Remember, I’ll be hosting a Zoom interview with the legendary Gordon Sinclair this Wednesday evening, courtesy of Culinary Historians of Chicago. Go here to register.

And check out Fooditor’s new story this week, in which guest commentator Brad Cawn argues that great things are coming out of the current mess.


Eater has a lengthy report on claims that the family that owns steadfast Argyle Street mainstay Tank Noodle attended the pro-Trump protest that resulted in the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. Tank associate manager Thien Ly posted his own image on an airplane with Trumpish hashtags, and general manager Gwen Ly posted photos of Asian pro-Trump protesters (which Eater claims shows another family member, Thu Ly) and said she was there in spirit but not in actuality.  The closest to confirmation Tank owners  were at the protest is: “A source close to Tank management confirms owners made the trip to D.C.” And there is no evidence to suggest any involvement in the Capitol attack. Nevertheless, their pro-Trump sympathies seem clear.

In response:

A Tank Noodle worker who answered the phone Thursday tells Eater Chicago that staff received death threats by phone on Thursday morning… the worker said they handled 15 threatening phone calls within the span of about 30 minutes, starting when the restaurant opened at 11 a.m.. The restaurant’s Instagram account is packed with angry comments, with some veering into racist stereotypes of Asian restaurants.

You know what really shows that you’re against Trump-style fascism and racism? White people threatening immigrant owners with violence for having the wrong political views. People who act like that are being what they claim to hate. If you want to favor other pho places on Argyle with your business over this, go for it (I like Pho 777 and Nha Hang for other dishes), but no restaurant owner deserves death threats and anyone making them—particularly to an immigrant family that fled a war the U.S. was involved in—is exactly the same on the violence-to-force-your-views-on-others spectrum as the Capitol invaders (not to mention historically tone deaf).

Buzz 2


Mike Sula looks at the varieties of matzoh ball soup available these days in Chicago, courtesy of our deli renaissance. Here’s Ursula Siker on the version at Jeff & Jude’s:

“Our matzo ball recipe was originally derived from The 2nd Ave Deli Cookbook,” she wrote to me. “We immersion-blend eggs and schmaltz together until super light and fluffy, then add in baking powder, matzo meal, and a blend of spices, and combine. Let rest covered for around 20-30 minutes, and then portion and shape using wet hands (not too loose, not too tight, or else you run the risk of them exploding in the water or never cooking through). The cook is a bit finicky—you gotta drop the balls into a strong boil and then reduce to a simmer, flipping halfway through, for 15-20 minutes, and of course, we must always sacrifice a matzo ball to make sure they are being cooked all the way through.”

By the way, speaking of delis named for ancestors, we learn that the team behind vegan Kalish in Uptown is planning a vegan deli called Sam & Gertie’s.


Steve Dolinsky visits Lexington Betty to uncover the twin heritages of owner Dominique Leach:

My grandmother and grandfather are from Lexington, Mississippi, born and raised there. This is my way of paying homage to my grandmother, Betty King,” she said.

“What we’ve done is combine the culture from Lexington, which is soul food cooking, with the smoking techniques I’ve learned here in Chicago,” said Leach.


David Hammond gets a new toy to play with: an expensive, fancy matcha tea-making device:

In the 800-year-old Japanese tea ceremony, the patience of a Westerner may be tried as the host adds the powdered matcha to water and then carefully whisks it. It’s a ritualized yet simple procedure, and such simplicity may be the salient characteristic of Japanese cuisine and Japanese tea ceremonies, so it’s ironic that someone invented a machine to quickly whip up a cup of matcha tea with no more ceremony than the push of a button.


Greg Johnson, owner of long-running if not widely-known Alice’s BBQ in Bronzeville, died at 72 last week, but the family plans to keep the half century-old business going. (Block Club)


Because there’s not much content to link to this week, I thought I’d generate some: a short list of the closings I was most sorry to see happen this year as a result and what their impact on the scene will be.

Surprisingly perhaps, I wouldn’t necessarily say Blackbird—partly because I think if any restaurant lived long enough to see its influence spread all over the city, Blackbird did, and also because if any dead restaurant could come back, Blackbird could—the owners still have the property and shut it to help keep their whole company alive, so if dining circumstances become favorable again, we could see it again. Even if we don’t, it had a full long life and left its mark. Okay, I guess I did say Blackbird.

Restaurants that were cut off too soon are more tragic—Fat Rice was only partway through its evolution, cut short in part because the very thing that seemed so marvelous about it—the thoughtful playfulness with Asian and European flavors that made it such an inventive and creative contrast to cookie cutter Chinese restaurant cooking—became unfashionable and to some extent unspeakable to the woke mobs last summer. Likewise Band of Bohemia was claimed by personnel and management failures that turned staffers into seekers of vengeance and interrupted the path that saw its food-beer concept finally really paying off.

Arbor was one of my most frequent spots, hanging out for coffee and healthy breakfast and lunch offerings, but it was also an inventive upscale restaurant in the evening—one that never got the attention it deserved, with a few exceptions like Jeff Ruby. One of its replacements was the delightfully improbable cheffy-Hungarian cofffee shop Finom Coffee. Another place I really liked for hanging out if not for coffee, though the world didn’t quite agree, was Bar Biscay with its seafood-focused Spanish bar snacks and Vermouth-focused bar.

Three Floyds did brewpub food, not the highest aspiration, but it did it better than most and in doing that, and all the other things it did like Dark Lord Day, it launched a whole brewing scene in northwest Indiana. Income Tax had an improbable name but customer-friendly wine policies and interestingly far-ranging “Mediterranean” food; stuck with an un-Googleable name, TWO was the kind of approachable neighborhood restaurant that should have gotten more love than it did, including from me.

On the lower end, I’ve paid tribute to favorite greasy spoon diner Belmont Snack Shop, which burned, and Bombacigno J&C, a classic Chicago sandwich joint whose kind cannot be created again. Man-Jo-Vin’s was a frequent stop for me when my kids were the age for the playground at Fellger Park; it, too, was the kind of hot dog business that can shut down and come back in a new building, as it did once, but can’t be created again from scratch.

I will miss them all.


More Detroit pizza! I’m being very very good this January about what I eat and drink—call it Dry Beans January—but the Five Squared Food Truck contacted me offering me samples of their square pizza and so we had it Friday night. On their recommendation my favorite was the veggie Grandma slice—just good garlicky sauce and cheese on a puffy crust—but pepperoni and sausage were also robustly deep-flavored (in the small bites I had). Also very good in a small bite: kind of a lemon-toffee bar, precise name unknown as I can’t find it on a menu.