In a week strong with “news” I could care less about—a new Taylor Swift album, a new Disney streaming service, a new investigation into Jussie Smollett—the prize went to the astonishingly successful free media campaign pulled off by Popeyes Chicken. One tweet estimated the value of all the free coverage thrown at a chain food item to be $23.25 million, which is close to my estimate of a million billion bajillion. But it’s heartwarming to know, at a time when the world is in unprecedented crisis (or so the media tells me every day), that our declining food media, who can’t pay their employees a living wage, can all be persuaded to pony up a pure gift like that to Restaurant Brands International, 2018 revenue of $5.357 billion, traded as QSR on the New York Stock Exchange.

But it’s news people want to read, they will say. Yes, and it’s also the kind of news that people are perfectly capable of generating on their own via social media. You are a dog chasing a car that is being driven by other dogs, when you devote newsroom resources to… eating the same fast food as everyone else.

So be sure to read all the coverage of this prefab chicken patty at the Tribune (here, here and here—the last one, which is about independent alternatives and may have been prompted by this Steve Dolinsky tweet, is actually good), The Takeout of course, even the frickin’ New Yorker (I suppose there’s a wokeness issue here since you’re virtuously taking business away from History’s Greatest Monster Chick Fil-A, a longtime New Yorker babadook).


Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure (and Ted & Alice) sent writer Besha Rodell on the last great food magazine boondoggle, eating at restaurants all over the world to make a list of the best restaurants on the planet. What an ambitious project! I am Ozymandias, Listicle of Listicles, look upon my picks, ye hungry, and despair! It’s insane, basically, but arguably at least something of an answer to the criticism of things like Michelin or the World’s 50 Best—at least we can know who the critic doing the picking is, and that they compared the 81 restaurants she tried (recommended by local authorities—John Kessler for Chicago) head to head. Rodell explained the methodology:

To have the globe reduced to one expensive tasting menu after another is to miss out on a true taste of the world. What I want when I travel is a meal that teaches me something about a region’s people and their tastes and lives. That’s what this list is about.

And, as it turns out, we in Chicago do not have one of the 30 best restaurants in the world, all of which do seem to be fairly expensive and posh, if not exactly the same posh ones as Michelin would have picked. The four (! Is that all, as Arthur Dent said) U.S. choices include N/Naka (two stars) and Blue Hill at Stone Barns (one star), as well as non-starred Swan Oyster Depot and The Grey in Savannah. But we do get an honorable mention for Best Wine Pairing—at Oriole, where “brilliant wine pairings thrillingly enhanced my meal.”


Time’s feature on the 100 best places to go in the world is also just a listicle, but it has fun, mostly unfamiliar choices to flip through, and I can say that there’s only two places on it I’ve been: Hearst Castle and Kumiko in Chicago, where Julia “Momose creates drinks seasonally with Japanese ingredients and techniques, like an old-fashioned with Japanese whiskey, shochu and bitters, which pair well with co-owner and executive chef Noah Sandoval’s steamed buns with pork belly, or Japanese milk bread with fermented honey ice cream and truffle.” That’s two for two for Sandoval & Co., national magazine worldwide list wise.


Trib beer writer Josh Noel gets to review Middle Brow Bungalow, the bakery/restaurant attached to Middle Brow Beer Co., which as he says “is a not just a small piece of Chicago’s surging craft beer scene; it’s a prime example of how beer has become an experience… The archly simple menu matches the room. There’s beer. Pizza. An ambitious baking program that features four or five kinds of sourdough at a time, including whole grain, country and rye. And other than one salad and a dessert or two, that’s about it.” Two stars.


Having worked his way around Politan Row, looks like Mike Sula is on to the new Fulton Galley food hall, and first up is Thai food at Pink Salt, “promising Isan food from northeastern Thailand, a region known for spicy meat-and-toasted-rice salads (larb), sticky fermented sausage (sai krok), and smoky grilled chicken (gai yang) served with papaya salad and sticky rice.”


I’d already kind of forgotten that something called The Smith had come here, but Joanne Trestrail seems to be favorably enough disposed: “This East Coast import (four in New York, two in Washington, D.C.) takes a straight shot down the middle of the road with impressive self-confidence. We weren’t aware that that part of the road wasn’t getting enough attention, but OK. So lunching at the Smith is not an idiosyncratic, chef-driven experience. So what? It’s upbeat and polished, and River Northers, in these first few months, seem to dig it.”


Decades before food halls were the hot thing, the food hall at Mitsuwa gave you another world—Japan, some Korea thrown in—in one place to sample. They just redid it in a big way, and Steve Dolinsky has a report on the new offerings after renovation, and an extra video (at the same place) on the first authentic Japanese-style takoyaki stand (that I know of, anyway) in the area.


Titus Ruscitti checks out dim sum and other Chinese dishes in the seemingly unlikely confines of Lincoln park, at D Cuisine: “The focal point of the kitchen is the dim sum. It’s made fresh daily by the chef who gets there early to make sure everything is ready to go. I was able to try a nice portion of the dim sum menu which is smaller than your average dim sum spot but still large with close to 30 selections. I tried close to 30% of the menu and liked almost all of the items that I tried.”

Buzz 2


Ina Pinkney’s breakfast column looks at Travelle in the Langham, formerly the IBM building (“We sat at a table that was surely in someone’s office eons ago; it’s a spectacular transformation”); panini for breakfast at aspiring chain The Mozzarella Store (“We both agreed that the bread was delicious and easy to eat. It is made here, and the aroma of freshly baked bread wafted through the dining room”); and Asian pastry chain Tous Les Jours (“The real fun is on your left. Take a tray, put a piece of paper on it, and grab tongs that are hanging on a rack… Now go to the case and try, just try, to pick just one thing. I dare you.”)


Grace Wong has a look at Flat & Point, which “quietly opened” some months back (not so quietly that the Reader, for one, didn’t cover it months ago). Owner-chef Brian Bruns is “using meat from Slagel Farms and produce from Green City Market and Nichols Farms. Sustainability and decreasing waste are a big part of the Bruns’ mission for the restaurant, so Brian is breaking down whole pigs and running specials depending on what part he’s working on, including off-cuts like tongue and heart. You vote with your money, Bruns said, so he’s buying products from farms with responsible practices.”


Close to ten episodes, I really like how the Overserved podcast (by friends of Fooditor Ari Bendersky and Maggie Hennessy) is shaping up—the latest begins with some thoughtful chat about the closing of Quiote and the opening of Good Fortune, then some talk about ghost kitchens (which exist to fulfill online orders, basically) before they get to their guest Adrienne Lo, of Fat Rice, who has interesting things to say about the less flashy operations side of that terrific restaurant.


Not sure why a Nick Kindelsperger taco list popped up in the middle of middle eastern month, but this is rock solid as a summary of the state of taco knowledge at the moment in Chicago, and unafraid to kick it off at #1 with crispy tripas at La Chaparrita. Nearly the whole list, in fact, is LTH/Titus-level joint food, no nods to downtown dining or people who are afraid to leave the near north side.


Another list that is part of middle eastern month—ten interesting takes on hummus, from Louisa Chu.


Ji Suk-Yi visits Los Takitos in Palatine, where the menu reflects the owners’ heritages: Mexican and Lebanese.


Anthony Todd tips you off to three upcoming food festivals.


Need another guide to where to eat in Chicago? Friend of Fooditor Renee Suen contributes an especially detailed one to Canada’s Nuvo.


Had a busy week of checking out new places (it may still be summer but I can feel that Fooditor 99 deadline breathing down my neck):

The Mozzarella Store makes excellent fior de latte and burrata in house. This would only go as far as what you had to put them on, though, and the crust of the pizza is Neapolitan-perfect, crispy-bubbly outside and spongy inside and just swell. A margherita pizza was as good of its type to be had, with acidic tomato and their cheese; a more elaborate one, with ham, corn and mushrooms, should have followed Coco Chanel’s rule and taken one thing off. A salad with burrata, marinated eggplant and pumpkin seeds (I think) was a nice showcase for the burrata, too. A first-rate addition to the underwhelming Michigan Avenue scene.

I don’t get too worried about the old one-month rule before reviewing, though I wouldn’t slam a place that early if it seemed like it could get better. Good Fortune, from chef Charles Welch (Honey’s) and in Logan Square, has one outstanding area right now (after a week), so I trust the rest will sharpen up in the next month or two. The standout is pasta—we had two of the three on the menu, and they were great, chewy texture and strong, tart flavors with lots of bread crumb—bucatini grana arso with bits of Spanish mackerel, and black garlic rigatoni in a smoked maitake mushroom sauce. Appetizers were pleasant enough but not as distinctive (too much halloumi in the halloumi with peaches for me, it turns out) and I felt entrees could be executed more memorably—a very nice piece of pork collar cried out for dark caramelized crispy bits. Pop in for pasta, see where it goes from there as it settles in.

Doggone is the New Orleans-meets-Hot Doug’s place in Logan Square that Mike Sula reviewed a few weeks ago, put off by the sausages shriveling in a warming drawer. That at least has been fixed, though they’re still not as good as if they came off a hot grill, in my book. But I found the combinations—etoufee on a crayfish dog, that sort of thing—interesting, I’d pop back in when I was in the area.

And I checked out Superkhana International, in… you guessed it… Logan Square, which ought to be seeing its first reviews shortly. With some good attempts at regional India happening at last, I wondered if I’d find this hipster take on Indian fun or a wan imitation. I found it fun, mainly because it’s really not that Indian at all—there are Indian spices, and dishes inspired by same, but it’s the kind of place where you can also get spongy ddukbokki tossed with Chinese broccoli, in some oddball fusion of Passerotto and Chinatown. In other words, chefs having fun with Asian flavors generally. We all liked the appetizer section a lot, particularly some height-of-season tomatoes tossed with Indian spices and crispy little sev squiggles, chickpea bread with equally seasonal corn, and the junky but irresistible “Mongolian fries”—a jenga made of potato logs coated in tasty goo, quickly eaten to the bottom.

We were a little less wowed by larger plates, including the much-vaunted grilled cheese (which has beets and a few other things on it),. We had the veggie pizza on “naan”—seemed like any good pizza crust to me, but I liked the spinach and Indian spices on it fairly well. And we double-ordered the vindaloo pork, which came out like two slices of porchetta in a winey sauce. (No butter chicken naan, beloved of Eater, for us, despite its star placement on the menu.) Not sure I’d quite race back for anything specifically (those tomatoes will be gone soon anyway), but I’d go back in a couple of months to see what they’re playing around with then.