“A brewpub made sense for Cantu precisely because it made no sense at all,” Josh Noel says in his article on the reconcepting of the brewery where Homaro Cantu died last year. Two of the same partners including former iNG general manager Trevor Rose-Hamblin will be involved in the new venture, Old Irving Brewing Co., while Matthias Merges (Yusho) will be a chef-partner. But beyond the details of the new venture, this is a fine story about the effect of Cantu’s death on some friends and partners, and how they tried make sense and a new venture out of that, too. (Tribune)


Cold Storage in the Swift & Sons-slash-Google complex has been drawing the raves for the operation, but Mike Sula finds it runs hot and cold but always pricy: “Luck may vary among the daily catches, featuring fillets and whole fish, occasional snacky bits like grilled collars and fried smelts, and pricey indulgences like Santa Barbara sea urchin. I got pinched by a large $45 Irish brown crab after my trio struggled to harvest the meager, stringy flesh inhabiting its empty carapace. Meanwhile a tiny eight-ounce whole red mullet, firm and buttery, was a unforgettable morsel even at $12.” (Reader)


Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Diner Grill on Irving, objectively, is not that great, but in another way, it’s perfect, and in any case, it is as Heather Schroering argues this week at Redeye, Essential:

It’s 1:20 a.m. Everyone at the counter has white plastic mugs of Folgers. I sip from my own.

Then Fernando is in front of me, setting down what looks like a plateful of soupy dog chow over a pile of shredded potatoes. “There you go—a slinger,” he said. I didn’t order that.

“I’ve had one of those,” says the guy in the Cubs hat. “I won’t do it again.”


Well, we had to hunt for them a bit under the Trib’s latest, anti-chronological homepage scheme, but the Trib gave out dining awards and it’s a pretty unimpeachable list—who’s going to argue with The Blanchard for Best New Restaurant? (Besides LTHForum.) The Duck Inn comes in for big love (Kevin Hickey and Brandon Phillips for Best Chef and bartender of the year, and honoring Darnell Reed of Luella’s Southern Kitchen is a cool choice. Check ’em out.


“More than a thousand years ago the Wari people built a brewery on a remote mountaintop in southern Peru…” If you don’t want to read an article that begins like that and ends with you actually being able to sample the brew (scientifically modernized, we must admit) from Off-Color Brewing at the Field Museum, we don’t know what to think. (Reader)


Nick Kindelsperger visits Qiang Xiang Yuan Dumpling, the recent graduate to street level from the Richland food court in Chinatown, but even newly empowered with the Trib’s dining budget, he can barely scratch the surface of dumpling flavors—since they come in batches of a dozen. Even so, he offers a beginners’ guide: “Start every visit with an order of the lamb and coriander dumplings ($9.99). The gamey lamb mixture gushes on the first bite, while fragrant coriander floats around the edges. On the other end of the spectrum, the sea whelk (a kind of snail), leek, and egg dumplings ($12.00) has a refreshingly subtle and clean seafood flavor. Plus, when is the last time you had whelk?” (Tribune)


T&B stands for Tacos and Burgers, but Julia Thiel says the T&B Grill on Lawrence may sound like a mess, but “the brief menu suits T&B Grill well—and could be responsible for the fact that nearly everything we tried was excellent… The tacos, served on house-made jalapeño-cilantro tortillas that impart a subtle but welcome flavor, are also jazzed up with some of the same aiolis that come with the burgers. It could be argued that aioli has no place on tacos, even when it’s spiked with lime juice and chile—but we’ve already established that this is a fusion restaurant. More importantly, the aioli is delicious.” (Reader)


It wasn’t till I saw Spanish Square on Belmont that I realized it’s not in a Square (Lincoln, Logan, something) but Elizabeth Atkinson at TOC is way ahead of me on what it’s good for: first dates: “The romantic and warm little restaurant and market has your night planned,” as you start with small plates and end up shopping for a bottle to go home with. (Time Out)

The perils of dating also figure highly in her review of 5 Rabanitos: “When we first walked up to 5 Rabanitos, my date asked if we were in the right spot—the signage doesn’t provide a lot of promise that it’s going to be a great meal, but once we were in the door, his attitude changed immediately… This is definitely a spot where you can hunker down and order a huge plate of tacos without breaking the bank.”


The bar at Johnny’s Grill is now the mescal bar at Johnny’s Grill—Chicagoist has more.


We would rank Michael Kornick (MK., DMK, etc.) high on our list of chefs who you can just flip on and let them talk, knowledgeably and inexhaustibly, about what they do. And David Hammond gets him to talk about meat and why he loves chicken soup with everything in it at New City.


Jessica Largey’s delicate, suprisingly green-tasting for March menu at Intro, which we wrote about here; and a post-litigation Purple Pig is as strong as ever, making magic out of things as simple as cauliflower and bread crumbs.


The Trib just published word that Tete Charcuterie, the innovative, meat-focused (but highly skilled at pasta and salads) French restaurant that wasn’t a “French restaurant,” shut down over the weekend. I was working on a story about their menu changes, this is sad news all around and is not the only story of late that suggests that we still aren’t always the most receptive place for our best chefs’ more unusual concepts.