A Country for this Old Man


My country, the Philippines, land of gold and flowers, it was love that, as per her fate, offered up beauty and splendor. And with her refinement and beauty, the foreigner was enticed; Bayan Ko – a traditional Filipino song I did not grow up Pinoy. I am, apologies to all Jews and Filipinos, a pin-goy. I am the enticed foreigner, the dayuhan, or stranger, encapsulated in the lyrics of “Bayan Ko”, the patriotic anthem of the Philippines quoted above. I am mesmerized by the majesty of Filipino food. Advertisements


Tocilog at Kubo


If you want a great hangover cure, look no further than international breakfast foods. Down a French croque madame — a ham and gruyere-stuffed sandwich topped with an egg — after throwing a few back, and you’re golden the next morning. Kill a full Irish breakfast, including black pudding (which is not really pudding, but blood sausage), and you’re also probably going to feel better. And so it goes.

Seafood City


There are a lot more Filipino grandmas in Chicago than I thought. I know this because on a random Thursday afternoon, I was surrounded by dozens of them chowing down on barbecue pork skewers at the new Filipino mega-mart Seafood City located in North Mayfair

Laughing Bird


Have you ever wished you could eat at a place called the Tina Turner Tavern? If things go well for chef Chrissy Camba at new Lincoln Square restaurant Laughing Bird, you might just get your chance. “I grew up in a family where there was a lot of laughing and a lot of birds, so that’s how we got the name. But, the whole time I kept joking that we should name this place the Tina Turner Tavern. We’ll save that for the next one,” said Camba.

Lumpia Shanghai from Isla Pilipina


It’s not so much a restaurant as it is a movement. When Ray Espiritu took over the Lincoln Square restaurant Isla Pilipina from his parents six years ago, it was very traditional, serving mostly expat Filipinos. Fresh out of art school, Espiritu didn’t just want to serve food; he wanted to elevate Filipino cuisine and culture in Chicago. He wanted to help the community and create something that was an extension of his personality. “Any business is a form of art,” he said. “There’s a vibration from our audience. We feed off that and want to serve them well.”

The Real Deal


One of the great demands of reviewing restaurants is the overarching need to cover the new and the hip. In doing so, the places that have been executing something really good for so long often get overlooked. So for the next month or so, I’m dedicating myself to writing about good neighborhood places, the mom & pops and the small, authentic ethnic joints that get lost amid the pomp and circumstance of celebrity chefdom.

For the Birds


A chef makes a big name working at a prominent restaurant in a fancy Gold Coast hotel. She steps down, imperils all that she’s worked for to pursue her dream of opening a humble fried chicken shack influenced by her Filipino roots in a city that, while a great food town, is sorely lacking in great fried chicken. It’s the kind of gutsy move I love, the kind of thing I’d buy a box of popcorn for to munch while watching it all go down. What could go wrong? At, Pecking Order, a new Ravenswood gourmet chicken emporium from that very chef, Kristine Subido of W Hotel’s Wave restaurant, it turns out, a lot.

On Fowl and Filipino Breakfast: Uncle Mike’s is a place of pleasant contradictions


There are a half-dozen penguins gathered on a high ledge. It’s not clear how they got there or what their purpose is. They could be suicidal, biding their last minutes while peering gingerly over the edge, contemplating the hot bath of ginger-chicken porridge or the searing splash that awaits in a duo of over-easy eggs perfumed with sesame oil below.

Pork Crack


Every writer suffers from at least a touch of melancholy. As a food writer, though, my touches of depression are not from anything as pedestrian as the existential weight of the world.

Tapsilog At Iba Pa


This restaurant’s namesake, tapsilog, is like a Filipino hangover helper. Featuring dried or cured beef (tapa), a mound of rice (sinangag) and fried egg (itlog), it’s a comforting treat sure to sop up the stomach slosh of a late-night bender. While fast-food joints like McDonald’s feature it on their breakfast menus in the Philippines, the dish has generally been tough to find stateside. Thanks to a partnership between Filipino immigrants Cristina Navata and Rodney Clamana (pictured below), you can now get your fix in Chicago.