1. OUT 1

Graham Meyer delivers the first of a two-part review at Crain’s on Time Out Market as a business dining spot (“Lunch is good, but the compressed hour post-office and pre-show might be the busy executive’s best use for this food hall”). Top marks in part one goes to the Italian beef at Decent Beef, which “made paying at least twice a normal price seem worth it, with the high-quality meat just bursting with beefiness and giardiniera hitting the sweet spot.”


Who expected Avanzare to come back before Ambria did? Okay, the Italian restaurant in Lombard of that name has no relation to the 80s-90s Lettuce restaurant in Streeterville, but Phil Vettel says it has other roots: “Riccardo Brizuela, the de facto general manager and wine director, started as a high-schooler at the legendary Como Inn, followed by years at Topo Gigio, Rosebud on Rush and Piccolo Sogno. Gabriel Hernandez, the chef, worked for Tony Priolo at Coco Pazzo and other restaurants. And Jose Estrada worked at the Italian Village, Bice, Vong’s Thai Kitchen and Shaw’s Crab House.” He likes it, but Kenny Z has an issue with a photo of scallops with a creamy tomato pasta…


Lao Peng You quickly became the hottest new Chinese restaurant in town over the New Year, and Ashok Selvam has a profile of the two brothers who started it (wish there was a picture of them, along with the dumpling-making photos, though): “The Wats are children of immigrants who grew up in Chicago’s Western Suburbs. Their father arrived from Hong Kong and petitioned for his parents and six siblings to join him in America. About once a month, they would gather in the Wats’s grandparents’s cramped apartment in suburban Westmont. Family members would take turns rolling and folding dumplings around the table. The Wat brothers cherish these family memories.”


To judge by comments I saw at Facebook, I’m not the only one who didn’t expect to find a story on Glenn Keefer (the late Keefer’s) opening a north shore steakhouse essential reading, until I got to this how-the-world-really-works factoid that feels like a deleted scene from The Irishman: “Formerly a commercial fisherman, Keefer is obsessive about quality. While running Keefer’s, he claims he waited at the back door for every delivery ‘with a purchase order, a scale, and a keen eye… I was famous for holding drivers for two hours going through every loin and cut of steak,’ he says. ‘They hated me, but you know what happened? They started getting it right, because they didn’t want their drivers to stay with me for two hours.’”


Maggie Hennessy has a profile at Chicago of Mariya Russell, chef at Kikkō, rising chef nominee at the Banchet awards this week and, as has been noted, the first black woman to get a Michelin star, anywhere on earth: “’It has been a little overwhelming, like, ‘OK, everybody is definitely watching me now.’ Anybody that has a Michelin attached to their restaurant feels pressure, but then sometimes I feel like the fact that’s it’s then attached to ‘You’re the first black woman to get a Michelin star’ makes it a spectacle,’ Russell says. ‘But it’s also very cool that people can come see me and we can hang out together for two hours.’”

Buzz 2


Kyleen Atonson worked at various high end restaurants and won TV’s Chopped Sweets, but when she had a kid and moved to Lincoln Square, she found a perfect opportunity in Cafe Selmarie, Block Club explains.


Steve Dolinsky has a report on Moody Tongue’s mix of brews and fine dining: “A delicate piece of Maine lobster is set over chawanmushi, a Japanese egg custard, while tiny bits of Asian pear and butternut squash add crunch, as a deeply rich consomme is spooned over the top. Finally, some black Perigord truffle is shaved over it for earthiness. This is about as far from bar food as you can get. But when the team from Moody Tongue moved into the former Baderbrau space, tucked between Chinatown and McCormick Place, they had an opportunity to get really creative.”


Titus Ruscitti goes to Lao Peng You: “I’m happy to report the dumplings are very good. I really enjoyed them anyway. Maybe partly bc it’s just nice being able to get handmade dumplings this far from the suburbs and or Chinatown.” He also gets fried chicken at CJ’s Chicken in the former location of Felony Frank’s, and revisits Churro Waffle, reopened after a fire.


The irrepressible Michael Muser was on WBEZ’s Reset, talking about the imminent opening of Ever (which was also the name of a prog rock album he did in the 70s, The Imminent Opening of Ever). Listen here.


In the second Portillo’s parody featured in Buzz List within a few months, here’s Potillo’s, from Stephen Colbert’s show.


The first suggestion on this Chicago mag list for Swedish cafes offering a little pastry-based fika is obvious. The other three were news to me, which is pretty good for a list.


There’s another soup event at the Co-Prosperity Sphere Marz Brewing in Bridgeport on Monday night. Here’s a video made at the last one, with Won Kim being assertive in it, you never woulda guessed. I made soup for one a year ago and enjoyed the heck out of it, really good vibes.

Monica Eng and Louisa Chu will talk the history of Chinese-American food next Saturday, 10 am, at Culinary Historians of Chicago.


Hey, do me a favor, wouldja? Somebody left The Fooditor 99 a low rating at Amazon, which hurts the average, since there are only two ratings to begin with. And since they didn’t leave a review, I don’t even know why. So if you got the new one and you like it, would you mind going here and leaving your own rating and even a review? Much appreciated, and it helps ensure that people who buy it know what they’re getting and get something they want. Thanks.


Bar Biscay is up there in Mike’s happy places, and they have a variety of specials during the week—including a five course chef’s counter menu, plus wine pairings, for $75. Chef Alisha Elenz (who we were the first to write about, here) says that she’s trying to take Bar Biscay in a French direction, versus the Spanish twist of her other restaurant mfk., but the differences seem modest compared to the commonality of straightforward, well crafted food built around ingredients from the sea—big shrimp in a tomato rice sauce, slices of pork loin with an anchovy butter sauce. A very fair price for the experience of watching someone like Elenz make your dinner for you while well-chosen wine is steadily sent your way. Life is good.

And add me to the voices praising Lao Peng You—housemade noodles and dumplings, jiangbing and more, all full of Chinese flavors and served hot and satisfying. I really liked two Titus recommendations—pork and dill dumplings, served swimming in a dark broth, and cucumber salad not swimming in hot sauce, just lightly dipped in it. Cold noodles (also in hot sauce) was another hit (they’re not really cold, just room temperature, but great texture). But the best thing were the two bings we had—at first they seemed too dense, but tear them apart and dip them in soy or black vinegar, and they’re hugely satisfying. Also satisfying is having Chinese food of this caliber outside of Chinatown or Argyle (it’s in Ukrainian Village). My only other advice is go early—by 12:30 or so, the tiny place was packed for lunch.

Sparrow Black 2019