I highly recommend the new episode of Amuzed, with Michael Muser and guest Steve Dolinsky, which is packed full of how-the-food-world-really-works stuff. It starts with Dolinsky recounting the true origins of Chicago pizza, deflating many of the myths (especially about Ike Sewell) you’ve grown up knowing, and goes on to talk about why we don’t seem to capitalize on the James Beard Awards being here, how his TV career has changed (not just because of lockdown), how you deal with guests when you screw it up, the Charlie Trotter documentary (in which Muser makes an unintended appearance), and more. It’s full of insight into the city and how food is such a part of our culture. Also they talk about peeing sitting down.


Sweet piece by Maggie Hennessy on rediscovering the pleasures of restaurants after a year-plus of lockdown:

It wasn’t until the following day that the surrealty sunk in of eating with my hands inside a restaurant I hadn’t visited in over 18 months. Demera chef-owner Tigist Reda seemed unsurprised when I teared up while telling her I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it.

“It’s very intimate to eat this way,” Reda said. “You’re not just eating your own plate; you’re sharing your own plate together. You sit closer, the conversation is closer; there’s a sense of community or oneness.”


Solazo, on the southwest side, closed after a 2019 fire and has reopened. Nick Kindelsperger reviews the returned and rehabbed Mexican restaurant:

You can taste his dedication with the enchiladas de pollo rostizado con mole coloradito ($18). Chicken enchiladas arrive completely covered with a thick orange-brown mole, which tickles your tongue with heat before revealing an intricate collection of spices that linger on the tongue. Personally, I’d prefer less cheese sprinkled on top, but there’s no doubting the quality of the mole.


Emma Krupp says En Passant is made for the winter descending on us:

Named for an obscure chess move, En Passant is the first solo venture from chef Sam Engelhardt (a veteran of Au Cheval, where he helped mastermind its famous burger), with a focus on “globally-inspired comfort food” befitting of its intimate space. That approach manifests as a menu of starters, sides, sandwiches and hearty mains, many of which are of vaguely European origin, like chicken liver mousse and mushroom risotto. It won’t take you long to consider the entire menu while cracking open the bottle of wine you’ve brought along—the restaurant is still BYOB for now.

Buzz 2


Amy Cavanaugh looks at the late night bar and snack lineup at Oriole:

“We always wanted to have a bar in the restaurant, so we put one in,” Cara [Sandoval] says. “The bar is now part of the experience when you dine at Oriole, but the last seating is at 9:30 p.m., and after that, it’s empty.” So at 10 p.m., they open the space, which has six bar seats and two small lounge areas, for a nightcap service.

In other Noah Sandoval-related news, Pizza Friendly Pizza, one of lockdown’s big hits, is now open for table service Wednesday through Sunday, with Wednesday-only thin round pizzas (it’s mostly thick squares otherwise).


Louisa Chu talks about the reopening of Izakaya Mita after the lockdown—and the ongoing cancer treatment of owner Brian Mita.

They’ve endured extraordinary challenges, even by pandemic measures. Mita is going through cancer treatment.

“A new chemotherapy helps, but it’s made me less hands-on, just managing all the side effects, which have been pretty difficult,” he said.

That hasn’t stopped him from making big changes to the restaurant’s identity.

“We’re going back to our roots now,” he said. “It was like, do you want to be known as an izakaya or a ramen shop?”


David Hammond talks to wine industry vet Brian Duncan, who made wine more accessible at Bin 36 and is now on the floor at Michael Lachowicz’s restaurant (George Trois/Aboyer):

“People appreciate authenticity,” Duncan says, “and in multi-course dining situations, it can be somewhat intimidating. I used to call such restaurants ‘culinary houses of worship,’ where everything is very stiff and reverent. Neither the guests nor the servers are being authentic and relaxed, and there’s a cold stiffness. I’m just not made that way. When you come into my dining room, I’ve already been waiting for you and expecting you. And I’m wanting to garner as much about you as I can, certainly without being intrusive, so that I can sense your needs and where we’re going.”


Grimod at Understanding Hospitality composes a paean to the days when not everything was previewed for you on Instagram:

You revel in the fear you once felt when entering revered dining rooms. You treasure the technical errors, faux pas, and outright mortification inflicted upon those who stewarded your earliest gastronomic experiences. For the true test of hospitality staff is how [they] handle those agonizing moments with aplomb, resisting the temptation to twist the knife and solidify a bad memory. Graciousness, on such an occasion, comes close to godliness. The requisite lesson to be learned is never forgotten–and, quite the opposite, it forms a crucial moment in the development of a bonafide gourmand. Moreover, it endears the given restaurant in the mind of a diner. The establishment reveals itself to be more than an unfeeling crafter of fine cuisine but a consummate host. Hospitality engenders loyalty, and the mercy shone accentuates that it is the humanity–as much as the food–that leads us back time after time.


Steve Dolinsky visits Uncle Jerry’s Pizza in far suburban Cary, doing artisanal deep dish which he calls “a deep dish pizza that defies easy explanation.”


Diwali ended on Saturday, but it’s still interestiing to read this piece at Eater by Ashok Selvam on how the Indian holiday is becoming a restaurant event in the Indian community:

For example, chef Zubair Mohajir is opening his new restaurant, Aman, the day after Diwali with a special vegetarian 10-course holiday dinner in Wicker Park. In Lincoln Park, Tandoor Char House is ready for a busier-than-normal day, sending out emails to customers writing that the holiday is “a reminder of better times with our family and friends, and the sweet reminder that brighter beginnings are on the horizon.” For the second-straight year, pop-up chef Jasmine Sheth has launched her Tasting India Diwali sweet shop. Rooh in the West Loop is also offering a special menu, and its owners have a special menu at their new pub Bar Goa in River North and inside Time Out Market Chicago. Meanwhile, Art of Dosa, newly reopened after a pandemic hiatus in Revival Food Hall in the Loop, is hoping for a big delivery day with special rainbow dosas. Chiya Chai is giving away sweets in Logan Square and the Loop. Bhoomi, newly opened at Urbanspace food hall in the Loop, has a special catering menu. Vermillion in River North also has a special menu.

Speaking of Zubair Mohajir (Wazwan), there’s an account of his path from the world of finance to Indian flavors at Wazwan and now Aman at the Robb Report:

“I hated my life,” he said. “When 2008 happened, when the market crashed, I got walked away from my desk. And it’s funny because I look back now, and I was standing in the Financial District on LaSalle Street in Chicago, and I was probably the only motherfucker with a smile on his face. I felt so free.”

He took it as an opportunity to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He started a social media company and kept ending up in bars and restaurants, taking food photos to post to his platform. It reminded him that he loved cooking, not online networking. So, he completed a certificate program at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago and then jumped into the culinary world full-time.


It’s the season where I get lots of Thanksgiving press releases, mostly recycling the same ideas, but this piece by Anthony Todd is an exception: it’s where to enjoy turkey alternatives, from roast duck to a Filipino feast.


David Manilow, longtime producer of Check, Please!, has joined Amy Guth’s podcast Daily Gist, from Crain’s, on the Wednesday show. Here he talks about new restaurants you should know.


Best of issue, picked by committee: not that interesting. NewCity asks a dozen writers to spell out the things they love, individually: definitely more interesting. Start with food and bev editor David Hammond’s, which include hot dogs in public parks and cotton candy at Riverview (clearly still existing is not a strict criterion).


Remember the map of Chicago eats compiled by the Reader’s John Greenfield (with the help of many food experts, including myself) that was published some weeks back, with retro art by Steve Shanabruch? It’s now a poster, just in time for gift-giving.


Food turns up in this Edward McClelland piece, though it’s just one side of it: he spends the day hanging around the area served by the city’s lowest-trafficked CTA stop. Unsurprisingly, it’s on the west side—Kostner on the Pink Line—and it’s a nicely observed piece about looking for the points of interest in a little-known slice of town.


To Friends of Fooditor Liz Erbes and Chris Chacko, who got married this weekend in Hinsdale, substituting for Paris, where they originally planned to… in 2020.