Recall a few weeks back when I posted, and ran a Friend of Fooditor’s comments, on Nobody’s Darling, the gay and lesbian bar in Andersonville that got a James Beard nomination for Best Bar Program this year. The gist of the comments was that while it’s an admirable, good-hearted place for its community, no one has ever claimed that its drinks measure up to the level of past winners like The Violet Hour (2015) or The Aviary (2013). And that its nomination after a very short time in business and almost no press focused on its drinks is mainly reflective of the very woke attitudes of the Beard nominating committees, trying to make up for a fiasco a couple of years ago in which they only picked white winners.

Now Josh Noel in the Tribune makes the same case:

Still short of its first anniversary, Nobody’s Darling became one of five finalists — and the only one from Chicago — alongside bars with years of renown or celebrity names attached. Winners will be announced Monday in Chicago.

Becoming a Beard award finalist in less than a year is a rare achievement, and among this year’s crop in the Outstanding Bar Program category, Nobody’s Darling is easily the newest: Alley Twenty Six in Durham, North Carolina, and barmini by José Andrés in Washington, D.C., opened in 2012; Attaboy in Nashville launched in 2017 and its New York City counterpart also dates to 2012; Julep, in Houston, opened in 2014.

The most recent Chicago finalist in the category, Lost Lake, had been open four years when it made the shortlist in 2019. The only two other Chicago bars to have ever been finalists — both of which eventually won — were The Aviary and The Violet Hour, two of the nation’s most innovative and esteemed cocktail bars.

How did Nobody’s Darling join such rarefied air so quickly?

Though a foundation spokesperson declined to discuss what led judges to shortlist the bar, the answer likely sits somewhere at the intersection of the cocktails Nobody’s Darling serves and the culture it has cultivated.

Oh, it’s the cocktails! The ones nobody’s bothered to write about! To be fair, once Noel has made the obligatory “you’re-not-gonna-Dave-Weigel-me” nod to 2022 woke shibboleths, he dives into the Beards’ recent history, and all but admits that any black lesbian bar was irresistible to the Beards this year. But in the end, his piece says what everybody’s said—there’s a lot to like about the place and its welcoming attitude, but in terms of a bar program (the name of the category), it’s no Violet Hour (which incidentally he implies is part of a racist cocktail culture that “has tended to be the domain of younger white people”):

It’s a casual and unassuming place, where people come as they are, whether in hoodies, beanies or shorts. It didn’t quite feel like a renowned Beard finalist destination kind of place. Yet that’s what it has become, in what is arguably a reflection of a greater cultural moment.

I guess cultural moment is one term for that; patronizing is another that comes to mind. But you can wear your hoodie, so progress!

P.S. Aforementioned Friend of Fooditor comments on Noel’s piece:

“No glowing, syrupy sweet cocktails or icy buckets of Miller Lite here.” —dude, it’s all syrupy sweet. He spends 500 words talking about how some basic cocktails aren’t good, and then this ringing endorsement: “Better than average cocktail bar.” This is incredibly pandering. Again, 50 better spots to get cocktails in this city off the top of my head.


Congratulations to Kumiko’s Julia Momose and co-author Emma Janzen for winning the James Beard award for Best Beverage Book with Recipes for The Way of the Cocktail: Japanese Traditions, Techniques and Recipes, at the journalism and book awards on Saturday night. The only other Chicago media nomination, which did not result in a win, was Louisa Chu’s for restaurant reviewer. The restaurant awards will follow Monday night.


Grimod says he loathes chain restaurants, so here’s what he thinks of Jose Andres’ Bazaar Meat, which is also in Vegas and LA. He clearly likes Bar Mar, the cocktail portion, a lot:

Many feature the kind of molecular gastronomic flourishes you might find at barmini (Andrés’s D.C. “cocktail lab”) or, locally, at The Aviary. You’re talking things like an “hibiscus-rose-orange blossom aromatic cloud,” a “rosemary & cocoa aromatic cloud,” the aforementioned “salt air,” a “warm espuma,” and drinks that are “citric-enhanced” or “frozen tableside with liquid nitrogen.” Witnessing Bar Mar’s bartenders craft such a ceaseless stream of intricate drinks is a real pleasure. So, too, is having them (or your server) apply the finishing touches before your eyes.

And he’s impressed by Bazaar Meat’s setting in the 55-story Bank of America building overlooking Wolf Point:

There’s certainly a “wow factor” when you enter, yet the restaurant, nonetheless, feels intimate. Noise levels are well managed, and each guest’s vision is naturally drawn towards the windows that span the room’s three sides (rather than at each other). Thus, the space actually surpasses the Las Vegas original by combining its distinct style with a sense of the city. You get the sense that you are dining in an eclectic, exclusive jewel box floating over the river. Compared to the relatively austere décor at Gibsons Italia and RPM Seafood, it seems positively more luxurious.

He finds the starting, tapas-like tastes to be thought-provoking but ultimately a tad insubstantial:

The flavors, overall, are pleasing, yet their lack of intensity seems strange when married with such fleeting textures too. The preparation feels like something Andrés would serve as an amuse-bouche at minibar, and perhaps that’s a good thing. It offers an impressive demonstration of molecular gastronomic techniques at an affordable price that allows each member of the party to indulge. It won’t go a very long way towards filling your stomach but, rather, teases the mind.

But at last, big meats. Grimod thinks Wagyu has become a cliche on menus, so he approaches Andres’ Wagyu-driven taste of Japan with skepticism:

Bazaar Meat’s “Tasting through Japan” section will always stand as a superlative splurge. (And, in the interest of fairness, that is how the wagyu is positioned at Maple & Ash, Gibsons Italia, and RPM Steak too). Philosophically, you think Andrés has found a way to present the Japanese beef in a way that seems comprehensive and, dare you say, educational. He does not glorify the beef as the ultimate, most luxurious offering on the menu, but labels it more of a gastronomic, cultural experience.

One interesting note: despite his (so far) anonymity, Grimod acknowledges that he has personal ties to a beverage director for Gibsons Group (which is a partner in Bazaar Meats), but not to the beverage program at Bazaar.


Titus Ruscitti headlines his latest piece Trendy Asian Food Imports: Korean Fried Chicken + Corn Dogs and Mochi Donuts, which sums it up; here he is on the weird corn dogs fad:

Korean Corn Dogs are popping up all over and Kong Dog is a newish spot that boasts locations in both Glenview and on Taylor street. It’s owned by a local who tried Korean Corn Dogs in LA and wanted to bring them to Chicago. The menu showcases about eight different options including their most popular which is dusted with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. The ordering process is pretty easy in that you pick your style which for me was potato which means theres diced potato included in the breading. After that you pick what you want your corn dog stuffed with which can be a hot dog and or cheese (cheddar and mozzarella). I opted for half hot dog and half cheese (mozzarella) with my choice of sauce being the sweet chili option. Unlike traditional corn dogs these are not easy to eat on the go. They’re huge and served piping hot which means the cheese will come oozing out.

I think there’s a Kong Dog in Bridegport, too—at least Kevin Hickey mentioned it to me.


We’ve had secret pizzas only open one or two days a week, but now we have a bashful one. Meet Shy Slice:

[Owner Nicholas] Mello said selling quarter sections of pizza was always part of his business plan. “I’d never seen that,” he said. “It was just an idea. I knew that if I wanted to be in the pizza business, I had to do something original.” He thinks it’s a great size for an individual, though it also allows multiple people to order exactly the kind of pizza topping they want.

As for the crust, it kept getting thinner the more he tested. “I played with different dough weights, and I always wanted it to go thinner,” Mello said.

Read more about it here. At least it’s open four days a week, which is reasonable.


Some months back I went with another food writer to try a vegan chicken sandwich. You know what? It was shockingly convincing, dare I say it, actually tasty. At the same time, it was heavily engineered Frankenfood, deep-fried, nothing particularly healthy about it. The other writer asked me if I would ever order such a thing and I just said “No, I could just go get a chicken sandwich, which is also deep-fried, and a salad.”

But food science marches on, and Louisa Chu raves  this week about a growing chain called Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat:

Originally I set out to write a guide to the best Chicago-style plant-based food across the city.

Then she came into my life: A restaurant boasting big, beautiful flavors transforming deep cuts of iconic Chicago dishes. Rooted in traditional technique, this city’s most beloved foods come not from chefs’ kitchens, but shared spaces with deeper meaning, and getting them right is vital to gaining a hungry Chicagoan’s loyalty.

But she doesn’t merely get it right. Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat is the Lizzo of vegan and vegetarian restaurants. And she deserves a spotlight all her own on this ascent to stardom.

Not sure what “the Lizzo” of anything is, but there’s one on Wells street now, so if you’re the sort of person who wants an Italian beef with no beef, this is the place.


Steve Dolinsky’s subject this week is the Chicago-invented Puerto Rican sandwich the jibarito.


Sandwich Tribunal host Jim Behymer is in NewCity this week talking about something historical: the Bal Tabarin sandwich, which was once a Chicago thing, associated with the  Sherman House Hotel (which lasted a century and a half in the Loop):

The dining level on the second floor, called the “College Inn,” boasted a famed bar where jazz greats of the day came to drink, a small ice rink where figure skaters entertained diners, the Well of the Sea room known for flying in seafood daily from both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, and the Porterhouse Room, known for its steaks. All were served by a single kitchen, and by the 1950s, that kitchen was turning out the Bal Tabarin, their signature sandwich.


Harold’s Fried Chicken is a piece of the Chicago black experience, the Eater piece by Shakeia Taylor is headlined, and who can argue with that? Certainly not Chicago Harold’s expert Larry Legend:

“Even if they fried the chicken to perfection, you’re always gonna ask them to fry it hard, and you have to have the sauce on the chicken. So if I see somebody not having the sauce on the chicken, I’m questioning them because you’re taking away the experience of the restaurant. Everything about it has to do with the sauce on the chicken. The chicken itself isn’t the draw. But the sauce with the chicken combination is made in heaven,” said Legend.


Speaking of The Violet Hour, Toby Maloney (who was total fun to interview for my book, by the way) has a book of his own coming out, with Emma Janzen (who as noted above co-wrote Julia Momose of Kumiko’s The Way of the Cocktail): The Bartender’s Manifesto: How to Think, Drink, and Create Cocktails Like a Pro. Chicago mag tells more and offers a sample recipe.


Kevin Boehm and Boka Group have opened restaurants in both New York and Los Angeles of late. Sounds a little stressful, so Boehm talks in Fast Company sbout trying to keep work-life balance:

The first thing I needed to do was to buy back time, to find room for the things I loved about my job. I put my email on a diet, telling my team to only copy me on emails that I needed it be copied on. I stopped going to meetings that I attended only out of duty, and only kept the ones that I had real impact on.

Keep reading, it’s worth it.


Monica Eng is on Amuzed, and talks good old newspaper days, how she started writing about weird food, the picking a school for your kids game, and other Chicago topics.


Block Club has a rather poignant piece on the closing of a Golden Nugget pancake house—the one on Irving, across the street from Eris Cider:

“Literally, my heart is in my stomach still. I’ve worked for Golden Nugget for the past 34 years. I’ve watched kids grow up,” [owner Cathy] Guzman said. “It hurts us to have to close a location. We just hope that customers go to our other locations. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

As a fan of traditional breakfast, one of the things I’ve definitely seen over the years here is the decline of the neighborhood breakfast diner. Appreciate them while they still exist; I may enjoy the new wave of coffee places (the Dollop Diner seen in this week’s cover image probably comes the closest to a real diner, even if their biscuits and gravy is mushroom based) but I miss many of the places where you could sit with a Sun-Times and exchange comments on how f’d-up the world is with your fellow guys at the counter.

Meanwhile, the big closing news is that Reve Burger, created by the Ever crew during lockdown, will close on July 2 because the building where they set up shop during the pandemic, and which became the hangout in which Michael Muser recorded the Amuzed podcast, is being knocked down.

And I felt a sharp intake of breath when I heard that Daisies was closing its Milwaukee avenue location—but not to worry; the pasta restaurant, one of my favorite places in the city, will move to a larger location (undisclosed as yet) in Logan Square. Block Club has the story.


Another flavorful obituary from Maureen O’Donnell in the Sun-Times: John D. Colgan, bartender and singer in Irish bars. One of his professional skills:

Wherever Mr. Colgan worked, he knew the secret of putting a creamy top on a pint of Guinness.

“He did it like a champ,” said Tina Macek, who works for The Embassy pub. “John was meticulous. It takes two pours. You fill a bit more than three-quarters of the glass by pulling the handle forward, and then you let it settle. Then, you finish off with a back push of the handle — backwards goes in with a slower rate, and the foam rises to the top. It ends up looking almost like an ice cream cone.”