And so one of 2022’s most-anticipated restaurant stories comes to an end—at least its opening chapter does. Le Select opened in January, as a collaboration between Boka Group and Paris-based (but Chicago-born) chef Daniel Rose (La Bourse et La Vie in Paris, Le Coucou in New York). I’d say reviews were mixed but the only mainstream review I know of was John Kessler’s in Chicago magazine, though Michael Nagrant wrote similar things at his Substack. But before we completely blame Kessler, his view was one I heard from a number of people who had been there, which was that it needed some time at best. Now Boka and Rose have parted ways. Eater:

Chicago-based Boka announced the move via a news release and didn’t make co-founders Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm available to interview. Boka and Rose also collaborated on a restaurant in LA called Café Basque inside the Hoxton hotel.

Critics reacted lukewarmly to Le Select, with Michael Nagrant dubbing the restaurant “Le Mid.” Shortly after opening, opening chef de cuisine Jason Heiman departed.

Boka chefs Chris Pandel and Lee Wolen, as well as new chef de cuisine Pat Sheerin, have been brought in to try to fix the restaurant.

I can’t tell you anything directly; I haven’t eaten there, I’ve never eaten at Le Coucou (I haven’t been to New York in a decade). But I’ll throw out a couple of theories advanced by correspondents of mine:

• Too damn big. One correspondent—who was indeed just in New York and ate at Le Coucou—said that there were about 70 people at Le Coucou when he went; Le Select seats 300. That’s a big brasserie, and it sounds like everybody experienced some growing pains in scaling up like that.

• We missed the moment. The conventional wisdom, which was certainly my view, was that if you didn’t need to go, you might as well wait to go until it seems to stabilize. But another correspondent suggested that Le Select had already been at its peak once—and we missed it:

My view is it started at full strength. Very good for such a ridiculously big place, trying to do very high end bistrot food in a brasserie setting, and succeeding but nowhere near as good as his La Bourse et La Vie in Paris. They have been dumbing it down gradually to react to the reactions of people who didn’t appreciate what he was doing.

Well, that could be true, but I also think, that way madness lies—timing your visit to a restaurant to when the stars are aligned just right in terms of its management and operation is impossible for the normal person (or even the clued-in food journalist).


Could steak become a genuinely interesting category here, after a century of being the fallback dining choice of bored businessmen who don’t want your tasting menu? Seems improbable, and yet we’ve seen any number of places—from Jose Andres’ pricy Bazar Meat to Meat Moot on the southwest side—trying to do new things with hunks of cow. And now Nick Kindelsperger says that Asador Bastian is responsible for the two best pieces of meat he can recall eating in some time:

The latest project from couple Doug Psaltis and Hsing Chen is modeled on the asadores, or grill houses, of San Sabastián, a city perched on the Bay of Biscay along Spain’s northern coast. But it also intentionally challenges many of Chicago’s seemingly sacred steak traditions.

I always thought the best steak came from cattle that were less than 2 years old. If fed the right diet, this produces beef that’s extraordinarily tender and loaded with fat. But as is common in northern Spain, Asador Bastian proudly serves steaks from older cattle. In fact, all the beef served here comes from cattle at least 30 months old, with some nearly 12 years old.

While prime beef from younger cattle cuts like butter, it can also come across as mild and a little greasy. But the meat here showcases a clear, unfiltered beefiness that’s immensely savory without getting weighty. It does have a slightly more toothsome texture but remains remarkably succulent. In the past month, I’ve devoured two of the finest steaks I’ve tried in years.


Speaking of Parisian brasseries or bistros in America, Michael Nagrant writes a paean to one he knows works—Thomas Keller’s Bouchon, which is in multiple places (he went in Vegas):

Bouchon is a franchise. I died after experiencing the shattery crust of a crispy veal sweetbread flanked by crenulated musky morels and verdant nubbins of asparagus dripping with a butter cream sauce last night. Later in the evening I sent a picture of the dish to a friend on Instagram. He sent me a picture of the same dish back. He had eaten it hours earlier at lunch at Bouchon in Napa Valley.

I do not know if his was as good, because I have eaten at both, and have found for whatever reason, maybe it’s the dog-eat-dog competitiveness of Vegas hospitality work, the Bouchon in Vegas to be slightly better than the OG. But I am sure it was close, which is to say even if Bouchon is Le TGI Fridays, it is Le Best TGI Fridays in the world.

(To clarify, it’s not actually a franchise, which means a concept licensed by a local operator, but it is a chain.)


As Venezuelans settle in the U.S., El Rincon de Fabio is a new Venezuelan restaurant (no relation to Fabio of Bar Siena etc. fame). The Infatuation goes:

You’re at El Rincon de Fabio for some of Chicago’s best arepas. And if you decide to focus on anything else while you’re here, there’s also a cachapa on fluffy masa, and a patacone that deserves an Oscar for best performance in textures. In fact, the Venezuelan food at this charming Uptown spot is so compelling, you’ll look past any potential sensory overload.


Steve Dolinsky talks to Monica Eng and David Hammond about their book on Chicago foods:

Chicago is known for many edible icons. Deep-dish, hot dogs and Italian beef are some of the classics.

But there are many more, all of which have been researched and documented in a new book by a pair of local food writers.

Don’t forget the pepper-and-egg sandwich and taffy grapes, found at your neighborhood steak and lemonade joint. Chicago has a rich history of street food, much of it cooked up in response to our working-class roots.


Titus Ruscitti writes a guide to Cincinatti:

I ranked the Queen City sixth place on my list of the Midwest’s ten best food cities. I don’t think I would move it up but probably not down either. But after this trip I think I would rank it higher than six as far as best Midwest cities. It’s a really nice place that has a decent amount to offer. It reminded me a little bit of Pittsburgh mixed with Louisville and a splash of St. Louis. I enjoyed checking out all of the different neighborhoods and their parks and walking across a few of the bridges into Kentucky. It’s a charming little city and I wouldn’t hesitate to return for some more exploring. Here’s where this trip brought us.


A well-liked, artisanal restaurant on the northwest side has to shut down when its water line in this city of decaying infrastructure fails. Yeah, I know, you say, that was Table Donkey and Stick a few months back. Yes it was, but now it’s somebody else—Wherewithall, the sibling restaurant to Parachute, is dealing with basically the same problem. There isn’t a a fundraiser or anything (as of yet) but you could support them and their workers by eating at Parachute. UPDATE: a reader pointed out the fundraiser here.


New York’s acclaimed cocktail bar The Dead Rabbit will pop up at Chicago’s The Dawson on June 4, as they transform the second floor into an Irish-vaganza with food and cocktails, Irish musicians and more. I didn’t see a direct link for more info. but watch the Dawson’s site as it gets closer.

Moneygun has opened a summer popup called Sunnygun, themed as an “homage to Palm Springs in the ’70s.” Go here to find out more.

I was just talking last week about attending a mezcal dinner. Now you can too, at Brasserie by C&C in Edgewater: on June 11 they’ll have a five-course Mexican dinner with mezcal pairings featuring Evelyn Botello of Mezcal Amaras. Go here for more info.


Not that long ago I was bemoaning the extinction of the old school breakfast diner, several near me had closed. Now we seem to have a bunch of new such places to get something early in the morning. Let’s check them out!

Little Goat Diner: As you probably know, this moved from the West Loop to the Southport Bowling Lanes complex that also includes Itoko and GG’s Chicken. The design is cool, subtly recalling the bowling alley it replaced with retro vinyl in the booth seating. Someone called the original Little Goat “stoner food,” and I think this offers good guidance for how to order—I ordered corned beef hash and my bowl of corned beef slices and hash browns was boring, like adulthood. My son’s girlfriend ordered PB&J pancakes, and based on the bite I had, it was great, a little mouth explosion of sweet and savory and kid nostalgia… in other words, top-drawer stoner food.

Daisies: Needs no introduction for dinner, I assume, but in their new location (the former Radler) they’re open early for coffee and pastries by Leigh Omilinsky (ex of Nico Osteria, Bellemore, etc.). Nice stuff and now maybe I have a coffee-and-wifi hangout with lots of space again, something I’ve lacked since the closures of both Arbor and the Ravenswood Bang Bang Pie.

Irene’s Finer Diner: a former Alps restaurant on Irving has reopened, under a family member who also has The Press Room downtown. Sunny and welcoming, but based on two experiences the kitchen is still finding their legs a bit in terms of execution. Still, I feel like this will be a keeper for the neighborhood.

Early Morning: a little to the east of Irene’s on Irving, this is a Mexican-owned and definitely Mexican-flavored breakfast spot—though the last time I went I was told that they’ll be opening for dinner soon, despite the name. Family-run and very friendly, both times I’ve been they brought something extra on the house: the first time a sample of their beignets, the second time a tamale to offer a preview of dinner, coming soon to… Early Morning.

Alexander’s: one of the old school places that closed was Jeri’s Grill at Western and Montrose. Alexander’s is a similar place up on Clark in Edgewater. So now Alexander’s has taken over the Jeri’s location (and remodeled the formerly retro space, very white). Foodwise if not decor-wise, it seems very much the kind of place you’d expect, and it was fine by me. Though I miss the Sprite sign that hung off Jeri’s, and which would match the look here.