Politically-connected West side Loretto Hospital has been the source of controversy this week with now-resigned COO Dr. Anosh Ahmed distributing COVID vaccines to people he likes—including employees of Trump Tower where he lives, and staffers at his favorite steakhouse, Maple & Ash, per Block Club:

Ahmed is a frequent customer of the Gold Coast restaurant, and vaccinations were offered to higher-up workers who would’ve been ineligible to be vaccinated, multiple sources told Block Club. The Austin hospital Ahmed leads is meant to serve and vaccinate people on the West Side, where coronavirus has devastated communities of color.

Other clinics which violated vaccine rules have had their supply cut off. Loretto was threatened with that. Did it happen? No, within a few days it got extra, and was able to give a shot to anybody who showed up. Supposedly this shows that it’s ensuring its poor West Side community as well as the COO’s pals can get vaccinated, but I know other people who called at the right time and got it, too—you can just see my wife and younger son to the right of the guy in the gray sweatshirt in the photo on this story. It’s Chicago, everybody’s gotta have a connection.


Eater has a story on restaurants being fined for COVID violations—but in fact it only mentions two, one a familiar story (Alderman Tom Tunney getting a $2000 fine for letting people eat inside Ann Sather), the other a Bronzeville barbecue spot, Uncle J’s BBQ, which was fined $10,500 for unmasked employees. Note that since this is a south side barbecue spot, everyone unmasked was on one side of barriers including a plexiglass window for exchanging money and food, and the customers were all on the other. So the city has stuck an African-American-owned business that already had the barriers that others hastily installed this year, with fines that could put it out of business for how the family behind the barriers behaves together.


Chicago mag’s cover story is on noodles, including Titus Ruscitti calling out five top noodle dishes in Chinatown, Amy Cavanaugh on top noodle kits to pick up, Wilson Bauer on making your own pappardelle, and John Kessler on Liang Pi:

Nothing gets me quite as slurpy as liáng pí (cold skin noodles), which I first tried at the original Xi’an Famous Foods in Flushing, Queens. I loved everything about the dish: the spring-back texture of the noodles, the slick green veggies, the loofah-like wheat gluten sponging up the sauce. And that sauce! Red and oily, hot and numbing, vinegary enough to make those veggies think they were in a salad.


As it happens, I had Time Out’s #1 Restaurant Week choice, Table, Donkey & Stick, purely by accident. I mean accident that it was #1, not that I ordered from Table, Donkey & Stick. Anyway, that’s a good start, so I recommend checking out the rest of their list.


David Hammond thinks deep on wings and is won over by a South Loop wing joint, Charred Wing Bar: “In the hands of good chefs, there’s no reason why wings can’t be just as delicious as a leg and thigh (my personal favorite chicken piece).”


The Sun-Times explores the birria secrets of Birrieria Ocotlan:

The meat — they serve both goat and beef tacos — cooks in the broth for about five hours. When it’s finished cooking, they skim the broth, add in tomato base and bring the consommé to a boil before adding their mix of “secret spices.” Reyes also adds extra seasoning to the meat on the side after it’s done cooking.

“It’s that simple, but I see a lot of people really mess up birria,” [2nd-generation owner Andres] Reyes said. “If you cook it all together, you’re essentially taking flavor away from the dish.”


He opened with seven seats. And now he’s opening the most ambitious Japanese restaurant since Momotaro. Otto Phan of Kyoten is turning the short-lived Fort Willow space on Elston into a two-story restaurant called Hinoki Sushiko, with an izakaya on the first floor and a single omakase seating on the second floor. Phan said “I had to do it, because izakaya sucks here.” Just kidding, he didn’t say anything like that this time. Actually he said this, which is intriguing:

Phan explains that demand for fish at Japan’s high-end sushi restaurants dropped as the pandemic restricted tourism from America and China. That gave him an opportunity to build stronger rapports with Japanese fish markets. They had an abundance of supply, and he was happy to take fancy fish off their hands. That customer loyalty during a tough economic time will pay dividends for Kyoten and Hinoki.


CORRECTION: Okay, I completely bungled this one. “Malayai “refers not to anything to so with Malaysian, but is a community in India (h/t Ashok Selvam).Here’s some condiments being made by a cook who works at Superkhana International.


Steve Dolinsky shows how the Turkish pizza-like street food is made at a place called Turkish Cafe and Bakkal om Lawrence.


That pizza blew up in the pandemic is hardly surprising: it’s portable, holds up well in transit, is the low-moisture mozzarella security blanket we all needed. But what’s striking about the expansion in Chicago specifically has been the commensurate increase in quality: the new pizza upstarts took giant leaps forward in technique and taste compared to the perennial–and, if we’re being honest, kinda mediocre–deep dish and tavern options (and even the many Neapolitan joints that began springing up 10 years ago) across town.

Read more at Brad Cawn’s Last Meal Chicago.


And same for Indonesian—a new example of which is now in Revival Hall, Minihasa, from a Gibson’s cook and his mom:

With so little representation of this cuisine in Chicago, it was a pleasure to find a real-deal beef rendang ($18), braised nearly dry in coconut milk and curry paste. After a 20-minute car ride, the rice had absorbed most of the scant, intense gravy. Yet the flavor zinged and careened with spice, and the lean cubes of beef offered a master class in braising. I can’t wait to try it in situ.


Conrad Seipp was a Chicago beer pioneer—and now he’s back, at least his old recipes are being brewed by a descendant. (Reader)


Chef Cleetus Friedman (The Fountainhead) has been posting on social media about his new gig—a downstate upscale camp site called Camp Aramoni. Eater offers a preview:

“This is an absolutely marvelous piece of property that could be a national if not international hit,” says Friedman. “If you take this experience in any other year, people would be, ‘oh my goodness, this is incredible.’ But you take it post-pandemic, where you can drive here and have a few luxurious days of vacation without even seeing anybody if you don’t want to with access to hiking, biking, and getting pampered with food-and-beverage pairings and it takes on a more profound significance.”


Edward McClelland on the appeal of the corn dog—which, alas, remains rare locally, so he mostly talks about Cozy Dog in Springfield, where they were allegedly invented.


Did you know there was a Grape Nuts panic? Me neither.


Well, sort of. Michael Muser invited me to be on his Amuzed podcast a couple of weeks ago, but I had just been on it in October and didn’t have anything burningly new to say. So I suggested using the time to interview him—about his experiences in the food industry in Chicago for my book. So that’s what we did, for two hours—how much of it will end up in the book? Your guess is as good as mine right now! Here it is, enjoy a great deal of the indefatigable, uproarious Muser and only a little of me.


Almost a year ago I went to Table, Donkey and Stick for their square pizza, one of the first of the COVID pivots that I experienced. And now, here we are emerging from the lockdown year and I picked up food at TDS; masks were still on staff, and pizza was still coming out of the kitchen, but people were dining more or less normally on the back patio. I got their restaurant week menu, which included a charcuterie board—well, charcuterie plastic container; an excellent little gem salad, a hearty bowl of risotta with a head cheese croquette and a bowl of tart, pink radish tagliatelle. It was good—but I swear the next time I eat there, everything will be warm from the kitchen, not packaged to go. Soon!

Also, last week I said that Lula Cafe had recently reopened. Turns out they were open all the time, except for closing for a week in August. Which was reported… and reopening was not, so far as I saw. So check your favorite places, especially now, to see if they’re open, and support them.