Nick Kindelsperger has been eating bagels like mad, and in his report he announces that everyone’s go-to bagel shop, New York Bagel & Bialy, doesn’t make the top ten, but what does are a bunch of new bagel operations:

First, the good news: Chicago has some phenomenal bagels, ones that could strike jealousy into the heart of any grizzled New York skeptic. I’m talking about compact bagels with a crunchy browned crust and a tender interior with just the right amount of chew.

But after trying the options at more than 30 places, it’s also true that the majority of bagels in Chicago are soft, fluffy and bland. A huge segment of the population must prefer them this way, or why would they be so popular? Liking this style doesn’t make you a terrible person, but it probably does mean you plan to take that squishy bagel and pop it in the toaster…

My findings? A wave of city chefs have revolutionized Chicago’s bagel scene. Some are East Coast expats determined to re-create the bagels they grew up eating. Others are dough obsessives, who have spent years researching how to craft perfect bagels every single time.

He presents a top ten, led by a familiar name:

If there’s one bagel I’d confidently put up against any offering from New York, or any other city for that matter, it’s this one. The sourdough bagel sports a jaw-dropping cinnamon brown hue, spotted with hundreds of little bubbles. Cut in and you’ll hear a loud crunch from the crust, which gives way to a tender and chewy middle.

Fans of Mindy Segal won’t be surprised. She’s one of our city’s most acclaimed pastry chefs and restaurateurs.

Now, when it comes to bagel obsessives, few can rival Friend of Fooditor Kenny Z, last seen feuding on social media with The Bristol. His fights against unnecessarily toasted bagels in local bagel shops and breakfast spots that keep slacker hours are Chicago food Twitter legend, and he went through Kindelsperger’s list and lodged his objections:

Googled a couple at random – the first charges $3 for a bagel with nothing on It, and the second is a place that opens at 11am. LOLing even harder than before

Next one I checked opens at 4pm weekdays! 4pm! I guess the bagels are just a weekend brunch thing. List is an even bigger joke than I’d expected.

Next up, a “bagel shop” that isn’t a shop at all. You have to order online in advance (DAYS in advance!) and then pick it up somewhere. This is Chicago’s “bagel revolution”. Sounds about right. Trib should file this article under “Humor”

Harsh, but I see both points here; sure, these bespoke bagels exist, so why shouldn’t Nick write about them? But on the other hand, they’re hard for a normal person to get at a normal hour to have bagels, so you can see Kenny’s point that this “top ten” is not entirely of the real world. This is, in fact, plenty common in these days of ghost kitchens and pop-ups—I read about people doing a, say, Tibetan food popup on Tuesdays where you have to order off Instagram—and every time I look, they’re sold out, so eventually I give up. Good for people trying to develop businesses that way, but I still come back to the fact that NYB&B is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, not for 6 minutes on Instagram once a week. Which bagel am I more likely to have?


Esquire’s best new restaurants list is out for 2021, and on it are some Chicago restaurants. First, Ever at #2:

So begins a journey into chef Curtis Duffy and Michael Muser’s fantastical slow burn of a tasting menu, which, even with the serious modernist hijinks, is delicious and playful. (Yes, that’s Matthew McConaughey reading from his memoir on the bathroom’s speaker.) The pairings of esoteric wines are downright magical, an extra dimension to what feels like a mellow acid trip.

Less expectedly—has anyone actually reviewed it yet?—is En Passant, tied at #17. Andros Taverna is at #27, and Kasama, before they started offering dinner, is #34. Read it all, especially if you’re going to other cities any time soon.

Kasama also turns up on Eater‘s 11 Best New Restaurants in America.


Louisa Chu explores Native American cuisine—yes, fry bread at a festival does appear (with a three-hour wait). But she also visits Owamni in Minneapolis, which was on Esquire’s list above:

I’d last met co-owner Dana Thompson and co-owner and chef Sean Sherman four years ago, when they visited Chicago on a book tour for Sherman’s James Beard award-winning cookbook, “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen.”

Now, Owamni embodies the principles they’ve long held dear.

“The restaurant is fully decolonized,” Thompson says while we talk just before lunch service. “We don’t use any wheat flour, dairy or refined sugar. We even go so far as not to even use beef, pork or chicken.”

The result is native ingredients, though the style is nonetheless somewhat rooted in global (and European) cuisine:

Cooks and bartenders (there are about 80 staff members in all) may use only decolonized ingredients, but they employ global techniques, and to great effect. Bison tartare holds dollops of duck egg sumac aioli. Roasted sweet potatoes bathe in a crimson Indigenous chile crisp.

Buzz 2


David Hammond went to the Festival of Barrel Aged Beers:

“The most exciting aspect of barrel-aging beer is the creativity that it allows,” says [organizer Katie] Carrier. “You can make so many different styles of beer, but then you can incorporate different flavors into the beer with the barrel, and what was previously aged in the barrel; for instance, you might use a wine barrel to add more of a sour note to the brew. Thing is, you never really know what you’re going to get. And, given the variables involved, you may never be able to replicate it again.”


Everybody runs pieces with new ideas for side dishes at Thanksgiving, and for some reason they all seem to have labneh—a tart middle-eastern yogurt—in them. Sounds good to me, very Ottolenghi, even though I do like very traditional Thanksgiving (hey, it comes but once a year). Check out these dishes by Chicago chefs like Todd Stein and Davdi Lyng (Fiya) at Chicago mag, and this one from the likes of Marcos Campos and Mary Aregoni at Inside Hook.


Curious City looks at places where split pea soup is a time-honored weekly special—usually on Wednesdays. But too bad they didn’t hear about this Titus Ruscitti find.


I was just thinking of going to Savannah sometime in the dead of this winter, so I’m definitely bookmarking Titus Ruscitti’s report on going there.


Chatham’s 5 Loaves Eatery, which one local publication declared the nicest restaurant in Chicago, had a hard time during the lockdown and wound up closing a few months back. Now they are doing a GoFundMe to raise money needed to reopen:

Having made it through the initial part of the pandemic, as many restaurants had to do by jumping through hoops and pivoting, our family restaurant has adjusted and readjusted to stay open and serve our customers. While many haven’t understood what that looks like behind the scenes, it’s included the very difficult decision to shut down our dining room (oh how we’ve missed serving our guest), while basically handing over our business model to delivery platforms that cut into 30-40% of sales – until this year when the cut was temporarily decreased to 15% (nearly a year into the pandemic).

This began the domino effect as 5 Loaves would have to cancel lunch, due to the beginning of the staffing shortage and product scarcity, which resulted in an additional cut in sales and an increase of stress for our matriarch and Owner and Operator, Constance Simms-Kincaid, as our family continued working to stay open.

All the while, 5 Loaves was being denied financing from the very bank it had been with since day one. As for other funding, 5 Loaves received just enough each time it applied for grants and loans, to keep it afloat for a few more weeks. They accredited that to God’s miracles – the very concept on which the restaurant was founded.

Here’s your chance to do God’s work in mysterious ways. Please consider giving to the GoFundMe here, and when they return, go have the nicest breakfast or brunch in the city.


I figured that writing about Fat Rice last week would likely result in the same kind of flak that I got for doing it last summer—if less of it, as the moment of anger directed at chefs last summer seemed in many ways rooted in the concerns and even panic that the pandemic raised in its earliest days, which has surely subsided. That’s why I prefaced it by saying maybe you’re not interested in reading any more about them, but I think there are interesting sides to the story that no one had told yet.

Well, clearly it’s not enough for some of these people for me to say that they don’t have to read it—they think I had no business writing it, as well. Most of the comments were basically plaintive cries wondering why, oh why would I write about this terrible restaurant, when I should know that it has been officially canceled under the sovereign laws of social media? One guy filled his comment with events I apparently needed a reminder of, because if I remembered those events, obviously I’d have known better than to write about whatever’s happened since.

But if you’re going to tell me what I need to know about from the past, can’t I also expect you to make yourself familiar with the present as I report on it? Forget Fat Rice, I think there’s an interesting story about the post-pandemic restaurant business there, that you haven’t read before—and that’s all the justification that I need for writing it. Telling the reader factual things they don’t know yet is kind of the point of journalism; if you find a conflict between actual reporting, and obeying the party line of the social media mob—even more to the point, if you think that the sentiment of the latter trumps the facts in the former—well, let’s just say I could not disagree more. (I’m trying to be polite.)

To me, all this has the air of too much reporting on politics today—it exists not to uncover truth, but to hype whatever helps one side and bury whatever helps the other. I’m sorry if part of the audience sees food writing as properly following this kind of Fox vs. MSNBC dynamic. Though maybe it’s not that surprising when so much of food media does take a promotional tone about restaurants. I certainly do some of that, but still, I’d like to think there’s a place for simply reporting on what’s interesting, because it’s of interest, not because I’m trying to sell you somebody’s grilled chicken. If you can’t see that, maybe that’s something you should think about, about how you consume media.

One interesting point—one guy I had never heard of attacked me on Twitter, both in general for writing at all, and specifically about one point, which I knew could be used opportunistically and, perhaps, cynically to condemn me as unsuitable for reading by any decent person. It’s that I used a—non-binary I guess—person’s old female name as well as the (usually but not always) male name they use now, in a quote. The reason for doing so is, I think, obvious:

“I was particularly excited about having [new non-binary name] in the restaurant, right? I was excited because they— at the time, [old female name], so we wanted to have more [old gender] in the kitchen. We wanted to have gender diversity in the kitchen. I think I wanted to impress them, and I kind of maybe came off aggressive, letting them know I grew up eating Vietnamese food.”

It was actually kind of funny, two cishet white guys in a room awkwardly trying to figure out how discuss this topic without violating one of the most dangerous shibboleths of the age. Nevertheless, I am always happy to learn as a writer, so I throw the question out there. You have to express the following ideas:

1) There is a person named [New Name] who identifies as non-binary

2) The person used to identify as female (under an old name which, incidentally, appeared occasionally in food media of the time, and is no secret)

3) Because they identified as female at the time, a chef sought to hire them to increase the female representation in their kitchen

Now, get all that across clearly—without ever referencing the Old Name or Gender. Oh, and it’s a quote, so do it without changing too many of the words in the quote, and bracketing any change you do make. No complaints that I’m a clueless old white man will be accepted without completing this part of the exam.

I’m sure these people would say the answer is obvious—simply don’t write about places you should already know we canceled. Sorry, I won’t agree to that; I write about what I find interesting, and don’t take orders from a mob on social media.


We’ve had a bunch of expensive and fancy Spanish restaurants open of late (as noted here). But I think a modest cafe in Lincoln Park might be the real charmer in the group: Bocadillo Market has some vinegars and conservas for sale on the wall, but mainly it’s an all-day cafe doing coffee and snacks through the day and dinner in the evening. We stuck to vegetable and seafood dishes, and found them very agreeable and fresh, comfy on a winter night and seemingly radiating the enthusiasm of the young staff (you can read about chef James Martin’s discovery of Spanish food here—and how it relates to the southern food he grew up on).

Crushed Pizzeria is in the space on Montrose previously occupied by ORD Pizzeria—and although I don’t know for a fact that they still use the vintage Faulds oven that I wrote about here, it seems that they must, as it’s a very similar style of handtossed pizza (I think they even use some of the same combos by name that ORD had) and it comes out very much like that pizza. Which is good, to have a very good pizza of that style, very close to me for delivery. Check it out!

Buzz List will be off next week, and return on December 5.