It’s been a difficult time. We have all faced trials and tribulations—but I come today to tell you of good news! Omicron has crested (so they say) and there is hope out there! Come, brothers and sisters, and hear the good news:


Much-beloved Thattu, the Indian pop-up formerly in Politan Row, has a permanent space coming in Avondale, tucked away near Metropolitan Brewing and the Guild Row coworking/socializeing space—another place Thattu had popped up recently. Ashok Selvam tells about it in Eater, although he gets a bit Indian Food: You’re Doing It Wrong about it:

[Co-owners Vinod] Kalathil and [Margaret] Pak realize Indian food in America — like many international cuisines — can often be subjected to unfair expectations from both the customers unfamiliar with the food’s origins and from members of communities from which the food emerges.

Kalathil and Pak are trying to elude that trap with playful recipes. For example, Pak has been toying around with soba noodles with octopus and eel that uses the same coconut milk base as her fish curry. It’s a little bit more smoky and crunchy and showcase how Thattu hopes to distinguish itself.

“We don’t want anything to do with ‘authentic,’” Kalathil says.

I never had unfair expectations that I know of—I was just delighted by Thattu’s tasty, often vegetarian food, and will be thrilled when it opens in the fall.


Jonathan Zaragoza, scion of much-loved Birrieria Zaragoza, has finally launched his own restaurant after having a pop-up last year with El Oso in Hyde Park. It’s called Con Todos (which I assume is how you say “with everything” when ordering in Spanish) and it’s in the old Yusho space on Kedzie:

“The restaurant is representative of our experience with one foot in Mexico, one foot in the states,” Zaragoza says. “Mexico City is such a melting pot, as is Chicago. We’re covering a broad spectrum, from influences that are popping off out there to old traditions from different cultures and ethnicities.”

Though the opening menu is abbreviated, it still includes plenty of surprises, like the D.F. Hot Chicken Torta (spicy panko chicken breast, griddled queso Chihuahua, refried black beans, pickled jalapeno) and grilled pineapple upside down cake (piloncillo caramel cake, burnt cinnamon whipped cream). Taco selections include familiar hits like al pastor, but also suadero, a Mexico City favorite that Zaragoza has dubbed the “unsung hero of the taco world.” Initial offerings will be available online via Toast.

It’s takeout and delivery only for now, but they hope to open for dine-in next month.


Charlie McKenna, ex-staffer for Graham Elliott and longtime owner of barbecue spot Lillie’s Q, has a new Southern restaurant in Hyde Park: Roux. Well, he’s referred to as consulting chef and it’s within the new Seven Ten Social, a bowling alley and bar complex, so that’s the actual owner, I take it. Still, the rustic white interior looks  a lot like McKenna’s defunct Dixie, but more focused on Southern breakfast fare. Anyway, whatever, Hyde Park can’t live for breakfast on Valois alone, so this looks good to me. Here’s more at Eater.


Been waiting for this one, as it’s near me and, even more importantly, near my local movie theater: English pub Owen & Engine, renowned for both its beer list and its burger, will finally reopen this week. It’s doing so after quite a series of events for co-owner and chef Bo Fowler, as Josh Noel tells the story:

Bo Fowler, who is 53, doesn’t doubt it. When she operated her eclectic bunch of restaurants before the pandemic — Fat Willy’s Rib Shack, inspired by a trip to North Carolina; Owen & Engine, an attempt to re-create the dim intimacy of British pubs; and Bixi Beer, a brewery whose pan-Asian menu nods to her Korean roots — she was like bulldozer, she said: unconsciously plowing forward because it was all she knew to do.

“I was almost subhuman in the way I was working,” she said. “Being in pain was part of my life. I didn’t think about it.”

Shortly after COVID hit, she had quintuple bypass surgery. Now, having closed Fat Willy’s Rib Shack, she’s trying to find her way to a more balanced life as a restaurant business owner:

The most crucial change, she said, needs to be downtime. That means work weeks closer to 50 hours. It means not assuming her staff will work back-to-back brunch and dinner shifts (It still happens, but she’s trying to hire her way out of it.). It means guaranteeing consecutive days off for everyone; that is why Bixi will be closed Mondays and Tuesdays and Owen & Engine on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

“Things have to change, and I have to drive that change,” Fowler said.


A serious candidate for best tacos in Chicago has long been Rubi’s at the Maxwell Street Market. But when the market closed for COVID in 2020, the family behind it had to scramble, per Nick Kindelsperger in the Trib:

Rubi’s may have remained a Maxwell Street Market-only operation had it not been for the pandemic. But in 2020, the city closed the weekly market, leaving the family struggling for money. “We had applied for grants, but we were street vendors, so we didn’t get anything,” [third-generation family member Evelyn]Ramirez-Landa said.

Fortunately, social media was part of Ramirez-Landa’s duties for the family business, so she was able to quickly pivot to selling food through the Instagram account. “(Social media) was my thing,” she said. “But honestly, it’s because our customers are very loyal. That’s part of it. That’s why we are still here.”

They’re now takeout only at 1316 W. 18th St.


One of the secrets to getting your clients covered in Buzz List is to start your email by saying you always read Fooditor and just made a reservation at a particular restaurant because of what you read here last week. (You’d think all food PR people would read it, it’s such an easy cheat sheet for their field, but such is not the case—as I find out whenever someone pitches me something I just covered.)

So congrats to Lauren Smith at KLPR for knowing the magic words that earn a space here for 16″ on Center’s COVID testing and vaccination efforts, which have included free vaccination events with local DJs at Thalia Hall, sponsored by New Belgium, and—this is something I suggested would happen on Michael Muser’s podcast a year ago—free rapid testing for guests before Thalia Hall shows. I mean, as someone who whenever I have a cold or hay fever, immediately thinks “Maybe it’s COVID!,” I’ve been very aware of the fact that going into a restaurant with my CDC card showing I got a booster two months ago hardly rules out the possibility that I’m shedding virus today. If we had enough testing kits—and we’re far enough from Trump that we can’t just blame him—then we’d be rapid testing everybody on their way into any public space. So good for 16″ on Center for making where we should all be now, happen. And thanks for reading Fooditor!


I haven’t been to any of Mike Sula’s Monday Night Foodball events, though he’s put things on my radar for ordering on my own, but the story behind, and the descriptions of, Filipino pork pop-up Pig & Fire might get me there April 25:

That sound is a Pavlovian promise of lip-sticky pigskin armoring a lush, lemongrass-perfumed anatomy of milk-fed pork flesh. The instrument is a whole suckling pig that [Roel] Estanilla roasts for six hours and then splays across banana leaves bedecked with edible flowers.

The chef caters traditional and modern Filipino food and mounts pop-ups out of the Hatchery under the name Pig & Fire. He understands the aural and visual gravitas of a whole roasted pig, and the specs he asks of his regular purveyor, Slagel Family Farm, are exacting.

“We’re like, ‘Please don’t cut off any part of the pig,’” says Jen Estanilla, Roel’s wife, who handles marketing when she’s not working as a physician at Rush University’s Neonatal-Perinatal Fellowship Program. “We want the whole thing. We want a very, very presentable pig.”


Chicago magazine talks to the Chicago chef now taking LA by storm, Stephanie Izard.


David Hammond visits three new places, starting with Bar Goa:

At Bar Goa, you can select from several Indian gins for your cocktail; I went with a martini made with an Indian gin, Hapusa, which means juniper in Sanskrit, and this and all other botanicals in the gin are sourced from India. It is an excellent gin, and other gins on the menu also encourage exploration.

He also went to Cultivate by Forbidden Root, which took over the Band of Bohemia space, and an over-the-top new hot pot spot, The X Pot.


Steve Dolinsky focuses on the Canadian-ness of Dear Margaret, from duck liver mousse with apple syrup to the nanaimo bar dessert.


If I really want to know what’s happening, often the best review is a tweet from Friend of Fooditor Chris Chacko (Sparrow Coffee), who is absolutely who I’d ask about the South Indian tasting menu at The Coach House by Wazwan:

To say I’ve enjoyed the #tastingmenu @ The #CoachHouse by #Wazwan is an understatement. Flavors are South #Indian forward & remarkable considering the array of luxury Western & non-Indian Asian ingredients used. In Chef #ZubairMohajir’s words ‘this is where the love is.’

There’s also four pictures worth a thousand tweets. Look elsewhere in his recent tweets for positive assessments on Vie and The Graceful Ordinary, from Chef Chris Curren, who Fooditor wrote about at Fulton Market Kitchen, among others.


I don’t know what Afro-Opulence is—but I’m not surprised that the one to tell us about it is Audarshia Townsend:

There’s a chic, intimate sitting room adjacent to Raub Welch’s bedroom. It’s filled with fresh flowers and dignified portraits of Black women, from famous faces like Rosa Parks and Mahalia Jackson to his enslaved ancestors. The space is so sacred to Welch — a visual artist and founder of Afro-Opulence, a lifestyle brand that curates social events and sells home goods — that in 2020 it inspired him to launch a series of Afrocentric parties at his modernized red Victorian home in Bronzeville.

There’s Afro-Praise, a monthly gospel-house brunch with tambourines and drums and, of course, Southern fried chicken with all the fixings. Held in May, Afro-Antoinette honors Black mothers with tea-infused cocktails, cheese platters, and finger sandwiches, while Afro-Love, a swanky cocktail party each Sunday in February, marks Black History Month.


There are two kinds of people in this world—those (like me) whose grandmothers made them peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, and those who go “You ate WHAT?” I always liked it, because my gran made it with sweet pickles, but I learned to not shout and wave it about to the other kids. The sweet and salty combo works; but Sandwich Tribunal tries variations with less happy results (and some controversy over whether it’s really a Depression era food—yes, there were poor people who ate sandwiches like this before the Wall Street crash.)


No one seems to have covered it yet, but a major figure with his name on a local restaurant died last week: Joe Fiely, the Joe in Joe’s Imports and longtime wine director for the Mia Francesca group, died after battling cancer for some time. Here are some posts from friends and family at Facebook.


Pilsen Yards is a big bro-y place in Pilsen, the changes in the neighborhood summed up exactly, but inside its sprawl is a dark little shotgun room called The Alderman, which has something of the dark coziness of The Office under Next. The website calls mixologist Lance Bowen “Chicago’s most award-winning mixologist,” and the cocktail menu is divided between specialty cocktails he’s invented for various competitions, and their takes on various classic cocktails, things like Sidecars and Boulevardiers. As it happens we went on a Sunday, and Bowen wasn’t there—but I didn’t feel like I missed out, because the mixologist who was there, Matt (forgot his last name), was entirely capable, helpful with special requests (my wife wanted non-alcoholic cocktails), and personable (he worked for a bit at Old Irving Brewing, so we chatted about that, brewer Trevor Rose-Hamblin, and old days at Moto and Ing). Anyway, I was quite impressed with the specialty cocktails in particular, like the Sichuan Panda (scented with sesame oil, it smelled, but did not taste, like Chinese food) and the Passion of St. Marie. If you want a chill, intimate cocktail experience, make your hour and a half reservation (it wasn’t so busy that anyone was eager for us to leave) and enjoy a relaxed evening without jostling anyone at a busy bar.