When my kids were tweens or thereabouts, one of our favorite places to go was Chicago Kalbi, a Korean BBQ place in Albany Park that has a certain fame among baseball fans (Japanese players from the Cubs, and non-Japanese ones, would go there, and the place is full of memorabilia). That made it fun for kids, and so was the excitement of live fire at the table and lots of meat, I’d often take one of their friends with us and blow their minds with the cool placees Myles or Liam’s dad knew about. Dave Hoekstra has a piece about it at Block Club:

The baseball buzz around Chicago Kalbi started with the early 1990s Chicago Bulls. Perched high on a shelf at the restaurant is a 1996 NBA basketball autographed by Steve Kerr, Jud Buechler and Luc Longley. Japanese reporters came to Chicago to cover Michael Jordan and Isao Tozuka would cook for them at 2 a.m. after their deadlines. That’s how the robust Japanese baseball media learned about Chicago Kalbi. The players soon followed.


I remember ordering tamales, including an Italian beef one, from Danny Espinoza‘s Santa Masa Tamaleria right at the start of the pandemic. But when I went looking for it again a few months later, it seemed to be no more and I wondered whatever happeneed to him. Well, among other things he’s making his own brand of chorizo verde and supplying it to local restaurants. Michael Nagrant talks to him about his multiple paths, including an abusive steakhouse kitchen, working for Carlos Gaytan at Mexique, culinary school and making green chorizo:

I have an uncle. His name is Sergio. And we get along more than anything. I think we get along because we’re the darkest ones. You look at everyone else in the family, they’re all like light skinned and you look at him and I, and it’s like, dude, these guys…I don’t know, they probably belong to the milkman or some shit.

But anyway, he’s one of my favorite uncles. I would go on his trips to sell tamales and see different sides of Mexico. He has a corner spot in the plaza in Jacona in Michoacán. And as we were winding down one day, with the sales, call it around like one o’clock, I look across the street and see these green things.  I’m like what are those? And he says, yeah, in Toluca they make green chorizo. I was like how? He’s like, let’s go ask the butcher now and buy some for lunch. We buy a kilo. We fry it up. It’s amazing, man. That flavor profile that I had at 15 is what I’ve always kind of just been chasing ever since.


Titus Ruscitti goes to Indienne:

Each course is an ode to a different Indian dish such as Dahi Bhalla which is a popular chaat of lentil fritters served in seasoned yogurt and topped with chutney. At Indienne they serve a cheffed up version starting with a Lentil Donut with Tamarind and Mint and Raspberry. It was sweet, sour, salty, spicy, and tangy with different tastes and textures throughout. An absolute umami bomb. Scallops get the call for the second course which is a play on a Goan dish called Balchao which traditionally consists of prawns in a spicy vinegar sauce but at Indienne they sit a perfectly cooked scallop topped with Golden Kaluga caviar in a cauliflower puree with a finger lime sauce mixed in tableside


Lots of talk about shawarma lately, and Steve Dolinsky finds one in Bridgeview taking pride in stacking their own meat cones:

The vertical spits are clearly the stars at Hello Shawarma, wedged between a Hello Hookah and a Hello Thai in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mall along south Harlem Avenue. You choose from lamb, beef or chicken, sliced fresh. Then, either stuffed into pitas or stacked into sandwiches or rolled up in thin, lavash-like wraps.

“The most popular one is the wrap, which is called in the language of Arabic the Shrak, and it’s the most traditional bread we make here,” said co-owner Mahmmod Abunijmeh.


Dennis Lee met up with a food video maker named Adam Witt to make this video about where to find the best hot dogs in Chicago. He tells more about the making-of here.


David Hammond went to the Cider Summit—yeah, me neither—and chatted with local cheesemonger Alisha Norris Jones about the magical symbiosis of cheese and cider:

Alisha, how is it that cheese pairs so well with hard cider?

For me, a good cheese pairing relies on acid, residual sugar, bitterness and texture, and you find all those characteristics in cider. But ciders are a bit gentler than wines, especially big ones, which can overwhelm most cheeses, even the super funky ones.


I’m just working on the chapter of my book about the second revival of the West Loop—the one that began with Blackbird and led to Girl & the Goat, as the first revival, the Jerry Kleiner one, faded. And now Ari Bendersky argues, and he’s not the first to do so, that the West Loop is so over:

Last week, I went to a pop-up dinner in the private dining room at Girl & The Goat. As we drove down Kinzie and approached the corner at Green Street, I literally gasped at the sight of yet another glimmering glass building that had seemingly risen overnight. “When the hell did that get there?” I asked Drew. Clearly I hadn’t been to the neighborhood in a while.

That’s exemplifies my Fulton Market experience over the last couple of years. It seems every time I’m there, more high-end retail shops, hip cannabis dispensaries, or swanky cocktail lounges sprout up like weeds.

There was a magical moment when the West Loop was either outstanding restaurants (Moto, Next, the Goat empire, La Sirena Clandestina) or businesses that seem to have been extras in a 40s gangster movie. Now the area seems summed up by the couple of blocks that has Leña Brava and Cruz Blanca—but also a Velvet Taco, a Texan Taco Bar, and insult to injury, a Taco Bell Cantina. Yeah, it’s tacky, but there are still excellent places in the neighborhood, you just have to fight your way through Schaumburg-by-the-Chicago-River to find them.

What prompts this lament is the rumor that the former Little Goat Diner space might become a Raising Cane’s, the place devoted to chicken tenders. Which isn’t bad, honestly, as long as you feel like eating lunch like an 8-year-old that day. But it could be worse: it could be a Zaxby’s, the other Southern chicken tender chain that Raising Cane’s got its shtick from.

In other Bendersky news: you read the New York Times’ list of where to eat in Chicago, but here comes the real authority: People magazine. Actually the real authority is Ari, who wrote a 24-hour Chicago food tour piece for People. Check it out here.


Last week I talked about the smash burger and beer place where the QR Code setup seemed designed to frustrate customers. Friend of Sky Full of Bacon (he was in one of my videos long predating Fooditor) Art Jackson of Pleasant House had an interesting comment in reply about life with QR Codes:

On the QR code observations. “You sound like a boomer” but would be interesting to also hear Gen (add whatever letter) sound-off on what the experts say that they are most comfortable with (digital, technology, etc). Reading your anectdote about the burger place though it sounds like they may not have reached peak efficiency if a human is needed to explain how the digital process works? It should be inituitive. I thought I was clever with my QR code napkin band that came out of the pandemic (provided two solutions – contactless menu and wrapped compostable cutlery) and we have gotten a lot of compliments about it however you cannot successfuly scan the code when it is still wrapped around the cutlery (a design flaw that I didn’t test before implementing) so we need to instruct the customer to remove the band and lay it flat to be able to successfuly scan it. We still use the napkin band and also have QR code cards at the table to access the menu which is something we will continue to do (and to always keep a few printed menus upon request)


Heritage Restaurant and Caviar Bar had a fire last week; they’re raising money to help reopen here.

Remember the name Mariya Russell? She was the chef de cuisine at Kumiko and Kikko, and was cited at the time as the first black woman to get a Michelin star; she also won a Jean Banchet award for best chef de cuisine. Now billed as Mariya Moore, she is trying to launch something called Connie’s Underground, described as “liberatory supper club meets cultural celebration… on a mission to to further elevate and honor Black culinary heritage through innovative dining experiences.” Anyway, she’s raising money to make it happen, and you can read more about what she’s up to and about supporting it here.


Foxtrot was of as little interest to me as any place where your best bet for a quick snack was a $7 carob protein bar; but its sudden closing seemed to be of complete fascination to the kind of people who think Chicago is sadly lacking in New York-style bodegas (when of course, we don’t have tiny bodegas because we have huge, American-style grocery stores). I don’t care about the lack of Foxtrot in my life, but I am concerned for the employees and even moreso, the vendors who got screwed. Here’s Pretty Cool Ice Cream:

We have been working with Foxtrot since 2019, and as they grew over the years we grew too, going from 3 stores to a dozen, they became our largest account.

We made three unique flavors for them, all with fun rainbow details in easy to love flavors like S’mores, Cookies & Cream, and Vanilla Sprinkles.

…Since Foxtrot commanded 30 day credit terms, the vendors who stocked the shelf are all staring at a stack of outstanding bills that will likely never get paif. Even more, the loss of the accounts will make a significnt hole in our overall revenue, jeapardizing the jobs within our own companies serviced these accounts.

So businesses like Pretty Cool are not only screwed on this month’s invoices, they also are stuck with all the stock that they were making for next month. That at least has a bright side: you can go to Pretty Cool, and help them out  by buying what used to be the Foxtrot-exclusive flavors. But yeah, one of the lessons of life is that anybody who promotes their business as some kind of new agey, Gwyneth Paltrow-y venture, not just a convenience store, is probably going to defraud you sooner or later. (UPDATE: My wife says they said on Instagram that they’ve already sold out of two of the Foxtrot flavors. I can’t find that, but in any case, they have other flavors and can use the support.) (2ND UPDATE: H/t to Richard Shepro who says Dario Monni of Tortello says they were also a supplier who took a major Dom’s/Foxtrot hit. Another one to support!)

Here’s a good piece (h/t Ari Bendersky) on what happened from a business viewpoint (short answer: people weren’t buying their overpriced stuff), and here’s one on the laws the sudden closing probably violated, but my favorite comment on the general panic over losing this pious dirtbag chain was from Friend of Fooditor Eddie Lakin (Edzo’s).


You might think a St. Louis hot salami sandwich is one of those things whose recipe is in the title, and thus needs little elaboration. But not so for Sandwich Tribunal:

Gioia’s slices the salami thick, and as many a previous writeup has noted, the texture is not the tight, chewy pork of a Genoa or a hard salami, rather it has more in common with a terrine or a coarse pate, fatty and soft, savory but not intensely so, tasting of garlic and black pepper and pork. The Hot Salami sandwich is made to order and served as requested, but their recommended arrangement is pepperjack cheese, spicy mustard, and pepperoncinis on a very good bread roll baked at nearby Fazio’s. Several of the other sandwiches also feature the Salam de Testa, including one intriguingly excessive-sounding number called the Porknado.


I have a friend from high school who lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and I long admired the things they had that we don’t, like Portuguese food. So what did he feel the same way about in Chicago? Polish food. He and I went to Red Apple (hey, it’s what I knew about then, a few years later it would have been Smak Tak) and he loved it. I bring this up because, although the Saveur piece I’m about to link to has nothing about Chicago in it, it speaks to something close to us, which is, how the world of food is evolving in Poland:

While the wealthy have always enjoyed fat-rich dishes in Poland, the cuisine got markedly stodgier for everyone during communism. “Communism had negative consequences for Polish cuisine. People lacked not just meat but even the most basic ingredients, including spices,” says Monika Milewska, a food anthropologist at the University of Gdańsk who wrote a book about Polish food culture under communism. “The authorities wanted to standardize recipes, which led to the diminishment of regional cuisines. Kuchnia Polska, (“The Polish Kitchen,” published in 1954), a popular cookbook at the time, also promoted fat-rich, heavy dishes.”

Jarosław Dumanowski, a food historian at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń who is working on a docuseries on the history of Polish cuisine, says the gastronomy was historically characterised by spicy, sour, and umami flavors (from wild mushrooms and smoked meats or prunes); foraged ingredients (mushrooms, bilberries, herbs, and more); ancestral grains such as buckwheat, millet, and barley; and root vegetables like salsify that predate the arrival of potatoes in the 17th century. Fermenting and pickling were popular as well, because not only did it keep vegetables from being spoiled, it was also very much in line with the Polish people’s love of sour foods.


The legendary (and FoF) Ina Pinkney will be at Schgmaltz Deli in Lisle on Sunday, May 5, 9 am to 1 pm. They’ll be serving up her Heavenly Hots; every purchase will mean a $1 to Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign. Make a reservation by calling 630-245-7595.


Chef Julius Russell, who taught cooking and mentored other African-American chefs, and served his food to the stars, at age 53. Naomi Waxman has an obituary at Eater:

Though he had little interest in the grind of a restaurant kitchen, Russell held pop-ups and cooking demonstrations around town food festivals like Taste of Chicago and Chicago Gourmet. He became a familiar face with TV appearances on Fox 32 Chicago and WGN. he built a following within the athletic community, cooking for pro stars and even appearing on a 2009 episode of The Big Ten Cookout on the Big Ten Network. Though he spoke virtually no Spanish, Russell served as a culinary ambassador, working with the Chilean government from 2013 to 2019 to highlight the country’s food scene in the U.S.


My wife had a dinner to go to, so I decided it was time to finally get in line for Akahoshi Ramen. I put my name in right at 5 on Friday night and was quoted an hour, so I went to Spilt Milk and nursed a single cocktail for an hour. I hung out at the South Loop Market (which did not close this week) for a few extra minutes, and was seated by 6:15.

To be honest, I’m a little bored with what I call the “pork milkshake” style of ramen—that porky broth, thick as Thanksgiving gravy. Happily, Akahoshi’s Mike Satinover is too, so I ordered this month’s special, which has a chicken-based broth and comes not only with a slice of chashu pork but a scallop, which soaks up the chicken flavor. That was actually the best part of it—the chickeny scallop—so I liked that a lot. Beyond that, the room (in a modern condo building) is okay, but not particularly interesting, and a moment came when the whole room filled with chlorine water smell, which is not the most appetizing thing. So the space has a little ways to go to take on a welcoming character—I’d paint a mural on the wall or something. But that’s all secondary to the main question: is this the best ramen in Chicago? Honestly, it’s been too long since I’ve tried most of the ramen we have—I did a list for Thrillist in 2015—and there are new ones I haven’t tried and besides that, I only tried one style. But I don’t think there’s any doubt that Satinover has thought more about ramen that anybody, so for that reason alone… go get in line and check it out for yourself!

Also eaten this week: I went to Pierogi Kitchen, which turns out to be in the former Lillie’s Q space on North Ave. Dining solo at lunch, I ordered the plate that comes with a sausage and a few potato-cheese pierogi, plus some other stuff scattered around the plate. Alas, the sausage, though very nicely made—this isn’t your local hot dog stand’s Polish sausage—was a bit overcooked, and thus tough. The pierogi, on the other hand, were perfection; a pile of sauerkraut was fine if not anything extraordinary; there was some rye bread, heated on the griddle, which was very nice (I did not recognize which bakery it came from); and a really nice small plop of beet salad (backed up against, unfortunately, a plop of brown mustard, a flavor enhancer the beets did not need). I tend to think of Polish food as one of those cuisines that runs the gamut from A to B, but this was pretty nice overall, a little more care in cooking the sausage and it would be exemplary.

A couple of months ago one of the few breakfast cereals I can stand to eat, Quaker Oats Cinnamon Squares, had a recall and I had to trash a bunch of boxes I bulk-ordered from Wal-Mart. Ever since then I’ve sort of been annoyed with having my usual boring breakfast and I’ve been visiting different places for coffee and pastries and wifi. I read that Bungalow by Middle Brow offered breakfast. The nicest place to hang out for breakfast, as far as I’m concerned, is Daisies—one, because of Leigh Omilinsky’s excellent pastries, and two, because it’s big enough that there’s always room to set up with my laptop. (Some of the smaller places in my neighborhood are nearly always too full.) You know who else has excellent pastries and even more room (because unlike Daisies, almost no one has discovered it yet)? Yep, Middle Brow. No idea who the baker is these days, but they seem to have about half a dozen sweet and savory offerings daily, like a bostock topped with meringue and homemade jam or a coffee cake topped with burnt lemon… homemade jam. Check it out, and if I’m there, say hi. If I’m at Daisies instead, well, they’re still first in my heart.

Finally, I went to a media preview for Common Decency, the new bar from Mark Steuer (Funkenhausen) in the former Lost Lake space, now completely de-Tiki-fied and redone in kind of an 80s New Wave look that I felt quite nostalgic about. Michael Nagrant and I had been joking back and forth by text about how this preview kept being pushed back, although the last time was no joke—one of the partners in the business, chef Felipe Hernandez, died in an accident earlier this month. Anyway, the about-to-open business must go on; I shouldn’t try to evaluate the food and drink when a place hasn’t even officially opened yet, but it was interesting bar food, definitely of higher quality than the average bar, like “cacio e pepe ravioli.” Dig that Siouxsie and the Banshees T-shirt out of the back of your closet and check it out.