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Not a single story about Amazon and Whole Foods, I promise
Eater published a tour-de-force of fucking amazing essays last week. The collection is loosely based on “road trips”. They sent some of the best writers you follow on Twitter across the country to explore America. But not in a lame way like I just said. Seriously, go to this page and start reading all of them. It's a bit repetitive "I'm upset about the election, let's drive across America", but each one is beautiful and honest and worth your time. They also have some fun content, including a definitive ranking of Jersey Turnpike rest stops. There’s also a ranking of food options along I-95 from Boston to New York that I will not link because you should take the Mass Pike to 84 and stop at the McDonald’s in Hartford. Amy McKeever also writes up a really nice examination of why America’s rest stops still suck. My sister Hope has a LOT of thoughts about European rest stops, and I will try to get her to write something up.
Somewhat relatedly, Jalopnik answers a question I’ve wondered for years: how do businesses get on those big signs along the highway?
Fortune writes up how increases in digital ordering are forcing restaurants to rethink their layouts, workflows, and staff. Really interesting stuff if you, like me, are obsessed with logistics.
Natasha Frost at Atlas Obscura writes about Buckfast. This strong, sweet, and highly caffeinated tonic wine is basically the fuel of hooligans across Scotland. What floored me is that the drink, which sounds dreadful, is still brewed at the picturesque Abbey where it’s always been made. The best part of this story are the other names for Buckfast, including Wreck the Hoose Juice, Commotion Lotion, Bottle of Fight the World, Liquid Speed or Scranjuice.
This might be the dumbest food headline I’ve seen in a long time.
One of the low-key best food series is Roads & Kingdoms breakfast. Each day, they publish a short story about breakfast from somewhere in the world. This one about breakfast at a local New York diner is great.
I love Gastropod so much. Just listen to all of them. But if you can’t, listen to the most recent one about the history and modern science of food counterfeiting.
“‘What have you done with my beloved Jeffrey?’ I asked once, as I placed a fragrant paella in front of Joffrey at the table where I once planned recipes with Barbara.”
Ryan Sutton at Eater writes up a definitive review of Chick-fil-A. Sutton is great at writing about fast food and managing to say something bigger. This time, he approaches a conflict lots of people feel (I do when I visit the South): should I go there for an amazing sandwich even though this organization has a history of discriminating against LGBTQ communities? Sutton says it’s not worth it, given that the chicken isn’t even that good anyway. They may have once been the only game in town, but now even the McDonald’s fried chicken sandwich is better.
This is an amazing story about “Cornell chicken barbecue sauce” which seems to be mostly vinegar and an egg. Still, it also sounds kind of great and reminds me a lot of some Southeast Asian grilled chicken I’ve eaten.
This is really powerful.
That Lorde had a secret Instagram onion ring review account is the greatest thing of all time. I’m mostly sad that she stopped.
Julia Kramer at Bon App gets visits the farmers and loggers providing wood to fancy wood-fired restaurants around the country. It’s kind of bananas, and as always this food story is really a story about complicated logistics. In this case, keeping deliveries of precisely processed wood on time to restaurants across Manhattan. I’m mostly confused how the main farmer went from shitty Canadian Soap Opera star to hedge fund manager (before he quit that to grow wood).
Sweetgreen is raising prices in order to facilitate raising salaries. Good. More importantly, they’ve moved into the late summer menu so the elote bowl is back. The most basic thing I’ve done in a while is text my friend Lauren “ELOTE BOWL IS BACK OMMMGGGGGGGG”.
Mark Bittman is back! The food writing legend has left the world of meal delivery startups and returned to writing. He’s at New York Magazine / Grubstreet, which is a good get for what is frequently an also-ran platform. I have a ton of affection for Bittman, as I was first getting into food (and moving to New York) during his heyday. His first essay has a TERRIBLE opening, but is a good take on why food still matters in the age of Trump.
A nice story about chowder, family, and crusty Rhode Islanders. Not really my thing but I thought I would share anyway.
Great mini documentary from First We Feast on the Vietnamese Po ‘Boy. Really, it’s about the history of the Vietnamese community in the Gulf Coast.
NPR’s Code Switch has a quick writeup on the various ways America tried to repress Chinese food restaurants. The only war on Chinese food I’ve been a part of is on an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet.
I am truly horrified at this story of the water on airplanes. The key takeaway is *never* order coffee or tea on airplanes. I never will again.
This is a lovely essay by Bee Wilson in The Guardian. In it, she looks at the explosion of recipes over the past ten years. The internet has freed them from where they were locked up in books and in our minds. What have we gained, and what have we lost?
Phil Vettel finally stops by Noble Square to review Temporis. It’s gotten some mixed reviews, but Vettel clearly likes it. I’m guessing it appeals to his fancy sensibilities (nothing wrong with that!). Still, it reads like he reviewed it because he knows it’s going out of business any day now. Sounds like a lovely meal but a restaurant run by two guys with no idea how to make money.
Red Eye Chicago published a list of the best Speakeasy-style bars in Chicago.
As if you need another reason to go to Wrigley on a summer day, but the ballpark has launched a rotating chef series. The diner under right field is being run by some of Chicago’s top chefs for the rest of the summer. The food and drinks sound great, and are discounted before the first pitch. I’ve been told this might be and old program, but it’s new to me!
Punch details the rise of Violet Hour. Considered one of Chicago’s first new-wave cocktail bars, it helped bring the cocktail Renaissance to town. If you have a favorite fancy-drink bar, it was probably opened by a Violet Hour alumni.
Mike Sula is near my friend Jeff’s house, reviewing Ella Elli in Wrigleyville. Sula does a good job putting this restaurant in the context of its owners and chefs. He says that even if the menu is a mishmash of food trends, the talent of the chef keeps all the balls in the air and makes it worth a visit.
Melissa McCart rounds up the most exciting new openings of the summer. When I first drafted this newsletter, Dekalb market hadn’t even opened yet!
Interesting story in the Hollywood Reporter about why people love Sugarfish, and why New Yorkers seem to love to hate it while also waiting on line for 5 hours. Everyone, it’s not that good! But, there should be more $40-50 sushi.
Robert Seitsema is at Nur, a new Israeli place on 20th and Park. He likes it a lot. It sounds like the food is great and occasionally challenging. It definitely seems like Israeli food is going to be a trend soon. Or is it already? Does that big cookbook count?
The good Pete Wells is back. When I say the good Pete Wells, I mean the critic who can find joy in places that food people might ignore. The critic for whom technical excellence can be secondary to “should I go here for a dinner out.” He reviews Don Peppe, a classic Italian-American place near JFK. This place is so Queens that it was referenced in Entourage, and Wells clearly loves it. He only gives it one star, but he paints a portrait of a place I hope never changes. On Twitter, J. Gold said Wells was channeling his inner Seymour Britchky. I had no idea who that is so I looked him up. Here’s a profile on him and his place in food writing history. This turns out this was a compliment, and I would like someone to get me his books for Christmas.
Ligaya Mishan writes the hell out of a trip through the Queens Night Market. Brb, moving to the Queens Night Market and never coming back. I haven’t heard of most of what she mentions, and I want to eat all of it.
Sad, sad news for drunk kids in Allston and college Josh. The owner of the Sunset family of restaurants has filed for Chapter 11. They are staying open for now, but their future is in doubt.
The fellow traveller in me is very excited for this new brewery opening in Downtown Crossing. Not only is a brewpub steps from the Common a fantastic idea, but Democracy Brewing Cooperative is worker-owned and dedicated to a $15 minimum wage.
Gronk endorsed beef jerky ties for father’s day, though I don’t see why you can’t just get that as a gift for anyone at any time. More importantly, here’s a look at Gronk’s $100,000 bar tab from Foxwoods. Huge shoutout to whoever ordered a single Sierra Mist.
GQ lists the best bars in Boston and gets it mostly right.
WGBH’s Craving blog has a special on Worcester. The Paris of the 80s has a thriving dining scene. True story, I went there last year and had a fantastic weekend. This story highlights a lot of the places I went. Between bread and beer, it seems like everyone in Worcester has something fermenting in the back they can’t wait for you to try.
Devra First is back writing a full review. And I guess stars are back, too? Who the hell knows with the Globe. Anyway, she reviews Les Sablons in Cambridge. The review is good. It talks a bit about Julia Child, highlights some things I noticed my only time there, and really hones in on what this place does well: bright French nouvelle cuisine and fantastic service. Everything that’s old is new again. Three stars.
Spencer Buell writes for Boston Magazine that our city has a poutine problem. For reasons I skimmed past (this is like 33% too long) Spencer takes issue with the various iterations of the famous French-Canadian dish around town. This is a purist making fun of permutations of a beloved dish. I don’t hate that per se. Those pieces can be fun (God knows that that’s my shtick) but I wish Spencer had tried for more. Ok, you hate poutine that isn’t just curds and gravy, we get it. Tell me something else. What makes a derivation good? Some of these seem straight up GROSS. Also, that Gallows one is clearly based on Skyline chili -- get your shit together. Still, this kind of writing is where Boston Magazine should go. Do more of them so I can make fun of you.
Around this weekend? Then head on down to Somerville’s pickle fair.
Sheryl Julian buries the lead in her review of the Legal Sea Foods bowl concept. I like bowls, but I really like the idea of one of these at every Logan terminal.
This New York Times guide to the best avocado toasts of Los Angeles is a troll of the highest order. Brava.
I really love/am conflicted about Instagram restaurants. That’s a thing, btw; Illegal restaurants run out of private residencies that sell food via Instagram. On the one hand, yay for the American spirit. On the other, food safety regulations exist for a reason. Either way, really hard not to root for Trap Kitchen in Compton.
Besha Rodell is in West Hollywood visiting Electric Owl. Chef Ernesto Uchimura is a big name in the Los Angeles and New American dining scene. He opened the soon-to-be-world-conquering Umami Burger. Roddell praises Uchimura for moving away from his more gimmicky tendencies. He has previously embraced the kind of food mashups that view cleverness as an equal to technique or flavor. She’s a fan of his new back to basics approach, and gives this place two stars.
A Magnum P.I. inspired tiki drink. I miss LA so god damned much sometimes.
Double J. Gold! First he’s at Pizzana, a new Neapolitan pizza place in Brentwood inspiring multi-hour waits. Gold says it’s worth it, and I wasn’t really expecting to read about actor Chris O’Donnell in a food story.
Next, he's at Kato, a vegetable and seafood-forward tasting menu place tucked in the back of a Sawtelle mall. This place was named one of GQ's best new restaurants of the year and Gold finds a lot to like. He says it might be the most 2017 restaurant around, which could easily be insufferable. Still, it's a bright and clean menu that will leave you full and energized.
Tom Sietsema is positively giddy at chef Mike Isabella’s Arroz. This is the newest restaurant from a chef who has done more than most to put D.C. on the culinary map, and it’s his favorite. Arroz, incongruously located in a Marriott, blends Spanish, Portuguese, and Moroccan flavors. Sietsema loves it, but still only gives it three stars. It’s also kind of a boring review.
Tim Carmen is at a gas station in Maryland, where a Mexican chef from Puebla is making killer tacos, burritos, and tortas. There’s a lot in this story about the lineage of the space, but the real key is that the new place is getting their tortillas hand-made in the traditional style. *Not* a lot of places do that, and I’m considering driving down from Boston for it.
Washington City Paper drops the underrated food issue. A bit of a eye-roll worthy title, but it’s a great list of small spots in the back of supermarkets and gas stations. D.C. has a culture of these kinds of places that seems like it rivals L.A., and this is a fun read.
Out of context J. Gold quote of the week
...it feels as if you have wandered into a living Instagram photo, where the walls are pale, the food is bright and the people in the background all look as if they have been accepted to UCLA Law.