Titus Ruscitti kind of sums it up on Twitter:

It’s likely I wouldn’t have even known Gordon Ramsay is opening a burger spot in Chicago had he chose not to put $13 hot dogs served with ketchup on the menu. They know what they’re doing (trolling for free press).

It’s amusing to me that I learned of the actual opening from an LTHForum thread… which, it turns out, initially announced that Ramsay was coming to Chicago back in 2008.

But it’s unfair to suggest that our local media would be drawn by the “Look, squirrel!” of ketchup on hot dogs brought to us by a TV celebrity chef. No, we have our own locally-grown hot publicity gimmicks, as Louisa Chu reports on the revamping of Wiener’s Circle, home of a late night racism carnival:

By day, on a couple of visits, the restaurant and bar, as well as the side and back patios, were nearly empty. That’s despite overhead heaters that could warm a whole “L” platform through the winter. One family feasted on hot dogs with their kids in tiny picnic chairs, while a young couple in love wordlessly fed each other fresh-cut fries.

Has the late night scene been cleaned up, too?

Not after midnight on a visit the night before Thanksgiving, also known as Blackout Wednesday or Drinksgiving, dubbed for the widespread binge drinking before the holiday.

Things go south when Chu tries to order and is told to pull her mask down. In the end, she wags the official Tribune finger of disapproval, giving the veteran, problematic spot a half star.

Oh look: “Gordon Ramsay opens 1st Chicago restaurant with Hell’s Kitchen burger and ketchup on hot dogs”


Hard to think of a more generic name than Brunch & Burgers, but Time Out’s Emma Krupp suggests it serves the stuffed-at-brunch crowd well:

I’d been nursing my appetite all day when I arrived at Brunch N Burgers for lunch on a recent Saturday, having seen photos of the restaurant’s towering burgers online ahead of my visit. Still, I don’t think I’d fully prepared myself for the formidable creation that landed on my table. Called the Southern Draw and served teetering atop a small wooden charcuterie board, this five-inch-tall stunner of a burger stacks two steak patties with slabs of pork belly and slathers them in bubbling pimento cheese, pickled onions, mayo, tomato and a fistful of mixed greens. It was so impressively sized that my dad, who was dining with me, let out a sort of shocked-sounding whistle.


Remember Tete Charcuterie? A great charcuterie-focused French restaurant in the West Loop that had a short life. (Hmm, that Chicago outpost of Rao’s never did take over the space.) When it closed, co-owners Thomas Rice and Kurt Guzowski announced they were going into the wholesale sausage business. Four Star Artisan sausages has been around for a little while now, but this week they announced that their sausages will be in Mariano’s stores, which increases the chances of normal folks finding them. Check them out!


Eater has a list of a few bests including Best New Restaurant (Kasama, so far sweeping that category). More bests to come, no doubt, as the year winds up.


I did a pizza slice listicle for Thrillist a few years ago, and it was not a terribly interesting thing, hard to find anything that stood out. Titus Ruscitti does a slice list and it’s full of things that didn’t exist then including Paulie Gee’s and Nonna’s, though he does get a few old school places in, like Gigio’s.

Buzz 2


Peanut Park is a new Italian restaurant on Taylor Street from an all-star team: Dave Bonomi (Coalfire Pizza) and Anthony Fiasche (Tempesta Market), plus chef de cuisine Ray Stanis (Nellcôte, Fortunato). Lisa Futterman tells more:

“Taylor Street needed some fresh air without straying too far from traditional values,” says Bonomi, a longtime resident of the neighborhood. “Gennaro’s, Francesca’s closed, for a time Rosebud and Tuscany were closed, now Taylor street is ready for fresh pasta made by hand, for local, seasonal produce, for Berkshire Duroc pork in a meatball.”


Steve Dolinsky visits a couple of places that will fulfill the desire for pre-Christmas tamales in the Hispanic community, including a rarely-seen regional specialty at Carnitas Uruapan.


Followup to last week’s story about the ungodly conceptual meal at Lecce in Italy: reader Mark Peacock went there in October and posted his reaction and his example of the photo with balloons that figured in the original review:

Ate dinner at Bros in Lecce in mid-Oct. It was kinda out there in a Moto sorta way. Wasn’t the @everywhereist train wreck experience. Enjoyed the trip to their food lab. Didn’t feel the need to pop the gift balloons…


More on last week’s story about Tiki bars in NewCity. Author John Greenfield got into a raucous Twitter fight with Internet humorist, former Chicagoan, and midcentury design afficionado, David Burge aka Iowahawk, who went after the piece beginning with: “I regret to inform you the Enjoyment Assassins are at it again.”

Then Greenfield said on Twitter that everyone misunderstood his story as being anti-Tiki. Specifically, he pointed to my piece last week:

Like all the right-wing pundits who’ve been attacking me this week, Michael read my piece as being a joyless indictment of tiki as being racist. Seems odd to me, since I wrote, “I’ve loved the genre since I was a kid and my dad’s cousin owned a tiki hotel in Miami Beach,” but OK.

Well, I think Greenfield was undoubtedly trying to present both sides in the quotes he found and shared. But we also learn that it was invented by “white men like Donn Beach,” that “The aesthetic lost popularity in the early 1970s, maybe in part because the bamboo and thatched roofs prevalent in tiki bars were uncomfortably reminiscent of the huts U.S. soldiers were burning in Vietnam,” that “amidst all this supposed fun, there have been lingering questions about the genre,” and that “In the wake of the George Floyd police murder and renewed calls for addressing past and present racial injustices, tiki venues have come under increased scrutiny.” Is it really surprising that nearly everyone read references to whiteness, Vietnam and George Floyd as a prosecutor warming up his case? (You can hear more from Greenfield and one of the Pacific Islanders he spoke to, Hannah Li-Epstein, on Outside the Loop Radio here.)

Following last week’s piece, I got several private comments via email praising what I wrote, like this:

You are right that if it is done poorly it can be tacky and veer into overt racism. But in my experience, Chicago’s Tiki scene is just kitsch, plain and simple. [People] will always find something to cry foul about but it is curious that Tiki, of all things, is where they are aiming their ire. Aren’t there bigger fish to fry?

But I was attacked for it that evening at dinner by someone else in food media. It followed the pattern familiar to me by now, of what happens when you express an opinion of which People do not Approve: you have a single chance to throw yourself on the mercy of the court, and if, due to some deficiency of the soul, you persist in your bad ideas, you are to be blamed for every bad thing that ever was—in short, canceled. At that point it was basically an alley fight with broken bottles.

I don’t want to recap the whole thing—hard to imagine it would be interesting in detail to other people—but to summarize, it was that Tiki pop culture, bar culture, is irredeemably racist/sexist, and white men, with their privilege, don’t get to decide that it’s okay. Because everything bad is our doing, and Tiki is tied to everything bad, like the George Floyd killing. What does that have to do with tiki bars? Hell if I know, and I for one take a death seriously enough to think that one should not cavalierly link things of such seriousness to a question like whether Easter Island heads in a bar are offensive to religion. (Clearly I am not made for 2021.)

Now, the part that always makes me wonder about this kind of argument is the “white men don’t get to decide” part. Don’t, rather than shouldn’t, so by what authority would you enforce the “don’t get to”? The law? Make it illegal to blaspheme against tropical religion?  Tear down every law in England to get at that devil? “Nobody’s saying anything about making it against the law,” I’m always told, scornfully, at this point.

So what are you saying? Make it socially unacceptable, I guess. Fine, go for it. But people will not agree at first, and may have counter-arguments of their own—and it is a bad habit in our present discourse to dismiss all counter-arguments as illegitimate, and jump to canceling or abusing the person who disagrees with you. You may succeed for the moment, browbeating them into acceptance, but it won’t last the way the hard work of changing minds does—and has done on all the great civil rights struggles that succeeded.

But there’s another thing about this, which I believe has the potential to actually harm the people that the woker-than-I supposedly want to protect. Which is, if white men don’t get to decide that tiki is fun, that’s not going to be that big an inconvenience for us—I have great confidence in the ability of my fellow white men to find other places to drink. But as I said, Greenfield’s piece in NewCity was fair enough to quote a wide range of takes, including from people of that heritage who own Tiki businesses.

And that’s who gets hurt if Tiki, or any example of an immigrant culture that falls out of favor for being too cartoonish or old-fashioned or doubleplusungood this week, is chased out of business because it doesn’t meet some social mob’s standards. The irony is that the two of us had this fight while we were at a restaurant serving a particular Asian cuisine—and while this restaurant is impeccably of the moment in its commitment to doing authentic dishes from the owner’s originating culture, it also happens that he belongs to a family that owns multiple restaurants representing different Asian cuisines in differing levels of strict anthropological accuracy. Do all of those family businesses meet the full standards of the woke in 2021? I suspect they do not; I suspect like a lot of Asian food businesses, they sell at times a version of Asian culture tailored to the clichéd expectations of white people.

So if you want, you can choose not to support these immigrant small business owners, in the name of racial justice, and to condemn what they do—and use social media to chase them out of their livelihood. You can do that; it’s your privilege.


A couple of years ago I wrote about the couple who started an excellent casual Turkish spot, Turkitch. Congrats to Özkan Yilmaz and his wife Feyzan, who became American citizens last week.


Pepperoni taco is, despite its name, a kind of Italian sub, except instead of Italy, think Iceland. But at least it doesn’t have hakarl on it. Sandwich Tribunal investigates how the hell Icelanders think this is a taco:

There were minimal existing photographs of the sandwich online, and what photographs did exist mostly depicted it still in the package, so in large part I was able to put this much together mostly from the few descriptions I could glean from helpful Twitter users.

• The sandwiches were sold prepackaged in various groceries and convenience stores throughout Iceland, and multiple brands made their own versions

• The roll was a “cheese loaf” that was similar to a long hot dog bun or narrow torpedo roll with shredded Parmesan baked onto the top

• The roll contained ham, pepperoni, cheese, and taco sauce

• The taco sauce was not a picante sauce but rather a seasoned mayonnaise

• The cheese inside the sandwich was likely something similar to Gouda

Yum! Pass the brennivin.


The snack shop that became a foodie sensation, Ethan Ling’s Hermosa is, as you probably know, now serving multicourse dinners of Cambodian food that he grew up on. And indeed we even had a few things made by his mom for the dinner, and can I say that mom’s contributions, including a pork nam prik and homemade Isaan sausage, had some of the deepest soul we tasted that night? But in general it was a tour of Cambodian food, which showed it to be not unlike Thai food with its use of deep funky shrimp-paste flavors, and even when we got something like the fried chicken (familiar as the middle of Hermosa’s best-known sandwich), it came with a pungent fresh slaw to eat along with it that showed how good Southeast Asian food is at highlighting meat while keeping it bright with fresh flavors at the same time.

Friday night I had some leftover soup ready to go—but I just couldn’t face it. I felt like going out, and going somewhere old school a week before Christmas, but I didn’t feel like heading to Wisconsin for a supper club dinner on no notice. So it occurred to me that this was finally my night to try Mirabella, the Italian steak house from a former Gene & Georgetti chef in the space of the old German restaurant Mirabel, which I’ve driven by without stopping a few hundred thousand times. The menu is very much G&G’s, steaks and old school Italian; I had a ribeye, a wedge salad and a Manhattan to start. It was all exactly what I expected; the main difference between Mirabella and G&G’s is the warmly friendly old school service at Mirabella. It wasn’t very full on a Friday night, but the bar area was doing a booming business in styrofoam takeout containers.

I was looking on one of the delivery services for new pizzas one night, and ran across a new name—Grandma’s Pizza Kitchen. And it was only a few blocks away—how could I not have noticed it? Well, it’s a 2021 thing— a pizza place inside a… pizza place. Specifically, it’s a alternate pizza style available under a new brand name, from Pizzeria Serio, giving them two different ways to grab your attention on the app. Well, it worked on me, and though it’s not exactly a grandma pizza—it’s a hand-tossed crust, rustically shaped, with classic Italian-American toppings and chunky fresh tomato sauce—it’s not completely different from it, either. I liked it just fine, it never hurts to have another pretty good pizza place nearby. Even if it’s the same one you already had.

Buzz List will be off next week, and probably return right after New Year’s. Or sometime next year. Mele Kalikimaka!