Buzz List for May 13, 2019

Jeong wins over critics, Flat and Point wows Sula, South Side Weekly's food issue is out, and the eggs are the spice at Egg-O-Holic

Flat and Point/Facebook

1. WINNER CHICKEN DINNER

The Peter Lisagor Awards, given by the Chicago Headline Club, honor local journalism. And this year, they honored Fooditor, which won the Best Continuing Blog—Independent category. Thanks!

Speaking of awards, I couldn’t find it last week but Kevin Boehm posted video on Facebook of his and Rob Katz’s acceptance speeches at the James Beards Foundation Awards last Monday. Well worth eight minutes to hear their smart and gracious comments about building a quality restaurant empire.

2. I GOT YER SOUSIDE READIN FOR YOUSE

South Side Weekly’s Food Issue is out, and as always it has many interesting things to read about that underappreciated part of the city (I still feel like I practically live there after going there day after day for my recent new-spots-in-Chinatown roundup). Some faves:

• How restaurateurs find their start in the Richland Center food court in Chinatown

• How changes in city food policy could help entrepreneurship happen

• Surveying the surprisingly strong gas station eats scene on the southside

• Spicy chicken sandwiches at Big Boss

• Coastal soul food at Surf’s Up South Shore

That’s just the start, check the whole issue out.

3. JEONG AND THE RESTLESS

A few weeks ago I sat down to dinner at Jeong, the new West Town restaurant from Dave Park and Jennifer Tran, who got their start in a suburban strip mall food court with Hanbun—and realized the fellow at the table next to me, just finishing up, was Jeff Ruby. (I was with Friend of Fooditor Kenny Z, whose daughters are big fans of Ruby’s young adult novel Penelope March is Melting, so it was fortuitous all around.) Later, I looked down the row I was sitting in—and there were Phil Vettel and his wife, too.

So it seemed likely Jeong was about to get reviewed by a few folks, and sure enough, this week they do. Jeff Ruby: “From the first course of the tasting menu, I knew that Dave Park had also taken his food to the next level. In that dish, thick, succulent coins of king crab nestle with twigs of pickled ginger, chile-braised fern, and a marmalade of maesil (Korean plums), its assertive flavors leaping off a base of mild silken tofu. The next offering, a puck of salmon tartare, was Park’s inspired take on hwe (pronounced way, as in ‘way better than sashimi’)… The dish’s texture was a journey unto itself, from the supple salmon to lush dabs of crème fraîche offset by bubu arare (cracker-like toasted rice orbs). It’s my favorite thing from 2019 so far. Not my favorite dish. My favorite anything.”

And Phil Vettel: “The optional tasting menu, $87 for seven courses, is a conspicuous bargain compared to menus of similar size and skill. It begins with a mix of house-made silken tofu with king crab and chile-braised fern, with a green-plum dressing; followed by an equally gorgeous disk of salmon tartare topped with crispy rice-cracker pearls, yuzu-blended creme fraiche and nasturtium petals.”

4. ON POINT

Wasn’t Mike Sula actually liking a brand new white-owned barbecue spot in a Reader review one of the foretold signs of the Apocalypse? I’ve known a few BBQ owners who felt that way, and Sula obviously knows they do, since he helpfully provides links to past anti-BBQ screeds.

But count him a fan of the new Flat and Point in Logan Square, from Spiaggia vet Brian Bruns and his wife Taylor, who worked up a repertoire of unusual dishes serving summers at a lakefront stand: “You still can’t order six pounds of brisket on butcher paper, but you can have a thick slab of Snake River Farm Wagyu brisket, usually a bit of the relatively meatier flat and a bit of the more marbled point, the entire piece laced with buttery intramuscular fat rendered clear and jiggly and suffused with gentle smoke flavor. Bruns knows that this sublime piece of beef requires no barbecue sauce, and he doesn’t serve it with one. But you will get a side of potatoes and a vegetable. When I ate it, it was an artful potato gratin, topped with spinach creamed with smoked garlic and onion puree.”

5. HE IS THE EGGMAN

John Kessler admits he’s an egg-o-holic, which makes a certain new casual Indian spot a perfect spot for him: “I love this restaurant, the first city location of a cheekily named Indian eatery. Egg-O-Holic serves dozens of Gujarati-style egg dishes, ranging from soupy curries to flavorful heaps of rice to double-decker egg panini. In fact, start there: The anda masala holds one layer of chopped boiled egg in a tingly gravy and one layer of grilled white cheese and raw vegetables between crisp griddled bread.”

6. PRIME DIRECTIVE

When the location of Stefani Prime in Lincolnwood was a Chinese restaurant, I had a plan for how to eat there: order the egg rolls which were classics of the form (peanut butter and all), but hold off on ordering anything else till you’d finished them. Then pretend you’re a doctor who just got paged, leave money on the table for the egg rolls and race out the door to eat lunch somewhere, anywhere else.

Anyway, Joanne Trestrail is somewhat more complimentary toward the new tenant: “The newest addition to the family-owned Stefani Group of 17 bars and restaurants, Prime has a strong steak program in the evening and, for both lunch and dinner, classic Italian dishes for which Stefani restaurants have long been known. Brace yourself: There’s no pizza. Such a gamble! But you won’t miss it. Instead find executive chef Matteo Lo Bianco’s steakhouse-worthy appetizers, well-made pastas, sandwiches and grandly portioned entrees. Steak itself has a relatively minor presence at lunchtime, though it shows up in a salad, a sandwich and one entree, if you’re hankering for red meat.”

7. BEER HAUL

District Brew Yards is a beer hall, not just in the traditional sense but also in the food hall sense of bringing three breweries (plus barbecue) together in one hall. Dominic Lynch checks it out at The New Chicagoan: “The biggest surprises were the strong offerings by Bold Dog, a low production brewery that is making some pretty solid brews. The milk stout Divinations was particularly tasty: a common stout at heart that was especially fresh and had nice chocolatey undertones with some coffee notes as well. Burnt City’s best brew was Tropic Thunder Lizard Grand Cuvée, which wasn’t a cuvée in the literal sense but which was very fruity, contained some nice tropical notes, and was sessionable for the style. Lastly, Around the Bend makes a surprisingly tasty — and highly recommended — cream ale called Vera, which is brewed heavily with pistachios and ends up tasting like a cream soda in the most respectful way possible; it is a true cream ale without being a milkshake.”

8. RICO ACT

Titus Ruscitti pays a visit to a little-known vintage pizza place, Rico’s, in Lansing near the Indiana border: “The sausage was missing that fennel us Chicagoan’s love and my guy had mentioned that was something he noticed a while back. Other than that this was a really well made tavern thin pizza. You know your city’s pizza scene is legit when a place like this can stay relatively unknown. Check it out.”

9. CEBU REVIEW

At ABC7 Steve Dolinsky visits Cebu, and says the Filipino food momentum is continuing: “The food is influenced by the namesake region in the Philippines, which means a bit more coconut milk and ginger all across the menu.”

10. TOTALLY ASSYRIAN

Ji Suk Yi writes about Assyrian Kitchen, a cooking class in the process of turning into a restaurant in Jefferson Park, focused on the little-understood cuisine of the Mesopotamian region.

11. RUFF STUFF

Happy to see that Friend of Fooditor Abra Berens is getting a lot of national coverage for her terrific book Ruffage (which we talked about here)—so why aren’t other Chicago media covering this sometimes-Chicago chef and farmer? Anyway, Bon Appetit talked about her book here, and you can see her on CBS This Morning here.

WHAT MIKE ATE

I heard there were new dishes on the menu at Mi Tocaya Antojeria, so I went to try them last week. The winner was crisped pork belly with a chimoy sauce, sweet and hot, but I also liked the spaghetti squash with corn and some lump crabmeat, earthy-comfy.

And though I will mourn Xocome Antojeria for a while to come, I checked out Chicken Pollo Shack, David Rodriguez’ venture with his wife on the rough edge of Humboldt Park, and wound up trying fried chicken vs. grilled chicken side by side, along with a lot of David’s sort-of-homemade sauces (most of them start with an existing product but get doctored up from there). Which did I like better? Both! There’s nothing wrong with either one, but I guess I’d try their excellent fried chicken first. But the grilled chicken, topped with lots of chimmichurri (or something close to it), is plenty good too.

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