Grand Closings, Grand Openings

In the last few months a lot of good restaurants have closed and a lot of good restaurants have opened. And I visited a few of them. Here's what I have to say about these restaurants and my meals at them.

Los Closings:

Salvation Burger

I was sad to hear that Salvation Burger was shuttering, but then again, I hadn't been there for way more than a year. For a good stretch of time I considered their Classic the best possible burger to be eating in the city, but the price was out of control ($17, no fries) and prohibited eating as many as I would have liked. Service was always a disaster there, too, with waitstaff making every conceivable mistake at just about every visit. Glad I got to send it off with Kim and Lauren, glad Lauren was in town. A good place, too bad it couldn't be great. It's weird how the Bloomfield empire can be so inconsistent--Spotted Pig, the Breslin: gigantic; John Dory Oyster Bar: So good, never been back; Salvation Taco: weird, odd that it's still open, I don't know if anyone thinks about it; Salvation Burger: couldn't make it happen in spite of Spotted Pig and the Breslin paying their rent off their burgers; White Gold Butchers: TBD, guess it's making it happen for the UWS stroller and grouchy olds crowd.

Mr. Donahue's

I was sad to hear Mr. Donahues, the American food restaurant by the Uncle Boon's team, was shuttering because I hadn't been there yet. So I ran down on one of its last nights and found everything to be great. You pick a main (chicken fried pig cheeks for me, torn between these and trying their meatloaf) and two sides (crab imperial and mac & cheese) and sit back and enjoy. Wish I went a lot more times before, wish I could go back again. Oh well.

Los Openings:

Atla

If you eat at Atla, every single bite will be absolutely perfect, every dish totally delectable, but you will leave hungry and you will leave with a lot less money than when you came in. This is supposed to be Enrique Olvera's casual offshoot of his spectacular fancy restaurant Cosme, but you'll find an Atla mushroom quesadilla costing you $15 while they're $9 at Cosme. I don't know what to tell you: beautiful place, extremely delicious plates. Everything's undersized, everything's overpriced: NY in microcosm byway of Mexico. The night I went the staff was unattantive, disinterested, forgetful and overworked and the bathroom was out of both paper towels and toilet paper. Yeah, avoid busy time if possible. But also definitely go. Sigh. Tricky paradox this place.

Taqueria Atoradero

3-4 years ago, all the food-heads were sneaking up to the Bronx to eat at this hole in the wall called El Atoradero that was famous for its carnitas (I went on the hottest possible day and found my little pork bits to be gristely and rough). El Atoradero got famous enough to close and move to Brooklyn with the help of some ambitious restaurateur, I haven't been to that place, but they just opened a Taqueria affiliated with the Littlefield event space in Gowanus and I checked it out one Friday after work it found it to be quite satisfactory. Tacos start a little pricey at $4 per, but if you get 4 it's just $13...a good price for such hefty and tasty specimens of their class. Served on freshmade, homemade blue corn tortillas that are attractively heavy but pliant, I liked my steak, chorizo con papa, and grilled shrimp tacos the best. Tinga was fine, would prefer it on a tostada, of course, and the famed carnitas once again a letdown, just some rough pork cubes. Nothing neat or special about them. Great spot, though, if you're ever in need of somewhere to eat before hitting up the giant Ample Hills or don't mind a dining detour before going to whatever at the Barclay's Center.

Emily

The Pizza Loves Emily crew has come to Manhattan. The pizzas are just as good as those at Emmy Squared in Williamsburg, the burger probably just as the burger at the original Emily (I wouldn't know, I've never been able to get in there)--so if you want Emily pizza and you'd rather wait for it in Manhattan than Brooklyn, come here! It's good!

& Pizza

$10 for an unlimited topping make-your-own-pizza (except they make it, you just tell them all the components) that makes up for in size what it lacks in basic quality, it's like the Chipotle of pizza but it hasn't made me sick yet. Came to New York from DC, just like Sweetgreen, and it think's it's real cool, just like Sweetgreen. I would probably go back someday, just to keep trying to develop the absolute weirdest custom pizza order that I can.

Daily Provisions

Want the best bacon egg and cheese sandwich (look at that Peter Luger level bacon!) and crueler there could be? Come here on a Saturday morning, stand in line behind ladies in their yoga clothes and finance bros in their polo shirts, and in 30 minutes you'll have a breakfast of kings worth emailing home about.

El Check On

Just want you to know Superiority Burger is still one of the Top 3 restaurants in the city. Monday nights get lively with everyone showing up for the Tofu Fried Tofu sandwiches, but this recent night that I was there with Patricia the bean salad, pink beets and rainbow sherbet were also well worth the visit. This is a dang six star restaurant.

Ok, thank you for coming by and reading about food. Now come by and eat with me!

My Fourth Trip

Actually, this is only my second and a half or third trip of the year, and my first trip to Chicago of the year, but the title seemed kind of fun to me.

Anyway, I took this nice longish trip home to Chicago for Fourth of July weekend. I flew out of La Guardia and sat by Jesse Jackson in the waiting area for our flight. We talked about his shoes. Here I am with my airplane friend in Chicago. He was too busy getting his picture with other people to get it with me. It's okay. 

Mom took me straight from the airport to Los Barrilitos for their bomb tacos al pastor, an excellent meal that's on its way to becoming a Chicago arrival tradition.

Then she dropped me off in the city so I could check out the Takashi Murakami retrospective at the Contemporary Art Museum that was a big deal at the moment. I definitely would have liked this exhibit a lot more 14 years ago, and I'm definitely less interested in his new stuff, but, whatever, I'll check out a big Takashi Murakami exhibit, sure. 

There was also a good exhibit about, I don't know, youth? on the first floor. A more interesting collection of art than upstairs, in my opinion.

Misc. museum sights followed by misc. Chicago sights followed by an L train ride home.

That night, with the Edwardses arrived, we dined on Johnnies Italian Beefs on the back porch. Wonder what Dr. Nick would say about this level of paper clearness? To be clear myself: This is a totally wrapped sandwich. It has not been opened yet.

The next morning I went with Kristen and her kids and Emily, too, to the Bongo Room. Bongo Room has fallen off. Just look at this Chocolate Tower French Toast...where's the chocolate? Huh? (I think you need to have been to the Bongo Room to understand this complaint because to most it may look like there's chocolate in this picture).

From there we went over to the Adler Planetarium, which I hadn't visited since 7th or 8th grade. I learned a little bit about planets and space and stuff there.

From there we took advantage of our location and had a bit of a lake walk along the lakeside.

That night we had Robinson's for dinner. Like the Bongo Room, something was off with this favored eatery of ours. Ribs just were not being what they usually were, wings either.

Key event from Sunday: It looks like so little in this picture, but we worked up a storm in the kitchen and turned out Eggplant Marinara, Meatballs, Cavatelli with Hot Sausage and Brown Sage Butter and salad. At last a meal that measured up!

Monday's big deal activity for the day: After all these years in Chicago, we finally took a boat tour (after a Do-Rite Donut breakfast). It started out with a little Chicago River, then through the lock out onto the lake, then back for a bit more Chicago River. Learned a lot and had a good time! Hooray for Chicago!

That evening we walked over to Mann School and played four square and stuff.

Would you believe that, after all this content, it's finally the 4th?

Sharing a bathroom.

Very important Fourth of July activity: the Oak Park Fourth of July Parade

The Fourth of July marked the 32nd anniversary of our having moved to Oak Park. Here I am with Kristen and Emily, this is how it was when we moved to Oak Park: NO OWEN OR GREG!!

One more item for the "We had never done this before in all our years as Oak Parkers/Chicagoans": We all went and toured the Unity Temple. Pretty neat place! Good job, Frank!

That evening we went to dinner at Las Fuentes, which is a bit of a Fourth of July tradition for us. Like the Bongo Room and Robinson's before it, things were not right at this favored eatery. The poor staff was overwhelmed by a busy day and food took a long time to come and drunken neighbors didn't make the meal any better. Tip for restaurants: Don't seat any parties that look like they're going to go hard on the Margaritas next to the families with all the kids? But at least there wasn't a lot of traffic heading to or from there.

Back home, we walked on down to the High School for one of the finest Oak Park fireworks shows in memory. Took the edge off all those mediocre meal memories. 

And then the next morning I caught a 6am flight back to New York and I wasn't even late to work!