Congrats to the two Chicagoans who picked up awards at the James Beard Foundation awards this past week: Sarah Grueneberg for Best Chef Great Lakes, on her first nomination, and Rick Bayless for Topolobampo as Outstanding Restaurant. I saw both of them after the show—Grueneberg at Girl & the Goat’s party, where she plopped a big kiss on Giuseppe Tentori’s cheek, and Bayless behind the bar at Leña Brava, getting down to “Play that funky music, white boy.” I also like Penny Pollack’s anecdote about presenter and ex-Chicago mag staffer Ted Allen here.


Louisa Chu talks to the people behind some of Chicago’s top Mexican restaurants to see how they feel since Trump brought immigration issues to the forefront of American politics. Angela Mendez of La Chaparrita: “Mexican people are scared to come out especially around this area because it’s a Latino community, and they’re scared that ICE could just be around the corner. We started seeing this right when Mr. President Trump was elected. A lot of people have been trying to save up money for anything that would come up. Some have actually left to Mexico already permanently. They say, I don’t want to be kicked out so I’m just going to leave.”


South Side Weekly publishes their annual food issue, and it has lots of good stuff, from a story about Calumet Fisheries to a look at vegan soul food, but my favorite is a look at Chinese restaurants in Bridgeport, which identifies some of the regional differences to be found in the area, from northern Chinese to Taiwanese food: “‘Taiwanese cuisine is almost like Spanish tapas. For someone who doesn’t know Taiwanese cuisine, side dishes are its main thing…and noodles are [also] the main thing,’ Li says. ‘Stir-fried dishes and entrees are actually not popular in Taiwan, because [in] Taiwan, all the stores are very small. They have hawker stalls that sell street food a lot…so our first menu is mostly side dishes, mostly snacks.’”


Both Mike Sula and Michael Nagrant think highly of Tex-Mex spot The Texican. Sula says: “Chef Kim Dalton, formerly of Ukrainian Village’s late, lamented Dodo, is offering a focused menu of iconic Tex-Mex dishes that appeal most in their assured simplicity, and their ability to satisfy the primal craving for chicken enchiladas layered with melted cheddar, sauteed red peppers, and sour cream, all drizzled with crema and enfattened with avocado. That’s the King Ranch Casserole, a kind of Tex-Mex lasagna, that under the appropriate conditions can induce the kind of coma that is the only effective treatment for certain high-grade hangovers.” (Reader)

Nagrant, who confesses affection for a certain 80s Mexican chain, finds love and nostalgia in the same dish: “Indeed, the Texican King Ranch casserole ($8.50) is like a light Mexican lasagna. Rather than a gloppy creamy mess, it features crispy layers of El Milagro tortilla sandwiching silky tendrils of braised chicken breast redolent with sour cream and cheddar tang. It has a soulful carb-infused comfort that satisfied my Chi-Chi’s yearnings.” (Redeye)


Phil Vettel orders $100 worth of dry-aged steak at Cafe Marie-Jeanne (not the first thing I would have ordered at the homey French cafe), isn’t satisfied, but finds the whole place so easygoing anyway that he gives it two stars: “On the chalkboard, look for oysters and razor clams, the latter served raw in the shell or plancha-grilled with drips of olive and chile oils. (Raw seafood items typically arrive over ice, inside cool-looking fish tins.) You may also find grilled sardines with salsa verde or sauteed mushrooms over toast, with an egg-thickened sauce — visually a mess, but great eating.” (Tribune)


The Trib’s theme this month is sandwiches, but I find it hard to imagine that it will produce anything more interesting than Nick Kindelsperger’s guide to Mexican sandwiches, tortas and cemitas at such well-loved places as Cemitas Puebla, Doña Torta (how I miss the one on Ashland near me) and of course, Rick Bayless’ Xoco.


In CS, Lisa Shames finds sunny, likable Eden a pleasure: “The easy-breezy vibe of the white-and-green space accented with lush plants is a perfect fit for [chef Devon] Quinn’s easy-to-enjoy food. (For a closer look, book a spot at the chef’s counter, which offers five-course tasting menus, including one for vegetarians, as well as a front-row seat to the kitchen action.) ‘Eden is a work in progress and always changing to reflect the seasons,’ says Quinn, who’s looking forward to seeing what his greenhouse will bring next. We are too.”


Steve Dolinsky mentioned to me during the awards that for all the news we think our chefs are making, out of towners talk about Grant Achatz first and foremost. So it’s not too big a surprise that Roister is the one they picked as one of Food & Wine’s ten best new restaurants of the year for 2017: “The music is loud, the energy is rowdy and the enormous live-fire kitchen lights up the center of the room. In short, it’s the utter opposite of the calm, measured energy at Alinea—the restaurant that made icons of Roister owners Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas.”


Good piece at Chicago mag about the family behind Pilsen standby Nuevo Leon, which burned in 2015; they’ve since opened a new restaurant, Canton Regio (which I like a lot—it’s in the Fooditor 99), employing many of their old workers—and now they’re torn about whether to try to bring back their original, too, or move on.


Curious City asks, what happens to airline food when a bunch of flights get cancelled? Monica Eng answers… pretty much what you think happens. (WBEZ)


David Hammond takes us inside the warehouse of Roderick Markus of Rare Tea Cellar, supplier of odd things to all the big chefs: “I love anything weird and different. Right now, I’m obsessed with open-cask soy sauce, where the soy sauce is fermented in huge open barrels. The yeasts are alive and the sauce is bubbling. The sauce reduces down, so that in ten years, one-hundred gallons will be about two-to-three gallons. And that’s exciting.”


Peter Frost looks at Lettuce Entertain You and asks, what happens when Rich retires? I’d say with the kids opening most of the new concepts and others (like Hogsalt and Boka Group) having followed in its footsteps, what’s going to happen is already happening: “If there’s been a rip on Lettuce in the industry, it’s that, more and more, its restaurants can be uninspiring. They’re not exactly blazing new territory with their food or challenging diners’ palates with new ingredients or exotic preparations, the complaint goes.” (Crain’s)


NewCity editor Brian Hieggelke looks at the kind of place that doesn’t get much food media attention: Hackney’s. Turns out the venerable north shore burger chain-let is in the process of evolving for a new era, with a more casual spinoff chain called Hax.


Friend and contributor of Fooditor Sarah Freeman is the host of a new podcast from an online magazine called October; she talks to Solemn Oath Brewery about how they name their beers.


WGN show/podcast Outside the Loop spoke to three food mediaites about recent stories—Julia Thiel about her piece on food trucks, Anthony Todd on Chicago Market, and lil ol’ me on my piece about how beer gets into bars. Listen here.


Thrillist does a listicle I haven’t seen before: the best banh mi.



Before the Beard parties I wanted a fairly light, veggie bite so I made a second visit to Bad Hunter—but both of the things I had seemed to beat home the “We use veggies, we don’t have to put meat in everything!” point. Gnocchi were a punch in the face with pesto, peas were in a camembert-horseradish sauce that tasted like a cheese spread for pretzels… if I’m all in on eating vegetables, I’m fine with subtlety, they don’t have to be the veggie equivalent of ordering a 40-oz. porterhouse. It sure is popular, though.

I ran into ex-Moto cook turned Old Irving Brewing brewer Trevor Rose-Hamblin at one of the parties and promised him I would come visit. And I did. I like their beers a lot, especially a Maibock and a Belgian Dubbel called Rat Pack, while it was nice to see Michael Shrader (Urban Union) in the kitchen turning out perfectly executed dishes with a Spanish influence (not claimed on the menu, but evident as soon as the dishes start coming) that is unpretentious and completely satisfying. A salad with faro, a robust Spanish octopus dish and a beautiful dish of salmon plated on wheat berries and peas were all terrific. Mostly I saw people ordering burgers, but don’t stop there. (Disclosure: they wound up comping my check.)