This week I actually left the house (with my mask on), visiting the under-construction restaurant Ever to talk to GM Michael Muser about building a restaurant for how dining will be… ever after. He has some really interesting thoughts, largely on the theme of, this is our business—making sure people are absolutely comfortable in the dining-out experience, whatever that means in this new era. Check out our conversation below, or here:


This was the week that restaurants that had gotten out of the business  early on started getting back into it again, including some of our biggest groups. Here are some highlights for me:

Boka Group announced that namesake Boka would start serving takeout meals, while Girl & the Goat went the bodega route with Girl & the Goat-Ceries.

One Off Hospitality will start offering food Monday through some of its restaurants including Pacific Standard Time (an early star in Coronavirus takeout, cut short by One Off’s shutdown a month ago), avec, Publican Quality Meats, Big Star (just got an email about Cinco de Mayo margaritas) and The Violet Hour. Go here to preorder.

The big news in the media—specifically, the New York Times—was that Fat Rice was shutting down for the foreseeable future to go to an innovative meal kit model called Super Fat Rice Mart, which sells two people enough for breakfast, lunch and dinner a la Fat Rice. “Super Fat Rice Mart, which starts tomorrow, is not a stopgap measure. [Co-owner Adrienne] Lo said they would not reopen Fat Rice even after stay-at-home orders are lifted in Illinois. ‘We feel like we need to adapt to what’s happening,’ she said. ‘That doesn’t mean we’re never going to have regular dine-in customers again. But we feel like that’s not going to be for at least a year, and probably longer.’” The Tribune has pictures of what is in the current meal kit.

Kuma’s Corner is serving takeout burgers from both Chicago locations. You can also get a Small Cheval burger at Aster Hall in 900 N. Michigan now.

If your tastes run instead to Korean tacos, Del Seoul on Clark reopened Friday.

Kai Zan started doing sushi takeout this weekend.

L’Aventino Forno Romano, subject of this Fooditor story, started delivery again on Thursday—see What Mike Ate below for more.

Bang Bang Pie has Mother’s Day specials here.

The Biscuit Man reopens this week.

Flat and Point is doing both family dinners and meal kits with sausages and tamales.

Speaking of tamales, I mentioned last week that I was ordering tamales from Daniel Espinoza’s Santa Masa Tamaleria after reading Nick Kindelsperger’s piece. Alas, a couple of days later I got an email saying they were shutting down to rework their system, no doubt after getting a crush (for their size, anyway) of orders. No word yet on when or if they will return.

J.T.’s Genuine Sandwich Shop started up sandwiches again this week.

And I’ve noted a couple of times when it’s come up on the podcast that Alinea to Go wasn’t really serving Alinea food (the comfy French food was closer to Next Paris 1906 or St. Clair Supper Club), but they called my bluff, doing a 15th anniversary dinner including a version of the dessert on your own table. It’s sold out, but keep an eye out, they may do more in that vein. Friend of Fooditor Dan Zeman shared it with his mom and has pics here.


Amy Cavanaugh starts a piece at Chicago by recapping the Fat Rice story, then looks around the city at who else is doing a market-style model—like Bodega Biscay, Middlebrow Bungalow and Daisies, where owner Joe “Frillman envisions continuing produce sales even once Daisies reopens. He expects to reconfigure its back room into a market, which would sell produce from the farm and items made in the Daisies kitchen… ‘It reminds me a little of gas stations in the South, where you can get grocery items but also some amazing food,’ he says.”


When will bars reopen? Elizabeth Atkinson deals with that question. Here’s Ed Marzewski of Maria’s/Marz Brewing: “‘Everyone will have to wear masks and gloves. Sanitizer will be everywhere… Restaurants and bars will look like the set of Blade Runner without all the retro futurist aesthetics. All in all, not a pretty or comforting environment.'”


Eater has a nice piece on Dean Zanella, a veteran chef with a heartrending personal story, who is keeping his bar Tivoli Tap going by doing woodfired pizza with the help of a friend he helped out when the friend was launching a suburban pizza place.


I have to admit the state of E.J.’s Place—an old school steakhouse in Skokie—during the Coronavirus is not something that had occurred to me to wonder about. But Nick Kindelsperger turns up an upbeatish story about how the next generation (daughter Gabriella Lenzi Littleton) took this opportunity to change things, and translate her dad E.J. Lenzi’s service for the curbside pickup era: “Littleton and Lenzi are also considering what dining out might look like once restaurants are allowed to reopen their dining rooms. ‘We are rethinking a lot of things we’d normally do,’ says Littleton. ‘Will we have a bread basket? We’ll probably have to get rid of the linen, because we’d need to disinfect the tables after every use.’”


Want to mope over what you’re missing? Resy has a list of 40 things to whine about that you can’t have at Chicago bars and restaurants, if you must.


As mentioned last week, Restaurant Depot, the restaurant wholesale market, is open for now to the general public, At Eater, Titus Ruscitti offers a guide to shopping there: “I’ve always used the term ‘Costco on steroids’ to describe Restaurant Depot to those curious about what it is. My first experience with the store came in my high school days (2000s) when my mom ran a local non-profit that allowed her to have a membership, which is free to anyone who can provide proof of a business license. Having access to that membership card gave me the experience needed to navigate the massive warehouse that stocks a full range of fresh meats, seafood, produce, frozen products, dry groceries, cleaning supplies, beverages, and restaurant equipment.” He also ends the piece with links to other shops selling mainly to professionals, from Northwestern Cutlery to Banner in Pilsen.


Steve Dolinsky stashed cameras around his home kitchen and had Rick Bayless over to cook ramps, while trying to maintain social distance the whole time. It didn’t seem to go over well with viewers, so afterwards he announced they wouldn’t be doing it again, and the segment has been taken down.

Meanwhile, he has good things to say about Middle Brow Bungalow’s pizza meal kits at ABC7.


Evanston’s Farmers Market reopened this weekend under new rules, and Chewing talks with them about it, while Louisa Chu also looks at the situation with El Milagro tortillas (they had to close for a complete scrubdown after an employee died).

Kevin Boehm appeared on Fox News last week to talk about the impact on restaurateurs. (Surprised someone didn’t get a phonetic spelling—”Bame”—into the teleprompter, though.)

And Culinary Historians of Chicago has moved some of its upcoming programming to Zoom—check it out here.


So one day last week, the New York Times had a story by Brett Anderson about an important Chicago restaurant… and the Chicago Tribune named Lettuce’s Pizza Portofino the best pizza in town! In other words, the NYT landed the Fat Rice story, and the Tribune had self-generated fluff content. Why is that? Well, part of it, I’m sure, is that Fat Rice (with a Beard award, a cookbook, and TV chef appearances by Abe Conlon) sees itself as a national player, just as Grace did when its closing story made the NYT first—and no matter that Michael Nagrant observedguess who can’t use meal kits in Chicago? Quarantined people in NYC,” they see their audience for this news of an innovative restaurant innovating as primarily the food media who read the NYT—and don’t read any Chicago food media.

And why not? Why would Fat Rice want to give it to the Tribune, which has never been strong on covering one of the city’s most consistently interesting restaurants of the past decade? In his review, Phil Vettel only gave them two stars, which is officially “very good” but realistically more like “okay.” But all that might be reading too much into their choice. After all, here’s what happened in Tribuneland this week:

More than 100 Tribune Publishing employees told off their bosses in an internal Slack channel yesterday, calling out executives by name for putting shareholders’ interests over workers’ well-being and ability to report and deliver crucial local news to their communities, while pleading with them to consider alternatives to sweeping furloughs and cuts. The top boss responded by running away.

That was at Vice, describing how an attempt by CEO Terry Jimenez to softsoap employees over why the company is imposing furloughs and pay cuts while giving $9 million in dividends to shareholders this month. (I recommend reading about it at Vice, which since it wasn’t covered by anybody in Chicago. Including the mordant final paragraph, which implies that reporters asking the boss tough questions via Slack could be regarded as misuse of company property. Do these guys even know what business they’re [allegedly still] in?)

The Tribune has been the big dog locally for so long that they probably won’t even recognize how they’re sidelining themselves, and to some extent the entire media scene in this city, until it’s too late. If you’re Alden Capital or of a like cannibalistic mind, it’s probably a positive for you, accelerating the decline. But when management makes it clear how little actual journalism matters to them, the subjects of journalism start to notice—and look for where they can make an impact with top quality writers (and Brett Anderson is certainly that) in top quality venues.


Very excited to get food from a popup for Thattu, the Keralan Indian spot in Politan Row, cooking at Kimski. Owner Margaret Pak told me they hope to do it at least once more, though some of their key ingredients, notably the nutty black chickpeas in the kadala curry, are starting to get hard to find. In any case, my smartest move was ordering one of everything but two of the kadala curry, which was a splendid thing for three of us to have again the next day.

As mentioned, L’Aventino Forno Romano’s pizzas are now available for pickup and via Caviar; I was happy to get to try these airy, lower-gluten takes on Roman pizza again. And we picked up subs from J.P. Graziano—but you know how good those are.

Sparrow Black 2019