Dining and food culture in Chicago

Food Is Best in the Street: Here’s Why

Fast Food/Street Food No Comments »
One of many tamale stands at Maxwell Street Market/Photo: David Hammond

One of many tamale stands at Maxwell Street Market/Photo: David Hammond

By David Hammond

Four Belly (3227 North Clark) announces on its signage that it serves “Asian street food.” There’s JJ Thai Street Food (1715 West Chicago) whose very name suggests the genesis of its cuisine and the newly opened Immm Rice and Beyond (4949 North Broadway) explains on its site, “we serve foods found at food stalls and carts in the streets of Thailand.”

Jarabe Mexican Street Food (2255 West Taylor) might face some competition from Lola Brasa in the Kimpton Hotel (39 South LaSalle), which Crain’s tells us will focus on Latin American street fare, though neither serves food on the street.

The only place in Chicago you can find street food—aside from random food carts and trucks which are in another category—is at the Maxwell Street Market where you will still discover, every Sunday morning, a tent city of small, family vendors offering up the food of their heritage. Read the rest of this entry »

Dining and Drinking Top 5: May 16-31

Top 5 Lists No Comments »
Jacquelyn Brennan and Kelly Moore of MindFuel Wellness

Jacquelyn Brennan and Kelly Moore of MindFuel Wellness

1
MindFuel Wellness
(James Hotel)
After-work wellness reception, with a Fuel Flow class combining yoga and Pilates, healthy bites from David Burke’s Primehouse and beverages from Real Good Juice Co. 6:30pm-8pm. Free.
May 18 Read the rest of this entry »

Where You Can Put Your Greens: Placing the Salad Course

French, Produce, Trends & Essays No Comments »

 

Composed salad at Bistronomic/Photo: Bistronomic

Composed salad at Bistronomic/Photo: Bistronomic

Eating in France in the early seventies, I discovered that French salad, unlike American salad, was usually served near the end of meals, after the main course. This was in contrast to the all-American tradition of having salads first, before the main course. I sort of figured this American salad protocol was developed because American mothers wanted to make sure kids ate their greens before getting to the good stuff.

On recent trips to France, however, I noticed that our salads were being served at the beginning of meals, American-style. Read the rest of this entry »

A Plug for Magic Jug: Chicago’s Best Traditional Ukrainian Food Is Not in Ukie Village

Dunning, Ukrainian No Comments »
Pickles/photo: Rob Gardner

Pickles/photo: Rob Gardner

By Robert Gardner

If I want to eat Ukrainian food, I want the real stuff, where the vegetables come pickled, the cucumbers are so sour my cheeks involuntarily suck in and the grape tomatoes taste like the last vestiges of summer. But the mushrooms are quite the opposite. They are a laboratorial taste (it must be acquired). What else makes this place authentic? They serve it in jugs. It makes sense, yes, that a restaurant called Magic Jug (6354 West Irving Park) serves a lot of its menu in jugs.

Up until a year or so ago, I didn’t know where to go for real-deal Ukrainian food in Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

Dining & Drinking Top 5: May 1-15, 2016

Top 5 Lists No Comments »

 

Pizza at Dolce Italiano/Photo: David Hammond

Pizza at Dolce Italian/Photo: David Hammond

 1

Wine and Food of Sicily
(Dolce Italian)
Sicilian pizza (with eggplant and Calabrian chilies) and wines by Stemmari, one of Italy’s most noteworthy winemakers.
Through May 3 Read the rest of this entry »

The Chef Recommends: Mariela Bolaños of MAD Social

New American, West Loop 1 Comment »
Mariela Bolaños and her Chicken & Waffles/photo: Lauren Knight

Mariela Bolaños and her Chicken & Waffles/Photo: Lauren Knight

Need a recommendation when scanning the menu at MAD Social (1140 West Madison)? Take a hint from executive chef Mariela Bolaños.

Bolaños came to the kitchen on a whim. When she was eighteen, a commercial for the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago piqued her interest. The scenes of culinary students looked interesting and fun. Her parents encouraged her to go check the school out. “’It might stick,’” she recalls them saying. They were right. Read the rest of this entry »

Opening Soon: Billy Lawless Takes On Southern Italian Cuisine with Coda di Volpe

Italian, Lakeview, News etc. No Comments »
Billy Lawless, Chef Chris Thompson, and Ryan O’Donnell

Billy Lawless, Chef Chris Thompson and Ryan O’Donnell

The cranes and forklifts navigating construction at the corner of Southport and Henderson in Lakeview aren’t toting flooring or brick just now. Instead, they’re hoisting a massive Italian-made wood-fired oven into the basement kitchens at Coda di Volpe, the Southern Italian restaurant that Billy Lawless is opening this summer with partner Ryan O’Donnell (of Gemini Bistro and the now-closed Rustic House) and San Francisco chef import, Chris Thompson. Read the rest of this entry »

Master Pasta Maker: Sahro Mollim’s Long Journey from Mogadishu to Chicago

Italian, News etc. No Comments »
Alisa Miriam Roadcup, Executive Director, Heshima Kenya, and Sahro Mollim

Alisa Miriam Roadcup, executive director, Heshima Kenya, and Sahro Mollim

By Sarah Conway

Seven years ago, Sahro Mollim was a teen living at a safe house in the bustling city of Nairobi, Kenya. Now, two years after resettling in the United States, Mollim holds the start of an impressive culinary resume thanks to support from Hogsalt Hospitality, one of Chicago’s largest restaurant groups. Hogsalt, headed by Brendan Sodikoff, owns the popular Gilt Bar and Au Cheval, as well as Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf, where Mollim has enjoyed personal and professional success as a prep cook preparing pasta.

Here’s how all that happened.

Read the rest of this entry »

Big Heat: Chicago’s Food & Drink Fifty 2016

The Big Heat 3 Comments »
Manny Hernandez, Sarah Grueneberg, Tom Van Lente/ Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

Manny Hernandez, Sarah Grueneberg, Tom Van Lente/ Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

Big Heat, 2016, is Newcity’s list of chefs, bartenders, bakers and other food producers who are, undeniably, very good and sometimes great. The best? YMMV.

Lists are fundamentally flawed in that they suggest an objectivity impossible to attain because, you know, we’re talking about taste, which is individual, subjective, difficult-to-impossible to verify.

To compile our list, we took input from leaders in Chicago food culture, people who’ve been on the list before and others in the industry. We based our decisions on those recommendations as well as upon the performance and promise of candidates. Throughout, we kept thinking of other names we wanted to include, names that one could argue should be included; yet we have space for only fifty. Some omissions may be obvious and some, arguable. Why, for instance, isn’t Grant Achatz on the list? Because Alinea is closed for re-concepting. Why aren’t dozens of other worthy men and women on this list? Because tough decisions had to be made.

A particularly painful omission was that of Jean-Claude Poilevey, chef/restaurateur of Le Bouchon and La Sardine; Poilevey died in a traffic accident shortly before we went to press. Long a member and mover of Chicago’s restaurant community, Poilevey was so much a part of the local culinary landscape that we, admittedly, lost sight of him, as did many who in the last decade or so compiled such lists. We’re not seeking forgiveness for such omissions; simply understanding.

Although you may disagree with a call this way or that, we hope that, for the most part, you agree that all the people listed here should be on the list—and, no doubt, many more. (David Hammond)

Big Heat was written by John Carruthers, Sarah Conway, Robert Gardner, David Hammond, Rebecca Holland, Monica Kass Rogers, Lauren Knight, Rosemary Lane.

Cover and  inside photos: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux Read the rest of this entry »

Restaurateurs of the Moment: The Family Zaragoza

Archer Heights, Mexican, The Big Heat No Comments »

 

The Zaragoza family–Jonathan, John-Juan and Norma/ Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

The Zaragoza family–Jonathan, John-Juan and Norma/ Photo: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

By David Hammond

Driving south on Pulaski, between 48th and 49th, even if you’re looking hard for Birrieria Zaragoza, even if you’ve been there before, you might drive right past it. It’s a small, family-run restaurant, seating around twenty. This well-kept, humble place doesn’t have any flashy signage. It probably doesn’t need it, judging by the crowds inside who regularly chow down, elbow-to-elbow, on what might be the finest birria tatemada you’ll find anywhere (except, perhaps, Jalisco, Mexico).

The birria is prepared and served up by John-Juan, his wife Norma, and their children Jonathan, Erik, Tony and daughter Andie.

The hungry horde that comes to eat at Birrieria Zaragoza is frequently so large that a storefront next door is opened up for people to sit in several rows of chairs, like at the DMV, patiently waiting for a table or take-out.

In early 2016, the Zaragozas accepted the Jean Banchet award for “Best Ethnic Restaurant,” the first time this award was given to anyone. We strongly suspect this category was created specifically to honor the family’s work in perfecting birria tatemada in Chicago. Birria tatemada is goat meat, steamed for hours, slathered with mole sauce, and then roasted to create a beautiful blend of textures, crunchy crisp in places, lushly soft in others, with good spice but not so much that the goodness of the goat is obscured.

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