Tribune Dining: Cheap Food, Street Food, Soul Food

• Let’s all say it together: recession. The entire food team at the Tribune gives us a delicious take on our economic downturn, listing their favorite food deals all over the city. Highlighted here, among others: the $5 glasses of wine at La Madia that, if you are at the bar, come with free pizza samples from 4-6pm on weekdays; the $6.50 bureka for two at Deta’s Cafe, the $23 prix fixe dinner at Cafe Matou, and — for a special evening — Phil Vettel suggests the $89 Surf ‘n turf for two at Holy Mackerel (70 Yorktown Center, Lombard, 630 953 3444). [Tribune]

• Monica Eng asks a really good question: With Mayor Daley so gung-ho on promoting health and active lifestyles, why’s it illegal for street vendors to sell prepared fruits and veggies? Apparently “anytime [vendors] compromise the skin of the fruit, it becomes illegal,” which seems a little overpaternalistic to us. And to Monica. Also, those cucumbers she talks about sound amazing. [Tribune]

• A whopping 3 stars from Phil Vettel to Clarendon Hill’s new southern-comfort-esque Soul (1 Walker Ave, Clarendon Hills, 630 920 1999). The restaurant is the brainchild of the same guys who brought us Le Lan, but they’ve committed themselves here to the work of chef Karen Nicholas, who takes classic American southern and soul dishes and imbues them with a high-end twist. The usual suspects are there: hoppin’ john, hush puppies, collard greens, candied yams. Vettel thinks it’s handled expertly, and is particularly enamored of the work of pastry chef Stephanie Prida, whose “desserts are so impressive that it’s probably just a matter of time before some deep-pocketed restaurant lures her away, so enjoy the sweets while you can.”

The weirdness comes in the last paragraph of the review: Vettel has what he calls an “Anton Ego moment” (funny, we always thought that was a Proustian moment, but Disney’ll do over great literature) when faced with a dish of caramelized peach slices, raspberries in a port reduction, lemon verbena ice cream, and toasted pound-cake croutons. Which apparently, for Phil Vettel, was the summer dish when he was a kid. Which seems a little, um, highbrow? For a kid? Decades ago? But we digress. [Vettel, Tribune]

[Photo: A street vendor in Colombia selling sliced mangos, which are illegal to sell on the streets of Chicago, via xmascarol’s Flickr]

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Tribune Dining: Cheap Food, Street Food, Soul Food