Michelin announcements come in two sizes, nothing new and very little, and this year’s had the raw, nerve-tingling excitement of very little happening. One thing that happened was taken for big news because it involved three stars, where news is as rare as Sumatran rhinos: Smyth rose to three stars. This is something I’d thought might happen for a few years now; Smyth has long been the most cerebral of our high end restaurants, the most innovative in a weird science kind of way, so seemingly made for Michelin. And what do you know, it only took them seven years to figure that out! In any case, to the extent I care about Michelin (obviously not a whole lot) I’m glad to see something else here reach the three-star level besides Alinea, for the first time since Grace closed in 2017; the longer they waited to elevate anything else to that perch, the more Alinea became the definition of what a three-star in Chicago was, making it harder for anything else to seem to qualify. (You don’t paint dessert on the table? You call yourself a fine restaurant?) Here’s what Michelin’s international director, Gwendal Poullennec had to say:

“The inspectors have been carefully monitoring the progress at Smyth, especially since it earned two MICHELIN Stars in 2017,” Poullennec said. “They unanimously decided that now is the time to reward the restaurant, Chefs John Shields and Karen Urie Shields, and their staff for delivering peak creativity, precision and teamwork. This is an elite restaurant.”

Boy, they really know how to talk about food in a way that makes you hungry, don’t they? After Smyth, though, the pickings were exceedingly thin. Indienne got a star, and so did Atelier—and that’s it. (Nobody gets more coverage for less news than Michelin.) I heard a couple of people who had been to the latter express some surprise, as their experiences were promising but mixed; they considered a star for Atelier a bit premature. Well, one thing is that it’s in the location of, and has some continuity with, a past one-star spot, Elizabeth. Michelin dearly loves maintaining a status quo, even if the new restaurant’s relation to the past winner is fairly loose. For my part, I not only found my meal at Atelier very interesting, but also polished, in a way that I can see Michelin, which has an elderly grandfather’s love for things being just how they expect them to be, very much admiring.

The news stopping with just three new announcements in the traditional star system, Michelin realized that that didn’t make for a full evening’s excitement, so they invented some new awards. The wonderful Daisies, which is underrated as a Bib Gourmand, won a Green Star. What the F is a Green Star? Well, it goes to a place that stands out for sustainability efforts, which Daisies certainly does:

Chef/owner Joe Frillman’s menu focuses on produce, and much of that produce comes from his brother’s 30-acre farm, 70 miles outside the city. The restaurant has a fermentation program to preserve produce and limit waste, as well as a compost program to fertilize the farm’s soil and feed its chickens. Its goal is to source local, sustainable food whenever possible and to minimize its footprint by finding uses for commonly discarded items.

So now you can get a Michelin star that doesn’t mean what a Michelin star has meant for a century. Weirdly, they also gave some awards that night that don’t appear to be real Michelin awards—for one thing, they’re not mentioned anywhere in Michelin’s official announcements. So anyway, congrats to Christian Hunter of Atelier for winning best young chef, Alex Ring of Sepia and Proxi for being named best sommelier, and Josh Perlman of Giant for best service. (Were there other nominees? Do these awards actually exist in the cool light of morning? Who knows; it’s a mystery, like that Crain’s piece that had a different list of new honorees than everybody else.)

And finally, for the thousandth time in the last thousand years, they pretended that what everyone knows, that Kyoten is by far the most interesting and innovative sushi restaurant in Chicago, is not the case and it basically doesn’t exist. Michelin seems convinced that if one inspector has a bug up his ass about how Otto Phan does his rice or the temperature of his hot towels or whatever, they can convince the rest of us that it’s not obviously great. They never will, so stop trying to make fetch happen, Michelin.

John Kessler has the only local report from the scene at Chicago mag; apparently he was in New York anyway, so he attended the shindig. I, like other local food writers, was invited, but so late and close to the event that even if I had been inclined to attend (which I trust my jaundiced attitude makes clear, I was not), it would have been too late to make arrangements. Maybe they expected me to drive there on my new Michelin radials.

Anyway, congrats to the 22 star holders in Chicago, for most of whom nothing changed at the glittering event last week in New York.


We’re about to get the Banchet nominations—there were some hints of who got them starting Friday on the individual restaurants’ Instagram accounts (go here to see the ones the Banchet IG account collected)—but in the meantime congrats to Thattu, for making Eater national’s 12 Best New Restaurants for 2023:

Margaret Pak isn’t trying to make Keralan food the next trend. The chef’s Chicago restaurant Thattu presents an unorthodox glimpse into the culinary traditions of the southwestern Indian state where her husband, Vinod Kalathil, grew up and where her mother-in-law, Jolly Nelliparambil, mastered her methods of griddling thin discs of fermented appam. Nelliparambil passed those traditions down to her Korean American daughter-in-law, who uses classics like that appam and tamarind-spiked rasam (a comforting, tangy broth), to anchor the menu. But Pak takes joy in experimenting. Thattu presents a hulking grilled pork chop that melds curry and coriander leaves with a Midwest meat-and-potatoes sensibility.

This announcement was interesting too: Chef Edward Lee’s The Lee Initiative, with underwriting by Heinz, and something called Southern Restaurants For Racial Justice, new to me, made $1 million in grants to 62 black-owned restaurants, each receiving up to $25,000. The grant process “aims to uplift Black-owned food businesses and preserve Black culinary culture nationwide.” Two Chicago restaurants received grants: Cleo’s Southern Cuisine and Dozzy’s Grill, as well as Snugglebeard Bakery in south suburban Matteson.


You can read John Kessler’s review of Ummo for yourself, I just loved the opening bit of scene-setting, about dining in River North:

Back when I was just visiting Chicago and not a resident, I loved going to those big River North restaurants whenever I had a generous expense account or, better yet, whenever someone else did. I loved splurging on the veal chop, sipping the coldest martini, and never feeling underdressed because the conventioneers at the next table were still wearing their name tag lanyards. I loved the way these restaurants, purportedly French or Mexican, always had more than a little steakhouse in their DNA, tricking out their menus with shrimp cocktail and Caesar salad. More than anything, I loved their advocacy of the pleasure principle: their stupid-good wine lists, their dessert trolleys, their joyful, sybaritic spirit of what-the-hell-ism.

That’s Chicago! And it’s pretty much Ummo, as well.


When I went to Sawa’s Old Warsaw Inn in Broadview—sometime in the week before this issue of Buzz List, since that’s a picture of Sawa’s—I noticed a sign on the side for Polish tacos. Which, like everything in Chicago, turn out to have a fascinating cross-cultural story, told this week by Nick Kindelsperger:

The idea for Sawa’s Polish taco actually came to owner Stuart Sawa more than 20 years ago, but he didn’t serve the dish to the public until three years ago. That’s when he heard that a festival in Westchester was looking for food vendors. “My friend told me I should do something, but I didn’t want to just serve Polish sausage on a stick,” Sawa said. “But I said, ‘Listen, I have this Polish taco idea. It would be a potato pancake with kielbasa sausage, sauerkraut and spicy mustard. Why don’t we try this out?’” Realizing the potato pancake would be too greasy to hold, he decided to place all the components on a flour tortilla. It was a hit.

Though I have to admit the photo of one looks like more of a culture clash.


Steve Dolinsky put together a longer version of his food tour in Osaka (longer being 4-1/2 minutes versus the minute or so it would run on TV), with special guests Rahm Emanuel and Paul Virant. Watch it here. I’ve only passed through Osaka on the shinkansen but I knew its reputation as a great food city, so this only bolsters its position as the next place to go in Japan.

Back at home at NBC 5, he’s got a segment on getting your turkey day pies at the delightful Spinning J.


Don’t know when I’ll ever use this info, but I’m excited to have Titus Ruscitti’s guide to what to eat in Milan:

Milan reminded me a bit of Paris with Italian culture substituted for the French. It was a fun city to walk in and there was always an energy in the air, the best big cities all give it off. My favorite thing to do in big cities across the world is to just walk around and explore as many different neighborhoods and little pockets of it as I can and Milan was a great city to do just that plus the public transportation is really well run… Milan has many of the same vibes you’ll find in other European cities with some of the best food in Europe to go along with it. I was impressed with Milan as a whole from the old school trattorias to the new school ones plus a vibrant international dining scene anchored by what just might be the best Chinatown in Europe.


Louisa Chu has a column on Maya-Camille Broussard of Justice of the Pies—though a lot of it is about what you can charge on the south side:

“But my food costs and my operational budget doesn’t change drastically just because I’m on the South Side of Chicago,” Broussard said. “So my menu prices can’t change drastically just because I’m on the South Side of Chicago.”

Broussard thinks the menu is fairly priced based on what her food costs are, and food costs are rising. Despite the costs, the chef goes big.

“Can you eat a cinnamon roll in one sitting? Yes. But is it something that you could split with your best friend? Also yes,” she said. “The cinnamon rolls are huge. I can never finish one by myself.”

But it’s also about Broussard’s partial deafness (which I was never aware of when I interviewed her here) and neurological issues:

Broussard is hard of hearing, having lost 75% of her hearing. She wrote earlier this year that when she was a 1-year-old, she fell down a set of stairs and suffered a concussion. Her mother told her this head injury probably caused neuro-sensory loss. She did not talk until she was 4 years old.


Everybody has a column now—columns are the new Substacks, I guess—and in John Kessler’s he goes to visit the deli exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie;

…one of the most revelatory lessons of the exhibit is the way it presents the deli as the creation of a vast diaspora of people from far-flung origins united only by faith.

“None of the foods [that became deli staples] were specifically Jewish, but because of kashrut (the laws of Kosher) they figured out ways in which they would work,” says Weininger. “Dumpling soup came from Germany and Poland but bagels went all the way down to Turkey, where they’re known as simit.” Romanians brought pastrami to the table while Ukrainians contributed vareniki, and Russians brought a variation of Slavic blood sausage remade as kishke. “There was this new sense of community post war that was so important because nobody had any relatives.”

In another item that strikes me as not entirely different from loving deli food, he also talks about yibin flaming noodles, a new kind of noodle dish popping up in Chinatown.


No longer having kids at home who are easily fed with burgers, I spotted a burger place on the west side somewhere called Hangry, and I haven’t gotten there yet. So who knows how long it will be before I get to Charly’s Burgers, somewhere around Belmont Cragin and Hermosa, which Dennis Lee touts in The Party Cut this week:

The menu at Charly’s Burgers is ultra-simple; there’s six types of burgers (one is a veggie burger), a Maxwell Street Polish, and a hot dog. And there’s something special about these burgers: The meat is ground in-house, and 10% of the grind is bacon. That idea’s pretty fun.

…It’s a six-ounce burger patty topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, raw onion, pickles, ketchup and mustard. This is a pretty standard fast food burger setup, but it’s one that someone clearly cares about making. I mean, just look at it, the sandwich is pretty photogenic. It even looks like a burger emoji: 🍔

Good thing it tastes as good as it looks. The burger patties here have a very sturdy crust to them, which means that every bite has charred bits to it. So that means the All-American is a perfect example of a classic burger, something you want to reach for if you want some burger stand nostalgia.


Jonathan Zaragoza’s Calli at Soho House is said to have closed this past weekend. You didn’t hear about it? Friend of Fooditor Kennyz crowed on social media the week before last that he had the news and Chicago food media had missed out and should learn to do their jobs. But I couldn’t find confirmation of this anywhere. Turns out he saw it on Jonathan’s Threads account… his what? Well, Threads is the Twitter substitute that comes from Facebook and Instagram; I haven’t signed up for it, so I couldn’t see it… but finally, a few days later, Zaragoza posted something similar on Instagram. So I guess it’s so, but really, if you want to hide some news so that nobody will see it and repeat it to the world, putting it on Threads seems to be a really good way to do so. Anyway, from Instagram:

BITTERSWEET NEWS ALERT @callichicago will host our final service on 11/11, putting a bow on my residency at Soho House Chicago. I want to send out a massive thank you to everyone involved.

To bring my cooking to such a broad audience in the heart of the city that raised me was my honor. I am so proud of our team and so very grateful for everyone who came to experience what we built.

Moving on is bittersweet but as this experience ends, what I’ve learned from serving you all at Čálli is sparking the inspiration for my next move and I intend to make it a big one.


So my wife is part of planning for a bunch of big meetings for a legal organization she’ll be the president of next year, one of which is in Chicago—which means it’s on Mike to deliver the memorable food experiences. There are only so many hotels in any given place that can fit the usual turnout for one of these meetings, and given that the same people attend meeting after meeting, they know the big northside hotels and what’s around them well (they’ve seen a lot of the Fairmont over the years). So we decided to go to a new Marriott Marquis on Cermak, near McCormack Place, and orient the dinners and activities, of which there are many, to the near south side, as it’s developed in recent years. Which means I spent three days this week visiting possible facilities, going to restaurants we might hold dinners at (or at least recommend as a choice for visitors), and showing off things we might do, to the organization’s event planner and the management company that does all the coordination stuff (I get to do the glamorous parts, they figure out how to get 100 people on a bus to our events). So, here’s where I went this week:

EL Ideas. I had not been to Phillip Foss’ tasting menu on a side street on the south side for a few years, though as I was taking this week’s photo I wondered how many different examples of Foss playing with dry ice I already have photos of. (It’s enough of a standard shot that it figured in Foss’s photo in Fooditor’s pre-opening promotion. Anyway, it was fun to bring total newbies who never heard of it to EL Ideas and see their delight as they discovered the whimsy of Foss’s dishes and how they’re consumed, beginning with the starting course (or amuse-bouche) that you’re forced to lick off your plate (there’s no silverware for it). It was a hit, and it will be fun for the committee who dine here (we’ll be buying it out) and eat a lot of fancy dinners, but I’m pretty sure not one exactly like this.

Apolonia. S.K.Y.’s other other restaurant (besides Valhalla) isn’t wildly famous, but there was one good reason for us to check it out—it’s literally the closest restaurant not named Subway to our hotel. Anyway, simple and nicely done plates of pasta, a lot of seafood (which was good after our steakhouse experience the night before), a happy experience—though I will say that you can kind of tell the service is kids from U of I or Columbia College; I’ve never been asked if I wanted a fresh glass for my second, and different, glass of wine.

Time Out Market. Wait, that’s not the south side… no, it’s not, it’s just where we stopped to grab a bite while checking out a couple of West Loop spots as venues for this or that. At Amaru I got a choripan, a South American sandwich I first learned about from Friend of Fooditor Sandwich Tribunal. There’s a lot of spicy stuff going on this beefy sausage sandwich, it was a bit much. Still, I used Time Out Market for what it’s for—get something you haven’t had before, from a place you haven’t been to before. Extra points for the kiwi lemonade I got from a stand whose name I already forgot (but it’s at the southeast corner).

Manny’s. Not an official stop but we needed lunch and I thought, what better captures the history of Chicago in one building?

Chicago Firehouse. It’s a convention, so you need a place to get steak. If you want to know how this is… read Kessler on steakhouse dining in item #3 ahove, and you have it exactly, with one additional note: I hate the tendency of things that shouldn’t be sweet getting sugared up for 2020s palates, and I’m talking to you, bleu cheese dressing on the Cobb salad.

One last note: of course we had to get wine for EL Ideas, and there was some concern about how do we get the right wine for a menu we won’t see until dinner? (This being a dry run for next year when we’ll have to get wine for twenty.) I said, we just go to Perman Wines and tell Craig where we’re going. He’ll know what they serve at EL Ideas? He’ll know the flow of the evening, yes. So we did it, spent 20 minutes with him going through some possibilties and learning new words, and came in with excellent choices for less than half our budget.