The Other Critics

Chinatown Showdown: The Tribune Takes on Time Out Chicago

Do you know your way around?
Do you know your way around? Photo: urbanwoodswalker/Flickr

In today’s Cheap Eater column in the Tribune, Keven Pang presents a truly exhaustive overview of the Chinese food available in Chinatown. Starting with the claim that “80 percent of restaurant menus serve the same food,” he goes in search of the other 20 percent, managing to pick out a staggering 26 places to eat everything from Hong Kong barbecue to “phoenix talons,” which are “savory, one-slurp chicken feet.” What’s interesting is that Time Out Chicago’s did their own Chinatown issue just a few weeks ago. To be perfectly fair, Pang’s article is focused exclusively on food, while Time Out Chicago dipped into bars, historical sites, medicine, grocery stores, and Miss Chinatown’s favorite spots. But it’s still interesting to see what knowledge can be gleaned about a dining area that rarely gets this much exposure.

Both articles trip over a few of the same places, including Tony Hu’s Lao Shanghai. Shockingly, neither article spends much time at Little Three Happiness, which so inspired some local residents that they founded LTHForum based on its initials. But here are a few of the more interesting conclusions.

Creative Angle

TOC: “Decoding Chinatown, An Insiders Guide.”
Laura Baginski goes eating with Z.J. Tong, the founder of the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute.
Trib: “A Chinese Guy’s Guide to Eating in Chinatown”
The Chinese guy happens to be James Beard Award winning journalist Kevin Pang.

Is Double Li actually Szechuan?
TOC: Yes. “We find plenty of fire at the bright yellow-walled, diner like Double Li which serves spicy Szechuan food.”
Tribune: No. “Though not technically Szechuanese, Double Li is really known for one dish: the black pepper-garlic beef tenderloin ($12), which repels amorous advances and vampires alike, but goodness, is it tasty.”

Best Non-Chinese Food in Chinatown: Japanese at Practical Tips:
TOC: “To make sure you’re getting fresh fish in Chinatown get it steamed. If it’s sautéed, it’s easier to hide that it’s frozen.”
Trib: “There will be an inevitable language barrier. Smile, use hand gestures and don’t ask for substitutions.”

A Chinese guy’s guide to eating in Chinatown [Chicago Tribune]

Chinatown: Insiders’ Guide [Time Out Chicago]

Chinatown Showdown: The Tribune Takes on Time Out Chicago