Well my home’s in the delta, Way out on that farmer’s road. Now you know I’m living in Chicago, And people, I sure do hate to go. -Muddy Waters, My Home is in the Delta That lyric from Waters is a bit of an idle threat. It was recorded in 1963 at Chicago’s Tel Mar recording studios for one of the greatest records of all time, “Folksinger”. But, Muddy stayed in Chicagoland, dying in his Westmont, Illinois home in 1983.
I’m guessing you’ve figured out that General Tso’s chicken isn’t quite an authentic Chinese dish. On the other hand, if I’ve blown your mind and ruined your childhood with this declaration, I apologize.
Deli food, like sex and barbecue, is very personal. Within minutes of posting a picture of the Uncle Rube Reuben ($13 or $22 “overstuffed”) from Steingold’s, a new deli and cafe in North Center, on Twitter, people harrumphed, “Where’s the beef?”
Elvis died early, but, he made the most of his short life. He wore glittery jumpsuits, hung out with Nixon, had a private jet with a state of the art eight track player and his own super-estate, aka Graceland. Culinarily speaking, he totally didn’t GAF. I mean the guy’s favorite sandwich was reportedly peanut butter, bacon and banana on white bread, maybe, sometimes deep fried.
If the dudes from “American Pickers,” Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, opened a burger joint, it would probably look a lot like Flip Burger in West Town. The dining room behind the kitchen is a junk collector’s paradise, featuring a vintage Coke machine, a communal table ringed with reclaimed tulip-style diner stools and a vintage parking meter. “I’m like a ‘Sanford and Son’ garbage collector. I like to go through the back roads in Indiana, finding stuff in small shops and old barns,” owner Felipe Caro said.
While North and South Siders duke it out for Chicago supremacy, West Siders have quietly gone about their business. They don’t need to assert anything because they’re too busy enjoying a wealth of culinary offerings their warring counterparts don’t even know about. The Westsiders would probably like to keep it that way, but the wealth of culinary delicacies, which includes terrific tacos and tortas, blistered juicy chicken, Eastern European dumplings, Michelin-level cooking, and even reinvented American comfort food, deserves its spot in the sun. Fortunately for you, we’ve got the rundown.
Sequels are tricky. They’re rarely better than the original. “The Godfather Part 2” which had a richness and depth that surpassed “The Godfather” is one of few exceptions. Usually what happens in a sequel is you get a tired, slightly different rehash of the original.
Not so long ago, the West Loop was known as one of America’s most notorious skid rows. Madison Street west of the Kennedy was a maleficent mile of burlesques, flop houses and sleazy taverns. I moved to the neighborhood in 2003 into a building that held an annual progressive Christmas party called The Taste of Skid Row.
Through eating, we sometimes seek, crave, and desire transport, a mental whisking toward another time and location, to places of comfort, the spots which may now not be near, but where we once were when we experienced profound happiness. For you, this may be your mom’s kitchen, the state you grew up, in or the European city that changed your life. We are not always physically able to return to those places, but in a local bite, we might still experience a reasonable mental facsimile.
I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a dumpling. Apologies to Joyce Kilmer for bastardizing the opening lines to his famous poem “Trees,” but I do love stuffed comfort food. If I were one of the people they eventually chose to colonize Mars and had to choose one earthly delight to take with me, it would probably be a lifetime supply of dumplings.