It’s a light holiday week for food stories, but I’m reading an entire book which I hope to report on next week, or maybe the week after:


That’s the most labored headline joke I’ve ever produced and you’re just going to have to deal with it. No surprise that Phil Vettel thinks highly of the Alinea Group’s Wisconsin prime rib joint, the St. Clair Supper Club. “In its way, St. Clair captures the supper-club zeitgeist as unerringly as Next’s resurrection of Escoffier’s turn-of-the-century Paris (in its inaugural Paris 1906 menu), or Thomas Keller’s mid-’90s California cuisine (in the 2016 French Laundry menu). St. Clair is one relish tray shy of being a time capsule. Change the St. Clair name to ‘Next: Sheboygan,’ and you wouldn’t be far off.” Wait, there’s no relish tray? Three stars.


Graham Meyer says the new location for The Purple Pig trades the popular place’s long-running chaos for relative refinement: “In the new space, which used to be a Corner Bakery, the restaurant feels tamer, not so informal, like its tattoos have been covered by long sleeves… What hasn’t changed is the food. That crispy pig’s ear with crunchy kale, pickled cherry peppers and a fried egg brings together bold tastes and textures that all work together. The orecchiette ($17) with strong Italian sausage and pleasantly bitter rapini bathes in butter. Every dish blares in-your-face flavors, turning salt, sour and/or umami up to 11.”


I couldn’t have told you that Chez Violette, a longtime Haitian restaurant on Howard, had become Kizin Creole—still Haitian—but Mike Sula makes the case for noting the fact (which happened six years ago; the piece is prompted by a Taste of Haiti festival coming on September 28, thrown at the restaurant by owners Daniel and Patricia Desir): “The Desirs’ menu can depend on availability—they were out of conch when I visited—but they offer many of the essentials, like the flaky puff pastry pâté, stuffed with beef, chicken, vegetables, hard-boiled egg, or salted cod. These are classic, and they are baked, so they don’t embody the serious fry game at play at Kizin the way that griyo, the national dish of Haiti, does. For this the Desirs marinate chunks of pork shoulder in epis, the foundational Haitian seasoning base of onions, garlic, bell peppers, green onions, garlic, tomatoes, celery, parsley, thyme, and sometimes Scotch bonnet peppers, then slowly braise them before deep-frying the chunks to a gentle crisp. Plated along with golden-fried plantains, akra (aka malanga, or taro root fritters), and patat fri (slices of fried white sweet potato), they make up a kind of Haitian fritto misto known as fritay.”


Chicago magazine was smart when they let Larry Legend tell us how to eat at Harold’s, and they’re smart again, finding a way to make the less than entirely interesting Popeyes chicken sandwich interesting—Larry Legend, again: “I can honestly say that the Popeyes chicken sandwich is the best I’ve had from any of the major fast food chains. It’s not ‘let me act belligerent in the establishment, curse out and fight the staff’ good or ‘let me sing about this sandwich in hopes I can go viral for 3.8 seconds of fame’ good. But it’s plenty good, I won’t lie.”


I heard there was a place selling Thai buns inside an L station, and Claire Voon tells us what it is: “Sala Pao Shop, a kiosk that opened inside that L station in Bucktown last fall. Named for the steamed buns sold as street food in Thailand, the takeout spot is the brainchild of Jan Purananda, whose father owns Sticky Rice, a popular northern Thai restaurant in North Center.”


John Kessler says go early and often to Forest Park’s Small Batch Barbecue: “Get there early enough to try his long-boned St. Louis spareribs, tingling with spice, and his tender, pecan-smoke-kissed brisket, which can be ordered fat or lean. (Pro tip: Fat is flavor.) The pulled pork shoulder — soft and rosy here, black and crusty there — is no slouch, either.”

Buzz 2


Skip to 9:20 on this episode of David Chang’s podcast, not only because that’s about where he starts talking to Iliana Regan about her new book Burn the Place and other stuff, but because that way you miss him talking about why he claims to prefer crappy supermarket tomatoes for a BLT, which is especially bad as a lead-in to talking to a forager of wild things to eat.


I feel like Overserved is already the podcast that is made just for me, but it really drives that home this week with Maggie Hennessy putting her co-host Ari Bendersky on the hot seat to talk about food media back in the (as Maggie calls them) “hamster wheel” days of blogs, and the evolution of the restaurant scene during that time.

Producer Ernest Wilkins (who was working for Metromix at the same time that Ari was launching Eater Chicago) jumps in, and I found especially interesting what he has to say about the food media scene sometimes being exclusionary (“You mean you don’t know what ramps are?”) to younger writers or people of color (Wilkins is African-American) who didn’t already know everyone and everything. (There definitely was a certain snobbery back then, though it’s worth noting that one of the main social gatekeepers, who could be quite harsh toward young writers perceived as not being up to snuff, was black.) That in turn leads to a discussion of how media has tended to reduce the food scene to the hot food scene in white neighborhoods, something that local media is better at now but that national media parachuting into Chicago still often do. And I have to admit, I’ve never had a sweet steak sandwich, either. There’s always more in this city!


The last time I went to Toronto, downtown seemed so built up I hardly knew where to look for food. Titus Ruscitti has a report on a recent trip that seems to have found the neighborhoods more congenial: “My goal was to try as many different cuisines as I could. I don’t keep track so I’m not sure if I broke a record I just know that for as many different kinds of food I tried there’s just as many that I missed. Which is why Drake’s the Six is probably my favorite North American food city to visit. There’s quite a few options you won’t find anything like in Chicago and you could visit every year for the rest of your life and only cover a small portion of it. You’ll probably need a car to do it all as like elsewhere the suburbs have become hot spots for immigrant food and culture. But even without a car you’ll have plenty of options.”


Probably the least-known great Italian beef place, to north-siders anyway, is Duke’s on south Harlem in Bridgeview. I’d rank it near the top partly for the beef, but especially for grilling sausages over charcoal, something only a few others do (but those few include Johnnie’s and Al’s). Any time I’ve gone down Harlem (to write about Oozi Corner, say), though, I’ve feared that the small stand with the big lot would be closed. Well, now the big lot is closing, it’s been sold, but the restaurant plans to move nearby. Check out a slice of Chicago at the Sun-Times, and if you can, see it before it and summer are gone.


A soul food restaurant, Captain’s Hard Time Dining, was living up to the “hard time” in its name—but Steve Dolinsky reports a Food Network show gave the place a refresh, including a new name, Josephine’s Southern Cooking. As Josephine Wade’s son Victor Love explains, “This has been a safe haven to the community, it’s been a launching pad for many political ambitions and careers and it’s also been a mentoring and training hub right here on 79th Street for kids that have fallen by the wayside and people just need to be encouraged and get a meal and get some love.”


Food is delivered by Uber drivers, it’s cooked at ghost restaurants—and now here’s the latest reduction of the restaurant industry to 1s and 0s: the NYT reports on gig apps like Pared and Instawork that let experienced line cooks pick up a shift wherever there’s a need. To some extent all restaurant workers and their skills are fungible, a grill or a fryer is a grill or a fryer, but is there really no place any more for being in one place and really learning that cuisine? If 20 strangers walked into Frontera and started running the kitchen for the night, would that be Frontera? (H/t Ina Pinkney)


The Bristol has always been one of the key farm to table restaurants in the city, and it has a weeknight special now, a $29 prix fixe menu on a monthly theme—August’s was corn, though chef Todd Stein says they won’t always be something that comes out of the ground; winter may well see something like a particular cheese as the theme. Anyway, if you want to see how it’s done, this is how—a starter course was corn with clams on toast, the middle and best was a pasta course of tortellini in a thick sauce studded with corn, and the last was steak with salsa verde with corn. (Corn is so sweet now, though, that it threw the last one off a little; it would have been better with cornier corn.) September’s theme is tomatoes; at that price, why wouldn’t you go?

And I went back to Egg-O-Holic, the place specializing in late night drinking food from Gujarati, almost all with eggs and otherwise vegetarian. I went by myself once and while it was interesting, you couldn’t get much of an idea from one dish. This time I went with four people, led by Friend of Fooditor Dan Zemans, who had talked about his liking for the place on Twitter. The best thing, hands down, is lachko, a stew of shredded green pepper and cheese—it tastes green, bright and summery, like laying in the grass on a beautiful day. That’s one I could go solo and eat and be happy, but it was nice to have a variety of flavors that included boil tikka, sliced boiled eggs in a garlicky sauce, and surti gotalo, a curry with sunny side up eggs.