Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Monday, July 22

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Foodporn Fri Jan 01 2016

Friday Foodpic: Roasted Corn

8989798425_f304f0aa0e_z.jpgPicture by Renee Rendler-Kaplan from the Drive Thru Flickr Pool. Take care.

Robyn Nisi

Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds us that in a click-or-die advertising marketplace, one ruled by a million instant pundits, [...] experts are not created from the top down but from the bottom up," effectively mourning the birth of the social media influencer and the Yelp critic alongside the death of the old-guard food writer.

Earlier this year, Chef Marc Vetri took similar mumblings public with his article, "How food journalism got as stale as day-old bread," insinuating that food media is awash in a clickbait and listicle crisis. He claimed that instant access to buzz content has forced "real journalists" to downgrade their standards by "pandering to the most basic, low-brow instincts of readers." Separately, Food and Wine launched -- a digital platform aimed at "food-obsessed" Millennials -- in 2014. The difference in brands was stark, from a completely different design showcasing editorials titled "How to make reindeer cupcakes."

Continue reading this entry »

Brandy Gonsoulin

Event Wed Dec 23 2015

Mark Your Calendars: Supper Club Doc at Siskel

Fun fact I learned about the Old-Fashioned while watching Holly DeRuyter's documentary "OId-Fashioned: The Story of the Wisconsin Supper Club": Korbel set up a booth at the Columbian Exposition of 1893 to introduce the world to their brandy, which became popular with the Fair's many German customers, who brought it north to Wisconsin. The state is still the top buyer of brandy today, because hey, an Old-Fashioned with whiskey is downright heresy.

DeRuyter's documentary, which was crowdfunded (we enthusiastically covered it back in 2011), makes its Chicago debut on Jan. 23rd at the Gene Siskel Film Center (164 N. State) for two screenings. The film does a great job of tracing the origins and distinctive style of the (mostly) Wisconsin-based restaurant phenomenon known for its relish trays, ice cream drinks and fried perch, as well as the role the supper club plays in their community for being a beloved meeting spot for locals and tourists (even the Chicago gangsters of the 1930s liked them). It's hard to watch this on an empty stomach, so if you have a car, you can be at the Wisconsin border in an hour.

Robyn Nisi

Restaurant Sat Dec 19 2015

Dinner at the New Johnny's Grill

johhnys02.jpgAh, the ubiquitous diner-- where one goes to meet friends, cure hangovers, and linger over endless cups of coffee. To me, the perfect diner provides a rallying point for its community. Johnny's Grill, the Logan Square mainstay, has always served up diner standards while offering the perfect position to people-watch across the square. When the original Johnny's Grill closed in summer of 2014, the iconic spot remained empty for a little over a year-- until August 2015, when it opened its doors again and the old-school Johnny's Grill signage remained untouched.

In fact, most of the interior is very recognizable-- counter seating, vinyl bar stools, laminated menus-- just brighter, updated. Chef Sarah Jordan, mostly recognized for her previous work as a pastry chef, now has her hands in all aspects of the restaurant and seems to know what the people want. The breakfast menu features tried-and-true standbys such as "Johnny cakes" and a full Irish breakfast (Jordan herself is originally from Dublin). However, when I visited recently, it was for dinner.

johhnys01.jpgAlong with updating the original Johnny's Grill space, Jordan also expanded into a defunct florist next door, creating the Flower Shop Bar-- a complete one-eighty from the old-school diner vibe. The Flower Shop is dim and quirky, with vibrant teal walls and light fixtures that seem to float above the bar. Drinks include cocktail classics, along with budget-friendly boilerplates and Moody Tongue beers on tap. Dinner options (also available at lunchtime) are varied and surprising: there's your double cheeseburger, yes, but also Irish Bacon Bap sandwich (thick-cut bacon, Swiss cheese, and giardineira) and, on my recent visit, a pleasantly spicy tofu Bahn Mi on a soft roll. Specials are ever-changing, and my friend and I polished off a bowl of fragrant red lentil dal. Definitely not a diner standby, but there was no complaining. On a past visit I also tried the fish and chips-- one of my personal go-to's-- and found it crispy but tender in all the right ways, and an appropriate diner portion (i.e.: large).

Yes, it may take some time for some to completely come around to the idea of a "new" Johnny's-- there are significant changes at this new iteration, but at its heart, it maintains that greasy-spoon vibe (just with less actual grease). Most importantly, it serves up lovingly-made food with a dash of personality-- and that classic people-watching perch.

Johnny's Grill is located at 2545 N Kedzie Blvd.

Danielle Snow / Comments (1)

Foodporn Fri Dec 18 2015

Friday Foodpic: Eataly

11245797465_89c7bf6595_z.jpgPicture by KevinIrvineChi from the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.

Robyn Nisi

Random Thu Dec 17 2015

2015 Food and Drink Gift Guide

If you're like me, last minute and holiday shopping go hand in hand. And if you're like me, the way to my heart is through my stomach. If you still have shopping left to do, these curated local food and drink gift ideas might make last minute not look so last minute at all.

Housemade Macarons from RM Champagne

RM Champange.jpg

For the "likes finer things in life" foodie on your list, or the "I need something quick and easy that says thank you for doing business with me," housemade macarons packaged in a Tiffany's-inspired box from RM Champagne is a definite winner. They come available in quantities of 9 (for $10) or 12 (for $19) and you can even customize your own box with a mix of flavor choices such as violet and cocoa nib or classic favorites like peach and red velvet. Combine it with a bottle of bubbly and you're on your way to sealing the deal for 2016.

Continue reading this entry »

Brandy Gonsoulin

Cookbook Mon Dec 14 2015

Your Holiday Dessert Guide

51kageoScaL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgLegend has it that Chicago-style cheesecake, known to be richer and creamier than its New York counterpart, was created in 1977 by Chicago restaurateur Eli Schulman. The happy accident came about because of a customer complaint that led Schulman to develop a recipe for a dessert that pleased everyone. The story behind the invention of one of the nation's most famous desserts and many other tales of the famous Chicago culinary icon's life are now preserved in The Eli's Cheesecake Cookbook.

Beginning with the first cheesecake creation at Eli's The Place for Steak in the 1970s, the book tells the story of how Eli's was not only a pillar of Chicago's culinary community, it was also a noted celebrity watering hole. The cookbook collects some of the Schulman family's favorite celebrity anecdotes, which also act as introductions to recipes.

The release of the book coincides with the 35th anniversary of Eli's Cheesecakes, and finally allows home cooks to make Eli's famous cheesecake for themselves. . .and just in time for all of your holiday parties.

Jeremy Owens

Foodporn Sun Dec 13 2015

Friday Foodpic: Chicago Botanical Garden

IMG_1954.jpgSubmit your pics to the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.

Robyn Nisi

Beer Thu Dec 10 2015

Some Like It Dark

Three big stout events this week, beer fans.

Tonight at Fischman Liquors, 4776 N. Milwaukee Ave., Lake Effect Brewing and Superdawg celebrate the release of SuperShake, a chocolate malt milkshake-inspired stout that joins the line of collaborations between the brewery and hot dog stand. Starting at 6pm, stop by to sample SuperShake as well as SuperBier and WhoopskiBier. There will be Superdawg and Whoopskidawg samples to pair with their respective beers, ice cream to make SuperShake floats, and a raffle for branded glassware and other stuff.

Continue reading this entry »

Andrew Huff

Chef Thu Dec 10 2015

Chocolate and Cannabis: An Edible Arrangement

mindy segal edible product line.jpgFood heals, figuratively, but starting next year, figurative will become literal in Illinois. And it will be sweet.

Cresco Labs, Illinois's largest cannabis cultivator, and James Beard Award-winning chef Mindy Segal (Hot Chocolate) announced early this week their partnership on a line of edible products. It is the first partnership for both in the medical marijuana edibles industry (that's a legit thing), and a bold move for Chicago. The line, which will include a chocolate brittle bar, infused granola bites and an infused chocolate drink intended to be warm, is set to roll-out at licensed dispensaries across the state starting in February.

If your head is spinning, this is not a vision out of Half-Baked; ever since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, edibles have become what some call the future of the industry, by providing traditional non-smokers with an alternative way to ease the pain.

Continue reading this entry »

Brandy Gonsoulin

Book Tue Dec 08 2015

Foodie Fiction: David Baker's "Vintage"

vintage-david-baker.jpgAs of these past few weeks, window panes across the city of Chicago have begun to fog up and armchairs, left largely unoccupied during our lengthy summer, have begun to beckon once more. To me, winter months mean catching up on reading: more time spent on buses and trains (I'm quite the fair-weather bike commuter), less time going out as a form of entertainment.

Luckily, I can turn to David Baker's debut novel,
, to satisfy my taste for adventure without the need to put on five additional layers of clothing. Sweepingly cinematic in scope, the story begins at a tucked-away restaurant in modern-day Chicago and whisks readers through French winemaking county, a rambling train through Alsace, musty German war archives and a Moscow prison. The objective: track down a long-lost war vintage, a wine lost to the Nazis during World War II that many had believed to be lost to history (or simply a myth).

Continue reading this entry »

Danielle Snow

Event Mon Dec 07 2015

Because We Could Use a Treat Right Now

Bertha Palmer 1.jpgBeginning at 11:30am tomorrow, the Palmer House Hilton (17 E. Monroe) will be giving out free brownies to celebrate National Brownie Day from its real, actual birthplace. Fun fact: in 1893, Bertha Honore Palmer (pictured), wife of dry goods merchant and hotelier Potter Palmer, commissioned a simple, transportable "ladies' dessert" from the Palmer House chef to be served in box lunches at the Women's Building at the Columbian Exposition. Even more fun of a fact: brownies are easy to make and schlep to a holiday potluck. Bertha was a genius.

Robyn Nisi

Foodporn Fri Dec 04 2015

Friday Foodpic: Chriskindlmarket

23317332231_a2d2d5c133_z.jpgPicture by Gary Eckstein from the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.

Robyn Nisi

TV Fri Dec 04 2015

Top Chef Season 13 is Back

top-chef-season-13-kitchen-tour-08.jpgTom and Friends are back on Thursdays at 9 CST!! This season takes place in cities across California, and while there are no Chicago chefs representing our glorious city, there is certainly no shortage of interesting contestants.

Judy Wu

Event Thu Dec 03 2015

Get German Foodstuffs at Christkindlmarket!

Roasted_Almonds_Vendor_by_True_Shot_Studios.jpgStrudel and pretzels, yah?? Yah. If you're in the Loop this December, stop by Christkindlmarket in the Daley Plaza. More than half of the vendors at the market travel from Germany to Chicago to share their traditional offerings, including hand-made holiday ornaments and wooden toys.

For the food-inclined, there is schnitzel, pretzels, potato pancakes, bratwurst, freshly-roasted nuts, and sweet candies. Also look forward to imported German beer (because let's face it, Germans do beer really well) or Gl├╝hwein (hot spiced wine)!

Chicago Location: Daley Plaza in the Loop (There's also a market in Oakbrook)
Dates & Times: Friday, November 20 - Wednesday, December 23
Sundays - Thursdays 11am - 8pm
Fridays & Saturdays 11am - 9pm

Thanksgiving Day & Christmas Eve
11am - 4pm

Judy Wu

GB store

Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

GB store



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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi,
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