Chicago won three James Beard Foundation awards, which in the end is about what you’d expect—Alinea won Outstanding Restaurant in its first year of eligibility (the prize is for places that have a decade behind them), Curtis Duffy picked up Best Chef Great Lakes, and the Cherry Circle Room won an award for design. The main thing was, we had a lot of parties. Kevin Boehm told me that the first year Boka Group was nominated, they went to New York and didn’t know anybody, didn’t get invited to anything, and by comparison, everybody says Chicago has great, welcoming parties (Boka Group maybe most of all). So if nothing else, our scene has been good hosts these two years.


“Messy. Noisy. Primal. Call it the anti-Alinea,” Phil Vettel says of Roister, the new sorta casual Fulton Market place from the Alinea group. “Chef Andrew Brochu, who prior to this gig was running the kitchen at Aviary (you might have caught him at Graham Elliot, Kith & Kin and EL Ideas in previous years), oversees a bill of fare that could have come from a random-menu-item program. There are comfort-food items, riffs on hangover recipes, nods to Brazil, Korea and the Deep South.” But it must work; he gave it three stars. (Tribune)


Scandal in the food media world! Eater’s Sarah Freeman was reportedly promised an exclusive on the much-maligned C Chicago reopening as Ocean Cut with Dirk Flanagan in charge, but then this turned up in Chicago mag! (Ironic that they should give anything to the pub whose review damned the place so thoroughly that it needed reconcepting.) Much Twitter condemnation, fairly justly, for the New York-based publicist who just burned their name here.

Well, we’re going to cry a crocodile tear or two at the thought of Eater losing out on a story—their determination to be out there first on everything with often minimal details makes it harder for others to do more in-depth and thoughtful stories with any topical angle, and not come off as runners-up. (To be fair, Freeman usually writes the more in-depth pieces there.) The whole “First!” game, often fed by publicists who fear they have to give everything to Eater first (as, a few years ago, they felt they had to give it to Chicago), yet which there’s no evidence readers give a hoot about, is why I’d often rather write something two months or more down the line, when we really know something about a restaurant that can’t be reduced to a tweet—it has to be read. 


Chicago’s Haymarket picked up a Gold for the second time in a row at the World Beer Cup, among other beer honors. (Tribune)


“Before visiting, I didn’t really believe the world needed sushi burritos. I was wrong,” says Michael Nagrant of the Wicker Park sequel to Bucktown’s relatively modest and well-liked En Hakkore, home to healthy bibimbap and paratha tacos. What’s literally called En Hakkore 2.0 busts out a ton of fusiony Korean tastes: “Park’s ethereally light Crunch sushi burrito ($12) stuffed with shrimp tempura, unagi, cream cheese, sweet potato, cucumber, lettuce and plum guacamole, I’m questioning the woefully inefficient tradition of eating eight pieces of maki when you can simply wolf down one gigantic handheld roll.” (Redeye)


Chicago-based Protein Bar has captured a chunk of the aggressively healthy lunchtime Loop diner, but apparently it’s not enough—their plans for growth are tied to a less ascetic concept called Thrive360, says Peter Frost: “Some dishes will include butter (gasp!), turkey bacon, grana padano cheese and crispy Parmesan crumbles.”


Mike Sula likes cider, not so much what to eat with it at The Northman—in fact it seems to rile him up the more he talks about the food from the much-admired Sean Sanders of the late Browntrout: “A confit chicken curry very well might be a piece of political performance art, a statement on the lasting evils of colonialism and cultural appropriation. Served with pickled cauliflower and shiitake mushrooms, it comes with a spice profile that barely registers anything more complicated than faint chile heat, like something served to residents of the psych ward so as not to excite the choleric humors.” (Reader)


You barely need the Sula review alerting you to the new suburban yakitori joint from the Wasabi folks—the pics of chicks on sticks at Arlington Height’s Yakitori Boogytori are enough to sell you, but take his advice anyway: “The skewers are dominated by odd parts from naturally fed, cage-free Jidori chicken (likely happier than your typical battery bird during its brief life), including crispy skin, livers, hearts, ventricles, cartilage, and the good old pope’s nose, all sizzling and glistening with juice. Additionally there are chunks of fatty wagyu short rib, Berkshire pork belly, squid tentacles, smelt, shishitos, and ginko nuts for a more varied experience, all ranging in price from $2 to $4.50 per stick.”


Steve Dolinsky does a Hungry Hound story on the painstaking approach of coffee roaster Sparrow Coffee (a Fooditor advertiser), showing why it’s used in so many of our top restaurants. Meanwhile, Redeye has a story on a guy who’s trying to get us all to love another rarefied coffee experience—Kyoto Black.


Check out a short series of pictures—variously on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook—by Iliana Regan (Elizabeth) about a visit to her grandfather’s now-abandoned farm. Evocative, spooky.


I went to the preview party at Rick Bayless’ Leña Brava for the Beards, and ate party food which, I don’t know how much of it is on the menu. But if you see a cabeza taco, grab it.

And I hit The Roister, and sorry to anyone who wants to hate it but I went 4 items for 4 as being terrific and a reason to be glad Andrew Brochu is running a full-fledged kitchen again. (Only dessert was kind of weird and too salty.) I was impressed by the range, too, from a hearty and delicious “chicken three ways” platter to a drop dead gorgeous crudo to “aged cabbage” that looked like a delicately spiced kimchi (though Nick Kokonas went on my Facebook comment to say “It’s not kimchi!”). The only puzzling thing was, they have this big hearth—and it was kind of hard to see on the menu what exactly they’re using it for; few dishes that come from it seem to have a distinct fiery-smoky flavor. Anyway, nice to see these guys can do relatively straightforward, but uniformly excellent, food too. (Also, note that walking in right at 5:30 wasn’t hard, though it filled up quickly.)