A couple of years ago when I wrote up all the new restaurants in Chinatown, there was a comment complaining that I hadn’t included much for vegetarians. Hey, I’m not making these restaurants up, if every new place in Chinatown is focusing on meat on sticks, not much I can do about it.

I hope that person reads Louisa Chu this week, because she found an honest to God vegetarian restaurant in Chinatown, aptly named Veggie House:

Three-cup lion’s mane mushroom is cooked with soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil, inspired by sanbeiji, three-cup chicken, the dish wildly popular in Taiwan. Here the plush mushrooms become so hearty and full-flavored with ginger and elusive angelica root, they evoke pure animal pleasure.

“A lot of Chinese people love it,” said Veggie House owner Zoe Zhao. “But some Americans don’t like it, because they think the seasoning is a little bit weird. That’s why we have another similar dish that’s almost the same.”


Way back before the world ended, somebody (DMK Restaurants) announced Chicago’s first Japanese-style listening bar—listening as in vinyl, not trying to eavesdrop on drunk fellow patrons without getting caught laughing uproariously. Anyway, The Listening Room at the Exchange is here, and foodwise, it sounds good, says Time Out:

The pummeling rhythms of “The Queen is Dead” by the Smiths accompanied a winter salad made with tender roasted delicata squash and fennel. I think Morrissey (a famous vegan who prohibits the sale of meat at his concerts) might have approved of the flavorful veggie medley, though he would have had to nix the buttermilk dressing. Chef Brian Huston’s (Boltwood) menu is described as “vegetable-centric,” filled with plenty of vegetarian-friendly dishes and sides, like a delicious plate of roasted carrots sprinkled with chili and garlic, served atop a coconut cream.


Tuesday apparently will bring the full list of Michelin winners, including all the Bib Gourmands, but in the meantime they announced additions to the list, without saying who, if anybody, is leaving it (one hopes they’ve finally figured out that PIzzeria Bebu, added to the list last year when it had not been open for a year, is gone for good). The new ones, who now know that they will not be receiving a Michelin star this year, are Apolonia, from the S.K.Y. team, Bloom Plant Based Kitchen, Dear Margaret, Lardon, Sochi Saigonese Kitchen, Superkhana International, and Tortello Pastificio.

In the meantime, some scuttlebutt: I heard a prominent chef with one star was panicking that he had not been invited to Tuesday’s party for the starred—had he really been booted from the list? Shocking, if true. He finally called them up—and it turned out Michelin had sent his invite to the person who had been his publicist 3 years ago.


Is the pizza advocacy of people like Steve Dolinsky and Jonathan Porter (Chicago Pizza Tours) actually having some impact to change the lazy coverage of Chicago pizza by national publications? It’s looking that way, to judge by a new piece at Inside Hook, which absolutely touts the new party line expressed by Dolinsky in his books:

Tavern-style is perhaps the truer Chicago pizza — not just the OG, but the one that, Porter asserts, most locals grew up on. And yet, it’s not the most prevalent style in Chicagoland, at least not these days.

For Dolinsky, who sampled 185 pizzas for his first book, Chicago is home to no fewer than ten distinct styles of pizza, from Detroit to Roman, New Haven to New York.

Dolinsky follow the piece with a warning at Twitter: “NYC-based food writers who attempt to tackle the subject would be wise to read before their next assignment here.” If you haven’t heard the good news, or need a refresher course to argue with New Yorkers, check it out.


Mike Sula on a woman, Annie Xiang, who started a local business devoted to sustainable Chinese teas like pu’ers:

Xiang began to envision her own tea company, focused on the six families of tea derived from Camellia sinensis that are native to China (white, yellow, green, red, wulong, and black), but she was daunted by her lack of connections in the business. Then the pandemic hit, and along with it the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. Xiang saw the stories of the small, sustainable tea farmers she admired as tools to build empathy for her own community. “One other big thing people do when they say farm-to-cup is they erase all the people in the middle helping them, because very rarely can someone start a tea company and not use an importer.” She talked to several before she settled on Fujian-based Daniel Hong, a tea maker himself, who sent her some 50 samples from across China’s tea-growing provinces.


Steve Dolinsky visits an Evanston bakery standby, Hewn, to check out new things they’re doing these days.


Actually it was more like 3 am when a car plowed into Brown Sugar Bakery and took out a new (and happily, insured) freezer case for cakes. Talia Soglin at the Trib does a good job reporting on the philosophical response of owner Stephanie Hart:

After she got to work Sunday, Hart said, strangers driving down 75th Street started offering their help. A man stopped by and called his cousin, who arrived with boards to help close up the bakery. Another man who stopped by in a truck helped clear up the debris left in the street.

“I didn’t even know these people,” she said. “That was the beauty of it.”

The man in the truck wouldn’t take any money for his help, Hart said. She sent him away with cake and candy.


Thought this was really interesting: the Kimchi Kids podcast breaks from talking with chefs to talk with  two guys from Four Star Mushrooms, talking the gospel of fungi.


I don’t check The Takeout much—not much interested in the doings of big chain restaurants, even if advertisers are—but they do get some good people and here’s one: the lovely Friend of Fooditor Ina Pinkney, covering new, healthy-ish grocery store products she likes in short videos. Here’s one on a quinoa and lentil mix, and one on a cashew milk type product.


We had a juicy slice of the life of Julia Child in the 2009 film Julie & Julia, with Meryl Streep as Child and Stanley Tucci as her husband Paul, and you might think that that was enough, but now HBO Max has a series about her becoming a public TV star, called Julia. Sarah Lancashire, a British actress who I had never heard of but my wife, who subscribes to every British TV streaming service, says she likes a lot, plays Child and manages to get the voice, the size (Child was 6’2″) and the awkwardness by 1950s socialite standards down well; the question is, what’s the character about? In Julie & Julia it was her personal discovery of French food giving a focus to her life; in Julia it’s clearly a feminist tale (WGBH is portrayed as a bastion of men who can’t imagine why anyone would watch a woman cook when there are men who could talk economics on educational TV), and she has a coterie of female allies (Bebe Neuwirth as a widowed friend, Fiona Glascott as the editor Judith Jones, Brittany Bradford as a young black producer) there to say “You go, girl!” Supportive, but still a man who has to be mollified at times, is David Hyde-Pierce as Paul, swishier and nerdier than Tucci was (if you look at real pictures of Paul Child, someone should definitely cast Corey Stoll in the next Julia Child project).

So, it’s cozily amusing comfort television for a mostly older female crowd, or anyone interested in both food and the early days of local TV. A niche interest I happen to share—there was creativity in those days on the local level that has long since gone away. Which is what leads to my one, definitely nerdy objection—the storyline basically has Child inventing food TV, but the reality is that cooking shows were common in every market then, a logical subject to fill some time cheaply during the day when the audience was mostly female. And while most of them were probably straight out of Betty Crocker, French food on TV was not unknown—in Chicago we had TV stars in François and Antoinette Pope, who ran a French cooking school, and Alma Lach. The reason for Child’s success was not that she was the first one to pre-cook one example of her dish so it could be pulled out of the oven, magically, on TV, but that she had systematized French cooking right at the moment when there was an audience for more sophisticated cooking (and public TV, which has always been aimed at the upper middle class’s aspirations of class, was just the place for it). So her improbable persona, which never would have survived a focus group, proved to be just right for the time.

Anyway, not a lot of high drama in this show, but if you like the subject matter you’ll find it as pleasurable as a pot of coq au vin stewing and filling the house with old-fashioned flavor.


Con Todos—”With Everything”—is the latest thing from Jonathan Zaragoza of Birrieria Zaragoza fame, a Mexican restaurant in the space that has been Yusho and Jam. Specifically it’s meant to represent the food of Mexico City—which, like most big cities, contains food from lots of other places, hence the Sinaloan chicken on the menu, for one.

So there’s pastor tacos (a little chewy; I’d have preferred smaller chunks and more crispy bits) and fried fish tacos (very good, with a spicy green “creamanaise”). A tamal turns out to be a perfect rectangular block of fried masa that looks like it escaped from Graham Elliott in 2011, with a tasty pumpkinseed sauce and bits of roasted squash around it. Then there’s a hamburger—or rather, a “pamburgesa,” in which two Slagel beef patties are put on a bun coated with red sauce in the style of a pambazo, a Mexican street food sandwich. It’s a really good burger—juicy and greasy in the right ways, with lots of cheese and “sauce especial”—though a little shy, I felt, of drowning the thing in red sauce like a proper pambazo. In short, this is clever and sometimes witty “Mexican” food for an upscale neighborhood which mainly wants things it’s heard of. I wouldn’t mind if it gets a little more daring over time. but it’s off to a good start in a brightly colored and welcoming atmosphere.