Things seem like they’ll last forever until they don’t, and that’s certainly the case with the Cape Cod Room in the Drake Hotel, which opened in 1933 and will close on New Year’s Eve in time for a renovation of the hotel. Some iconic things, like the Bookbinder Soup (yes, somehow the Cape Cod Room’s iconic dish is a soup from another restaurant), will be preserved at the Coq d’Or, the other well-known restaurant, though honestly, I can’t think of anyone who’s been to either of them since my (then-future) wife and I went for Thanksgiving dinner when we first moved here and neither of us had room to cook a bird. Phil Vettel has more details.


This one is more of a bummer for me—Grandma J’s Local Kitchen, a sweet little cafe in Humboldt Park I recommended on a Thrillist list or two, has closed. The place seemed an unlikely target for the vitriol it got from locals who saw it as a harbinger of gentrification—and when a little place like this targeted as if it were, well, Target, I’m suspicious that anti-gentrification efforts may not be as grass-roots as they seem. We’ll see what opens in the space next. (DNAInfo)


Finally a story about something opening—Jason Hammel’s Lula Cafe has been his only restaurant since Nightwood closed, but he’s got a big one coming—a yet-to-be-named one in the Museum of Contemporary Art as it undergoes a $16 million renovation. In the Trib’s story he sees it as more than a restaurant—”For most of its 20-plus years, Lula Cafe has been a hub for Logan Square’s visual and musical artists; Hammel sees the MCA space as a logical progression of that relationship… ‘I’m really excited about creating another community space,’ Hammel said.”


Well, someone had to work Trump into a restaurant review (many miles from his Tower), and Mike Sula hung out at Old Irving Brewery the day after the election. So it’s a few paragraphs in before we learn that along with Trevor Rose-Hamblin (a Homaro Cantu protege who’s in charge of the beer) and Matthias Merges, Old Irving features Michael Shrader, of the fondly recalled Urban Union, in the kitchen. And “It’s the more unexpected bar food that distinguishes Old Irving Brewing. Pig’s feet croquettes contain an almost molten core of porky goodness, their richness cut by fruity pickled chiles, while a salt cod brandade awaits in the interior of fritters battered with the brewery’s kolsch. Flaps of tender, cold braised beef tongue wag over a cool, crispy salad of potato and radish, and lengths of meaty roasted eggplant are slung among plump golden raisins, harissa-­spiked yogurt, and almond-mint pesto.” (Reader)


The tacos at Pilsen’s new El Taco Azteco look to run about double the standard price for south side Mexican spots, but Nick Kindelsperger says they’re worth it. Of the tacos from former Antique Taco employee Nick Torres, he writes: “Instead of a slapdash copy, Torres’ fish taco reflects incredible care and attention to every element, from the extra-crunchy fillet to the soft and fragrant corn tortilla. Torres obviously learned a thing or two, but it turns out he has original ideas of his own.” (Tribune)


Phil Vettel seems more favorable to Ema than the so-so reviews to date: “You’ll start with spreads, if only to get at that soft, warm, naan-like bread that’s included. There are hummus spreads at different spice levels, including one fortified with lamb ragu and spicy harissa, and housemade labneh (Lebanese cream cheese) with crushed almonds, lightly grilled grapes and honey. I assumed the recently added “pumpkin hummus” was a seasonal gimmick, but the spread, made from kabocha squash and drizzled with pumpkinseed oil, is delicious, accented sparingly with cinnamon and nutmeg. (“I didn’t want it too Starbucks-ed out,” Jacobson explained.)” He gives it three stars—even after largely dismissing entrees with “Larger plates appear designed for more timid palates.”


Chicago mag has a look at Whiner Beer’s taproom, which finally brings beer to The Plant, the second brewery to attempt to do so.


At this point maybe Little Beet Table needs to shut down, rethink it all and reopen. Because I sure don’t want to go here, per Graham Meyer in Crain’s: “The entree-size roasted shrimp salad ($19) stars buttery, gently cooked shrimp in lively conversation with spiced almonds, golden raisins and soft avocado, but on our visit the salad suffered from an appalling proportion of rotten greens.”


Congrats to Curtis Duffy of Grace for being inducted into the Disciples d’Escoffier, a culinary honors society—though the coolest part by far is that he convinced them to also honor Ruth Snider, the teacher who helped guide him into a culinary career during the troubles of his early life (for more, go watch For Grace). That was a lovely gesture that gives it far more meaning. Brianna Wellen at the Reader has a story about the event.


Chrissy Camba points Chicago mag toward some favorite items at the new, still crazy busy Seafood City.


One thing I’ve always resisted doing even when I’ve done lists, is a burger list. Everybody does them and they have all the same places on them. So when my friend Anthony Todd said he wanted to do one for Chicagoist, I told him the list he should do: cheap burgers, under $7 or something like that, so it’s not the same fat bar burgers all over again. He agreed, and I agreed to do it, and here it is.


Well, for starters, a couple of burgers to round out that list—SmallFry was the main find there. But oddly, especially with turkey just days away, I wound up having fried chicken by accident twice. Once, because we spotted the 47th street location of Wingz Around the World, a southside place I’d never been to (assuming they’re all related, which they may not be as they seem to spell the name different ways). Anyway, not bad, though I have no idea which sauce was BBQ and which was hot ginger something or other; they both tasted like BBQ sauce to me. Too bad when the many different sauces are a big part of the appeal.

Then I had to get an emissions test for my car in Skokie, and what should be right by it but Filipino fried chicken place Jollibee, of allegedly hellacious line fame. Well surprisingly, it was a tossup whether the emissions testing center or Jollibee had the shorter, more efficient line, but either way, I got chicken, mashed potatoes and corn in no time. The chicken is quite good, a nice crispy crust, though it’s a little odd that it’s only legs and thighs. Sides were industrially bland, and besides that I wanted something uniquely Filipino for a side and there’s not anything like that, not even garlic rice. Next time I’ll go wait at Smalls instead.