Slightly abbreviated for your short attention span, with no distracting photographs
Let’s start with the Trib:
• Leading off the reviews this week is Phil Vettel at Parlor in Wicker Park, where the chef line-up changes as often as the menu. Its homey new American cuisine is more than adequate, if occasionally less than inspired, and if there’s a single compelling reason to go to Parlor, it’s for their fried chicken & waffles ($15). Service is good, Vettel reports, and some days, we’re willing to trade innovation for that.
• Meanwhile, Phil thinks that what Chicago needs is a Restaurant Week. Right on! Although the deals are never as good as they seem, and the food is never as good as during the rest of the year. Still, it gets you to try places you’d otherwise not have.
• Donna Pierce heads to mini-chain Jaffa Bakery in the Loop, where you can get freshly roasted turkey on a freshly baked bagel (recommended) and falafel (feh). Still, any place that’s willing to offer both is commendable, and if they can do either one well (in this case, the bagels), even more so.
• Trine Tsouderos has a nice feature on seasonal dining in Chicago. The short answer is, seasonal food tastes better because it’s fresher; work with the Earth’s natural cycles while they still exist. See also the list of restaurants that emphasize seasonal ingredients, since it represents some of the best dining in Chicago (unsurprisingly, seasonal is not cheap).
• Hey, the return of an old feature: “Tablehopping” is back, and biting at newcomers Coal Fire and The Gage. Coal Fire has been so inundated with pizzaphiles (the LTH effect?) that they haven’t been able to send us their menu yet, but everyone says it’s fantastic, including Joe Gray, who visited for the Trib. Meanwhile, one of The Gage’s greatest assets (aside from its delish gastropub fare) is their sidewalk cafe, from which you can see all that funny-looking art in Millennium Park. Judy Hevrdejs vowed never to eat brunch inside again (until Chicago weather demands otherwise, which happens virtually every weekend).
Okay, moving right along to TOC:
• David Tamarkin is sympathetic to the plight of the Pump Room, which has been pumping away for so many years that people don’t pay it much mind anymore. It’s not the menu, which is au currant New American, but something ineffable that’s keeping the dining room empty on weeknights. When LEYE traded TPR to the Omni Group, a bit of the soul that made the place special was lost, and now they’re having trouble forging an identity that connects with the hipper, younger crowd virtually every restaurant covets - often unnecessarily, and often to their peril.
• Heather Shouse has always loved the culinary stylings of Melissa Yen and Sara Voden and has been following their panini around Chicago’s various mobile food marts (like Green City Market); her joy at the opening of their new Vella Cafe is quite palpable in this blurb, as it was in our own description yesterday. Get ready for some of the freshest pressed sandwiches this side of the Atlantic, and great breakfast wraps, too.
See? That wasn’t so bad, now was it.