Is L.A. Invading Chicago?

Clockwise: Big Star's al pastor; Pinkberry; Belly Shack's belly dog with kimchi salsa; Sprinkles cupcakes
Clockwise: Big Star’s al pastor; Pinkberry; Belly Shack’s belly dog with kimchi salsa; Sprinkles cupcakes Photo: ehfisher/Flickr; herkie/Flickr; Belly Shack; Sprinkles

We can’t deny that we’ve noticed a Los Angeles influence on Chicago’s restaurant scene of late, whether it’s Bill Kim putting L.A. furniture and playing L.A. music in Belly Shack or the promised opening of a Sprinkles Cupcakes store on Michigan Avenue. The folks at Time Out Chicago also noticed the L.A. creep, and have itemized five indicators that the Windy City is going the way of The City of Angels. We put their assertions to the ultimate authority, Grub Street L.A. editor Hadley Tomicki, who passed judgment on whether we’re truly being invaded by SoCal trends:

Paul Kahan took inspiration for Big Star from L.A.’s hardcore taco scene.
We say: True. He tweeted as much, and that’s good enough for us.
GS LA says: True. “Kahan gets props for the Alex Chilton reference in Big Star’s name. Glad he was out here dining on taco trucks around Cypress Park and Highland Park, which are not on the typical tourist routes but have some of the city’s best and most inspiring Mex.”

Belly Shack is Bill Kim’s way of bringing the famous Kogi truck to the Midwest.
We say: Maybe. Kim is definitely inspired by L.A., but Kogi’s known for their tacos, which Kim doesn’t have on the menu.
GS LA says: Maybe. “I hardly think Kogi is seeing green, other than what’s flowing into their cash register. They certainly originated the Korean-Mexican fusion craze, but by now they must be getting used to the slew of imitators and inspired chefs doing the same. It’s gone national — even Baja Fresh tried to roll out a Kogi knockoff.”

Govind Armstrong has been teasing that he’ll bring a branch of his L.A.-based restaurant Table 8 to Chicago.
We say: False. L.A.’s Table 8 is closed, the Miami edition has filed for bankruptcy, and the New York edition has been critically slammed.
GS LA says: False. “However sexy he is, Govind doesn’t belong solely to L.A. anymore. Table 8 locally hasn’t re-opened as promised, though we do have a good burger bar from the Armstrong. Considering that he’s taken the Table 8 brand national, it seems perfectly logical Chicago is next.”

Frozen yogurt is so L.A.
We say: Maybe. Yes, it’s a very Southern California trend — you can’t throw a brick out there without hitting a Pinkberry or a Pinkberry clone. But Chicagoans haven’t exactly taken to the trend the way the chains’ corporate overlords seem to want us to. L.A.’s trying, but they’re failing.
GS LA says: True. “We can rightfully take credit for the explosion of Pinkberry and its gazillions of knock-offs like Red Mango and Yogen Fruz, which once saw lines stretch to the sidewalk. Our apologies, Chi-town. We promise this craze will die right around the same time every other person decides to open their own frozen yogurt shop.”

Sprinkles Cupcakes is horning in on More’s territory.
We say: True. To be honest, we can hardly tell one cupcake from another anymore. If Sprinkles succeeds, it’ll be thanks to its glossy La-La Land cred — it’s a favorite of famous types like Katie Holmes.
GS LA says: False. “This whole cupcake thing was really born in New York. Sprinkles certainly filled L.A.’s demand for trendy cupcakes, though it was more about timing than quality: it was only a matter of time before someone gave in to the West Coast Sex & The City fans. Today cupcake demand is everywhere, so it makes sense that Sprinkles expands into a new market now that their once-epic lines in L.A. are shrinking.”

Final Verdict
We say: There might be a little influence, but we’re not stealing as many LA trends as it might appear.
GS LA says: Whatever, you’re just inheriting all the all the second-hand trends, anyway (minus tacos, which are always in style).

City of Chicago: We’re Becoming L.A. [TOC]

Is L.A. Invading Chicago?