After Won Kim took several months off from Kimski to walk the earth, he returns with a new menu, more Korean than Ko-Po (Korean-Polish). Eater:

“You know, basically, I lean toward Asia; I’m fucking Asian — there’s nothing I can do about that, I can’t change it, and I can’t change what I crave either,” Kim adds. “Not to say that Polish food isn’t respectable and amazing in its own right. It had nothing to do with feeling weird about appropriating Eastern European food or anything. It was just really just a matter of, the joke’s been done, it ran its course, and like, I was just in a rut.”

Anthony Todd tells the same story in Dish:

During the COVID lockdowns, Kimski didn’t decide to pivot to takeout like many other restaurants. Instead, Kim focused on using his space to help those in need, feeding hospitality workers and working with a local non-profit to provide food. After a brief reopening, Kim devoted his kitchen to hosting pop-ups.

Now, however, it’s time to get back in the kitchen. “I realized how inexperienced I felt because I wasn’t [cooking] every day. I gotta get back into the flow of this,” laughs Kim. But while Kimski 1.0 was an experiment, Kimski 2.0 is personal. “The food I was making before was an expression, and it was creative,” says Kim. “This is just my personality — I am going to subject people to what I want to eat, rather than trying to stick to a theme.” Despite his many years of cooking Polish-inspired dishes, the cuisine never really invaded his personal tastes; “I never craved a cabbage roll or a potato dumpling when I was off work. I’m always on the Korean side for my snacks.”

And so does Michael Nagrant in conversation with Kim:

What’s something you really want to do that you’re not launching on this menu, but maybe a Korean dish you’re super passionate about and kicking around for the future?

I feel like I’m always leaning towards just opening another Dancen. It’s the food I crave and love and it is so communal. I love Budae Jigae and we have done it as a special many times, but I don’t think a lot of patrons understand the story behind it or its origins. I just love making it and eating it. Its the quintessential stone soup concept made into reality. I also love the idea of gimbap, which is basically a bibimbap in hand roll form. We ran this item our first month and then it became a nightmare to do fresh so we stopped. Maybe we just run a jigae and roll spot for the winter?


At the Reader, Leor Galil reveals the unsuspected link between the pizza with deli toppings at Bob’s Pizza, and state fair foods:

It appeared at other midwestern state fairs last year, including Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana—where it won the Taste of the Fair prize. My state fair road trip daydreams didn’t come true, but fortunately for me I can get pickle pizza anytime I want (within reason) from Bob’s Pizza. Launched out of Pilsen in 2019, Bob’s operates three other Chicagoland locations now, each one serving pizzas cut like they’re from New York; one pie provides six slices, two of which can satiate a pizza hound like me. The pickle pizza has a velvety garlic cream, enough thinly sliced pickles to satisfy a pointillist, and an inviting, light sourness that I’ve begun to crave since I had my first taste.


Could this be the year that the southwest side Arab enclave comes into its own as one of the city’s great dining centers? Meat Moot, the Turkish chain with an outpost in Burbank, has been getting attention, and now Louisa Chu tells a story about halal fried chicken sandwiches in Bridgeview:

Despite the puns and the whimsical tagline — “chicken and pizza you’ve been praying for” — Holy Buckets takes Islamic dietary laws seriously.

“We are focused on what we call, in the Islamic world, zabiha halal fast food,” said Luaey Issa. He’s the co-owner and co-founder of Holy Buckets with professional partner Taleb Awad. “In our case, when a chicken is slaughtered, the animal must be calm.”

The staff had so many skeptics coming in to ask if they’re actually certified zabiha halal that they posted about it on Instagram and TikTok, with what has become their signature sense of humor.


Big Jones, Andersonville’s thoughtful, even scholarly Southern restaurant, is 15 years old and Chef/Co-Owner Paul Fehribach marks the occasion by recounting its history, through a recession and COVID, among other things. It’s hopeful, but realistic:

When the Great Recession hit, sales dropped by half! That required a nimble reaction and a lot of hard work.

By the end of 2008, our survival was uncertain, we even had a Friday night in which we had only five guests. By early 2009. business had stabilized albeit at a low level. We were at least sure we could break even until things improved. We focused hard on execution of high quality, locally-sourced food with compelling presentations.

In April 2009, Chicago Magazine named us one of their Best New Restaurants, and things picked up substantially.

Read it all, it’s well worth it.


Titus Ruscitti went to Valhalla:

There’s no talking about Valhalla without the price coming up, it’s expensive, but I thought the pastry plate was a pretty good deal coming in at $3 each. I really liked all of them and could see myself going back just for that and maybe a beer or something from the bar next door (they don’t serve beer but our friendly waitress said I could go get one if I wanted). Next up was a marvelous Maitake mushroom kebab that’s dipped in beef fat before it’s grilled and then plated with charred avocado, Chevre, and Fresno pepper.


I’m eager to hear about Asador Bastian, the Spanish steakhouse from the people behind Andros Taverna, and The Infatuation starts us off with a capsule review, which just convinces me they’ve actually been:

Asador Bastian’s menu doesn’t have the standard cuts of beef, here there are six varieties served per pound, and a server who must have a PhD in Boeuf-ology will walk you through everything—like how long the Galincia was aged on the hoof, why, and its hopes and dreams before ending up on your plate.


It’ll be too late for Easter dinner by the time you read this, but Friend of Fooditor John Lenart on wines to go with whatever you’re having:

The Easter ham is as classic as it gets. As a friend of mine from the South once said in his fabulous Southern twang, “The Lord knew what he was doin’ when he made the pig.” Salty, sweet, a bit spicy and luxuriously fatty ham can stand up to many kinds of wine, but I reach for Riesling. There’s no finer place in the world for Riesling than Germany. Look for German Riesling labels with “kabinett” on the label. Kabinett means “bone dry.” This wine has ripping high acidity and zippy flavors that pair wonderfully with ham. But don’t be afraid to push your limits and look for a Spätlese. These bottlings are slightly sweet and low in alcohol, and the sugar balances out the bracing acidity. Spätlese also plays wonderfully with ham that has a sweet glaze because a sweet glaze can make dry wines taste sour, and you don’t want that.


Could there be a hot chicken chain out of Chicago soon sweeping the country? Maybe; The Budlong was acquired by the former CEO of Jimmy John’s and has plans for opening 100 of them around the country. Block Club has the story.

Here’s a story I did on The Budlong when it was first gearing up (a lot of this quickly fell apart, however).


Anthony Todd, who seems to be back with a somewhat regular schedule for Dish, talks about the new menu at Esme:

For the restaurant’s most recent menu, chef Jenner Tomaska has created the “La Raza Latina” menu, focused on interpretations of Latin cuisine, inspired by dialogues with his family and staff. Dishes include quail with dueling interpretations of mole (from a grandma/daughter set of recipes) and a “Cuban breakfast” course complete with a ham croquette, pastries, and foamy, delicious coffee.


Pigtail is, I guess, a bar in one of Jose Andres’ restaurants? I don’t know because I don’t get invited to his places (keep that in mind if I ever go to Bazaar Meat—that’ll be my own money burning by the bushel), but Ari Bendersky did get invited to talk to him, which he does at his Substack Something Glorious:

You mentioned Ukraine and wanting to help people, how can more chefs aid your on the ground efforts?

JA: It’s more than chefs. It’s writers, it’s maître d’s, it’s restaurant owners, it’s food company owners or food company warehouse guys. The food family is a very big family. It’s a very generous community. When a restaurant gives a gift certificate, this is not zero cost. Somebody’s paying for it. The owners, somebody’s giving time. When a restaurant gives a certificate, and America gives hundreds of millions of gift certificates, the people who work in those restaurants donate hundreds of millions of hours to charities, to soup kitchens. Not only in food related issues, but can be any other issue.


There’s a new book about the history of distilling in Chicago: Outside the Loop talks to author David Witter.

Culinary Historians of Chicago just had David Hammond and Monica Eng as guests to talk about their book on Chicago foods. Listen to the whole Zoom call here.


I always find the ladies’ tea-type sandwiches of the early 20th century interesting, as an artifact at least and sometimes as a forgotten foodstuff—a slice of 20th century life barely remembered now, but if I see something like the olive and nut spread sandwiches I had at some place in Akron, it’s hard not to give them a try. Sandwich Tribunal has one in that vein:the cucumber sandwiches of Louisville called “Benedictine”:

Start with bread; add a spread and sliced cucumbers and voila! In the late 19th / early 20th Century however, a restaurateur from Louisville, Kentucky came up with a way to simply it further–or perhaps just to intensify the cucumber flavor–by adding cucumbers to the spread itself. The chef, several of whose cookbooks are even now available on Amazon over a century after then were originally published, was named Jennie Carter Benedict, and the spread came to be named after her–Benedictine. (Though one commenter on TikTok says they grew up calling it “green cheese.”)


I mentioned last week how the media attention for Kim’s Uncle Pizza was making it hard to try it—or to justify the wait in a city full of tavern cut pizza. As Yogi Berra said, it’s so busy no one goes there! Friend of Fooditor Dan Zemans went there with his Chicago Pizza club and has a mixed response—good, but worth the crowds? Not so sure. That leads to extended notes on the current media fad for tavern cut pizza:

5) One thing that these crusts don’t do, even in the top places like Vito & Nick’s and Pat’s and Villa Nova and, yes, Kim’s Uncle, is add much in terms of flavor. I’d happily eat the crust from George’s or Labriola or Spacca Napoli as a plain piece of bread. The same cannot be said for any traditional Midwestern thin crust pizza.

6) Since the flavor of the crust doesn’t matter and every place uses relatively similar shredded low moisture mozzarella, the key to great thin crust pizza in this style is the sauce and the toppings. And in those two categories, there are a ton of thin crust places in Chicago that excel. There are plenty of mediocre places that are making fantastic Italian sausage and there are probably dozens of places that make a fantastic tomato sauce loaded with umami (either thanks to slow cooking sauce for hours longer than is standard on other styles of pizza and/or adding flavor boosters like tomato paste).

Anyway, on to the actual pizza at hand:

One bite into the sausage on the half sausage/half sausage and giardiniera pizza and I was blown away. Chicago is blessed with a litany of pizzerias with fantastic sausage and this stuff is on par with the absolute best of the bunch. An absolute flavor explosion of fennelly and peppery pork. Normally I’m not a fan of giardiniera on high quality pizza because I worry it will overwhelm everything but the sausage and the intense tomato sauce were able to handle the JP Graziano’s giardiniera with no problems. I’m not sure which half of this pie I liked better but both were stellar.

…Every pizza fan in Chicago should try it at least once. Whether it’s worth a return drive way the hell out to Westmont is something I’ve been thinking about a lot for the last week. Let me put it this way: Katy’s [Dumplings, in Westmont] is my favorite Chinese restaurant in Chicagoland and I only get there about once a year. So it’s not a knock on Kim’s Uncle if I never go back; it’s just the practical reality that there are so many great places for pizza that are so much more conveniently located, that I might not and it definitely won’t be in my regular rotation. That being said, I’m very much liking the idea of getting some Dan Dan Noodles and cold Szechuan noodles at Katy’s and following it up with a pizza or two from Kim’s Uncle and having one amazing two-part meal in Westmont followed by a few meals of leftovers in Chicago.


Former New York Times restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton has died at age 97. Sheraton is kind of famous for one thing—adopting the habit of putting on wigs and dowdy old lady clothes to see how restaurants treated you when they weren’t busy pretending that they didn’t know you were Craig Claiborne—but really, she was one of the ones who sort of got restaurant reviewing away from the Gourmet magazine model of the reviewer who shows up at the restaurant of his, really, very good old friend Chef Jean-Louis, and more toward consumer advocacy for readers spending their own money on Friday night.As she put it in a Times piece in 2004: “Food writers in general devote too much space to chefs’ philosophies. They’re not Picasso, after all—this is supper. So I don’t want to hear about a chef’s intentions. Call me when it’s good.”

Sheraton had one moment of real influence in, and on behalf of, Chicago restaurants in 1978, when in an article in Esquire, she said of Le Francais:

This restaurant would have to be considered exceptional in France, and it is among the top half-dozen French restaurants in the United States, far better than what one can find in San Francisco, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., or Chicago itself. It is on a par with New York’s three best: Le Cygne, Le Chantilly, and Lutèce.

It’s one thing to get praise from New York today, when Chicago has been a culinary center for decades and one stifles a yawn at such praise; but in 1978 it was epochal to say that one of the top restaurants in America was not only in a midwest steakhouse town, but actually several miles north of it, near roadhouses and honky tonks and the onion loaf at Hackney’s. People had to start paying attention to Chicago then—including a certain kid in Kansas whose parents subscribed to Esquire, and for whom it was one of the first times I ever thought—there’s one of the best restaurants in the world, and I could actually go there. So for that, Madame Sheraton in all your disguises, I salute you.


I went to a preview for Valhalla in Time Out Market a month or two back, but I wanted to go back for the a la carte menu (especially after reading people like John Kessler suggesting exactly that).  The idea was, I enjoyed the little bites of the tasting menu, but they kind of came off like playful novelties, one or two bites each; I wanted to try full dishes, and see how those came off.

Well, returning for a regular menu partly satisfied that desire—only partly because there’s a lot of overlap with the tasting menu, only instead of one bite of the thing for me alone, now three of us split a plate of three of them, so basically the same. Not that there was anything wrong with that, and there are some dishes that definitely did not translate into little novelties on the tasting menu, like the Queen Crab arroz con pollo, Chef Stephen Gillanders’ first foray into traditional Filipino dishes (his heritage), or the raclette porridge with mushrooms. Still, a lot of small, interesting bites—Nick Kindelsperger just called the kombu-cured fluke with tart apple sticks one of the dishes of the year; I think I had that in the preview and in any case, the one that wowed me was citrus-cured king salmon, brilliant red-orange salmon in a sea of herbal buttermilk; high praise as well for the lobster shumai (familiar from S.K.Y.) in a fennel-champagne butter, the assortment of pastries (I remember really liking two, not so much one, but can’t remember which and why, now) and the maitake mushroom skewers with chevre and avocado. It’s really quite a diverse and interesting array of flavors and textures, all played with to be somewhat unusual (if not so much as the food alchemy at, say, Smyth).

Ask my wife, though, and she’d say all of that was just prelude to dessert—well, she’d say that about most places, but we were especially wowed by Tatum Sinclair’s pavlova, looking like black marble but full of luridly red-pink raspberry flavors inside. I’m still not in love with the space, overlooking (and hearing plenty of) the Time Out Market a floor below, but it seems churlish to fault it for giving one of our most talented chefs a place to try out many new and different things.

Considering it’s just down Lincoln Avenue from me. you’d think I would have been to Dear Margaret multiple times by now, but it took me several times of thinking of it and finding no availability to finally book a dinner there six weeks in advance. In any case, it is, as everyone knows, a charming small neighborhood restaurant doing French-Canadian-inspired food (which necessitates a “No Poutine!” notice on the menu), winner of the Jean Banchet award for Best New Restaurant last year. (I did get takeout from there, in the height of COVID.)

Anyway, it’s a friendly and comfortable place, for some reason I can’t quite pinpoint (maybe just the Lincoln Avenue building stock) it reminded me, in a good way, of Lincoln Park restaurants back in the 90s, when people like me discovered the cuisine of Chicago in highly accessible, reasonably-priced neighborhood spots like this. We started with a plate of housemade charcuterie, gravlax and duck liver pate, followed by fried smelts (very nice, if too many for an appetizer for the two of us) with fried golden beets (a new thing and a pleasant surprise—they kind of had a texture somewhere between tempura vegetables and shrimp chips), duck bolognese and olive oil poached sturgeon with beluga lentils (too salty, the night’s one misstep). We finished up with the maple tart, decorated with blobs of lemon curd and meringue. I don’t have a lot to say in depth about it—it’s just nice neighborhood food, mostly familiar but with some unusual touches due to the Quebec roots, and happy for it and the neighborhood that has it.

IMAGE: Four Moon Tavern/Michael Gebert