A reintroduction is in order. What I do with this feature -- and I most sincerely apologize for bailing on it since last summer -- is round up the restaurant reviews from the Midwest papers of note. Daily papers and alt-weekly papers alike: if there's a regular restaurant review beat, I aggregate it here. The purpose? To show that, at our best, we're as on top of the food scene as anyone on the coasts. (Sometimes we're not at our best; I don't shy away from calling out what I see as bad critical practices.) And you may know how I like a hashtaggable name. Though the organization is a little different than in the past, this is still your Flyover Friday for the week of January 2-8, 2017.
Chicago Tribune - Phil Vettel and crew don't have any new reviews posted in 2017 yet; instead, the Trib republished a 2012 review of Trenchermen, which is being relaunched as Trench this year.
Chicago Reader - Neither Mike Sula nor any other Reader writer has published a food story in 2017.
Chicago RedEye - Here's RedEye critic Michael Nagrant's review of Elske.
Indianapolis Star - Any paper that gets mentioned in Parks and Recreation deserves to be watched by this column. But I think I've encountered maybe three reviews from the Star since starting Flyover Friday?
Indy Nuvo - And the same for Nuvo, an alt-weekly that used to publish reviews semi-regularly but hasn't in quite a while. This one seems to have given up on the format, so I'm probably taking it off my radar.
Des Moines Register - I haven't been a huge fan of Karla Walsh's style, and this review of Cafe Fuzion features a food writing classic: the sauce didn't overwhelm the meat.
Detroit Free Press - Sad news from this beat. Sylvia Rector, who retired a year ago, passed away just before Christmas. There weren't many reviews from the Free Press when Rector was still with the paper, and her replacement appears to have only published on since coming on in April. Still, another major paper that can't be dropped from the list.
Detroit News - You'll get to know my feelings on the News and the work of its critic, Molly Abraham, if you read a couple Flyover Fridays. She has a tendency to write a LOT about the decor, and doesn't seem to eat much. She basically re-types the menu. For her review of The Whitney, it seems like she may actually have eaten a couple dishes. But a bowl of soup, a fillet of fish, and maybe an ice cream sundae are really not enough to serve as the basis for a four-star review.
Detroit Metro Times - The Metro Times had been Serena Maria Daniels' gig for a good while, but prior to that it had been a platoon operation. Jane Slaughter pens this week's review, of the quite hoity-sounding Parc. I'm not sure ribster is a word.
Minneapolis StarTribune - Not a single review since November 16! 12 reviews in 2016 and Rick Nelson still won third place from the Association of Food Journalists, like Anthony Hopkins winning Best Supporting Actor for appearing in 12% of Silence of the Lambs. (Nelson, who shed his anonymity in 2015, only reviewed for 23% of the 2016 calendar.) This is a major paper for a major city that deserves regular reviews.
Minneapolis Citypages - Mecca Bos has been doing a nice job for the Citypages for a while now. Red Rabbit is a wine-heavy restaurant, which doesn't make for the most interesting review, but that's not Bos' fault.
St. Paul Pioneer Press - As of summer, the reviews from the Pioneer Press had become rare, with the paper favoring first look and short feature pieces. So surprise surprise, look who's got a review this week, of Tori Ramen. It's regular SPPP critic Jess Fleming.
St. Louis Riverfront Times - St. Louis restaurant criticism makes me happy. Two papers, two writers, two really solid week-to-week outputs. The first listed here is Cheryl Baehr, writing about pizza and one of my other favorite St. Louis exports, toasted ravioli. It's a "better than it probably deserves to be" review of The Sliced Pint.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch - No 2017 reviews for the P-D yet, but critic Ian Froeb had a Best New Restaurants of 2016 piece to put up.
Kansas City Pitch - Charles Ferruzza left in August! He was one of my faves. It doesn't appear that the Pitch has replaced him yet.
Kansas City Star - Constantly in the top three in the AFJ Awards, and the KC Star rarely publishes reviews. Can't skip it, don't have anything to say about it.
Omaha World-Herald - One of my favorite things about this column is how so many of my favorite Midwestern critics are ladies. It's about time there was some over-representation instead of under-. Sarah Baker Hansen does a consistently good job, and her latest review is a fine example, of Herbe Sainte, which is of no relation (and apparently no intellectual threat) to the lauded Herbsaint restaurant in New Orleans.
Toledo Blade - Lots of work to review from the Buckeye State. Toledo doesn't seem like the most obvious choice for inclusion here, and the Blade really tests my patience from week to week, with frequently stiff writing from the anonymous author, as well as some truly awful food photography. This week's review of The Displaced Chef is mostly the bad art.
Columbus Dispatch - G.A. Benton, the Dispatch critic, is a cipher. I don't know what this person looks like, how old this person is -- I'm pretty sure even gender is an unknown to the average reader. Benton's reviews are work(person)like, not too interesting but not bad, either. Editors can be blamed for a lot of things, too, like the totally unnecessary opening graf of this week's review of Rooks Tavern.
Cleveland Plain Dealer - The Plain Dealer has utilized a couple of writers for its restaurant reviews, in rotation. This week, it's Marc Bona reviewing the restaurant at Hansa Brewery in a disjointed, PowerPointy format.
Cleveland Scene - Douglas Trattner covers the review beat for this alt-weekly, spending a mere three paragraphs discussing the food at Jo Jo Carloni's.
Cincinnati Enquirer - "A dish from Neuf," reads a caption to one of this review's photos. "Cooked a little unevenly," writes Enquirer critic Polly Campbell unhelpfully about the gyoza -- a dish frequently seared on one side and not on any other. "Polly can't get enough Neuf," reads the URL for a three star out of five review. The Enquirer covers its city well enough but sometimes I am puzzled over the choices it makes.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Carol Deptolla, an elder stateswoman of the Wisconsin food writing scene, hasn't published a review since July 29. I kinda wonder what's going on at the Journal Sentinel. [EDIT: Since posting this column, I was pointed to the fact that the truly horrendous Gannettification of the Journal Sentinel website meant that I was looking at dead ends of the site and Deptolla's reviews were now completely impossible to find and not highlighted for the reader in any way. They also killed the RSS feed even though there's still a button for it. Anyway, her last review was posted December 22, of Red Light Ramen's standalone shop. Sorry, JS, but it's really your own fault.]
Milwaukee Shepherd Express - Meanwhile, the little Shepherd Express keeps on putting out at least two pieces of food writing every week, one short post and one still-kind-of-short review. Like this low-impact review from K.L. Lorenz of the Range Line Inn, Shep reviews can be a little ad-copy-ish, with the exception of Lacey Muszynski's, which are usually a step above the rest.
Wisconsin State Journal - And now we get to Madison. If you want to know how I've reviewed State Journal critic Samara Kalk Derby's reviews, you'll just have to go back and look. I'm gonna start 2017 without being too negative. Here's her review of 1847 at the Stamm House; you tell me.
Capital Times - Nothing new this week from Lindsay Christians, the double-duty critic from the Cap Times who, full disclosure, is a friend of mine. I'll bust her chops when circumstances require it though. Like when she forgets to mention beer, which I admit is happening less and less lately.
Isthmus - Lastly, the paper I write for. It's Allison Geyer reviewing Everly this week. It's a rotation of critics at Isthmus, of five regulars. Allison came on strong in 2016 after starting with Isthmus as a non-food staff writer.