The idea behind Flyover Friday is, essentially, a desire to show that there's both interesting culinary activity in the Midwest, and also thoughtful, quality consideration of that food in the form of restaurant criticism. This is not to say that the equation is always balanced, or that the attempts are always successful. Whether it's a restaurant, or a review, there's always a lead balloon or two. Welcome to this week's Flyover Friday.
"Greenisland Irish Restaurant & Pub in Bay Village honors legacy of 'the auld sod,' mainstream fare too," by Joe Crea for the Cleveland Plain Dealer
St. Patrick's Day-themed reviews are a little out-of-date at this point, but that's a symptom of my window of consideration, not CPD's timing. Crea should be chiding his "'foodie' friends," if they aren't a hypothetical, for passing ethnic slurs as punchlines. (If they're nothing but a crutch to tell a tacky joke, Crea should be chided -- probably should anyway, frankly. He also shouldn't be proudly ordering a Bass if he's playing at Irishness; Harp, please.) Anyway, an uneven review.
"Rough waters at Kinmont," by Mike Sula for the Chicago Reader
From the operators of Leghorn Chicken (featured last week) comes Kinmont, a sustainable fish house. I'm skipping to the end to say that a single-serve apple pie topped/filled with hot cheddar-caramel sauce is both Midwestern-brilliant and perfectly Chicago-appropriate. Kristine's gonna make it for me here at home. Sula's got criticism for the overall operation at Kinmont, but that dessert intrigues me as much as it pleased him.
"John & Nick's ranks as a winner," by Carlos Acevedo for the Des Moines Register
I like the approach of this review: a frank, challenging appraisal of the value of Best Of lists. Is it the best, or is it just the most popular/affordable? Acevedo takes in the offerings thoughtfully and comes up with a decent answer. But hey, also this week from the Reg, a beer review syndicated all the way from my home area of Wisconsin! Ommegang's latest Game of Thrones tie-in beer, Fire and Blood. I look forward to trying this one, and you should stay tuned for a little more Ommegang coverage from yours truly soon.
"At La Campagna in Westlake, it's like nonna is in the kitchen -- except maybe even better," by Joe McCrea (again!) for the Cleveland Plain Dealer
Another review, six days removed from the last, for McCrea. Better than his work on the Greenisland review, but he misspells both "caponata" and "burrata," describing both as "vaguely-" something. Nail it down, Joe, and then write about it.
"Down-to-earth luxury at Travelle," by Phil Vettel for the Chicago Tribune
Phil! Phil? It's me! BING! He's back, folks, out from behind the paywall once again. Regarding Travelle, I'll say you can't spell "seacuterie" without "cute," but it sounds like a fun idea anyway. Vettel's commentary on the mixed messages of fine- and casual-dining seem appropriate. Weird combinations abound at Travelle.
"Kyatchi strikes out and hits some home runs," by Emily Weiss for Minneapolis' City Pages
A Japanese place seizing on baseball as a theme sounds like my kind of place, short-circuiting the assumption that baseball must = Americana. That's not to say that the joint doesn't serve a delicious-sounding hot dog, which it does. Could be a potential #beersball spot...
"Ramen with a contemporary twist," by Jeff Beutner for Milwaukee's Shepherd Express
Replace tea room with ramen shop, you say? I would take that trade in Madison, as we lose Dobra Tea House to an uncertain future, especially if late-night service was involved. But I digress. Tochi sounds a bit more like Madison's Umami, or an izakaya variant like the late Kushi Bar. I dig the idea of the Wisconsin ramen. I've never heard the term "Welsh onion before," and it appears twice here where I think I'd expect scallion? But let's celebrate the Express giving some more inches to a food review!
"Baked in Kansas City is almost too much of some good things," by Charles Ferruzza for the Kansas City Pitch
Tell me more of these goose fat fries, Charles. Go on. Ferruzza warns of excess at Baked, but then, in a review loaded with entendres that are one-and-a-half at best, he goes maybe a bit overboard himself with "thick, fleshy slices of quivering pork belly." TMI, Charles, though I admit I chuckled at his comment on the preferred doneness of Baked's meats: "this kitchen likes to see pink."
"Fire by the Monon: Good food, great setting," by Jolene Katzenberger for Indianapolis' NUVO
A lean review that reads more negatively than the open and close would indicate. Considering the musical chair-ish ownership situation, though, it's a good place to review and as Katzenberger remarks, a place with that level of front-office inconsistency shouldn't be even as pleasant as this one is.
"Mexico, only 30 miles away: The best authentic tacos in Northeast Ohio can be found, of course, in Painesville, in the front of a grocery store," by Douglas Trattner for the Cleveland Scene
I wasn't sure if this was a restaurant review or the next Fiona Apple album by the length of that headline. But a year ago today I discovered a similarly joyous taco oasis in Fort Atkinson, so I can appreciate the desire to go on at length. The experience at El Señor's sounds very familiar.
That's a double take in the headline at which your'e double-taking, not my mistake. Hope that didn't make it to print. Nelson's still a month behind City Pages, but gives Coup d'état a solid rating too. He does deploy the pun these restaurateurs must have been dreading in "coup de blah."
"Are Bottlefork's tongue-in-cheek dishes tasty or just gimmicky?," by Michael Nagrant for Chicago's RedEye
Bottlefork reveals the respect paid to the diner by restaurants like Chicago's Alinea -- which is a place that makes food that resembles other food but isn't (or doesn't but is, if you catch my meaning) but keeps the patronizing airquotes off the menu -- by apparently loading the menu with them. Nagrant was predisposed to be unimpressed with those, but comes around on most. I'm not sure I'd be so charitable. Sounds intriguing, though.
"The Bird & the Bread offers a menu brimming with creativity," by Molly Abraham for the Detroit News
I don't really get a sense of the creativity Abraham praises, nor do I see evidence of the timing issues she mentions as a throwaway closing remark. Abraham has a penchant for the slight, breezy review with more attention paid to the linens than the line cooks. I think she likes chatting with restaurateurs, less so about getting down and dirty with the menus.
"Former Greektown restaurant finds new home in Farmington Hills," by Aaron Egan for the Detroit Metro Times
I've got a soft spot in my heart for the saganaki-style Greek joint, from years of hitting Appleton's Apollon with my wife when she was only my girlfriend. So this spot, for which Egan gives excellent backstory, sounds great. It's a strong review from Egan, too, if a little breathless. But hey, if it's that satisfying, you can't invent problems just to balance it out.
"Le Bouillon offers melange of classic, creative in old French Cafe spot," by Sarah Baker Hansen for the Omaha World-Herald
Baker Hansen is right on: This restaurant sounds like it's bringing game hard to Omaha -- and that's not meant as a slight to Omaha. But it's Omaha, not Manhattan. Escargot, the Spanish tortilla as opposed to the Mexican one, and a "carefully curated" wine list? One thing I'll say is that the reviewer goes on at LENGTH about this place. I like that the World-Herald is getting back into the swing of restaurant reviews, but slow your roll, guys.
"Swad Indian is a worthy addition to Monona Drive's ethnic-restaurant corridor," by Linda Falkenstein for Madison's Isthmus
This is -- and I'm not just saying this because Falkenstein is my editor at Isthmus -- a really impressive review of an Indian restaurant. I've done it before, and it's just not easy. As she notes, the menus are typically huge, and her coverage of a broad range of dishes is admirable. I also like the characterization of the back-and-forth with the server about heat level. Term I'm not crazy about, though: "ethnic restaurant."
"The Black Sheep puts Whitewater on culinary map," by Samara Kalk Derby for the Wisconsin State Journal
SKD goes pretty far afield for this week's State Journal review, which is cool for little Whitewater but serves as an excuse to only go once. I like her comment about the ubiquity of local sourcing in Madison, though it does make it seem like it's an affectation that needn't be quite so ubiquitous. Whitewater may not be local for Madisonians, exactly, but I'm glad to see successful local sourcing and small-town Wisconsin put together so well.