RIP Choco Tacos, there’s hot dog flavored ice cream—in the words of Tommy Lee Jones, I don’t care! It’s some kind of dog days of summer in food media where we’re obsessing about childish stuff, though one cannot help but love that someone wrote this about Dennis Lee (who first broke the Choco Taco story):

Welcome to journalism in 2022, where a reporter from The Takeout (Twitter handle: @FartTaco) was apparently the first to call up Unilever…

Welcome you to journalism in 2022, SeattleMet, it’s @FartSandwich, as every American knows. (They have since stealth-edited their mistake.) Anyway, on to other, hopefully more substantial food subjects.

(Oh, and I don’t care about what to eat at Lollapalooza, either. Who cares what stoned 16-year-olds from Itasca eat?) Just call me Fooditor the Grouch!


I know that LTHers loved the pastor at a little place just off of 26th street called Taqueria Los Barrilitos, a kind of garage food stand dominated by a dramatically large, jerry-rigged pastor cone, in Little Village. It was cool to look at but I can’t say I fully shared the general admiration, so I did not know that it was closed (or that the owner, Rafael Salazar, had died)*, until reading it in Nick Kindelsperger’s piece on another Little Village taco spot, Lucido’s Tacos, a permanent stand for a previous pop-up—run by a couple who learned their stuff at Los Barrilitos:

Lucido’s location is enormous, with a vast seating area. But the restaurant’s focal point is the gleaming red trompo positioned up front. Place your order and the cooks will carefully slice the marinated pork off in miraculously thin slices, before heaping it onto steamy corn tortillas. Each dark-red piece of pork has a crispy caramelized edge from the fire, while remaining shockingly juicy in the middle.

* Though now that I think of it, before lockdown, I took one of my sons to eat a bunch of tacos before he went on his study-abroad in (taco-deprived) Northern Ireland, and we tried to hit Los Barrilitos but it was closed—perhaps permanently. Ah well, La Chaparrita took care of us.


Meanwhile, speaking of pop-ups in for the long haul, Nick finds that the flan’s bland, but it’s the only thing that is at a Mexican seafood pop-up he raves about, Sueños, which will run at Soho House into next year. It’s the work of former Leña Brava chef Stephen Sandoval:

The Chingon oysters from Baja pair a fresh and floral cantaloupe mignonette with the plump and almost buttery mollusks. The tuna tostada features thick slices of the dark red fish on a crunchy fried tortilla spread with what Sandoval refers to as a diosa roja, which is a combination of aioli, buttermilk and a house-made salsa macha. (I’ve already noted salsa macha is the hottest Chicago salsa of 2022, and it pops up all over the menu here, adding a richly spicy and nutty presence to everything it touches.)

Soft-shell crabs show up in Sandoval’s very untraditional version of a Caesar salad, which was invented in Tijuana. “I realized that when fried, the crabs were like big croutons, so a Caesar dressing would work with it,” he said. It does. The crackly crustaceans rest on a bed of the creamy, umami-packed dressing, while some preserved Meyer lemons and mint add a necessary burst of freshness.


Titus Ruscitti checks out a place serving big babys near Midway—and I realized I’ve been there, though I’m not sure why—probably to check out Italian beef there for a Thrillist list many years ago. Anyway, it’s called AV Anthony’s:

It’s a tradition that consists of two griddled beef patties with cheese in between plus ketchup, mustard and pickles on the bottom with grilled onions on top. All that on a sesame seed bun. You can find a good one at AV Anthony’s near Midway but they’re very similar everywhere. They might not be much more than a standard double cheeseburger with grilled onions but they wouldn’t taste the same made outside of Chicago. Part of that is the fact places like AV Anthony’s are 100% Chicago and it wouldn’t be a Big Baby if you’re not eating it at one of the 100’s of other spots just like it across the city.

He also visits a place that may be more familiar to mostCellar Door Provisions:

Cellar Door is one of those spots that has the power to transport you somewhere mid-meal. What I like about spots like Cellar Door Provisions is you can always count on something interesting coming from their kitchen. Not everything is a home run but most stuff is a hit.


You know those summer dinners out on farms? Steve Dolinsky on a caterer—Big Delicious Planetdoing one in their garden in a warehouse district on the near west side. The result, he says, “looks like a cover story in a country living magazine.”


If you wanted to name the best restaurant in Chicago that’s not at the tippy-top high end, my short list would probably start with Elske, which is not cheap by any means, but more casual and approachable than neighbors like Ever or Smyth. Grimod seems to hold the same sentiment:

The pandemic’s razing of the dining scene—alongside what you feel to be legitimate growth in your taste preferences—has catapulted Elske to the very forefront of the city’s restaurants. More than five years after its debut, the Poseys’ work is more relevant than ever. (You wonder what it might take to earn that second Michelin star). And, quite simply, you think the time is ripe to engage with a place that has long been unapologetic, if not downright provocative, in expressing its singular conception of flavor and form. Few restaurants in Chicago beg for such thoughtful analysis and, frankly, deserve it.

For analysis, here he talks about hygge vs. luxury:

the concept seems rather distinct from “luxury” as it is typically conceived in fine dining. The latter, by reaching towards the ultimate refinement, deals in fantasy… Hygge, to you, has more to do with the substance of hospitality—that is, its emotional core. The “sense of welcoming and warmth” presented when “someone comes to your house to visit” has little to do with fancy furniture, perfect coordination, or scripted frippery. It really does not even demand that the food and drink be of an extraordinary quality. Rather, it is the spirit of the host’s every gesture—their presence and sensitivity to their guests’ needs at any given moment—that defines what you feel. The goal, as with luxury, is not to impress, but to please one’s guests wholeheartedly, with the utmost joy, no matter how humble the material one has to work with. Hygge is canny hospitality: a performance that cannot be formulated or standardized because it comes sincerely from within. It takes as its stage the theatre of life—or, at the very least, a setting that authentically reflects the predilections of its performers. Only then need they not act, but merely react to whatever each moment brings.


No, not norteño burritos—at Chicago mag, Dennis Lee picks some top burritos (but for some reason, his list is restricted to the north side).


This is pretty funny. So last week, in regards to a Food and Wine piece, typically New York-centric, which proposed that some NYC Filipino restaurant was the beginning of all serious Filipino food, I tossed out the name of a respected (but long gone) Chicago Filipino restaurant which could make a similar claim:

Sounds kind of like Chicago’s Rambutan, which opened around the same time—not that Food and Wine ever noticed.

Obviously Food and Wine would never have written about such a place! But Lisa Futterman replied on Facebook:

I wrote about the amazing Jennifer Aranas and Rambutan for Food & Wine back in the early 2000’s! But I can’t find the story online.

Whoops! Though apparently even if I had bothered to search for it at Food and Wine’s archive, I wouldn’t have found it.


Christopher Storer, creator of the popular restaurant drama The Bear, does an interview with Esquire, full of interesting stuff, though I suspect what many will take away from it is confirmation that it is indeed based on Mr. Beef on Orleans:

I know the owner of Mr. Beef, the restaurant that inspired The Beef. Chris Zucchero. He was my first friend I ever met. Mr. Beef is sort of on the corner—it’s on Orleans, and close to Erie, in River North, which is this beautiful neighborhood in Chicago. And the thing that was so funny to me about Mr. Beef is that it has a giant parking lot. It has, like, space—in the city—which almost seems insane. It has so much room, and there’s something about it that always felt lost in time. I wrote a lot of the show hanging out with Chris in what they call the elegant dining room of Mr. Beef, which is actually just an added-on patio. There was something that felt really lost in time about this specific place. There’s even a sign that says, “Even though it’s 2022 out there, it’s still 1988 in here.” And it was funny because I would see the same group of people kind of hanging out, and they were always really lovely but they were also smoking cigarettes, and Chris would be like, “Guys, I told you you could hang out, but go fuckin’ smoke a cigarette somewhere else because I can smell that shit in here.” There were these very funny details that we sort of found ourselves implementing through the Richie character.


Though Sandwich Tribunal found the South American in Minnesota—not a place you typically think of for South American foods. He also has to work through it to make it less like a sloppy Joe and more like a sandwich spread:

Despite the butter, my meatsauce inundated the bottom slice of bread, and the sandwich had to be inverted for my safety while consuming. The sauce was intensely savory–between the tomatoes and the mushrooms and the many meats and vegetables it had about every kind of umami-producing substance in abundance. I had underseasoned it somewhat, but what it lacked in salt it more than made up for in the mouthfilling sensation of savoriness that synergy provided.

It was also, sadly, almost entirely wrong.


I can only do a lavish multi-course tasting menu every so often, and having gone to Elizabeth at the start of the month, I’m by no means there yet. So popping into the bar at Claudia for drinks and a small number of things seemed a perfect alternative.

I haven’t been inside that building since it was Takashi, so I was impressed by the new layout—there’s a dining area along the glassed-in kitchen (there’s another dining area upstairs), and then when you reach the end of it the bar looks, chic and tasteful in white and wood, is like a cozy bar tucked away inside a hotel.

The current bar menu is themed with drinks inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, many of which seemed to include distinctly savory notes—one drink claims feta, another wagyu, among their ingredients. (It turns out to be wagyu fat; I don’t quite understand the thing of using fat in an alcoholic beverage, but I know it exists.) Anyway, it added a note of smokiness to a pisco-based drink.

While the tasting menu at Claudia is, like tasting menus mostly are, made of luxe ingredients treated delicately—we were brought a taste of one, which put crab in a cold tomato soup with some compressed watermelon—the offerings in the bar seemed more masculine and boozy, in an old-fashioned way—oysters, and a cheese plate (Roquefort and tomme, served with housebaked bread) among the starters, and a classic French pate in a pastry crust decorated with pastry leaves and such; my intention was to order the lobster pie but we were full before we got that far, so I guess I have to return, at which point I can also order the absinthe service. (Note: I am unlikely to order the absinthe service)

In any case, it was a very pleasant date night, urbane and relaxed (one other party in the bar most of the time we were there), with delicious old school food and modern drinks (the food esoecially apropos given the French food I’ve been writing about for my book). Recommended for those seeking a refined experience out.