If you’re getting over the Coronavirus, have I got the place for you. Yes, it’s a Chinese restaurant, or Chinese by way of Hong Kong, located in Chicago’s West Town, called Lao Peng You. This means “old friend” in Chinese, a nod to the fact that this spot serves the nostalgic grandma cuisine of owners Daniel and Eric Wat’s childhood.
Some believe that critics criticize because they can’t do. In my particular case, when I’ve been less than enthusiastic about certain restaurants, it’s been said I couldn’t cook my way out of a paper bag. I like to believe this isn’t true. I got into food writing through my love of cooking. I also spend a lot of time constructing restaurants in my head that I one day hope to launch. That’s why I find Amy Le—owner and chef of Spotted Monkey, a new Asian-Latin fusion restaurant in Chicago’s financial district—so inspiring.
You may stumble upon a decent version of gumbo at stalwart Heaven on Seven or some neo-Cajun spot downtown, but they’re no match for the bowl at Three Chefs ($5.99 for a small bowl, $9.99 for a large bowl). All the components that make this gumbo great—the dark and brackish roux (a cooked mix of fat and flour that thickens gumbo), chubby curls of pink shrimp, oval slivers of garlicky caramelized chicken sausage, sweet pepper and cayenne—combine to warm your body and soul.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to dine like a dictator or an imperial ruler, then the newly reopened, upscale French-Vietnamese Pasteur in Edgewater is probably just the ticket.
The phrase “salad days” has often been used to describe one’s carefree youth or the moment at which a person lived at the zenith of his powers. The expression was coined by Shakespeare in the play “Antony and Cleopatra,” wherein Cleopatra reminiscing about dalliances with Julius Caesar speaks of her “… salad days, When I was green in judgment…” As one who rebuffs salad as if it were swine flu, I can only deduce that by making such an association, Shakespeare was allergic to food or, at best, was a Birkenstock-wearing, hippie, super-vegan.