Off to a film festival this week, so Buzz List will be off for two weeks, returning on 10/23.


The Tribune is all about the nostalgia this week, with a piece and a photo essay on the closing of the Signature Room, the 95th floor restaurant in the John Hancock tower, and yet another one on the closing of Seven Treasures in Chinatown by Louisa Chu, this time focusing on the story of the family:

Chung and Kai Au owned a wonton noodle shop in Hong Kong before they moved to Chicago. Chung, the family patriarch, immigrated first. Kai, the matriarch, closed the shop and then followed soon after with four of their five children, three daughters and the youngest son. Benjamin, their oldest, who was over 21, would be separated from his family for years due to U.S. immigration policy quotas.

In 1981, Chung and Kai opened their new wonton noodle shop on Cermak Road in Chinatown and called it Seven Treasures.

Back to the Signature Room, which has gotten a lot of social media attention for abruptly closing this week, most of which tends to inadvertently stress the point that if you went once for a special occasion and loved the view, you can’t really be surprised that that wasn’t enough to keep it going for another thirty years. The fact is, north Michigan Avenue is no longer a hot restaurant strip—when I interviewed Tony Mantuano about Spiaggia a couple of years before it closed, he said they had definitely seen that—and cool restaurants are no longer built around things like a sky-high view; when’s the last time anyone actually talked about the food, or the chef, at the Signature Room? I shot Key Ingredient with Pat Sheerin in 2011; that might be it. Titus Ruscitti had a bit of a Twitter tussle with the Chicago Bars account over the deadness of Michigan Ave., though I think they were kind of talking past each other and both were kind of right from their viewpoint; anyway, I agree with what Titus said here, responding to a guy who called it “arguably the most iconic restaurant in town” (which is silly and shows the guy’s definitely not a current foodie):

Never mind the silly comment about it being the city’s most iconic restaurant but if nobody is going to your restaurant for the food you have a problem on your hands and it’s not the kids hanging out downtown or the fact that someone’s Range Rover was stolen. But yeah, “arguably”

Or here:

Sorry I’m not surprised that a spot that people would visit for a drink before going elsewhere didn’t make it during these tougher than ever times in the restaurant business. Now if Purple Pig, Gibsons, and Shaws etc all closed in the same timeframe that would be worrying.

Titus, perhaps uniquely among food writers, seems to have actually been there in recent years to have an opinion:

The menu was straight out of the 90’s and maybe even the 80’s while the drink selection was shit. They could only coast on those views for so long.

Yeah, it had its day—30 years is no bad run for anybody—but that’s how, and where, your parents and grandparents dined, not you.

P.S. A good Tweet about it.


I have old favorites in Milwaukee that I hit somewhat regularly, but that’s kind of unfair to an interesting city that is the closest thing to alt-universe Chicago we could name, but has its own character (more German, Italian in a different way, etc.) that is worth checking out. Steve Dolinsky has some suggestions for me:

There’s a lot more to eat in the Cream City these days than just a brat at the ballpark. The city’s food scene has exploded, to the point where “Top Chef” is shooting its next season there.

Less than a mile from the ballpark, Story Hill BKC – that stands for bottle, kitchen, cocktail – offers hearty brunch in the form of hickory smoked ham and Alpine cheese crepes, showered with house-made pickles, dijonnaise and soft poached eggs. But their curried chicken salad sandwich is also a winner.

Just up the road, fantastic artisan thin pizza at Wy’East – which offers a style of pie rarely seen in Milwaukee. Blistered edges and chewy middles are the highlights here.

Just south of downtown in Walker’s Point, Momo Mee is run by a former Chicagoan. The Chinese menu features dan dan noodles and xiao long bao, the prized soup dumplings from Shanghai. Each one made by hand, then steamed for seven minutes.

Just a few minutes north, the Zócalo food truck park offers plenty of options for even the pickiest eater. The bar is inside, but the eating is mostly outdoors.


Remember when everybody was crazy for Next tickets? When the announcement of a new season of menus was news on every food media site, and people went nuts trying to grab tickets before they sold out? The Next madness was possibly the biggest hype event in Chicago food history, the biggest of big deals in the early 2010s, though it proved to be irreproducible by anyone else (sorry, Intro) and eventually the hysteria died down (who can even say what the current menu at Next is?)

Well now Jenner Tomaska and his wife Katrina Bravo, who both worked at Next, are trying something similar at Esme. Crain’s:

The Esmé Elite Dining Pass starts at $650 per person and includes three tasting-menu dinners, plus perks like cooking classes, private tastings, meet and greets with featured artists, and direct booking. There are two higher tiers to the membership — for $1,100 and $1,300 per person — that tack on various wine pairings to the three included dinners.

…The dining pass is an evolution of Esmé’s year-old season-ticket program, Bravo said. The season-ticket program was an idea borrowed from Nick Kokonas at Alinea Group, where Bravo used to do marketing and Tomaska was the chef at Next. It was a genius idea, but Bravo said she started to notice demand among Esmé’s diners was evolving.

“There was this kind of shift post COVID,” she said. “People are really looking for experience-based benefits and community-based benefits.”

A friend and fellow food writer just went to the latest menu, tied to art by Emmy Star Brown, and liked the experience a lot. I’m not going into more detail because he may write about it, but his description of it certainly intrigued me.


Grimod goes to Temporis, a restaurant that chugs along but I’ve heard little about lately, which is part of his beginning point:

Where exactly does the place—that’s neither old nor new, that falls within an opaque genre, that may be cutting edge but has nobody to champion it for being so—fit? Once the local “critics” have had their say, they cannot very well afford to keep dining there even if the quality of food merits it. Duty calls them to talk about what’s new and colorful even (or especially) when it does not seem destined to last. So, somewhere like Temporis may occasionally pop up on an end-of-year “best of” list or be branded as some self-important contributor’s hidden fine dining gem. But it tends to escape attention, or even knowledge of its very existence, beyond those innocently scanning the Michelin Guide in search of a good time.

…This is a restaurant—three executive chefs in—without a well-defined brand or an obvious story to tell. In some sense, it is a throwback (despite not really being that old) to an era when fine, modern cuisine could stand as an attraction without leaning on a particular ethnic identity, a photogenic ambiance, or visual gimmicks to get customers through the door. There’s a sense of freedom here—an aspect of the undefined and undefinable—that actually reminds you of a top new opening like Valhalla (without the associated baggage). However, [chef Troy] Jorge and [pastry chef Jacquelyn] Paternico have had far more time to explore and refine their ideas, and the resulting work only demands that someone see Temporis not as a one-and-done, Michelin-starred experience but a dynamic restaurant worthy of serious, continued attention.


Has Dennis Lee really not written about the Korean dishes on the menu at Budacki’s hot dog stand? It seems like the first thing he would have written about.  Anyway, he says check out the Korean Philly cheesesteak:

It’s packed with bulgogi (thinly cut ribeye in a sweet soy sauce-based marinade), which is grilled with mushrooms, green bell peppers, and onions. The sandwich is also stuffed with a ton of melted shredded cheese (which appears to be mozzarella, the menu doesn’t quite make this clear), lettuce, tomatoes, and is dressed with Allison’s Atomic Sauce, which is a creamy and spicy house made sauce.

And oh my lord, is this a gloriously messy sandwich. It’s meaty, drippy, juicy, savory, and sweet—make sure you hunch over the Styrofoam box as you’re eating it. Sorry, Italian beef, you’re going to have to step aside today, because this sandwich is really fucking great. And the fries on the side are good too: They’re fast food fries reminiscent of McDonald’s.


Titus Ruscitti just tweeted a picture of the Greek fries from the Athenian Room, and now I know why he was hunting up Greek food in Lincoln Park—a new place called Kala Modern Greek, which he writes about for Chicago:

The menu’s biggest revelation, though, is the Greek burger ($13.25). A double cheeseburger made with Slagel Family Farm beef patties, it comes on a toasted sesame seed bun with baked feta, pickled onion, shredded romaine, and “granch” yogurt, a tangy Greek ranch. It’s a delicious twist on the classic, and I’m ready to name it the most underrated burger in town.

Meanwhile, at his own blog, he checks out samosas up and down Devon Ave.:

According to Amir Khusro, a scholar and the royal poet of the Delhi Sultanate, samosas were introduced to the Muslim Delhi Sultanate of South Asia in the early 1300s. Cooks came to Central Asia from the Middle East and worked the kitchens of the Sultan, where nobles and princes enjoyed the newly introduced samosa. From there they gained popularity in other countries like Burma, Kenya, South Africa and Somalia. Pakistani style samosas are my favorite from the samosa family tree. They tend to be a smaller (and cheaper) than their Indian counterparts and are often filled with a spicy mix of ground beef (or lamb) as opposed to potato. A variation is found in Karachi called the Kaghazi samosa which translates to “paper samosa” due to the wrapper being thin and crispy like a spring-roll. I went over to Devon in search of the city’s best Pakistani style samosas and this is what I found…


The Infatuation visits Kyoten Next Door:

Kyoten is one of Chicago’s best sushi restaurants, so any sequel to this Logan Square spot comes with high expectations. But Kyoten Next Door is more The Empire Strikes Back than Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. It’s a fantastic option for a straightforward, classic omakase without the creative small plates (and possible second mortgage) unique to a visit to the original Kyoten.

Is it Logan Square though? Technically I suppose (Yelp says so), but I’d think of it being Bucktown.


The contretemps over Pizza City Fest was weeks ago, but here comes Derrick Tung, owner of Paulie Gee’s, with a photo of accepting a $5000 check for Slice Out Hunger from Steve Dolinsky, and his own comments on his experiences:

How do I ultimately determine whether the event was good for us? The main things we consider:

Profit? Yes. There are events where we’re invited to come purely for “exposure” and we have to foot the labor and ingredients bill while the organizer makes money off tickets. At PCF, we not only got a check that covered labor, we also were able to access sponsored ingredients, keeping our cost down.

Raise money for a good cause? Yes. If there’s a cause that’s dear to our hearts, sometimes we’re okay eating costs to bring about better change for the community around us. Participating in the fest supported a hunger relief charity and a local culinary charity @ccapchicago.

Was it a $hitshow? No. Last year, we ran out of pizza in a few hours, but our equipment was on point and we hit the other points above. This year, like last year, we had a difficult but great experience… difficulty being that we worked in a smaller oven than we anticipated, and couldn’t keep the pace we wanted to in order to feed everyone faster… but that’s the standard for any restaurant, especially cooking in a kitchen space that’s not your own.


What is Einstein in Oppenheimer? Meanwhile, the Conti Roll is short for Continental Roll, which is an Australian form of an Italian sub, as Sandwich Tribunal explains:

This type of sandwich is not a feature of Italian cuisine in Italy. As with the American Submarine or Torpedo, Hero or Hoagie, Grinder or Spuckie or even the variant local to Maine that is simply called an “Italian,” it was an innovation unique to the Italian immigrant experience that caught on and became popular with the populace at large. Unlike in America though, where these sandwiches spread from the Northeast and eventually became known across the whole country, the extreme isolation of Perth has left the Conti roll as a strictly local phenomenon in Perth. Crit, one of the Tribunal’s Australian correspondents currently living in Canberra, admitted to complete unfamiliarity with the Conti roll when I first asked her about it 2 years ago. That’s not to say that one couldn’t find a panino made with Italian salumi and antipasti in Melbourne or Sydney, Adelaide or Canberra or anywhere else in Australia. Only in Perth, though, is it the institution known as the Continental Roll.


This was a couple of episodes back, but Joiners podcast talked to a grocery store head—one of the hardest things to do in food journalism, since they generally try to avoid being written (or asked questions) about. But they talk to Kostas Drosos, manager of Fresh Market Place in Bucktown, the kind of thoughtfully—oh fine, I’ll just say it, curated—store for foodies as well as people who just need to grab a tube of Gleem. Listen to it here.


Speaking of burgers, I went back to Ragadan, the falafel place on Broadway just north of Montrose; owner Danny Sweis is of Jordanian background but grew up in Oklahoma, where a local specialty is “onion burgers,” a griddled patty cooked with a ton of thinly shaved onions. Coming from Kansas, a couple of hours north, I would almost say another word for “onion burger” is “burger,” since plenty of burgers in my hometown were cooked in that style, and not referred to as anything different. It’s not unknown here, for that matter—the late Man-Jo-Vin’s in my neighborhood was pretty much in that style—but Ragadan does something kind of different with it: instead of the usual ketchup-mustard-pickle, Ragadan puts a gooey white sauce (think an Au Cheval burger) on it. Anyway, my trying-every-burger-on-earth days are past, but I’ll still respond to the siren call of something different, and I enjoyed it—though I’ll still say that the gem at Ragadan is the falafel sandwich on ka’ak bread (as embarrassing as saying “Falafel on ka’ak, please” may be).