In 2007, a restaurant called Baccala, by industry veteran John Bubala (Thyme/Timo), opened in Wicker Park. The best record of it is probably the LTHForum thread, which I participated in here; to summarize it, Bubala was trying to do nose to tail cooking when that was a very new thing in Chicago, and consisted of dishes like lamb tongue. I loved the adventurousness of it, but sadly, it didn’t last, closing within a year.

A few months later another restaurant opened a half mile or so away, over the Bucktown border. It was called The Bristol, it was located in the former space of a loud Italian spot called Babaluci (whose owner eventually went to jail), and the chef, Chris Pandel, came out of Rick Tramonto’s world, while the owner-managers, John Ross and Philip Walters, came out of glitzy places like One Sixty Blue and Nine (or N9ne). But they were all about to take a new direction from early 2000s glitz. Like Bubala, Pandel was doing nose to tail, farm to table cooking, as well as housemade pastas like a duck egg raviolo. And unlike Baccala, it was an instant hit, getting four stars of five from Time Out Chicago when that was a name to be reckoned with. Here’s me writing about having a definite nose to tail ingredient—duck testicles. And here’s how I summed it up in a piece on one of Pandel’s successors, Sean Pharr:

When it opened in 2008 with Chris Pandel as chef, the first restaurant of B. Hospitality owners Pandel, John Ross and Phil Walters, it didn’t just have a clear identity of its own—pork, offal meats, farmer names on the menu, rusticity, housemade pastas, long communal tables, a notion that beer or cocktails were just as good with food as wine. It caught the zeitgeist, the perfect moment for porky deliciousness and odd bits in an informal setting, and spread its love for them all over the city.

Of course, subsequent porky-casual places like Longman & Eagle and The Purple Pig wouldn’t have existed in quite the same form without The Bristol—and neither would restaurants in a wide variety of genres, from Fat Rice and Yusho to Bohemian House. It spread the Chicago gospel that deep flavor could happen in any cuisine in a hip relaxed setting, without the white tablecloths and thick wine book—and the fact that Michelin has never awarded The Bristol so much as one star is the most damning proof that they simply don’t get what matters to us now in dining out.

Or as Ross described it to me:

The Bristol was one of those restaurants where it was like, we’re doing this and you’re gonna like it. The Bristol, for Chris and Phil and myself, was a very selfish concept. We loved wine, we loved cocktails, we loved beer at the time, though none of us drink beer any more, I don’t think. And Chris wanted to be a kid in the candy store and change the menu every day. Fortunately, he’s such a talented chef that we were able to get away with that for such a long time.

It’s all about hospitality, but we had pig tail and pig head and bone marrow and all those things eight years ago, they’re not necessarily new to the United States, or dining in general, but it was new to Chicago. And it was kind of a selfish concept, but it worked. And that’s kind of the antithesis of what hospitality is, but at the same time, if you’re really streamlined, and you’re really focused on something that people know, then those people will come. And that’s what we had.

The Bristol lasted 14 years, but as you read this, it will have just closed after New Year’s Eve service. I’m not entirely sure why—it always seemed busy—but one reason, certainly, is because some scumbag robbed John Ross in the alley behind it and shot him in the leg. Other reasons probably include just that 14 years is a good run, and in that time so much of what was novel about The Bristol became more familiar around town, because of The Bristol. Duck testicles came and went; communal tables came and went; chefs came and went. If you read the piece on Pharr, the theme is basically, how do you keep The Bristol current and new, when everybody is The Bristol now?

As noted, The Bristol never got a Michelin star, and only met the weird, not very accurate pricing criteria for a Bib Gourmand briefly, in Michelin’s first years in Chicago. Who knows what lay behind such perversity—they didn’t like the communal tables, or the bathrooms, or something—but for many of us it was one of the best restaurants in town for much of that time, indeed one of the most Chicago restaurants. Certainly the one (at a price point above a sandwich shop, at least) that I went to the most in recent years, partly because Todd Stein had an “ingredient of the month” menu going in the years before COVID, and I had a group of friends who could have put in lots of effort to pick a hot new place to go to each month, but found it easier to just meet up at The Bristol again for Stein’s latest menu. The Bristol always delivered, interesting food, good things to drink of whatever type, reliably congenial service—but it was challenged, certainly, by the fact that it helped make such qualities less rare on our scene.

Well, I salute John, Phil and Chris, and Todd, Sean, Larry Feldmeier, Rodney Staton, and any and all other chefs along the way, for having created and maintained one of the definitive Chicago places of its era; and I will catch echoes of The Bristol in future meals all over the city for years to come, I’m sure.

2. BEST OF 2022

It’s a new year! Which means people have made lists of the best things they ate in 2022—like mine, right here.

Chicago magazine has a cover story on their writers’ 30 favorite things to eat right now. The list is strongly midscale, or whatever you’d call it when it’s almost nothing at the high high end, and not much at the neighborhood ethnic joint level—so we get neighborhood sitdown places like Coda Di Volpe (chicken diavola) and Wazwan (Inaloban) and Obélix (Salad Lyonnaise Canard). In another year I might have faulted them for relatively little from our low-end international scene (though of course Khmai Cambodian Fine Dining is on the list; it’s on everybody’s list) but then I made my own list and… honestly, I don’t know what they’d be missing; I feel like there’s hasn’t been much in the past year besides Khmai to make you excited about that end of the food world, while the midscale level does seem to be where the action is, even if it’s often commercially timid (hey, what if we did… Italian food?). So in the end, this seems a pretty accurate picture of our world this year. But if you want the low end, at least look for the few entries designated “T.R.”—that would be Titus Ruscitti, who found dumplings and roti to talk about.

Speaking of Titus, here’s his usual exhaustive recap. He starts out at the same “where was the action this year?” point as me but links to a bunch of things he liked anyway:

When I started to draw up this years end of the year post I thought it might not be as action packed as some of the previous years. But I was wrong. Plenty of ground was covered on S’C’&C this year, and I should’ve known better because that’s pretty much always the case.

At the Trib, here’s how Nick Kindelsperger begins his list: “My favorite new restaurant is technically a pop-up.” That would be Sueños x Soho House, or whatever the precise name of that thing (which I liked as well) is. But thankfully, most of his list is permanent places—at least as permanent as restaurants get any more—including Monster Ramen in Logan Square, the new Barca birria spot in Belmont Cragin, and the inevitable Khmai Cambodian Fine Dining. But the interesting thing is that I knew he had gone to Alinea around the same time as John Kessler did, and never wrote about it. So you’ll at last get his partial case for Alinea in one familiar dish:

The most transportive bite I had all year happened toward the end of the meal. That’s when the server set down the restaurant’s play on creamed chipped beef, a cheap and comforting dish I ate hundreds of times as a kid, sometimes known as hanky-panky or another expletive-laced nickname involving shingles. While the salty processed meat of the original had been replaced with expensive wagyu and air-dried bresaola, I’d never felt more like the evil cartoon critic, Anton Ego in “Ratatouille,” where a bite instantly swept him back in time to his family’s dining table as a child.

The Trib also has a piece from the Naperville Sun asking 50 mostly suburban chefs and food figures—including Greater Midwest Foodways’ Cathy Lambrecht, who I hesitate to call merely a Friend of Fooditor because she’s been a friend much longer than that—what their top dishes of the year were. It’s a fun read with plenty of tips for those who cross the city borders to eat.

Mike Sula’s best of the year makes the case that the underground/pop-up world remains the most interesting part of our food scene. I don’t agree with all of this, but it’s well worth reading:

I’d been hearing all year long from folks who flourished in the alt-economy about how changes in Instagram’s algorithm had made things difficult for the host of new food businesses I’d been writing about since the beginning of the pandemic. I saw it myself as social media engagement with our Monday Night Foodball pop-up promos dropped off precipitously some weeks.

But that didn’t mean interest dropped off. Some brick-and-mortars continued to be incubators for young chefs with big ideas. Last Monday night alone, the Long Room hosted a barbecue pop-up; Ludlow Liquors featured a new chef in town doing Filipino fine dining; one of Honey Butter Fried Chicken’s line cooks took over that kitchen to do Jamaican food; while the Kedzie Inn hosted the year’s 38th Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s weekly chef pop-up that I’ve been hyping since August 2021. This one featured Won Kim previewing the next iteration of Kimski, Bridgeport’s six-and-a-half-year-old Korean-Polish mash-up which itself has become a training ground for young chefs eager to break out and do their own thing.

Eater does its usual roundup of food opinions, which for at least the second year is inexplicably mostly sportswriters, more than food writers (though there are a few—Nagrant, Kindelsperger, etc.) So not the most adventurous or eye-opening opinions, though there are some interesting comments here and there; here’s the full index.

Jeffy Mai, who’s among those contributing to Eater’s roundup, offers Time Out Chicago’s ten best openings of the year.

Resy asked “contributors to the Rest Hit List” (whoever that would be) and got 10 Restaurants That Defined Chicago Dining This Year.

And The Infatuation has a list of its best new restaurants of 2022, and another one of its best new dishes of the year.


Both of the writers reviewing via Substack had something to say about, can you believe it in Chicago, Italian food. Michael Nagrant talks about how Wilson Bauer is trying to do pasta a new way at Flour Power:

Walk in and you’ll find Bauer and his assistant humping it frenetically in the open kitchen to a soundtrack of bumpin’ hip hop which is also blasted out to the dining room. The duo runs warped searingly hot metal pans and their tangles of noodles from range to take-out box, dripping in sweat, soaked in steam. It looks like a Marco Pierre White wet dream.

However, look closer. No one is screaming. No one is angry. No one is being assaulted. The cooking is pure intentionality and determination. So is the larder, high quality grains for the pillowy focaccia, gallons upon gallons of high-quality olive oils and pure animal fat, artisan cheeses, peak seasonal truffles, and produce and protein from farmers who legitimately care about the earth. Wilson has a gigantic grin as he cooks. I don’t know him, but except for his family, I doubt he loves anything more than being in this very moment.

While Dennis Lee goes old-school Chitalian at Trattoria Porretta in Portage Park:

Since Davida and I had historically only gotten delivery, we thought we’d stop in one day to see how Trattoria Poretta was in person. We learned that there’s a specific entrance for takeout and delivery orders, which is only what we’d been getting. The other half of the restaurant is sit-down with proper tablecloth, bottles of olive oil on the table, and exposed brick walls. And when we went, a huge table filled up with gray-haired Chicagoans with thick city accents that made us feel like we were in a movie set in our own city.

By the way, speaking of Wilson Bauer, he’s the guest on the latest episode of the Joiners podcast, devoted to hospitality. Read more about it here.


Nick Kindelsperger finds a theme for a dual review:

This is a tale of two Logan Square pandemic survivors who both decided to re-concept. Not only did they change their names and menus, but they’ve also rethought how they serve guests.

What’s so fascinating is that they decided to go in opposite directions.

The first is Dorothy’s Bistro, the new version of Flat and Point, which tries to make it clearer that the place with the big ass smoker is less Smoque than Table Donkey and Stick, but also has moved to ordering at the counter:

In some ways, by dispensing with the usual waitstaff, Dorothy’s Bistro has maximized the price-to-quality ratio of the food. Costs are surprisingly moderate, and portions are ample. That’s a tempting combination to me, though if you believe service is just as crucial to an experience, I can understand how you might dislike ordering at the table before you sit down.

The second is Second Generation, the reworking of Mini Mott to be more of a restaurant (like Mott Street):

“We missed hanging out with our guests,” [co-owner Nate] Chung said. “We wanted to go back to our roots.” This means Second Generation feels far more like Mott St., which is definitely not a bad thing. French influences bump against Korean, Japanese and American ones, yet nothing feels forced.


@Netashari is an Instagram account I follow which chronicles sushi styles around the globe. His most recent posts are on Kyoten and are well-informed on what makes Chicago’s best, and most Michelin-neglected, sushiya extraordinary and what chef Otto Phan’s influences are. Start here and move backwards (that is, forward in time) to read it all, and savor the photos:

I have been struck by the balance of creativity, passion and now, restraint in the current menu at @kyotenchicago. Otto Phan has come a long way from where he was a few years ago, and even longer from his days selling makimono and battera sushi out of a food truck.

The current experience hits as distinctly “American,” but not in a way that warps, disrespects, or changes the elements of what makes high end sushi so enjoyable in Japan. It’s at once “authentic” to edomae traditions and “authentic” to the fact that you’re eating those traditions in a city best known for hot dogs and beef sandwiches. It’s not a copy, or a caricature, or pandering. It feels like something a lot more real. I’ll explain in the next few posts.

He could have skipped the hot dog dig—we have had a couple of decent restaurants here for some years now—but it’s worth your time as it explains why Kyoten is worth your money.


David Hammond talks to Michael Seward, wine director at Pops For Champagne, about what champagne and why:

A common mistake people often make is to select only from familiar houses they have had before; they don’t consult their wine merchant about exploring a new wine for a new experience. Champagne is expensive and that can lead us to select something we have confidence in instead of trying something unfamiliar. Consult an expert and take a chance on something new.


I always like to try the local idea of a burger whenever I’m in a new country—just to see how wrong they get it; there’s usually too much goop on it, sometimes weird things (like the Bordelaise sauce or whatever it is the Japanese like to put on their burger), though sometimes it can be interesting, like the burger made of kefta kebab I had in Istanbul, at a place located in a stairwell of the Grand Bazaar. Anyway, Sandwich Tribunal has one to try (but not exactly change my notion that other places often just don’t get the concept of a burger), “the Xis Burger of Southern Brazil”:

A Xis burguer may or may not even contain a ground beef patty. This is a pretty essential component of what we call a “burger” in the US, but in many places “burger” has evolved to simply indicate any sandwich on a round bun. Protein options include shredded chicken or turkey, ham, sausage, steak, bacon, or some combination of the above meats as well as a fried egg, or two, or however many are needed for the size of the bread. Cheese is, as you may have gathered from the name, a vital ingredient, and might be a processed yellow slice like we frequently see on a burger here, or the soft cream-cheese-like spread Requeijão, or sliced mozzarella, or another popular Brazilian cheese like Queijo prato, similar to gouda. The condimentation can run to lettuce, tomato, corn, peas, onion, shoestring potatoes, ketchup, mustard, and mayo or other sauces. However, the author of this writeup on Brazil-based blog Travel Cook Tell assures, us, it should never contain pickles.


An episode of the NY Times’ The Daily podcast devoted to Pete Wells, the… NY Times critic. When it started by telling us how monumentally important Pete Wells is to everything everywhere about dining, I wanted to yell “Gag me with a caviar spoon!” But it gets better—quite thoughtful, actually, on how the pandemic changed restaurant reviewing, and especially on how reviewing, and star rating systems, are so class-driven, and why couldn’t great Puerto Rican food, say, get at least three stars? A good quote:

“The French are brilliant at many things, and one of the things they’re brilliant at is marketing themselves as the authorities on dining and wine. That’s not to take away from their accomplishments, but we don’t necessarily have to accept their view that they have taken restaurant dining to its pinnacle.”

(H/t Michael Muser)


If anything ought to have survived the last few years, it’s a popular burger stand, so the fact that Edzo’s in Evanston is having trouble is a sign of the (discouraging) times. Friend of Fooditor Eddie Lakin spent a long time dealing with the street in front of his restaurant being torn up by the city, and then COVID hit:

We took, then ran through PPP loans, keeping our crew on full hours until we weren’t able to continue. We took on a ton of debt in order to get back open and have a big hole to dig out of now. I haven’t paid myself for months.
Since re-opening in September, we have struggled to stay open regular hours due to staffing issues, but recently, thanks to you, our loyal local customer base, it felt like we were starting to hit our stride.
Unfortunately, last week, the motor in our exhaust fan died and with no ventilation, the frigid weather, and the holiday week, we were forced to shut down four of the five days.
He’s got a GoFundMe going, so if you’ve enjoyed this place, a modern Chicago classic, please consider giving to it here.


It’s a new year, there will be new restaurants…

Many of Michael Lachowicz’s crew at George Trois/Aboyer are Mexican, which might explain them branching into a Mexican restaurant called Fonda, which will open soon in the former Stained Glass space in Evanston under Aboyer sous chef Carlos Cahue.

How do you open a French brasserie when your business has been known for Cookies and Carnitas? You call it Brasserie by C&C; it’s been a weekend popup for a couple of years but the restaurant opens permanently in Edgewater on Saturday.

There’s a sustainable tasting menu restaurant called Feld that’s coming from a guy you never heard of, unless you’ve seen him on Tik Tok, in which case he’s famous to you. Monica Eng talks to Jake Potashnick about his approach on Chewing (go here or wherever you get podcasts and it’s episode 117; here’s a piece about him at Eater as well.


Best wishes to Friend of Fooditor Casey Cora, once of DNAInfo, then media director for Rick Bayless’ group for the past decade, always a thoughtful and helpful figure when I wanted to do something in media with Chef Rick—or when they wanted to see if I’d be interested in doing something out of the ordinary with him, like this Fooditor piece. Casey is moving on to Feeding America, the network to which 200-some food banks nationwide (including Chicago’s Greater Chicago Food Depository) belong. Here’s what Chef had to say:

Words cannot express how grateful I am to this great man, @caseycora who for the last decade has contributed so much to this restaurant. As r media director & my right hand in so much, he has been tireless, smart & valuable. Casey, we wish you greatness & joy n your next chapter!