The Other Critics

Shouse Smokes Pork Shoppe; Ruby Scratches Head at Greek Islands and Bob Chinn’s

Photo: Courtesy Ed Fisher

Heather Shouse has delivered swift justice to more than one new barbecue joint and she does it for Pork Shoppe. She dings the pulled pork for being “sucked clean of its moisture” and damns with faint praise the ribs, “good only by comparison to everything else coming out of the smoker. They still lack the juice, the smoky flavor and the telltale pink smoke ring needed to compete.” The one meat that earns real praise is the pork belly pastrami, which shows that ex-Tizi Melloul chef Jason Heiman “isn’t fumbling around in the dark.” [TOC]

Jeff Ruby lights a bonfire and cries Opa! over two long-running, high-grossing but mediocre restaurants that he says prove that “an irresistible environment… transcends food altogether.” At Greek Islands, he admires the smoothly-operating atmosphere of conviviality, but “table and tablemates alike groaned from a hulking pile of spongy-weird gyros.” The is-everybody-having-fun? feel of Bob Chinn’s in Wheeling he calls “more Great America than Greek Islands,” but says “even the staff’s sunny hospitality could not overcome flaccid sautéed soft-shell crab, over-oily calamari, and a tasteless Nigerian prawn the size and texture of a banana.” [Chicago]

Michael Nagrant is happening in Vegas and staying in Vegas this week, but in lieu of an outright review he leaves behind some tips of individual dishes he’s loved recently, including the Frozen Corn Nougat at The Girl and The Goat, “a tiny jam jar filled with a cool sweet slurry studded with local sweet corn and smoky bacon set off by a sweet acidic punch of plum-apricot gastrique,” which he says proves “not all Top Chef contestants are dessert-challenged.” And despite boredom with steak, he goes all Kerouac for Epic’s “smoked sea-salt-rubbed magazine-spread-worthy cross-hatch-grill-marked pink-ruby medium-rare centered juicy ribeye.” [New City]

Chicago Gluttons have been downright respectable of late, but ordering something called Pig Face at The Girl and The Goat sends them on one of their classic over-the-top obscenity-spewing rants: “Pig Face is a goddamned pig face, torn off the pig, snout and all… This unholy talisman is then braised for a day (alternatively, it can be nailed to your enemy’s front door as a warning) and finished in the impressive wood-burning stove, sliced into innocent-looking bologna-shaped pieces and served to you with a sunny-side up egg on top. The egg seems to be saying, ‘Hey! Hi there! Nothing sinister here! Happiness! Joy! I am not hiding the face flesh of a swine ripped from its brain pan and wrapped around its own tongue!’” We guess they liked it. [Chicago Gluttons]

Shouse Smokes Pork Shoppe; Ruby Scratches Head at Greek Islands and Bob Chinn’s