit, but I’ve read enough English novels, both historical and contemporary, to feel like I could be one,” Aimee Levitt begins, and she sees Vivial, the new spot in the Spencer’s Jolly Posh space, as being a less fun replacement, “a rebuke to me and everyone else in this city who professed to love Jolly Posh but did not visit nearly as often as we should have.” (Reader)


Laura Levy Shatkin, longtime Chicago food and wine writer (she was Sula’s predecessor on that beat at the Reader), has been quietly assembling a podcast devoted to talking with sommeliers—how quietly? I was at the event where she interviewed Belinda Chang (Maple & Ash) and I didn’t even realize she was doing it. Anyway, it’s called SommTalks, and though the focus is wine folks, it’s not really a “go drink this vintage from this producer” podcast as just a chance to hang out with some insiders in the restaurant biz. Start with the irrepressible Michael Muser of Grace, and see how you like it.


At brunch, Carly Boers at Chicago settles right into the relaxed vibe of this Humboldt Park cafe with Parisian aspirations: “We settled on the approach of, “order whatever sounds good and call it a meal,” digging into housemade sausage patties ($3; tender, juicy, and divine) and a bowlful of squash and hazelnuts ($5; a sticky-sweet mound of deliciousness) from the à la carte selections.”

But Elizabeth Atkinson at Time Out loved it less: “Café Marie-Jeanne cast itself as a place to eat a meal, but the meat and cheese plates, snacks and wine prove to be the main attraction. While some entrees are well-executed, the majority of the menu pales in comparison to the formidable pre-dinner plates.”


Chicagoist has an account of the latest strange turn in the strange tale of Karyn Calabrese of Karyn’s Raw, etc.—now, in addition to lawsuits and crowdfunding, she’s apparently been in a car accident, posted photos of her injuries—and gave a discount on classes!


Read the first (right now, only) comment on Eater’s review roundup if you want to know what customers are really like—sadly (hint: she sends back the burger twice at MAD Social). Lady, next time you go it may turn into a Red Wedding.


I liked fish and chips at Sink/Swim just fine, but I loved the decor—old Yankee meets groovy space-pad. Not since MOD in the Violet Hour space! And a return to Trenchermen after a while shows that it’s really matured (though one stoner food classic, the pickled tots, is still on the menu). If you haven’t been in a while it’s quite an accomplished place now, and happily, in good-restaurant-averse Wicker Park, it was packed (no Sheerin pun intended). One thing that still baffles me on our scene: why is the sushi at Japanese market Mitsuwa’s food court in Arlington Heights so much weaker than everything else? It’s not doing a good job of selling the fish counter, that’s for sure.