At Chicago mag Anthony Todd offers some suggestions for your Thanksgiving Day shopping—where to get a Gunthorp bird, now that Local Foods is closed, or birds of similar quality; as well as side dishes and pies. I have sometimes gotten a Gunthorp bird, but last year I bought a Ho-Ka, raised just west of Chicago in Waterman, Illinois, from Harvestime on Lawrence. I went there to place my order this year—and the manager told me that Ho-Ka, run by a farmer named Howard Kauffman but nationally recocgnized as a top holiday bird, has ceased turkey operations. Kauffman is retiring and apparently didn’t have anyone to pass the farm on to. Harvestime will be getting free-range Ferndale turkeys from Minnesota; I’ve bought their chicken somewhere (Local Foods?) so I expect a quality bird, but I’m sorry to see a quality producer go, and I urge readers to avoid industrial supermarket birds and consider one like a Gunthorp (available through Publican Quality Meats) or Ferndale.


I don’t have the gambling gene; on one trip out west (which included Vegas but was mainly for the Grand Canyon) I read a book on playing blackjack, surely the least intellectual thing I’ve ever read (and I read The Da Vinci Code!) and the upshot of learning the strategies for playing blackjack was that it killed my interest in ever playing blackjack again. Anyway, if I ever step into the new Bally casino downtown it will be for food, and that’s what Louisa Chu explores at the Tribune, what’s to eat at the Bally casino, beginning with Paul Kahan taking a gamble:

Get the outrageously delicious mushroom-collard melt, with a seriously spicy cherry pepper dressing, created by chef Paul Kahan. His sandwich is clearly a nod to the collard green melt at Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans, occasionally available at Big Kids in Logan Square, which was opened by chefs Mason Hereford of TATW and Ryan Pfeiffer, previously at the dearly departed Blackbird, the pioneering restaurant by Kahan.

…I’ll try those drinks eventually, and hope the mushroom-collard melt is still on the menu, because Bally’s didn’t really like it, said One Off CEO Karen Browne.

“And they didn’t think that their customers would like it,” she said. “But Paul pushed and said, ‘Let’s leave it on. And if it doesn’t sell, we’ll take it off. But let’s see what the guests tell us.’”


Nick Kindelsperger, having devoted time to the lettuce in your chicken caesar wrap, turns his attention to the lettuce in your burrito. Which, it turns out, is kind of a Chicago thing:

Beans, lettuce, cheese and tomato are the most common burrito fillings in Chicago, and I have the data to back it up.

I did what any rational person would do and created a spreadsheet, looked up 100 Mexican restaurants known for their burritos and cataloged all the fillings that came standard with an order. (Obviously, you can personalize your burrito order, discarding the beans and adding triple lettuce if you so desire, but I was interested in what came automatically.)

…But one ingredient that is tough to find [in California burritos] is lettuce. This is true for other West Coast cities like Seattle and Portland. Lettuce shows up very occasionally in Texas’ two largest cities, Houston and Dallas. The only other places where lettuce popped up semi-regularly were Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C., cities not exactly known for their burrito-making prowess. (Oddly, if you keep moving up the East Coast, lettuce seems to disappear in Boston.)


Titus Ruscitti checks out a bunch of new places in Bucktown, including Manchamanteles, a new Mexican spot under veteran chef Geno Bahena (most recently, Mis Moles):

The highlights of my return visit were an artful plate of enchiladas de Potosinas which are a specialty of San Luis Potosí. These enchiladas are different than most in that they’re folded not rolled and commonly filled with potato. The tortillas are dipped into a guajillo salsa before a trip to the frying pan. I liked that dish more than a tamale oaxaqueño with the same black mole which was good but the tamale wasn’t as fresh as you’d like. But I really liked the lamb chops with the 28 ingredient black mole and mashed potatoes. They were a bit thin but full of flavor.

There’s also a much-vaunted breakfast sandwich at Allez Cafe, African meat pies at Joba Bakery, and more.


If you follow them you know that both Steve Dolinsky and Paul Virant have been in Japan. Here’s why:

World Business Chicago – led in part by Deputy Mayor Kenya Merritt – brought around 20 local business leaders and entrepreneurs here, hoping to forge economic ties. Also Chicago Sister Cities, which celebrates 50 years of cooperation between Chicago and Osaka. They brought along a Chicago chef to engage in some “food diplomacy.”

…Osakans have an impressive appetite, having created udon noodle soup and street foods like takoyaki. Batter is poured into half-moon molds; each sphere embedded with a tiny piece of octopus. Once fully cooked, they’re topped with a semi-sweet sauce, Japanese mayo, smoked and dried tuna shavings and powdered seaweed. This is what interests Paul Virant. The Chef and Owner of Gaijin in the West Loop (the name means “foreigner”) – is here to learn from the pros and find inspiration. Gaijin is known for its okonomiyaki, or massive pancakes, but he’s fascinated by the takoyaki at a local restaurant where they serve it with Champagne.

This piece at NBC Chicago tells you some about it, but check Dolinsky’s Instagram account for more, including a chat with ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel and a return visit to Tempura Matsu in Kyoto, which I wrote about here.


Grimod at Understanding Hospitality examines Sepia, the by-now-veteran half of the Sepia/Proxi duo run by owner Emanuel Nony and chef Andrew Zimmerman, and by this point one of the least clearly defined spots in the West Loop:

Yes, looking at the neighborhood that has developed around it over the course of 16 years, Sepia now almost seems defined by its plainness. Now serving a $95 four-course menu, the concept may even seem paltry in an era when meals are being offered for quintuple that price. For, a new generation of Americans—entering the world of fine dining for the first time—is naturally attracted to what they perceive to be “the best.” Michelin stars signify luxury after all, and, should you be unable or unwilling to secure a rarefied table, then a sense of novelty would be the next best thing.

Looking at Sepia in the post-lockdown era:

This broadening of Sepia’s culinary horizons might seem to threaten its relationship with Proxi on the surface. Just what is the difference between the two concepts—other than quotidian concerns of pricing and scale—if the former property embraces the same worldly bent? Yet, Sepia retains an undercurrent of Americana: nostalgic flourishes like Old Bay crispies, Carolina barbecue butter, country fried chicken, a cherry duck jam donut, root beer jus, a sesame buckwheat corndog, a biscuit, a “Krispy Treat,” toasted marshmallow, and French toast. Zimmerman’s cuisine has displayed this dimension before—you note the “Frog’s Legs Beignet” from his 2010 menu (though one can argue this is not strictly “American”)—but it seems especially prominent now.

In other words, as Sepia’s range of influences has expanded, the restaurant has also plunged deeper into the comforting, somewhat irreverent side of the national cuisine. Each side of this equation works to ground the other, with the resulting menu being definable neither as markedly “global” nor as some kind of “fine dining junk food” concept. Instead, Zimmerman, [chef de cuisine Kyle] Cottle, and [pastry chef Erin]Kobler’s work embraces all the tensions and contradictions trying to define “contemporary American” today entails.


When Rafa Esparza had Finom Coffee, I used to see him a lot, as it was one of my coffee-and-wifi working hangouts; after it closed, he was briefly involved with Evette’s, but despite following his Instagram account, I haven’t known what he was up to (I heard he was at Longman and Eagle at one point). Anyway, Mike Sula has the news: he’s opening a place called FAFO (if you read Reddit’s AITA, you know what that stands for) with Anthony Baier, ex of Kimski, and they’ll preview it at the Reader’s Monday Night Foodball at Ludlow Liquors:

Lately, Esparza’s been sharpening his front of the house chops, hosting at Longman & Eagle. That’s because he’s opening a new restaurant called FAFO, which you can get an early taste of when Fuck Around and Find Out previews its upcoming menu at the next Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s weekly chef pop-up at Ludlow Liquors.

Esparza and partner Anthony Baier, sous chef at Kimski, already have a (for now secret) location locked down, which they plan on opening some time in the next three to six months.

Sula also has a full-fledged profile piece this week on 18th Street Brewery—that was 18th street in Gary, not Chicago, though it’s now in Hammond:

When Fox launched his distillery and tasting room, it was the first of its kind in northern Indiana since Prohibition doomed the Hammond Distilling Co., exactly 100 years earlier. Back then it was one of the largest producers of alcohol—particularly whiskey—in the country.

Fox has no intention of scaling up to that size, but his passion is in fact in bourbon, rye, and single malt brown spirits, even though the distillery’s profile has included gin, rum, vodka, bottled cocktails, hard seltzers, and, during COVID, hand sanitizer.

But his latest release is a liqueur called Fernet Fungo: a bitter, savory, head-spinning shitake mushroom–infused amaro he’s bottling in collaboration with Mike Bancroft of Edgewater’s Co-op Sauce, and Sauce and Bread Kitchen.


Michelin has begun the annual process of dragging out its announcements for as drearily long as drearily possible, starting with the only remotely interesting part to me, which is the Bib Gourmands. The lowest-level awards offer the most interest because you might actually discover something in their ranks; get into the star system and it’s the usual business of mostly one star awards, only a few elite restaurants getting a two or three star mark, and that almost never changing because, well, one, Michelin, and two, we’re not really seeing new restaurants at that cost and fussiness level very often. Anyway, check the new Bibs out, it’s not a bad list: Boonie’s, Cellar Door Provisions, Pompette, Union, and Yao Yao in Chinatown. However, Crain’s had previously listed eight restaurants which were being added to some list or other, and they did not include Union or Pompette, but did include Atelier, Kyoten Next Door, Obelix, Itoko and GG’s Chicken Shop; the two announcements seems contradictory, so who the hell knows.

Michael Nagrant has a piece ripping into Michelin for the way it works now, which is basically making cities like Atlanta and Denver spend taxpayer money to get Michelin to come condescend to them. The most interesting part is what he says he heard from a number of local chefs about how the Michelin racket really works:

Michelin often tells restaurants their approximate review time period, basically, signaling, hey if you suck, definitely don’t suck during November, because like a plague of rats we are coming to your town.

This should not matter because Michelin inspectors are supposed to be anonymous, independent, and unknown.

While this may be true, the very best restaurants in the world Google their reservation books every day. Because it’s 2023 everyone has an internet fingerprint of some kind.  If you don’t, that likely means you don’t exist, I.e. you are using a very bad pseudonym.

Restaurants that research their books and don’t find a web presence automatically flag you. Michelin inspectors are known to often dine solo. Are you a solo diner not findable on the internet?  You are automatically suspicious as a potential Michelin inspector, especially if you shows up with a different name than the one on the reservation and/or the one on the credit card with which you pay your bill.

Back when reviewers (including Nagrant) all claimed to be anonymous, it was common for restaurants to have pictures of Phil Vettel, Dennis Ray Wheaton etc. where servers could see them and be prepared to spot them in the room. (To be fair, I never saw Nagrant’s picture on one of those—they were mainly there to alert staffers to Trib and Chicago mag folks.) I don’t know if anyone has Michelin inspector pics, but it absolutely makes sense that they can spot them in other ways.


Dennis Lee talks about a Mexican taco cart which he’s tried, Tacos de Cabeza El Torito, which he says is always located on Kimball just north of Belmont—which it may well be, but not only there; I’ve been to one up in Andersonville (it’s easy to recognize as the same outfit by the cow art on the front of the cart). Though the website seems to indicate that the one Dennis is talking about might be the only location at present. Anyway:

Tacos de Cabeza El Torito only puts out one thing, and that’s tacos de cabeza, aka cow’s head tacos. This is literally the meat from a cow’s entire skull, cooked slowly, until it’s soft and fall-apart tender. (There’s also a cooler filled with drinks for purchase, in case you’re thirsty.)

I’d be curious to know how this operation survives in a town where food carts are often discouraged, and few and far between.


Remember when everybody wanted to see what was the latest theme at Next, course by course in pictures? I did a few of those myself at Grub Street or whatever, but it’s been a long time. So it was fun to get a link from a reader named John Rieber, doing it for the latest menu, a Tuscan-themed feast most notable for the fire started at the table. Go here to check it out at his blog, Bite Eat Repeat, and party like it’s 2011.


Carlos Gaytan of Tzuco is from Guerrero, which was hit hard by Hurricane Otis; so for the month of November, he’s donating a buck for every margarita sold to the Mexican Red Cross.


Joe Frillman of Daisies joined Joiners Podcast last week.

Friend of Fooditor Ari Bendersky was on a couple of podcasts recently. He was on one called City Cast Chicago to talk about whether expensive restaurants are worth the money, and one called Where to Go to talk about what to do on a visit to Chicago, including, of course, where to eat.

And David Manilow at The Dining Table checks out some of the hot new restaurants in town, including Lilac Tiger (the new incarnation of Wazwan), and a new deli called Schneider’s.