TOC Reviews: Urban Foraging, Late Night Comestibles

You know, we had enough of a stress attack thinking about the prospect of our beloved food & dining journalists at the Tribune getting the sack (or taking buyouts) in the flurry of upheaval that was happening over there in the past few weeks. Seriously, you try reading Chris Borrelli and Monica Eng every week and not love them a little bit and want them to come to your dinner parties. We are only just now recovering our normal heartrate.

But now there’s this: News out of the NYC rumor mill that Time Out: NY might be in dire financial straits. We realize, of course, that TONY is not TOC — one of the most notable differences between the city editions is that TONY competes with, among others, New York Magazine (disclosure: they own MenuPages), which is also a weekly mag with listings and a high-traffic website. And the Time Out family encompasses some 40 markets, so even if TONY bites the big one, there is no reason to think that TOC is in any danger. BUT STILL. We are stressing out a tidge over our internet-food-writing buddies (if only in our minds) David Tamarkin and Heather Shouse (who, for the record, has nothing in this week’s edition — we hope she’s having a wonderful vacation, wherever she is).

But, like our therapist says, we focus perhaps too much on worst-case scenarios, and we should instead pay attention to the present. So with that in mind, on with the show.

• Rod O’Connor takes us into the secret world of the Primitive Skills Meetup Urban Foraging Group (we would pay solid cash for one of their t-shirts, with a name like that). They’re a group of Chicago folks who do extremely awesome things; specifically, they identify and search for edible plants (wood sorrel! wild grapes!) in forest preserves and other nature-filled areas. They also host classes on how to track animals and make your own tools, and basically if the revolution/apocalypse/ice age comes, they will be the ones who laugh at the rest of us as we ineffectively bang rocks on atomically-fused-shut cans of beefaroni and cry to the heavens. They seem like nice people, though, so they will probably offer us a bite of their salad.

The restaurants rounded up this week are all late-night dining joints.

Cat’s Meow (2700 W Chicago Ave, 773 489 6998), open until 3am on weekends, is the kind of place to go when you’re already drunk. So the food isn’t really the issue — it’s okay, not terrific — but it’s exactly the kind of sop-up you want to consume when you’re at least six sheets out. We are particularly intrigued by the article-accompanying photo of one girl licking another girl’s kicked-up bootheel. David Tamarkin, were you there? [Tamarkin, TOC]

• Up next, the much-buzzed Ian’s Pizza, open until 2:30am most days, later on game nights, and home of the famous macaroni-and-cheese slice. That signature triangle of carbs and cheese gets the damning praise of “slightly bland, it’s not nearly as bad as it sounds,” but there’s other stuff on the menu that will go ideally with the 1am air. If you don’t see a pre-made combination that strikes your fancy, you can always DIY. [Taylor, TOC]

• Last, but certainly not least, Paula & Monica’s (1518 W Chicago Ave, 312 929 3615), newly opened and keeping the doors open until 2am on weekends. While the slices are more than $4 each, they’re also the size of two average slices at any other pizzeria, so it’s savings through volume. Toppings don’t stray too far from the standard fare, though there are six kinds of peppers. Gelato and ice cream, too, for when the drunk fairies are telling you to have something cold and unhealthy, instead of hot and unhealthy. [Taylor, TOC]

[Photo: 3-cheese flatbread at Cat’s Meow, via The Winchester - aka Paul’s Flickr]

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TOC Reviews: Urban Foraging, Late Night Comestibles