Now, I guess it’s the TV side of food media’s turn: we lost Chicago’s Best, Dolinsky left ABC 7, and now comes word that Check, Please! will end with this 19th season on WTTW, though producer David Manilow hedges his tweets enough to suggest it might find a new platform. In its heyday, the popular show in which ordinary Chicagoans recommended restaurants for each other to try was a big hit, and could pack a chosen restaurant for months; I also think it was important for telling Chicagoans places to check out in neighborhoods not their own, and expanding many peoples’ knowledge of the range of dining in our city. WTTW’s statement to the Trib is notable for its degree of warmth toward one of their signature shows: “This upcoming season, as ‘Check, Please!’ leaves our schedule, we look forward to bringing local documentaries, storytelling, and trusted and independent news to our audience.”


A former cook server at mfk., Ruba Hassan, has launched a Palestinian popup at a Wicker Park bar, called Yamma—a word for mama, from whom the recipes often come, though she had to reconstruct them as her own mother died when she was young. While there’s Palestinian food around Chicago—much of the middle eastern in Bridgeview leans Palestinian, especially when it’s named something like Jerusalem—it’s still not a descriptor you tend to see. Nick Kindelsperger has more, reserved for subscribers. (H/t Scott Worsham)


Steve Dolinsky pays tribute to two pizza places marking 50 years at NBC.


Anthony Todd is doing the best-curated digest of opening announcements and such at the moment in the revived Dish—too bad they don’t seem to be linking to it on the main page so you can find it. So subscribe, and in the meantime here’s last week’s, which looks to fall happenings including Soif Wine Bar at Testaccio and El Che’s San Telmo market, named for a market in Buenos Aires.


Here’s a nice story about a Fooditor favorite: Brown Sugar Bakery now owns the building they’re in.

Buzz 2


I understood Entente to be another casualty of lockdown, but I don’t think that was ever made official. Now it is: Brian Fisher is joining Seoul Taco as the culinary director for the Korean taco chain, now in seven locations in the Chicago and St. Louis areas.


On Facebook, thoughts on what restaurants need to do to recover from 2020-21, from Phil Mott, former Chicago chef and Kendall instructor:

When I ask, “What have you done in the last 18 months to change the work environment in your restaurant?” I am hoping to hear a few of the following responses from owners and managers;
– We have introduced new sanitation systems to make the restaurant safer.
– We have trained the employees on how to keep themselves personally safe from the virus and provide extra time for sanitation and personal precautions. We encourage vaccinations and testing.
– We no longer think that it is a badge of honor to come to work when you don’t feel well. We tell them to please stay home, for their own sake as well as ours.
– We have recognized that this is a very stressful time for everyone, and we have done all that we can to create a less stressful environment. We post lots of signs regarding mask policy, we have designed ordering systems that make it easier for customers, we have added outdoor seating and changed the layout of the Dining Room. We now have less contact with customers during ordering. This may be counterintuitive to my desires to “touch” every customer, but I am adapting and making it safer for everyone. I am trying to use technology to supplement our service procedures.

Keep reading here.


I enjoy African food whenever I have it but it’s definitely one of the things that is still little written about, little scoped out on our scene. (Hey, it could be worse—it could be Ecuadoran food.) Borderless Magazine, the outgrowth of the immigration reporting effort 90 Days 90 Voices (which Fooditor was part of here), offers a guide to Chicago African restaurants with entries from Morocco and Algeria to Nigeria, Senegal and Somalia.


Wait to go, genius: a shooting suspect dashed into a restaurant, Garcia’s in Lincoln Square, to escape police—and found a table full of police. (Block Club)


The Wall Street Journal offers a pretty good guide to where to stay, eat and shop in “Chicago’s buzziest neighborhood,” the West Loop.


This is from earlier in the month, but Chewing talked to friend of Fooditor Cathy Lambrecht, who put together a cookbook of recipes from county fair competitions, and Abra Berens, who Fooditor talked to about her cookbook in 2019.


Many argue if a hot dog is a sandwich. Next level is arguing what makes a murtabak. Sandwich Tribunal explores the Asian folded foodstuff:

Alternately described as a kind of wrap, a stuffed pancake, or even an omelet, murtabak exists in various forms throughout the Arabian peninsula and Southeast Asia. Why such a wide range? What is the common factor? Where did murtabak originate?


End of summer thoughts from Brad Cawn, on the occasion of dining regionally:

Ten years ago our reveries were of foams and air-quoted deconstructions; today we chase—by which I mean drive four hours each direction to a rural location—a kind of scarce and site-based asceticism a la Noma: that the food on our plates was plucked from the vine and tweezered just for us, that it is an expression that cannot be repeated. This modern pastoralism is as much a fetishization as it is a genre, and as the downfall of Willows Inn earlier this year showed us (I hope), it’s not only unsustainable but harmful–to employee and customer alike.

The place he goes was started by Willows Inn vets (refugees?) and it’s called Harbor House Inn, in Elk, California.


Fooditor contributor Bull Garlington has launched a whiskey blog, All American Whiskey. As he says, “All American Whiskey is dedicated to telling the story of whiskey in America. I know there are already plenty of whiskey websites, but honestly, they’re exhausting. They only talk about the liquor. They never talk about the people who make the whiskey, the people who serve it, or where whiskey shows up in movies, music, and books.”


This went unnoticed by media when it happened at the end of July, but an important person in the development of our food and media scene in the 1970s and 1980s recently passed away: Carla Kelson. Allen Kelson was a student at Roosevelt University when he was offered a gig writing and pasting up the printed program guide for WFMT, the classical music station. This project grew in ambition as a magazine about goings-on in Chicago, until at one point he started writing about restaurants. And, he says, he was afraid he was going to lose his new wife with the hours he had to devote to doing everything from writing to pasteup, so he recruited Carla to help—and as the program guide evolved into Chicago magazine, with Allen as editor and Carla as Dining Editor, they became the most important food media figures in town, just as food was starting to become a major interest for so many people, and knowing the chefs and the restaurants of the moment brought you social cachet. As the Tribune put it in 1993, “For more than 20 years, Allen and Carla Kelson were the most powerful restaurant critics Chicago has ever seen. Through their reviews and columns in Chicago magazine, the husband-and-wife team were reputed to be able to make or break restaurants and send chefs into despair if a dish was deemed overseasoned or sloppily presented.”

Compared to today’s squeezed-into-nonexistence dining budgets and staffs, as Dining Editor Carla Kelson fielded a small army in her heyday, as many as eight reviewers checking and double checking places, sometimes sending two teams to the same restaurant on the same night—so if the Kelsons were recognized, someone else would be getting the non-VIP experience; they’d meet in the restroom to compare notes. They’d also return frequently to ensure that top restaurants stayed at the top; Allen says the dining budget (outside of what the reviewers were paid) could run to $50,000 a year at a time when dinner for two might be $60. The dining guide of capsule reviews, many of them written by Carla, was the place everyone turned for dining advice and by far the most popular part of Chicago mag.

Chicago went through various new owners, and in time the Kelsons were criticized for conflicts of interest—having come up as freelancers before either food or Chicago mag was a big deal, Allen had long had a consulting business for restaurants on the side, while Carla was reviewing them (though he says they took care to keep the two separated). Carla was let go by Chicago in 1993 and later worked for a charity group; Kelson was 78 when she passed away July 29.

H/T to Matthew Mirapaul for the headline theme this week.