So Bourdain has been Mr. Deep Dish Pizza Sucks forever, he comes back to Chicago for Parts Unknown to showcase our real cuisine… and he goes to Ricobene’s for a breaded steak sandwich, which makes deep dish look like a wheatgrass shake. His latest visit here really isn’t about food, with a list of places (Old Town Ale House, Valois, Second City) out of a 1979 Royko column, next to which brief appearances by Stephanie Izard and Longman & Eagle seem like add-ons from another world. This is about old school Chicago, and it tries to take on too much—a brief segment on the murder rate here (in which Lupe Fiasco tries to weasel out of responsibility for music about guns and hos), a valentine to Roger Ebert there. The star by far is bar owner Bruce Elliott, and the best part of it is getting to see some relentlessly non-trendy places get some media attention.


Kevin Pang in the New York Times has by far the most comprehensive look at what Alinea, Decade 2 will be like: “’A good cook will understand nuances in layers of flavors through seasoning: maybe it’s acid, spice, bitterness,’ Mr. Achatz said in an interview at the restaurant. ‘We want to keep that going. How do we season with sound? With light? With elements of emotions? For us, that makes the experience more complex and nuanced.’”

And even with pictures of the revamped interior (which is quite handsome in white and turquoise which somehow manages not to evoke Miami Vice), it’s still not clear what this will mean exactly. A lot of the things Grant Achatz talks about are things he’s been talking about for a long time—making the experience more experiential, using light and sound in interesting ways. The recent Alinea: The Progression saw some of these things put into practice and honestly, they looked fun for an event for longtime Alineagoers, not so sure you can run a restaurant long term on them. (The comments on the article are uniformly negative-to-scathing, and so’s a lot of Chicago food twitter.)

But bless ’em all for never resting on their laurels; there’s no shortage of places in Chicago to go for mere excellent food (have you had the breaded steak sandwich at Ricobene’s?), Alinea is out to make a new kind of art out of the experience, using their own money and that of people brave enough to take it on. Will it be preposterous? Fine dining already is, this may take it to a new level of creativity or craziness—but really, don’t you want to see what they come up with? I do.


I think we can officially declare Oriole a new darling on the dining scene, given a pair of rave reviews. Lisa Shames at CS calls it “a serene, pretty space with two long gray banquettes on either side of the small room and a smattering of white tablecloth-covered tables in the middle. Decor is limited… once you’re served, thinking about what is or isn’t decorating the room won’t be your most pressing thought. Rather, you’ll want to know where that subtle hint of smoke in the caviar-topped Scottish langoustine comes from (that would be the torched lardo wrapping the firm shellfish, I was told). It’s only one bite, but, boy, what an incredible impression it makes—and it’s followed by many more.”

And in the Reader, Mike Sula, though he’s a bit cynical about the whole enterprise of high-end dining (not to mention surely the first reviewer to ever mention the availability of tampons in a review), nevertheless seems to have nothing but praise for the actual experience: “Sandoval and Kwon present a crescendoing succession of delicate dishes with excellent product and superb flavors and compositions from which not an ort should remain on the plate. The service is well practiced, almost clairvoyant, but in no way over formal… Oriole has joined the ranks of the city’s high-dollar but truly fun multicourse events—AlineaNextElizabethSchwa—that you should make a point to experience, if only once.”


The legendarily eccentric pizza maker in Morton Grove has passed away at 78, several months after closing his eponymous place. Louisa Chu has a good memorial at the Trib.


More coverage of the mediocre Evanston Italian joint Dave’s Italian Kitchen than I would have thought it warranted, but kudos to The Daily Northwestern for getting the first real details to the story—that it was moving into a smaller space to save on rent. And that the city of Evanston was giving them a handout to ensure that the flow of routine pasta to NU students wouldn’t be interrupted.


Congrats to Ryan McCaskey of the (comparatively laid back next to Alinea 2.0) Acadia, which Vettel gave four stars to in its latest, more upscale incarnation: “McCaskey slips in a Maine homage with a stack of cod cheeks, littleneck clams and kohlrabi, coating them with a ‘chowder’ sauce that’s more like a glaze; the finished dish looks like a dill-topped mushroom, appropriately centered on a soil-brown plate surrounded by green reindeer lichen. He has fun with the asparagus salad concept, placing Iberico ham mousseline, ham breadcrumbs (dehydrated and ground with panko) and lemon balm around a single asparagus stalk. What looks like a bird’s nest is made of threads of beef brisket (yes, individual threads, and my sympathies to the employee who draws that chore), fried potato strips and grated truffle surrounding a sunny-side-up egg on a potato base.”


A while back I asked where the Trib’s food coverage was going; this week suggested that one answer is… listicles. Besides the month-long celebration of breakfast, we got a doughnut list, a Cinco de Mayo specials list for gringos featuring such Mexican hotspots as Beatrix, Bub City and and Mighty Nice Grill (in fact, it’s weirdly heavily weighted toward Lettuce places and almost all north side), and Phil Vettel promising “big changes” in Phil’s 50.


And just when we were set to despair of taco coverage, the Trib busts out some great news: we have breakfast tacos! There are in fact two stories (both by Nick Kindelsperger) under this heading. The less surprising is that Big Star (actually Big Star and Dove’s together) has finally figured that there’s a crying need for Austin-style, eggy breakfast tacos. I figured that had to happen someday.

The other, though, is a genuine find for a city too long breakfast taco-deprived: Jarabe Mexican Street Food, a new Tri-Taylor (close to Pilsen) spot from the guys behind the La Adelita food truck (currently off the streets). Speaketh Kindelsperger: “Jarabe currently has four stunning breakfast tacos on its menu. I do have a favorite. The #1 ($3) collects a pile of browned potatoes and crisped-up chorizo with soft scrambled eggs, a generous shower of salty queso fresco and a scoop of fresh pico de gallo. It’s the kind of taco made for fueling a body for serious work or for reviving a hung-over one. That the warm and flexible flour tortilla, made by El Milagro, manages not to crumble immediately deserves respect.” Those words—and this discovery—are worth a thousand pictures in a listicle to me. More of this, please.


“Entering the Duck Duck Goat dining room feels like parachuting into a Steven Spielberg set or, more specifically, Spielberg’s idea of 1930s Shanghai in ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.’” says Michael Nagrant in what could be the opening of an epic swatdown, since that film’s considered one of the worst of the series. But he means it’s entertaining without necessarily being authentic: “Our server was quick to tell us that the menu is made up of ‘semi-authentic’ dishes, a smart move… Dim sum, a Chinese phrase that roughly translates to “touch the heart” in English, is a good place to start. Izard describes her culinary style as aiming to “make your whole mouth happy.” With her dim sum, she’s also burning a fiery glow in your heart with smoky wood-fired duck heart slices swimming in a sesame- and horseradish-spiked mayo ($12) and char siu ribs ($16). For the latter, babybacks are cooked sous-vide style until tender and then glazed with a sticky sweet fermented tofu-, bourbon- and honey-infused housemade hoisin sauce.” (Redeye)


On the heels about the good news about that new Korean place in the usually depressing International Mall in Westmont, Mike Sula has good news about new places in the Japanese food court at the Mitsuwa shopping center in Arlington Heights: “The most promising is Hannosuke, a tempura specialist, further focusing on tendon, aka “tempura donburi.” That means freshly battered and fried-to-order sea creatures and vegetables over rice bowls seasoned with dashi, soy, and mirin. I can’t think of anyone doing tempura better in the Chicago area.” (Reader)


Last week Anthony Todd was coming in for grief for praising the $200+ antique drink experience at Milk Room from readers, but this week he’s the one who finds the “absolutely incredible” cured fish at Snaggletooth lost in a too-precious experience where “I felt like I needed brunch after my brunch. I spent $50.26 on brunch for two people, and I left hungry,” and “it’s not clean. The upstairs is carpeted (always a bad choice for a cafe) and it was covered in crumbs and detritus.” (Chicagoist)