I saw that the cover story on the conservative intellectual journal Commentary (half of a famous joke in Annie Hall) was about food. Seemed a bit far afield for Buzz List—until I found a familiar name right at the opening:

In 2018, Abe Conlon won a James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Great Lakes Region for his work at Fat Rice. The restaurant had been a local favorite since it opened its doors in 2012. In 2015, it was proclaimed by Chicago magazine “the most universally beloved restaurant in Chicago.”…

In the summer of 2020, the restaurant’s proprietors sought to convey their support for the anti-police protests that had erupted across the country with some Instagram activism. So the restaurant posted a few anodyne images of protests and a message: “We remain dedicated to our values, we oppose all forms of racism, and we stand with those fighting for justice and equality in our communities in Chicago and across the world.” A former employee savaged the restaurant for what he deemed its insufficient gesture of support for racial justice. “You’re not going to say #BlackLivesMatter, even though you take from Black culture ALL the time?” he wrote.

With that, the dam burst. A handful of former restaurant employees took to social media to allege that Conlon was abusive and his business practices were racist. The New York Times described the chef as the “restaurant-business archetype: a tantrum-prone chef who rules by fear and bullying,” and said the outrage that was consuming his business showed a “growing intolerance for a type of verbal mistreatment that has long been accepted as routine in the industry.” These are two explicit admissions that what Conlon was accused of was, in essence, standard chef practice. Perhaps they are standard in a way that should not be tolerated. But they are standard, nonetheless.

And none of this mattered much anyway. After all, it wasn’t the claim that Conlon was a prima donna that did him in; it was the allegation of “cultural appropriation.”

Well, a somewhat simplified version of l’Affaire Fat Rice, but not wrong—it certainly conveys the key point, which is the level of hysteria that rose up out of something pretty small (people were initially mad, not that Fat Rice disagreed with #BlackLivesMatter sentiments, but that they didn’t agree in exactly the right way). Also, remember that the awful way that awful Fat Rice was “tak[ing] from Black culture ALL the time” was by… playing hiphop in the restaurant.

Anyway, not to rehash the Fat Rice business for the umpteenth time, but it’s cited as one type of example among many in Noah Rothman’s piece, “You Are What You Don’t Eat,” for the premise that food and restaurants have become a battlefield for a kind of neo-Puritanism. in which what matters is how righteous you are in your intentions, not if it gives you pleasure (how vulgar). Two more examples:

“We cannot go about our lives as if they were only ours,” wrote We Are the Weather author Jonathan Safran Foer, who talked about his personal struggle against meat’s temptations in almost revelatory terms. “I ate meat a number of times,” he confessed. Worse, it “brought me comfort.” Foer ached over his misdeed. “How could I argue for radical change, how could I raise my children as vegetarians, while eating meat for comfort?” he asked. “Confronting my hypocrisy has reminded me how difficult it is to even try to live my values.”…

“We should be eating bugs to save the world,” the entomologist Phil Torres told the Atlantic that same year. His arguments are familiar: Bug farming uses less land. It produces far fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Bugs are better for you, though 100 grams of insects provides about half as much protein as the same amount of chicken, so you’ll have to eat a ton of bugs. Finally, it’s an exciting change of pace! Only in passing does Torres contend that they “taste good,” though he qualified this aside by noting that you may occasionally “get a cricket leg in your tooth.”

I’m not surprised that the degree to which food, even epicureanism, has become central to culture in the last few decades has produced a pleasure-denying backlash—or that in combination with social media, that sort of thing has ratcheted up into a particular nastiness against the sinners who still want to do things like eat meat and not bugs, or eat food of cultures not their own:

Somewhere along the way, the New Puritan has become obsessed with, well, purity. A certain class of activist treats creativity, composition, and synthesis in cuisine as if they’re an act of sabotage. Today, within certain circles, the distinction between cultural fusion and “cultural appropriation” has blurred beyond the point of recognition.

It’s a wide-ranging and thoughtful piece that covers way more than I can do justice to in a media digest piece, so read it for yourself. You will find more sinning Chicagoans in it along the way—though no mention of the minigenre that’s responsible for most of what’s awful in America today… TIKI BARS!


The scam is that bots slam top restaurants with one-star Google reviews, sending their ratings downward—unless they pay up. The accessory part is that Google makes it next to impossible to get the obviously phony ratings removed, and thus are providing a platform for blackmail. I just read a piece about how it was happening in San Francisco, but heard it was happening to restaurants here—and now Nick Kindelsperger reports on it:

Phillip Foss, chef and owner of EL Ideas, said he first noticed the negative reviews Wednesday, and then received an email asking for money. Foss has flagged each suspicious review on Google but had not heard back from the company as of Thursday.

Sochi complained ten days ago and were told they’d get a response in a few days, which they have not. If Google will not act, they are communicating that we should regard all Google reviews as potentially fraudulent and thus, worthless.

Google also owns Zagat and The Infatuation.


Nick Kindelsperger goes to a place with a gimmick… and says it’s for real:

I tried my best to ignore 2d Restaurant, which opened with long lines and a torrent of social media attention in February….

But months later, it’s clear 2d Restaurant is here to stay. While the design is as stunning and Instagram-ready as you would expect, the fascinating menu is worth trying too.


Titus Ruscitti hits Sabroso! Mexican Grill, which I have not been to but recognized its sign instantly (it’s in a very visible spot on Ashland):

A few of the reviews mention the California Burrito. It’s a popular regional dish in Southern California and especially the San Diego area. It’s one of those things people will sometimes ask about as far as where to find one in Chicago. If I’m being real they’re never as good as I think they’re going to be but some people really love them like they grew up on them. The Cali Burrito consists of all the traditional fillings of an Americanized burrito but instead of rice and beans it’s made with fries (plus carne asada, guac, pico de gallo, and cheese).


Anthony Todd on what’s happening with two favorite bakeries, Publican Quality Bread and Hewn.


Speaking of bakeries, Eater has an interesting piece on something most of us never think about: flour has annual crops like everything else that grows, and the current one is much drier than in years past, something bakers are learning the hard way:

At Aya Pastry, croissant-making is a three-day process with many steps. [Owner Aya] Fukai and her staff went through every single one to figure out where they’d gone wrong. They decided it probably wasn’t equipment failure. They double-checked the math on the recipe and determined that it had been scaled correctly. By process of elimination, that meant there was a problem with one of the ingredients. The water they were using hadn’t changed. Perhaps it was the yeast? The bread was still rising — slightly less than usual, but it was recognizable as bread. That left the flour.

As it happened, the bakery had recently received a new shipment of Red Rose flour from its supplier, Central Milling in Logan, Utah — the first batch from the spring wheat harvest.


David Hammond has been out in California, and has a roundup of native foods. Example:

Rice-a-Roni, yes, it is, indeed, the quintessential San Francisco treat in a box, familiar to anyone who grew up in the sixties and seventies: it’s a convenience food, of course, but one that once enjoyed a lot of popularity. A mix of rice, vermicelli and seasonings, Rice-a-Roni has a mild flavor, so you can eat it with almost anything, and texturally, it’s a little more interesting than plain old rice. Vincent M. DeDomenico, son of a pastamaker who came to California from Italy, invented Rice-a-Roni by adding some powdered chicken soup mix to his rice and macaroni, et voila.


It’s Monday, so someone must be naming Kasama‘s Genie Kwon and Tim Flores as chefs of the year. This time it’s The Robb Report:

Despite the pandemic, they were still able to get the business on its feet with patio and takeout service with people queuing up down the block early in the morning for Kwon’s delectable pastries and Flores’ outstanding longanisa-sausage breakfast sandwiches. And although they had originally planned it to be a casual à la carte spot at night, after staring down the economic uncertainty the pandemic had wrought, they decided that reimagining Kasama’s dinner service as a tasting-menu-only destination made more financial sense.


Steve Dolinsky checks out a couple of places doing non-dairy frozen treats, including the oat milk coffee shake at Wicker Park’s Vaca’s Creamery. Though it’ll be tough to beat the vegan faux-Fudgsicle at Pretty Cool, which is platonic ideal stuff.


This time, a person: James Beard award winner Joanne Molinaro, The Korean Vegan and until recently a Chicagoan, is the latest guest on the Kimchi Kids podcast.


A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Big Guys Sausage Stand’s fundraiser; happily the restaurant, newly refurbished, reopened on Friday, as owner Brendan O’Connor explained on Facebook.


At Resy, Angela Burke interviews Diana Davila (Mi Tocaya Antojeria) about being “Midwest-Mexican”:

I’m happy that I moved away from Chicago for a bit, years ago. I love my city, and moving away really put things into perspective. I feel like for my whole life I’ve always heard about Midwestern hospitality, but I didn’t understand what it was until I left for a while. There’s nothing like it — people are genuinely nice here. I can walk down the street and people will catch you and say, “hello.” It’s those little things that you may take for granted. Also, because I’ve been working in this industry since I was a teenager, I can say the camaraderie between chefs, cooks, and everybody in this industry — I feel like it’s genuinely supportive.


Longtime Chicago media columnist Robert Feder is retiring, and Eric Zorn, ex of the Trib, and Neil Steinberg of the Sun-Times took him out to lunch to find out more. Zorn has the full transcript, but Steinberg calls out the most trenchant comment from Feder:

“All the businesses I’m covering are in decline,” he said. “All three business models are broken, for television, radio and newspapers. Everything’s changing, and unless I really want to devote myself to learn about it and learn the people and learn where things are going, I think I would be doing a disservice by continuing. So it just all seemed like it was time.”

14. JULIA 2

At first I though HBO Max had simply produced new art for the Julia Child TV series with Sarah Lancashire, but it turns out that they’re now streaming a documentary made in 2021, also called Julia. It’s well worth seeing, not least for the fidelity it reveals the TV series displayed to its real-life characters like producer Russ Morash.


Dan Wolf, owner of the longtime deli chain The Bagel (a standard lunch spot after letting the kids run around Old Orchard mall), was not only a Holocaust survivor, he was literally born in the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1945. He responded, according to Block Club, by growing up to be, as the headline says, a mensch:

When employees were short on their mortgage payments, Wolf would offer financial assistance. When their kids were sick, he’d make sure they had the right doctors. He was known to give free soup, bagels or sandwiches to people experiencing homelessness when they’d stop by the restaurant.

“He was always giving to people because that’s just who he was,” said Richard Brantner, general manager of The Bagel. “He was just a real mensch.”

Wolf just passed away at 77. May his memory be a blessing.