Steve Dolinsky, who’s one of the North American chairs for the World’s 50 Best, writes about how that odd group comes up with its list of best restaurants around the world—and why, as he sees it, the list has a tendency to ignore America and Canada, and how he’s tried to help remedy that structurally.

It’s an interesting look at wrestling intelligently with the list’s built-in issues, but what it convinces me the most of is that the world is simply too big for one list. There’s no way even for high rollers who can fly around the world eating at every three-star level place to really have a clear view of the scene in city after city, worldwide. At best you can peel off one small segment of dining and say you know it—but then what you know is the kind of international restaurants full of stages who’ve worked at other international restaurants all around the world, cooking the same techniques they’ve learned from Alinea to Noma.

For me, only knowing that kind of restaurant misses what’s interesting in so many cities, the more ordinary street food and everyday specialties. Certainly the places I’ve loved most around the world, from ramen in Tokyo to seafood at the counter at Cal Pep in Barcelona to the grilled lamb guy in Istanbul to smoked fish at Barney Greengrass in New York City, are these more plebeian places, the soul food of these peoples. Look at the World’s 50 Best list for a glimpse of their rarefied world, I’m not saying it isn’t fun to check out how the 1% eats, but this can never really be the world’s best—not just because no mere humans can ever settle on such things, but because what really is the best to you is just as likely to be acquired on the street, for the equivalent of a dollar, in that city where everyone else is trying to get into the best restaurant in the world.


Phil Vettel is impressed that Leña Brava, one side of the new Bayless complex on Randolph, exposes a new Mexican cuisine, from the Baja: “My elevator pitch… is that Lena Brava combines Frontera Grill’s high-energy atmosphere with Topolobampo’s thrill of discovery. You’ll eat well here, often raucously, and have so much fun you might not notice that conceptual doors have been opened for you.” (Starting with putting the squiggle over the N, if you want to be authentic.)

Nick Kindelsperger is a bit more equivocal about Cruz Blanca, the taco and beer side. He likes the surprising informality: “Instead of picture-perfect tacos with meticulously arranged leaves of cilantro, cooks heap freshly grilled meat on a paper-covered platter, along with a tangle of wilted spring onions, blackened chilies, and a rolled-up batch of freshly made corn tortillas.” But the logistics are surprisingly awkward: “So, Cruz Blanca serves great tacos and fascinating beer… but try to combine the two, and things go awry. There are no servers, but unlike at other fast-casual concepts, you have to order and pay for food and drinks at two separate stations. Order your food first, and you’ll have to find a place to sit, and then immediately get back up to order a drink while your taco platter cools.” I predict openings there for servers within a month.


Eater did a BBQ week nationally last week, and though much of the local coverage was lists, there were two good pieces well worth a read. Sarah Freeman took a look at the differences that separate south side, African-American barbecue from what you find on the north side, from the cuts to the “aquarium smoker,” covering all the things you should know to know why our south side style of BBQ counts as a genuine regional style, same as Memphis or the Carolinas. And Ashok Selvam talked to Uncle J’s, one of the descendants of the much-loved Uncle John’s (the owners are Mack Sevier’s stepdaughter Ella and her husband Jimmie Hughes), turning up along the way a connection I didn’t know about—Hughes is related to the Collins family, who had many BBQ shops in the 60s and 70s and still make Mumbo Sauce.


Michael Nagrant has mixed feelings about The Budlong’s spicy chicken, but he pretty much loves the really-hot-but-not-inedibly-hot Xtra Hot: “I’ve had hot chicken in Nashville and Atlanta, and both times it was so spicy that I couldn’t take more than a few bites before I was forced to douse the inferno with a quart of beer. However, Budlong’s X-Hot chicken boasts a creeping fire that’s kissed with citrus from the habanero. The burn is slow, smoldering and compelling. Unlike that of its greasy predecessors, the skin was crisp and slipped off like a silk-lined cloak. If it gets too hot, there’s a piece of white bread and decent housemade bread-and-butter pickle slices that help cut the heat.”


Boo-Il Galbi is one of the city’s more obscure Korean barbecue spots, located on the pretty-much-ignored-by-foodies Bryn Mawr strip, but Mike Sula says check it out: “The real attraction is the barbecue, particularly the house specialty saeng kalbi, or boneless, unmarinated short rib. This is special-occasion barbecue. For unknown reasons the house requires you to order two at time at market price, which turns out to be over $30 apiece. But it’s extraordinarily well marbled, and when it hits the grill, its pristine white fat showers the coals like a summer storm. Add bean paste, sesame oil, and wrap it in a lettuce leaf, and you’ll be wolfing it down before some bigger, stronger animal can snatch it away from you.” (Reader)


Controversy as Parlor Pizza in the West Loop keeps out a guy for wearing sweat pants—a black guy, who says they’re $250 [fashion brand I never heard of] pants. Social media erupts! Racism at a mere pizza parlor!

Well, a Claude Rains shocked, shocked here, that a Chicago restaurant or club (Parlor, more than a pizza place, is a sports bar for the new mostly white condo buyers in the West Loop) should try to tailor its audience’s racial makeup using clothing as a proxy screen. It’s a story as old as—well, it’s a old as this Reader story from 1989 about America’s Bar, owned by the black football player Walter Payton no less, using dress code to keep out African-Americans wearing $150 Air Jordans. And, to preserve their own deniability, pushing the responsibility down onto the lowliest employee, the guy at the door.


Ted Fishman does business in Indonesia. He also wanted to know more about Imperal Lamian, which serves Chinese food but originated in Indonesia. So he made a contact… and reports on the inspiration behind the chain by toodling around Jakarta for a day with founder Abigail Djojonegoro in her soccer mom van. Fascinating read, don’t miss it. (New City)


Saveur did a video on how to make sinagang, a classic Filipino dish. And, according to mostly Chicago-based Filipino Kitchen, they got it really, really wrong, starting with the Chinese chopsticks Filipinos never use for that dish. Read FK’s tweet stream for some righteous fury against the kind of “cultural appropriation” that consists of totally screwing it up.


And for once, by the oft-clueless standards of the paper on subjects west of the Hudson, this one is pretty damn good, focusing on not only what’s hip on the Near West Side but a lot of its Nelson Algren-era history that honestly I’d bet is unknown to many of the people writing about food and drink here. Check it out, and then check it out.


Last year, the Dog Dayz of Summer festival, featuring bands, beer by Goose Island and dogs by Hot Doug’s, was a hit. This year it’s… canceled for lack of ticket sales. Have we hit Peak Doug? Maybe, or maybe $70 is just too much to wait in line for dogs even with live music in the background; it was always about more than the food with Hot Doug’s (or else there’d be lines for Hot G Dogs in Andersonville, where Doug’s former employees make them just like they used to), and it didn’t sound like Dog Dayz captured that half of the equation. Doug himself speculated on the reasons for Eater.


In past lives, I went to advertising meetings at the McDonald’s HQ in Oakbrook, and although it didn’t strike me as especially modernist, I do recall one vast meeting room that was glass on all sides (and known as “the fish bowl” for how visible your meeting was to anyone who walked by). Now I’m pretty sure it had to be the remodeled version of the swingin’ bachelor pad that this Chicago article describes.

Anyway, Whet Moser has interesting things to say about McD’s campus, mostly an architecture piece, though it does note one advantage of your employees having nowhere to go out to eat: “In a dense urban environment, workers from different companies can mix over lunch or after work; that can lead to new job opportunities; and as the quote implies, that can lead to upwards wage pressure.”


The “carbonara” sandwich (hey, it has pancetta and egg and cheese) at Animale, from the guys behind Osteria Langhe. It’s fantastic, and in general I liked the earthy meaty flavors here a lot (I sampled another star attraction, a green chile tripe stew that is more Mexican than Italian). The process of ordering and sitting needs some refinement (it’s supposed to be fast casual, so you start to take care of yourself and a server interrupts to do it for you), but the food has some of the best bang for the artisanal foodie buck in town.

I also hit Canton Regio, from the owners of Nuevo Leon, and to me it seems clearly inspired by the same “hall of meat smoke” in Oaxaca that Nick Kindelsperger describes in his Cruz Blanca review, or its equivalent in some Norteño town—piles of steak ordered by the kilo and brought fresh off a fiery grill with grilled onions, fresh made tortillas and housemade salsas. It’s primally satisfying, and like Nuevo Leon, a good first place to sample south side Mexican in Pilsen.