It’s too soon to know where the Russian invasion of Ukraine will end, but everyone (except the crazies at either extreme) is wishing the best for the residents of that country. Chicago has a neighborhood named for Ukrainians, but the truth is that they’ve never been a culturally or politically prominent populace. Still, you could do worse than offer a little support to local Ukrainians by visiting the few Ukrainian restaurants we have. The biggest and newest one in Ukrainian Village is called Tryzub, at Chicago and Leavitt; the one I’ve liked the best (though it’s been some years) is way up on the northwest side, Magic Jug, at Irving and Narragansett. There’s also the bakery and cafe Shokolad, at Chicago and Maplewood. By the way, one non-Ukrainian restaurant in Ukrainian Village—pasta maker Tortello—has come up with a special pasta using the colors of the Ukrainian flag, which you can see here.


For the first time since the James Beard Awards canceled their regular ceremonies in 2020, the New York-based awards have announced… well, as usual, they announce the semifinalists and even people covering them professionally shout “congrats to the nominees!” There are no nominees yet—there’s only semifinalists so far. Damn kids!

But congrats to the semifinalists! Which, not surprisingly, given the Beards’ meltdown over #Beardstoowhite a couple of years ago, are very diverse… enough so that Michael Nagrant called them out over how obvious they were being:

I know getting mad at awards nominations is a folly, but how is Parachute, a 1 star Michelin restaurant not opened for over a year nominated for outstanding restaurant and Ever which has operated most of the pandemic at a 2 Michelin star level not nominated for a James Beard?

I think it’s safe to say Nagrant has nothing against Parachute, in a year in which it’s operating fully he’d probably be all for them. But I think he makes a good point—which is that basically, nobody knows what the rules are this year. When did you last have to serve a meal to qualify? The reality, it seems to me, is that we’re coming off a period when hardly anyone can travel, and so nobody outside of Chicago really knows what qualifies as the best restaurants here at the moment. But the organization (very wealthy-Manhattan-white) want to be able to drop lots of BIPOC names, and get ahead of any potential criticism like they got last time.

Which, when it’s too obvious what you’re doing, is a disservice to good chefs and restaurants. There are many of these semifinalists that I am delighted to see nominated—and would, myself, pick—Jeong (#2 in the last Fooditor 99), Virtue (#11), Kasama (#6 on the late 2020 Fooditor 33)—and not least Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark, whose Wherewithall was #9 in 2020. They don’t need to be perceived as merely filling slots for people of a certain race/ethnicity,  just to make an elite organization look good; they deserve to be seen simply as outstanding restaurants/restaurateurs, period.

Anyway. 15 semifinalists in Chicago:

Best Restaurant: Oriole, Parachute
Best New Restaurant: Kasama
Best Chef, Great Lakes: Darnell Reed, Luella’s Southern Kitchen; Dave Park, Jeong; Diana Dávila Boldin, Mi Tocaya Antojería; Erick Williams, Virtue; Jason Hammel, Lula Cafe; John Shields and Karen Urie Shields, Smyth; Noah Sandoval, Oriole; Paul Fehribach, Big Jones; Rodolfo Cuadros, Amaru and Bloom Plant Based Kitchen
Outstanding Pastry Chef: Shannah Primiano, Porto
Outstanding Baker: Maya-Camille Broussard/Justice of the Pies
Outstanding Bar Program: Nobody’s Darling


Last week, I saw some buzz about Boeufhaus reopening—I knew it was one that had held off longer than many, some combination of the difficulty of hiring staff and the skyrocketing price of beef. That got me wondering—as did the Nagrant comment about Parachute above—what well-known places are still out of commission? To answer that question, I grabbed a 2020 Fooditor 99—a pretty good indication of what places I considered important before COVID—and started looking some of them up, along with some other places I’d wondered about, like Eataly. Here’s the word on some:

• Parachute. Their home page says “We are closed to make repairs to our space but are shipping fried chicken and bing bread nationwide via Goldbelly.” More importantly to me, Wherewithall is open now, and last time I ate at both I found it the stronger choice.

• Kyoten is selling tickets on Tock (at its new higher prices of close to $500 per diner) but my understanding is that that is a very recent return.

• Politan Row claims to be temporarily closed. However, it’s worth noting that their Chicago website is 404-ing and their Houston space was recently sold to another operator. In any case, most of their tenants (like Thattu) have found new locales, so if they come back when office workers return to the McDonald’s HQ, they’ll have to recruit a whole new set of vendors.

• I’ve heard Cellar Door Provisions has changed its dinner setup, no longer offering the super-reasonable three or four course tasting menu. But I can’t tell from their site because it says they’re closed for remodeling till March, but they do have sample dishes, so sounds like they’ll be back soon.

• Eataly has reopened as a market but the restaurant list looks to be down to just two: La Pizza & La Pasta, and La Piazza, which I think is the open area between the food stands.

• El Che Bar is back as a restaurant but its website also stresses the (apparently permanent) meat market side that it launched during lockdown.

• Mexican sandwich/pastry shop Pan Artesanal says on Facebook that it’s reopening Saturday, March 19. But it looks like it took special orders for Valentine’s Day—and Super Bowl day. CORRECTION: Reader Adam Michelman says: “Pan Artesanal has been open through pretty much the entire pandemic (save for a few breaks). They’ve just greatly reduced their operating hours. Most weeks they have only been open on Saturdays and Sundays. Really hoping they can get back to more robust operating hours because the few times I’ve swung over there it’s been a madhouse.”

• Tortello: CORRECTION: I read Tortello’s site as saying that they were only serving dinners and their pasta to go, and said so in the newsletter edition, but I was informed that they have been offering table service for a year at their shop—and you can get their pasta at Fresh Marketplace on Western.

• Pizzeria Bebu has, I’ve heard, For Rent signs in the window; considering that lockdown was a boon for pizza, they seem to have decided to exit the business early on. And aspiring chain The Mozzarella Store appears to be gone for good.

• Not in the Fooditor 99, but one that stuck in my head, as an ambitious place that didn’t quite make it work in the before times: Flora Fauna seems to be out of commission, probably for good as the Facebook page is approaching a year of not being updated, though Yelp says “temporarily closed.”

• Tzuco is taking reservations, but no sign of the tasting menu side Tales of Carlos Gaytan—which I think had just opened briefly before lockdown ended it; also kaput is Panango!, the Mexican sandwich/pastry chain that Gaytan was bringing to the US.


Louisa Chu offers a Black History Month story on a different kind of black-owned business—the Spanish cafe Bocadillo Market:

Chef James Martin has created a Black-owned business with ingredients inspired by Spain and the American South, with co-founder and wife Jessica Neal. He was previously the executive chef at A10 and cooked at Jean-Georges, among other notable establishments. She’s a marketing manager at CB2, the younger sister brand to Crate & Barrel, evident in her elegant, tactile touches.

…“I wanted to tell a different story of Black excellence. I think it’s important to show the world that we can do more than cook Southern food,” he said. “I wanted people to know that chefs of color can cook any cuisine they want.”


Steve Dolinsky visits Nobu’s sushi chef Lori Fujiwara to talk sushi do’s and don’ts.

Buzz 2


I’ve long urged people to look harder at Mexican food on the west side, around Belmont-Cragin. Titus Ruscitti finds a very promising looking spot in that area focused on food from Guerrero:

On weekends they do Tamales Nejos at La Autentica de Guerrero. These are another regional treat from the state of Guerrero. These tamales are flat and come served unstuffed inside a steamed banana leaf. The steamed masa is used as a delivery vehicle for mole which you cover the tamale in before eating. I’ve only had these at one other spot but they were both pretty different in that La Autentica de Guerrero serves theirs with a green chicken mole (the other time I had them they came with a red mole paste). As someone whos loved the taste of masa and tamales since youth I find these to be quite pleasing even though some might find them to be filler. The combo of the tamale covered with the light in viscosity mole topped with chopped raw onion is one that I enjoyed.

He also checks the autentica of Korea at a spot in Morton GroveJeonJu:

My reason for visiting was for another one of their specialties – the dolsot bibimbap. Korean comfort food on a cold winter night. The combination of all the common ingredients used in a bowl of bibimbap is always good but the use of a stone bowl takes the dish to another level. The dolsot is a cooking device that retains heat extremely well. One of it’s most popular uses is for Bibimbap. The idea is you get the stone pot extra hot and throw a bunch of white rice into it which crisps up at the bottom as you eat. JeonJu was said to prepare a really good version that gets golden on the bottom and that I can confirm. I needed a go-to spot for dolsot bibimbap and it looks like I’ve now got that place.


A couple of weeks ago the news came out that Dom’s Market would be opening a second Chicago location in the current space of Plum Market in Old Town. As the Trib explained,

The new store at 1233 N. Wells St. will supplant Plum Market, a Michigan-based specialty grocer that opened its only Chicago location in Old Town in 2013. Dom’s Kitchen & Market has signed a 15-year lease on the 27,000-square-foot space, which is 50% larger than its Lincoln Park store, but less than half the size of a typical grocery store.

Well, turns out there’s more to it than that. A Friend of Fooditor sent me word that Dom’s was supposed to have connived with Plum’s landlord to screw them out of their space, nabbing a top location and eliminating a competitor in one go, and then sent me the letter that Plum CEO Matt Jonna sent out:

The truth is, there was a quiet back-door agreement that took place between our landlord (we have only ever dealt with its property manager, Heitman LLC) and Dom’s Kitchen & Market. Those clandestine dealings resulted in the termination of our lease, without Plum Market ever having an option to negotiate to keep our store open (it is worth noting that when we caught wind of these negotiations, purely by luck, we specifically asked our landlord to discuss keeping our lease and we did not receive a response to our request). It is true that landlords and leases come and go, but independent grocers usually pride themselves on operating with integrity and supporting local vendors and artisans. Plum Market certainly walks that walk, as does most of its competition, but Dom’s actions certainly cast a dark shadow on independent grocers. In fact, presidents and CEOs of other local independent groceries have reached out to me personally to express their shock and dismay that Bob Mariano, a grocer that I respected until recently, and the other owners of Dom’s, would hit with such a low blow. Independent grocers are a group of family businesses; Dom’s actions are not how members of a family should act toward one another. The circumstances surrounding underhanded dealings do not legitimize, discount, or negate those actions. Simply put, our landlord’s decision to terminate our lease without even having the decency to reach out to us, after more than $10,000,000 improvements to and investments were made in the Plum Market space and after Plum Market paid more than $10,000,000 in rent, CAM, and other consideration, and Dom’s decision to pursue our location are unconscionable, dishonorable, and disgusting.

BlockClub contacted Dom’s, who defend themselves here.

Gotta say I’m a little surprised Plum didn’t have the location locked down better than that—typically grocers make landlords agree to non-competes for their next tenants, so that, say, FreshNice can’t steal a location once NiceFresh has built up its audience. That’s how you end up with Planet Fitnesses in old Dominick’s locatons—they’re something easy to open up (just roll a bunch of equipment in) that doesn’t violate the noncompete. In this case, looks like a loophole existed and Dom’s and a greedy landlord scrambled through it.


I didn’t grow up here so I have no nostalgia for the mass-produced “corn roll” tamale. David Hammond does, for the Trib:

Corn roll tamales are shown to their best advantage in another Chicago food, the “tamale boat,” also called “chili cheese tamales,” in which tamales are submerged in chili to become a kind of lush, spongy cornmeal dumpling that absorbs flavors beautifully. This version of corn roll tamales is usually served with sport peppers, chopped onions and cheese, which add even more flavor.


That’s what Amy Cavanaugh says the carrot pate at Parkside is:

“I started working on the concept of vegetarian charcuterie when I was at the Violet Hour, and chicken liver pâté is a classic,” chef Justin Kaialoa says. “I thought, How can we do this without chicken livers?” He nailed it on his first try, swapping carrots into his chicken liver pâté recipe — which calls for garlic, onions, thyme, and bay leaves, plus some cream, butter, and cognac for richness — and adding toasted cumin.


Of course we’re going to get a deluge of paczki coverage this time of year. Might as well start with Axios’ favorite paczkis, and then proceed to their favorite Italian subs to wash it down.


Two months after co-owner and driving force Brian Mita’s death, Izakaya Mita is closing. Nick Kindelsperger tells more.


Won Kim, chef of Kimski and painter of many restaurants, will have a one-man gallery show, Joke’s On Me, beginning on April Fool’s at Block House Gallery in Pullman:

The show is a play on his multiple personalities from being a chef, visual artist and a DJ.This show is meant to tie in all three personalities as people know him by at least one of his three professions. The joke here is that Won is always all three vibrant, loud, mischievous personalities; often to his detriment.


Last week I mentioned Block Club’s story on how friend of Fooditor J.P. Graziano has evolved its business model. Listen to Jim Graziano talking about it on Block Club’s It’s All Good podcast.


The Kimchi Kids podcast kicks off its second season with Curtis Duffy of Ever.


I’ve heard of Taylor Ham or pork roll sandwiches, but never had one. But I feel like I’ve had one after Sandwich Tribunal’s deep dive:

Pork roll doesn’t seem to have caught on much outside New Jersey, and while you can find it at a few stores here and there, it’s not an everyday item on menus in Chicago. Friend of the site Titus Ruscitti has pointed out a few on his great blog, and for a time there was one on the menu at the Blissful Banana Cafe in Orland Park, but I haven’t seen it available there for a while. When I want pork roll, I have to import it. I brought several packages of Taylor pork roll back with us from that New Jersey trip–they lasted a few months. I brought some back from Philadelphia when I was there in November to try the Philly taco. Those, too are gone. This time I mail-ordered it.


Younger son was back in town for an orthodontist appointment, so I took the excuse of feeding him things he can’t get in central Wisconsin to visit a place I’d been meaning to get to, Nick Kindelsperger’s birria fave Barca Birrieria y Restaurant on west Belmont. I really liked the roasted goat with consommé for dipping in, and the crispy, chewy handmade tortillas. I was less fond of Bar Rescue blaring on the TV in the tiny place. But they’re sweet and make good birria, for sure.

Took younger son for some shopping near Old Orchard but he wanted to do better for lunch than Portillos. We drove around a bit and finally found ourselves near Assi Plaza, one of the lesser known Asian markets with a food court, at Milwaukee and Dempster. So we pulled in there, and ordered a couple of different things from a couple of different stands. One was offering two of the hottest trends in Korean food—Korean corn dogs, and fried chicken served with a white BBQ sauce. I picked the weirdest sounding Korean “corn dog” they had, which turned out to be a mozzarella cheese stick rolled in the crunchy noodles of instant ramen. It was… not bad! Not something I particularly needed, but… the fried chicken was entirely okay too.

But better was a Taiwanese stand called Night Market. I got simple things there—pork belly bao with Korean pickles and peanuts, and some xiao long bao (soup dumplings) that I’m sure were frozen just moments before. But they were entirely satisfying and seemed aimed at non-teenagers. So we were pretty happy with both.