This week's column touches on themes we've discussed before, like authenticity and cultural appropriation. I was thinking of these subjects again recently with the release of the trailer for Eddie Huang's new TV series; Eddie Huang, you may remember, is a fairly fierce defender of cultural culinary authenticity. His show, on the other hand, is airing on the very white, Disney-owned ABC network, is written by a second-generation Iranian, and has turned his Taiwanese family into a Chinese one. But: cultural culinary integrity, y'all. You ask me, culture is meant to be shared; there wouldn't be a point to noting our differences otherwise. Pass some more mile markers for cultural distinctions in this week's Flyover Friday.
"Gigi's On Fairmount in Cleveland Heights is a jewel box with a few nice bites," by Beth Segal for the Cleveland Plain Dealer
Segal gets inappropriately personal with the bit about future babies from the owning couple, and I'm not crazy with how effusively the review begins only to be followed by a rug-pull five grafs in. As for the restaurant, I don't care if it includes a scoop of ultra-premium Jeni's ice cream: A nearly ten dollar dessert seems exorbitant, even if the rest of the menu looks a bit overpriced too.
"Bella Vino brings modern flavors to historic St. Charles," by Ian Froeb for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
A wicked little wink from Froeb to close out a fine review of a slightly boring restaurant. It's getting harder and harder to hang a menu on the hook of faux-tapas these days. As Froeb points out, an actual Spanish tapas menu would do well.
"Vietnamese eatery A Dong's menu pho of surprises," by Carlos Acevedo for the Des Moines Register
Oh man. When there's a pun staring you in the face, and all you want to do is snicker like a teenager, a line like "A Dong is known for the length of its menu" reads in a lewd way that I'm hoping Acevedo didn't actually mean. This isn't a Valentine's Day jokey food column after all, it's a legit review -- and a decent one, though Acevedo and his editors miss the misspelling of "banh mi," as many often do.
"Rabbit Hole: The Midtown Global Market's Left Handed Cook has matriculated to full bar-and-restaurant status, with winning results," by Rick Nelson for the Minneapolis StarTribune
Is that a Lakers joke in the lede? Or a Vikings foretelling? (Vikings fans, you're so burned.) How does a restaurant serve burgers but not make them available for lunch service? Don't get that. On the other hand, Nelson has totally sold me on the fried chicken. Though Nelson says the name isn't an Alice's Adventures in Wonderland reference, using the term in the way he describes absolutely is an Alice's Adventures in Wonderland reference. Another restaurateur-baby mention here, though significantly less obnoxious.
"Tattooed Dog: Doing permanent damage to Wentzville's waistlines," by Cheryl Baehr for the St. Louis Riverfront Times
That picture. That wonderful, greasy, delicious picture. It makes me think of Capital Creamery in Oregon (RIP) and also makes me want to order a big fat bacon cheeseburger here and weep softly while eating it. Second time in recent weeks that I've seen a St. Louis reference to Provel cheese, which -- as I am always fond of regional specialties -- makes me happy. Sounds from the menu like the neighboring cemetery is a futures bet.
"Sweet nothings: The east-side outpost of Sweet Melissa tries to live up to its west-side reputation," by Douglas Trattner for the Cleveland Scene
I'm completely bewildered, as is Trattner, I think, about the chicken issue at Sweet Nothings. You've just got to read this to get the feel for how disheartening it must have been to see these dishes come out as they did. The evidence of the original location's success had better be pretty convincing to reassure that this location's performance isn't an augur of things to come.
"Warm welcome at Cafe La Scala: Classic Italian fare without the fuss," by Susan Harpt Grimes for Milwaukee's Shepherd Express
While Carol Deptolla's review-radio-silence goes into its fourth week at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Express continues to pop out mini reviews like this one. La Scala comes off like the Italian version of a typical Greek-owned diner: a bunch of culinary influences with a through-line of the Old Country.
"Take your meatings at Tête Charcuterie . . . but save room for salad," by Mike Sula for the Chicago Reader
I accidentally skipped Michael Nagrant's Tête review for the Redeye, but here's Sula with his coverage. Good thing Tête 's worth a visit, because you'd have to physically restrain me from trying out a "Tête Offensive" pun in the headline if it was bad and I was the critic. The charcuterie sounds nice enough, but the composed plates really speak to me: a rabbit sausage version of a Scotch egg but with a snail at the center? OMG. Lastly, I learned "Chad and Trixie" is a particularly Chicagoan slang term.
"Working-class hero: The new Tip Top Tavern has a confident menu, solid beer list and classic cocktails," by me for Madison's Isthmus
One thing I didn't note in the review. There's a distinct shift from pre-5 PM to post-5PM where the crowd goes from locals, 45+, and the occasional young family, to fashionable and mobile Gen-X & Y-ers. No matter what crowd is installed in the spare number of seats at Tip Top, however, it is always one thing: VERY LOUD.
"Clawson Steak House delivers old-fashioned, high quality fare," by Molly Abraham for the Detroit News
Abraham's gliding through this review, not going into immense detail even for her relatively brief missives. But boy does this place sound like a very charming and high-caloric fossil. I'd actually like to see lamb chops with mint jelly, just to say I saw it.
"MamO Burger Bar: Windsor restaurant thinks big," by Jane Slaughter for Detroit's Metro Times
Déjà vu! If you haven't read the Tattooed Dog review from the Riverfront Times, you might not have to; both MamO Burger Bar and Slaughter's response to it are strikingly similar. The single-steer thing is indeed interesting, though of questionable utility.
"Saigon Asian Bistro: Vietnamese, Chinese entrees presented with equal aplomb," by Jon Christensen for the Columbus Dispatch
Madisonians, you might recognize the lede as a very similar (sad) story to that of T. Sushi -- no, Fujian Asian Bistro -- wait, how about Chi Asian Infused? -- but in a span of time during which you might have been able to take a breath. A step back into boring territory for Christensen, who forgets about cilantro at one point despite mentioning it more than once elsewhere.
"Posh downtown restaurant hits all the right notes," by Laura Capitano for the Omaha World-Herald
"Taste of Asia a friendly, easy-on-the-wallet spot worth a try," by Niz Proskocil for the Omaha World-Herald
Two relatively insubstantial reviews post this week from the World-Herald, in place of one reliably good one from the usual critic, Sarah Baker Hansen. (She'll be back for next week's edition.) The former is a little too tonally chatty for me, and the latter is a bit more critical but still too brief.
"Dusmesh: Indian with a family feel," by Polly Campbell for the Cincinnati Enquirer
Guh. Just stop with the concept of the "ethnic restaurant." The last paragraph is unnecessarily ethnicized (think "gendered" but for nationality); EVERY type of favorite restaurant is usually chosen after repeated exposure. This is not an example of a strong Indian restaurant review, as opposed to others mentioned in previous Flyover Friday columns.