Sorry to drag out that cliche again, but if anything says we’re back it’s the return of Chicago magazine’s Best New Restaurants issue, for the first time since the April 2020 edition (which came out in March just as the pandemic started, and thus captured the instant before the restaurant world was frozen in carbonite). 14 restaurants were chosen for this 2022 edition, headed by the inevitable, instantly loved Kasama at #1:

If the $185 tasting menu is out of reach, you can also stop by during the day to try that truffle croissant for just $13. Because that’s the thing about Kasama — while it’s offering an insightful take on Filipino cuisine and serving some of the best pastries in the city, at heart it’s a neighborhood joint.

John Kessler, who co-wrote the list with Amy Cavanaugh, said on Facebook what he considers the theme of the year: “New restaurants are more expensive and far more uneven than they used to be, but there’s also a reinvigorating garage-band spirit among the city’s talented young chefs.” That’s certainly what you see on this list—light on Italian, the safe refuge for restaurateurs getting back into the business after lockdown, but strong on highly personal tasting menus out of the chef’s own heritages.

I’ve noted before my love/not-so-love relation with this list, which I’ve both ripped and, on occasion, secretly advised the makers of, but 2019 was the year I made my peace with the list as capturing a pretty respectable slice of what I considered most interesting in the city, at least crossing over into more modestly priced international cuisines. This year seems much the same—though the international cuisines tend not to be so modestly priced any more, so we get mid-to-high-priced, but both authentic and innovative, examples of international foods like South Asian tasting menu The Coach House by Wazwan, Japanese spots Jinsei Motto and Tengoku Aburiya, and Vietnamese spot Sochi Saigon Kitchen. (I guess Talard Thai is the obvious one that’s too low-priced and too casual to make the list.) At the same time, two taco places may be a record for this list, and even if they tend a little upscale for tacos, Evette’s and Taqueria Chingon are probably as low priced as anything has ever been on this list.

The other interesting thing is looking at what new places are hot—but didn’t make this list. The most obvious is always-booked Italian-Eastern European spot Rose Mary, from Top Chef winner Joe Flamm; of the straight-up Italian places, Testaccio and Elina’s make the list, leaving Alla Vita, Adalina’s, and Provare off, to name three. A fourth would be hot new Greek spot Andros Taverna. (If you’re wondering about some other newish spots—Claudia and The Dining Room at Moody Tongue come to mind—they actually just made the 2020 list.)

Beyond the initial list of 14, there are worthy sidebars reflecting the realities of the last two years—a best takeout list (this is where all the new pizzas wind up, as does Talard Thai), and a claim that we’re finally becoming a lunch town (happy to see Bocadillo Market, which I like but might agree doesn’t quite rank with the top 14, getting a nod here).


Speaking of best restaurant lists, got a really odd press release list from Michelin—I thought at first it was the Bib Gourmands and it took till I read Eater’s explanation that I understood it’s a new list of not-starred Michelin picks:

Michelin is trying something new in Chicago and around the country. The tire guide, famous for handing out stars and Bib Gourmands, is trying a new designation. It’s called “New Discoveries,” an effort, as a spokesperson described it “to help food lovers identify new discoveries prior to the annual announcement of Bib Gourmands and Stars.”

As Eater notes, no one quite knows where this list fits in the hierarchy of Michelin honors, since the release I got says “Some featured restaurants could earn Bib Gourmands or Stars,” and the list may be updated throughout the year. Considering that it includes some spots that surely have legitimate Michelin star hopes (Esme, Claudia) or would seem natural Bib Gourmand picks (Tortello, Galit), I guess it’s basically the Michelin version of, say, Chicago mag’s 10 Hottest Restaurants Right Now, but on more of a yearly than a weekly scale. The one thing I take from it is that it’s heavily Asian—an area Michelin has been weak in in Chicago in the past; ironically one sign of that last time was ignoring acclaimed Kyoten. So Michelin honors Hinoko Sushi:

Chef Otto Phan has set up in the “Elston Industrial Corridor” to offer his fans a less expensive and more casual omakase experience. This may be had at Hinoki Sushiko, which is a counter located on the second floor of the building. The first floor izakaya, meanwhile, caters to those in the mood for some sips and snacks.

Whoops! As Eater points out:

Otto Phan is listed under the Hinoki Sushiko blurb. Phan confirms to Eater that he departed the Lincoln Park sushi restaurant shortly after it opened in April 2021. He’s focusing on Kyoten and a mysterious new project in Logan Square.

Anyway, see the whole list here. The actual stars and Bibs will be announced April 5.


Gordon Ramsay has a hamburger joint in Chicago. Do you care? I can’t say I do much, but media sure does—Time Out seems particularly obsessed (and it isn’t even in Time Out Market!), and now the Trib, which hasn’t reviewed most of the places that made Chicago mag’s list, tackles it, though Nick Kindelsperger admits that it’s all being done a bit cynically:

People often ask if I enjoy writing negative restaurant reviews, and the answer is almost always no. Who wants to eat bad food on purpose?

But what about taking a whack at a restaurant from one of the world’s most recognizable celebrity chefs, who decided to open the second location of a 10-year-old Las Vegas concept?

Nonetheless, he tackles it seriously and makes the pro-Gordon case on the basis of high quality raw ingredients:

…the beef at Gordon Ramsay Burger is good. Instead of an onslaught of grease, each bite displays a deeply savory base that’s balanced by a slight mineral tang. The 7-ounce patties are made from a mix of chuck, brisket and short rib, and while the kitchen declined to tell me where exactly the meat comes from, I was assured it’s from “some of the best farms out of the Midwest.”

Which is what leads to the slightly odd final rating: “2 stars (very good) for the beef, 1 star (good) for everything else.” Nick is always thoughtful—even things that hardly deserve it, like a celebrity burger in River North.


One of these days I’ll try Roux in Hyde Park, though it can be tough to get the motivation before breakfast to drive that far for breakfast. Steve Dolinsky was made of sterner stuff, however, and so he visited Roux for NBC 5 to talk about its Southern-inspired food with Chef Charlie McKenna.

Buzz 2


Would you pay a restaurant bill in cryptocurrency? I can just see it surging and then me thinking “Gee, I thought I paid $100 for that meal six months ago but now it’s worth $300,” and that way madness lies. But David Hammond talks to Phil Walters of the Bristol, and thinking about crypto doesn’t seem entirely kooky for a restaurant:

Early in the pandemic, we had to close, so we paid off our staff, we paid off the vendors, and then we were basically done for seven months, and whatever dollars we had sitting there, they slowly started bleeding away or becoming debased. So, we just needed to find some refuge that was going to hold or expand faster than the monetary base was being debased. That was the opportunity to do some conversion and also accept some kind of digital asset, which is a nice hedge. Whether or not it’s truly an inflationary hedge, we like diversification.


Nice piece at the Trib, but originating at the Daily Southtown, about Jonathan Zaragoza who has his new place Con Todos,  but also about growing up cooking in his parents’ Birrieria Zaragoza:

Zaragoza made his first dish for the family when he was just 9 years old. He had started watching a cooking show segment about a sandwich made with a crusty French roll, rotisserie chicken, smashed avocado with lime and cilantro, chipotle mayonnaise and sliced red onions, as he remembers it. He asked his mom for $20, went to Dean’s Produce & Delicatessen on 70th and Pulaski, and made the roasted chicken sub.


As soon as Emily Nunn (ex of the Tribune among other places) announced that she was starting a newsletter about salad, I signed up for it (and have taken a few inspirations from it). Now her salad and Substack adventures are the subject of a New York Times piece. Is this the future of food media? Hey, it might be if anything is.


If you get the newsletter edition, note that last week’s list of the most expensive restaurants in Chicago has been updated based on some reader feedback. So check that out if the topic interests you.

And I mentioned the passing of Palmer House publicist/historian Ken Price; friend of Fooditor Darin Latimer wrote a nice memorial of him on Facebook as well.


I read a nice piece about a pretty new Indian restaurant near me; digging a little deeper I found a thread at LTHForum which called it things like “fresh, distinctive takes on some familiar dishes” and “The food here is good, very well spiced.” So I ordered some takeout from Basant Modern Indian Restaurant and, well, maybe I just didn’t order the right things, and there are some other things that seeem potentially more interesting, but didn’t really fit the family’s takeout desires, like lamb gustaba (meatballs)—but it seemed very typical Indian takeout, not much distinctive in Chicken Basant or Vegetable Jalfrezi, both similar assortments of mostly vegetables in pretty standard curries.

The Hot Dog Box is a black-owned hot dog spot in a cargo container on the south side, with a second location added recently in Portage Park; I hit the latter the other day. They advertise the use of a “filet mignon steak” hot dog which pushes everything into Hot Doug sausage territory, pricewise; the toppings sound kind of similar, leaning toward the sweet side, but I thought it worked quite well in what they told me was the best-seller, the Bronzeville Bourbon, which reminded me a bit of a now-gone favorite item at Big Guys, the hot link sausage with barbecue sauce and slaw. For contrast I also tried a Cajun salmon dog, which was all right, something different. As noted, a bit pricy for an everyday meal, and the unusual choice of pretzels as a side instead of fries didn’t do much for me, but it’s interesting enough to be worth returning.