You should definitely read Mike Sula’s review of Goosefoot, it’s one of the most thought-provoking reviews in a little while. We’re not sure we agree with its implications, however. Sula looks at the arrival of very high-end French dining on Lawrence (one of the best ethnic strips in the city) in terms of the Occupy movement of last fall: “Say things go so bad the 99 percent really get angry. They’re not going to torch the Vietnamese pool hall, the abandoned laundromat, or the Korean blanket store on Lawrence. At least not right away. First they’ll smash the Mag Mile, and take dinner in the ashes of Les Nomades around the corner on Ontario.” Les Nomades is, of course, where Goosefoot chef-owner Chris Nugent worked for the last seven years, and his implication is that there’s something Marie Antoinettish about this kind of food on this street— let them eat truffle foam.
Yet he mostly finds it “delicious. It all is. I could eat a whole bowl of the cumin-and-sherry-spiced lentils that hide under the quail.” It’s just that he finds it “culinary compartmentalizing at its most frustrating, too fastidious for its own good, too self-serious,” and wishes it would be more informal, like Schwa or other odd-neighborhood fine dining spots. Those are legitimate criticisms, sure, but bringing in class warfare makes it sound like Goosefoot is a Trump hotel opening on Lawrence, and it’s not— it’s a small business, some guy risking everything on his dream to bring something exquisite and old-fashionedly artful to a gritty neighborhood, and employing a few neighborhood folks along the way. We see Sula’s point about fine dining generally, which certainly has moments of absurd excess heedless of the broader economy, but we’re not convinced it’s aimed at the right target here. [Reader]
Phil Vettel talks as much about the decor as the food at Filini in the Aqua Tower, but he’s happy with the Italian food of chef Christian Fantoni, giving the restaurant two stars. “Of the half-dozen pastas, I’d make room for the cappellacci, hat-shaped pasta filled with butternut squash and sprinkled with sage and crushed amaretti cookies; and the fingertip-size gnocchi surrounding braised oxtail-vegetable ragu, topped with a pecorino fonduta that takes the dish from rich to indulgent,” he advises. [Tribune]
Daniel Zemans checks out Trattoria Porretta, a northwest side pizza joint and trattoria (sprawling over a couple of buildings near Belmont and Central). He likes the to-go-only stuffed pizza: “The thick, rich sauce is tangy and a little sweet, and is loaded with an oregano-heavy mix of herbs. The crust, flaky as is normal for the style, had a bit more crunch than is typical, which made for a nice contrast to the massive quantities of cheese and sauce. It’s a very good representative of the style that Portage Park residents are lucky to have nearby.” Thin crust was not as good, decent “toppings weren’t enough to catapult this pizza into the category of pizzas I’d like to eat again.” [Serious Eats Chicago]
Titus at Smokin’ Chokin’ and Chowing With the King visits the kind of North Shore place that used to be a staple but are now dying out, to be replaced by chains— Wilmette’s The Chuck Wagon. Next door to the movie theater and filled with photos of high school football teams and the like, the highlight is “a sandwich that could only come from Chicago. Something so bad for you but so damn good. It’s not a genius ‘Top Chef’ type idea either but a grilled cheese sandwich with gyros meat is brilliant and something I loved to get at the now gone CND Gyros. At The Chuck Wagon this sandwich (a gyro melt) is called ‘the waitress special’.” [Smokin’ Chokin’ and Chowing With the King]