Welcome to another Flyover Friday. This week we've got a couple breakfast-heavy reviews, a few steaks, as well as the alternating appearance and absence of accent marks on non-English words like jalapeno, banh mi, and creme brulee. So, with this week's rundown of Midwestern food criticism, a question for my readers: do you want publications to include accent marks on non-English words, or do they come off as pretentious, like an Anglo newscaster over-emphasizing Spanish words? Sound off in the comments section. The meat of this order continues after the jump.
"Freehouse needs focus and fine tuning," by Emily Weiss for Minneapolis City Pages
Minneapolis' The Freehouse got a lot of free press for its initial macrobrew pricing scheme, not all of it positive, and then got a pretty sharp "better shape up" review from James Norton at Heavy Table. Emily Weiss seconds the critique of Freehouse's freewheeling lack of focus.
"Big appetites necessary at Bassett Street Brunch Club," by Linda Falkenstein for Isthmus
I share Linda Falkenstein's bottom line on Bassett Street Brunch Club, in that it is kind of inexplicably magnetic. BSBC seems to more or less succeed where The Freehouse stumbles. The (and a fried egg) through-line makes me very happy; I'm always game for a good parenthetical aside.
"Summer House Santa Monica masters California artifice", by Mike Sula for Chicago Reader
The subject of Mike Sula's review this week seems to be an annoyingly rigid thematic interpretation of "California" more than the actual state of California. See: an $8 beach ball on the menu. Paging Annette Funicello. (Sula rightly points out that the promised local/seasonal bent of the menu may be impossible given the theme.)
"Twisted Willow sets the mood in Port Washington," by Carol Deptolla for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Where Summer House Santa Monica looks to be setting itself up for failure with its "seasonal California in Chicago" bent, Twisted Willow at least put Carol Deptolla at ease for visiting during a relatively produce-free season with its style and generally hearty menu.
"New El Asador offers steaks and elaborate Mexican fare," by Molly Abraham for the Detroit News
Molly Abraham poses a Seinfeldesque and pretty obvious question at the top of her review of El Asador, which appears to have strayed from the four-week rule I mentioned last week, if her estimation of "a few weeks" since opening is accurate. Steaks sound good, though.
"Breakfast spot draws in neighbors with flashy fare - like homemade Pop-Tarts," by Sarah Baker Hansen for the Omaha World-Herald
It's beyond official: homemade "Pop-Tarts" are a thing now. (In fact, mild trademark infringement is, I think, a thing as well. The Green Machine smoothie for example.) But I'd like to subscribe to this baked egg boat concept that's walk-and-eat-ready, even if it's got shredded yellow cheese on it.
"Mi Li's Asian Cuisine: Wide-ranging menu, variety of Pan-Asian fare," by Jon Christensen for the Columbus Dispatch
Jon Christensen describes Mi Li's summer rolls as including "two thin slices of shrimp," when the photo clearly shows three whole shrimp per roll. The perils of a scheduled photo shoot, I imagine -- the kitchen wants to show off. The barley ice intrigues me.
"At Cleveland Chop in the Warehouse District, a classic steakhouse with greater options," by Bob Migra for the Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Brownie S'more Sunday"? Please tell me it was just a spell-check error that made it past the editor. I don't know if I could handle a restaurant calling a sundae a Sunday without razzing them in a review.
"Bollywood Grill offers many unique, succulent choices," by Jeff Beutner for Shepherd Express
A tidy little review from southern Wisconsin's, ahem, other alt-weekly. Very positive, too, though the whole Bollywood angle smacks of overkill to me. I don't know if the typical Indian restaurant in the United States needs even more of a blast of color.
"Gamlin Whiskey House serves up big steaks and a lot of whiskey," by Ian Froeb for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
In a week of fairly positive reviews, especially within a fairly positive review, lines like "It looks and tastes like an Asian-fusion dish circa 1997" and "Whiskey is having a moment, but moments, by definition, end" are mighty cutting or surprisingly fatalistic, respectively.
"Brews beat the burgers at Next Door Brewing," by Lindsay Christians for the Capital Times
"Partially finished basement" is exactly how I felt about Next Door's dining room design aesthetic, and while I can't say whether Lindsay likes it, I can tell you I did. Lindsay, I'll get you into beer yet, but thank you for relying on an informed associate rather than writing off that section of the menu altogether.
"Italian newcomer Cicchetti delivers destination-worthy dishes," by Michael Nagrant for Red Eye Chicago
Welcome, Michael Nagrant, to Flyover Friday. "A lick of luscious duck liver pate," you say? I like that construction, sir; you can stay. Even if there's no circumflex over that 'a'.