This week’s Omnivorous has Mike Sula on the South Side, pulling up a stool at a Whiskey Row saloon called Stanley’s. We have three Stanley’s restaurants in our database (Stanley’s, Stanley’s Grille, Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap), but not this one - it’s really too cool to be on the Internet. The bar has been around, and run by the same family, since the Depression. Proprietress Wanda Kurek makes a lunch special every day of classic hearty Polish food, occasionally supplemented by the bartender’s testicle-sized dumplings. The article unexpectedly delves into the absurd and macabre saga of trucks skipping the curb on extra-wide 43rd street and smashing into the bar - first we hear about a few lost beer signs, but then out of nowhere, we’re told that Wanda’s brother-in-law was killed by one of those trucks, and the family has been kept in limbo by the city ever since. Equal parts classically tragic and tragically classic, and so Chicago.
Also very Chicago: ripping into Pat Bruno. First, Bruno writes a favorable review of Vong’s Thai Kitchen in River North, which serves expensive Americanized Thai food made with decent ingredients. An uncritical eye would just glaze over and move on to something more interesting, but Mike Nagrant’s eye has daggers shooting out of it. In a Hungry Magazine piece, Nagrant excoriates Bruno for choosing an irrelevant restaurant to review, lazy reporting, using tired adjectives, generally having a narrow focus, and a disinterest in elevating the tastes of his audience. Why not look at real Thai restaurants like Spoon or TAC Quick or Sticky Rice, Nagrant asks?
Well, given his venue, he’s certainly preaching to the choir. Wait, were we talking about Nagrant, or Bruno? Oh, right, both. Bruno’s readership - or at least as Bruno imagines it because he gets to choose his own adventure as a freelancer - walks past VTK all the time and wants to know what the deal is. Bruno…tells them! Could Bruno add an another sentence about authentic Thai restaurants around the city? Sure he could! But look on the bright side - it’s not as if the people who read Bruno in the Sun-Times cannot and do not get restaurant reviews and advice from other sources. So while some of the criticism that Nagrant has made of Bruno are valid - on issues of research, style and sophistication - that fact that Bruno chose one restaurant vs. another to review is somewhat less egregious than Nagrant makes it out to be. But by all means, let the invective fly!
Incidentally, Bruno thinks that Frankie’s 5th Floor Pizzeria at the Shops at 900 N Michigan is kind of terrible, noting disdainfully that he’s “had better frozen pizzas.” And he specifically calls out LEYE on doing a crappy job, too. So it’s not all pandering!