Lots of year-end lists and stuff!

• The Trib announces that 2016 might have been the best food year ever, which sounds familiar to Fooditor—and indeed they see many of the same reasons and restaurants (Oriole, Giant, etc.), though they don’t focus on Asian and Mexican food, and they cite as one of the strengths the newfound focus on fire that Joe Campagna mocked.

• Redeye calls out the 13 best new openings of the year, mostly Nagrant’s but with Morgan Olsen and Heather Schroering contributing.

• At the Reader Mike Sula calls out his ten best restaurants, which skips some of the most widely publicized places for more unusual choices like Immm Rice and Beyond and Serai, and then offers 151 more things he ate and liked, which takes in an even wider field—guess I better try some pies at Dukan International Food Market.

• Also at the Reader, Julia Thiel calls out ten favorite things she drank in 2016, from the Sixth’s Spaceman Spiff to Moody Tongue’s Bourbon-Barrel-Aged Gingerbread Imperial Stout.

Here’s what Chicago mag critics liked… including, surprisingly, retired critic Dennis Ray Wheaton, who has a hot tip on hot pot.

• At Crain’s, Graham Meyer goes beyond his usual business lunch beat in his and Peter Frost’s ten best, praising old school Korean standby Cho Sun Ok and the cauliflower sandwich at Arbor (which is secret wonderfulness), among other things.

• At Eater, a bunch of smart food writers (plus me!) contributed year-end thoughts from our best meal to, well, our biggest disappointments. The eight entries are all listed (along with other things) here.

• The inimitable Titus has his best of 2016 at Smokin’ Chokin’ and Chowing With the King, including an entire section devoted to Best Tacos, as well as the highlights of his trip to South Africa.

• Friend of Fooditor and scourge of many restaurant Kenny Z is in a mellow mood as his old blog springs to life for a day.

• And finally… mine.


A lot of year-end food writing feels the need to say something about a certain president-elect before getting to the knishes and the shakshuka. For my part, the food figure who’s brought the most perspective to the question is one Anthony Bourdain, who has done two interviews with people who were pretty agitated about Trump. In no way is he remotely pleased about the election, but as someone who has traveled to some pretty dicey places in the world for his show, he brings to the subject an historical and geopolitical perspective that seems savvy and grownup—and not inside-the-bubble-hysterical. For instance, from an interview at Reason:

“I don’t think we’ve got the [exclusive] franchise on [stupidity]. If you look around the world (in the Philippines, in England), the rise of nationalism, the fear of the Other. When people are afraid and feel that their government has failed them they do things that seem completely mad and unreasonable to those of who are perhaps under less pressure. As unhappy and surprised as I am with the outcome, I’m empathetic to the forces that push people towards what I see as an ultimately self-destructive act.”

It’s well worth reading (he also talks about food, as in, when vegetarianism is tolerable to him), and so is a similar one by Helen Rosner at Eater.


Michael Nagrant reveals that Won Fun’s chef Ben Ruiz is of Mexican background, and so is the inspiration for his Chinese food—sort of: “’I’ve been obsessed with Chinese cuisine and the regional variations,’ Ruiz said. ‘It reminds me so much of homestyle Mexican cooking, and I fell in love with it and have always wanted to do this.’” It all makes for a decadent good time: “WonFun is the punk-rock Chinese food lair you didn’t know you needed. A night here will be filled with revelry, great beer, killer noodles, garage rock and a treasure chest of killer dumplings. (Redeye)


Mike Sula finds new Cajun spot Fifolet as much miss as hit until he gets to the winner on the menu: “Given all the inconsistency at Fifolet, it’s almost a wonder that the namesake gumbo is so spot-on. The dark roux imparts the right bitter-coffee notes without tasting rancid or burned. And while it’ll hardly hold a spoon upright, it has a thick body that clings to the shrimp, crawfish, okra, and gator sausage that lurk in its depths.”


In the Jewish paper The Forward, Aimee Levitt (of the Reader) goes looking for sufganiyot—the Hanukkah version of jelly doughnuts. Here she is on two of them: “Both these bakeries are in West Rogers Park, half a mile apart. Both are pareve and Kosher-certified. Both offer sufganiyot filled with chocolate, caramel, custard, and raspberry jelly. Which is better? Remember that joke about the two Jews on a desert island with three synagogues?”


Longrunning, not-bad Peruvian spot 4 Suyos in Logan Square has closed and reopened as Tumi, and Julia Thiel says the much longer menu is more of the same: “Beef heart skewers, beautifully spiced and tender, are some of the best I’ve had, and the restaurant’s version of aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a creamy walnut-cheese sauce) is more than decent. Some of the octopus in a mixed seafood ceviche was a bit on the rubbery side, but more care was taken with the shrimp in a picante de camarones.”


The Pump Room still is more of a dribble, says Joanne Trestrail at Crain’s: “The afterglow of its starry, show-bizzy past is one of the most compelling reasons to have a business lunch here. Sadly, the food and service are a disappointment.”


Elizabeth Atkinson says Honey’s “is an Instagrammer’s dream, marked by clean lines and gorgeously plated dishes that, thankfully, deliver on taste… The menu of oysters and small bites makes it perfect for grabbing a relaxed drink and catching up with an old friend. You also wouldn’t feel out of place dressing up for a date night, anniversary or special occasion.” (Time Out)


I’m pretty casual about eating things like tacos anywhere in the city, but it’s still a dangerous city—sometimes at the taco joints, too, as this DNAInfo story about one in Brighton Park recounts. And speaking of tacos and trouble, they finally figured out what happened when Carbon made a bunch of people sick.

11. iFOOD

Truffles served on an iPad showing a video of truffles is a hot dish in San Francisco… previewed at Boka in Chicago… and illustrated with a video by Friend of Fooditor Lou Stejskal.


Sandwich Tribunal goes on a little Italian beef quest—though as he notes, “I’m incapable of being critical of this sandwich, as it’s one of my favorite things and part of the reason I have become so obsessed with sandwiches over the past 10 years. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a bad Italian beef sandwich, and if I have, I bet it was still pretty good.” I don’t disagree much—I won’t say never, but I’ve probably had fewer bad beefs than good Philly cheese steaks [ducks].


I had some very good things I was taking pictures of for articles (one means love, one means fox), but I won’t talk about those until I eat there for real. But I had two great year-end meals at places I already knew I liked—a wonderful, warm birthday meal for the whole family at Osteria Langhe, made even more delicious by white truffles (but even the things that did without them were plenty good, like the plin), and a return to Parachute for the first time in over a year showed it was good as ever, with the simplest dish—broccoli, dates and ras-el-hanout, shown and talked about at the bottom here—a standout.