Dining and food culture in Chicago

The Eat Beat: Things get explosive when cops talk food

Food writing, Hot Dogs/Sausages 3 Comments »

Chris Garlington and David Haynes

It’s Friday night at Cigar King in Skokie, and that means CPD Sergeant David Haynes and Chris Garlington are there, hosting their online radio show. At the back of the shop, sitting amidst a crazy tangle of cords, Haynes and Garlington suck their cigars and adjust the levels on the mixer board. The pair have hosted their talk radio show, “The Dave and Chris Show!” every week since 2007, and their “Beat Cop’s Guide to Chicago Eats,” a compendium of cheap and usually greasy cop favorites, came out in January. They hold court at Cigar King, bantering for two hours about pretty much anything from family life to politics.

Hang out with them for a little bit, and it’s easy to see how their chemistry translates into talk radio. Garlington is an irascible guy with a motor mouth, and coincidentally a liberal. Haynes is conciliatory, bluff and a conservative. The conversation inevitably turns to food—Costco hot dogs, to be precise. “They actually are good drunk food,” Haynes ventures. Garlington pounces. “And the show comes to a screeching halt. They’re terrible.” Haynes just chuckles.

After the show, Haynes and Garlington, plus longtime contributor Ken Parr head out to Jimmy’s Red Hots for a late dinner. The Humboldt Park joint, which earned an entry in their guide, makes perhaps their favorite hot dog in the city. That partly explains why, even on this unseasonably cold March night, they’re willing to stand at the counter, their breath smoking in the apparently unheated stand, and wolf down tamales, red hots and fries. It’s nearly ten, but neighborhood kids are still trickling in. After a few gruesome stories about crime in the area—Haynes worked this district, 025, last summer—the conversation turns to hot dogs once again. Read the rest of this entry »

No Reservations: The anti-Bourdain Wayne Cohen puts it straight on the line

Food writing No Comments »

By Michael Nagrant

At a time when most people savor the benefits afforded by an AARP card, Wayne Cohen ripped a page out of the “Jackass” playbook and pulled a crazy young man’s stunt. In 2008, Cohen, then president and owner of the now-defunct Norridge-based Maurice Lenell cookie company, was bought out of his ownership stake. Instead of sailing off to the Turks and Caicos he became a line cook.

Most of what you know about chefs is of the baby-kissing-glad-handing and preening-in-the-glossy-food-magazine variety. That’s the executive chef. A hard-working one maybe does a few hours of prep and surveys the quality of dishes leaving the kitchen. They work hard, but mostly motivating personnel, writing menus and finding great products. An executive chef is not a line cook.

A line cook is the sweaty dude standing over an industrial range breathing grease and fire, working six pans at a time and trying not to flare up a few years worth of burn and knife scars. The line cook is doing this for six or seven hours having spent the previous four hours destemming tiny leaves of thyme or dicing celery into perfect one-eighth-inch cubes. A line cook is also generally a 22-year-old white kid with thirty-thousand dollars of culinary-school debt or a slightly older Latino dude who’s washed a hundred-thousand dishes to earn the position.

A line cook is not a 52-year-old former executive with spinal stenosis and a nerve sheath tumor like Cohen. Frankly, a much younger Cohen couldn’t hack it. He says, “I thought I might make it a career, but after you’ve shucked 200 ears of corn in 115 degrees of heat with no air conditioning, you think maybe, this isn’t what I want to do.” Read the rest of this entry »

An Affair to Devour: Food writer Molly Wizenberg speaks for a new generation

Food writing, Trends & Essays 2 Comments »

wizenbergBy Michael Nagrant

There’s no way I could ever love a woman who was a vegetarian for a third of her life, has issues with heavy cream and is afraid to improvise in the kitchen. After all I have no problem with fat of any kind, I’m an equal-opportunity-organ-meat eater, and I’m like the Will Ferrell of the kitchen (And by that, I do not mean I run around naked and quote Frank the Tank lines from “Old School,” but that I am quick on my cooking feet). Of course, this woman probably wouldn’t have me anyway. Her childhood was generally free of processed foods and I have a penchant for Hot Pockets. Did I mention that she’s a married woman?

But on a lazy Fourth of July, curled up on a lakefront chaise lounge, with tang of BBQ smoke and the sparkly tendrils of burst fireworks still in the air, I fell hard for Molly Wizenberg anyway. But, before God and my mother-in-law strike me down, let me disclose that this is no Bill Clinton thing, rather more of Jimmy Carteresque lusting of the heart. Mine is purely a literary affair, an obsession with the words contained within Wizenberg’s recently published cooking memoir, “A Homemade Life.” Read the rest of this entry »

Main Coarse: Are Chicago Gluttons blustery blog hogs or the freshest voice in Chicago food writing?

Food writing, News etc. 6 Comments »

By Michael Nagrantcover1

Seriously, just give me 15 minutes alone with that sandwich.”

You know you’re in for it when the business card for a group of local food bloggers contains a double entendre that can be construed either as a commitment to serious eating or a potential sexual encounter with a sandwich. Welcome to the Internet trough that is Chicago Gluttons, chicagogluttons.com.

Assuming you’re not a total anal-retentive, or in the parlance of the Gluttons, a total ass-bag, there’s a good chance you’ll probably pig out on their posts till you pop the staples on that recent gastric bypass.

Don’t worry about bringing a fork to this literary meal. The Gluttons’ writings are so infused with the braggadocio of bling-era hip-hop that the only utensil you’ll need is an Internet browser open to urbandictionary.com. The Gluttons are also the bastard Internet writing stepchildren of Richard Pryor, Chris Rock and Sarah Silverman: aka equal-opportunity comedic destroyers of all or anything one might hold dear. Read the rest of this entry »