You are reading this review for free on the internet. This is because, one, I’m stupid, and two, because of the perceived and real pressures of a system. While you would take great pleasure from me counting the ways of my idiocy in depth, let’s examine that system first. Advertisements
You don’t really know Nikola Tesla. If you think you do, then you probably think he invented the electronic car, or he’s the front man who sang “Love Song” (LOOOVE WILL FIND A WAAAY!) in Tesla, a band that toured with Poison on their 1989 Open Up and Say… Ahh! tour. If you’re the latter, you also probably told all your friends that Poison’s blonde-locked mascara-eyed shredding-guitarist, C.C. DeVille had studied at Julliard before joining the band. Because Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet (J.K.), Wikipedia didn’t exist, and because every rose has its thorn, your friends believed you. Now that you’re a journalist, you double checked that fact and found that DeVille actually studied music theory at NYU, which, while still impressive for a hair band rocker, is not as mythical.
In Detroit, there are a pair of hundred-year-old hot dog stands known as the Lafayette, and American, “Coney Islands”. Though this is basically what they serve, they are not known as the Lafayette and American “chili dog” parlors. The alleged reason for this unconventional New York-area naming of hot dog spots located in Michigan is that the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce banned the term “hot dog” in 1913 because they feared people might assume the sausages were filled with the carcasses of cute puppies.
Aaat Laaast! You’ve heard it a thousand times, probably in the background of a jewelry commercial where some rich lady’s self-worth is confirmed by the receipt of a humongous diamond necklace. There’s the string section swell followed by the dusky croon of relief from Etta James that her lovelorn days are finally over. It is an earworm of the first order.
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.
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.
All-encompassing menus are generally the province of Greek diners and recent culinary school grads who somehow fumbled into an executive chef role. As such, I had my suspicions when I saw the menu at Income Tax, a new Edgewater restaurant from chef Ryan Henderson (Maple & Ash), owner Nelson Fitch and GM Collin Moody. The dishes here are broken down by four countries: Spain, France, Italy and Germany. I also noticed that the Income Tax guys dubbed themselves a “neighborhood restaurant,” which is often shorthand for “Yeah, we have dry roast chicken, a mediocre burger and some beers on tap.” Things didn’t look good
There are a lot of things Chicago doesn’t need more of: potholes, corruption, red light cameras and polar vortexes, to name a few. On the dining scene, that list includes taquerias, steakhouses and Italian restaurants—there are arguably plenty to go around. Italian-wise, we’ve got fancified gourmet versions such as Balena, Nico Osteria and Acanto. There are plenty of old-school red sauce joints like Tufano’s, Sabatino’s and La Scarola, and enough Rosebuds to fill the White House Rose Garden. What we don’t have is a red sauce joint running with the aplomb of a modern restaurant group. Until now. The folks behind Balena and The Bristol—John Ross and Phil Walters, aka B Hospitality—along with chef/partner (and former Balena sous chef) Tony Quartaro, have now put down a stake with the opening of Formento’s, their attempt at old-school Italian run with modern sensibility. I stopped in to see if it would be a red sauce revelation or a limp noodle.