TOC + Tribune: Rants & Raves & Restaurants

• Chris Borrelli’s rant about being asked by waiters if he’d dined at their restaurant before — as a preamble to an explanation about how the restaurant “works” — is on par with Christopher Hitchens’ screed against wine pouring practices: more sensical to read as a parody of restaurant reviewers’ complaints than as the real thing. Because, really, is it that annoying to be walked through a restaurant’s idiosyncratic menu and service style? Certainly one could feel one’s intelligence is being insulted, but that happens in myriad ways all day every day anyway. This is worth singling out? Not really.

• Meanwhile, Kids’ Restaurant Week is about to start [Tribune]

What’s happening in Time Out?

• Well, Mike Nagrant hunts down M.I.A. Chicago chefs from Christmas Past. Some of them live in really boring places like Jupiter, Fla., and others are gearing up to open new restaurants in Chicago. If you recognize all of the names, you get a Foodie Gold Star.

• Sometimes we wonder how the themes for the Three-Way feature are chosen. This week it’s basil seeds, an obscure ingredient in the best of times. There’s Find-a-Food Search and all that, but this is the sort of ingredient that doesn’t stay on the menu long enough to get put into a database, if it’s on the menu at all. So how to discover that L.2O uses it with fluke sashimi and Veerasway makes a cocktail with it? An abiding mystery.

As for the reviews…

Mercat a la Planxa not only makes some of the best Spanish food in Chicago, but also offers infectiously upbeat service and a cool atmosphere (Vettel) [Tribune]

Con Sabor Cubano serves homey Cuban fare in Albany Park, and excels at a massive Cubano sandwich. Their unique, spicy burger would go well with some BYOB (Borrelli) [Tribune]

Little Brother’s is more than an Asian fast food joint; much care is put into the Korean specialties, even if they’re then put into a Styrofoam box (Tamarkin) [TOC]

Skewerz is a healthy, doable option for post-partying lining-of-stomach in Wicker Park, even if the name is stupid and the themes are tacky. Best bet: graham-cracker-crusted sweet potato fritters (Shouse) [TOC]

[Photo: you have to order this from Mercat in advance, via fenger8/flickr]


TOC + Tribune: Rants & Raves & Restaurants