John Kessler goes to Obélix and finds it quite the combination of the old family business (French restaurant Le Bouchon) and the same family’s new one (not a French restaurant Taqueria Chingon):

The other nonnegotiable appetizer is the foie gras taco, though it’s divisive. Everyone I’ve talked to who has eaten this dish has voiced a strong yea or nay on it, but I found the seared lobe of foie perfectly cooked, and I loved both the hand-pressed corn tortilla crisped in foie fat and the salsa macha made with fried chiles, nuts, and seeds. I’m not sure it all belonged together but would happily eat another to test my hypothesis.

…If [chef-owner Oliver] Poilevey gently modernizes flavors, he also mines the classics to summon forth a more nostalgic notion of French cuisine. In a time when restaurants are getting rid of their bakers, pastry is all over this menu long before dessert. There are savory tarts, beef Wellington, and my favorite: pithiviers de ratatouille, a luscious vegetable pie bound with Humboldt Fog cheese and set atop Sungold tomato sauce and pesto. Come dessert time, a baked Alaska will knock your snowshoes off.


There’s a human tendency to see whatever’s new and unusual in another city as being superior to what you have. I feel that whenever I see bakeries in other cities, even farflung suburbs—wait, Poughkeepsie has an artisanal mandelbrot bakery? So I am happy to see Nick Kindelsperger standing up for two of our local bakers and their skills, reminding us that they’re making people from other places jealous, too. First, Greg Wade at Publican Quality Bread, which has an intricate schedule of different offerings all day long, to wit:

Around 1 p.m. comes the even more impressive jambon-beurre baguette. “We don’t make them until the baguettes come out of the oven, so they are fresh and warm,” Wade said. “Then we add our ham, really nice butter, mustard and comté cheese. It’s super simple.” Simple it may be, but the intense focus on freshness (the baguette audibly shatters when you bite in) and quality (the house-made ham is good enough to eat alone) adds up to one of the most satisfying sandwich experiences in Chicago.

Then Mindy Segal with her new Mindy’s Bakery:

The bialy scene in Chicago is nearly nonexistent, but Segal’s versions are wonders. Asked how she learned to make them so well, Segal said it was hard work. “We’ve just made them five thousand times,” Segal said. On my last visit, I grabbed a roasted onion, fromage blanc and Parmesan bialy that burst with funky, salty flavors, while the base maintained a crackly crust with a fluffy interior.

By the way, I had just eaten a sandwich-by-the-pound from Public Quality Bread when I went to my film fest in Italy, and a couple of my lunches were at a bakery/coffeeshop that made exactly the same style of sandwich. It showed me that Wade’s Italian bakery sandwich concept was dead on to what’s really happening in Italy—and also that I don’t have to just be jealous of what they have in other places.


Flat & Point, the Alpine restaurant that people often mistook for a barbecue joint—or you might say that people went in expecting Smoque and found Table, Donkey & Stick—is putting an end to the confusion. It’s becoming Dorothy’s Bistro, says Nick Kindelsperger, named for owner Brian Bruns’ grandma. Who apparently liked meat as much as he does:

Along with the name change, the menu has been condensed to nine dishes anchored in the Alpine cuisine of mountain villages in swaths of France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.

“There’s no fluff on the menu,” Bruns said. “It’s a simple menu that will change often.” Currently, you’ll find an Alpine salad of delicata squash and ricotta, chicken liver mousse with duck fat shortbread, and trout with tomato and preserved artichoke. The heartiest item is the charcoute garnie, a twist on the Alsatian classic charcoute garnie, featuring your choice of smoked knackwurst, ‘nduja porchetta or baby back ribs with sauerkraut and butterball potatoes.


I suppose Mini Mott seemed like a safe bet, as a burger joint, for Edward and Vicki Kim (Ruxbin, Mott Street) but two years later they’ve reconceived it as Second Generation, and Time Out reviews it:

As the name suggests, Second Generation pays homage to its owners’ heritage. Siblings Vicki and Edward King [sic] and their business partner Nate Chung are all second-generation Asian Americans, and the menu is a reflection of the food they ate growing up. The dining room sports a nod to their roots as well with family photos lining the area up front…

Second Generation might have launched with little fanfare but it’s clear the word is out. The house was packed when I arrived, with some folks opting to dine on the heated patio on a cool October night instead of waiting the hour-plus for a table inside. Once seated, the meal started with a play on avocado toast. A three-layer dip of avocado, ssamjang (spicy Korean paste) and crème fraîche is served in a small jar and alongside slices of radish and griddled sourdough. Like a stereotypical millennial, I’ve spent my fair share of dollars on avocado toast. None have ever been this smooth, though, and I would gladly drop $14 on it again.


Armitage Alehouse is the hot new restaurant of the moment from Hogsalt, trying to evoke England in 1926—which Michael Nagrant finds problematic in several ways:

…a saucer of curried rubbery shrimp swimming in watery vaguely cumin-spiced tikka masala sauce that instantly made me wish I’d had gotten take-out from Rangoli or Mild 2 Spicy instead. In 2022, it’s hard not to eat tikka masala and start thinking about British colonialism. The argument for serving this dish is probably that after decades of colonial occupation of India, a diluted or fusion version of Indian cuisine would most certainly have filtered into British pub culture in 1926.

While you will find tikka masala in British pubs today, you most likely wouldn’t have found tikka masala in one before the 1960s and most likely not until the 1970s. Then again, a British pub likely wouldn’t be serving Japanese/American miso-glazed cod or Mexican Caesar salad (invented in 1924, I guess it could have made its way across the pond), or 1980s molten lava cake or espresso martinis for dessert? Is Armitage Alehouse actually a Cheesecake Factory?

He also went to Alla Vita and found more than a routine Italian joint:

The restaurant has that rare thing, the number one thing I look for when I eat out: a point of view. Even if you’re comping me, you can’t fake that. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be modern. But what I want on the plate is the thing that only YOUR life experience can give me.

You’d think that would be tough to find in a cacio e pepe, a dish seemingly everywhere.

And yet Lee Wolen and his team find a way to do that. Most people do spaghetti or a long or flat noodle. Some people do gnocchi. No one does gigantic ass gnocchi featuring a semolina shell and a ricotta center that renders like a savory lava cake with a creamy cloud center. It’s state of the art.


In the old days I would have needed to entertain the kids for a day, and so I would have found an excuse to be out by Cary, Illinois to try the much-talked-about Uncle Jerry’s Pizza. (The Lake County Museum used to be not too far away, in Wauconda, as I recall.) It took Titus Ruscitti a bit to get there, too, but he beat me there last winter:

Uncle Jerry’s is a passion project from a local who started making pizza for fun some 20 years ago and eventually started selling to those in the know and then hosting pizza parties in his backyard for practice. It’s now a brick and mortar business that shares a space with a local butcher. We sat at the bar and happened to catch the second half of Cary-Grove High School’s upset of East St. Louis in the IHSA Class 6A football state championship. The friendly bartender was a lady from Cicero who grew up on Freddy’s and was praising the deep dish sausage pizza from here, clearly she had good taste. It’s also been praised by the aforementioned Nick K. as well as Chicagoland Pizza expert Steve Dolinsky among others. So as expected it was a really good product that Uncle Jerry told us is always getting tweaked. A contender for the best deep dish pizza in the world and thus it’s worth the ride. It’s about an hour from the north side but you can take the Metra and it’ll drop you off across the street.

He also visits Gretel, which is getting a lot of burger list mention of late.


Steve Dolinsky talks up Sueños, the pop-up that will soon be a permanent upscale Mexican restaurant:

Nearly every day, Chef Stephen Sandoval can be found breaking down fish for a concept he’s had in his head for quite a while. Sueños – or “dreams” – is an ode to his childhood, tucked into one end of the Soho House in the West Loop. Upstairs is for members, but on the first floor, head to the right, up the stairs past the Fox Bar, and into his dream-come-true.


David Hammond has been talking about eating bugs for 15 years now. Here he is at it again:

During the 2007 cicada infestation, some friends and I prepared cicada-based foods at the request of news crews from Japan, Germany and Chicago’s WTTW. Cicadas, when harvested young and then fried, become just another crunchy element in a maki roll. We also made hors d’oeuvres of cicadas nestled into chevre, perched on an endive leaf…

My feeling is that, if a food seems strange but is widely eaten in a culture other than my own, I’m going to try it. If I don’t like it, I’ll say so; if I do like it, well hey, I just found another food I like. But even foods that we may not find particularly appetizing can tell us about the cultures where those foods are popular.

That leads to a piece about many things that only get eaten by a few cultures. Guess who’s been on a number of these adventures with him?


Soybeans, that is. Chicago-based Phoenix Bean Tofu had the opening for its new plant in Edgewater and Bob Benenson of Local Food Forum attended it:

Even if we weren’t longtime acquaintances, I’d still be enthusiastic about her products, which include tofu in plain, flavored and fried varieties; delicious and popular tofu salads; fresh tofu noodles; newly introduced tofu-based dips; and soy milk. Since the first time I tasted her products, I’ve said that it is the only tofu I’ve eaten that has a flavor profile of its own, with a distinctly vegetal taste….

The plant is filled with customized equipment imported from her native Taiwan. It will allow [owner Jenny] Yang to greatly increase her capacity and purchase more soybeans from regional farmers, fulfilling a commitment that enabled her to obtain a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to build the facility.


Because we’ve never had one of those before; the Reader article about a new guidebook, (A) Part, kind of talks like no one’s ever tried to interest Chicagoans in other neighborhoods before (cough LTHForum cough):

Enter Abby Pucker and her new community venture, Gertie. Gertie is described as a “sports team for arts and culture,” if you will. Its mission is to build a community of young professionals in Chicago (both transplants and natives) who are ready to engage with the city and each other in new ways. And (A)Part: A Recipe Guide-book to Chicago (if you will) is the companion piece to the new venture—meant to introduce the reader to different restaurants, recipes, neighborhoods, and cultural landmarks through the eyes of 27 different Chicagoans.

Well, hey, one of them is Margaret Pak of Thattu, so I’m interested enough; you can order here.


Found this on Facebook: Chicago’s only little people bar, circa 1960s.

12. McTRIB

The Tribune seems compelled to make sure we know what’s going on at a struggling little business called McDonald’s; this week it’s that plastic buckets you may remember from 80s Halloweens (I don’t, but you might) are available this year. Be sure you have your Goonies VHS and D batteries for your Dark Tower game, and you’re set for a positively thrilling Halloween.


This story’s a few weeks old, but I just ran across it. Remember Louisa Chu trying to track down the elusive Mrs. Hering whose name was attached to the chicken pot pie at the Walnut Room at Marshall Fields? Well, she’s been found, and she was elusive for a simple reason—she was misspelled; it was Mrs. Haring. And it turns out that Sarah Alice Kevan Haring was more interesting than just a homey cook with a killer chicken pot pie, as the anti-union Tribune of the era reveals, a bit inadvertently:

A 1902 story in the Chicago Daily Tribune identifies Mrs. L.W. Haring as the manager of the tea and grill rooms, and quotes her as the organizer of the dining department in the old store since 1887, “fifteen years ago, when Mr. Field himself was disposed to doubt the wisdom of catering to his customers’ appetite.”

The story, published a few days after Christmas on Dec. 28, is ostensibly about “store waitresses who say they are blending work and study,” but attacks a contemporary subject: unions.

“The Federation of Labor is likely to find an intricate problem on its hands if it goes further in its effort to unionize ‘Selfridge’s girls,’ as they are termed in Labor row,” reads the story. “There are 350 of these young women in the tea and grill rooms of the State street store, but few of them own the permanent calling of a waitress.”


Sandwich Tribunal read about an Italian place that invented a kind of sandwich, the Trapizzino, and sets out to make it without going to Rome:

Trapizzino, if you have not figured it out on your own by now, is a portmanteau combining pizza with the previously-mentioned triangular sandwich called tramezzino. My friend Daniel, who has blogged about his travels around the world for a few years now on his site The Wandering Hedonist, told me about them earlier this year and I immediately put them on the List.

The concept of a Trapizzino is this: a (rectangular) slice of pizza bianca, a Roman flatbread similar to a less-oily focaccia, is cut in half to form 2 triangles. One of those triangles is then slit open and stuffed with a popular local dish: chicken cacciatore; Garofolato, a type of Roman pot roast; anchovies with burrata cheese; etc.


It’s always good to be skeptical of a business closing and putting the blame on somebody like local government. There’s probably other problems. Still I find the story of Captain Nemo’s closing its Rogers Park location out of pique at how the city treats it to be broadly credible:

Problems with Capt’n Nemo’s business license started in 2019, when city health inspectors closed the shop at 3650 N. Ashland Ave. in Lakeview, owner Steve Ragusi said. Instead of bringing the business into compliance with health codes, the Ragusi family decided to close the Ashland Avenue sub shop, he said.

The following year, Ragusi went to renew the business license for the Rogers Park location but found there was a hold on it stemming from the health inspection problem at the sister location, he said.

Just because you’re closed is no reason you don’t have to meet requirements for opening, apparently.


You probably know Dennis Lee from his newsletter, Food is Stupid, where he… proves the title with things like “Buffalo Chicken Pudding Barfait.” Now he’s launching a food review newsletter, The Party Cut:

I have to stress this right now: This isn’t me being a food critic.

I don’t want that. All I want is to show you the places we’ve been and the stuff we’ve particularly enjoyed. If I can, I’ll introduce you to some of the people behind it as I go along, but really, I’ll mainly stick to the food and keep it short and sweet.

It sounds like he’s going to be more in Titus Ruscitti territory than Phil Vettel’s, so that’s all to the good. Check it out.


I wrote something and then it bothered me the rest of the week. Not that I said anything bad, just that I didn’t think my thinking was very thinky and it bugged me. After I went to Pompette, I wanted to put up some of the pictures I’d taken on Instagram. So I did, but I also needed to dash something off to sum up what I thought about the meal, so I called it “Honest food.”

“Honest food” is not so bad—it basically says what I meant, which was straightforward cooking, simple use of good ingredients, nothing needlessly heavy or greasy or tarted up, what you see is what you taste. But it bugs me a little that it implies that there is dishonest food, that the city has places that fake it, use tricks to get you to like it. It implies that there’s a wrong way to like what you eat. It’s not the worst word to weasel its way into food discourse—the one I really can’t stand is “clean”; every so often there’s a story about some white ladies, or Andrew Zimmern, referring to something like “clean Chinese” or “clean Mexican” and, well, that’s just racist. Like all that food was dirty until white ladies or Andrew Zimmern purified it with their whiteness. It’s the impure, dirty part that’s good about it. I ate red beans and rice at Willie Mae’s Scotch House that was actually vegan—that’s how “clean” it was. But at the same time, it was funky, get down dirty-tasting, like a bowl of Bo Diddley playing bass and singing about John the Conqueroo. It was glorious.

Still, I’m a big believer in the first word that comes to your head being a pretty good indication of what you really think, before your  upper brain has a chance to think diplomatically. And the food at Pompette—remember them? New all-day cafe in the Izakaya Mita space in Bucktown, from Ashlee Aubin (Salero), Kate Wasielewski (Pub Royale) and Aaron Patten (Moody Tongue)—well, I’ve pretty much used all the adjectives I had for it, simple and straightforward. In a class with other places doing things this way—Lula, Wherewithall, Cellar Door Provisions.

The main thing I had was a piece of wood-grilled bass, served with a side of white beans, leeks and Swiss chard—a little mushy, warm and comforting—and a “Spanish artichoke.” I asked Aubin if that was a specific thing, like “Jerusalem artichoke,” or just “an artichoke that happens to come from Spain,” and he said it’s, yes, an artichoke from Spain, which the grower then takes and confits in olive oil, which is how he gets it (canned, I presume). The result was this beautiful, supple fruit of the artichoke, much more appealing than the usual “eating a pine cone” thing I get from artichokes. So that’s what’s going on at Pompette—simple, well-made dishes, of ingredients you can identify, but occasionally things reflecting Aubin’s experience with Spanish food—and who knows what else, given two other chefs with their own backgrounds? I’m happy to have it just down the street from me, and will be back for sure.