Nick Kindelsperger went to both the more casual Wazwan and the Indian tasting menu at The Coach House by Wazwan:

Wazwan is dark, moody and cramped, with low ceilings, high tables and loud music that booms from the speakers. Instead of relying on a waitstaff, you order at the front counter and then grab a seat. The menu itself jumps all over the place, listing traditional Indian dishes like vada pav next to a fried chicken sandwich. Most can be had for less than $20.

The Coach House by Wazwan, located in a literal coach house accessed by walking through Wazwan and past the courtyard, is open, airy and genteel. The music drops in volume, while the service becomes polished and polite. You can only visit by signing up for the eight-course tasting menu, which goes for $150 per person.

Visit Wazwan first.

That last line sounds like it’s a backhanded slap at the Coach House, but it’s not—just that you need the context of the more casual place to appreciate the changes rung on it in the more sophisticated one:

[Chef-owner Zubair] Mohajir clearly relishes serving these lesser-known specialties. The passion that flashes on his face while talking about the duck Numidian is infectious. This filling final savory course features confit duck that’s formed into a circle and served with a fascinatingly fruity and funky sauce he found in “Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World” by Lilia Zaouali. “This recipe jumped out to me because it sounds Indian, though it’s named after a kingdom in North Africa,” Mohajir said. “It shows the importance of the spice trade even back then.”


John Kessler says you need to accept the weird location in the Time Out Market (or as he calls it, “the crowded, noisy, fryer-oil-fragrant food hall”) and open yourself up to the fullest expression of chef Stephen Gillanders’ (S.K.Y., Apolonia) cooking, at Valhalla:

The counter is the best place to sit. It’s where Gillanders cooks and plates his dishes with precision but no tweezered herbs. Instead, he helps the ingredients taste intensely of themselves. A lot of confiting and emulsifying goes into his maitake kebab, but what we taste is the way these mushroom clusters hit the tongue with their crisp, fluttery caps and silky flesh…

Most impressive is Gillanders’s first attempt of his career at interpreting his Filipina mother’s cooking. In his hands, crab arroz caldo becomes a kind of congee with a steamy heat that catches in the back of the throat before releasing waves of flavor — lime, chile, fennel, and sweet, sweet crab. My daughter and I took turns spooning it up, letting each bite tell its story. What magic.


Most people who’ve mentioned going to Le Select to me have been of the “needs some time” school. Michael Nagrant is harsher than that, starting with the look of the place:

While the velvet and brass finishes at Le Select are opulent, the glinting subway tile, the giant faux skylight, the mirrored windowless walls channel a kind of survivalist opulence, as if this is an underground quonset-hut-shaped bunker where the ultra-wealthy have barricaded themselves away from the dirty plebes tearing each other apart in the HBO Series The Last of Us.

And on to the food:

If you are going to execute classics especially at these prices, in this setting, and with a chef who is notable for being one of the only Americans to conquer the notoriously clubby exclusionary xenophobic chef mafia of France, “fine” is not good enough. You must be serving the best example of the dish available in Chicago…

One of the few unimpeachable dishes, and really the only one that reminded me of the skill I experienced at Le Coucou, is the Saint Jacques au curry, lightly seared scallops in a mild curry sauce served with a quenelle of celeriac puree. I don’t know if there were stabilizers used, whether the thing was run through a chinois (fancy chef sieve), or whether the sauce was sous-vided. What I do know is that some kind of alchemy had been performed such that the sauce’s ethereal texture had me finger-spooning up every last bit once we ran out of bread.

The first part was in reference to the French onion soup (“The croutons underneath reminded me of the Mitch Hedberg joke about imagining how deep the ocean would be if it didn’t contain sponges.”) Well, I’ll check it out… after another month or two. UPDATE: John Kessler and Michael Nagrant get into it on Instagram—check it out.


In its earliest days, Mike Satinover’s ramen experimentations, known as Akahoshi Ramen, could only be had at popups which sold out instantly. Now, says longtime fan Nick Kindelsperger, he’s finally opening a business with actual hours and stuff, set for fall:

What changed his mind? A lot of his apprehension had to do with the restaurant culture he experienced as a teenager, he said. “I worked in restaurant kitchens in high school and didn’t feel comfortable,” Satinover said. “I felt like, fundamentally, the culture wasn’t good for me.”

But after several offers, he started hosting ramen pop-ups, where he realized not all kitchens operated the same way. “You don’t have to make it brutal or messed up,” Satinover said. “I can decide the kitchen culture I want.”


Louisa Chu says Chicago Black Restaurant Week has 30 restaurants on offer this year, but the most striking thing is how upscale it’s gone, like with a Lobster Louie salad at the new, gluten-free CheSa’s Bistro & Bar in Avondale:

At dinner, four appetizer choices include a Lobster Louie-style salad (traditionally made with crab) and a garlic alligator dip; three main course options offer more lobster in an étouffée, or mushrooms on a truffle risotto; plus dessert possibilities, including a banana pudding soufflé or CheSa’s chocolate mousse.

Astonishingly, there does not appear to be, in a Cajun-themed place, CheSa’s Boudin. Guess it got voted out.


Steve Dolinsky marks Mardi Gras by going to the nearly 40-year-old Maple Tree Inn, in a new location since a fire in 2018:

The Maple Tree Inn opened in 1974, moving from Beverly to Blue Island, then more recently, to larger digs in Homewood. But the mission has always been the same: bringing a taste of New Orleans to the Midwest.

Erich Wennberg loves sharing his passion for all things New Orleans with his customers. The Maple Tree Inn has been an institution for South Siders, going on 50 years. Even though this week is big, due to Fat Tuesday, the restaurant’s mission is year round.

“We want to bring a little bit of New Orleans up to Chicago. So my first trip to New Orleans I was amazed, fascinated, I fell in love, because my soul was filled because of everything in New Orleans,” said Wennberg.


Fooditor contributor Cynthis Clampitt talks African food in Chicago, something we don’t talk nearly enough:

Doro wot (also often spelled wat), chicken cooked in a red pepper paste known as berbere, is among Ethiopia’s most popular dishes. My single favorite dish may be gomen: collard greens cooked in niter kibbeh, with onions, garlic and ginger. Menus provide a general description of dishes, so even when the names of the dishes are unfamiliar, one can readily identify preferred foods: greens, split yellow peas, lamb, beef, seafood, chicken, all cooked in complex sauces, (I’m a big fan of Alicha sauce: onions, garlic, turmeric.) You won’t go wrong with any of the offerings, though depending on your preferences, you might want to watch for items marked spicy or meat served raw (kitfo).


The new issue of Food and Wine has the chocolate cake from The Bear, made by Sarah Mispagel at Loaf Lounge, on its cover, and featured in this writeup plus recipe. How often can you slaver over a picture of something in the checkout line and then head right over and eat it?


They do it every year, and yet the fact that the James Beard Foundation Awards first pick a long list of seminfinalists, then a short list of finalists, and only the latter are actually nominees, seems to confuse people no end—note the headline on this piece for instance. If you doubt that only one of these lists actually qualifies for the name “nominees,” just go to the JBFA and search a semifinalist’s name in the awards section—unless they were later on the short list, they won’t turn up. Nevertheless, I just got an email from one of the semifinalists’ PR, calling them a “James Beard nominated chef.” Look, maybe they will be in a few weeks, but they aren’t one yet. Semifinalist—that’s pretty good! Take it and be proud! And good luck!


Bunch of benefit type things starting up as spring is on the horizon:

One Off Hospitality is putting on a benefit for relief for survivors of the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Monday, February 27; it’s a five-course meal with beverage pairings at Avec West Loop, benefiting World Central Kitchen’s relief efforts. Go here for more info and tickets.

Also from One Off, they’ll be welcoming Chef Aaron Sanchez, chef of New Orleans’ Johnny Sanchez, judge on MasterChef and cookbook author, to Big Star Mariscos on March 7 and 8, for “a four-course dinner of collaborative coastal Mexican dishes, as well as a special dessert course by local Mexican-meets-Jewish artisanal bakery Masa Madre.” It’s to benefit Sanchez’s Aaron Sanchez Impact Fund “whose mission is to support and uplift Latino youth through food with culinary arts education, mentoring and human services.” Go here for tickets and to see the menu.

The Green City Market revives its Sustainable Supper series at the very sustainable Eden in Avondale on March 21. Your ticket gets you a three course meal with cocktail or mocktail, and a panel discussion on farming and farmers markets with Abby Schilling from Mick Klug Farm and Marc Luff of Flatwater Farms. Go here for tickets.


Arguably violating the prime directive, Eater Chicago’s Ashok Selvam apparently suggested a paczki with giardinera on it to Jim Graziano, who collaborated with Il Giardino del Dolce in Montclare to make them a reality, or surreality. They’ll be on sale Tuesday.


Lots of honors of late:

Claudia got four stars out of five from the Forbes Travel Guide. Go here to see the full list (mostly hotels, only a few restaurants).

Karrie Breuer, lead cake decorator at Bittersweet, took the top prize at the Dr. Seuss Baking Challenge. You can watch the full series at Amazon, or see the trailer here.

Good Morning America has been running a contest to find the best pizza in America, and not terribly surprisingly, the hot new deep dish pizzas of the moment were both competitors—George’s and Milly’s Pizza in the Pan. Milly’s went on to the finals, but the winner was Minneapolis’ Wrecktangle Pizza. You can watch the end of the Chicago competition here.


Sad to see, but not surprising, that the late chef Dominique Tougne’s restaurant Chez Moi will close as of April 1. Ironically, April 1 was a notable date for Chez Moi and Tougne, longtime chef of Bistro 110—since he figured in this Fooditor April Fool’s post. (H/t: Bernard Guinand)


I stopped in Craig Perman’s wine shop to stock up and we chatted a bit about his new wine bar/wine shop thing, Le Midi. It sounded good, so we went on a Saturday night. A nice collection of approachable wines from Perman-approved regions like Spain and Greece, which one may quaff while noshing on crostinis with pate or mushrooms, Delices de Bourgogne cheese or salume from Smoking Goose, or an assortment of Spanish olives. A simple meal, but a very pleasant evening for noshing and chatting.

As noted above, everybody’s pizzas of the moment are George’s and Milly’s, but I suddenly wanted some pizza within the hour and couldn’t deal with ordering ahead (anyway, Milly’s was closed to go to New York for the Good Morning America contest). So I looked through GrubHub and found a bar called The Warehouse, on Fullerton. I know nothing about it, but I know how to order pizza. The thin crust was fine, not top of the pack, but hit the spot. The deep dish, I liked a little better than fine, it had some of the same virtues as George’s and Milly’s in terms of a thick crust (all wheat flour, no cornmeal) that nevertheless had some air to it, wasn’t just a gut bomb, topped with a robust tomato sauce. I will order it again, and it’s a reminder if you’re chasing the hot pizza of the moment—there’s always more pizzas out there, usually pretty good even if not the greatest ever.