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. Advertisements
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?”
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.
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.
In the last few years, “dad rock” has been used as pejorative shorthand for critics to dismiss bands or music of a certain ilk. Such music is usually plaintive, nostalgic, seemingly simplistic, maudlin or sometimes just fringe complex and weird.
Pepe Barajas, chef/owner of La Josie, a new upscale Mexican restaurant in the West Loop, was practically born into the hospitality game. As a little kid in the ’80s, he was popping the tops off Jarritos and Coke for patrons at his grandfather’s Mexico City taco stand. When he was 7, he immigrated to Chicago and watched his single mother waitress for her brother, founder of the local Los Comales chain of restaurants. Seeing her struggle financially, Barajas dropped out of high school and helped his mom open her own taqueria, Los Comales No. 8.
Love has done a lot of things for the world, but it has not brought me great bulgogi. That is until now, for Sol’s on Sheridan, a new Korean restaurant in Uptown that serves great red chili-slathered beef, has landed in Chicago as a result of a great love affair.
Everything I know about Tex-Mex cuisine, I learned from Chi-Chi’s. That a now-defunct (in the U.S.) chain founded in Richfield, Minn., was a source of Mexican culinary inspiration is weird, I know. But because of Chi-Chi’s, guys like Rick Bayless had to explain why they didn’t serve free chips and salsa at their authentic regional Mexican restaurants. For a Michigan kid like me, the only thing greater than free chips and salsa was endless Cheddar Bay biscuits at Red Lobster.
4 Star Restaurant Group (Dunlay’s, Smoke Daddy, Crosby’s Kitchen, Tuco & Blondie, Frasca, The Windsor, Remington’s, D.O.C. Wine Bar) always seemed like an aspirational name. They purvey solid American neighborhood fare like roast chicken, BBQ and burgers, but I’ve never seen 4 Star as a gourmet destination restaurant group. If I was going to see a flick at the Music Box, I’d stop in at Crosby’s Kitchen for the tasty chicken and biscuits, but I wouldn’t make an appointment just to dine. Their newest spot, Ella Elli, seems poised to change that notion
The good news is the restaurant ceiling didn’t fall on my head. When I dine at chef Iliana Regan’s restaurants, weird things happen. When I reviewed Regan’s Elizabeth, I went to the restroom, and when I closed the door, ceiling tiles fell on my head. I didn’t mind. The tiles were soft and I was so buzzed on the foraged pre-fixe meal (and, to be honest, a little too much Hermitage blanc wine), I wouldn’t have felt pain anyway. That night, Regan and her crew were very gracious and apologized for the mishap. Regan and I had a good laugh about this when we spoke last week about her new spot, Kitsune, a Japanese-skewing restaurant in North Center. “I think the bones of this place are much more solid,” she said