I didn’t mention the news last week that Curtis Duffy and Michael Muser’s new restaurant would be named Ever and open next spring. I didn’t really have anything to say; Phil Vettel’s piece summed up everything we know so far (better than the New York Times’, which dwelled on old Grace news) and beyond that, well, I wrote about Ever in the theoretical when I wrote about high end tasting menus recently, and quoted Muser extensively on how he sees building a restaurant like that should be. We don’t know much about Ever yet, but I doubt it will contradict anything he says there.

But with the opening of St. Clair Supper Club this week from Alinea Group, this week I have something to say.

They’re linked because, of course, they both have roots in Alinea when it opened. Duffy was Grant Achatz’s right hand man then, back in ’05. (Interestingly, if you ask Duffy what he did there, his answer will be less about dishes than about helping design the kitchen.) And he has been the disciple most devoted to the true faith—to opening restaurants at the highest level of cuisine, design and service, so they rival Alinea in the eyes of international food media. Humble and approachable personally, he is nevertheless devoted to the restaurant as chef’s temple, to which you pay homage in hopes of receiving a transcendent experience.

So are Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas at Alinea, but their restaurants since have steadily grown less formal, taken on more of a party feel. Roister is boisterous, an open kitchen in the room (where the cooks will studiously avoid noticing the customers at the bar), and The St. Clair Supper Club—which is in Roister’s basement space—evokes an old-fashioned experience, the Wisconsin supper club, and not in the way Next would have, by burying it under fall leaves to give off Proustian whiffs of midwestern boyhood. It’s a menu of 1950s food, prime rib, meatloaf, creamed corn and so on, presented no doubt at a high executional level but to judge by the menu as it reads, fairly straightforwardly.

The funniest comments on the menu so far come from the Wisconsin Supper Club Movie account on Facebook (which belongs to Ron Faiola, author of a book on supper clubs). He (and the comments that follow) express complete cheesehead incredulity at the F.I.B. Chicago version with its inflated prices: “The menu has $14 old fashioneds, a $44 fish fry, prime rib cuts in the $48-$75 range and $12 sides (ala carte menu). If that wasn’t tempting enough, there are strict rules: prime rib is only served medium rare, maximum table seating is four guests, with reservations paid for in advance and NO vegetarian options. Sounds like a whole lot of fun, right?”

As far as the prices go, well, the West Loop ain’t Oostburg, real estate-wise, and anyway, I’ve been skeptical of some of Roister’s high-priced items, only to be pretty wowed by things like Andrew Brochu’s chicken (I can’t seem to find the exact price when it opened, but somewhere around $70), which was more like three dishes in one, ample and fantastic. Where I think the temple of cuisine mindset and the comfort food concept might clash is less over prices than those “strict rules.” I know a couple of people who were disenchanted with Next over time because of the kitchen’s inflexibility—being served three of something for a party of four, making guests split a bowl of rice at an Asian-themed meal, etc. Next Steak seemed to particularly provoke complaints of this—wanting to evoke a steakhouse without actually letting you be a baller steakhouse customer, your wish is their command.

So here we are. Curtis Duffy can make you go along with his way because of the promise that his way will lead to something extraordinary. But St. Clair Supper Club is a retro comfort food concept—will diners be willing in such a setting to be subservient to the kitchen and concept, or will they expect to be the ones being coddled, as they would be at the Hob Nob or Ishnala? It will be interesting to see if this circle can be squared… in a basement in the West Loop, not overlooking the Dells.


I’ll link the one story that’s online so far, but if you see a box with CS magazines in it around town, grab the new Restaurant issue—it’s rare to get to leaf through a food story in glossy print like this any more. Highlights include a ten most exciting restaurants list—and if you note the omission of Galit, see the review here: “[Chef-co-owner Zach] Engel, who came up in celebrated Israeli restaurants like Shaya in New Orleans and Philadelphia’s Zahav, doesn’t shy away from dishes that might be less familiar to guests; the Iraqi kubbeh halab ($14 for two) is an oblong fritter of lamb wrapped in a crisp saffron crust that feels street food-level indulgent. Balkan-style lamb-stuffed cabbage ($23) is another one that might catch diners off guard with its spicy, pungent flavors.”


No, not that Momo, but the Nepalese dumplings served at Momo World in University Village: “The momo is a dumpling similar in some respects to the Korean mandu, the Japanese gyoza, and the Chinese soup dumpling, or xiao long bao. In Tibet, the momo’s ancestral home, they’re often stuffed with yak meat. In Kathmandu, where Budhathoki comes from, water buffalo momo are prized. And since water buffalo is hard to come by here, the Budhathokis stuff dumpling wrappers with paneer, chicken, pork, vegetables, fish, and even chocolate. They steam them, fry them, saute, and sauce them, or serve them in soup—johl achar, to be specific, a thin, tomatoey broth with soybeans and sesame sauce that is another specialty of Budhathoki’s hometown.” (Reader)


Anthony Todd talks to Michael Lachowicz about the three restaurants that Winnetka’s Restaurant Michael has turned into—lavish Georges Trois, informal and busy Aboyer, and hushed and formal Silencieux: “According to Lachowicz, everyone over 60 basically didn’t want anything to change – they liked the classic food, the quiet ambiance and the high quality service that Restaurant Michael was known for. Everyone under 60 had a different perspective. ‘They wanted me to change everything but the food quality and the service.’ Younger guests wanted less formality, a more raucous atmosphere, and a different vibe. ‘They told me, ‘we don’t want to sit in a dining room with our grandparents’ friends.’”


Could have used these a few days ago—Steve Dolinsky on two new ice cream treats, the new soft serve choices at Honey Butter Fried Chicken, made with Kilgus Dairy cream, and the Asian flavors at Rakki Cafe in Wicker Park.


He doesn’t have a Galley Boy at Swenson’s, but Titus Ruscitti checks out five classic burgers in Ohio, as well as El Asadero Colombiano, a new Columbian restaurant in the northwest side space best known for Beefbelly.


Central Asian food has grown steadily in Chicago, largely unnoticed. On Worldview recently, Monica Eng talked Kyrgyz food with a local Kyrgyz community leader, Kairat Mavlyankulov.


Christopher Borrelli talks to Iliana Regan, currently resident at her glamping locale Milkweed in Michigan, about her new memoir Burn The Place. He asks her to talk about five formative food experiences; one was French onion soup, a perfect midwestern idea of French fancy food: “It was rich and salty and beefy and had lots of cheese. They made really good bread. Not like the bread we make now, with natural leaven. It was yeasted but oily and soft. I was never an onion fan, but my sisters talked about this soup, and I didn’t want it. Then finally, when I tried it, I ordered three bowls. It taught me to stretch a little.”


Oh come on, there isn’t really something called Madame Vanderkloot’s Wiener Emporium at the Taste of Chicago, is there? That has to be a joke. Anyway, the Trib has a guide to offerings at the Taste this year, for those who care.


Help celebrate the release of Hugh Amano and Sarah Becan’s Let’s Make Ramen comic cookbook; for $20 more you can even get dinner from Ramen Lord Mike Satinover. The publication party is at the Cards Against Humanity theater on July 18; get your tickets here.


Tried some new things and liked them! Which increases their odds of being in the next Fooditor 99 this holiday season—yes, I’m already at work on it. You can ensure your autographed copy and help support Fooditor by supporting our Patreon here—at the higher levels you’ll get a signed book plus extra recommendations just for Patreon supporters.

Cebu might be the next Filipino breakout restaurant, doing Filipino flavors with unusual care and subtlety. Adobo chicken was some of the best roasted chicken of any sort I’ve had lately; pork belly lechon was similarly deeply flavored, with gorgeous crackling skin, while Bam-I (pancit noodles) were first-rate, studded with slices of Chinese sausage. I recommend it, with a couple of caveats to note: there’s not a lot that isn’t pork on the menu, so be aware of that. And  the combination of big platters of food and eating the whole meal off tiny appetizer plates does the food a disservice, as you can barely get one thing at a time onto your plate and sauces run together and so on.

Tortello in Wicker Park has an interesting concept—they make housemade pasta all day in the window, and you can either order at the counter and sit, or order to take home. Honestly, the pasta is so nicely made—I especially liked the cuisone (I think) made with saffron, and plump tortelli stuffed with burrata—and also upscale-restaurant priced, that the casual, ice cream parlor-like setting seems to undersell the experience. On the other hand, maybe they’ll make it up selling to go orders for the neighborhood, that seemed to be a popular choice. Anyway, as one of my sons said, “I forget how good just pasta can be sometimes.” It is here.

The Little Meatball is a pizza and Italian sandwich spot near DePaul; I ordered takeout pizza from there early in the week and was very happy with the old school thin crust, which convincingly tasted like an old neighborhood favorite. I’ll be back to check out other things some time.