Erotic writing by Nick Kindelsperger at the Tribune:

Lardon not only knows how to make salumi and charcuterie, but cares deeply about serving them. Forget about cold, dried-out slices of salami pulled straight from the fridge. Each selection arrives at your table at the optimal temperature, so the soppressata originale ($5), a dry-cured and fermented sausage featuring sizable chunks of pork and fat, tastes so luscious, it seems to dissolve in your mouth.

Lardon is a charcuterie-focused cafe in the former Township space in Logan Square, completely rehabbed, and making its own charcuterie. A possible lede is also buried—partway through legwork for this review, they started serving dinner, too:

The crispy duck leg confit ($26) features extra-crackly skin atop meat that’s deeply succulent and rests on bitter watercress and sweet, roasted plums. But the real find is the wood-grilled pork chop ($27), a gargantuan slab of pork with a hulking bone that juts out at least a foot. It’s so outrageously juicy and deeply meaty, you may think you’re digging into a rib-eye.

It sounds fantastic, and a worthy next step for chef Chris Thompson (who was at Coda di Volpe, which is entirely better than it needs to be for a pizza and pasta restaurant on Southport). So why, in the end, does this only get two stars in the Tribune? Because it’s basically a casual place for lunch? This seems a holdover from the old days that needs to go—the category of dining determines the limits of the star ratings. Surely by now we believe that it’s about how well the individual food items fulfill the aspirations of their genre—and not how well the clientele is dressed.


You may have picked up a whiff of the sudden popularity of corn dogs on social media. Nick Kindelsperger goes to Holy Cow in Glenview, where people line up for an hour to get them—and they’re not the corn dogs you know from the State Fair:

Battered and fried hot dogs on a stick became popular in Korea in the 1980s, according to an article in the Korean Culture and Information Service. But street vendors quickly made the dish their own, crafting a much thicker batter that allowed them to affix other ingredients to the hot dog, like extra-crispy panko breadcrumbs or cubed potatoes.

The coating also got crisper and sweeter. Unlike the softer style common in the United States, these have a legitimate crunch. And not only does the batter taste sweet, you’re often asked if you want extra sugar sprinkled on top, which can make the breading taste almost like a doughnut.

If this sounds like novelty food driven by social media, you’re exactly right—everyone who tries these saw them on Tik Tok, apparently.


A review starts with references to the poems of Pablo Neruda—yes, we can only be in the Reader. Mike Sula pens an ode to Don Pablo’s Kitchen and Bakeshop, a currently virtual restaurant, coming to Uptown, specializing in empanadas (and paying homage to the owner’s poetic namesake in the name):

It was [in Santiago] that [Pablo] Soto picked up a few “secrets,” he says, that allowed him to perfect his dough, one key part of what distinguishes Chilean empanadas from the rest, and one of which he’ll allow is adding white wine to the mix. “The acidity keeps the dough from spoiling. The dough can be very strong in your stomach too. The wine gives it a balance.” Soto also made trips to coastal Valparaíso and studied the light, deep fried, seafood-stuffed empanadas of Los Roldán, another storied piemaker.

“It’s a lot of things you’d never think about, like how you even cut the meat. How thick it can be. How thin it can be. When you chew on the empanada, little details that make a big difference. I was able to learn that there.”


Baha—the place with the mystery name, as mentioned two weeks agoattracted Titus Ruscitti’s attention for one item in particular:

Seafood Torres (towers) are a very popular Sinaloan dish at mariscos restaurants and stands in Los Angeles. They’re beautiful on instagram and tiktok so that’s a big reason why they’re in-demand but they can also be decadent and delicious. It’s made by taking a few kinds of cooked seafood and maybe some avocado and or fruit such mango and layering it one by one in a mold that holds all of it together after it’s removed (standing like a tower). The torres are typically dressed with a combination of umami packing sauces (ex. Maggi) and salsas. Baha is the second spot I’ve seen doing these in the Chicagoland area so don’t be surprised if they start to pop up more.

He also checked out En Passant, a sitdown restaurant in Logan Square from chef Sam Engelhardt:

It’s a cozy spot from a restaurant vet who comes from Au Cheval amongst other places. It’s got a little European bistro feel going for it and the menu is intriguing (it changes gradually). I’d describe it as having a bit of influence from both Au Cheval and local Euro bistros.


Had a report on a getaway town regional gem last week from Brad Cawn, and now here’s another from Dominic Lynch at The New Chicagoan. It’s called Houndstooth, and it’s in Benton Harbor (which is not really a getaway place, but certainly accessible to visitors to more charming parts of southwestern Michigan like Saugatuck):

The Bread & Butter came out first, and it set the tone for everything else that followed. Two thick slices of toasted Japanese milk bread were topped with a layer of black garlic paste and minced chives. In appearance, it looked like a fat envelope stuffed with cash. In taste, it struck an excellent balance between texture and flavor. And despite being a sharable dish, the Bread & Butter was more than good enough to have to yourself.

I liked that line about the fat envelope (welcome, Chicagoans!) Anyway, it all sounds in a similar artisanal vein, and worth checking out.


David Hammond digs into the mysterious preference on Mexican elotes for a grayish salt called Tequesquite:

If you’re going for the taste of Mexican tequesquite, you’re going to have to pay a premium for that distinctive taste, which, honestly, we did not find to be that awesome: it tasted like a blend of soil and soap. But, if that’s the taste you’re looking for, you want tequesquite, which has a flavor unlike any other salt I’ve tasted.

Buzz 2


Rob Shaner’s Robert et Fils is one of those restaurants that kind of had the thunder of its opening taken away by COVID; it went straight to doing takeout dinners, and I honestly am not sure if it has ever opened as a full-fledged dining experience, I haven’t seen any press to that effect—and even this profile at Inside Hook doesn’t make it clear. That said, all this continues to sound promising as heck:

Of course, it’s not just Shaner’s whims that dictate the ever-changing menu. His reliance on local ingredients marries the French ethos of terroir with Midwestern bounty, from local produce to freshwater fish. In order to reduce waste — and make the most of phenomenal products grown nearby — Shaner and his team often use the same bases in the kitchen, cocktails and pastries. Fermentation and upcycling are a part of their day-to-day, and as such, the same tomatoes appearing as an appetizer may lend their flavors to a tomato water for a cocktail; a fermented honey could feature from appetizer all the way through to dessert.

Maybe someday someone will review it!


Haven’t heard anything more about the implosion of Chicago Style, the women-focused cocktail conference which ended suddenly by torching all its social media amid accusations of “racist and misogynistic behaviors” (in the words of a leading critic and former participant). The local food media which has been so quick to jump on such things from white male chefs has shown no interest whatsoever in this story. But one of the ironies in this is that co-founder Shelby Allison is an owner of Lost Lake, a tiki bar, which if you’re going to be Uber-woke, seems a really fat target for charges of cultural appropriation like the kids like to make these days.

(Myself, I find the whole idea of cultural appropriation mostly squirrely. The food and bev world is all about letting us play with alternative cultures and experiences, eating Mexican or Chinese, and that’s mostly a wonderful, positive thing—opening us up to the world and often giving people from those cultures the chance to make a living sharing theirs. Tiki bars rate pretty low on the authenticity scale in that regard, but still—they come out of the WWII era when Americans who had fought the imperialist Japanese military regime wanted to evoke the sunny culture they saw in the South Pacific in a nostalgic way. And you can tell some guy who fought in Saipan or Okinawa that he’s wrong to do that over a pineapple drink in an Easter island mug, but I won’t.)

But wokeness marches ever onward and at a private Facebook tiki group, ChicagOhana, a member went to drink at Lost Lake and reports:

We were confused at how tiki light the place was, especially as I compared photos from Critiki. When I asked our server if they were changing concepts for the bar, he referenced cultural appropriation and said they no longer are a tiki bar. Asked for our check promptly after that. What a waste of time and Uber fares. At least the drinks were decent.

Another person quotes an older post from the group, which seems to be quoting this Block Club piece:

For the reopening, the Lost Lake team is moving away from traditional Tiki drinks and instead focusing on “tropically minded” rum cocktails, bar manager Sharon Grant said.

Social justice is thus served by wiping any reflection of Pacific Asian culture from the cocktail menu, and serving deracinated pineapple rum drinks that acknowledge their whiteness, I guess. Silly, likely to please nobody, and a shame to lose what was once one of the most innovative new tiki bars in America this way.


Sadya is a vegetarian feast native to Kerala (which westerners tend to know for Kovalam, a hippie beach town). Needless to say there’s rather more to it than that, as Margaret Pak and Vinod Kalathil of Thattu intend to show in a new zine they’re doing with Maggie Hennessy (and kudos to her for finding this niche of helping interesting folks on our food scene get ideas into print). It’s called Everyday Sadya:

Inside this 24-page cooking zine full of vibrant photos and illustrations, we share how to make over a dozen of our favorite Sadya dishes to enjoy any day of the week! Think mixed veggies in thick, coconut-yogurt curry; warming lentil stews tinged with tamarind; and quick veggie stir fries with grated coconut and curry leaves. We also share stories, tips and ingredient guides that will help build a pantry that would make any Keralite proud.

It’s a Kickstarter; go here to get yours.

10. 88 CHOICES

When I wrote about the grocery at 88 Marketplace in Chinatown, the hot food part was still mostly in limbo. But it’s open and fairly huge now—Time Out explores what the offerings are.


Speaking of new grocers. Local Food Forum tells about a new farm and vegetable-focused market in Uptown—and it’s not the coop we all know is building its space out there. Peter Rubi is the second outpost of a store started in Plainfield by a veteran of distributor Anthony Murano:

John Graves was steeped in the produce world for decades, running an association for mushroom growers and then spending 20 years with Anthony Murano Company, a Chicago-based distributor. The spark for creating the wellness-focused grocery came with hardship: He survived a bout with an aggressive cancer after being told in January 2013 that he had only eight months to live.

I attended a pre-opening on Wednesday and, as the photo above illustrates, you are struck immediately by so…much…produce.

You’ll have to read it to see that photo, and find out where the name comes from.


Rick Bayless talks Chicago, agriculture and the upcoming Tacos & Tequila event with Dane Neal on WGN.


And I was on Outside the Loop, talking cultural grocery shopping. Listen to it here.


Saturday will mark twenty years since 9/11. It’s the nature of the culture that we don’t seem to dwell on such things, but as someone working on an oral history, albeit one that will be much less dramatic or cinematic, I sometimes look to one of the best oral histories I’ve ever read, which is this one from Politico about the people who were around President Bush on that day. Besides being beautifully well put together and full of details that bring the day to life, it’s also remarkable to read how different technology was then, just two decades ago—Air Force One could only see what all of America was watching on TV when they flew over a television market. Anyway, it’s something to read about that day that is not polemical, and will tell you things you didn’t already know.


So one thing I ate this week was Korean corn dogs with Nick Kindelsperger. I joined him in trying the ones on offer at Daebak in the Chinatown mall—simple versions, you could get one with a hot dog, with cheese, or with half hot dog, half cheese. I can’t say that I loved them—I missed the corn meal flavor, and the rice flour mixture that they do use was way too sweet, while the dog itself seemed to be a generic grocery store dog. I suspect Nick did not love them either, since he didn’t even mention them in this week’s piece, but knowing him, maybe they’ll figure in a definitive Korean corn dog roundup still to come. That said, I think we know what his recommendation is, even if you have to wait in a Hot Doug-sized line in Glenview for them.

And speaking of things reviewed by Nick, I had lunch at Lardon (interviewing someone for my book), though with other things on my mind, I just scratched the surface of the place, ordering the Italiano (Italian sub). Which I immediately kind of regretted—the meat seemed so good, of such high quality, that it seemed a shame to diffuse its effect with a bun, lettuce and tomato, and oil and vinegar. My interview subject had a French-type sandwich—ham on crusty bread with some brie and mayo—which looked like a smarter choice, as did the charcuterie and cheese platters we saw being ordered around us. Ah well, I’ll certainly be back, even as an inattentive diner it was clear that it’s an estimable place and, to my mind, one of the year’s major new openings.