Seemingly competing for the title of most generically-named restaurant of 2019, we have a new steak and seafood spot out of Columbus, Ohio called Ocean Prime, and Phil Vettel lets us all know how it is: “The menu touches all the expected bases. Fried calamari rings (very good, abetted by a lively sweet-chile sauce), check. Lobster bisque (thicker than it needs to be, especially in the summer), check. Shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, iceberg wedge — check, check, check. This is not necessarily a bad thing; the massive crab cake (check), with horseradish-mustard aioli and a tangle of dressed kale greens, is as good a crab cake as you’ll find anywhere.” Two stars.


Sometimes you just hit a bad stretch of dining-out choices, and the Trib seemed to hit one this week. I can see the utility of Nick Kindelsperger seeing what stands out on Michigan Avenue, even if his talents are better utilized closer to 79th and Stony Island (check Steve Dolinsky’s take on the results). But if you need to know what’s right there, for business lunch purposes or something, here are the places you should know about (and mostly already do) like The Purple Pig, Spiaggia, etc. One you may not know yet… will be the subject of a Fooditor piece shortly. See if you can guess which one!

And Louisa Chu goes to check out what’s new in Chinatown—which honestly ought to be a monthly column. But this would be a weak month, with places like the mysterious ATE Music House: the fact that “it took five separate visits to finally get a chance to taste the food was surely a sign from the Kitchen God. One time the restaurant was closed with no explanation, another the chef supposedly didn’t show up. And even on my last visit, I had to wait an hour for food service to begin, three hours after the restaurant opened.” (It’s located in a mostly unknown little pocket under the expressway which seems to be incapable of taking off; when I did my most recent Chinatown guide, I wrote about a place called Original Steam located there, and by the time I was ready to publish my piece, it had already changed concepts, so I left it out.)


Is anyone in Chicago hip enough for Stephanie Izard’s Cabra? Graham Meyer attempts to answer this deep question: “Izardism means dimension, the layering of contrasting texture or flavor on the main ingredient, as with crunchy corn in the classic ceviche. Nothing is ever one-note. The food’s quality justifies the scene, where a young crowd seems right at home among the close-set tables with sundry chairs, steaming up a dull din that might hamper some conversations.”

Maggie Hennessy went there too and seems to agree that it’s for someone who is not her: “I don’t see myself returning here again and again, though it’s damn good and just the sort of place people flocking to the West Loop are looking for.” She finds the food misses and hits: “In a classic seabass preparation, cubes of fatty bass bathed in milky-sweet leche de tigre tinged with lime, but missed that telltale pucker and flaky texture you expect from fish ‘cooked’ in citrus juice. We fared better with tiraditos, a variation on Peruvian ceviche in which fish are sliced like sashimi rather than cubed and sauced just before eating. Firm and buttery kampachi, soused in nutty chicha morada (a traditional purple corn drink) and sprinkled with ice lettuce, was a subtle, textural delight.”


Remember when fancy hot dogs with exotic toppings were a serious topic of conversation in food writing? We’ve moved on to ramen, poké, who knows what, but the memories come flooding back with Mike Sula’s review of Doggone’s, a Hot Doug’s-style place in Logan Square, rooted in New Orleans, that makes interesting combinations, but he says needs some time: “Flaws in the encased meats themselves seem to stand out even more. Nearly each one I tried was visibly reduced, wrinkled and withdrawn, any former snappiness reduced to a leathery crackle, as if they’d basked in the sun too long.”


Titus Ruscitti gets the first word on Logan Square pseudo-Indian hotspot Superkhana International: “Throw away your authentic cards bc this is best described as fun food with an Indian influence. Nothing here is meant to mimic ‘authenticity’ it’s more like a shout-out to the flavors and creativity of a cuisine that both of the chefs adore. The menu is split up into two easy parts. Veg and Non Veg. An order of Channa Chaat is a good way to start a meal this summer. We’ve been in twice and on one of the days it was scorching hot outside which is a pretty common weather pattern in many parts of India. Chana Chaat is a savory way to cool down. Superkhana makes one with the traditional chickpeas mixed with tamarind, yogurt, sev, and fresh herbs. The perfect example of what makes Indian food so exciting. Lots of flavors and textures.”

Anthony Todd also has a piece talking to the chefs of this much-hyped spot: “‘The way that we cook is that we look for connections between ingredients, cultures and techniques. When we find them, we work with them in a sort of cross-cultural conversation,’ [co-chef Yoshi] Yamada says.”


Titus Ruscitti also visits the subject of this week’s Fooditor piece, pasta restaurant and shop Tortello: “Chiusoni is my current favorite of all the pastas on offer. It’s made with sausage, saffron, and cream which sticks to the pasta like white on rice. The Chiusoni has the perfect bite to it. If you like it bitter Orecchiette is covered in rapini and bread crumbs with chile pepper. Again the pasta’s texture was near perfect.”


Traditional bistro food on the north shore—what, another story about Michael Lachowicz’s restaurants? No, Steve Dolinsky visits a new old school bistro in Highland Park, Chez Benoit, where “Mornings are spent cooking down onions until they’re caramelized and soft for onion soup, or slow-cooking a sauce au poivre, with black pepper, cognac and cream, which will eventually be draped over a classic steak served with perfectly crisp frites.”


Last week Titus Ruscitti (him again?) reported on a trip to Portugal, and this week it’s Fooditor contributor Anne Spiselman, who tells you how to get around an old city with a wheelchair—not easier than you might think, perhaps, but she certainly shows it’s doable.


Right Bee Cider—now that’s how to name a place a couple starts together. I’m glad to find out about the city’s first cider brewery and taproom since Prohibition.


Chicago magazine launches a new video series about where chefs eat—I suspect they will often find them to be pretty utilitarian (and oriented to late night places—remember when every chef’s answer to that question seemed to be the sushi at Paradise Sauna?). But they’re off to a good start with the choices of Mark Steuer of Funkenhausen.

11. THEM

Friend of Fooditor Eve Studnicka has been the “outlaw hostess” of dinners—less pop-ups than gatherings of quirky twentysomethings, leaning LGBTQ—at her apartment known as Dinner at the Grotto. Block Club does a piece on these happenings, where pronoun buttons are handed out at the door and the “vibe ends up being house party meets farm-to-table dining, with guests sprawled in the living room, bedroom, and her small patio while food is rolled out throughout the night.”


Bon Appetit did a piece on Chicago pizzadid you know that it’s not just deep dish, but that actually, Chicagoans often eat a type of thin crust, cut into squares called “tavern cut?” Well, let them tell you all about it. It’s not a bad piece as these go, if not revelatory to Chicagoans a year after we were all talking about Steve Dolinsky’s book; Dolinsky turns up as a source of quotes, though in typical “we don’t know anyone in the Midwest” fashion for a national mag, the Chicago chef they talk to about it is… Top Chef figure Dale Talde, who admittedly grew up and worked here, but has been a restaurateur in Park Slope for a decade and a half. And it wouldn’t be a national article about a Chicago food without many of the quotes describing our local favorites as terrible in some way (“Chef and writer Amy Thielen echoes a similar sentiment. ‘The square-cut shape is its downfall,’ she says. ‘When you think of pizza, you think of an iconic triangle shape. You don’t think of a square.’” How do we even stay alive in the face of such challenges to daily nutrition?)


We were just talking about how charming ramen noodles look in cartoon form, and then I saw this on Facebook (h/t Shirley the Hammer): An Illustrated Compendium of Chinese Baos.


Best food tweet of the weekend, from Friend of Fooditor Whet Moser: “New York Bagel and Bialy is hiring a baker, this might be someone’s destiny”


Saying that I like eating in the suburbs sometimes because it reminds me of eating in the city five or ten years ago is just asking for a punching. But I mean it in a good way. The city can get so trendy—poolside Peruvian! Butter chicken calzone!—that it can be relaxing to catch up with things you liked a while back that have stood the test of time, but that you couldn’t do in the city now, without some kind of spin to make it feel up to the minute.

So I checked out a place called The Heritage in Forest Park—not to be confused with The Heritage Caviar Bar in the city—and was happy to find farm to table dining in all its honest, earnest glory, from the white subway tiles on the wall to the familiar farmers’ names on the menu. Cauliflower tempura-fried with espelette pepper, a duck egg with tuna aioli to scoop onto Publican Quality bread (hint to staff: that one needs a spoon next time), a brined-almost-to-confit roasted chicken sitting on a brightly comfy salad of corn, squash and shishito peppers—this was my happy, fresh-tasting comfort food, and if it did exist in the city, it would be packed. Instead it was half full on Friday night, Forest Parkers apparently sticking more to what they know at Jimmy’s or the ten million Irish pubs on Madison. But want a getaway from Logan or the West Loop some evening? This is it (you could even get there by CTA, as it’s just a few blocks’ walk from the end of the Blue Line).