Reviewers don’t go back to re-review places enough, so kudos to Phil Vettel; it was 13 years between his initial Blackbird review and his Posey-era review, missing Mike Sheerin entirely, but only 5 from Posey to his new four-star review for the landmark restaurant now under Ryan Pfeiffer (he missed Perry Hendrix in the meantime, but since he was handling both Blackbird and Avec, that’s a defensible choice and it’s not like he hasn’t had plenty to review besides Blackbird).

Anyway, the new format has a tasting menu option, something Blackbird has both flirted with and resisted, and here’s how Vettel captures what sounds like a new, more Asian, almost Wolen-esque Blackbird to me: “I had February’s tasting, devoted to squab, and at the risk of torturing you by describing dishes no longer available, I have to pay my respects. It began with a lovely squab consomme, decanted from an herb-filled teapot into a bowl, for two-handed drinking. Alongside that was a squab-meat terrine, wrapped in pastry and topped with delicate flakes of salt. After a few other dishes — a salad of chicory with satsuma vinaigrette and chestnut mousseline, foie gras topped with sourdough and persimmon in a shallow pool of duck remouillage (think very light broth), monkfish and duck liver underneath orange carrot foam — squab returned as a zampone, a stuffed leg-thigh portion over a bowl of fermented chili sauce and shiso leaves. The final savory course was a mu shu presentation of the bird, breast slices alongside buckwheat crepes and an array of sauces and vegetables. It was a delightful, communal, hands-on course.”


Eater Chicago Snowfalls up a big multimedia piece devoted to the idea that Noah Sandoval et al. are unleashing “a new age of fine dining” with their tasting menu, relatively limited seating, very personal restaurant Oriole. It’s a cool, multidimensional piece, but it also got some pushback from some folks I know—not that Oriole isn’t one of the most promising openings in a long while, just that it might be a bit early for such claims. In the meantime, if you want the viewpoint of a civilian who’s eaten there already (it just opened Thursday), check out a review cross-posted at LTHForum and elsewhere.


Michael Nagrant gets an easy layup for pop culture references in a place run by a guy who cooked for Kanye and One Direction, but his real message about Bronzeville Jerk Shack is this: “The reputation of jerk chicken in Chicago is bleak. Some places cover their chicken in icky pastes, while others rub so much scotch bonnet into their marinades that one bite blows your palate to bits. But Johnson understands balance. His jerk chicken ($4-$12.50) is exceptionally juicy and rimmed with a touch of heat—but not too much. The skin is crispy, and the juices in some bites are sealed in and carbonized like Han Solo in ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’” (Redeye)


Did Mike Sula like Cafe Marie-Jeanne? He starts by calling it “the most attractive among the newer venues to colonize this once desolate Humboldt Park junction,” but then “As you’d expect of a place with this much breadth, it’s a haphazardly cleared minefield… packed [with] an almost unmanageable selection of appealing things to choose from—on paper anyway,” and “There is a surprisingly heavy hand with sweetness across the menu.” In the end he says “it’s a not bad place to make camp for a few hours,” which is somewhat faint praise a lot of coffee shops I wouldn’t trust to make dinner could say. (Reader)


Both The Wiener’s Circle and Big Guys Sausage (who also rebranded themselves for the primary) have small hot dog specials in “honor” of Donald Trump. Funny, but if any hot dog spot has not exactly stood for anti-racism in the past, it’s The Wiener’s Circle.


Phil Vettel tries to offer a road map to the unusual beer and food combinations at Band of Bohemia—”With the beet-thyme ale, definitely go for the grilled lamb neck, the slow-cooked meat shredded and reassembled into a glazed cube redolent of Middle-Eastern spice; the fun surprise to the foie-gras dish is that the liver is breaded and deep-fried, emerging as a sort of foie schnitzel with sweet figs and port sauce, adding tart notes from pickled onion and preserved lemon peel.” If you read that entire sentence, you know by the end whether this is fascinatingly different and something new you want to try out, or something you want to stay away from.


5 Rabanitos seems to be a breakthrough Mexican family restaurant, thanks to a pedigree that includes working for Rick Bayless, and Nick Kindelsperger writes some pretty juicy food porn to encourage you to try it: “Sotelo admits he’s proud of his Guerrero-style mole, and he should be. With its glossy black sheen, it coats the golden carnitas tamal ($8.50) like some kind of edible lacquer. The mole adds a savory base and gentle heat to everything it touches. Of course, it helps that the tamal yields gently to your fork, revealing an interior of crisped, fat-streaked fried pork.” (Tribune)


There’s always another place about to open—ask me, who did the definitive ramen list just before Furious Spoon and a bunch of others opened—but it does seem odd to me to do Nashville Hot just a few weeks before The Budlong, devoted to that very thing, opens in the next month or so. So take Redeye’s list as a list of the best… for about another month (yes, I’ve tried The Budlong’s and I stand by that).


Maybe because they don’t do this kind of list nearly as often as many other publications, when the Reader does a Where To Drink Now piece, it feels more comprehensive—certainly like I have my drinking cut out for me, as I’ve only been to 5 out of the 21 they name. Honey, I’m spending too many nights at home with the family!

BIN 36.2

John Lenart has a nice piece on the family guy who took over the vino-rable Bin 36—and is making his own wine, too. (Chicagoist)


The sushi menu isn’t very adventurous, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of fish at Wicker Park’s Enso Sushi; Borrelli’s pizza has a really crispy crust you’ll like or not, but I liked the homemadeness of it all; and faced with an hour wait at the Mt. Prospect Ramen Misoya, we drove a mile to Sozai Banzai for ramen and it was just fine.