Remember how excited I was that last week's Phil Vettel review was on the free side of the Chicago Tribune's paywall? Well, Imma start calling him Punxsutawney, because he's back behind that paywall like a groundhog on February 3rd. I don't know how that paper gets away with doing that; I'd be pissed if my city's paper kept the general public from reading its restaurant reviews. But who am I to say what should work for Chicago? (And while I assure you this Chicago-heavy intro has nothing to do with my appearance on WBEZ's Strange Brews podcast this week, it certainly is a handy way to bring it up.) Anyway, on with this week's Flyover Friday.
"F&O's Chicago-style deep dish lacks pizzazz," by Carlos Acevedo for the Des Moines Register
More Chicago? This is embarrassing. Our first Flyover Friday foray into the Great Pizza Debate of 2014 (and 2013, and 2012, etc. ad nauseam) comes from Des Moines of all places. Acevedo starts as a NY-style acolyte, but warms to a Chicago style pie as s served by the subject of his review. My thought: if folding a slice for cleanliness is so damned important, order a calzone for crying out loud. That said, I've gone on record with the following sentiment recently, and I still hold it true: all pizza is beautiful in the dark.
"New cafe embracing Riverwest community: Cafe Vocar quickly making a name for itself," by Amanda Sullivan for Milwaukee's Shepherd Express
Impressive slow-play on the part of the restaurateur, holding a space for almost a decade in the hopes that a restaurant soon would be there I also like how he's using the space as a very democratic community resource. Food sounds good, too -- hearty, from the "unfashionable" section of Europe, very Milwaukee. As always, a wisp of a review, but decent all the same.
"Spare No Rib's Mexican and barbecue are an (unlikely) match made in heaven," by Cheryl Baehr for the St. Louis Riverfront Times
I'm hereby nominating "A barbecue joint and taqueria opened by a Tunisian mathematician sounded like a potentially disastrous hodgepodge" for Hilariously Self-Evident Passage of the Year. I continue to be a big fan of Baehr's reviews; every question I'd likely have asked is answered by her perspective on the restaurants she reviews. And yes, I totally agree with her that I'd eat that chorizo sope every damn morning.
"Baffo tries to bring a bit of Mario Batali's Babbo to the Midwest," by Mike Sula for the Chicago Reader
No sacred cows here, as Sula delivers an almighty beatdown on what sound like some horrific mutations of Mario Batali's beloved Italian cuisine at this Eataly sit-down spot. There's more bad than good in his rundown, but if the shoe fits. That carpaccio version of vitello tonnato sounds weird as hell, and tut's a dish that from all indications usually sounds at least a little awful even when it isn't.
"Rushing Waters' Trout House lures fish fans to Palmyra," by Carol Deptolla for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
It's all-caps LENT here in the Midwest -- I mean, it's Lent everywhere but it seems that the month of Catholic forbearance seems to take on a primary importance in the Midwest, especially in food writing. All the papers I cover here had some kind of Best Fish Fry listicle, and if one hasn't yet, it probably will. Deptolla hits the Trout House on a Lenten Friday, which is a double-whammy to be sure, and still only encounters a 10-minute wait? I could drive there and still be competitive with some of the wait times at popular fish fry joints in Madison, even with the added 10 minutes. And I just might, because I love Rushing Waters' product. Deptolla does, too, by and large.
"Sheridan area French Manor has some kinks but is trés bon," by Amy Lynch for the Indianapolis Star
So, let's get a couple things out of the way. 1) The Indy Star's website is awful. 2) I'm not totally sure this is a proper review. 3) We haven't seen hide nor hair of this paper throughout Flyover Friday's run. But let's pretend. It's a little light on detail, a little too focused on personal detail, and short. ...Having a hard time maintaining the pretend. Needs work.
"Royal Oak's new Bistro 82 delivers a sure, sophisticated take on French bistro cuisine," by Sylvia Rector for the Detroit Free Press
We get a couple MIA reviewers this week, with the previous, and now this, the first appearance of the Freep's Sylvia Rector. "Barely been open a month" is a shameless acknowledgment of fudging the rules, but Rector has a deft enough touch in not holding the place to too much going forward. "Upstairs Sabrage ultra lounge as metro-wide dining and entertainment destination" sounds like a Tom Haverford business proposal.
"Royal Oak's new Bistro 82 serving up beautiful plates," by Molly Abrahamson for the Detroit News
Listen, I don't want to sound disrespectful, but Detroit's been this up-and-coming hipster locale for long enough that, well, shouldn't there be some younger, hipper food critics there? Well, whatever -- Abrahamson takes on Rector in this point-counterpoint review of Bistro 82. Not much counterpoint, though; they both love it. Abrahamson just spends more time talking about the napkins and decor, as is her wont.
"Try It Raw: cool dishes," by Noelle Lothamer for Detroit's Metro Times
Hey, this seems younger! "Mouth crammed with kale" basically describes all millennials, doesn't it? I'm not going to lie, this restaurant sounds like a miserable experience in the winter. Vegetables deserve better than to be finagled into pale, unheated imitations of other foods. Leave that to, I don't know, Jelly Bellies.
"Persis Chutnys: Tandoori chicken top choice at source for Indian entrees," by Jon Christensen for the Columbus Dispatch
Gah! There's just no excuse for writing a parenthetical price reference as the last "word" in a review. Christensen only drops one "seems" in this piece, however, and makes it into the sixth graf before dropping it. The restaurant, which he seems to enjoy all right, is done no favors by this review.
"Leghorn brings sustainably-sourced chicken sammies to Ukrainian Village," by Dana Moran for Chicago's RedEye
What's worse, the use of "sammies" in the headline, or the description of Foghorn Leghorn as "dim-witted"? The sandwiches at this coincidentally highly clickable review ("Ukraine") sound amazing, however. I don't know how sustainable this grunt work-heavy business model is, given the traffic level, but I wish Team Leghorn well. I'd much rather visit here than the unnamed-in-review Chick-fil-A on my next IKEA/Mitsuwa roadie to the Windy City metro area.
"Hot dogs and hamburgers: two new(ish) joints are slinging the American staples," by Douglass Trattner for the Cleveland Scene
A fun little couplet from Trattner. Is it wrong that when he rattled off the imposing selection of possible toppings at StrEat's burger counter, I kind of wanted a burger with all of them? (Answer: It probably is, yes.) Nice to see that Cleveland's close enough to Wisconsin for cheese curds to not require explanation, because I mean come on. Whiskey Dogg, on the other hand, seems to tread a little too closely to an uncouth slang term for a...lack of performance, but hey, whatever works.
"Tip Top Tavern has admirers all over town," by Samara Kalk Derby for the Wisconsin State Journal
"Renovated Tip Top offers a new take on a venerable north side tavern," by Lindsay Christians for the Capital Times
Another review duel, this time from the in-house pair of SKD and Christians. I was under the impression that Tip Top was still operating under a limited menu; that's what the tavern's website indicates, anyway. Drive-bys have shown it to be a very popular spot already, so kudos to these two for finding a place to sit and eat something.
"Blowin' Smoke dominates the barbecue scene from Waunakee," by yours truly for Madison's Isthmus
This review process washed away all the disappointment of my recent Blair Street Brew and BBQ and That BBQ Joint reviews, and I encourage you to not only read the review, but make the easier-than-you-might-think trip to Blowin' Smoke, if you're in the greater Madison area. Absolutely, no question, the best barbecue around these parts.