I’m trying to adjust to the new food world of 2022, and trying to be open-minded and generous about things changing in ways that are driven by lack of staff, rising commodity prices and so on. I don’t even bitch about QR code menus. (Much.) But I had a weird experience. Went to a neighborhood spot for a quick lunch—the kind of place I might expect never even to have heard of computers. (No, not Mr. D’s Shish Kabob, but good guess.)

In fact as soon as I walked in, I was greeted by a computer screen—and no humans. Which was a little unnerving—how could I be sure they weren’t being held at gunpoint in the back? But I proceeded to the computer screen, and placed an order as if I were at home using GrubHub. It worked fine, I figured when someone came out to cook, I could tell them the thing I had no way of telling the computer (that I wanted grilled, not raw onions). Cold, but efficient.

Then I get to the pay screen—and it gives me the usual options for a tip, 10%, 15%, 20%. But here’s the question—who am I tipping, and for what, precisely? To this point I’ve not even seen, let alone been served by, a person. Essentially the computer is requesting a tip for itself. That just seems… off. Even when I tip a delivery guy I may never actually see, I’m tipping a presumed human for a presumed personal service. But so far, I’ve had no human interaction—all the serving was done by me for myself. Am I wrong for thinking this no more deserves a tip than a vending machine does?

Eventually humans will come out and make my food. I would not object to tipping them—though in a conventional old-school diner, the waitress’ tip would not get shared with them anyway. Which raises the question—if I did tip, who would it go to—the owner who put the computer in? That’s the thing that bugs me in the end—things are changing about the restaurant experience, but not being thought through properly, to the point where you’re expected to kick over another 15 or 20%—for what and to whom? You just don’t know.


Nick Kindelsperger makes a shocking confession in his review of Obelix:

I’ve dreaded reviewing Obelix, because I’d have to grapple with one of my least popular Chicago restaurant opinions: I find Le Bouchon boring. I’m baffled when local food writers fawn over it. That overly creamy and buttery French food lands near the bottom of things I crave.

Which makes Obelix all the more unexpected. It shows that the Poilevey brothers want a French restaurant freed from tradition and the expectations that come along with it. The more risks they take, the better the outcome.

Well, what I like about Le Bouchon is that the classic French dishes have passed through boredom with, say, caramelizing onions every night for 20 years and emerged on the other side of zen acceptance and sublimity. That’s something that relatively few restaurants can do—and I doubt it will ever happen with a foie gras taco, which is not to say that new things aren’t interesting in and of themselves. But if a section on a menu calling out “Les Classiques” is not for you, well, it is for me.


There was a time when Titus Ruscitti had to go deep into the neighborhoods to find his discoveries no one else had written about. Now he can write about places in trendy parts of town and they’re still pretty new to coverage. At least Lardon has gotten some attention:

As far as the charcuterie goes most of it is made on site so I suggest ordering whatever it is you typically like. I especially like the Finocchiona since I love fennel. But I also like the spicy cuts like Salame Calabrese and Coppa. They’re all excellent and made even better when paired with some local Midwest cheese which I always like to get when I see any on offer.

Wazwan, too:

There was a time when Indian food was mostly takeout and the decor at most of these places was low key. But over the last five years Indian food has started to become much more common and not just for takeout. Spots like Wazwan, ran by first generation chefs, are popping up not just here but everywhere.

Here’s one that’s completely new, KALA Modern Greek:

Despite the fact that Greektown is one of the city’s more well known neighborhoods there’s not much Greek left to it. So it’s always been assumed that Chicago has lots of Greek food on offer. Yes and no. We’ve long had Greek restaurants but many have closed and not many opened for a long period until about four or five years ago when Greek food started becoming popular again. It’s become especially trendy for freshly cooked quick service type spots where you can get in and out for under $20 (remember when it was $10?). KALA Modern Greek is one of the better ones I’ve been too. The menu is full of intriguing options including the zucchini fritters which came out piping hot plus crisp and creamy from the breaded shreds of zucchini. You can get these on a salad or in a sandwich too.


Grand Avenue near downtown has long been a bit of an Italian corridor—notably Bari and D’Amato’s Bakery right next to each other—so Steve Dolinsky reports on the old and the new spots along this strip, including Tempesta, Gemma Foods for freshmade pasta, and Paulo Gelato.


We’re all so used to Boka restaurants getting bigger and bigger that this news is kind of surprising: Little Goat Diner is moving, and shrinking in the process, into the former Southport Lanes bowling alley, which will become home to three Boka Group restaurants, the second one Lee Wolen’s GG’s Chicken Shop and the third yet to be announced.

Why is Little Goat leaving the West Loop? According to Rob Katz (the “ka” in Boka) in Eater Chicago, it’s mainly a staffing issue:

Serving three meals a day means hiring, training, and managing an enormous number of employees — a lift so significant that Little Goat has cut out dinner service for the time being. “[The diner] is wildly busy — I don’t know if we’ve ever been busier than we are today,” says Katz. “But the diner model of breakfast, lunch, and dinner has become exceedingly difficult in the pandemic and post-pandemic world of extreme labor shortages — it takes an army to put forth that effort.”

It will take a smaller army with capacity reduced from around 150 to 50, but one also tends to think that the numbers look better for Little Goat—the most moderately priced of Stephanie Izard’s array of West Loop restaurants—paying Lakeview rent, rather than West Loop rent. And as a Roscoe Village resident (half a mile from Little Goat’s future location), I can tell you—people here love their brunch. Anyway, it reminds me of something Kevin Boehm (the “bo” in Boka) said about them first moving to the West Loop, and playing a major role in its becoming an insanely expensive dining district, in this Fooditor roundtable some years ago:

When we started, we built three restaurants in Lincoln Park, and honestly, we were scared off by the rents downtown. “They’re paying how much? I want to stay down here and pay our $15 a foot.” That was actually our attitude—we were really happy being the middleweights. “That’s for the heavyweights down there, let them do that.” But eventually you look at it on the spreadsheet, and the density’s there, and you can be busy at five o’clock and at eleven o’clock. And that made the move make sense.

And now, when you can’t staff that eleven o’clock shift, it makes sense to move back to the north side, at least for this restaurant.


Lacey Irby, co-owner of the delightful Dear Margaret, laments a recent experience with a Yelp reviewer, on Facebook. The customers were so obnoxious they were being shushed by the other guests’ servers. They complained on Yelp, and Lacey let them have it, politely, with both barrels:

Hi, Katie. We’re sorry you felt reprimanded for your inexplicably loud and inappropriate tone in our intimate, 36-seat restaurant. Several tables pulled us aside, finished their meals early, and left unsatisfied because your table of six was in fact too loud, and it had nothing to do with your “energy” and everything to do with the volume you were yelling at your tablemates and screaming obscenities at each other that carried across our dining room. When we came by to politely cue you into the acoustics of our vintage space, we hoped you’d get the picture to bring it down a notch. But you took it as an opportunity to ask your server who in our dining room had complained (FYI, literally everyone) and to brag very loudly you have been kicked out of other restaurants. That’s fine if you didn’t like your meal, but I didn’t hear from you once during the night that there was any issue with your food—so that’s super shitty to come onto Yelp and say something like this when it was your behavior in the first place that has us in this very predicament. Please, do not come back.


Audarshia Townsend writes about how Alpana Singh pairs food with wine at her restaurant Alpana, giving three examples from the menu.


Cynthia Clampitt, who was interviewed about pigs at Fooditor and has a new book on food tales from the midwest, tells about one place full of tales, and even more full of cheese: Monroe, Wisconsin:

Monroe is the last place in the United States that makes Limburger, the famously fragrant cheese. Drive a few miles through the rolling, green countryside, and you’ll come to the Chalet Cheese Co-operative, the last remaining source. The factory, pristinely white and perched on a hill overlooking the surrounding farms, has a store where you can stock up on this and other offerings. Of course, there is a history. Nickolaus Gerber, who arrived in Green County in 1868, established the first Limburger factory here. Limburger (invented in Belgium, in the Duchy of Limburg) was a popular working man’s cheese, and other Swiss and German immigrants were soon producing it. However, this cheese was so closely associated with beer (and a stein will certainly help the odoriferous cheese go down), that sales were devastated during Prohibition. Only the Chalet Cheese Co-op soldiered on.


Jeff & Jude’s was one of those places that got so much attention in the run-up to opening that it seemed to kind of vanish after that; the deli-based spot, which did very good bread and black and white cookies. ran for two years but closed in June. The space is now becoming a diner, which is a rare thing to see open now, called the Do-Over Diner, run by a former Jeff & Jude’s manager, Hanna Coleman:

Jeff & Judes owner Ursula Siker is still involved in the restaurant, but has moved to a consulting role as she prepares to switch careers and move to New York.

Siker said she and Coleman envisioned the diner as a more natural fit for the location than Jeff & Judes, especially because of its proximity to nearby bars and music venues like Sportman’s Club and the Empty Bottle.

(Block Club Chicago)


The guest on Michael Muser’s Amuzed podcast this week is Vladimir Kharitonsky—and if you don’t know the name, you may have run your hands along his work, because he did the striated “canyon walls” that lead you into Ever. But so far the most interesting part is how in the USSR, rock records would be carved, one at a time, onto the plastic of old x-rays.

Meanwhile, Monica Eng talks dive bars and gyros on Nick DiGilio’s podcast.


The LEE Initiative, which did a lot of feeding people during lockdown, is holding a fundraiser on August 1 at Lone Wolf Tavern. The star attraction will be a special whiskey made for them by Makers Mark: “CommUNITY Batch, a unique expression of whisky that was created with notes from bourbon societies around the country. 100% of the proceeds from the sales of this bourbon help fund The LEE Initiaitive’s programs. On August 1, CommUNITY Batch will be available at two events at Lone Wolf Tavern. One is a pizza party where guests can enjoy food and limited edition Maker’s Mark cocktails and then take home a bottle of CommUNITY Batch and another is for guests to pick up a bottle and pizza to go.” Go here to get more info and tickets.


Don Lubin helped create the world we live in—but you’ve probably never heard of him, because you’re never going to hear about McDonald’s lawyer. Maureen O’Donnell in the Sun-Times tells his story:

In 1967, at 33, he became the youngest member of McDonald’s board of directors. He stayed 40 years, becoming its longest-serving director.

“They just went off and conquered the hamburger world,” said Harold C. Hirshman, a lawyer with the firm Dentons, where Mr. Lubin practiced for more than 60 years. “He negotiated the sale from the McDonald brothers to Ray. Ray got the right to franchise himself before he knew Don, but the McDonald brothers still had certain rights; it was important that they be purchased. So Don handled that. Don was there when they opened the first store in Russia.”


Went to 312 Fish Market in the food court inside the grocery store at 88 Marketplace in Chinatown (hold that thought). For food court sushi, it’s of good enough quality, though I found many things too sweet, like the rice, or the ponzu sauce on a roll. I mentioned this to John Kessler who said that was typical for Chinese-owned sushi. Well, I don’t know that I’ve had Chinese sushi before, though plenty of Korean and probably some Thai in Chicago, but makes sense.

One thing I want to kvetch about, though. A couple of times now I’ve read someone calling the location of 88 Marketplace as being “East Pilsen.” Technically that may be true, though since Pilsen is not one of the official 77 Chicago neighborhood designations (it’s within the Lower West Side), you could call it whatever you want. In which case it seems silly to call it East Pilsen when it’s not near anything we associate with Pilsen—it’s both east and several blocks south of the 18th street commercial strip. What the new Chinese retail complex is near is—can you guess?—Chinatown (also not an official neighborhood designation; Chinatown is officially Armour Square). It would make far more sense to say that the Chinese market just over the river is in “West Chinatown”—but I wonder if some are starting to feel hesitant about using a race-tinged term like “Chinatown.” Safer to just name it… something Czech, that means Mexican to Chicagoans in 2022.