We’re still in holiday season so it’s a short list this week, but I’ll try to be especially longwinded about them:


Some weeks back I made a case for the return of negative reviews—basically, that we no longer need to be grading on a COVID curve, and it’s better for our scene if the missteps get called out, so the places that do it well, and their virtues, can stand out. Well, here’s John Kessler at Chicago demonstrating my point by ripping into Bonhomme Hospitality’s Bambola.

His opening line tells what’s coming: “As far as design showrooms go, Bambola is a swell place to spend some time.” Which is sort of like the old crack about a Broadway musical that’s expensively produced but has a weak book and score—”audiences go home humming the scenery.”

When we settle into a fine bottle of wine (a Ribolla Gialla from the excellent Slovenian producer Movia), things start looking up — that is, until the food arrives. It is so perplexing. How do you cook carrots for an appetizer so that they’re charred but uncuttable, and how do you find such starchy, flavorless ones in the height of their season? Why muck up a decent enough beet and freekeh salad with a chalky hummus dialed down with canned-tasting artichoke?

Kessler handles a severe takedown well—it’s not mean, but as he says, perplexed at how the talent here (he’s a fan of Bonhomme’s Mama Delia) can bungle it so completely:

I strongly suspect things are a mess behind the scenes, and certainly today’s environment — where it can be so hard to hire, train, and retain employees — doesn’t help. Still, I don’t have much sympathy for the Bonhomme folks. They should fix this place before bringing in paying guests.

Which is what it comes down to. You can either write for the restaurant and their PR firm—check out this “review”—or you can write for the paying customer, and use your dining budget to spare their having to make a bad discovery with their own money. Kessler did the right thing for them and for our entire scene.

Interestingly, as I went looking for an appropriately servile review to link in the paragraph above, I found that The Infatuation, which is generally fairly rah rah in its reviews, was if anything even harsher on it:

The most shocking fumble is the wok-fried risotto. The crispy bits annihilate the soft and creamy aspect that makes risotto, well, risotto, while miscalculated ratios of umami and tartness warrant an expiration date check.

And I did not know that Bonhomme has projects in Spain—but if I hadn’t learned that from Kessler, I would have learned it the same day from Lisa Futterman, who has a piece at Food and Wine about, well, food and wine (and accommodations) in Galicia:

Casa Beatnik opened in May 2022 as a stylish, bohemian oasis just a 20-minute drive south of the historic town of Santiago de Compostela. The hotel is owned by Dani Alonso, the owner of Bonhomme Hospitality, a Chicago-based restaurant group known for its Mediterranean restaurants like Beatnik and Porto. Alonso, whose parents are native Gallegos, bought the pazo, which sits in a working Alabariño vineyard. Fans of his Chicago restaurants can expect some of his signature over-the-top design touches at the bright pink hotel whose aesthetic he says is inspired by Morocco, France and Italy, including handmade Beni shag rugs from Morocco and Murano glass chandeliers.

If you came out of Bambola humming the scenery, sounds like you can go live in it at Casa Beatnik!


I mentioned last week that French chef Michael Lachowicz was opening a Mexican restaurant, Fonda, in Evanston—built on the expertise of his Mexican staff at George Trois/Aboyer. Anthony Todd has the details:

“I’m not Mexican at all,” Lachowicz says. “It would be disrespectful of me to pretend that I am — it’s one thing if you’re Rick Bayless and you immersed yourself in Mexican cuisine for decades. I did that with French food; I’m not going to do that again.”

Instead, Fonda is a project designed and run by three of Lachowicz’s long-time staff, all of whom are of Mexican descent. Carlos Cahue, the current sous chef at Aboyer, will be running the kitchen, along with Miguel Escobar (a long-time chef at George Trois) and Sergio Angel (who has run Lachowicz’s wine program for years). Lachowicz describes Fonda as a logical next step for these three, who have become experts in their field over many years working at George Trois. “This is sweat equity for dealing with my crazy for the last 20 years. They were good enough to stick around when I was sometimes less than savory,” says Lachowicz.


Sorry, there’s just one Dorothy that Dorothy’s Bistro makes me think of. But Steve Dolinsky visits the new incarnation of Flat & Point:

It’s the owners’ Alpine heritage that inspired a name and concept change to Dorothy’s Bistro, on the western edge of Logan Square. There’s stuffed squash being grilled on the open hearth; dry rubbed ribs sprayed with Worcestershire and honey to balance the smokiness, and a willingness to cook exclusively from these cold weather climates.

“It started as my love for cooking over open fire, with both myself and my wife’s heritage,” said owner Brian Bruns.


If there’s one feature on our local food scene that food writers, Chicago Gourmet, Choose Chicago, etc. pay next to no attention to, it’s Polish and Eastern European food. It’s the budget-priced staple that most associate only with getting stuffed on the cheap at Red Apple. Dennis Lee has another one you should pay some attention to:

Polish delis… are usually humble places that sort of blend into a city block. They’re an essential part of Chicago’s culinary backdrop, and places you really should be dropping by more often. Consider this your reminder.

His suggestion is ZaZa’s Deli in Avondale:

What you’re really looking for is the prepared foods portion of the counter, which isn’t far from the entrance. You’ll see a bunch of beautiful gems inside of it, like whole stewed pork shanks, stews, potato pancakes, stroganoff, and more, which you can and should pick up to take home.

5. A.I. 1, HUMANS 0

So this is interesting: like everyone, I’ve seen people playing with A.I. programs like ChatGPT on Twitter and Facebook, and only paid marginal attention to it. But a friend sent me some copy that A.I. generated on a chef I know about fairly well—and it was entirely okay. Which is to say, it was the kind of timeline thing that didn’t require critical thinking, or wit—just accuracy, and it nailed that. Which raises the question, why would you pay a human to do that? Soon, you won’t.

In the past few years we’ve seen listicles take over food writing—instead of real reporting or reviewing, we get a million 10 Best Baba Ghanoush Platters in Chicago type pieces. That’s because that’s what search engines reward. So basically computers are already assigning gigs to writers, and now they’ll be capable of writing them, too. Human voices not needed.

That seems like it should be bad news, but in a way I think it’s great news. If the market for listicles goes away because computers can synthesize new pieces—by looking at opinions, averaging them out, and generating convincing sentences based on their thoughts—then listicles are no longer a writing market for humans. But those opinions have to come from somewhere. If there’s no real human opinions left out there, then the computers are just cribbing from each other, making copy as convincing and artful as a tenth-generation Xerox. But it will be so easy to make this chaff that we’ll be flooded with it. The result, if it represents the steady decline in quality of automated content, could make actual writers with actual views of actual meals more valuable to readers. Imagine if the publications that went all in on search-driven content suddenly find that they need writers again to attract reader attention!


Bon Appetit puts Andrew Brochu’s Brochu’s Family Tradition in Savannah on a list of the best new openings in the country, and reminds us it could have been ours if not for COVID: “In 2020 chef Andrew Brochu intended to open his restaurant in Chicago after leaving the Michelin-starred Roister. Instead, Andrew and his wife Sophie relocated to Savannah during the pandemic, where Sophie’s family is from.”


Can’t argue with the premise of this tweet: “Lightfoot out here getting schooled by a hot dog stand.”


Notice to what seems like the entire PR world: I am not writing anything about Dry January or mocktails this month. When I don’t want to drink, I… don’t… drink. I don’t need your product, or an official month, to do that. In the meantime, the Tribune covered it here, here and here. Try them, they seem to be very responsive.