It’s French tire time, and as always they start by baiting us with seven restaurant names, and no clue as to how many get stars (if any) and who gets a Bib Gourmand designation. (Wait, didn’t they create another category last time? I can’t remember.) Anyway, here are the seven restaurants, and my guess as to who gets what, based on long experience tracking crusty snooty tire company pronouncements:
Three Stars: Nada
Two Stars: Nobody
One Star: Bupkis
Bib Gourmand: Avli on the Park, Indienne, Roux, Sueños, The Izakaya at Momotaro, Union, Pompette

Seriously, the only one that seems a possible one star by Michelin’s lights is Indienne.


Louisa Chu talks to owner Amy Morton and chef Debbie Gold about Le Tour, in Evanston:

LeTour began as an “unconventionally French” restaurant, with just a hint of Moroccan flavors. “Who we have emerged as is not exactly what we thought in the beginning,” Morton said. “But we are modern women in Chicago, so regardless of how classic a dish is, these are our takes as we see them.”

It’s not just the dishes, but the restaurant itself. Instead of a classic cafe, you might imagine a midcentury modern space near the Pompidou. The curved facade with floor-to-ceiling windows opens into a cozy eclectic decor.


The cover story on March’s Chicago magazine is on rising stars in Chicago, and John Kessler writes about Margaret Pak and Vinod Kalathil’s upcoming revival of Thattu, their Keralan restaurant last seen in the defunct Politan Row food hall:

She made the transition to expert cook when, a decade later, she was laid off and Won Kim of Kimski took her under his wing. “With Margaret it’s all or nothing,” Kalathil says. The couple launched the first iteration of Thattu in the food hall Politan Row in 2019. During the 10 months it was open, it earned rave notices, including a James Beard Award semifinalist nod. “But the volume was soul sucking,” Pak recalls. “Seven days a week, and 14-plus hours a day.”


One of my favorite parts of town—still unknown to many—is the middle eastern/Palestinian enclave centered around Bridgeview on the southwest side, and extending into adjacent suburbs like Worth and Orland Park. There’s a lot of new stuff opening in that area—I know a lot of food writers have beeen to a Turkish chain called Meat Moot, serving halal smoked meats, in Burbank, though nobody had published a piece on it until Mike Sula this week—and this week Steve Dolinsky has a piece on another chain coming to Chicagoland, Hashem, a 100-year-old Jordanian restaurant with two locations in the southwest burbs:

Whether you’re in the mood for a mixed grill or some of the creamiest hummus you’ve ever had, the compact menu from this well-known Jordanian chain has something for everyone. But unlike most franchises, this one actually prepares the food from scratch all day long.

The recipes for the spreads, salads and marinades have been around for more than 100 years. Hashem has been based in Jordan since the 1950s, and has expanded to the U.S. with a couple of branches, including a sleepy Orland Park strip mall next to a car dealership.


As stated just above, Meat Moot is a Turkish chain doing smoked meats—but in a way that draws on American barbecue (though being halal, there’s no pork). I kept hearing for weeks that people had been to it, but Mike Sula is the first to write about the meat—and the show, which sounds like a certain Salt Bae:

You approach the counter with your phone held high. A meatman casually flips his gleaming cleaver into the air, snatching it as it tumbles down, and guides the blade toward its first cut. Suddenly a forkful rises over the glass partition toward your gaping gob. If you approve of this smoky lagniappe, you’ll order it by the pound, take a seat, and wait for the feast to arrive.


David Hammond, inspired by another piece at NewCity, reviews Forte, the new restaurant serving pre-Orchestra Hall diners:

The Forte menu leans heavily toward Mediterranean cuisine, specifically Greek, which is probably what you want to eat before you attend a concert at adjoining Orchestra Hall.

We had the octopus with pickled peppers and confit potatoes, which was flavorful and delicious and unlikely to induce a snooze during a concert, as well as the lamb shank, which was very good and meaty though probably not the kind of heavier menu option you’d want to eat before a concert.

So what was the piece that prompted him to check it out? It was booze expert Chuck Cowdery, telling the story of an earlier inhabitant of Forte’s building, Chapin & Gore, a major pre-Prohibition distrubutor and retailer of alcoholic beverages:

Founded by Gardner Chapin and Jim Gore, the firm grew quickly and was already a major enterprise in 1871 when the Great Chicago Fire threatened to put them and everyone else out of business. As the flames spread, Gore paid men to roll barrels of whiskey from his warehouse onto Monroe Street and then into Lake Michigan. They floated, of course. A few were lost but about a hundred were recovered. The contents were bottled and sold as “Lake Whiskey” for a premium price. Despite that, the company’s loss was estimated to exceed $75,000 ($1.7 million in today’s dollars).

When Chapin & Gore rebuilt, still on Monroe, they added the saloon and restaurant that quickly became a favorite among the city’s business and political establishment. An English visitor, writing home to a friend, described Chapin & Gore as a place “as well known in America as the Houses of Parliament in London.”


Titus Ruscitti visited Apolonia, which seems a lot more Greek than it did when I went a year or so ago:

If there’s charcoal grilled skewers on the menu I’m getting them and that was the case with a Harissa Spiced Lamb Skewer over cucumber tzatziki with lime and dill. I much prefer a tomato free pasta and will typically order pasta made with meat and cream this time of the year so I knew an order of the Roasted Lamb Mafaldine with mushroom cream and walnuts was for me. The pasta is made in house and had that perfect bite that only fresh pasta cooked to a perfect al dente gives off.

He also has praise for the falafel sandwich on ka’ak bread at Ragadan:

A couple things that stand out about the falafel at Ragadan are 1) it’s fried to order and 2) it can be ordered as a Ka’ak sandwich where it comes served with hummus, pickle, tomato, tahini and parsley sauce in a fresh sesame seeded roll. It’s a great change of pace from the typical pita used to make falafel sandwiches elsewhere but you can get their excellent Jordanian spiced falafel in a pita too if that’s what you like. They also make a stuffed falafel which more spots are starting to do. Ragadan fills theirs with sumac grilled onions.


Tasting Table, which I wrote a little for back in the day (but honestly couldn’t have told you if it still was going), has a list of the 20 best restaurants in Chicago, ranked. Best by what measure? Well, fame I guess, that seems the one thing they have in common, as it includes some old school places (Johnnie’s Beef, Vito and Nick’s) next to some interesting newish places (Evette’s, Mi Tocaya)—if there’s consistent criteria being espoused here, heck if I can see it. So, assuming it’s a real grab-bag, what do I think of their opinons? On the one hand, they call Au Cheval’s not just the city’s but the country’s best burger, which is fanboy raving. On the other hand, I greatly admire their choice for #1, and honestly have pondered the same opinion for myself. (Hint: it just closed to move to a new location.) So, I wouldn’t necessarily agree with much about this list, but it’s not a bad checklist of places to see if you’ve been to, that represent a decent cross-section of our city’s scene.

Want a local food writer’s list? Ari Bendersky, in his newsletter, lists 15 favorite places he likes to go to—not best, but favorite:

Sure, go check out all the new places opening, but don’t sacrifice your old haunts. Those favorites that have treated you well over the years. Those places you know at least one dish you’re going to order and there’s always someone — a server, bartender, host or manager — who you know and are excited to see.

A good approach, to my mind. Meanwhile, here’s a list for me to at least daydream over: Robert Moss does Southern Living’s best barbecue spot in every Southern state.

9. 100 BURGERS

I’ve mentioned the Joiners Podcast before; co-hosted by Danny Shapiro (Scofflaw), which means the show knows Chicago food and bev, it interviews people in the food scene, and they’ve amassed quite an interesting back catalog of interviews, from chefs like David Posey and Mindy Segal, to people like Terry Alexander (One Off and Francesca’s partner), Mike Sula, and restaurant designer Nicole Alexander. Anyway, the newest one invites on Nick Kindelsperger of the Trib, who talks about how he got into food writing, how you eat 100 burgers for a newspaper listicle, and how he convinces his 9-year-old daughter to actually eat interesting things.


Steve Dolinsky didn’t actually eat 100 pizzas on a recent trip to Naples, but he tried. Here, just in time for your winter stir crazy, is a video about pizza in the place it’s from.


At Resy, Maggie Hennessy takes a look back at the quarter century of one of Chicago’s landmark restaurants: Lula Cafe, which helped pioneer both Logan Square as a hot dining neighborhood and buying from farmers as a way of life:

Lula now unfurls across three storefronts—warm, funky, and (still) effortlessly cool some 24 years later. All-day menus and a range of price points make it both a destination for exciting market-driven cooking and refuge for comforting breakfast or lunch, while plenty of regulars post up with a glass of wine at the bar after work. On the menu, you’ll find a hangover-defying breakfast burrito; a monthly farm dinner with dishes that never once repeat; and cheesy Pasta Yia Yia to cure what ails you. That they all coexist naturally speaks to the organic growth, intention, and lasting relationships that have shaped this bohemian bistro.


David Hammond and Monica Eng’s book on historic Chicago foods, Made in Chicago, is getting a lot of press in advance of its release on March 21. Chicago mag recaps some of the historical oddities and secrets they found along the way, and they also turned up on a podcast called CityCast to talk about it.

In other books, Chicago-based Indian cuisine expert Colleen Taylor Sen is an editor of The Bloomsbury Handbook of Indian Cuisine, which came out in February. She’ll talk about it on Zoom for Culinary Historians of Chicago on March 29; go here to register (it’s free).


As a regular, but increasingly frustrated, customer, it’s been kind of a death watch of late for the retail side of Local Foods, which had been frequently out of stuff they were the only ones to carry (my wife has been bemoaning a lemon yogurt from Iowa) and very hard to park by. Here’s the offoial announcement on Instagram; according to Eater, the retail business will close March 28, but the wholesale business for restaurants will continue.

Also closing is Funkenhausen, the kinda-German-crossed-with-Southern restaurant from Chef Mark Steuer. Eater:

Funkenhausen had momentum when it opened in August 2018. Real estate developers were predicting Chicago Avenue in West Town was the next hot thing, a stretch that could rival Randolph Street in West Loop. This would be the alternative, an area where independent restaurant owners could flourish as they’ve been priced out of the West Loop thanks to rising rents…

Steuer says the local chamber showed him numbers showing a large influx of locals had moved out of West Town during the pandemic. That also meant a number of regular customers, ones that Funkenhausen had worked hard to make happy, had left.

I was underwhelmed the first time I went to Funkenhausen, but it really grew on me about a year later, landing at #41 on the last pre-pandemic Fooditor 99; it seemed to me the kind of thing Chicago does well, or did, drawing on and mixmastering the ethnic heritages of a chef, while serving inventive and thoughtful food at pretty reasonable prices and in a lively, fun atmosphere. So I will miss it, but Steuer tells Eater he has projects opening soon in Logan Square.


I don’t think so! Ina Pinkney, Jewish grandmother to the Chicago food scene, is having an 80th birthday bash to benefit Green City Market and Pilot Light. Lots of name chefs will be cooking for it on April 26th; learn more and get your ticket at Eventbrite here.


Happy one year anniversary to the home page quote at LTHForum, which has now been up a full year.


Joseph Zucchero, co-owner of Mr. Beef (currently famous as the inspiration for a certain TV show), died of conditions related to lymphoma at 69. The Sun-Times talked to his son Chris about the impact of The Bear on business:

He occasionally scratched his head when fans of the show came in expecting to encounter the fictionalized version that appeared on the show, where the main character transformed the beef stand’s menu into a culinary experience.

“Someone would come in and order chicken piccata and mashed potatoes, and Dad would be like “Are you f——— serious?’ and I’d be like “Dad, just go in the back, you don’t understand. You can’t yell at people the way you used to,’” Chris Zucchero said.


After last weeks’ visit to Itoko (on its second day!), I was still in the mood for sushi, so I decided to visit Ora, an Andersonville standby for sushi which had recently reopened in new digs further up Clark street. It was always packed whenever I went in the past, but I think not all of its old customers know that it’s back yet; admittedly the space is larger, but it was also quite empty. Sometimes it happens that a place that felt successful in an old location feels like it’s not as lively or popular when it lands in a new spot; hopefully its old crowd will discover it again. In any case, it remains pleasant neighborhood sushi, if a tier below what they’re doing at Itoko.

After reading Michael Nagrant’s review and a couple of others, I decided I needed to check out Latin kitchen Omarcito’s, which is tucked away on the side of a building at Fullerton and Hamlin, in a boxcar kitchen. I wound up going twice in one week. The first time, I had the Quesa’ropa, which tucks Cuban ropa vieja and cheese into a gooey, cheesy tortilla, together with a side of black beans and garlic rice. It was good but anything starting with “Quesa” is going to be a gooey mess, so that made me want to go back and try things a little more austere and subtle. I went for the fish sandwich on Omar Cadena’s suggestion, topped with Ecuadoran criollo slaw, and then he made me a mini version of the chicken jibarito as well, to try it. I liked both of those a lot; there was just a lot going on in both of them, which I’m still smelling in my car days later.

So it’s a fun little place, well worth the effort to find it on the Hamlin side (it’s invisible from Fullerton). But I’ll tell you the other thing I liked about it. Before lockdown, I had places I would hit for coffee and breakfast, or for lunch, partly because they were convenient for those meals but mainly because I got to be friendly with the owner—like Leonard Hollander and Chad Little at Arbor, or Rafael Esparza at Finom Coffee. But my favorites among those places are all gone now, done in by the lockdown or something. From Nagrant’s review I suspected Cadena would be another big personality, like Rafa, and he was. As with Nagrant he called me “Papi,” at least until I became “Mikey”; when I came back the second time I heard him yell “Mikey” before I even saw him in the window of his boxcar. By that second time he had already put colorful outdoor furniture out for diners, which seemed pretty optimistic for what the weather was like this week, but when it finally does get used, it will be a party. Anyway, it’s a fun place, doing Latin fusion in the best sense (a little of this country, a little of that; I think he said he’s Cuban and Ecuadoran). Check it out, Papi!