Sky Full of Bacon

Guest Editorial: The Michelin Chicago Guide


When injustice besmirched the lobster bib of France in the Dreyfus case, the fearless writer Emile Zola cried out: “J’Accuse!”

Today, when another injustice is done by Frenchmen, I must be no less bold. No less courageous. No less willing to put my opinion right on the front page, with my name in type as large as Zola’s: J’Accuse!

What is it that prompts me to make this j’accusation?  Why do I willingly choose to be such a big j’acc?

It is, simply, the only choice I have when I look at the list of Bib Gourmands, the supposed list of “Chicago good values” issued by the Guide Michelin last week.  Someone has to stand up for the best in value-priced cuisine in Chicago, and as the founder, CEO, chef de content, and Chief Visionary Officer of, je suis that someone:

• Melange: Un Creperie. No, no, no, M. Naret and all your anonymous reviewers. As I made clear in my definitive post, “Puckle Density in Chicago Crepes, A Spectrographic Analysis,” Melange’s use of a powdered crepe mix results in an insufficient puckle to plane ratio of 1.6:1-1.83:1, depending on whether it’s Arturo or Manuel in the back doing the mixing. The best creperies in Paris achieve a standard of at least 2.12:1, and the anti-griddle crepes at Jean-Chauve Souris’ experimental crepe atelier Désespoir in Toulon achieve an awe-inspiring 4.67:1 (see Lardone, “The Creperies of France: A Study With My New Nikon DXL650SI” and Lardone, “I Can’t Believe Delta Won’t Let Me Use My Miles To Go To Freakin’ Paris Directly”).

• Go Thai Yourself. Really? Really, France, did your experience in Indochina teach you nothing about Asian food? Go Thai Yourself’s boat noodles are a sad, lumpish mockery of a classic dish, the gristly, wizened nam tok redefines the meaning of “insult to the customer,” and the nam khaa pla vim kra ban tuu fok Chiang Mai style is blatantly inferior to the version available on the upstairs back room secret menu tattooed on the owner’s 100-year-old mother’s inner thigh (may require anti-wrinkle cream to read completely) at Thai You Too Pal— as anyone would know who has read my extensive posts on Thai food. Did you even open your browsers, Team Michelin? Why do you even go out to eat if you aren’t willing to do due diligence? The best you can say for Go Thai Yourself is that the hostess, Gum, is an especially attractive young lady whose pert breasts exhibit all the perfection of form, shapeliness and jiggle sadly lacking in the chive dumplings. Um, now that I think about it, this one was fine, actually.

• Ye Scurvy Dog. I am shocked at the inclusion of this pathetic old school excuse for a Chicago fish and chips house. Yes, it may have been popular with vintage celebrities such as Mitzi Gaynor, Gordon McRae and Cardinal Mindszenty back in the 1950s and 1960s, but we’re not living in Kup’s Chicago any more. What makes this choice such a mockery of everything I have devoted my life to (see Lardone, Dreams From My Waiter, coming Spring 2011 from Harper Collins Perennial) is that it continues to serve the style of fried fish I call “fish kugel,” in which the fish is encoated in a gummy, flavorless batter which quickly turns insipid with exposure to air. True fish and chips devotees such as myself know that only a light cornmeal-based dusting achieves the perfect viscosity-to-aeration ratio which allows the full flavor of the tilapia to shine through.

When you review this sorry list you wonder how anyone could be so far astray from the truth of Chicago dining, which can easily be found via my blog (follow me on Twitter: TheLardone). Far better choices for the visiting European to gain a real sense of our city’s bounty would have been the shrimp dosa at Klang, the pork intestine panini at Uub, or the Lemonhead pot stickers at The Sheepman. How can anyone know Chicago who has not tasted the bacalao testa at Archerman & Trenchfoot, the delicately piney piquancy of the mulattoes y castratos at El Muerte de Castro, the Imploding Plasma-State Margarita at Cassowary, or the crabapple-based giardinera at Sal’s South Pulaski No Loitering? The answer is as stark as the shuttered Mister Freeze of my youth: they can’t. And much as it pains me to have to say it, if they come to Chicago clutching the Michelin Guide instead of on their iPhone (get the FooderChicago app at iTunes, $1.99), they won’t.

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