So much news this week and not all of it makes you want to go out for a good time…


The big story was that on Tuesday night, Eric Trump, son of the owner of the hotel where Sixteen used to be, was allegedly spat upon by a server at The Aviary, who was promptly taken into custody by the Secret Service. The predictable followed: many on social media cheered the spitter on, fight the power man!, and there was a GoFundMe for her which was shut down (and reportedly had the wrong name anyway).

While according to the bar’s official statement, others threatened The Aviary with death threats and so on (I didn’t see any of that, but I’m unlikely to follow the 60-follower cretins from eight states away who would make such threats after reading a news story). The Aviary said that the alleged spitter’s employment is in the HR process, which I suppose is what you have to do these days, showing the difference between owning a bar in 2019 and how, say, the Copa had Tony Lip handle trouble in Green Book. Mayor Lightfoot weighed in as well, taking a firm, Emanuelesque stand against spitting on visitors spending money on food and beverage in Chicago. Some things transcend political faction.

My thoughts on this are pretty simple. Rip into the Trumps all you like on social media; and if you find someone truly abhorrent shows up, bar them from your door. But unless the hospitality industry wants to find a new name, and expensive cocktail bars in Fulton Market want to find a new customer base that doesn’t include rich douchebags who want to pay $30 for a drink, once you’ve allowed somebody in, John Wick rules should apply—no business is to be conducted on Continental premises. They’re guests, at least until you have to ask them to leave.

To act otherwise is to let the rabid politics of Twitter infect every space for relaxation in America. And people can drink at home, but you can’t make money on an empty house. If guests feel every server has the right to judge their worthiness, and the likelihood of acting on it, there will be a lot fewer servers out there before long. You can take a moral stand against rich douchebags with famous dads all you want, but I sure wouldn’t open a fancy cocktail bar on that basis.

Two more thoughts: interesting that this happened at a bar whose current chef, Nick Dostal, used to work (apolitically, I have no doubt) at the Trump Hotel. And the last line of The Aviary’s statement: “As fellow Americans and citizens, we should all aim higher.” More than one way to read that when the subject is firing spit at a president’s son.


There have been months I’ve wondered how restaurants keep opening and never closing, but it isn’t this month. A shocker: Iliana Regan announced the immediate closing of the revived Bunny the Micro Bakery, and the imminent closing of Kitsune, her Japanese-midwestern restaurant which occupied the same premises, on July 13. That leaves her original restaurant, Elizabeth, and her glamping site in Michigan, but that may have been more leases than she felt comfortable with at the same time—plus the book tour for her imminent memoir Burn The Place (which, by the way, Chicago magazine has an excerpt from here).

And little Temporis, the Michelin one-star that could fill a 20-ish seat restaurant for a fun tasting menu, has parted ways with chef Don Young, who like owner Sam Plotnick was a veteran of venerable, slightly haunted Les Nomades. His replacement is Troy Jorge, a veteran of Grace and Acadia, making him the second Grace vet to take a position at an existing Michelin one-star, after Soo Ahn took over Band of Bohemia earlier this spring.


The hard part about knowing what’s new on the South Side barbecue scene for me is that I drive all that way, am I going to try a new place to see if they’re any good, or am I just going to rely on the always-fantastic Honey 1 BBQ to feed everyone with sublime smokiness? (Guess what the answer usually is.) The job calls for Nick Kindelsperger with a Tribune expense account and the will to try a bunch of places back to back, which he does in this piece, crowning six stars out of 18 tried, three veterans (yes, Honey 1 is among them, as is Lem’s) and three new places including one he’s already written about, The Slab (which honestly, I tried and thought was all right but not top rung yet). I haven’t been to his number one yet, so… guess that’s my next stop when I’m in the area.


Maggie Hennessy notes some service flaws before falling into rapture at Galit: “But oh, the food. Everyone who dines here should begin with salatim (an array of dips and pickles) and hummus, each served with fluffy, charred pita balloons. The hummus, damming a pool of grassy olive oil, was creamy and light as air. Swiping it with a hunk of tomatoey, four-hour ‘Bubbe’s Brisket’ catalyzed a moment of pure bliss. The salatim followed like technicolor Middle Eastern banchan: sweet little cipollini onions perfumed with coriander and mild feta; tangy, smooth labneh bathed generously with more olive oil; spicy ezme with tomatoes and peppers.”


Michael Nagrant’s visit to Cafe Cancale is a reverie about the Crotch—the corner of Milwaukee, North and Damen, Liz Phair’s Guyville and Algren’s Wicker Park that eventually ends up at the latest inhabitant of the space that has been Francesca and Soul Kitchen and Jimo’s: “Cancale is inspired as much by The Clash as it is by the classic bistro. You may think it’s coy to compare a seemingly sedate seafood restaurant to a punk rock, but in 2019 you gotta have major couilles (if you don’t know what those are, check urban dictionary Paris edition) to serve up walleye quenelle, a centuries old Escoffier wet dream, which is basically a steamed fish mousse donut. In Walker’s hands however, it is a cloud-like seafood soufflé swimming in a lake of cognac and lobster essence capped off with a verdant mound of pea shoots that tastes like soil and fresh spring air.”


Cira and Cabra from Boka in the Hoxton Hotel… if that sentence confuses you, Phil Vettel is here to explain the difference. First, Cabra from Stephanie Izard: “The ceviche star is the snapper, mingling with dragonfruit and trout roe above a leche de tigre fortified with sweet potato and ponzu; but I got a kick out of the decidedly nontraditional duck ceviche, piled high over quinoa with pickled mango, gooseberries and salsa criolla.” Three stars.

Then Chris Pandel’s Cira, whose standout area is not a surprise: “Pasta is a strength, particularly the lamb-filled manti (a Turkish dumpling) with cumin-spiced yogurt and charred-tomato sauce. Pistachio ravioli with saffron-orange butter, breadcrumbs and chopped pistachios is similarly impressive, and the tagliolini is tossed with full-flavored accompaniments — anchovy, garlic, pernod — and topped with crisped breadcrumbs. More of these, please.” Two stars.


Mike Sula continues working his way around Politan Row with Bumbu Roux: “Indonesian and creole food have practically nothing in common—except for Chris Reed. He’s the chef behind Bumbu Roux in the West Loop’s Politan Row, a vendor who represents another unlikely cross-cultural marriage of cuisines born of an actual human marriage. Like Margaret Pak of Thattu, across the hall, who hints at the great potential of a Keralite-Korean (Koralite?) mash-up with her kimchi upma, Reed demonstrates Indo-creole compatibility with a pork sambal po’boy: vivid, cool, crunchy pickles, neon-lit with turmeric, brightening the meaty richness of shoulder debris braised in sambal, garlic, and ginger. All mayo-slathered and baguette-swaddled, it’s a sandwich that spans oceans and commands all the senses.”


Joanne Trestrail easily identifies the appeal of Grant Park Bistro from the LM folks: “What makes the bistro stand out is its location across the street from the south end of Grant Park, the beauty and peacefulness of which might surprise people who rarely venture south of Van Buren Street. Alfresco lunch on the patio is delightful, well worth a walk down a few blocks from the crowds and commotion of Millennium Park, the Art Institute and other marquee attractions.” (Crain’s)


David Hammond’s first experience on Chowhound was eagerly telling people about his discovery… a place called Johnnie’s Beef… and being told that yeah, everyone knows about that. Still, it rates a summertime paean like this one.


Just the pictures alone in Titus Ruscitti’s southern Illinois road trip post are worth spending some time with, but he also has lots of tips for everything from BBQ to catfish: “I bet damn near every county in this country has a place called the Country Cupboard. At least all those in Middle America anyway. Nothing special at these spots other than they’re usually reliable places to get an honest cooked meal whether it’s breakfast or lunch. One thing I like to do at the mom and pop country spots is get whatever is on special. They all have daily specials and it’s usually a good bet it was made fresh. On this visit the Swiss steak was the special. I’ll have that with corn and mashed potatoes and gravy please. Like I said – good country cooking. I wasn’t expecting my Swiss steak to come bathed in a tomato sauce but this is how some places make them so I wasn’t complaining. It hit the spot.”


The best thing the Tribune has published in a month devoted to food businesses of the African-American south side is this piece by Louisa Chu, which fills in the family stories behind five long-running south side businesses—two have been written about a fair amount, Lem’s and Harold’s, but three others have not, and I was especially interested to learn the history behind Uncle Remus fried chicken (which honestly, I prefer to Harold’s most of the time). Here’s 92-year-old founder Gus Rickette on his early days after arriving from Mississippi: “‘I spent quite a bit of time on skid row because when I came to Chicago, I did not know anyone. I think I had about 10 cents in my pocket at that particular time. I was picked up by the police and I was put in jail because I was eating an apple with a little knife and it was open. That sounds bad, but it turned out it was a blessing because I didn’t have no place to stay anyway.’”

Having praised and recommended it, I have to kvetch a little when the Tribune says “Yet the founders have historically had few chances to tell their stories themselves. With the eldest at 92, and with one of the oldest restaurants having roots dating back 69 years, we urgently sought out the people behind the food.” If they’ve had few chances to tell their stories in mainstream media, it’s because traditional Chicago media have too often ignored the south side, leaving others to do the job—Elliot Bambrough of Chicago’s Best pointedly pointed out that four out of five had already been featured on his show, and I can think of plenty more (including, but not limited to, my own) coverage from people working to right that traditional imbalance in alternative forms of media. Here’s hoping that after a very good month devoted to the Black south side, they continue to regard it as a regular part of their beat.


And one more piece from the Trib’s month—seven people running food programs in food deserts.


One of the country’s odd sandwiches is the egg foo young-based sandwich the St. Paul, which is native not to the Twin Cities but St. Louis. Sandwich Tribunal investigates: “Let’s be honest, the St. Paul sandwich itself is a bit of a Frankensteinian experiment to begin with. Chinese-American egg foo yung served on squishy white bread with mayonnaise, pickles, tomatoes, and lettuce? How did such a thing come to be? Why is it considered native to St. Louis, yet named after another city hundreds of miles north?”


If you want to know why a place called Shake It had Ukrainian Village residents nervous at a public meeting, look for the picture of Cleveland chef Jonathon Sawyer, who looks like he plays backup horn for Dr. John. The noise! But Block Club Chicago’s account of the meeting is a good intro to liquor license politics as they play out in real time (they mispelled Jonathon, though).


I mentioned Wanda Kurek and linked to an old Mike Sula piece last week, but he writes a memory of the late south side Polish tavern owner-chef here.


I don’t know if you know this, but I have the best dog in the whole world. Seriously, I took a poll of four people in my household, and they all agreed that he is the bestest boy—

That’s kind of how I feel about the World’s 50 Best list that comes out every year. There are too many dogs, and too many types of dogs, to believe that a “best in the world” can really mean anything. So it’s a list of a certain kind of art cuisine voted on by a body of people who travel a lot, that’s all. On that basis, something called Mirazur on the Riviera is now #1, the writeup practically admitting that it won because it was its turn. Well, it sounds very pleasant.

Noma is #2, and Gaggan in Bangkok, of which I’ve heard nothing but crushing disappointment with from people who’ve actually been, is #4. (Which is to say, I travel a lot and even I don’t eat that way, though I did just eat at #24, Quintonil.) The U.S. doesn’t make the list until Cosme at #23, and of course Alinea is the only Chicago restaurant (on the top 200, even) at #37.

It’s a big world and there are a lot of best dogs, is all I have to say. I liked Quintonil pretty well, there was a dish involving a tomato steeped in beef flavors that was terrific (and very Smyth-like), but the best thing I ate in Mexico City was at a place that not only doesn’t have a World’s 50 Best number, it probably doesn’t have a name.


I was in Vancouver; see what I had at Instagram starting here, including a Japadog in memory of Anthony “Bordain” [sic].