The Tribune and Time Out Chicago are both pretty light today with their food sections. At Play is mostly round-ups, which is neither here nor there. Phil Vettel continues to toot his own horn about Restaurant Week, as though he were the only one who thought it would be a good idea. But his review of Holy Mackerel in Lombard is benign enough, noting that the seafood restaurant (which has the strikes of “chain” and “hotel” against it) has a menu that changes daily and “always includes some not-the-usual-suspects, such as moonfish, opakapaka and recently cobia, which [Chef] Salgado splashed with a Spanish romesco sauce and a puree of orange cauliflower.” Which is fine by us.
As long as we’re on the subject of reviews…Glenn Jeffers and Chris Borelli Tablehopped at Ja’ Grill and Schwa; since both reviews were on The Stew last week, we already covered them. Karen Budell barhops at The Filthy Libertine, Par Lounge and Patsy’s Place. Lara Weber investigates prepared food options in Bucktown, sampling various soup, salad and sandwich options at The Goddess & Grocer and Olivia’s Market. Both have a good selection, but Olivia’s is more lunchy while G&G; holds up better to a dinner appetite.
TOC checks in with a review for Il Fiasco and a “Save this restaurant” for Nelly’s Saloon. David Tamarkin updates us on the changes at Il Fiasco, which bored him the first time he went last summer. The Andersonville Italian picked up chef Eric Aubriot, briefly of Alhambra Palace, who has fancified the menu in pleasing ways. Also, the service is disproportionately stellar, which is always a plus. As for Nelly’s Saloon, it’s an Avondale Romanian restaurant that has fallen on hard times. When the ethnic group your restaurant was built for moves away, it can be tough to keep a steady clientele whose tastes and loyalties vary widely. Once was, you’d sit down for your meal and coffee and cigarettes for hours, and many of those things are now improbable. But Nelly’s is frequently cited as one of the best Romanian restaurants in Chicago, so it is certainly worth your while to investigate.
Truth: our favorite article in either section this week is Hayley Bierkle’s “Three-way” on pickling. We’ve always like this feature, but this one was particularly impressive, featuring rice-wine vinegar-pickled pineapple, spiced vinegar-pickled banana “à la minute,” and chestnut honey and white balsamic vinegar-pickled dates. Because nobody pickles vegetables anymore!
Finally, a booze article. It’s actually TOC’s section headliner: David Tamarkin rounds up Midwestern artisanal spirits, with the cutesy scale of how many miles it’s worth driving to get, out of a hundred. It is basically just a simple score, although it’s worth noting that the same metric is used on Roadfood; there, the number of miles it’s worth driving to get to the given restaurant is actually a meaningful figure.
Ja’ Grill [MenuPages]
Ja’ Grill [Official Site]
Schwa [Official Site]
The Filthy Libertine [MenuPages]
The Filthy Libertine [Official Site]
The Goddess & Grocer [MenuPages]
The Goddess & Grocer [Official Site]
Il Fiasco [MenuPages]
Il Fiasco [Official Site]
Nelly’s Saloon [MenuPages]
[Photo: Ficat de Pui cu Màmàligà si Usturoi,* a classic Romanian dish (aran but whothehellgivesadamn/flickr)]
* liver and polenta, yum. The polenta kind of looks like mango sorbet, right?