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No Reservations: Chicago

I thought this was an outstanding episode, by far the best of the new season. I liked that Tony mixed up the street food with the fine dinning and didn't hit the usual Chicago locales you see on food/travel shows.
It was also nice to see him surrounded by good beer for a change.

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  1. Odd mix of spots, though. Nice to see a little of the kitchen scene at L2O, but Hot Doug's yet again????

    3 Replies
    1. re: ferret

      Has Hot Doug's been featured a lot? That was the first time I'd seen it and I usually make a point to watch anything Chicago related.
      I am a little tired of the New York attitude towards deep dish; Rocco on Top Chef, Flay on Throwndown and now A.B.

      1. re: tofuburrito

        He said he liked it, but he wouldn't call it pizza, which it isn't. There are other food mutants as well, the chicken, shrimp, veggie fajitas, and chili with beans and all sorts of vegetables, really a stew, This isn't saying they are not delicious in there own right, just not true to the original dish.

        1. re: James Cristinian

          I don't know that anyone can lay claim to the rights of toppings on baked dough as their original dish.
          Also; I think Les Halles deserves more credit that it gets. I've only eaten there once but I had a memorable meal. I also find A.B.'s Les Halles cookbook very useful.
          He likes to make light of his abilities but I think he's a better chef than people realize.

    2. Good show, though he did manage to mispronounce Grant Achatz (intentionally??).

      8 Replies
      1. re: biskuit

        Why would he mispronounce Achatz on purpose? I'm inclined to believe he's just ignorant.

        1. re: Ericandblueboy

          There was a big dustup at the end of last year between the two that is still simmering apparently. It's mentioned here - http://vimeo.com/2578574

          1. re: biskuit

            That video link appears to be dead, but I assume it refers to the StarChefs Congress this past fall where Bourdain was on a panel discussion at which Marco Pierre White complained about (some would say mocked) multi-course tasting menus, with some comments which were perceived as directly targeted at Achatz, and Bourdain (who's certainly enjoyed many such meals himself) apparently joined in the fun. More discussion here ->

            1. re: Frodnesor

              When Bourdain has more credential than running a French Waffle House, I'll give his opinion more credence.

              For Bourdain to intentionally mispronounce someone's name who happens to be far superior to him as a chef, well, that's like watching the losers bitch on Top Chef.

              1. re: Ericandblueboy

                And how do you know the correct pronunciation? I wouldn't be able to guess it from the written form.

                1. re: Ericandblueboy

                  aa' kits - a bit of a leap - I wonder if it's his affectation or a family tradition.

                  As to his being a superior chef, I don't think Tony would challenge that. He thinks of himself as a journeyman chef - someone with 30+ years of working on the line and working his way up to being the exec of a place that's been around a while - a place that runs well and turns out decent food. To me, that demands its own respect.

                  But other than that, Tony's a writer. His ability to communicate in words (and on screen), combined with his curiosity and adventurousness is what makes him a star. His attitude helps.

                  Achatz graduated from the CIA about 20 years after Tony did. He grew up in a restaurant family and fast tracked after graduating almost directly to the French Laundry. This is like the polar opposite of Tony's career - he's taken so many side trips, it's a miracle he's alive, never mind being in the position he is. Comparing these two in some linear measurement of cooking superiority is apples and oranges, steak frites and MG.

                  Achatz is certainly more than a flash in the pan, but he's still mainly a young kid that's been recognized for his genius (and his arrogance - Tony certainly doesn't hold a match to him in that category). If Tony intended any slight in the mispronunciation, it would most likely have little to do with comparative cooking abilities.

                  I wonder about the timing of Tony's show at The French Laundry - was Achatz still the Sous there and if so, is he part of the show? I remember Tony visiting the kitchen and speaking to several people there (besides Keller). Anybody have a tape?

                  1. re: applehome

                    I found it on line - the show (A Cook's Tour on FN) was in 2001. Achatz is definitely there, making some of the food for Keller to serve to Tony, Eric Ripert, Michael Ruhlman, and Scott Bryan. I've attached a picture (Achatz is on the left, Keller on the right). Also, here's a 1-minute excerpt that includes this very brief scene of Achatz (he's at the end).


                    All this is meaningless, of course - just a curiosity. Like having seen a great ballplayer while he was in the minors. Tony's show on TFL is wonderful to watch again - it is the best of the best. Watching these foodie-chefs get so impressed over, and over again is just amazing.

          2. re: biskuit

            I caught that too! I can't believe he doesn't actually know him or at least have been somewhere where someone else was talking about him who did know him, or at least how to pronounce his name.

          3. I agree. People usually does the Unos/Nancy's/Geno's/Giordano's thing for Chicago styled pizza. To his credit he didn't but it would have been better if he would have gone rhapsodic over WHY he changed his mind about Chicago style pizza.

            And he did the hot dog thing, but he didn't do the Italian beef thing, what's up with that?

            Too bad Berghoff's is closed, he would have gone all snarky there too.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Phaedrus

              "Too bad Berghoff's is closed, he would have gone all snarky there too."

              It reopened a while back; shell of it's former self, but the bar's still the same.

              1. re: Phaedrus

                He didn't explain why, but right at the start he said he wasn't going to do the italian beef thing. My guess is that others, such as Man v Food, have already covered it. Is there something new that we should know about?

                1. re: paulj

                  From Tony's 'Tube City' blog entry:
                  "Missed the famous "Italian Beef" but we've been on something of a beef sandwich jag lately--in Baltimore and Buffalo and that might have been a beef too far."

                  1. re: paulj

                    PIt Beef in Baltimore and Beef on Wec's in Buffalo. Nice!!!!


              2. I thought it was a very good episode but i think the Mexico episode was the best of the season so far. In fact, I think it may be my favourite episode ever. I thought that Three Little Pigs sandwich was so over the top delicious looking it made me want to jet off and grab one.


                2 Replies
                1. re: Davwud

                  I had one for dinner Wednesday night! Or, to be precise, I had a third of it for dinner Wednesday night, a third for lunch on Thursday and the last third for lunch today. It's a *monster*. The bacon and ham were excellent, but surprisingly the breaded pork tenderloin was totally nondescript (the coating was nicely crunchy in a cornflakey way, but there wasn't any seasoning to speak of). The sandwich is topped with cheese, a fried egg, and a gigantic onion ring. I had to smash it down with some force to get it to a height that would fit into my mouth. Glad I tried it, but my arteries tell me it's a once-in-a-lifetime treat.

                  Of note: The Silver Palm and its tiny next-door sister bar, the Matchbox, have outstanding classic cocktails. I'm a sucker for their sidecars, right down to the brandied cherry nestled in the bottom of the glass.

                  1. re: Davwud

                    I'm feeling the need for a trip to Chicago just for one of those. Only a 15ish hour drive.... hmmm.....

                  2. I wasn't too impressed with the episode. I feel like AB's lost his edge, and his interest. I'm guessing that becoming a daddy changed him significantly.

                    Last season was so. much. better.

                    1. Anyone know if Travel Channel will repeat this episode and when? will be going to Chicago in a couple weeks and would love to get some Anthony recs. Thanks.

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: Augusta

                        Here is the schedule - comes on a few more times this week.:


                        1. re: mramage

                          thanks for the link, i'll definitely catch this episode!

                        2. re: Augusta

                          The previous week's episode is featured immediately before the new episode (so catch it on Monday). His recommendations aren't all that visit-worthy. He goes to a shrimp shack in an industrial area on the South Side (maybe a unique event in warmer weather - just a take-out place). Of the various locations he hits only L2O (fine dining seafood) is a worthy spot (he visits Moto too, but that's pretty spotty). And then he makes a ubiquitous stop at Hot Doug's for a variety of "hot dog" products -- including the foie gras dog.

                          This episode was okay to watch but with teh noted exceptions he's not hitting spots most people would recommend.

                          He did a backyard barbecue with the co-owner/chef from Blackbird, Avec and the Publican. Those restaurants are worth a visit but his segment showed nothing of them.

                          1. re: ferret

                            "His recommendations aren't all that visit-worthy."

                            Especially from a chowhound perspective, I'd disagree. Sitting in your car on curbside eating smoked shrimp and hot-smoked salmon and trout because it's incredibly delicious food is the kind of thing I look forward to hearing more about That's what Chef Louisa Chu (his guide for that segment plus) is about - the food. BTW, she's an old time CH'er and does the Gear column here (also a Le Cordon Bleu Grande Diplome grad with stints at El Bulli and Alain Ducasse, amongst others). She was in NR-Paris and does the PBS series Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie.

                            The Hot Doug's segment focussed on the Foie Gras wars, which Doug was a big part of - it was like an homage to the people that did the battle in the trenches, which turned around the PETA nonsense - not only in Chicago but in the whole US and even had influence around the world. He mentions it further in his blog.

                            "he's not hitting spots most people would recommend."


                            1. re: applehome

                              ""he's not hitting spots most people would recommend."


                              That's not necessarily a plus.

                              1. re: ferret

                                Depends on the perspective. I like to try both, especially in a large city like Chicago.

                                1. re: Phaedrus

                                  Absolutely, but as a lifelong Chicagoan with a curiosity about neighborhoods and the foods they have to offer I found it to be quite bland and not very much of a Chicago flavor. And I certainly don't mean Uno's or Al's or Superdawg - those have been done to death. But in a city with a massive Polish population, how about any of the buffets on Milwaukee? There are a lot of places that say "Chicago" more than the Silver Palm or Moto.

                                  1. re: ferret

                                    But the point, whether better, worse, or whatever, is that everyone's already recommending them. Why do you want Tony to jump on bandwagons - it's precisely what I expect him not to do. I was surprised that he went to Hot Doug's but when I read about the whole Foie thing, I understood.

                                    If he comes up here to Boston and goes to one of Todd English's places or even to Barbara Lynch's or Ken Oringer's places - I'll disown my fandom. Not that these places are bad, but his commentary on these places would mean so little to anyone. OK- maybe one hoity toity chef on the show. But even when he goes to the best known "cheap eats" places, he's really not doing anyone any favors. What's he going to eat at Speed's hot dog cart that we haven't all already had?

                                    The show I'd like to see him do in Massachusetts is not Boston, but the cape and Fall River/New Bedford. He showed a little bit of that on the Azores show, but a show dedicated to reminiscing about his lost youth misspent at PTown, and following up with great but relatively unknown Portugeuse food places would be much more interesting than a Boston "most-recommended-places" show.

                                    One thing I think he has been doing well is to filter his places lists through knowledgeable local foodies, so that he showcases relatively unknown but incredible places. I think Louisa qualifies for that job everywhere she's been - and that's like most of the world.

                                    1. re: applehome

                                      He really could have been anywhere with that episode. He may as well have shot it in Iowa City or Milwaukee with a little L track footage spliced in.

                                      I get the concept of not doing the predictable "Chicago" thing, I've watched his shows and read his books and understand the "offbeat" nature of his approach. I just thought it wasn't a particularly good set of choices. Again, going to Moto isn't all that edgy.

                                2. re: ferret

                                  I'll be in Chicago for the first time soon and so I am wondering what spots, if any, to hit that Tony hit. Specifically the pizza place. I'll only have time to hit one, maybe two spots. I'm still not sure if I should look for the place Tony featured or not. And what's the price of a foie gras dog anyway??

                                    1. re: ferret

                                      Wow, $8.50. That's not bad.

                                      1. re: Bryan Gros

                                        I visited Hot Doug's during my recent trip to Chicago a couple weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The line was long but the wait was not. Looked like Doug himself taking orders from customers. The place was really colorful and fun. We tried the regular hotdog and the foie gras. Wow! even the regular dog was delicious. What do they do with those buns? steam them? I live in So.Cal so I guess I'm not used to hot dog buns that were that good. Either that or I'm just really easy to please. Anyways, the foie gras was quite divine with 4 pretty generous slices of the stuff right on top of the hotdog. We also ordered their regular fries--again, yummy!

                            1. I thought it was a good show, but as a Chicagoan, I can tell you that Mancow is about as popular as rabies here among people over 14. He's a Stern wannabe with no wit or talent.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Pete Oldtown

                                That may be but he seems to have a following and I thought what was really neat was seeing him without the persona. Just like the drummer from the Ramones on the Cleveland episode.


                              2. With regards to AB's pronunciation of "Achatz": I knew a guy with the same last name who pronounced it "ahh-hots". Not to completely excuse AB, though. .