High Dive

After midnight, when the fancy bars have sucked your wallet dry, the classic Chicago corner dive is always there for you. Advertisements

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The Essentials: Spacca Napoli

Jonathan Goldsmith’s pizza makes grown men cry. A few years ago, the owner of Spacca Napoli in Ravenswood got his mozzarella provider to sit down and try one of his Neapolitan pies. Of the experience, the provider wrote: “When I bit into it, it put tears into my eyes and I couldn’t help it. For the first time, food meant something much more to me than just curbing my appetite. In a fraction of a second, the best memories of my Neapolitan life went through my mind.”

You Can Judge a Chef by a Banana

It’s a swelter of a Friday in July, the kind of evening where the heavy air wrings moisture from human pores like water from a dish towel. Inside the cool Alinea dining room, a table of diners scrapes the remnants of tender nuggets of Dungeness crab wrapped in a blanket of sweet pea puree from their plates.

Goodbye Hot Doug!

Friday, Oct. 3: That’ll be the day the lines died. After 13 years serving more than 200 different sausages, including oddities like yak and rattlesnake, Doug Sohn will close Avondale’s internationally famous encased meats emporium, his namesake Hot Doug’s(3324 N. California Ave. 773-279-9550). Residents of the 2800 block of Roscoe Street, which runs alongside the restaurant, likely will breathe a sigh of relief that sausage-seekers will no longer camp out on the sidewalks in front of their houses. Though Sohn himself said he doesn’t know what his next adventure will be, we imagine he’ll catch a couple extra winks this Saturday morning after closing. One thing we know is true is that encased meats enthusiasts everywhere will mourn the passing of a Chicago institution. While we can’t convince Sohn to stave off retirement, we can celebrate the good times. We caught up with Sohn a few days ago to discuss the impressive numbers the business has racked up over the years

The Essentials: Butcher & Larder

I have a habit of tweeting meat porn. Sometimes the centerpiece of my protein brags—a spicy, juicy currywurst sausage made from local pork, for example—comes from Noble Square’s Butcher & Larder, owned by Rob and Allie Levitt. When I’m grilling up something else—say, a brontosaurus-sized tomahawk ribeye that I usually procure from another local butcher shop that doesn’t get its meat from local farms—Rob will tweet me with a gentle ribbing about how it’s been a while since I’ve visited his shop. It’s a subtle, not preachy, reminder: Where your meat comes from and how it was raised matters

Tokyo Mirage

  At some point in the past decade, sushi joints have become like dry cleaners: There seems to be one on every corner and you go to the closest one that doesn’t screw things up too bad. This is sort of crazy when you consider that raw fish and poor dry cleaning both have the potential to kill you (Google “Liberace dry cleaning”).

Chefs Behaving Badly

I began writing about food partly because it was one of the last cultural beats where interview subjects weren’t inaccessible, coddled divas. If you wanted to talk to a chef, you met him for a beer or dropped by his kitchen. I once bumped into Emeril Lagasse at a convention and had a long conversation (I have the “Mike. Bam. Emeril” autograph to prove it), and in 2005 I met the Food Network’s poster boy, Alton Brown. Both men answered endless questions, never once motioning for security.

Hawkey Town

He spent 24 years building up one of the most recognizable teams in pro sports. It was his dream job. He was at the top of his game. And then he walked away. It wasn’t supposed to be like that.