A policeman squats on a black man’s neck, ignores his protests, the man dies. Days later, the officials who still hadn’t charged the policeman say, apparently the victim had high blood pressure and might have taken some drugs. Things happen!

Protests erupt in cities around the country. In Chicago, a march makes its way through downtown. The police presence swarms around it. Smashing windows and looting breaks out. (There’s an instant debate online about whether those responsible are antifa or white supremacists. I strongly suspect they’re pro-smashists. Kind of don’t want to give them credit for a thought-out political philosophy beyond that.)

The Picasso sculpture is graffitied. Central Camera, 121 years old, burns—the owner rescuing only a single camera that had belonged to his grandfather. A Tribune photojournalist had her cameras stolen.

The police cut off downtown; the CTA shuts down. Mayor Lightfoot imposes a curfew—leaving many protesters stuck downtown where it’s suddenly illegal to be.

The Tribune furloughed more reporters at midnight, because what is there to cover?

So that was Saturday night. Sunday morning, Michael Nahabedian went to Brindille, his River North restaurant with his cousin Carrie.

The front windows were smashed; an anti-police slogan painted on one that remained. (It contained the same word that Mayor Lightfoot had hinted she would use toward President Trump.)

So Michael Nahabedian, after sharing a couple of pictures online, started cleaning up. He soon had help in Chef Dean Zanella and his daughters. Someone else brought tacos for the cleanup crew.

These are restaurant people. They don’t talk (and oh God, is there so much talk online right now, so many forms of You’re Doing Racial Justice Wrong). They just do. They make themselves useful.

This is what I love about the restaurant community, why I devote myself to writing about them. Have they solved all the problems in the world? Of course not. But in a crisis which has the potential to decimate their industry, they race to make food for others, they pitch in to clean up others’ messes. They’ll get the shaft in the end from government, all the governments that have armed their police with military gear and failed to reform and professionalize their police departments and will funnel the coronavirus aid to the well-connected first.

And yet they’ll still help. They’ll still help clean up and rebuild and ensure that everybody gets a hot meal, made well. That’s who they are. They are the hope in the morning after a terrible night.


In events such as 2020 keeps throwing at us, can we still believe in the pleasure, the aesthetics, the aspirations of exceptional food? We will again. In the latest episode, I speak with Chris Chacko of Sparrow Coffee; Sparrow’s roastery is down 97% of its restaurant-based business, but the Naperville cafe is doing well as its community rallies behind it. We talk about that, about how Chacko became a coffee roaster, and then he really gets excited talking about the Indian food he makes at home. Listen here or here:


Last week I was a bit scornful of the lack of action from Mayor Lightfoot on beginning outdoor seating, but Tuesday the plans came out, and they sounded pretty good (listen to Fooditor Radio Tuesday for the reaction of an actual restaurateur). The plan is for outdoor dining to begin on Wednesday the 3rd, with six streets around the city closed to traffic to allow seating on the street, including the side streets off of Randolph Street, Broadway in Lakeview, Rush Street, Little Village, Taylor Street and 75th street (near Lem’s and Brown Sugar Bakery). There was also talk of extending the current 9 pm curfew for liquor sales.

But all that was before the demonstrations and the new 9 pm curfew (for being out at all). It seems likely that the Wednesday opening date will be pushed back. According to Eater, “Lightfoot said the city will waive patio permit fees, as the city wants to bring as many restaurants back as possible,” but Scott Worsham (mfk./Bodega Biscay) said on Facebook that he was charged the usual fee:

#cityofchicago thank you for your support of local restaurants by demanding the $600 patio permit fee and your taxed portion of the Covid-19 check fee to offset our extra expenditures for PPE during this time of zero income. Glad to see we are all in this together, you bloodsuckers.

Speaking of Covid-19 surcharges, Ariel Cheung reports on restaurants’ efforts to impose them—and the blowback they may incur.


Lee Wolen is the latest on the comfort food bandwagon with a chicken sandwich popup, GG’s Chicken Shop. Time Out has more.

Lula Cafe is offering its “classic farm dinner” as a meal kit.

Etta launched a weekend market with hot foods for immediate consumption.

Rickshaw Republic, the city’s only Indonesian restaurant (I think!), has reopened for takeout.

Regalis Foods and Brasserie by Cookies & Carnitas will have their next market on June 7—and apparently it’s not nailed down but a certain local ramen specialist may be offering his wares. Go here.

Can you believe another food hall opening? There will be an announcement Wednesday for one inside the renovated Cook County Hospital complex, called Dr. Murphy’s Food Hall. More to come…

Eater reports on a bootleg cocktail maker. Considering how that kind of attention worked out for the Tamale Guy…


One of the hottest tickets in town is at new sandwich fave Hermosa, where Cambodian owner Ethan Lim has started offering authentic Khmer dishes, as Mike Sula reports: “Gone are the buffalo chicken and chicken parm—to make room for mee kula, a dish that comes from the Kula minority group in western Cambodia. Rice noodles tossed with pickled cucumbers, crunchy bean sprouts, preserved radish bits, crushed peanuts, and the light marine funk of dried shrimp powder and fish sauce, it hits a dozen pleasure points at once.”

One of the recipes, incidentally, will be in a recipe book that the Reader is putting out to benefit itself and the Comp Tab relief fund for restaurant workers; go here for more info.


Michael Nagrant talks to Jimmy Papadopolous of Bellemore. One thing we learn is, he’s not that Greek: “I wasn’t raised in a traditional Greek family. I didn’t go to Greek school. I don’t speak it. People instantly hear the name and they want me to do Greek. When I cook at home, I want to eat delicious fun well rounded meals. That’s kind of what we’re doing with the takeout, the jerk chicken dinner.”


Eater reported that Brendan Sodikoff was closing the venerable California Clipper (and attached C.C. Ferns) because the rent was too damn… due, when they were closed: “Sodikoff says his company, Hogsalt Hospitality (Au Cheval, Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf), wasn’t able to come to an agreement with the property’s landlord that would make sense for the bar and coffee shop to remain as tenants… He declined to talk specifics regarding the space’s lease. But he did say he was hoping for an abatement period that would provide relief.”

Then Block Club Chicago talked to landlord Gino Battaglia—who owns a number of restaurant spaces, including Brindille: “Battaglia said he was willing to accept reduced rent or tack rent onto the back end of the lease to keep The California Clipper and C.C. Ferns as tenants, but Sodikoff ignored the offers, stopped paying rent and then shut down both businesses last week. ‘[Sodikoff] just wanted out of the lease. Period,’ Battaglia said.”


Wasn’t in a fancy food mood, so it was kind of old reliables. Wanted a big ass burger, so we ordered from the excellent The Butcher and Burger. Wanted Indian food, so we ordered from the one closest to us, Essence of India, and it was fine. And we got three meals out of a trek to the west side to Nottoli on Belmont—chicken parm sandwiches one day, subs the next, and gnocchi and vodka sauce a third.