The Other Critics

Vettel Finds Bliss at Two-Star Found; Worley Howls at ¡Ay Chiwowa!

A charcuterie board at Found.
A charcuterie board at Found. Photo: Galdones Photography

Explaining why Amy Morton returned to running a restaurant after a two-decade hiatus with Evanston’s Found, Phil Vettel says “I can think of a few hundred people who are happy she did, most of whom are waiting for their names to be called… Nicole Pederson, last seen as executive chef at the late C-House, the Marcus Samuelsson restaurant, has abandoned the refinement of her previous work for a more rustic American approach… Fun dishes include oyster tacos with pickled poblano and tomatillo peppers and cilantro crema, lamb-pork meatballs combined with a pistachio chimichurri sauce, and grilled Spanish octopus in a frisee forest concealing nuggets of roasted sunchokes and picholine olives. Twice-fried chicken wings are coated in a thick lemon-honey glaze that’s incredibly sticky — my kingdom for a hot towel! — but pretty darn yummy. Creamy polenta arrives with almonds, mushrooms, smoky blue cheese and a slow-poached egg; mix them together and you get a big mess, but it’s an umami bomb of soul-comforting flavors. [Tribune]

Kevin Pang, a wrestling fan, looks at one of the year’s more incongruous openings, The Squared Circle, the pizzeria owned by women’s wrestling champion Lisa Marie Varon: “Real-life Lisa Marie happily snapped photos with fans, offered hugs, then sat down with customers and asked for feedback on food. She shared war stories from the wrestling road — she spent 10 years in the WWE as Victoria, where twice she held the women’s championship belt. When she left the restaurant that night, it was because she had to walk her dogs.” So how’s the ‘za? “The pizza and burgers at The Squared Circle are quite good, miles beyond my expectations for a pro wrestling-themed restaurant. The regular crust isn’t too dough- or yeast-heavy, doesn’t swell around the perimeter and is closer in bite to a crisp, lightly garlicked breadstick. (There’s also cracker crust and deep dish.) The underside is uniformly golden with dimples along the surface, good if you prefer hearing your pizza while biting.” [Tribune]

It’s always fun to read an outright slam, even if it’s an pleasure to be indulged in but rarely by a writer. Sam Worley earned his at ¡Ay Chiwowa!: “A general theme pervades: it’s tiny and it’s not very good. Tacos, tortas, taquitos, a couple seafood things, quesadillas—they look to be a great deal, right up till the moment they hit the table. At eight dollars, two shrimp tacos were so puny I wanted to put a jacket on them and feed them a home-cooked meal; with the addition of “corn tomato cream,” they tasted like Krab… Actually, here’s the best thing about ¡Ay Chiwowa! The first night we went, we escaped afterward to Club Lago, an old-school Italian restaurant and bar just around the corner. They mix an excellent manhattan. The second time, ¡Ay Chiwowa! was closed—so we went back to Lago. The third time, a Saturday night, ¡AC! was closed till 8 PM for a private event—Lago again.” [Reader]

David Tamarkin doubts how much Fabio Viviani actually has to do with Siena Tavern, but nevertheless, “I had to check myself when it came to the bolognese, because it was everything I could ever ask the dish to be: fresh pasta with a textural bite, and a sauce that goes deep, so deep in flavor you start digging for secret ingredients. The pizzas are also impressive, very thin but very crisp—when you pick up a slice, it holds its shape, and when you bite it, it has a satisfying crunch. Did I mention I ate all of this food at the crudo bar, the one area where I was able to snag seats on two visits? And did I mention that even the idea of a crudo bar is more than I was willing to give Fabio credit for? I guess I need to give these television chefs a break.” [TOC]

Vettel Finds Bliss at Two-Star Found; Worley Howls at ¡Ay Chiwowa!