Phil Vettel is the latest to confirm that everyone loves Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark’s Wherewithall, starting with the ultra-seasonal farm to table approach in which the menu changes in some way almost every day: “Which is, for me, what makes Wherewithall exhilarating. The kitchen provides the excitement of a chef-designed progression at an exceedingly modest price. Considering that the four courses are typically augmented with several free bites, dinner at Wherewithall is quite a value… The pictures with this review? What you see is not what I got, and it’s not what you’re going to get.”

Yet after raving about it, including about the more comfortable setting from the same designer as Parachute, he just gives it three stars. Would this be a better restaurant with a posher room and more starchily formal service? I don’t think so, and I don’t think the people who will dine there and cherish its unfussy food want that, either. A review like this is a argument against the use of star ratings, which impose assumptions about what we want when dining out that aren’t true for most people any more.


I’ve been enjoying all of the Tribune’s coverage of Indian food, but the key piece I’ve been waiting for is Nick Kindelsperger’s guide to his top choices for Indian food in its most fruitful area right now, the western suburbs, which are full of new Indian restaurants, often of very high quality… and almost never written about by anyone. So if you know more than one or two of these, you’re a scholar yourself. (I can speak for one, Bawarchi Biryanis—but only because I tagged along with Nick that day.)

Here it is; as he says: “There are so many Indian restaurants in the suburbs that after three weeks of daily eating I gave up trying to visit them all. What a glorious problem to have. While this list isn’t even close to comprehensive, here 10 places I’m most excited to try again next time I’m driving around the burbs.”


Maggie Hennessy likes Liz Pearce’s faux-tropical drinks, but the food seems overdone in more than one way at Flora Fauna: “We puzzled over the octopus, which arrived as a dismayingly busy composition of seared tentacles, plantain matchsticks, blistered cherry tomatoes and sour gooseberries atop criss-crossing streaks of avocado purée and guajillo chile sauce. The rousing medley of flavors surprisingly worked but couldn’t salvage the cephalopod’s rubbery texture.”


In a bid to confuse a world that already has two Jeff Mauros and an Erik Bayliss, we got two new homophonic restaurants last week: one called WoodWind, in the GreenRiver space (where apparently you are contractually required to EliminateSpaces). Don Young, ex of Temporis, will be the onsite chef; Anthony Todd has more, including that they promise “high-end cuisine with a serious sense of fun,” something we know nothing about here.

Then there’s Wynwood, which comes to Wicker Park not from New York but Miami, to bring us, uh, high-end drinking with a serious sense of fun, like a pumpkin spice rum slushie. Anthony Todd has, uh, more.


It’s hard to read Graham Meyer’s review of Francois Frankie and not be thrown immediately back to the same restaurant group getting attention last week for sexual harassment charges at their Cochon Volant. I wouldn’t necessarily think one ought to be tagged with another’s sins, but there’s something about the calculated circus-y decadence of the place that makes it hard not to think about it. Anyway, Meyer is measured in his excitement: “The layout of Francois Frankie, a new spot in the Loop, centers on its carousel bar. The round bar seats 21 and is decorated cheerily with lines of bulbs on an overhang, like an old-timey merry-go-round. (The seats do not go up and down.) Resting on a circular cutout in the floor, it rotates very slowly, at a rate of about one complete revolution an hour. Similarly to the gentle, low-thrills ride the carousel bar references, lunch at Francois Frankie is pleasant, but it won’t raise your pulse.”

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Ina Pinkney tastes New York in the bagels at Taste of New York Bagels & Deli (she explained on Twitter that they’re prepared in New York but baked here). She also enjoys seeing dim sum in Lakeview at D’s Cuisine, and explains why Philz Coffee has a cult following that followed it here from San Francisco.


I spotted Joe Donuts on north Milwaukee the other day, a rare storefront that didn’t look firmly 1977 in that area, and before I could check it out, here’s Mike Sula to explain about real estate guy turned donut/breakfast mini-mogul Nicholas Philippas: “Prior to 2008 Philippas worked in real estate development ‘like everyone else,’ before he opened Glenview’s North Branch Pizza & Burger Co., an all-purpose barstaurant, in 2012. When the opportunity arose to occupy, lease free, a postage-stamp-size former post office next to the Metra stop, he hired pastry chef Elissa Narrow (Blackbird-Vie-Perennial Virant) to consult and brought in a night crew to make the doughnuts in the burger bar.”

And so from doughnuts to a full-fledged breakfast spot: “How to distract kids and cops from the doughnuts? A deep menu of pancakes, scrambles, biscuits, and breakfast plates that in many cases make no attempt to be any more virtuous than a salted caramel old-fashioned.”

Sula also has a pair of pieces on, you might say, weird science in food and beverage: Berthe Garcia of beloved Xocome Antojeria (back and in full production) making green sausage, chorizo verde; and the guy who brews nonalcoholic beverages at Marz Community Brewing.


Ji Suk Yi tells us about D-Men Tap, doner-kebab food truck turned sitdown spot: “To ensure authenticity, [owners Shawn] Podgurski and [Phil] Naumann traveled to Germany and tried over 300 varieties of currywurst and döner kebabs, even making a pitstop at the now shuttered German Currywurst Museum in Berlin. ‘I think we spent more time in there than anyone in the history of that museum,’ said Podgursky, adding that the currywurst at DMen Tap has a ‘100% track record with German expats.'”


That’s Titus Ruscitti this week, reporting on a burger at The Stop Along, gyros at Backyard Grill, and a Cubano at Central Bakery: “From the outside Central Bakery looks like most of the other Mexican bakeries around town and it is a bakery first and foremost. They offer a large selection of Mexican baked pastries and breads. You know the drill. You grab a place-mat and put some sheet paper on it and then grab a pair of tongs and pick out what you want from each cabinet. There’s alot to like. But the reason for what’s on many occasions a steady stream of traffic is their selection of sandwiches on offer. The menu is on the wall.”


Eater Chicago was there with the news first—the Fat Rice team announced a new restaurant called Society51, where “customers enjoy a ‘morphing tasting menu’… Like its older sibling, Society51 will feature global — and this time historical — influences. The spokesperson said it will ‘present a modern-day interpretation of lost ancient cuisines, blending the exotic ingredients and forgotten flavors that honor the architects of Ancient Egyptian, Roman, and pre-colonial Meso-American societies.’”

Except there was no restaurant—it’s a Halloween party with an Area 51 theme, as Nick Kindelsperger explained, and everyone chuckled at Eater getting fooled (they hurriedly updated the post). But honestly, I get the same press releases Eater does, and… forgotten Meso-American cuisine is probably not the most obviously unbelievable concept either one of us will get this week.


Lori Lightfoot proposes doubling the restaurant tax! shouted the headlines. The reality is it’s a small increase on just one tax… a quarter of a percentage point added to the sales tax, or 25 cents on a hundred bucks, for any food sales (restaurants or retail). Negligible… but those little taxes sure add up, and the restaurant industry has to recognize that they’re looking like a cash cow to be milked. Crain’s has more: “Illinois Retail Merchants Association chief Robb Karr said his group is ‘concerned’ about the proposed levy, which comes after a series of recent mandates from the city including a higher minimum wage, mandatory sick pay and notice-of-schedule changes. ‘We’re looking for fiscal constraint.’”


In The New Yorker, Helen Rosner has a paean to the midwestern coming-of-age terrors of Iliana Regan‘s memoir Burn The Place: “Regan is desperately in love with her childhood, but she pushes back fiercely against the gothic allure of casting dysfunction as romance. A family pig roast, a visit to the fair, a trip to the woods to forage for mushrooms—these semi-rural episodes are steeped in magic, but it’s the terror-edged kind, from fairy tales of the dark forest, with all the gore and shadows that would be stripped from a Disney adaptation left ominously intact.”


WGN Radio’s Dane Neal talks Chicago pizza with Steve Dolinsky, David Hammond and Louisa Chu.


How spies use restaurants, according to Food and Wine. I don’t know if I believe any of this, but I enjoyed it.


Chicago sometimes-food writer Lisa Futterman talks about going back to the kitchen: “Frequently, my kitchen soul whispers to me, asking to go back into the professional kitchen. Cooking at home doesn’t satisfy my urge to bang out large volumes of food. Even preparing an India-themed Thanksgiving dinner for 15 left me feeling challenged but unfulfilled, alone in a kitchen piled with dirty dishes. I want to roast hotel pans of zucchini, chop Lexans full of onions, figure out how to quickly portion 50 pounds of meatballs while my cabbage caramelizes on the flat top. I want discipline. I want camaraderie. I want someone to care if my shallots are diced or if they look more like they were pushed through a lawn mower.”


That’s not a joke headline—where I grew up, Wichita, both the ethnic and the fine dining scenes had a considerable Lebanese presence, but I’ve never known how they got there to the midwest. Saveur’s story about Lebanese steakhouses is about Tulsa, not Wichita—but like there’s a big difference! Our fancy steakhouse was called Kamiel’s, not Jamil’s, that’s about the extent of the difference.


The Spectator has a hymn to the lost pleasure of smoking in bars (I’m Savonarola-rabid as an anti-smoker, yet even I feel a pang of misbegotten 70s nostalgia when I walk into a bar in another state where smoking still exists). And you’re not a true Chicagoan if you can’t immediately guess the Chicago bar that leads off the piece.


Damn, first Bridgeport Bakery and Johnny O’s, and now breakfast spot Bridgeport Restaurant is closing too.

On the other hand, Home Run Inn is reopening next to its original spot at 4254 W. 31st in Little Village, and Hubbard Inn is reopening in River North after an alleged 7-figure renovation. The most interesting part of that is that they’ve brought on Meghan Konecny as mixologist—after stints at Scofflaw, Best Intentions and Sportsman’s Club, which is an awfully good resume for making craft cocktails. She’ll do classic cocktails on the first floor and stress flowers and other botanicals in the second floor’s Blue Violet at Hubbard Inn.


This thread about Home Depot hot dogs comes to an amusingly definitive end. Start here, but then go here.


Another Halloween prank video—Young American (which, as we reported a few weeks ago, has gone Filipino-Fusion-y, foodwise) will team up with the Sao Song Lao popup series to form… Tao Song, sending up the wildly over the top River North nightclub-eatery. Check out their video and get tickets here.

Here’a a Halloween party we’re sure isn’t a prank: Table Donkey and Stick will have its annual offal dinner on Halloween night, $49 for five gutsy courses. (Cue the organs!) Make reservations at their site.

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