The best of the Chicago Tribune last week, reporter Gregory Pratt responding to Mayor Lightfoot ducking scrutiny by saying she would only talk to black and Latino reporters, with the no-bullshit seriousness of mission of a great newspaper:

I am a Latino reporter @chicagotribune whose interview request was granted for today. However, I asked the mayor’s office to lift its condition on others and when they said no, we respectfully canceled. Politicians don’t get to choose who covers them.

The worst of the Tribune, of course, was the people with more than 80% of its voting stock voting to sell the company to rapacious hedge fund Alden Capital, and thus putting an expiration date on a sacred trust of journalism in a democracy—for make no mistake, Alden’s goal is to put out less and less of a paper until they can finally cash out the picked-over carcass of one. At Robert Feder’s site, he quotes the memo sent out by Colin McMahon, editor in chief of the Tribune, in the tone of a preacher assuring an abused wife that things might be better this time, with God’s help:

Give us the space to do the work, and we will continue to deliver quality journalism with impact while meeting the realities of the business.

I expect to get some direction next week when our new owners officially take over. Until then, take a breath, practice your craft, control what you can.

It will be interesting to see how Alden addresses the remaining Tribune readership publicly. Will they try to peddle some idea that there is a future, as the ludicrous Michael Ferro did with his vision of funneling content into the swirling Tronc-icane? My guess is that they’ll try to sell some notion of making hard choices in difficult times—as if they’re not the ones substantially responsible for exactly how difficult the Trib’s times are, and will continue to be.

What can we, as readers of the wounded and hobbled beast, do? Hard to say, but for a start, we can blame the greedy gutless wonders who got us here—Ferro, and evil gnome Sam Zell, and all the rest who voted 80-20 last week. I turn to the words of the great Irish statesman Charles Parnell, on how Irishmen should react to their fellow citizens who profited off the bankruptcy of their countrymen at the hands of the English landowners:

You must shun him on the roadside when you meet him, you must shun him in the streets of the town, you must shun him in the shop, you must shun him in the fairgreen and in the marketplace and even in the place of worship, by leaving him alone, by putting him in a moral Coventry, by isolating him from the rest of his country as if he were the leper of old, you must show your detestation of the crime he has committed.


And on that cheery note, let’s turn to the first review from the new restaurant critic team of Nick Kindelsperger and Louisa Chu! It’s Nick’s review of Soul & Smoke, which is not exactly a turn to Vettel-style sitdown dining for him—it is in fact a pickup-only restaurant that a catering company, a married couple named D’Andre Carter and Heather Bublick, pivoted to during lockdown in an industrial zone in Evanston:

In particular, the brisket is the best I’ve tried outside of Texas. Instead of gray and dry like too many versions in Chicago, each bite is outrageously juicy and laced with a smokiness that doesn’t leap for attention so much as wrap its fingers lovingly around the back of your neck. Though jet black, the rub doesn’t try to smother the flavor of the beef so much as tease it in exciting new directions. It’s served with barbecue sauce that trades overt sweetness for a lively, fruity acidity paired with a deeply savory base.


Just days after Michelin confirmed that it still had a Michelin star, Yugen, which took over the Grace space on Randolph when Curtis Duffy and Michael Muser decamped from the (three Michelin star) restaurant to escape owner Michael Olszewski, has announced that it is closing. The official release claims that chef Mari Katsumura, who worked at Grace as well as Acadia and Entente, is stepping away from the industry to “focus on personal needs,” whatever that means—I have heard suggestions that the implication of her leaving the industry, and retiring to a monastery in Tibet, taken at face value by most of the media coverage, is wildly exaggerated. All she has said is that she may help out her mom with her late father’s long-running Asian fusion restaurant Yoshi’s Cafe in Wrigleyville, but I would bet on a high profile reappearance sooner rather than later.

Yugen was reasonably successful at recovering from the debacle of an imploding Michelin three star restaurant, and kudos to Katsumura for landing her star, but observers suggest that the very high end Asian fusion restaurant was never especially successful—at one time, at least, waitstaff was reportedly put on salary because they’d never have earned a living based on tips, and early on, at least, it had a tendency to shut down suddenly for “private events” (suggesting it was actually shutting down due to a lack of reservations on the books that night). The high high end is a tough business, and you chase away a top-notch celebrity chef at your peril. The press release says “plans are in the works for a new establishment which will once again be second to none.” And third in that space in four years.


Something called The Mansion on Rush practically promises being over the top luxe, and that’s what David Hammond finds:

“The concept as I developed it,” says owner Rodrigio Ferrari, “was to have a restaurant that served Japanese cuisine with a Latin influence,” and that dual focus is evident in the spicy kampachi. This is a relatively simple preparation of yellowfin on a chili salsa with smoked soy, ponzu pearls and micro cilantro. Though there was a little heat in the salsa and saltiness from the soy, the excellent flavor of the fish came through cleanly. We liked it so much, we ordered a second helping of the spicy kampachi for dessert. The chili salsa reflects the Latin influence of Chef Alberto Padilla, who came to the Mansion on Rush kitchen [after] many years at La Scarola.


Steve Dolinsky visits the South Loop’s Apolonia and focuses on two items from S.K.Y. pastry chef Tatum Sinclair, “a decadent black truffle garlic bread to start, and a 5-way pistachio-based dessert to finish.”

Dolinsky also announced another new gig in a post-food media world—he’s working with a real estate company to pair spaces and restaurateurs. He’s also teaching food journalism at Medill this summer. And the Sun-Times talks about his pizza tours coming back. And he has a new pizza book coming. Just in case you were wondering what being a food writer should look like in 2021.


Fiya tended to get lumped with Galit, but considers its attempt at authentically Israeli street food to represent a distinct approach of its own. Titus Ruscitti says:

Fiya calls the food they serve “Soul Food of The Levant” and their menu breaks down into different sections. Those are Salatim, Hummus, Plates, Khachapuri, Pitas, and Dessert. Salatim means salad (in plural) and it’s a common part of an Israeli dinner. Typically it consists of a bunch of different cold starters. In the case of the Salatim served at Fiya those starters include Roast Cauliflower, Labneh, Roast Eggplant and a Zippy Corn Relish. They were out of the cauliflower so we got the $4 hummus add-on substituted for that. It all comes with a large fluffy pita baked in that oven I mentioned. This was a nice spread for a warm weather day and I think the corn relish was my favorite part bc it was pretty unique with chopped deli pickles included among jalapeno and bell pepper.

He also spots an interesting new Thai restaurant, EaThai:

EaThai replaced a Mexican restaurant at the corner of Kedzie and George right around the start of the year. While you never want to see a family owned spot close it’s nice to see another one open. EaThai is the product of a longtime Chicago chef who has branched out on his own cooking the traditional food is mother made him growing up in Thailand.


Mike Sula’s list of weekend pop-ups to check out is mostly out of date by the time you read this, but some of them will no doubt be back in future weeks. See what all is going on out there.


Is there anything more prominent yet overlooked in Chicago than Polish food? Maybe Ecuadoran, but anyway, Sandwich Tribunal explores Polish Kanapki:

The word derives from the French canapé, but while canapé describes a single-bite, decorative morsel, kanapki are open-faced sandwiches along the lines of some that we’ve covered before–Butterbrot, Smørrebrød, Obložené chlebíčky. It is my understanding that while Kanapki can be more elaborate like the latter two, they tend more toward the simplicity of the former–bread, butter, a meat topping or prepared spread and a vegetable garnish.

What follows is a tour through Polish delis on the southwest side, including an apparent madhouse called Lassak Deli:

Upon entering Lassak, there is a deli counter with a take-a-number system for service. I have never experienced a time when there were fewer than 10 people ahead of me in line. After the deli counter, there is a separate line for ordering prepared foods from the steam cabinet….The addition of a pretty extensive produce section brings Lassak very close to a full American style grocery store, but for the clear focus on Polish goods. I was able to get the attention of a deli manager and ask about kanapki, but Lassak wasn’t taking orders for less than 2 weeks out at the time I visited.


As Block Club puts it about gyros and diner dive Greek Corner: “Before January, the last time a car crashed into`Greek Corner was 27 years ago. Now it’s happened twice in five months.”


Felix Vallarta, long-time elotero (street seller of elotes, roasted corn with toppings), of COVID at 73. The Sun-Times has his obituary:

Jany Andrade hopes people remember her grandfather’s ability to spread joy.

“It’s just the joy in people’s faces, having happiness when they eat the elote. … And even in the saddest or worse moments, he would always find a way to make a joke. He taught me how to love.”


Two weeks ago, at Adorn, everyone was very conscious of masks and maintaining distance. A week ago, at Elske, masks came off immediately at each table, but tables were distant enough apart that we all felt like our own bubbles; what was happening at the next table might as well have been on Zoom.

But Friday, when I was invited to join a friend’s large party at Andros Taverna—the world of masks and social distance and fear seemed like it had never been. Not quite true, as staffers still wore their chic black masks. But diners seemed as unconscious of a year of lockdown as they were of the War of 1812 or the Permian Extinction. And not just at this restaurant—strolling up Milwaukee past Daisies, past BiXi Beer, past Estereo and Paulie Gee’s, the old world was back as if it had never left us, an extremely pleasant summer evening calling out a never-ending stream of strollers, diners and barhoppers, making their way from one buzzing spot to the next.

It felt a little funny to me still; I hope it was not the setup for finding out just how well our new vaccines do and do not work. But assuming that they mostly work, it felt good to be out among the humans again, and good to see restaurants hopping again, and fire shooting up as food cooked over it, and brightly colored drinks arriving at tables, and people working.

And it’s hard to imagine more of such things could be happening than were at jampacked Andros Taverna, which sits at the northwest end of that massive Kremlin wall of a building that includes a Target, a Jeni’s and KFire, and has a narrow patio of outdoor seating overlooking a scraggly vacant lot (the city promises a park, we were told)—on that temperate Friday night, the happiest place I could imagine being.

A Greek restaurant from Doug Psaltis (the former P in RPM) and his ex-French Laundry wife Hsing Chen, Andros offers a take on Greek dining with the buttoned-up executional skill of a sleek downtown hotspot like the RPM joints. Greek pita comes off the wood fire as fresh as the Israeli ones at Galit, accompanied by a platter of taramasolata, charred eggplant and other spreads positively reeking of summer freshness, alongside charred meatballs accompanied by Greek yogurt thick enough to stand up a spoon in. A complete set of eight tentacles comes out cooked as perfectly as octopus can be cooked, accompanied by nothing more than a slice of lemon—all it could ever need. Much the same for grilled sea bass, as tender as a pillow and tasting of lemon, oregano and clean seas.

As we moved through braised lamb shank kleftiko we might have begun to see some of the limitations of Greek cuisine, at least when you’re getting it the way we did (a tasting of much of the menu)—at some point we had three different forms of potato, not that different, on the table, and seeing the Greek yogurt arrive for a third or fourth time made me want something new to dot grilled meat with. I was grateful for the vegetable exception, spring pea latheros, sweet peas in a tomato sauce. (But most people wouldn’t order the way our party did, and have as many flavors and textures repeated in one night.) I was eager to try the gyros, which are pork, and come out arranged beautifully on a pillowy pita with yogurt, cucumbers, tomatoes and a simple salad of onions and dill; the meat had great char-grilled texture but was, at least that night, oversalty to me. We ended with a dessert of raspberry soufra, described as “ruffled custard pie” made from layers of phyllo—again, simple and utter freshness.

The setting, the timing obviously influenced how happy this meal left me feeling. But that’s not in any way to sell the kitchen short—this is food beautiful in its simplicity and executed with a level of professionalism that belies any thought of having been open only a few weeks and in an atmosphere when finding staff can be hard. This is a place to make you believe our restaurant scene can come back from a terrible year, roaring.

Buzz List will be off next week, and will return on June 7.