Phil Vettel, having reviewed George Trois, returns to check out the other two new concepts in Michael Lachowicz’s Winnetka restaurant—and kudos to whoever came up with the phrase “Winnetka trifecta” in the headline. Of bustling Aboyer, he says, “The style here is nouveau brasserie (is that a style?), offering an array of modernized classics. There’s a fine starter of rabbit and sage sausage, for example, elevated by a superb mix of quinoa, charred-cabbage confit and finger lime and graced with paper-thin crisps of dehydrated Serrano ham.”

While more sedate and North Shore-ish Silencieux goes for a more classical French bent: “Dover sole is presented with the solemnity of a religious rite, arriving via cart on a silver pan, filleted tableside and served with lobster sauce and hazelnuts alongside a crispy disk of black rice inlaid with edamame. Grilled quail, stuffed with merguez sausage and pain de mais, gets an ode-to-spring medley of fava beans, asparagus and morel mushrooms (chanterelles by now).” Three stars for the pair.


It’s a truism that real Chinese food is almost never found outside Chinatown or Argyle street, but good places do pop up in Lincoln Park occasionally—I am a regular delivery customer of Chengdu Impression—and Grace Wong has a piece on D Cuisine, which offers quality dim sum and Guangdong dishes near Clark and Diversey: “All the dim sum is handmade by the chef, who comes into the restaurant at 6 a.m. every day to create the bite-sized morsels… And while you’ll find some Chinese-American dishes on the menu, [owner Danny] Fang said he hopes these menu items will get people through the door so he can encourage them to try Chinese fare.”


Graham Meyer looks at how Publican Quality Meats is evolving as a lunch destination under new head Rob Levitt: “A new chef at a high-profile restaurant usually makes dining news. A new butcher, on the other trotter, only raises notice when it’s the marriage of Publican Quality Meats, the meat market of the foodie class, and Rob Levitt, the only famous butcher in Chicago. The pairing, which goes together like steak and onions, makes Publican Quality Meats an even more compelling destination.”


What exactly is Wherewithall, the new restaurant from Parachute owners Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim, besides “not Korean”? Anthony Todd (who, truth be told, dined there with me) explains, or asks them to: “Wherewithall serves a four-course, prix fixe menu that changes every day. There’s no signature dish, no constant signpost on the menu to appease regulars; if you go on a Wednesday and a Friday, most of the offerings will have changed in two days. ‘We look at what the farmers send out on their lists, twice a week, and see what’s really good,’ Clark explains. ‘We aren’t thinking of ideas; we look at the food first.’”


The news is that a new American restaurant called Gurst (don’t ask) is coming to Avondale, but before it does, let’s say goodbye to what it’s replacing: one of Chicago’s unique dining out figures, Branko Podrumedic, owner of Little Bucharest. As Kenny Z summed it up, “50 years walking the floor with ouzo in a funnel imploring young women in the restaurant to ‘Suck It! Suck it!’ then driving people home in a rickety stretch white limo. Sure was unique.” Besides the Avondale location, he previously ran Little Bucharest on Ashland in Lakeview and threw the Taste of Romania festival in that area. Eater has the story, but basically, Mr. Branko is ready to retire and as he says, “Many of these young people, they don’t know where Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria are.” Or why they should drink there instead of at some sports bar.


If you’re a fan of Cajun/Creole food willing to travel to Starved Rock for it, put Matteson’s Hidden Manna cafe on your list, says Ji Suk Yi: “It didn’t take long for patrons to flock to the restaurant to sample head Chef Victor Jaimes’ from-scratch menu that is heavily based on recipes passed down by [wife Glynis] Harvey’s New Orleans-raised grandmother. The cream-based shrimp and grits with spicy chicken andouille sausage has been a longtime favorite, as is the fried catfish fillet over grit cakes. For vegetarians, there’s the ‘Grits Ya-Ya’— spinach, portobello mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, onions and spices over grits.”


The Big Baby is a south side Chicago thing, and places called Nicky’s serving it are a Chicago thing, and both those facts are well known, but Monica Eng may have finally gotten to the bottom of it with the original Nicky himself, Nicholas Vagenas.


Porto in Portugal is the hot destination at the moment and Titus Ruscitti, naturally, went to a zillion places: “Speaking of the food I’m ready to declare Porto one of the worlds great sandwich cities. It’s almost certainly Europe’s best destination for meats between bread. This may seem “so what?” to some but for those that love a sacred sandwich you need to add Porto to your bucket-list. It’s closest comparison is probably a place like Philadelphia on that front. Much like Lisbon you’ll find yourself going up and downhill as the bottom of the city lies near the river and it’s all up from there.”


There’s no Fooditor event in the Tribune’s Chicago Food Bowl this year, but many others will happen. Nick Kindelsperger writes here about events with Rosio Sanchez, the Chicago born chef who has worked at Noma and now has Mexican restaurants in Copenhagen, where as he notes, “With no tortillerias in Denmark, she had to import corn from Mexico and nixtamalize it at the restaurant, before grinding it to make the masa used for tortillas.”

The one I’m most interested in is a dinner at Galit with Musa Dagdeviren, whose Istanbul restaurant Ciya Sofrasi is perhaps the most interesting and important in that city, built on the research he’s done into homestyle recipes in Anatolia. His recently published The Turkish Cookbook is probably the most important cookbook on the subject; he’ll be cooking but not, I suspect, speaking, as he spoke next to no English when I met him in 2010 (I hope I nodded my appreciation sufficiently), though he is giving a talk at Read It and Eat. Nevertheless, getting to try his food in America is a rare treat.


Phil Vettel looks at why middle eastern food is having a moment: “Middle Eastern flavors are springing up all over Chicago menus; finding hummus, pita or falafel in Chicago has become as easy as finding a cheeseburger… now the cuisine has found the fine-dining spotlight with the arrival of three wildly popular restaurants that are pulling in young, professional crowds.” It will surprise no one that clean, healthy ingredients play a part—as RJ Melman tells him, “It’s a lighter cuisine that appeals for a lot of health reasons. For us, certainly it’s the way a lot of us prefer to eat — a ton of dishes to share, rather than an entree on a plate, and maybe not a lot of bread, though a really good pita is nice.”

All true enough. But I have to object to any suggestion that middle eastern flavors weren’t as easy as to find as a cheeseburger until downtown restaurateurs—and reviewers—made them a thing. This food has been part of our city’s culture for decades, steadily written about for much of that time (I wrote about the Bridgeview community and its rich middle eastern food scene, including the one place in that area Vettel mentions, Al Bawadi, a decade ago for Time Out). That it’s finally in the kind of restaurants and neighborhoods that reviewers deign to mention says more about how media compartmentalizes our food scene than it does about… our food scene..


A new organization devoted to MeToo problems in the restaurant industry will launch with a panel discussion at Dorian’s on Monday night. Aimee Levitt writes about Restaurant Culture Association co-founder Trista Baker: “An allegation shouldn’t be a cause for panic. Instead, she says, managers and owners should view it as an opportunity. ‘Someone trusted you,’ she says. ‘That’s an amazing sign. Now you’re in a position to do something to propel work culture in a positive direction.’”


I’m not a fan of steak sandwiches—they’re fine if you want to completely mangle some bread with your teeth while trying to eat a tough steak—but Sandwich Tribunal looks at Chicago-area steak sandwiches and finds a champ at a place, well, if you’ve been paying attention Mr. D’s should be no surprise.


I meant to run this last week, but you have to read the Sun-Times’ obituary of Jimmy Curry, longtime (and twice shot) bouncer at Carol’s Pub. There’s a lot of Chicago history in it, the kind that doesn’t usually makes books, like this: “After the police shot and killed another Southern migrant, Mr. Curry helped lead a 1966 Goodfellows march on the old Summerdale police station on Foster Avenue, James said. ‘Almost everybody who participated in that march knew they were setting themselves up for retaliation’ by the police, said Robert Lawson, who was an organizer with JOIN. ‘If he hadn’t agreed to come on that march, the march might not have happened. Or, if it did, it would not have been as broad-based because everybody was looking to see what Jimmy would do.’”