As the pandemic was winding down, I mentioned to someone that I thought we would hit a point, six or twelve months from then, when places that had made it to reopening chose, on second thought, to hang it up. I felt like there would probably be a lot of places that flew low enough to the ground to be able to reopen at first, but would find it wasn’t worth it, or viable, dealing with lack of employees and rising food costs or something after a few months back at full operations. And last week, it seems like my predication was being realized. The reasons why places announced their closing were all different, but I can’t help but feel that there’s just… exhaustion out there. Anyway, here’s who’s shutting down:

Elizabeth. When I went in July, I was quite impressed at how chef Ian Jones pulled off the feat of reminding people of Iliana Regan’s food, with its roots in foraging the midwest, while having his own personality and making food that resembled the best of Regan’s meals. But part of the reason I was surprised was because I had heard nothing about what Elizabeth was like these days; I don’t believe anyone (besides me) had reviewed it in the year-plus it was open under Jones. Which is a shame—imagine if no one had bothered to review Trio after Shawn McClain left, to see what this new Achatz kid was doing. In any case, Jones is leaving by the end of the year and owner Tim Lacey will open a restaurant called Atelier in the space under a new chef (who he’s currently searching for) in the spring. (Lacey and Regan had worked together at Trio, which eventually, after Achatz, took a new name: Trio Atelier.) Tactically, it’s probably smart to distance the new restaurant a little more from Regan’s decade running it; maybe people will review it this time.

GT Fish & Oyster. Boka Group announced the closing of its River North seafood restaurant, at one time a rival to Lettuce’s Shaw’s. Chef Giuseppe Tentori will stay with the company, as he also has GT Prime steakhouse (which is said to be getting more seafood items) and is a key figure in the company’s catering operations. But it’s unclear why, exactly, they’ve chosen to shut down this restaurant at this moment. Probably just that with the difficulty of finding sufficient staff for restaurants now, it made more sense to focus Tentori’s efforts in one building.

Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream. One of the lockdown’s hits will close toward the end of the year, as some of the founders have now launched Kim’s Uncle Pizza and owner Ed Marszewski plans to try something else in the Bridgeport space. Surprisingly, given the ubiquitousness of pizza as a COVID-era solution for restaurants trying to survive, Marszewski told the Tribune “the model we developed for the business at PFCIC wasn’t sustainable.” Other concepts will get a try out in the Marz/Kimski complex over the next few months.

Boiler Room. More pizza! Logan Square spot shut down suddenly right after Thanksgiving; co-owner Russ Grant told Block Club:

“I hate to say we went out of business because we couldn’t pay the rent, but it was not a profitable business. We did spend quite a bit of money keeping it alive,” he said.

Selling the business was on the table for “quite a while” but only came into focus in recent months, when employees stopped showing up for work, Russ Grant said.

Meanwhile, employees complained that the closing was sudden and left them in the lurch, as Block Club reports.

Munno. Still more pizza! The neighborhood Italian restaurant I first wrote about here is facing a change: owner Nick Russo is stepping away and turning it over to Adam Weisell, who I wrote about here at a different pizza place, but eventually came over to Munno when it closed. So, not exactly a closing, but a life change.

Gadabout. Andersonville spot devoted to elevated street food closed last weekend; management said on Facebook: “We did our best to hold out for as long as we could, but the pandemic really was a huge hit, and we have not been able to make ends meet since.” To kick them when they’re down, they had to deal with power outages on a couple of the days that would have been among their last. Block Club has more.

The Hot Dog Box. This African-American-owned upscale hot dog stand, with “sirloin dogs,” started in a container building on the south side and then moved to Portage Park; but it soon kicked up some controversy over claims of racial discrimination in their not being selected for a local hot dog street fair. Here’s Eater:

In June, Morelli told his social media followers that the organizers behind the Windy City Hot Dog Fest neglected to invite him to their inaugural event, which was set to occur on the Hot Dog Box’s own street. When chamber leaders began receiving negative online feedback about the apparent oversight, Morelli says they apologized for the and asked him to delete his comments. He did so but declined a belated invitation to participate in the festival.

A rare Black restaurant owner in the area, Morelli can’t dismiss race as one of several factors that contributed to the closure. “I don’t want to say that’s the be-all-end-all, but the area is still growing and may not be as ready as I thought for diversity and inclusion,” he says. “More people love us than not, but I have seen a lot of negative stuff. we have dealt with racism, even in our store… As a Black man in business, it’s hard not to recognize that when you experience it.”

Well, I’ll offer my simpler theory: it was too expensive for the neighborhood. I took one of my kids there once and we spent about $40 on four (admittedly fancy) hot dogs. Just south of there on Cicero, Jeff’s Red Hots sells a perfectly good standard dog for under $5. Eater’s Ashok Selvam was saying “Sure, Jan” to the idea of the prices being the driver, vs. racism—and hey, a lot of things are possible; it’s a very white neighborhood, but beyond that, it’s just not that much of a restaurant neighborhood (when I interviewed the then-owner of Community, we spent a few moments trying to think what restaurant on that side of town had any kind of citywide reputation, and all we could think of was Superdawg). Maybe it could have made it in a more receptive, and less price-sensitive, neighborhood—and also if its dogs had had the kind of variety that Hot Doug’s, to which Ashok compares it, had (most of the dogs seemed to have a sweet-ish, barbecue-sauce taste to their toppings).


I really liked Ruxbin, mostly liked Mott Street (where I dined with one Michael Nagrant the first time), and wasn’t so excited about the Mini Mott burger that I felt a need to race back. Well, now Mini Mott is Second Generation, and Nagrant seems downright wowed, so I guess I’ll be there soon:

What is most extraordinary about Second Generation is that it’s the first “new” restaurant I’ve been to in a while that’s truly exceeded pre-pandemic standards.

There’s a hunger, an attention to true hospitality, quality food, and idiosyncratic personal touches (I love the askew childhood photos of the owners and the old takeout menus plastered on the walls of the restaurant) at Second Generation that reminds me of the owners Vicki Kim, Nate Chung, and chef Edward Kim’s first venture, the defunct but legendary Ruxbin. Second Generation is a rare and beautiful thing, a burgeoning Chicago classic. All you gotta do is put on your sunglasses and enjoy the ride.


Nisos Mediterranean is an avant-gardeish Greek restaurant from the folks behind The Hampton Social. Nick Kindelsperger reviews it, and it kind of gets a four-Huh? rating:

Chef Avgeria Stapaki takes the homey layered dish of eggplant, stewed ground meat and potatoes, and transforms it into a visually stunning showstopper. Instead of a square, she wraps the beef mixture into a cylinder, with thin slices of roasted eggplant, and serves a handful of crispy potato straws on the side. When the server brings it out, a fog of dry ice wafts from the edges of the dish… While the flavor is all there, deconstructing moussaka also accentuates the mushiness of the eggplant and stewed beef.

This sort of scene plays out again and again at Nisos, a restaurant with genuine ambition and fascinating creative twists, but one where the substance doesn’t quite live up to the premium you pay for the presentation.


Louisa Chu’s review of Daisy’s Po-Boy and Tavern is more about telling Erick Williams’ back story than reviewing sandwiches (they’re sandwiches, how much opining do you need?) To wit:

“I’m very intrigued, informed and motivated by how food travels and how it changes, based on accessibility and climate,” Williams said. “Part of my practice is paying homage to the Great Migration.”

Daisy’s not only pays homage to the life and trials of a generation, it’s an expression of fondness for his great-aunt, and respect for the man to whom she was married for 49 years.

“He was one of the first men to walk me through cooking as a process in my life,” Williams said. “And he shared a lot of insight about the fare of New Orleans where he was born proper.”

That’s expressed as a lively restaurant offering much more than the acclaimed sandwich, with focused Southern cocktails too.


Chicago magazine offers a review of the Charlie Trotter film Love, Charlie, by

Trotter’s pursuit for perfection gave him success, but it didn’t give him peace — nor did it last. Perfection cost him everything, including his life. Trotter’s legacy is a cautionary tale on what happens when no room is given for mistakes. It creates the illusion that perfection is success, when success is paved by failures that teach growth.

—though one suspects Trotter, who wrote books with names like Lessons in Service and Lessons in Excellence, would have laughed caustically at being lectured on success by any journalist. The thing I find odd, and very 2022, is that Trotter gets blamed for an all-white kitchen (woulda been news to Reggie Watkins, Bill Kim, Omar Cantu, Guillermo Tellez, etc.; it’s the dining room that was all white), and for disparaging what was then called “ethnic food”:

“Ten years ago being a vegetarian in America was probably a grim flight,” Trotter says in an archived clip. “You either had to go to ethnic restaurants or health food restaurants and that food is not really delicious.”

Back then, Trotter was credited with putting a spotlight on vegetables as mains — despite many ethnic foods built around plant-based meals.

That’s just bizarre—I mean, I was there in the early 2000s, eating veggie Indian food and talking about it on Chowhound, and I would have disagreed with Trotter’s assessment of it, but what no one then would have said was that Charlie Trotter’s vegetarian tasting menu was in competition with, say, the veggie food at Annapurna on Devon. Trotter was on another planet, foodwise, especially in an era when non-fine dining was barely talked about at all.

Meanwhile David Manilow talks to the film’s director, Rebecca Halpern, on his podcast.


And that’s not the only movie review at Chicago mag this week! John Kessler tells about The Menu, which sharply skewers the pretensions—and types—of fine dining:

If you have spent any time at all in the weird ecosystem of tasting menu restaurants then you’ll appreciate just how well “The Menu” nails both the language of this world and the characters who inhabit it. This thriller-comedy, its humor as black as squid ink, is set at an exclusive dining destination on a coastal island called Hawthorne. Here, the privileged and the obnoxious gather to worship at the altar of chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), who announces each course with a bone-ringing clap of his hands, a list of ingredients, and an anecdote. It’s the kind of place where the kitchen crew shouts “Yes, chef” in unison and the sommelier spiels each pour in ridiculous language. (“This wine has a bit of barnyard funk and it’s just a wonderful match with roasted protein.”)


Ever been to Mississippi? I tried to make a food trip out of passing through it on the way to New Orleans back in February, but it wound up being kind of comically disastrous as I found restaurant after restaurant closed on the days I was there (happily I fared far better in Louisiana). Titus Ruscitti had more success, to judge simply by the photos, when he went to Biloxi:

Biloxi was once the “seafood capital of the world” and it’s still a big business there but the casinos have taken over as the areas biggest draw, both from an local employers standpoint and also from a visitors angle. Most people visiting are there for some gambling. But not us. We were there to eat (crawfish) as its location along the Gulf of Mexico just 1.5 hours from New Orleans means you’ll find plenty of local options. Local as in lots of seafood mixed with plenty of influence from it’s Gulf coast location.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, he visits All Too Well, the sandwich spot next to its sibling Evette’s:

What I really like about this place is these aren’t just any old sandwiches. You’re not going to find a turkey club or an Italian sub here. Instead you might be inclined to try something like the “I make you Lamb” sandwich which is a pressed sandwich using shredded lamb as it’s base with feta, chimichurri, mayo, pepperjack, pineapple and fried onion on a soft and sturdy ciabatta. I think it’s safe to say this is the only place where you’ll find such a sandwich.

And he makes his first post-pandemic return to Owen and Engine:

There was an extended period of time where they closed and weren’t sure if they would reopen. When they did reopen it was with a new business plan that kept the well being of everyone in mind. This includes the now commonly implemented tip being included in your bill. They’re also closed a couple days a week to allow everyone to reset. Now let’s get to the food. You can expect many of the British pub classics. If you like thick and juicy pub style burgers then this is your spot. Many call it the best in town. It’s very good but for me it’s the type of burger I enjoy once in a while as opposed to regularly. Bonus points for the excellent fresh cut fries that come with it.


Breaking news: Steve Dolinsky likes pizza! And right after Thanksgiving, he had a piece on four thin crust pizza places that would give you a break from turkey (dude, you’re assuming I don’t already have leftover pizza in my fridge on Thanksgiving, I gotta have something on hand for lunch while cooking the big feast): Middlebrow Bungalow, Zazas, Kim’s Uncle Pizza, and Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream.

Then he goes to two new bars for holiday imbibing. One is called the Mile High Club (amusingly, that was the name of a bar in Wichita my friends and I would hang out in; somehow I doubt this Mile High Club has “He Stopped Loving Her Today” on the jukebox). It’s on the 46th floor of the Four Seasons. The other is swanky After, the new bar next to Ever:

In the West Loop, the two Michelin-starred ever now has a sibling right next door: after lounge – definitely not your dad’s idea of a neighborhood bar.

“We hope that we’re known for the promise of really high-quality service,” said owner Michael Muser. “When we designed the cocktail lounge, one of the things we wanted to make sure we could deliver was that same level of service in a cocktail experience.”


Dennis Lee urges you to get to Barca Birrieria y Restaurant near Belmont and Cicero:

I personally like just ordering a plate of the birria ($20 per plate), which comes generously portioned in a shallow bowl with some rice. It also comes with tortillas so you can make yourself some tacos, along with consommé for dipping (or sipping), onions, cilantro, limes, and salsa. Or you can just fork a bunch of the meat into your mouth. I’m not going to judge you. I am going to warn you, however: The spicy salsa will kick your ass if you not paying attention. Even though we were warned, it still caught me off guard.

He also suggests hitting a hot dog stand called J’s Corner Hot Dogs on Elston, not for the hot dogs, but for the Korean owners—and the bulgogi sandwich they make:

…It’s bulgogi (yup, the Korean specialty of thinly shaved beef, soaked in a sweet soy marinade) with mayo, grilled onions, lettuce, and tomato, all on a classic Turano bun, which is the kind Italian beefs (beeves?) are always served on.


I don’t know how much awards season will continue—the next Jean Banchet awards are off in the future somewhere, not sure what else there might be—but Eater Chicago gives out some awards, somewhat predictably (Obelix wins best new restaurant, the Khmai ladies win best new chefs—making this the second such award in a row to go to Cambodians, after Ethan Lim winning the Banchet for rising chef), but I thought this one was particularly nicely said:

Comeback of the Year: Bo Fowler, Owen & Engine and Bixi Beer

Bo Fowler sometimes feels she’s made of Teflon. The chef behind Owen & Engine has earned a reputation as a hard worker who does not know when to turn in. Sliced fingers? Not a problem. Not enough staff at both her restaurants? She’ll just bounce between both and work 90-hour weeks… But then the time came when doctors forced her to take time off. She suffered a heart attack in April 2020 and surgeons performed a quintuple bypass. Those 90-hour weeks? Gone.

As she healed — not away from the restaurants, she would still come in, call this an active recovery with a reduced workload — Fowler contemplated the future of Owen & Engine, a British pub that serves anything from British Indian korma, bangers, and a first-class burger. O&E reopened in January 2022. Fowler isn’t at the restaurant all the time. She’s slowing down. But she’s back. And Chicago’s culinary scene is better for it.

Also of note—Eater, which found racism in chefs doing benefits for Ukraine but raising less money for Tigray, nevertheless gives chefs an award for all those benefits they do.


Saveur has an issue devoted to food in the 90s—several pieces in it are pretty interesting, but I found the most interesting one to be an interview with Food Network personality of the time Sara Moulton, talking about what it was like being on the network in its early days:

They didn’t really want women at Food Network. Every male chef had his own set, graphics, music, and tools. Not me. I had no oven, and the counter came up so high I had to stand on a riser. I remember recommending Michael Lomonaco for a show, and he got his own set.

Emeril and I were pretty good friends. He was a big talent. The next Jesus Christ. And it had to be a man—couldn’t be me. He had cars to drive him anywhere he wanted, while I had to get everywhere myself. I am grateful—I ended up on Food Network, and I did ultimately get my own set, but that’s how they were.


Ethan Lim of Hermosa is on the Kimchi Kids Podcast, talking about growing up in an Asian restaurant family.


Friend of Fooditor Allan Chow just spent a month in Taiwan and he has a Twitter thread full of mouthwatering photos of food he passed by at night markets and more there—even the airline food looks enticing! Start here.


Sandwich Tribunal does a taste test of vegetarian burgers, like the Hilary’s beet-based burger:

This flamboyant-looking veggie burger gets its color from beets, and beets lead the way flavor-wise as well, with onions and carrots not far behind. It’s a sweetish patty with a chunky texture and not unpleasant, but I don’t foresee it upstaging any Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performances with mad guitar work any time soon.

It’s all leading up to his ultimate taste test: serving animal-free burgers Animal Style!


Bounded by Buns offers an extremely practical gift guide for home sandwich obsessives like himself.


As this week’s picture suggests, I went to the premiere of the Taco Chronicles Chicago episode at Rubi’s, and saw all the stars of the show there—the Ramirezes from Rubi’s, the Zaragozas from Birrieria Zaragoza, the Carbajals from Carnitas Uruapan, and Angelina Mendez from Le Chaparrita, as well as producer Pablo Cruz. As I said before, I sold them a little footage of Maxwell Street for the Rubi’s section, and sharp-eyed players of the LTHForum home game will be able to spot Rob Gardner/Vital Information with one of his daughters, Erik M., and the black-dressed torsos of David Hammond and Gary Wiviott. (Not that that’s the high point of the show, just mentioning it…) Anyway, it’s a fun show that will make you hungry. Check it out on Netflix.


So recently I was asking where the new exciting things on our scene are, when everyone’s opening Italian restaurants as the safest post-pandemic bet. Here’s a candidate that’s new and full of energy: Indian tasting menus. We now have two of them, combining Indian spices and flavors with French and modernist techniques: the Coach House by Wazwan and now Indienne, from Sujan Sarkar, who was the original chef of Rooh (and who I wrote about here). Note: I went to this as a media guest with David Hammond and our wives.

First I should point out something about my own reaction—even moreso than at Wazwan, I initially felt an innate disconnect between Indian spicing and the high-end presentation. Logically I know this shouldn’t be—there’s nothing low-end about a spice, it’s literally just a seed or a leaf that happens to have flavor. But my associations with these flavors are mostly long-stewing curries at a $9.95 buffet, because that’s how I’ve had them for years. So getting them in a new context—things mostly cooked a la minute, with higher-end ingredients like lamb chops or lobster—was disorienting at first, but I gradually came to accepting them—and recognizing that disorientation is good. It’s good to get a plate and have no idea what it’s going to be like when you bite into it—a yogurty cream topped with crunchies, flowers, and flavored globs, a mango sphere that explodes in your mouth, a lamb chop with different regional sauces, swooshed on the plate in a way that reminded my wife of the midcentury artist Mary Blair.

Add in some other things that wowed in ways we weren’t expecting—like the remarkably delicate naan or kulcha that came with a couple of courses, or the palate-cleansing first dessert of a kind of meringue swimming in a creamy sauce (with gold leaf on top). While I wouldn’t say everything was a hit (the add-on lobster was, alas, a bit overcooked but more than that, the spicing seemed too strong to suit the delicate taste of the sea), I found it one of the most intriguing and eye-opening modernist meals I’ve had in many years. It’s located in the space on Huron where Graham Elliot once was, redesigned with classily understated taste that seems compatible with Indian cuisine without consciously calling out the cliches of that culture. And that location is fitting, as it seemed one of the few meals in recent years (the modernist take on Yucatan food at Brass Heart would be another) that evoked the playfulness and imaginativeness, the sense of something new, that modernist cooking promised back in Graham Elliot’s c. 2008 day here.