So I had a doctors’ apppointment downtown, and I thought, when else am I ever going to go to Navy Pier, so this was my chance to try that Italian beef spot in Navy Pier that everyone has been touting so highly. So after my appointment I started walking to Navy Pier—but it was a hot day and I’d had to fast for the appointment, so along the way I spotted an upscale food shop (let’s call it FrogTrot) and thought, I could get something simple before lunch—a banana would have been sufficient.

I go in FrogTrot and although, theoretically, it’s a quick food mart, it’s of a particularly upscale sort—instead of a banana, my choices seemed to be a vodka penne kit for making at home, or bars. A lot of bars, and not the granola bar kind where it’s fairly obvious you’re getting some nuts and a little chocolate, but Healthy Nutrition Bars more likely to be touting how they’re full of glucosamines or turmeric or something. It takes me five minutes to try and find something that seems likely to be tasty and not just a convenient way to get my daily Trans-Resveratrol or whatever the latest hot supplement is. I finally get a small square that appears to have nuts and chocolate, and is only going to be $3 or $4 or something because it’s pretending to not be a candy bar but an Important Part of Your Daily Health Excellence.

I go to pay and the next thing I’m told, as I reach for cash as one does in a quickie mart, is that they don’t take cash. I have one $3 item, since it’s a quickie mart, but they don’t take cash. This annoys the crap out of me, not just logistically, but it seems one of the ways that upscale establishments quietly segregate the world so that poor people without credit cards literally cannot buy things. This place not only has special non-foods that the poor folks wouldn’t recognize, but you have to pay for them with special non-money.

I object to this not because it’s elitist—who’s elitist if not me, food-wise?—but one of the things I like about restaurants is that they can be a democratic meeting place for society. You go to a ballgame and you have a hot dog, like everyone. It’s Friday night and you get a pizza from the place on the corner, like everyone. You go to a diner and have a cup of mediocre coffee and some eggs over easy while reading the Sun-Times, like everyone. You go in FrogTrot and… you have to have credit through a major global banking network to be able to get a $3 Turmeric’N’Honey bar. That seems to me to be a violation of a democratic society, treating acquiring a quick snack like it’s buying art in a gallery or something. It’s not the food world I want to live in.

So I had most of these thoughts ready to go by the time I got to the new-old Italian beef place in Navy Pier (more below). Cash good, credit card elitism bad! And then—it’s almost as if the world is complex, or somethin’—I read this, about a restaurant I have no objection to on any level:

Two businesses near Lakeview’s Southport Corridor were broken into early Tuesday, including Dear Margaret, which was targeted by smash-and-grab thieves about six months ago.

About 1:45 a.m. Tuesday, three people smashed the glass front door of Dear Margaret, 2965 N. Lincoln Ave., and went straight to the restaurant’s POS system to steal its cash register, said owner Lacey Irby, who opened the restaurant in 2021.

…The restaurant will no longer accept cash because “it’s too dangerous,” Irby said.

So it seems like this is just the way of the world. You don’t want to get robbed and possibly assaulted or killed, you take cash out of the equation. Paying a percentage to the credit card companies is the best way to stay safe and keep the money you bring in. Oh wait, then I saw another story via Facebook (which of course means I can’t find it now) saying that credit card fees to restaurants are about to go up even more. Because what choice do you have? You gonna start using cash again, and get robbed every weekend?  You gotta wet Fanucci’s beak, if you know what’s good for you.


From chicken caesar wraps, Nick Kindelsperger goes to eating his way through a more typical Chicago food—though one I don’t remember anyone considering in depth in this era of listicles: Polish sausages, the kind that come on a bun:

Despite the name, you won’t find one inside Chicago’s many great Polish sausage shops, like Andy’s Deli or Kurowski’s Sausage Shop. There you’ll encounter dozens of kinds of kielbasa, a term that simply means sausage in Polish. While you can pick up kielbasa surowa, a pale fresh sausage, or kielbasa weselna, a twice-smoked sausage, neither place serves what most Chicagoans expect on a bun. Instead, these sausages are made with solely pork and are on the milder side.

Chicagoans favor an aggressively seasoned, coarsely ground sausage that’s stuffed into a natural casing with an epic amount of garlic and then smoked. Usually, it’s made of a mix of pork and beef, though not universally. Most restaurants griddle it on a flat-top to crisp up the casing, though some prefer a level of crisp attainable only by dunking it in a deep fryer. Placed in a bun, the sausage is traditionally served with a swipe of yellow mustard, a heaping pile of soft sauteed onions, and a few spicy pickled chiles.

A lot of his top picks, unsurprisingly, have Maxwell Street in their name. Anyway, it’s a good look at something both ubiquitous and overlooked on our food scene.


Louisa Chu says that Scofflaw, mainly a bar (some may recall that it was the subject of a much-mocked piece early on about how Chicago doesn’t dare to have real gin bars, like blessed NEW! YORK!) but one that has always had food that punched above its bar food weight. Well, that certainly describes the food of newish chef Fred Chung, ex of Oriole, Jeong and Kasama:

“At the core of what I love is Korean food,” Chung said.

But he loves other cuisines as well, the chef said, so he’s still experimenting with what works with the cocktails and the menu as a whole.

“I don’t know if New American might be the right word? Maybe Asian-influenced New American?” he said. “I don’t know.”

I don’t quite know either. What I do know is his food challenges not only his cooks, but our definitions of what it means to be a New American.

Um, yeah, I guess if you’re challenged by the idea of an Asian-American cook, go check out what he does at Scofflaw. Or what they do at Jeong, Kasama, Kimski or a bunch of other restaurants, which I’m sure you’ve never been to.


Warlord has enjoyed such utter acclaim since it opened that (to lines on every one of its four nights a week) that a backlash seemed inevitable—long waits, loud music, a menu that’s short to the point of being unwelcoming for some… Here’s Maggie Hennessy in Time Out Chicago:

My two companions and I were being aurally pummeled by a dark-synth song called “Humans Are Such Easy Prey” while eating a transcendent bite of 12-day aged fatty ora king salmon paired with a perfectly ripe rectangle of cantaloupe. We’d waited two and a half hours for that bite, a sensual yet restrained harbinger of the spectacular food to follow.

Was it worth it? I’m still not sure.

Read the whole thing. For my part, I had mixed feelings about various things, but I didn’t find it that noisy—and kind of admired that they were playing Zappa on the sound system, which no one does.


The lack of food media means that major restaurants make major changes… and no one hears about them. North Pond, after a few decades under chef Bruce Sherman, one of the main figures in growing Green City Market, got new chef Cesar Murillo and pastry Laura Thomasson. But have you read anything about their food? I haven’t. Grimod has a lengthy piece that deep-dives into the restaurant’s history to tell us what it’s up to now. An example:

The next dish offered in the “Second Courses” category, across each of your visits, has been the “Harold’s Risotto.” This preparation represents the next in a long line of risottos (like “Red-Wine Risotto,” “Butternut Risotto,” and “Potato-Leek ‘Risotto’”) that have been offered at North Pond since the early days of [Mary Ellen] Diaz and Sherman. The dish is named after Harold Wilken, farmer and co-owner of Janie’s Mill, whose grains (what look to be a kind of whole wheat berry) replace the traditional rice in Murillo’s recipe. Otherwise, the dish comprises fava beans from the restaurant’s rooftop, slices of zucchini, a Marcona almond mousse, a black truffle jus, and some smoked vegetable “dust”—which is grated tableside from a carbonized brick made out of the kitchen’s dried and smoked vegetable trimmings.


Mike Sula on Rob Levitt (Mado, The Butcher and Larder) doing dinners at Publican Quality Meats:

In truth, Levitt never completely left the kitchen behind. Between breaking down pigs and stuffing sausage, B&L occasionally hosted family-style dinners showcasing the uncommon and unusual meats he was known for; and PQM hosts regional wine and product-driven dinners after hours here and there. But it feels like forever since folks could regularly eat through the simple, seasonal, broadly midwest-Mediterranean menus Levitt first made his name on.

That all changes early next month when One Off introduces PM at PQM, a casual after-hours cafe featuring a debut menu of plates that is at once hauntingly Mado-esque and evolved, coming from a chef who’s done a lot of eating, cooking, and living since 2010.


With his pizza event behind him, Steve Dolinsky knocked out two newish places last week, starting with Justice of the Pies in Avalon Park, and then onto Los Mangos Paleteria in Little Village and elsewhere:

The papayas are as fresh as the mangos at the appropriately named Los Mangos – an ice cream and paleta shop with five locations in the city plus Cicero, Crest Hill and Aurora. And fresh is crucial when making paletas.

“Always fresh fruit, fresh ingredients; quality product is really what makes the paleta,” said Eric Gutierrez, co-owner of Mixoacana Paleteria.


You may think there’s little reason for a Chicagoan to go to Rockford to eat, but Titus Ruscitti has a few—starting with the curious proliferation of Scandinavian restaurants, including Stockholm Inn and The Norwegian.

He also notes a new chef at Webster’s Wine Bar:

Aside from its extensive selection of wine paired with some wonderful European vibes Webster’s is also popular for its food. They have a knack for identifying the city’s best young chefs according to friend of da blog Kenny Zuckerberg (Kennetha222 on threads if you haven’t already checked out over there). I didn’t know this until after we ate there but the people that help run Webster’s also run Rootstock and that makes a lot of sense. The kitchen is currently helmed by Chef Madalyn Durrant who was making great use of the summer bounty on our recent visit. We started out with the stuffed squash blossoms as those are always a favorite of ours. On our visit they came stuffed with sweet corn risotto, whipped chèvre, and a walnut romesco. As soon as I tried one I knew they weren’t bullshitting us when it comes to their seasonal menu claim. An order of Stracciatella (the cheese with origins in Puglia) was further proof. The rich and creamy cheese shared the plate with peaches, lima beans and more things I’m forgetting. The menu is so seasonal that some of it had switched within a week of our visit. An order of Cavatelli was served with sugar peas with asparagus with breadcrumbs on our visit but is now being made with a sungold tomato sauce, chanterelles, summer squash.


Dennis Lee recommended some newsletters—and did he recommend this one, which points people to him nearly every week? No, he did not. But just when I was going to disinherit him, he gets it exactly right on Mr. D’s Shish Kabob on West Diversey—the burger is okay, the steak sandwich is excellent, but no matter what anybody says, the real star (besides the fries, which placed first in a Tribute survey a couple of years ago) is the (pork) shish kabob sandwich:

The namesake sandwich, the shish kabob, however, is a stone cold stunner ($10.75).

I’d previously been to Mr. D’s once and only got the steak sandwich, so the shish kabob was a first for me. after Davida had her first bite, she immediately started pointing excitedly at the sandwich.

“This is awesome!” she exclaimed. And it is.

The sandwich is comprised of massive pieces of pork alternated with grilled onions. From a glance, the pork is very dark, almost black, which might make you wonder if it’s cooked to all hell, but it isn’t. It’s marinated in a heavy amount of oregano, and make sure you take advantage of the lemon slices that come with it, because the citrus makes for a perfect complement to the char on the meat.

We were so enamored with the sandwich that we later regretted not bringing some more home for dinner that night. We’d seriously have been fine with eating nothing but those shish kabob sandwiches all day.

I’m just mystified how he got a picture of the counter without any Streets and San guys in day-glo vests standing in front of it.

Speaking of little stands with sandwiches, he also visited Omarcito’s.


What’s the difference bwtween Kyoten and Kyoten Next Door? Resy tries to puzzle it out:

“Kyōten Next Door is all about deliciousness,” [chef-owner Otto] Phan says. “I wanted to open a cheaper, more casual place. One is not better or worse. It’s actually ethereal versus consistency. Kyōten Next Door has a number of delicious things that I wouldn’t serve at Kyōten because if it’s not rare – like it’s about to go out of season or is very hard to find – I won’t serve it. That’s philosophically the difference between Kyōten and Kyōten Next Door.

The reason that Kyōten is more than twice as expensive as Kyōten Next Door is not because it’s inherently “better,” but because ingredients that Phan chooses to serve at his flagship are so incredibly expensive. “The [price of] wild ingredients from Japan are crazy these days,” he says. “Everything has pretty much doubled since I started as a chef.”


Cynthia Clampitt looks at street food around town at NewCity:

In the United States, “street food” means food trucks and hand-held items you might buy from streetside stands, like The Wiener’s Circle or Jim’s Original. But in most of Asia, street food is “what’s for dinner.” My first trip to Thailand, I was astonished to see food stalls lining almost every city block. In Thai cities, a lot of apartments don’t have kitchens—and for those that do, if there’s no A/C, there isn’t much temptation to cook if you can just walk up the street and purchase something from a vendor that you just know is going to taste good. On other trips and in other Asian countries, I learned that street food is widespread and wide-ranging. While some grilled items on skewers might be hand-held, there are also bowls and platters of stews, noodles and soups. Much food is carried home, but often, folding chairs on the sidewalk or in a nearby alley, is where locals hunker down to enjoy a meal. Though rare in Chicago, in Asia, street food is a way of life.


NOTE: After reading the below piece in the email version of this newsletter, Steve Dolinsky clarified some facts which are indicated below.

Michael Nagrant has scores to settle! First with his longtime bete noir Steve Dolinsky on the occasion of his second Pizza City Fest, which apparently had a rough Saturday but a better Sunday. But Nagrant hangs Dolinsky out to dry for the way he promotes the food scene not being precisely how, I guess, St. Francis of Assisi would do it:

…we arrive in this moment where Steve is operating his second year of Pizza City Fest, leveraging his power as a reporter to get those he potentially covers to work the festival. I don’t think there’s any explicit quid pro quo, but just like those folks who donated to his fundraisers or comped him free meals out of fear, many vendors who wanted to say no to this venture felt they couldn’t because they could be penalized with no coverage in the future. Given how I’d been kicked off the World’s 50 Best panel in retaliation, I’d say their instincts might be right. [UPDATE: Participating restaurants/cooks were paid as part of the event, and also received free product to use for the event from Greco, a distributor.]

Steve is making a profit off those he covers. He is donating to Slice Out Hunger (it would be great to see the receipt for this against the bottom-line profit) a New York based organization. The charity aspect is admirable, but is it a deflection? [UPDATE: Slice Out Hunger is a 501(c)3 in Illinois which supports local pizzerias that deliver to local shelters; it is also only one of two organizations the event benefited, the other being CCAP, which Fooditor wrote about here.]

This strikes me as looking at a semi-commercial event and taking the worst possible interpretation of every aspect of it. (He certainly curates a selection of the worst possible tweets from attendees.) For a fair comparison, check out a social media comment or two from people who were involved and do not feel like they got taken. Here’s John Carruthers of Crust Fund Pizza:

What if told you that the finest pizza in Chicago was served over the weekend by an alley-based operator, a man who can eat 16 pounds of jalapeños in eight minutes, the man on the mic at the Waldorf-Astoria, and a couple members of the legendary @mannysdeli. These are uncharted pizza times we live in. Tavern Style is ascendant. The people demand squares, and fight over teeny corners. The dill pickle has taken its rightful place atop sauce and cheese and crust.

On a day when I’m sure we’ll hear many more takes about Pizza City Fest, I wanted to highlight how much fun it was to throw down with incredible cooks, meet the best pizza makers in the world, and eat like a possum locked in a mozzarella factory. I appreciate the @pizzacityfest folks for swinging big and making some game-time decisions to make the experience better for folks.

Okay, there’s a tacit acknowledgement of problems at the start of the second graf, but still, he doesn’t sound like he thinks he got screwed. I don’t have a hungry hound in Nagrant’s ongoing fight with Dolinsky—but I do have a certain sympathy for people who make events happen. Nagrant, though, has very strong views on how people writing about food should behave, and woe betide you if you attend a media dinner, or know some chefs and recruit their attendance at an event.

Nagrant’s ethical standards, though, are rooted in allegiance to a world that basically no longer exists. I wish reviewers could dine anonymously on the dime of their publications, but we all know that hardly happens any more, indeed that few writers can claim to belong to “their publication” any more. (Brother, can you spare a dime?) More to the point, in promoting an extinct model as the only acceptable behavior for food writers, he’s denying that food writers have any agency to explore new models for how they can function in a changing world. If inviting pizza chefs to cook at an event promoting Chicago pizza is by definition exploiting them, what does that leave as a way to talk about, share and promote our food scene?

In the second piece he wrote lately, he attacks Ummo, the new Italian steakhouse from a group including chef Carlos Gaytan, run by former Gibsons Italia chef Jose Sosa. Nagrant objects to the fact that a bunch of people including myself attended a media preview dinner for the restaurant—yet none of us had the sheer honesty, the relentless truthfulness, the crossed swords of honour to admit that we knew that the dessert, which looks like a tomato, was in fact a steal from Italian chef Massimo Bottura:

Their pastry chef is stealing Massimo Bottura’s “Oops I dropped the Caprese Salad!” with their Pomodoro E Basilico dessert, or Chef Freny Fernandes’ unique coffee bean tiramisu presentation with their own (wait for the hubris) “22 W. Tiramisu”. The restaurant’s address is 22 W. Hubbard. If you can’t be creative naming your dishes or your spot, then imagine how uncreative the food is going to be?

But, who cares, is this really theft? All food comes from somewhere. The Italians owe the Chinese for their entire pasta racket. In the Ummo case, this isn’t influence. It’s straight theft of two very singular design ideas, one taken from one of the most famous chefs in the world, Massimo Bottura.

Well, I’m not hiding that fact to stay on the gravy train—I didn’t know that’s where it came from. Because, unlike Nagrant, I have never been to Bottura’s restaurant (which, truth be told, Nagrant did not think much of). In fact if there’s one country where I would choose a hole in the wall family restaurant over some place that makes fake tomatoes to win Michelin stars and be #1 on the World’s 50 Best list, it would be Italy. (I do however buy a very nice aged balsamic branded by Bottura that I discovered at Zingerman’s years ago.)

I could go on and on (and years ago Nagrant and I did just that) but instead let’s switch writers to Fooditor contributor Brad Cawn of Last Meal Chicago, who took to Instagram first to kind of defend Dolinsky and his event, but then offers an excoriating summary of what he sees as a nearly moribund food media scene:

To recap what this is actually about (beyond tiny egos) and where we stand:

1) we have a monthly mag (@chicagomag ) that now functions as/competes with the tourism guides in hotel rooms;

2) We have a restaurant news/features website (@eater_chicago) that functions at the level of the high school newspaper—and is proud of that;

3) We have a daily newspaper whose Food section (@chitribfood) serves no other function than as a drinking game for every time a certain review writer mentions where she staged;

4) We have a weekly alt-newspaper whose food section is now an events company;

5) We have substacks for the six other writers who were once employed by now non-existent or struggling publications, and who are now sniping at one another.

For those keeping score at home: given the above, who or what will be left in, say, two years? And, given your answer to that question, should anyone really be slagging @infatuation_chi, the one publication that is doing precisely what it has set out to do?

Is all of that fair? Well, at least I’m glad I didn’t rate a mention! Even if it’s not strictly fair, in the words of Abe Lincoln, have we no tendency to the latter condition? Which is all the more reason that I think writers (to the extent they still exist) should be encouraged to explore new ways of covering the food scene—and not be presumed guilty for doing so.


Two relatives of noted figures on the food scene passed away:

Heng Sok, or as her son Ethan Lim (Hermosa) called her, Momma Lin, was the matriarch of a family of Cambodian-born entrepreneurs which led to a variety of restaurants including Hermosa and its neighbor run by his sister, Googoo’s Table. As Ethan went into serving authentic Cambodian food, she would often contribute to the multicourse meals with a few dishes or components of her own. (H/t for getting her name right, to Matthew Mirapaul)

Capt. Bill Pinkney made his name as the first black sailor to sail solo around the globe, in 1992; a documentary about his journey won an Emmy. What does that have to do with Chicago food? His ex-wife was Chicago’s beloved breakfast queen, Ina Pinkney, and though they divorced when he set off halfway across the world, they remained friends; he died at 87 after suffering a fall while working on a documentary about the slave trade. Here’s more about him at CBS 2.

After naming two humans, it may seem disrespectful to move to an animal, but my dog Buster crossed the rainbow bridge this weekend. Here’s a piece I wrote about his place in our lives, and some then-current restaurants that I tried in the winter of 2010-11.


So, as noted above, I went to Navy Pier to try Ciccio Beef, the Italian beef stand from a family whose Italian beef roots go back to its invention in the 20s or 30s. The beef, cut more thickly than usual, is of good quality and has a robust Italian seasoning flavor. So far, so good, but like a lot of these new deep dish pizzas we have these days, I feel like they’re putting too much effort into classing something up that’s at its best kind of cheap; I don’t need banana peppers and arugula on my sausage pizza, just sausage and cheese is fine, and I found the quality bread—a crusty roll, imported from Florida because the owner says you can’t get proper Italian bread here any more—too good for an Italian beef, hard to bite into and tear off a chunk with meat in it without making a mess everywhere. Anyway, there are obvious good things about it, but I can’t see having it often, and not just because it’s in Navy Pier, which I have no reason to visit now that I no longer have kids at home.

A historic building I would happily go to any time is the Monadnock Building on Printer’s Row, famous as the climax of one style of construction (load-bearing masonry construction going as tall as it could go, 16 stories) just as another (steel skeleton construction) was catching on. Anyway, it is now home to Bistro Monadnock, a classic French bistro from the owners of some other spots around town (like The Victor Bar) and chef Johnny Besch (BLVD, and not to be confused with Louisiana’s John Besh), with Craig Sindelar (Alinea, Band of Bohemia) as GM and, presumably, having a say in developing the wine program. Besch was telling me that the building owner insists on ground floor tenants who fit the period when the building was built, like Optimo hats, and so the interior looks new and a hundred years old at the same time.

As does the menu—as you can see I had the French onion soup, and we shared escargot swimming in butter; my wife had an endive salad and steak frites, and I had a filet of halibut in a winey broth with slices of mushroom and artichoke. True bistro or brasserie food, nothing too posh or rich (foie gras, which I really don’t need any more of, was absent from the menu). It’s a nice, classical place cooking to a high standard (Besch had worked for, among others, Alain Ducasse and Laurent Gras), well worth a visit—though note that being in the south end of the Loop, it’s only open during the week.