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
If you’ve ever dated someone who uses really good-smelling shampoo, you’ve probably found yourself leaning in to catch a whiff. Or maybe it wasn’t shampoo, but a cologne or a scent on a T-shirt or the lingering tang of lip balm after a kiss. The point is, you’re kind of intoxicated or haunted by that scent depending on your experience with its wearer. I had the same reaction to the first dish I tried at Elske, a new West Loop restaurant from husband-and-wife duo David (Blackbird) and Anna Posey (The Publican).
Forrest Gump was wrong. Sometimes life is not like a box of chocolates. You do know what you’re going to get. In the restaurant business, this means that people with good track records tend to churn out great work over and over again. The folks behind Lakeview newcomer Entente—owner Ty Fujimura (Small Bar, Ani, Arami), chef partner Brian Fisher (Schwa) and pastry chef Mari Katsumura (Blackbird, Acadia)—are a veritable dream team.
There’s a semi-famous painting called “The Treachery of Images” by Belgian surrealist René Magritte. It’s not as well-known as the artist’s painting of a man in a bowler hat with an apple in front of his face, but you’ve probably seen it. It’s a painting of a pipe with the caption “Ceci n’est pas une pipe,” or in English, “This is not a pipe.