The Other Critics

Vettel Loves Elizabeth’s Long, Strange Trip, Nagrant Doubts Mexique Is a Star

Bear at Elizabeth. Really.
Bear at Elizabeth. Really. Photo: Sky Full of Bacon

It’s review time, so it’s time to see what restaurant Time Out Chicago didn’t much care for that Phil Vettel gives three stars. Last week was Baume & Brix, this week it’s Elizabeth, and it’s clear that Vettel was happy to be taken along on Elizabeth’s trip: “Foraging is an imprecise science; one never knows what treasures might appear and when, and the joy of the finding compensates for the tedium of the looking. So it is for Regan’s restaurant. Her multicourse menus, the smallest of which require a three-hour commitment, provide moments of rapture, and occasionally of indifference. But nothing is ever less than interesting.” [Tribune]

Michael Nagrant talks tough love to newly anointed, and to his mind not fully up to the position, one-Michelin-star restaurant Mexique: “I’ve always seen Michelin-starred restaurants as destinations with superlative service and inventive cuisine for which you make no small plans to visit. And yet because you always get the same thing, Mexique is more of a solid neighborhood spot.” He admires some of chef Carlos Gaytan’s dishes, but executional errors and flat-out inattentive service leave him saying that “while the place was decent, my experience was that Mexique’s acquisition of that star was a touch larcenous.” [Sun-Times]

Mike Sula likes Badou Senegalese Cuisine in Rogers Park for Senegalese food crossed with soul food: “The greens were bright and snappy and the broken jollof rice grains were saturated by a brilliant burst of lime, lemon, and habanero that was tempered by the almost porky shreds of smoked bird. In my mind’s eye I drew a cartoon airplane bouncing from Howard Street to the west side to the Mississippi Delta and across the ocean to West Africa.” Besides the food, he’s interested by owner Badara Diakhate: “In addition to his day job he also blogs on African politics and plans to return to Senegal in time to run for president in 2022.” [Reader]

Sula is less keen on another exotic import, Iowa’s Maid-Rite. He has kind words for the franchisee’s off-the-standard-menu barbecue, but as for the iconic loose meat sandwich, “I took the precaution of ordering a “Cheese-Rite” instead of the original unadorned version, hoping that a slice of melted Swiss with mustard and onion might lend a measure of binding (and flavor) to the exercise. Nope. At the first bite, dry, flavorless brown shingle spilled out of the bun, leaving me with a mouthful of Nerf. It’s just not a good sandwich.” [Reader]

David Tamarkin returns to Avec to see if the transition from Koren Grieveson to Erling Wu-Bower, which is a bit apocalyptic in Tamarkin’s retelling, can keep it a favorite: “As I ate Wu-Bower’s food, I occasionally came across a plate that made me worry that in these early days, he is perhaps working too hard, layering too much. Some of the plates seemed, if not exactly complicated, fussed over. But this is not so much a criticism as it is an observation, because Wu-Bower’s flavors are pure, revelatory Avec. There’s the plate where a thin layer of toscano salumi is topped with half-moons of squash and shavings of Parmesan. ‘As simple as it gets,’ our server told us. Well, not really, but who cares? It worked.” [TOC]

Vettel Loves Elizabeth’s Long, Strange Trip, Nagrant Doubts Mexique Is a Star