It’s a big week for hanging out with Chicago’s food scene, past and present, on podcasts:

Chicago’s Very Own Eats podcast is also on WGN Radio, and this time they talk to Dan Raskin, fourth generation owner of Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen:

A reason why this interview took place was because of the outpouring of support from Chicago foodies [who] responded to our question on Twitter, “When you hear “Classic Chicago Restaurant”, what comes to mind first?”. Dan reacts to the support and tells us what he thinks makes Manny’s a true Chicago classic.

Onetime Chicago chef turned media star Graham Elliott is now apparently resident in Hawaii, where besides a restaurant he’s launched a podcast about food and pop culture called Pop Chef. (Good name!) The first episode is about Julia Child, who he talks about with Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (LA’s Too Hot Tamales, and also former Chicagoans—I recently interviewed Milliken about their time working for Jovan Trboyevic at Les Nomades).

The audience for an inside recap of the Jean Banchet Awards and the S.K.Y. kerfuffle may be small… well, actually it may just be me. Nevertheless I think the new episode of Amuzed, in which Michael Muser and Pat Kiely talk about that controversy, and in general what it was like paying tribute to the restaurant scene after 2-1/2 years of lockdown (and no Banchet awards), is interesting even if you’re not me, as they talk about why it matters for the food and beverage industry to recognize and honor itself at all levels, and how you deal with a customer determined to have a problem.

You’ve probably heard, and have already internalized, Steve Dolinsky’s viewpoint on Chicago pizza, why tavern cut is the real Chicago pizza and not deep dish, and so on. But millions of Americans have yet to hear the good news! They’ll get another chance this week on the Taste podcast when Dolinsky is the guest, talking pizza truth.


Nick Kindelsperger seems starstruck by Alpana—the celebrity owner, the room, the combination of food and wine:

Take the braised octopus. It’s a dish of striking contrasts, with tender slices of tentacles nestled next to astoundingly crispy fingerling potatoes. It’s seasoned lightly with Urfa biber, a crushed Turkish chile, and just the right amount of salsa verde to add character, but not swamp everything in oil. While I’m sure it’s good with a glass of water, it comes alive when paired with a bracing, yet medium-bodied white wine, like Merga Victa Pošip from Croatia.

Though wine can obviously be a great social lubricant, [Alpana] Singh loves when it helps create a moment you can’t shake. “I hope people pause for the experience,” Singh said. “Then you can pay attention to how the food is changing the flavor of the wine and how the wine is changing the food.”


Happy to see the name Lisa Shames pop up at the Tribune, talking about the hot and trendy mushroom supplier of the moment, Four Star Mushrooms:

Beyond the thrill of working with some of the city’s best chefs and seeing his handiwork featured on their menus and Instagram accounts, [founder/CEO Joe] Weber is particularly excited about the multi levels of recycling his mushrooms can generate. Grown with waste products — in this case, soybean hulls and red oak sawdust — the spent substrate is then recycled even further to make a nutrient-rich compost. Early on, Weber began sharing his mushroom compost with Herban Produce, a Garfield Park farm, and the initial results have been promising.

“The faster we can turn this into a valued-added product, the faster we can use it to restore land and grow crops in these vacant lots in the South and West side communities,” he said. “There is a huge opportunity for community gardens there and for food security.


I got a lot of invites to try Portillo’s new Garden Dog meatless hot dog. A lot, and I knew I wasn’t the only one. Here’s Louisa Chu on the thing:

Wolfed down in a mouthful, with a bite of crisp dill pickle and hot sport pepper, the new Portillo’s plant-based Garden Dog holds up as a top dog over a lot of the scrawny hot dogs around town.

Well, personally, given a choice between wolfing it or a dog at Wolfy’s… meanwhile Brad Cawn had some things to say about the promotional efforts on behalf of this Not Dog:

Sincere question for local food “influencers” from an old print journalism fogey: Let’s say you were invited to a “garden party” by a fast food chain that rhymes with Mortillo’s, with the expectation (explicit? Implicit?) you’ll create content about their weiners—what obligation, if any, do you feel you have to acknowledge in said content that you took a free meal in exchange for a post? (What we used to call a “promo.”) The query is made in earnest; you can say “none”! Just curious.

Keep reading here.


Steve Dolinsky does Thailand as he works his way around Chicago Asian for Asian-American Pacific Islander month, with a particular interest in the authentic Thai at Talard Thai.


Food halls are taking off again and they’re not just 16 On Center opening a massive one in the old post office building. There’s a Mexican one coming to Pilsen from the Casa Indigo people (who will move their restaurant into it). Block Club:

Casa Indigo will have a station serving up Mexico City-inspired street food dishes. Another option will be a globally influenced restaurant for breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch with the working name Indigo Mango. The third spot in the food hall will offer Mexican seafood, serving Nayarit-style food with a “beach shack style and vibe.”


David Hammond talks about English delicacies with weird names at The Albion Manor:

Spotted Dick is a menu item that has launched a billion awkward jests that servers everywhere in the English-speaking world must endure with a tortured smile as they patiently take the order.

We’ve had Spotted Dick in England, and the version at The Albion was somewhat more crafted than what we’ve had in the homeland of the sweet.


Michael Nagrant’s Substack newsletter Love in the Time of Coronavirus is back under a new name—The Hunger—and it starts up with a typically Nagrantian viewpoint: that Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza, recently returned, is the Kanye of… something something:

You don’t care why it was gone and why it’s coming back. You just care that the Lazarus-tortilla pie will rise again. You care because in the eighties when it was launched, it fed your childish soul. You care because in the nineties after two-a-day football practices, the only thing that could nourish your body was a two liter of cherry Coke, a shared 12 pack of crunchy tacos with your best friend Jason, a Meximelt (also R.I.P.) and crunchy flaky pastry-like tortillas larded with beef, a dual cheese blend, zesty tomato sauce, scallions, and get this, authentic Mexican black olives. That’s right, Taco Bell secretly whacked black olives at some point too. Olives also adorned another discontinued item, the Enchirito, which is obviously a pre-“loco” portmanteau of enchilada and Dorito.

If you weren’t housing Mexican Pizza after football practice, then it was at least two Big Macs. Which is to say, though you would become a food writer and critic, responsible for parsing the purity of cheeses produced by the lacrima of virginal goats (or whatever the current foodway obsession might be), you recognize that the Big Mac, the Mexican Pizza, and Chi-Chi’s fried ice cream also represent the pinnacle of edible achievement.


Monica Eng writes about Chinese-American food pioneer Joyce Chen for the Washington Post:

A half-century later, almost 20 years after her death, Child still looms larger than life in American culture — she’s even the subject of a new HBO series — while Chen, who died in 1994, has largely faded into the mist of Chinese American history.

In fact, many outside the Boston area — this writer included — had never even heard of the Chinese American cookbook author, restaurateur and entrepreneur until 2014, when she landed on a series of U.S. postage stamps celebrating American culinary figures that also included James Beard, Edna Lewis and Child.

This month, GBH (formerly WGBH) is hoping to change that by highlighting its recent release of a little-known documentary Chen produced for the station chronicling her family’s trip back to China shortly after President Richard M. Nixon opened diplomatic relations with the communist nation in 1972. “Joyce Chen’s China” is streaming on the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, which also hosts 11 episodes of her black-and-white cooking show.


Maillard Tavern, opened by Tony Priolo and Ciro Longobardo a few years ago as a primo burger joint near downtown, is closing. According to Priolo it just never recovered from lockdown, failing to turn a profit for two years. Is this a sign that the seemingly insatiable desire for burgers, which swept through the city like a small French horse, is kaput? Maybe! Eater has the story.

Meanwhile, in similar decline of burgers news, Taste has a rather overthought and overwrought piece about whether burger ranking listicles are done as a major part of our food media diet:

My mind immediately goes to a dystopian, sparingly beef-centric future whenever I see a breathless update of a region’s burger rankings drop online, or the inevitable thread that starts every month on a city-specific Subreddit asking users about the best burgers in town. Does it really matter whether a particular patty on a particular bun is better than another when beef consumption is trending downward and “eco-anxiety” is trending up?

Oh brother! You won’t be terribly surprised to learn that it’s mostly a piece where New York=All Known Reality.


It looks like the hot burger of the moment is Union‘s, and Titus Ruscitti has an enticing photo of one—ironically it’s the one thing I didn’t have when I went to the Logan Square sibling of Lardon, which he aptly describes with his first sentence:

While Union isn’t anything new to the neighborhood it’s the type of spot that would be a welcome addition anywhere. They sport a killer beer list with a Midwest focus and I like that all the taps can be ordered in half or full portions. There’s no outdoor dining but the front windows will be open if it’s nice outside. Seating is mostly communal and or at the bar but there’s a handful of tables for groups.

I also endorse the fried green olives being a year-round offering.


This week’s photo is from a (comped) wine dinner for Riboli Family Wines—check out Maddalena Cabernet Sauvignon, a very-reasonable-for-California Cab $16.49 at Jewel-Osco, named for the 99-year-old matriarch of the family—at Grant Achatz’s Roister. I don’t know if there’s any restaurant that quite flummoxes me like Roister. I’m not knocking it, I’m just saying I’ve gone at least four times and it’s seemed like a completely different restaurant every time—one time emphasis on crudos (excellent) and the like, another time on Andrew Brochu’s chicken three ways (also outstanding), once I sat at the bar (firmly ignored by the guys working four feet away) and was told things like that the lasagna was not suitable for sharing (um, each of you takes half of it?), and somehow managed to sit in front of a hearth for an hour and a half without ever getting anything that was cooked over flame. Again, not that I ever had a bad experience, just that it never worked out to be what it seemed like it was going to be. It’s a little hard to go around recommending a restaurant that mystifies you, even in a good way.

Anyway, so my latest experience with Roister was this wine dinner; multiple courses accompanied by Riboli Family wines. There’s a new chef at Roister—Adair Canacasco, who came over from Alinea—and again, it was a wildly variable menu, starting with a couple of high summer dishes which the weather was just barely up to (a peach soup was odd, a plate of tomato and watermelon slices, seasoned with something like everything spice, was freaking wonderful), then the somewhat off pairing of a heavy cabernet and vegetable dishes (broccoli with smoked tofu and maitake mushrooms with a bit of foie); another cab, called Stormwatch, went with excellent, tender gnudi, and a venison skewer with pineapple (?) in a very flavorful harissa, then lamb belly (too lamb-y for me, though I loved the garlic kind of pesto-like topping) and a revision of Brochu’s chicken platter (excellent fried and roasted chicken, kind of tough smoked chicken, terrific potatoes). Finally a cheese course (superb) with house-smoked grapes and a side of olive oil sorbet (weird).

Sounds like a mixed bag, by my individual descriptions, and yet taking it not course by course but as a whole, it was a fantastic meal—at a time when our restaurants seem timid (let’s open an Italian restaurant!), hoping to do just what will help them survive the early post-COVID era, this was a blast of daring straight out of 2010 Chicago, with a chef willing to go out over his skis at times in hopes of making something insanely delicious we’d never seen before—and achieving it more than a few times.  Now, the question is, is any of this on the regular menu? I honestly don’t know, but just seeing what the current chef can do, I can recommend Roister as unreservedly as any restaurant where your guess of what you’ll get is as good as mine.

Had to pick a place for an anniversary dinner, and was having a hard time deciding what place I hadn’t been to since before the lockdown—then the S.K.Y./Banchet thing happened, and I knew which place, too far to go for takeout during lockdown, I wanted to finally get back to. A lot of classics still on the menu—the hamachi sashimi, the lobster ravioli, the bibimbap with a hunk of foie (though it’s terrific even before you add the fancy). But we aimed to try what was new on the menu—and particularly liked the Japanese Caesar salad (only a little like Caesar salad, but tart with bits of crispy nori, or Rohan duck confit with a rhubarb glaze and sauce, or a side (new this week) of carrots and peas in tart, lemony miso butter. It’s funny, there was a time when proclaiming “global flavors” was a sure sign of mediocrity, but now it’s just routine that chefs who came up through traditional training have a totally assured sense of how to hop around the globe making dishes that punch Asian flavors home. I was happy to see that S.K.Y. was packed on a Friday night, undisturbed by the contretemps of a few weeks ago; it’s a restaurant that just nails one imaginative, comfy dish after another with impeccable execution quality at an entirely reasonable bill.