“Where did all the delis go?” asks Louisa Chu in the Tribune. If you’ve read David Sax’s Save the Deli, you already know the gist of the answer—by the second or third generation, onetime immigrant Jewish families are mostly professionals who don’t want to spend all their time making fatty deli foods. (With rare exceptions.) But even if we know the topline, there’s plenty of rich flavor in the stories of Chicago’s almost-gone deli scene, and she explores that in her piece, introducing us to places like Silverstein’s on Roosevelt, “which was big enough to have weddings in the back. It was a popular place, and in front you often had outdoor political orators: socialists, Zionists, communists and atheists. They’d get up on their soapbox and give their spiel. A crowd would gather, and there’d be hecklers; sometimes little fights would break out. It was a very lively area.”


The attention on old delis makes it all the more appropriate that Michael Nagrant reviews Steingold’s, the new (or new age) deli in North Center: “If you go to Steingold’s looking through the nostalgic prism of your bubbe’s kitchen window, you’re going to find a bone to pick. But while Steingold’s is inspired by Jewish food culture, it is not even really a delicatessen. It is instead one of the best destination sandwich shops in Chicago, something we have a dearth of.”

Nagrant’s descriptions of the results are downright pornographic: “Steingold’s pastrami is Snake River Farms wagyu beef smoked for six hours and rubbed with a proprietary blend of spices. The shaved beef is slicked with delightful glistening fat and peppery juices. This meat is crowned with smoked tangy sauerkraut, Swiss cheese with edges caramelized on the griddle, a lustrous lick of Russian dressing and stuffed in between two pieces of dark Publican rye bread. If anyone can find me a better Reuben in Chicago, I will buy you the most expensive of Alinea’s pre-fixe offerings, with wine pairing.” (Redeye)


Mike Sula finds executional problems at The Delta but admires what it’s trying to do with a modern take on Delta cuisine: “Fried chicken-liver rice with mushroom and bacon is less a tribute to southern-style dirty rice than it is to Chinese fried rice, but either way, you’ll want it. Vinegary braised greens stand out with a dose of nduja, and paprika-caramel-glazed baby back ribs are a diverting but enjoyable mandibular exercise. The best thing on the Delta’s menu is a sleeper: a whole grilled catfish smothered in a rich-bodied beurre monte sauce powered with lemon and chicken stock and seasoned with chiles and coriander, all of which marries perfectly with the fatty white flesh.” (Reader)


Ina Pinkney’s breakfast column visits three spots beginning with the South Side’s Currency Exchange Cafe, a Theaster Gates project in an old currency exchange (that was it in this Fooditor story): “Finding out that the cafe, founded by Chicago artist and community activist Theaster Gates, supports city farming at Washington Park and the Comer Youth Center was eye-opening. Add to that locally sourced milk and eggs that are hormone-free, composting to address the food-waste problem and that it is a member of the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition that I began with my friend Dan Rosenthal made my day.” She also visits Hendrickx, the Gold Coast baker, and Smack Dab in Rogers Park.


It may have Smith in its name, like a hotel guest checking in under an alias, but Portsmith, says Graham Meyer, is the first restaurant in the Dana Hotel to rise above anonymity: “In a reversal from the old serial-mediocrity Dana, Portsmith serves skillful food, with preparations that emphasize the recency of extracting the ingredients from the sea.” (Crain’s)


At Time Out Maggie Hennessy regards Bonci Pizzeria, the Roman pizza squares place, as a challenge to rise to: “No menu? No designated ordering area? Minimal counter seating? Breathe and persevere… Your pizza choices may include anchovies draped over oozy burrata, fior de latte with crimson ribbons of prosciutto crudo, or cubes of potato blanketed in lightly blistered mozzarella. Maybe there will be bufala, cured salmon and chives; or burrata dotted with Nduja Artisans’ ‘nduja and fresh mint. None last long. Here the only constant is the crust.”


It’s the oldest restaurant in the city—and now Daley’s is moving into a new development designed to help revitalize the area around 63rd and Cottage Grove. Janet Rausa Fuller tells the story. 


Dave Beran of Next fame has opened his tiny Santa Monica tasting menu restaurant, Dialogue, and the LA Weekly is impressed: “The restaurant itself feels like a discovery, a plush jewel box accessible only with a code, tucked in next to a fish sandwich shop on the second floor of the Gallery Food Hall. Eight of the 18 seats are at the walnut counter of the open kitchen, where Beran and his cooks not only plate dishes but find time to chitchat with guests. Given the Rustic Canyon–esque minimalism — there’s really not much to look at except the kitchen — it almost feels as if you’re hanging at a friend’s. That is, if your friend casually ferments rhubarb for a year and has won a James Beard Award.” Four stars.

9. 42 FRAMES

The 42 Grams documentary (in which I may appear, or at least my voice, as they were being filmed during this phone interview) will hit all the major on-demand streaming services this Friday. Here’s the trailer.


Feel like making Moody Tongue’s celebrated 12-layer chocolate cake? Food & Wine has the recipe.


In my day we discovered the most painfully hipster bars in Chicago by hand, out of wood. Now you can just read lists of them. (h/t John Lenart)


The site Only In Your State does more than usually interesting clickbaity lists, and here they look for great tacos in Milwaukee on the Milwaukee Taco Trail.


At the Facebook group Chicago Restaurants 86’d But Not Forgotten, longtime reviewer Sherman Kaplan tells a great story about going to dinner anonymously with someone known to the restaurateur, trying to BS his way through it… and hoisting his own petard.


I can take a lot of over decoration in a place I’m going to eat for two hours, so the mashup of chandeliers and candles and checkerboard tile and zig zag floors at Beatnik was entertaining. Would the food compare? The first thing I ate was a perfect analogue to the decor—broccolini and hummus with pomegranates and crunchy bits of Spanish rice was a Technicolor explosion. But then… fried halloumi were just mozzarella sticks with a tribal tat, and grilled sepia and squid ink dumplings were surprisingly bland, and the ginger-carrot broth they were in was like the soup at a health spa. Alas, this Beatnik is nothing to howl about…


The loss of two outlets for food coverage in Chicago a week and a half ago—DNAInfo and Chicagoist—seems to have concentrated the mind of several Fooditor fans, as we now sit at just under 40 supporters of Fooditor via the Patreon site. Remember, your Patreon patronage at the Foie Cheeseburger Level or higher entitles you to an autographed copy of The Fooditor 99’s 2018 edition when it comes out later this month. So if you like independent food media and want to see it continue to exist, go support it now. Thanks.