What happens if you walk into a restaurant, and you’re the only party there so far? 9 times out of ten, you’ll be seated in the window, so that the restaurant looks occupied to passersby. But not if it’s Bar Goa, from the owners of Rooh, and you’re Louisa Chu of the Chicago Tribune:

What happened at the flagship Bar Goa in River North [there’s a second in Time Out Market] left me confused and a little sad. Not once, but twice, a manager sputtered through excuses before curtly telling me the empty table by the open front windows I’d requested in my reservation was saved just in case a bigger party came in.

On my first visit, I was the only diner when I arrived and when I left. On my second visit, I phoned ahead to confirm that I could in fact request what had become an absurdly wanted window table — after all, online requests can get lost in the fine print. A host assured I could indeed make the request and took the reservation. Yet the same manager denied my request again, so I left. When I walked by an hour or so later, that bigger party hadn’t materialized. Only about half the tables had seated diners.

Might seem a picayune complaint—though twice is understandably infuriating—but the concept is to create a tropical getaway (Goa is on the coast of India) and this treatment brought the getaway crashing back to Chicago in a COVID year.


Pictures, I am reliably informed, are worth a thousand words, and I’m not sure I need many of them to tell me more about Alla Vita than the photo of classic, cheesy chicken parmigiana next to Time Out’s review does—you’ll either want it instantly or determine to stay away. Zach Long offers some words on the parmiagiana anyway:

Much like the arancini, it’s fried until golden and crisp, topped with buffalo mozzarella and a fire roasted tomato sauce. Every bite was an appealing melange of textures; the brittle fried exterior, the savory brine of the chicken, the gooey melting cheese and the sweet acidity of the sauce. If you only order one thing, make sure it’s this.


Talard Thai is the best Thai grocer in town at the moment, and it also has a cafeteria at the back serving authentic Thai food. I ate there three or four times in the summer, and Titus Ruscitti explains why you should:

In Thailand this setup is called a khao rad gang and it’s similar to a meat and three cafeteria of the American south. If you visit on the weekend they have more than 20 home cooked Thai dishes ranging from morning glory curry to rotating specials like Khao Kha Moo aka stewed pork leg. This is a dish I immensely enjoyed in Chiang Mai at the world famous “Cowboy Hat Lady” stand. I have vivid memories of a meal there which I partook in with a bunch of Chinese businessmen. Though we didn’t speak the same language we communicated through our enjoyment of the food we were eating.

La Nonna is an Argentinean restaurant tucked on the corner of a couple of side streets in Avondale, which explains why Titus says he’d never run across it before (I found it a few years ago searching Yelp for places no one had heard of for potential Fooditor 99 discovery). He zeroes in on the thing to try:

I was really impressed with the choripan sandwich. You can find these all over Buenos Aires and debates over which spot serves up the best are often had. Even though the ingredients used are basically the same everywhere (chorizo sausage, bread, chimichurri) every porteño has a favorite place to eat them. La Nonna serves a split grilled sausage which is called a mariposa (butterfly) inside a well paired toasted roll with a slather of housemade chimichurri and lettuce, tomato, onion. It comes with fresh cut fries on the side. The end result is the best choripan sandwich I’ve had. Granted I haven’t had a ton but it was an excellent sandwich overall.

And I heard about Sochi Saigonese Kitchen (more below) a few days ago from John Kessler, not Titus, but if I hadn’t, I would have this week in any case from his post on it:

I had to go with the pho since this was my first visit. As mentioned they do a Southern Vietnamese style recipe with flat and wider noodles and both short rib and skirt steak. First off I cant stress enough how important it is that pho come served piping hot and I was glad to see Sochi pass that test. They describe the broth as bone marrow broth and it had some nice deep beef flavor. A big plate of stuff comes on the side so you can customize the flavors of your beef noodle soup. I read that hoisin is a popular pho condiment in Southern Vietnam and I enjoyed the addition of it in this. Another thing I appreciated was the freshness of all the herbs served on the side.

Buzz 2


Steve Dolinsky looks into the in-house cured meats program as well as the dinner menu at Lardon: “Think of Lardon as your cool French or Italian cousin, with a very strong midwestern accent—lots of sassidge.”


Well, this is interesting as hell to me at the moment, deep as I am in restaurant history: as part of the Reader’s 50th anniversary celebrations of itself, Mike Sula looks at the first person to write about restaurants for the counterculture publication back in the 70s, Sally Banes, better known at the time of her death last year as a writer on dance:

The Reader only paid ten, maybe 20 dollars for those pieces and didn’t reimburse her for the money she spent on food,” says [friend Joy] Robinson-Lynch. “So she had to find places to make it pay. She discovered that every ethnic community in Chicago had a club, and you could go there and get an inexpensive meal. It feels to me like every weekend we were off to one.”…

Two of her “longhaired male friends” were given the cold shoulder at the bar at Tufano’s Vernon Park Tap one night, but Banes and Robinson-Lynch were treated with chivalrous respect at the now-91-year-old red sauce joint. (Robinson-Lynch, a New Jersey native, recalls she broke the ice by loudly dropping the names of a few infamous East Coast mobsters.)


I remember people talking about whether Filipino food was going to be the next big thing 15 years ago on LTHForum. Well, it’s closer now with relatively popular places like Kasama, Lawrence Letrero’s Bayan Ko and Isla Pilipina/Isla Filipino, which just reopened in the food hall Urbanspace. Sarahlynn Pablo looks into it:

One theory behind the rapid rise is that a millennial generation of chefs have matured, paid their dues in others’ kitchens, and are at a stage where they can take their careers into their own hands.

“Our generation — the young generation — just wants a chance to say, ‘Hey, we’re here,’” said Letrero, 42. “The young generation of Filipino cooks and chefs going to culinary school in the early 2000s (and) working for other people said to themselves, ‘If I ever have my own place, I’m going to take all these skills and open a Filipino restaurant.’”


Sandwich Tribunal discovers a Peruvian sandwich, Pan Con Chicharron, in Naperville:

I’d been meaning to get to SanguCHE for a while–pre-pandemic, they had offered the Butifarra, a Peruvian sandwich I wrote about last summer. During those days of Covid closedowns, a time when many businesses could offer curbside service only, SanguCHE like many restaurants simplified their menu, cutting down to a few sandwiches only, and removing the butifarra. I was not able then to try their take on it, but this time around they were serving it and I enjoyed a 2-sandwich lunch as a result.


Bon Vivant is “a culinary journal focused on a single subject an issue, published twice yearly,” from Hugh Amano, co-author of The Adventures of Fat Rice and (with illustrator Sarah Becan) Let’s Make Ramen and Let’s Make Dumplings. The first issue is about cooking over wood:

Building and harnessing fire’s energy to cook is one of mankind’s most important innovations, and even city slickers like us love to get our hands dirty to hear the crackle of wood and smell that delicious smoke as we return to those roots, applying fire’s je ne sais quoi to food whenever we can. And it’s something that everyone can do—whether it’s in a kettle grill in a park, a fire ring while camping, or your own backyard grilling emporium, wood fire cooking is approachable yet multi-dimensional. We aim to show you some of these other angles in this first journal, including cooking in a wood-fired oven, over an open fire in the field, and even right in your home’s fireplace.

Go here to read more about the periodical; they’re already at work on issue 2, about the food of the Baja peninsula. Proceeds beyond production costs will go to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.


Sad to see that Bridgeport Bakery, a longtime southside institution which reopened under new Chinese ownership a year or so ago, is closing again—though the reasons are somewhat baffling, as recounted by Louisa Chu:

“I am being sued by a bakery pension fund right now,” said Bridgeport Bakery 2.0 owner Can Lao. He officially reopened the business in February 2020 after previous longtime owner Ron Pavelka closed the shop in October 2019.

“When I opened, there was nobody in my bakery in a union,” Lao said. “I had no concept about a bakery union in a small shop.”

The Bakery and Confectionery Union and Industry International Pension Fund originally sued Pavelka in 2017 for $258,720 plus interest, alleging he failed to pay the bakery’s required contributions to the labor organization, according to federal court documents.

Either your employees are in a union you recognize, or not; seems like that should be a verifiable matter and known to Lao as part of the sale, but the story is unable to settle these matters (“His attorneys told him that he cannot discuss specifics about the case, which remains unresolved, he said. An attorney representing The Bakery and Confectionery Union and Industry International Pension Fund did not immediately respond to the Tribune’s request for comment Tuesday.”). Also, having been there many times, I’d love to know how big a proportion of revenues a quarter of a million dollars represents; a lot, I suspect. There was a story (which one of the ladies there confirmed to me) that they were once held up at gunpoint first thing in the morning, and they just looked at the guy like, how much cash do you think is in a bakery when it opens in the morning? Not to imply any equivalence, but it sounds like a question for the union as well.


From Jason Hammel’s Instagram.


It’s been a while since I’ve felt the excitement of a traditional cuisine hitting new highs in a local place, the way certain Thai restaurants or Chinatown spots or Mexican places doing foods we haven’t seen before in Chicago got me excited. Mind you, plenty of known places still doing it and well worth supporting, which is how I wound up at Rainbow Thai on Friday night ordering some greatest hits. But where was the new new?

Well, it’s at Belmont and Southport of all unlikely corners for interesting interntional food, and it’s called Sochi Saigonese Kitchen, though it’s Vietnamese and does not have anything to do with where Russia held the Olympics in 2014. Co-owner Son Do and her husband worked internationally in business but dreamed of doing what we’d call elevated Vietnamese cuisine. I often dislike that term, because it insults places I really like and it seems to be putting a gloss on Americanizing heritage foods—but Sochi shows what it can mean, your heritage cuisine being done with particular care and cooking skills. Take the pho—the broth has the usual spices, five-spice and clove and whatnot, but a complexity and purity of flavor that reflects top-quality stockmaking. (Son said it’s “bone marrow broth,” whatever that means in terms of the cleanliness and strength of the flavor.) Same for the ben thanh market salad,” grilled pork with cellophane noodles, or Sun’s Rice which put the grilled pork with rice, vegetables and a “quiche” of eggs and ground pork. (Steve Dolinsky offers his thoughts on what we had here.)

Prices are a little higher than Argyle, but not outrageously so given the upscale atmosphere that would make it appropriate for a date with someone who might not react as well to, say, Nha Hang. (Though what are you doing with such a person?) Anyway, if you haven’t tried it yet (and a surprising number of people I mentioned it to had—why you holding out on me?) it’s a find I’m pretty entranced by at the moment.