Phil Vettel reviewed Cherry Circle Room when it was new and gave it one star, which practically qualifies as a warning, but he returns and bestows on them a second star,
(though apparently they still haven’t mastered the table side fish service): “Indeed, executive chef Peter Coenen’s menu invites the steakhouse comparison. Although there is only one steak on the menu—a hungry-lion-sized prime rib-eye, in 40- and 48-ounce cuts—there are plenty of steakhouse-style appetizers, albeit in refined form. Raw oysters are graced with grilled rose petals, and served with jalapeno mignonette. Caesar salad is presented like a crunchy green lasagna, featuring uniform-length romaine leaves layered with crouton breadcrumbs and grana padano flakes alongside 2-inch pieces of deep-fried smelt and smoked cured egg, the latter dehydrated and grated into feathery bits.” (Tribune)


Logan Square’s new Indian spot The Spice Room, from the owners of Rangoli, does a good job of bringing Indian flavors to that neighborhood, says Mike Sula: “The Spice Room’s most redeeming quality is the consistent freshness and vibrancy of familiar dishes. Unlike Mango Pickle, there’s no reinvention or fusion happening here. This is the same Indian menu you’ve seen hundreds of times. And yet its execution is at a level that would indeed stand out on Devon.” (Reader)


Big Jones has never seemed like it was done on the cheap, although having been in the kitchen it’s pretty ramshackle, but after a decade they are putting some money into making it what it always wanted to be, including more room for pickling stuff, adding a chef’s counter, and… delivery! Anthony Todd tells more. (Chicagoist)


If anyone is qualified to write a piece on where to take your dog to dinner, it must be Louisa Chu; I attended more than a few events with her late (and very good) dog Kiba. Here’s ten Kiba’s-owner-approved spots.


Hot Doug’s sausages were made by a couple of local suppliers, including Paulina Meat Market (which I think of as Roscoe Village’s neighborhood butcher, never mind that technically that’s still Lakeview for another half block), and now you can get Paulina’s Doug dogs through Peapod, branded as Hot Doug sausages. (Tribune)


David Hammond went on a mezcal-focused trip to Oaxaca recently, and tells the story of how he came back with gallons of the stuff in I Was a Mezcal Mule.


Fooditor contributor Amber Gibson has a Forbes contributor piece on Nick Dostal, chef of Sixteen, and his fellow ex-Grace hand, Adam Stark, who was an expeditor there and is now Sixteen’s manager: “Stark’s eye for service is equally impressive. Halfway through dinner, he delicately drapes a pashmina shawl around my shoulders, just in case I am a little chilly in my sleeveless dress. Servers knowledgeably present each dish with the same enthusiasm as if they had prepared it themselves.”


It’s Road Trip season, and first stop for any Chicagoan is Milwaukee. Fooditor contributor Titus Ruscitti has a roundup including James Beard nominee Justin Carlisle’s new Laughing Taco, not the only taco he tries in a list that goes beyond the usual names dropped for this town. Here’s part 2 (heavy on tacos).


De Quay in Lincoln Park has a rijsttaffel now, once a month, and Janet Rausa Fuller explains why you want to check it out. (Chicago)


Steve Dolinsky interviews Dana Cree about ice cream… again; here she is on channel 7.


It’s a quiet week, so let me indulge myself in a mini-rant. If you want to hear all about what’s wrong with popular reservation site Open Table, just ask Nick Kokonas. But I’m seeing issues where Open Table is set up to work right—and then restaurants screw it up anyway. Two examples, which happen to be two of the last times I’ve used it:

• On Monday morning, I make a reservation for Restaurant A for Thursday night. Within an hour on Monday, Restaurant A calls me to confirm my reservation. What sense does this make, versus calling me on Thursday? Am I likely to have changed my mind within the first hour of the 72+ hours until my dinner? This is both annoying and, it seems to me, unlikely to actually be effective in smoking out people who plan to blow off a reservation.

• Weeks ago, I made a reservation for dinner at hot new spot Restaurant B. A few days before the reservation, I got an email from them, asking me to RSVP… which I could only do by calling them. (Never mind that they emailed me.) If I didn’t get a live person, I was to leave a message with ALL my information—in effect, making my reservation again by phone, exactly what I’d been avoiding by scanning the open times and clicking at Open Table. (I really like picking my time myself, and not talking to a person who has to scan the book for five minutes before going “Hmm, no, we don’t have anything then. Could you do four in the morning?”)

Now, I understand the desire to confirm on the day of, which can be done very easily—many restaurants send a text to which you reply with a single word or digit to confirm your reservation. But making me call you is irritating. In the end, I simply ignored Restaurant B’s demand for a call back… and sure enough, the day of, they texted me and gave me a much better way to confirm, which I did.

So why not do that in the first place? I don’t know, but I feel like Open Table needs to fight the tendency of restaurants to needlessly complicate their system. They should build a confirmation process into the system; they should have a rating system for customers like Uber does, so restaurants can see that I have a no-show rate of absolutely zero, ever; and we, as the customers, should refuse to do a bunch of extra work to spend our money at your restaurant.


Got back to Entente (I had only attended a media preview when it opened). The Schwa influence was unmistakable, especially when there was a too-sweet note with an otherwise beautifully cooked piece of lamb (like candy corn next to it). It’s like a little more civilized version of Schwa, but still aiming for that sweet spot of innovative food and otherwise little of the customary pretense of fine dining. If you happen to go in the summer, do not miss the lobster dish, a delicate ginger-cucumber broth, as green as lawn clippings, with perfectly poached cold lobster. Between that and a great little gem salad, it seems like one of their strengths, at least, is impeccable ladies-who-lunch food with a hiphop soundtrack (pronounced “very solid” by 18-y.o. son).