We hardly had any reviews last week, so as if to make up for it, all the reviewers seem to be doing double duty. Phil Vettel visits Galit, the ostensibly Israeli restaurant from chef Zak Engel, though as Vettel notes, “you’ll find dishes of Turkish, Iraqi, Greek and Tunisian origin, and ingredients common to multiple nations. ‘It’s always weird to label anything ‘Israeli’ when you’re talking about melting-pot cuisines and iconic staples,’ Engel said.” In any case, saith Vettel, “the smaller dishes make me happiest. Don’t miss the crunchy falafel, set off by pickled turnips and “funky mango” labneh (laced with amba, a pickled-mango condiment), nor the carrots, glazed with cumin and orange and topped with crumbled feta. I liked the chicken thigh, with its crispy, blackened skin over couscous and celery root; I like the current preparation even better, the meat on a bed of whipped feta, with harissa and peas.” Three stars.

He also checks in on Entente after its move from Lakeview to River North: “Highlights of my tasting, for instance: opening sips of duck consomme, clean but meaty tasting, followed by strips of raw fluke topped with coconut-passionfruit ice, shaved green almonds and makrut-lime accents; tightly wound pappardelle noodles with king crab, morels and a butter-and-crab-brains sauce; foie gras encased in white-chocolate cookie dough, with elderflower-soaked strawberries; and lardo-wrapped monkfish with white asparagus and Benton’s ham broth.” While having a busier downtown spot seems to be working fine: “Service, a strong point at the original Entente, is even more polished these days, and meal pacing is just about perfect.” Three stars.


Mike Sula visits two chicken joints and comes away recommending both. (I’ve been to both too, and he’s not wrong!) One is Big Boss, a Belizean take on Nashville hot chicken in Bridgeport, it’s which has “become something of an Instagram celebrity: an enormous boneless, brick-red fried thigh that dwarfs the bun it comes on, the cooling coleslaw crown and raw jalapeño effectively canceling each other out over the fury of the chicken.” He doesn’t mention them, but you want to get the housemade pickles to cool the heat as you eat.

He also visits Chicken Pollo Shack, from David Rodriguez of Xocome Antojeria short-lived fame, which does both fried and grilled chicken—”there is a nod to K[orean]FC with the addition of gochujang to his overnight buttermilk-brine marinade, along with sriracha, mustard, garlic, onion, and black pepper. And that’s only after an overnight brine with salt and bay leaf that renders the birds explosively juicy beneath a craggy crust resulting from a double dredge through flour seasoned with black pepper and cardamom, among other seasonings.”

In a separate piece he visits the new Politan Row food hall to talk to Margaret Pak of Thattu, which specializes in Keralite food. Pak “started working as a line cook at Kimski and preparing [husband Vinod] Kalathil’s mom’s egg curry recipe for staff meals. Before long she was hosting pop-ups featuring the Keralite dishes her mother-in-law had taught her. In early May, she and Kalathil opened Thattu with a concise menu of four entree-size dishes and a few snacks, including the biscuits and egg curry, but also Kerala-style fried chicken, a mild coriander chicken curry, and a Portuguese-influenced vegetable stew called ishtu.”


I’ve eaten jerk chicken around Chicago, but I don’t have any experience in its native lands, so I’ve never felt like I have a clear standard to judge it by (beyond simply cooking a chicken well or not). Nick Kindelsperger does the next best thing to eating it in Jamaica—he tried 20 jerk spots on the south side to come up with his top five, of which I have been to exactly zero (so far). I especially liked this evocative description of Just Jerk: “The smoke hangs so heavy in the air at this Chatham stop, it can take a minute before you can peer through the room to spot the large mural of Bob Marley on the wall. This is an excellent sign. Sure enough, smoke haunts the meat here, like it’s giving each bite a heartfelt hug. Just Jerk’s sauce wasn’t the spiciest of all that I tried, but it was the one that best balanced extreme heat with an intriguing allspice profile. It hits like a smack on the tongue, which seems to ricochet endlessly over your taste buds.”


I feel like we should just start calling midscale Mexican in Chicago “square plate Mexican.” It seems like any time a guy who maybe once worked for Bayless (or cooked Italian food) starts his own nicer Mexican restaurant with better proteins and table service, he invests in square and rectangular china to plate it on. As soon as I see the plates on Yelp, I know where a place fits socioeconomically on our Mexican scene.

Anyway, Titus Ruscitti returns to Ixcateco Grill, a definitive square plate Mexican spot with a Bayless-vet chef in Albany Park: “The best value on the menu is the red meat and that’s whether you’re here for brunch or dinner. The wood grilled skirt steak is a large piece of tender meat cooked to your liking. When served at brunch comes it comes served atop a tomato molcajete salsa with black beans, guacamole, and a fried egg. It’s huge plate of food that would feed two with appetizers. The smokey tomato sauce is served warm and compliments the grilled meat nicely. At just $17.00 it’s one of the best steaks in the city at the under $20 price-point.”

He also claims to have found maybe the area’s best Cubano at Cubano Brothers in… I’m not even sure where this is (west, right?)… Elk Grove Village: “What makes for an “authentic” Cuban Sandwich? Well first and foremost is the bread. Cuban bread is a rare find outside of Florida. Chicagoans don’t have the option of purchasing it from one of a handful of century old bakeries that are making Cuban bread. So the only way to get it is bake it yourself. That’s what the brothers at Cubano Bros do. Personally I think French bread makes a fine substitute but big props to these guys for making their own glistening batch daily each morning.”


I admit it, I often draw my line at the city’s border line (with some known exceptions for Edzo’s, Big Guys, etc.), but one spot I’ve been interested in for a while is The Heritage in Forest Park (not to be confused with Heritage Caviar Bar in the city). Ji Suk Yi explains why: “Executive chef Rick Ohlemacher, who was hired in March, sources his ingredients directly from a network of 60 farmers who are affiliated with Spence Farms in Fairbury, Illinois. He also frequents Green City Market, Seedling Farm and Nichols Farm & Orchard, hoping to ‘showcase what these farmers work so hard for.’”


A new coffee bar on Southport, Bombastic Cafe, has been 14 years in the making and hearkens back even farther than that, according to owner Richard Sykes and Block Club Chicago: “’The idea was to have a coffee shop in the tradition of the very first coffee shops,’ Sykes said. ‘They were places where people would meet and have discussions over politics, science, religion, arts. They talked about what was important to them, and I think that’s how this coffee shop will operate.’”


Honestly, rooftop bars are too sceney for me, I like drinking deep underground, but if they’re your thing, check out Anthony Todd’s look at four new ones.


That’s the subject when Abra Berens talks to Culinary Historians of Chicago about her cookbook Ruffage, which we talked about at Fooditor here. I particularly liked where she talks about the need for us in the midwest to tell our own food stories and not let others tell it in terms of the cliches they know. That’s what I’ve been tryin’ to do…


“Justin Arnett, the driving force behind full-service creative house B | E | Co and Garn:t, says they’re not anti-event, but rather pro-series.” What does that mean? Read about Garn:t’s inaugural event at NewCity and see how they mean it’s more than a dinner, it’s an attempt at making creativity blossom on an ongoing basis.


There’s a shortage of Impossible Burgers at White Castle, says Crain’s. My vegetarian sister had to try it when she was here for Thanksgiving, and so I tried it too. A shortage would be an unalloyed blessing; I’ve had flavors of Alpo I liked better.*

* Not strictly accurate.


Congrats to Katie Renshaw, bartender at etta, who won bartender of the year at the United States Bartenders’ Guild World Class. The Sun-Times has more.


Need some fancy stuff for the kitchen? Les Dames d’Escoffier, a group for women in the culinary field, is having its annual Culinary Bazaar, aka garage sale, of “gently used and new treasures including silver serving pieces, counter-top appliances, crystal, china, barware, gadgets and more” on June 30; go here for more details, though my friend Catherine Lambrecht says the time to go is early if you want the best pickings. Proceeds benefit culinary education.


I don’t make a lot of effort to try hot places in other cities, I support my homies, but I will admit that I’m pretty curious about Dave Beran (ex of Next)’s Dialogue, and Food and Wine hints why I should be: “He left the Grant Achatz empire because he wanted to do his own thing in Los Angeles, and what he’s doing at Dialogue is creating seasonal menus that are like concept albums. There are no greatest hits to play. This is a restaurant that doesn’t have signature dishes, and everything Beran serves is connected to what comes directly before it and what comes directly after it. Every season, he changes the entire menu, with the exception of one dish that connects every two menus.” Read on…


Speaking of Xocome Antojeria and Chicken Pollo Shack… I had to pick up relatives at Midway and David Rodriguez had told me that his family was reviving Xocome Antojeria, so I checked with him and sure enough… they were soft reopening last week. So I took one son and two out of towners there for tlacoyos and everybody came away blissfully happy, while Rodriguez and his mom Bertha were happy at the not huge, but steady, procession of customers saying, “I heard you were back!” If you have any reason to be on the southwest side, join their numbers.

And that same night I had to feed nine of us in all somewhere, preferably including steak as a primary option. I probably would have thought of the (slightly renamed but not too different) El Che Steakhouse & Bar on my own, but Michael Nagrant’s recent Instagram sure didn’t hurt, and they were able to set us up at the kitchen table facing the imposing grill, while they… pretty much brought us everything, a few things discreetly adjusted for the one gluten free family member. It was a feast both meatwise and vegetable-y, a show as the kitchen blazed away, a complete pleasure at how good and friendly the service was. There’s a summer salad of tomatoes, canteloupe and a little mayo that could not have been simpler or more delightful; it will be a perfect accompaniment to your large meats.