Now I feel like I’ve seen every neighborhood in Chicago but there was a day, 31 years ago, when I was starting to look for where we might buy a house. And so I dared to venture past my Lakeview environs to a distant and alien area just west of Ashland on Lincoln Avenue, a kind of 50s-leftover feeling neighborhood with a Woolworth’s and some old German businesses (Math Igler’s Casino, Home of the Singing Waiters, had just closed within the past year). I was immediately captivated by its time warp quality, and especially the streamline moderne facade of an old school bakery, Dinkel’s. It was there that I ate the very first thing I ever ate in what would become my neighborhood, Roscoe Village—a Dinkel’s chocolate Bismarck; some years later I would start a post at LTHForum calling for people to declare one perfect thing they’d found in Chicago, and guess what mine was. (Yes, technically the Lincoln Ave. shopping strip is still Lakeview, not Roscoe Village, but Roscovites are who shops there, not Lakeviewers, as my own ignorance of its existence when I lived a mile and a half straight east attests.)

Now comes the news that after 100 years in business (and 30 years of my patronage), Dinkel’s will close at the end of April. There’s no one reason, exactly, but on the one hand you’ve got an old school business in its fourth generation (Norm Dinkel is 78), and on the other hand, a gentrifying neighborhood (that was me, sorry) where the land is very valuable. Needless to say they’ve been jammed since the news came out; I may go again, but as with Hot Doug’s, my memories of the place are firmly established without the need to race back one last time. Here’s Block Club on the mad rush of the last days, and Time Out, and Louisa Chu with the initial news.

Speaking of LTHForum threads, there was another one devoted to trying birthday cakes from different places for my kids, and after a bit it became primarily a Dinkel’s thread too, because I got tired of trying places who expected everything to be pre-ordered (I thought maybe a cake shop could just have… cakes for sale) and Dinkel’s was always reliable (and actually had cakes). The high point of that was younger son’s Elvis-themed party, with a spectacular guitar cake done by one of the Dinkel’s decorator ladies; there will never be a better birthday cake in my life. (Here’s probably the only reporting I ever did on Dinkel’s, when they offered bacon doughnuts.) Farewell, friends and neighbors.


A restaurant owner asked me if I thought his chef might finally get higher Michelin honors. I said that the one thing that you can count on with Michelin is, whatever you think they might do, they will do less of it than you hope.

That certainly proved to be the case on Tuesday, when Michelin announced its 2022 ratings. Not a big change from the 2021 list, except for places that closed during lockdown (Spiaggia, Entente, Yugen and Acadia; Parachute basically has its star on hold as it is undergoing renovation and has not been open for two years). The thing many people hoped for—that at least one of such truly glorious restaurants as Ever, Oriole or Smyth (all two stars) might progress to three stars—did not happen. Nor did they rectify obvious pre-pandemic omissions with a star—no star recognition for The Bristol for the 11th straight year, nor for Jeong, Brass Heart, S.K.Y., or Brindille from the chef of previously-starred Naha. (A friend mentioned Kyoten as well, but honestly, though it is a notorious blind spot for Michelin, it hardly operated during 2021, so I don’t fault them for feeling it was beyond their capacity to assess properly until very recently. Next year we can all scratch our heads!)

Now the good news, and actual change: four new restaurants were added to the one-star list, so big congrats to Claudia, Esme, Galit and Kasama for winning their first stars. (Particular congrats to Trevor Teich of Claudia, who had the longest, many-year struggle to make a permanent restaurant out of his pop-up dinner series in multiple locations.) By Michelin’s parsimonious standards, four is actually kind of a lot compared to, say, the 2019 list, which added only one (Temporis). It’s impressive that so many new places came out of the gate so strongly just a few months after lockdown and the age of dinner from deli cups finally ended. The net result is that even with several closings, we’re only down one starred restaurant from the 2021 list (and will presumably be even once Parachute reopens).

Even so, nothing was done to dispel the long-running suspicion that they judge Chicago considerably more harshly than comparable cities, something that in past years has been documented seriously by people like Anthony Todd:

Numerically speaking, Chicago is far behind basically everyone in the Michelin game. With 22 starred restaurants [in 2018], we have nowhere near the number that New York or San Francisco has (respectively, 72 and 55). The guide also seems to favor Europe, which isn’t surprising since it originated as a French guide, but does appear to lead to some unfair results. Heck, the entire nations of Belgium and Luxembourg (which are grouped into one guide) have 144 Michelin-starred restaurants, despite having vaguely comparable populations to Chicago. Maybe their chefs are just 654 percent better than ours? But that still seems wrong, given the many publications that have recently lauded Chicago’s restaurant scene as the best in the nation.

Meanwhile, one of my bugbears has been that Michelin continues to refuse to acknowledge that Bib Gourmand honoree Pizzeria Bebu, which shut down in March of 2020 when the pandemic started and has not served a single pizza since, is closed by all signs (literally; it has For Lease signs in the window). Eater, which mentions this, has the full list of the Bib Gourmands, as well as who fell off the list, which is Chinatown’s Daguan Noodle, the never-talked-about nightspot Untitled, Kai Zan, Ceres Table, Avli, County Barbecue, Lonesome Rose (an odd, Tex-Mex choice for a town of great Mexican), and San Soo Gab San.

As always with Michelin, congrats to those restaurants who have earned them—but diners (if any) who take this eccentrically-chosen, often behind the times list as gospel, are advised to consult multiple sources to know what’s really going on in our city.

Buzz 2


The Maxwell Street Market shut down during lockdown, which always raises the question, is this finally its end? But the market reopened last week, as Monica Eng reports: tube sock vendors, but only one taco stand as yet (though I will say the pastor pic she took looks damn good). I expect more will return in upcoming weeks, though one I wonder about is the celebrated Rubi’s, which now has a permanent restaurant at 1316 W. 18th.


Taco Mucho offered veggie tacos in the short-lived Fulton Galley food hall. Now, says Nick Kindelsperger, they’re back—in Oak Park:

“I worked in a hotel restaurant for years, and I knew we didn’t want to serve a boring vegetarian dish,” says owner Ron Aleman. “I wanted to make a veggie taco so good that it would make meat-eaters jealous.”

Each bite pairs strips of smoky and slightly spicy charred poblano chiles with potatoes that are at once crackly on the outside and creamy within. It’s wrapped up in a gorgeous corn tortilla, one that feels as flexible as a crepe, yet smells of summer corn. Nothing about the taco is fancy or fussy. This is just comfort food impeccably done.


Steve Dolinsky visits two spots working within the tradition of a Mexican sandwich—the pambazo. One of them being the pamburgesa at Con Todos, which I reviewed last week.

Oop: Jonathan Zaragoza says he’s no longer involved with Con Todos (I guess he was just consulting on the opening menu?) but working on other projects to come soon.


Understanding Hospitality looks at the fast rise of Kasama as one of the city’s great hopes during lockdown:

Kasama, in less than a year, had reached a summit. Not the summit, not the pinnacle of its potential, but a comfortable crest as a beloved neighborhood restaurant and bakery whose appeal had resonated across the city and country. Those braving the lengthening lines were still treated to an intimate experience in which the chefs’ warmth and passion shone out from the kitchen. They greeted guests, packed boxes full of pastries, and saw patrons off with the most sincere gratitude. Flores and Kwon, you can recall, were always quick to offer a cup of coffee to those (yourself included) waiting for pick-up orders. Such was the generous, outright intoxicating spirit with which they approached their proprietorship. That personal touch, combined with superlative fare, made a believer out of anyone who came through that door.


India and its history intertwined with the British are responsible for the gin and tonic, as David Hammond points out:

Gin and tonic is likely the most popular application of gin, and this perennial warm weather beverage was invented in India as not only a refreshing sip but as a medicinal beverage, a way to consume quinine, a bitter, anti-malarial medicine. According to India Times, “Modern, and oft-repeated, accounts of the… origins of gin and tonic credit its invention to officers in the Indian Army taking their daily bitter quinine dose washed down with gin and soda. Some date this as early as 1825, a mere five years after the first extraction of quinine.”

All of which is to say that he takes a look at actual Indian-made gins, with the help of Allie Kim at Rooh and Bar Goa.


Takes a lot to get me interested in more commentary on Italian beef but this series of tweets by a Florida political science student who’s apparently visiting right now is well worth a quick read. Sample:

The Italian beef is not so much a lunch as it is a fight to the death: a combat between you and the sandwich. It is trying to collapse under its own juices, you are straining to keep it together, preserve your clothes and eat it. It is no leisurely meal but a full body sport.


When I started figuring out who to interview for my book, one name I was curious about was the Tribune’s reviewer before Phil Vettel, one Paul Camp, most notable for an early and perceptive review of Frontera Grill that Rick Bayless credited for getting them off to a good start. But I couldn’t find where Camp was, or even if they were still alive, until one of the other Tribune vets tipped me off that Paul Camp now went by Paula Camp and ran a cider maker, Carriage House Ciders, in Benton Harbor. I found her via LinkedIn and eventually arranged an interview—which like a lot of them started with “Oh, that was so long ago, I hardly remember anything” and then ran for a good hour full of insight into the 80s restaurant scene.

Anyway, now Trib vet Monica Eng offers a profile of Camp, and her transition from male to female, in Chicago magazine:

Camp has largely stayed out of the public eye since quitting the newspaper three decades ago, even as she remained in publishing and raised a family with her wife, Mary Connors. So when many of Camp’s old Tribune colleagues discovered her transition — through LinkedIn and Facebook profiles showing a familiar face with stylish long hair and lipstick — it came as a shock.

They told me they remembered Camp as an ambitious and inspiring editor, but also as an arrogant and macho boss with a ferocious temper. Looking back, Camp says she deserved her reputation but that it came from a secret she kept closely guarded. “My anger spasms were driven by being ‘forced’ to be something and someone I was not,” she told me. This turmoil dogged her through three marriages, a series of high-risk career moves, and four therapists before Camp finally came to terms with her inner struggle and began to transition six years ago.

It’s a heartfelt, but by no means sugarcoated, piece about someone’s difficult journey to find who they really are—in a tough atmosphere where, as one Trib veteran says, “It’s crucial to remember that these traits that may seem like flaws today — they were actually valued and even rewarded in Tribune editors back then.” Don’t miss it.

I will add one note, however—it’s ironic that Chicago devoted so much space to an old Tribune restaurant reviewer and made absolutely no note of the passing of its own highly influential reviewer, Carla Kelson, last July. (See Fooditor’s in memoriam for more about her and why she mattered.)


A couple of weeks ago I noted the oddity of a semi-obscure and not much discussed Andersonville LGBTQ bar, Nobody’s Darling, suddenly getting national recognition as one of the outstanding cocktail bars in America in the James Beard nominations. Note that the award is not best bar, but outstanding bar program, which will matter as it implies a careful assessment of the mixology program, not just that it’s a warm and welcoming space for LGBTQ people (that, at least, seems indisputable). Well, a Friend of Fooditor who knows the mixology scene well went there recently and here’s their (anonymous) report on what they found:

“The vibe’s very cool, I appreciate what they’re doing, it’s a great neighborhood bar. I feel bad saying it, but I tried three cocktails and they were all bad. I tried the Winter’s Darling, which has agave, cognac, amaro, squash syrup, and walnut bitters. The bartender, who I recognized from somewhere, asked me what I thought and I said it was too sweet. She said they’re working on it because right now, everything’s too sweet. A lot of things just had too much going on—I had the Darling Old Fashioned, and it does not need three types of bitters. I had a highball with peppercorn shrub, chartreuse and lemon, and it didn’t taste like anything. After a while I switched to beer.

“The liquor choices, like PlayPen Vodka, don’t seem serious cocktail bar level. I also think I spotted a bottle of store-brought simple syrup—that’s the easiest thing to make yourself. You look at the menu, then look at everything else out there and there are 50 better places in Chicago. If the Beards want to honor [women and people of color], they should lean into the people making really great cocktails. Megan at Segnatore is really good at training great people. Nigal [Vann], who was at the Berkshire Room, is a really great African-American bartender. Look at Donavan [Mitchem] at Moneygun or Allie Kim at Rooh and Bar Goa.

“I love the space, I love the crowd, service was great, but it doesn’t have the feel of a serious cocktail bar. There’s nothing that sounds exotic—I’ve had better cocktails in River North sports bars. I can’t believe nobody’s said anything about this award, but I guess no one’s going to talk shit publicly.”

This friend also points out something interesting: for all that they’re currently being honored with one of the top honors in American food and drink, Nobody’s Darling has not, as yet, made any mention of it on their website, Facebook page or Instagram. Hard not to think that the Beards need an LGBTQ bar more than a popular neighborhood bar needs the Beards.


Sad to hear of the passing of Kevin McMullen, who worked at many places including El Ideas, Le Sud and Band of Bohemia; here’s something I wrote about him when he was chef of The Brixton in Andersonville. There’s a fundraiser for his widow and young children here.

Also, speaking of old LTHForum adventures, Block Club notes the passing of Bill Ball, owner of Abundance Bakeries across from the Julius Rosenwald Apartments; back in the day the 47th-a-Thon began at his shop with an apple fritter.