The food website Serious Eats does the occasional review of a hot restaurant, or posts a report from a city's dining scene. It's almost always New York, or somewhere in California, or maybe Chicago. Eater.com (as much as I love 'em for their affiliate and mini-affiliate local sites) does a weekly roundup of restaurant reviews from the past week or so (or did, anyway; Associate Editor Paula Forbes reminds me that Eater hasn't posted one in over a year), and it's all Wells and Sietsema and Gold and the occasional Vettel. Fat chance you'll see a restaurant critic from Minneapolis or Milwaukee or Madison -- and it's not that they all start with M. It's that they're in the middle.
Okay, that starts with an M, too, but that's really not my point.
The point is that they're all in the area of the country that sites like Serious Eats mysteriously fail to cover. There's still a food crit blind spot for the Midwest. But you guys travel, whether it's for work or fun, and if you didn't like to read about food, you wouldn't be here. So here it is, my Midwest-centric roundup of restaurant criticism, because yes, there is restaurant criticism here. Welcome to Flyover Friday.
"The Dawson is a great bar with pretty good food," by Mike Sula for the Chicago Reader
Sula is one of my favorite Midwest food writers, and he earns every inch the Reader gives him. "Bident-wielding satyr" is not a phrase every writer can pull off. The sour red ale gelée he mentions in this review literally made me gasp.
"Find fresh, lively, flavorful at Cheng's Garden," by Carlos Acevedo for the Des Moines Register
Yes, this is a review of what seems like a pretty basic American-style Chinese takeout joint, but Acevedo acknowledges it and lets the restaurant be what it is. Every review can't be white tablecloths.
"Leawood's 801 Fish is a place to splurge on seafood," by Steve Paul for the Kansas City Star
Boy, the day I sell my constant dining companion -- my wife, in my case, if not also in Mr. Paul's -- down the river as a serial complainer is the day I get left in the restaurant parking lot. Godspeed, Steve.
"Fare at Cork Wine Pub rivals that at big-city restaurants," by Molly Abraham for the Detroit News
I guess 700,000 compared to 2.7 million makes Detroit a markedly smaller city than Chicago, but the differentiation still seems weird to me. A short review, but a positive one.
"Revamped 128 Cafe has new menu, same cozy setting," by Jess Fleming for the Pioneer Press
While Rick Nelson eases into 2014 at the Star Tribune, Fleming hits this St. Paul spot for a revisit of sorts. One editorial note: I can't say I've seen horseradish hyphenated in this century.
"Southern bread: John Perkins' new restaurant, Juniper, does Dixie cuisine proud," by Cheryl Baehr for the St. Louis Riverfront Times
Itinerant underground and pop-up star finally settles down, serves killer bread basket. I do love carbs, so I'm as drawn in to this review as Baehr was to Juniper. Use of the term "Snackies," however, can go, John.
"Gallerie Bar & Bistro: Intriguing dishes could use better preparation," by Jon Christensen for the Columbus Dispatch
Here's the claws-out review of the week. I'm not sure if there's a culinary timidity at play (worries over rare duck breast?) or if the place is that bad. Sauteed foie gras atop a cardamom mousse does sound kind of awful.
"It's nice to be Humble Wine Bar, when the food and service are as good as at this Lakewood spot," by Beth Segal for the Cleveland Plain Dealer
That's a very long title, Cleveland. Your SEO is out of control. There are also way too many buts in here -- nine in the body of the review. That dessert looks good though.
"When it's open, Layla's Persian Food delights," by Samara Kalk Derby for 77 Square (I think)
Listen. It's hard enough to parse the banner and the byline, which announce two different publications. But to review a restaurant -- even one with obnoxiously inconstant hours -- after one visit is just plain unfair to the restaurant, even if the review is generally positive.
"Chef Justin Carlisle's Ardent looks to Wisconsin with a fresh approach," by Carol Deptolla for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
This one's exciting, not just for being a high-profile Wisconsin review, but for Chef Carlisle's Madison connections. He was the opening chef at 43 North and worked at Harvest as well as other restaurants in Madison and beyond. Deptolla's pretty unqualified in her praise; this is a great opening for Milwaukee, and the state at large.
"That BBQ Joint on Willy Street hits highs and lows with good cheer," by yours truly for Isthmus
This was not, despite how it might appear, all a thinly veiled attempt to pimp my own output. But my review of That BBQ Joint did come out in the designated timeframe for Flyover Friday consideration (the week running from Friday to Thursday), so go take a look, eh? And I'll see you next week for another Flyover Friday.