Michael Nagrant finds true love in Maria’s Bar and its name is Kimski and its game is Polish-Korean fusion: “It’s rare to find something truly original in Chicago, land of all restaurants. But [Won] Kim has managed to create a concept that didn’t already exist. His food is its own thing, a true 50-50 situation that your babcia (Polish grandma) or halmoni (Korean grandma) would appreciate. Maria’s Standard ($8) is the perfect example: a fat, smoky Polish sausage bursting with garlic and spice that’s remixed with a soulful, rice-perfumed, soju-infused mustard and tangy kimchi kraut.” (Redeye)


The wrap-up to Nick Kindelsperger’s month of tacos at the Trib has some of the best material—obviously the most useful thing is his 25 best, the rare list these days where you know he’s been to every spot and isn’t just bullsearch-engining us, so just go bookmark that now, I’ll wait. But I also really enjoyed “The signs you’ve found a great taqueria,” a perennial subject among devotees, which for him includes such sage bits of advice as “The easiest way to size up a taqueria is by taking a look at the salsas. I can’t think of a single example where a taqueria served poor salsas and great tacos” and “Flat-top griddles are not your friend.” Not every day was great (I don’t get the obsession with finding hardshell tacos, even if he did find a few good ones—sorry Louisa) but there’s a ton of great information about food in parts of the city that are too often overlooked, as well as an entertaining personal quest in this month of taco stories.


It’s a former (I guess) Eater writer versus the once and present Chicagoist food editor! I won’t recap the fight, one because I don’t need to get in the middle of it, and two because Anthony Todd does so at his blog before defending the role of the food reviewer in general. I’ll just throw out a thought of my own—our scene wouldn’t be as good as it is if we only had reviewers who pulled their punches or made nice-nice with every restaurant, and there’s plenty of them out there, so good chefs should be thankful for reviewers who call BS on places that warrant it. Especially ones that gave away Jeff Ruby’s table to one of our felonious ex-governors—if you do that, you got no bidness whining about any review you get, ever.


This is the piece I tried to write a couple of times—Ryan Poli (Butter, Tavernita) on what chased him out of Chicago. The first time I wrote it, I knew that press was part of the reason, so I wound up writing a meta-piece about not being more junky media attention; I tried again recently, with another writer who knows him better, and nothing came of it. Maybe it took an out of towner for him to be able to open up and talk about the ways our local food scene made him forget what he was about until he got the hell out of here. Anyway, Gabe Ulla of Eater NY wrote it for Lucky Peach, and there’s a lot to think about here; highly recommended.


Mike Sula is a little snarky but generally approving of Duck Duck Goat, won over by pretty good XLB: “After Imperial Lamian, Duck Duck Goat is the second major new Chicago restaurant to prominently feature soup dumplings and hand-pulled noodles. Izard’s xiao long bao are listed modestly as the third item on the dim sum menu. They appear almost discouragingly flat and saucerlike, but each one that arrived at my table was structurally sound, with a thin, translucent wrapper that revealed some of the character of the surprising broth within—dark, hot, and redolent of five-spice seasoning. They’re remarkable, especially in light of the disasters I wrote about at Imperial Lamian.” (Reader)


Lisa Shames visits Arbor for dinner for CS, and says it gets better the more you participate: “It’s with the Midwestern Omakase on Thursdays and Fridays, the only nights for now that Arbor is open for dinner, that things really get interesting. Sure, you could just order from the small rotating walk-in menu and try dishes such as grilled halibut ribs with fried basmati. But why would you when, with a couple of emails, texts or, as its website states, “spontaneous conversation” with the owners covering likes, dislikes and dietary restrictions, you could have a three-, five- or seven-course meal created just for you? Which is made even better when said correspondence from the restaurant ends with ‘This will be fun and tasty!’”


Sarah Freeman at Eater takes a look at people doing the balancing act of reviving and cleaning up dive bars (Queen Mary, Best Intentions, etc.) and does a nice job of capturing the challenge of making them cute and new enough to attract hipsters without completely nuking their character. I’d have liked to see more about what it means for the neighborhood if its blue collar, old school character is getting made into a theme park, and maybe it would be more interesting if one of the examples had been a disaster (like the sports bar Tuman’s became) rather than all being ones that are generally approved of, but so far as it goes it’s an interesting look at the subject from the entrepreneur’s side.


Media is very excited about the Saved By the Bell popup! You can read about it at Eater (chairs!) and the Tribune and Redeye and even the Today Show! 90s catchphrase goes here!


Are there other places besides the Milk Room to get vintage spirits? Why yes there are, writes Anne Spiselman at Crain’s, naming four more and what to order there.


One of the things I love about photos of restaurant and bar interiors is that they’re usually so well-lit and perfectly poised in pictures that even if I’ve been to their dark and busy realities, I don’t recognize them! This Architectural Digest piece on modern speakeasies is great for that—been to 5 out of 7, could tell what three of them were without having to check. See how you do!


Thai Dang won phase one of his lawsuit against his former partner in Embeya. (Crain’s)


John Lenart talks to the departing (Steve Morgan) and incoming (Jen Schmitt) somms at Formento’s. We just hope Schmitt continues to have good wines for dogs. (Chicagoist)


Stopped by White Oak Tavern and sat outside. The chicken (seen in this piece) is always great, but I was especially wowed by an octopus salad, the gnocchi, and what’s called a tres leche cake (it’s only kind of like one, but it’s terrific anyway). Beware a slight tendency to making savory dishes too sweet, but overall it was as fine a use of a nice night as could be had.