After last week’s mention of Iron Chef with Curtis Duffy, it’s looking like TV is going to be the future of this Chicago food media recap. This week it’s an FX show called The Bear, about a James Beard Rising Chef winner who finds himself back in Chicago after a death in the family, running his family’s Italian beef shop, very much under the suspicious eye of a Chicago Guy cousin who’s been the manager. Restaurant people on social media have been high in their praise for the series (all of which can be seen on Hulu now), because it gets the biggest thing right about restaurant life—it’s stressful:

The Bear is the Coolest (And Most Stressful) Show of the Summer

The Bear is Gorgeously, Addictively Stressful

I will say that the setting gets the look of a neighborhood joint exactly right (though which neighborhood, they seem to be deliberately obfuscating; some insist it’s River North, maybe only because they think it’s supposed to be Mr. Beef on Orleans), and it’s full of details that show knowledge of the scene (though they can be weirdly not-quite-right—I can believe he staged at Noma, Alinea and Avec, but Smoque?) It also seems to have a good grasp of the types in a restaurant kitchen, to judge by our introduction to them in the first episode.

Here’s Won Kim on it (if the main character’s desire to rethink working class food made me think of any place, it’s Kimski):

The Bear first episode is fucking great. Majority of the cast are minorities, it’s been the most accurate mixed with entertainment. If you all are gonna groan about it not being EXACTLY like working in a restaurant, then just work in a restaurant. You think Greys anatomy, NCIS, or The Godfather is accurate?

Marah Eakin is a former AV Club staffer here in Chicago, now in LA, and she’s recapping it for Vulture. Her intro to it is very good:

Kitchens are sweaty, stinky places full of odd characters, singular passions, and semi-greasy floors. To do a restaurant show right, you have to actually feel that intensity — to know that there are unspoken rules and roles and that the very best chefs are not just very talented but also very driven…

Straight out of the gate with episode one, it’s clear that The Bear gets all of that. Set in a worn-down Chicago beef restaurant cleverly named The Original Beef Of Chicagoland, The Bear tells the story of a greasy-haired superstar chef, Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (White), who’s come home to take over the family business after his older brother passed away. (We don’t know how yet, but it doesn’t look good.) He’s worked at Noma in Denmark and nabbed a James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef, but in the eyes of his asshole cousin/restaurant manager Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), he’s just a little shit who’s running the business into the ground. Did we mention that Richie is an asshole? Because Richie is an asshole.

…There are minor quibbles to be had, especially if you know anything about Chicago restaurant culture. Having spent over a decade in the city personally, I’ll say that I’m of the firm belief that if word got out that a James Beard Award–winning chef was running an Italian Beef stand that the restaurant would have no problem paying bills, even if he was just whipping out what he considered to be sub-par spaghetti.

She also notes the odd Smoque mention. As the show premieres, a number of local restaurant people are revealing that they were involved in some way with the show, contributing to that mostly-believable atmosphere—like Sarah Mispagel, who made and consulted on pastries. While Louisa Chu in the Tribune says that star Jeremy Allen White “worked at the critically acclaimed restaurant Oriole, and its award-winning sister bar Kumiko, in the West Loop,” as well as former Next chef Dave Beran’s Pasjoli in Santa Monica.


A friend of mine posted a cogent take on the state of Chicago food at the moment:

The new trend in Chicago: Open a hot new place, get some social media buzz and maybe a @nickdk [Nick Kindelsperger] review. Post some hours. Don’t actually open during those hours or serve food.

Gotta remember, if it hasn’t been open for at least a year and it has limited hours, it’s probably not a real business. We need a name for these social media food mirages that serve more journalists than actual customers.

I understand some frustration with trying to keep up with the present food scene—there are places I’ve just given up on because I never seem to be on Instagram at exactly the right moment once a week to get an order in; when did food become trying to get tickets from Ticketmaster? I’m willing to devote a lot of time and effort to chasing down the hot new thing, but even I have practical limits.

On the other hand, I recognize that we’re lucky to be kind of overrun with new concepts at the moment, launched on a shoestring and scraping by with minimal staff and, as a result, sometimes minimal hours/presence. Some of them go on to become more robust businesses, the way Sfera Sicilian Street Food has most recently; others fade away after a few months (RIP, Azebaijani ghost kitchen place). At least it beats the alternative, of not having new ideas on the scene.

I think what’s really happening is the next phase of restaurant hotness. It used to be, you opened in a neighborhood, the neighborhood was your customer base as you worked the kinks out and got your crew up to speed; becoming a hot spot known citywide happened gradually and organically—at least some of the time. Then online food talk came along, and as soon as you opened, somebody from LTHForum or somewhere would go on opening night and maybe even post a full review in your first few hours of existence, when you hardly knew which way was up; other publicity would follow, and in no time you were the hot place of the minute. There was no longer a chance to grow slowly; no matter where you were in the city, you instantly had to take a five-thousand foot dive into the volcano as soon as you opened.

So now we’re at a point where people are opening who have no ability or intention of being ready to serve a zillion people a day the moment they open. They’re controlling their demand—and their own sanity—by keeping hours, and maintaining production at a level which is well below what they could have as a full-time, fully staffed business getting a publicity boost in all the usual places.

Which brings us to the latest place to get reviewed in the Tribune, albeit by Louisa Chu, not Nick (who wrote about the owner back in October)—Logan Square’s Sugar Moon Bakery:

“I used to call it a bakery,” said Dina Cimarusti, owner and baker. She opened the small storefront in Logan Square nine months ago. Now she thinks she should call it an experimental baking studio.

Well, what was an experiment the first time I tried to go was me going on a Friday—one of the only three days they’re open each week, except that week, they weren’t and I drove away empty-handed. Chu describes why you’d want to chance it:

After nearly an hour’s wait and some quick calculations, you might decide to just get one of everything. That’s what I did. Think of it as a 24-course tasting menu, but far more substantial.

What I discovered were some of the best bites I’ve had this year were made at Sugar Moon.

Okay, I was tempted by either getting to try what she praised, or being even more frustrated a second time, so I tried it again this past Friday. They were open, and the crowd wasn’t bad, only about half a dozen inside the door around noon. (Even so, I managed to run into someone I knew on the sidewalk outside.) How was it? See below.

Anyway, so that’s where we are in 2022. A three-day-a-week business run by a single baker-owner working 80 hours a week, says Chu, dealing with the traffic it can barely handle hyped up by its second Tribune piece. Is that a real business? That’s for you to decide


Speaking of things you only had a moment to try, one was Japanese convenience store sandwiches, best known from the short-lived Catsu Sando, but before them, there was a thing called Nine Bar, from bartenders Lily Wang (whose parents own Chinatown mainstay Moon Palace) and Joe Briglio, and which has had many incarnations according to Louisa Chu:

They began the concept that became Nine Bar as a Lunar New Year pop-up at Moon Palace in 2019… When bars shut down, the bartending duo was out of work. “Lily started posting pictures on Instagram of bento boxes, which was really just her cooking lunch for us,” Briglio said. “And people started messaging her asking if they could buy them. I think that really kind of snowballed into what became the Nine Bar konbini.”

That was hard to actually get—at least, I never managed to—but now they’ve taken over Moon Palace, the parents running mostly takeout out of the front while the back has become a secret craft cocktail bar—and serves food including the McKatsu convenience store sandwich that was said to be 2020 Nine Bar’s most popular item.

So: Nine Bar is now a hidden cocktail bar, which is its most accessible incarnation in its three years of existence.


The subject is Obelix, the new restaurant from Oliver Poilevey and family, but the real news is that Michael Nagrant is kicking off doing full reviews at The Hunger. As proper reviews continue to be rare and to disappear from publications like Time Out and the Reader, or to vanish behind impenetrably expensive paywalls at places like Crain’s, the hope for food coverage like that shifts to independent media like newsletters. As soon as I saw that, I subscribed to the Hunger.

Here’s a taste of what he says about the restaurant, along with hockey and fatherhood and other subjects:

Most of these dishes are French classics, twisted slightly, so I’m not surprised that I’m excited by them. It is a saucer of soft-shell crab glistening with chili glaze whose heat is tempered by swooshes of cooling tapenade aioli punctuated by anise fennel crunch and bursts of lime that blows my mind. It is not French, Mexican, Asian, or identifiable as anything other than a chef who has found their voice.

Also interesting was this note at the end, which ought to have come with an asterisk, or at least some crusty bread and cultured butter. In any case, I quite agree:

Finally, a housekeeping note about future reviews. I won’t award stars. I’ve always hated them because they’re reductive and are hard to apply well across full-service restaurants and quick-service restaurants. Also a four or even five star scale doesn’t offer enough increments to make real delineations. I’d rather you read the story and decide from the content what the actual value is.


Titus Ruscitti checks out Segnatore:

The kitchen at Segnatore is ran by a familiar name for those of us who are plugged into the city’s local food scene. It’s ran by Chef Matt Troost who was the head chef at Three Aces on Taylor street and then Charlatan after that. Segnatore’s menu, created by Troost, is rooted in tradition and flipped with a contemporary twist that makes use of the local Midwest bounty. The current menu features springtime hits like an agnolotti with pea and carrot, English pea brodo, pea shoots, crispy bits of prosciutto.

He also tells about an Intro-like concept in Logan Square, The Duplex:

One thing Logan Square lacks when it comes to restaurants is something the city lacks as a whole and that’s Black owned spots. Chicago doesn’t seem to have as many places as other cities with large Black populations do. The one dining spot in Logan Square I can think of that is Black owned is The Duplex which opened a little over a year ago to date. It’s located on the Square in the space that used house Dunlay’s on the Square. It’s the first project from a local guy with more than 20 years experience and the goal is to give local chefs a platform who might not have one otherwise. This is being done by hosting two different chefs every six months.


At Resy, Ari Bendersky has a nice piece on the Israeli heritage of the dishes at Galit—and how they changed during lockdown. Here’s chef Zach Engel on labneh:

Our big thing when we opened was cooking Middle Eastern food with ingredients from the Midwest. Obviously there are limits, but this one took a lot of planning and effort to have it year-round. Labneh, za’atar, and oil is just a classic in Israel. I’d wake up in the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, grab an iced coffee, and go to a stand where this woman would make laffa to order. As the bread cooked, she spread labneh, za’atar, and a drizzle of olive oil on top, and rolled it up. That was my breakfast on my way to the restaurant where I was working every single day.


Steve Dolinsky on the food and wine at the new Bronzeville Winery.


Inside Hook has a piece on how younger Chicago chefs cooking in a French tradition feel about foie gras. Rob Shaner of Robert et Fils:

“The reality is that it’s a bit of an antiquated product,” he says. “But it’s so incredibly delicious that we have a hard time letting go of it.” His hesitation, however, isn’t necessarily linked to gavage. Rather, it’s part of a bigger picture: that of foie’s place within the greater agro-industrial complex, alongside other more normalized but no less unnatural products like milk or eggs.


A contest to come up with a more appealing name for the notorious Asian carp has produced “Copi” as the new name. Monica Eng talked about it on Facebook and a bunch of snarky suggestions followed, including “Flamin’ Hot Cheeto Fish,” “Freedom Fish,” “Carpon Pirie Scott,” “Al Carpone,” “Empire Carp,” “Malortfish,” “Lori Lightfish,” “Willis Carp,” and  “Deep Dish Fish.”

Her more serious report on the new name, with links to things like the ChooseCopi.com website, is here.


It’s funny to read something in the stock, mainstay Eater voice and find dry wit poking through, but that’s Dana Salls Cree talking about how long it took to finally get a new Pretty Cool Ice Cream in Lincoln Park opened:

Salls Cree had chosen Lincoln Park because so many young children (and also college students) live in the neighborhood. “We want to be where kids are growing up and people are making lifelong memories,” she said. “We want to be the place you take your kids.” Before she began the process of opening the second shop, she had envisioned stores all over the city. But now, she says, “we have to get the second shop open before we start talking about generational dominance.” She assumes the memory of the pain will someday fade, like childbirth.

But seriously, City of Chicago, why did it have to be so damn hard to bring ice cream to kids?


David Hammond has a perfect summer topic: why kids love blue foods:

Dying confections blue, frequently to signify raspberry, is still a common practice: blue gummies, blue candy fruit slices, blue Torani syrup that you might enjoy in your coffee, blue cotton candy, all raspberry-flavored, and yet, all blue.

It should be noted that some of the raspberry confections that are colored blue are now labeled “blue raspberry,” though “there is no such thing in nature as a blue raspberry. Even if you find a blue raspberry product with natural flavors it probably doesn’t have any actual raspberry flavor. Less expensive juices such as apple and orange are more commonly used in these products.”


Not a week that much of anybody felt very happy about government, but here’s an example of somebody using their power ingeniously: the Cook County Land Bank Authority used its power to help out a South Side business:

After failing to pay its property taxes for years, Josephine’s Cooking, a popular soul food restaurant in Chatham, faced the prospect of losing its building to real estate speculators at a tax sale six years ago.

But then, in a move that staved off that danger, a little-known government agency called the Cook County Land Bank Authority stepped in. Without having to put up a cent, it put in a claim for the property.

That move meant that any real estate speculator couldn’t out-muscle the county agency and take control of the restaurant unless it paid the delinquent tax bill in full: more than $108,000 plus interest. At a sale aimed at bargain hunters, that was an unlikely prospect, and no one came forward to do that.

Looks like we can thank a former commission head for playing a little fast and loose with the rules. Unfortunately, Josephine’s, better known to some as Captain’s Hard Time Dining, is still at risk.


Meanwhile, if you want to be a George Bailey, consider giving to the benefit for Friend of Fooditor Brendan O’Connor, owner of Big Guys Sausage Stand and subject of this Fooditor piece, as he struggles with post-lockdown reality:

Over the last ten years this has been the most challenging year of business. More stressful than launching with 2 babies and an 8-year-old, harder than operating for a year while battling cancer, and worse than 2 years of COVID. Today’s increasing cost of goods and labor are insurmountable for our current business model. Margins are at a point where there is no emergency fund, things have broken down and we’ve taken on debt. Business debt that I thought I would never again accumulate after years of finally operating debt-free.
If you’re enjoying The Bear, here’s a classic Chicago joint cut from the same cloth, which could use your help here. (H/t Matilda Schieren)


What are the best pizzas in Illinois? Here’s a local guy with some suggestions—Governor Pritzker.


Well, most of the week as I was in Banff, Alberta, as you saw if you follow my Instagram.We stayed at the Overlook—I mean the Fairmont Banff Springs, first built in the 1890s but changed many times since, one of those grand old hotels with a pleasing lack of consistency in the styles—there’s a meeting room called the Alhambra and an Alpine restaurant and tavern just down the hill. I enjoyed the two of the hotel’s restaurants I dined in—the mid-level kinda-French steakhouse The Vermilion Room (there’s a more expensive steak one that looked boring) and that Alpine tavern, Waldhaus, but had a breakfast from a cafe called Stock that ruined that morning. Banff itself is… nothing to get too excited about culinarily. It’s like any ski town, with pizza and burger joints playing sports TV scattered all over. Only one thing I really feel a need to recommend, and that’s an experimental baking studio—I mean a bakery and coffeehouse—called Wild Flour, whose pastries, like a maple puffed pasty, were quite solid and visited more than once in our short stay.

But on to that Chicago-based bakery I visited. Approaching the end of today’s inventory, I ordered three things at Sugar Moon Bakery—the egg and bacon and stuff brioche bun, shown at the top of Louisa’s article; the chocolate chip-tahini cookie recommended by Nick; and a strawberry scone. It was nice stuff! The cookie is very pleasing indeed; the brioche, as Louisa said, needs to be softer, and the whole thing is a little too room temperature hardboiled eggy for my taste, but I’d still rate it fairly highly among savory breakfast pastries; the scone leaned toward the flaky biscuit end of sconedom, but I enjoyed it well enough for breakfast the next morning. So a good place, but if the line is too long, don’t feel you need to consign most of your weekend to it. It’ll be open next Friday. Or some Friday, anyway.