TOC Digested: Fat, Cheese, Pickles And Bread

Happy Halloween, y’all! Today we are dressed up as A Person Who Did Not Publish This Post Yesterday. It involves a pretty sweet mask. (Last year we dressed as a slutty Person Who Did Not Publish This Post Yesterday, but we can’t find the bikini top right now.)

• Here’s something we know about the Sun-Times’ Pat Bruno: he hates sharing a table with strangers. So he’s going to want to stay far, far away from Lisa Shames’s listicle of seven rules of communal tables. It’s interesting to note that the four name-checked restaurants are all recent opens that generated a lot of buzz — The Bristol, The Publican, Duchamp, and Urban Belly are all familiar to readers of this blog. The rules range from not being the jackass on the cell phone to not putting your crap on the seat next to you, and should be framed and laminated and hung on the wall in every single communal dining institution everywhere in the world.

• Speaking of The Bristol, it lands four out of six stars from David Tamarkin in its first official in-print review. The restaurant’s been open just over a month (38 days, but who’s counting?) but it was pretty evident from week one that they were in their stride. Tamarkin dives headfirst into the communal tables (the wait is shorter for a seat at one, which puts you that much closer to the holy foursome of “fat, cheese, pickles and bread”)*, where he finds a difficult-to-quantify mix of the not-so-good (watermelon ice, the monkey bread), the okay (parmesan-crusted sausage), and the sublime (fried sardines, egg-and-ricotta raviolo). As he notes, so much of the menu changes daily that it’s hard for a critic to provide us with a real roadmap to the menu, but clearly the kitchen’s sensibilities are in the right place, and odds are in the diner’s favor.

• Martha Bayne issues a heartfelt plea to Save This Restaurant for Sahara Kabob, the only Assyrian restaurant in Rogers Park (and quite possibly all of the Midwest). Where else can you get your fix of douckua, a 7,000-year-old yogurt/lamb/barley soup? Er, the recipe, that is. The soup is made fresh daily.

• Tamarkin brings us home with a three-way on pickling (which we learned from the Bristol review that he loves just as much as we do). His pick? The potent pickled sardines at Avec, the pickled pears that adorn the pear-and-sheeps-milk-ricotta raviolo at North Pond (pickling is a strict seasonalist’s convenient workaround for incorporating summer flavors into winter dishes), and finally the made-fresh-every-day pickled eggplant at Urban Belly, which we would like to say nice things about, but we are allergic to eggplant. A fact we have never been more sad about than at this very moment.

[Photo: the interior of the Bristol, complete with communal tables]

*Hey! TOC doesn’t use the Oxford comma!

TOC Digested: Fat, Cheese, Pickles And Bread