Didn’t go to the Beards this year. Gotta say I wasn’t sorry about that when the tornado sirens went off and media people were hustled to the basement in a brief but hellacious storm.

Anyway, you no doubt know by now that Chicago had precisely one win: Erick Williams of Virtue, for Best Chef/Great Lakes. Here’s a clip of Williams’ win from the Illinois Restaurant Association’s Twitter. If you want to know more about him (and his very good restaurant), there’s always this Fooditor roundtable from right after lockdown started, featuring Williams and another nominee this year, Maya-Camille Broussard of Justice of the Pies.

After #BeardsSoWhite in 2020, and no Beards at all in ’21, it was a very diverse set of winners. Best new restaurant went to Owamni, the Native American (or as Eater calls them, Indigenous—I guess that’s 2022 for “Native American”) restaurant in Minneapolis (making, it incidentally, the third Beards show in a row where chef Sam Sherman won something—he won for his cookbook in 2018 and for Leadership in 2019). The Beards have gotten criticism for ignoring the Latino aspect of our food scene, and went some way toward showing a different face of that, awarding Emerging Chef (the former “Rising Chef”—not sure why that term is now taboo) to Edgar Rico of Austin’s Nixta Taqueria; Best Chef Southwest to Fernando Olea of Santa Fe’s Sazón; Best Chef Texas to Iliana de la Vega of Austin’s El Naranjo; Best Chef Mid-Atlantic to Cristina Martinez of Philadelphia’s South Philly Barbacoa; and Baker to Don Guerra of Tucson’s Barrio Bread.

Two celebrated Asian-American names took major prizes: Martin Yan (PBS’s Yan Can Cook) won Lifetime Achievement and cookbook author Grace Young won Humanitarian of the Year. Other Asian winners include Chai Pani, an Indian restaurant in Asheville, as Outstanding Restaurant; Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco for Best Chef California; Robynne Maii of Hawaii’s Fete for Best Chef Northwest; and Chintan Pandya of Indian restaurant Dhamaka for Best Chef New York State. Besides Williams, African-American winners include Outstanding Chef winner Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah; Ricky Moore of Durham’s Saltbox Seafood Joint for Best Chef Southeast; and Algerian emigrant Warda Bouguettaya of Detroit’s Warda Patisserie for Pastry.

White people were represented most notably by Outstanding Restaurateur winner Chris Bianco, who offers a regional Italian specialty of white people called pizza, a mysterious kind of baked tlayuda*, at Pizzeria Blanco and other Phoenix establishments.

And despite a lot of local boosterism, Chicago black lesbian bar Nobody’s Darling lost Best Bar Program to Houston’s Julep. Sounds like the kind of place that has tended to be the domain of younger white people.

* Joke stolen from here.

Here’s Steve Dolinsky’s report for NBC 5 on the Beards.


Last week I said Chicago only had one winner and one other nominee on the journalism/books side. Turns out there are more Chicagoans, though they aren’t necessarily well known to the food media crowd—ironically one of them has a far larger audience than anybody in that crowd, but it’s on vegan TikTok, so you can see why it escaped awareness of people mainly covering new restaurants. Anyway, it was Chicagoan-turned-Californian Joanne Molinaro, aka the Korean Vegan, who is said to have three million TikTok followers, and won the award for a book about vegetable-forward cooking for her The Korean Vegan Cookbook. Read more about her here. (H/t Julie Chernoff)

And Eater says, with no more detail than that, that Ahmed Ali Akbar, who wrote this 2021 piece about illicit mango importing, and won for Feature Reporting, is now a Chicagoan, resident in Pilsen. Will he be covering Pilsen or Chicago stuff? Guess we’ll find out, but that would be exciting, to have someone doing deep-dive coverage like that.


Iron Chef returns after four years, now on Netflix, and one of the chefs competing on the new version is Curtis Duffy of Ever. I went looking for a story which summed his appearance up and didn’t really find one yet; here’s the bios of this season’s contestants at Netflix, and here’s a piece which sums it up at, of all places, the South China Morning Post, which shows you how internationally popular it is.


There’s hardly such a thing as a Vietnamese restaurant that’s not good in Chicago, but Sochi Saigonese Market, which won the Jean Banchet award for Best Heritage Restaurant, stands out for the subtle nuances in its takes on classic dishes, as Nick Kindelsperger explains:

It’s not a restaurant that wallops you on the head with heat or heft. Instead, you’ll walk away thinking about the tiny details, like how the spring rolls come with a peanut-based sauce that trades overt sweetness for a captivating funk. Or how each slice of meat in the seared duck salad is so stunningly tender, allowing you to appreciate the crunchy crab chips and surprisingly delicate fish sauce dressing.


The Tribune promises an article on Juneteenth cakes—what are the odds that Brown Sugar Bakery is going to be in it? It’s the first one talked about—and the first photos we see:

On Juneteenth, Stephanie Hart will serve up a decadent representation of the African American flag: A green, black and red velvet cake frosted with a green cream cheese and drizzled with dark chocolate dyed black with food coloring.

“The red is the people, the blood of the people, the black is the skin of the people, and the green is the land of the people,” explained Hart, the owner of Brown Sugar Bakery, the beloved Park Manor bakery.


John Lenart explores vinho verde for NewCity:

If you’ve spent any time in the Portuguese section of your favorite wine shop, you’re a little bit familiar with Vinho Verde. If you haven’t spent any time shopping this section, why not? Get there for fantastic wines at great prices. Among them is a wine that most who’ve travelled to Portugal recall with fond memories. It’s called Vinho Verde, translated as Green Wine. It’s typically, but not always, a young, very easy drinking white wine, slightly sweet, a bit fizzy, and above all, cheap. Like under ten bucks a bottle cheap.


Steve Dolinsky visits Bang Bang Pie to see how they’re recovering post-pandemic. I know one thing that’s changed—Michael Ciapciak told me that the Ravenswood location is almost certainly not reopening, which is a bummer, because it had the room that I could go and work on my laptop there until around 11, when it filled up with moms and kids.


Michael Nagrant talks about Delilah’s, Pullman, the mysterious shooting of Marshall Field Jr.—oh, and yes, sandwiches from Publican Quality Bread:

You arrive late on the first weekend the bakery is open, which means the hipsters and and the influencers have pretty much eaten everything that would be ‘grammable. You are left staring at the dregs, some “big sandwich”, a mushroom tartine (you’re not even vegetarian), and a pistachio and cherry maritozzi. You don’t know what a maritozzi is, but you’re positive it keeps two jars of giardiniera in its refrigerator at all times.

The tartine is a crispy bark of bread, the kind they’ve baked in the old world, or Little House books. It’s studded with grain and things that will make you regular. It is slathered with a lick of ramp and garlic confit, and heaped with mushrooms shrouded in a translucent blanket of Manchego shavings. The mushrooms taste not like supermarket-variety wet dirt, but of Perigord truffles. The cheese melts like creamy nutty snow on your tongue. It is the best thing you have eaten in weeks, maybe months.


Logan Squarist talks to married couple Ben Lustbader (Giant) and Sarah Mispagel (Sepia, Proxi) about their soon to be sandwich cafe and bakery, Loaf Lounge:

Customers can expect coffee and tea, sandwiches, soups, salads, ice cream, custom-made cakes, plenty of pastries – and, of course, bread loaves – at the new baking-centric cafe. Although currently deep in recipe-testing mode, the duo said a few items are sure to make it on the menu – like bear claws, for instance. “This was one of my mother’s favorite pastries,” Mispagel said. “It’s a danish dough filled with almond cream, topped with royal icing and toasted slivered almonds.”


There was a time when dumplings and suburban Westmont could only mean one place: Katy’s Dumplings. But Titus Ruscitti has another, Chef June’s Dumpling and Noodles:

The dumplings are also said to be handmade but I’m not sure that’s the case with the xiao long bao. It’s not that they were bad but they seemed to in uniform as one to be handmade. The pork and cabbage potstickers were likely handmade and much better bc of that. I’d be happy having easy access to the noodles and the potstickers but the soup dumplings were nothing to get excited about.

He also found a new Lebanese restaurant in Albany Park—which has mostly been losing, rather than gaining, middle eastern restaurants in recent years, Lebanon Bites:

Lebanon Bites sits in the building that used to house Semiramis. It’s ran by a guy from Lebanon who comes from Tripoli which is the largest city in the north. He brings with him some regional recipes from that area including Tripolitan Meat Pies aka Lahm Baajin. These are made with thin layered dough that acts as a boat for minced meat with pine nuts and a pomegranate molasses plus mint. These are delicate in the type of way you know it was made from scratch. A perfect pastry snack.


Is Grimod getting tired of eating out? Not exactly, but he does find that you can get tired of even luxe ingredients:

At what point does fine dining begin to lose its luster? When do totemic luxury ingredients begin to taste the same? And why—up until a certain point—do tasting menus pale in comparison to fast food?

While a lifetime of good eating across a wide array of cuisines lends itself to the development of taste, this form of conditioning only lays the groundwork for the fullest possible appreciation of a meal.

I admit to feeling some of this, being kind of burned out on the standard luxury ingredients—wagyu, foie gras, etc. One of the most impressive things I ate last year was, as I noted to Noah Sandoval at the time, probably the lowest-ingredient-cost course at Oriole: housemade tofu with herbs, supple and delicate, which tasted like a bowl of gleaming white and lush green. I’d much rather, at this point, be wowed by the treatment of seemingly plebeian things than forcefed foie gras for the oohs and ahhs.

Anyway, Grimod looks at the question in terms of influencers and rating systems—including the you-know-who tire company.


You know the bing bread at Parachute? Of course you do, anyone who’s ever eaten at Parachute has had it, and they even sold it through Goldbelly for a time. Here’s a very interesting piece at Eater about analyzing the costs of such a dish; even at $15, it yielded only a small profit, less than 5% of its menu price. Well, it’s hugely popular, just jack up the price, right? Well, it’s not that easy, because that’s not the only thing whose costs are going up:

The next option is to raise prices. With food costs up by 15 percent, on top of the added labor costs, the restaurant would have to charge $19 for bing bread, plus the 20 percent service charge, bringing the price to $22.80, in order to generate the same 4.5 percent profit they earned before the pandemic. And to be on par with the restaurant’s overall 10 percent margin, the dish would have to be priced at $23.40 ($28 total with the service fee). “It’s hard to just charge what you need to charge when every restaurant is basing their prices on subminimum wages,” [Beverly] Kim says.

A big part of the issue is that Parachute is trying to create a more fair basis for restaurant labor—which may price some labor-intensive dishes out of existence.  Anyway, it’s a good look at the reality of post-pandemic restaurant economics.


One thing I learned doing interviews for my book is that Louis Szathmary’s The Bakery—the ur-restaurant of modern dining in Chicago—initially started baking Hungarian snacks called pogacsa for airlines; he added dinner service as another income stream, and it took off like mad.

Anyway, pogacsa is associated with a whole range of Turkish bites, says Sandwich Tribunal:

In Turkey, and in many areas of the former Ottoman Empire, there is a kind of bread product called simit. Turkey also has a kind of stuffed pastry-like bread called poğaça. In addition to those, a kind of hybrid product has developed called simit-poğaça. All over the Balkan world, there are various bread products called pogača, a cognate to the Italian word focaccia meaning “hearth bread.” It might be a biscuit or a soft bread, leavened or unleavened, stuffed or unstuffed, or a kind of laminated dough, like a puff pastry or phyllo, that is a widespread variant called pogačice. Researching simit is relatively easy. Researching pogača is more challenging–pay close attention to those diacritics! Information about the hybrid form is also difficult to parse from writeups of the much more common Turkish item with the confusingly similar name.


Well, this is clearly the Sandwich Issue, or at least that’s what I mainly had this week. First up, like Michael Nagrant I swung by the new Publican Quality Bread, only to find it pretty well cleaned out by 12:30 or so. But there was just enough of The Big Sandwich (sold by weight) left to snag two decent-sized sandwiches for my son and myself. It’s a comparatively light, but substantial enough to be satisfying, sandwich on a crusty plain pizza bread, mortadella and stracciatella (a soft, ricotta-like cheese) with arugula, mustard and “sour cherry spread.” Very well-balanced and extremely fresh-tasting, it was a very happy-making sandwich. I will return, though my expectations for what will be available in these early, very popular days will remain adjusted.

I was walking back to my car from the Wednesday Green City Market—lots of strawberries—wondering where lunch was going to be when I spotted All Too Well, the sandwich shop next to Evette’s, from the same owner. The sandwiches look interesting and diverse, but I was most tempted by one saying it had shakshuka marinara—which sounds like it’s swimming in tomato sauce, no? No, it’s not, and it wasn’t anything like I thought it might be, but I liked what it turned out to be anyway: something like a torta (soft bun) with middle-eastern seasoned beef and lamb and some melted mozzarella on it. A little Mexican, a little Arabic—sounds a lot like Evette’s! Anyway, it was a bit heavy, but new and different; I’m excited to try other things some other Wednesday.