If you have a question about anything related to Chicago-area foods, Gary Wiviott could probably answer it. If he can't, his thousands of acolytes on LTHForum.com
, the "Chicago-based culinary chat site" he founded in 2004, surely can. From brisket to brunch, from sushi to succotash, it's all covered on LTH.
You spend a lot of time writing about food on LTHForum.com. I'm curious about where you do your drinking.
I'm partial to the Matchbox. I'm partial to Weegee's Lounge. I like Hopleaf, and I also like Map Room. I'm not a huge drinking person, but I certainly like a good conversation-friendly bar with an emphasis on good drinks. Moreover, at these places I’m likely to run into someone I might know. I would say [at] the Matchbox, there's always an LTHForum person in there.
This one seems like a gimme, based on the name of the forum, but what's your favorite hidden gem in Chicago?
Little Three Happiness Restaurant, 209 West Cermak! It's my favorite restaurant in Chicago. I think [another] hidden gem is Maxwell Street. I don't think Maxwell Street gets enough attention. Where else can you go buy a dozen tube socks, a box of mangos and get a fantastic carne asada grilled over lump charcoal, all before 8:30 in the morning on a Sunday?
What's the best Chicago-related advice you've either given or received?
I'm an ex-Wisconsinite: Don't cheer for the Packers in a crowded Chicago bar during the Bears/Packers game. It may be not good for your health. Actually, the best piece of advice I could give would be [to] explore Chicago to its fullest. Don't let geographic boundaries inhibit you. Chicago is an extremely diverse, vibrant city with a lot to offer; move outside your comfort zone, whatever that might be.
What's the worst service blunder you've ever experienced?
A few years ago on our anniversary, my wife and I were at a top-tier, high-end Chicago restaurant. The sommelier comes over, and I’m not an oenophile but I've got a wine picked out. I asked for input, the person gave me a little bit of input, and I mentioned the wine that I was thinking about. And he looks at me, looks at my wife, looks back at me, and asks "Sir, is this a special occasion?"
I said yes, it's our anniversary. He says "Do you really wish to order something so inexpensive?" And the wine was $110! This wasn't some cheap bottle of wine. He looks at me, looks at my wife, and tries to embarrass me into buying some $300 [or] $400 bottle of wine. That was [messed] up, my friend. That's pretty bad, wouldn't you say? I don't mind up-selling—I expect a little upselling sometimes—but that's just rude. It's bad form.
Besides LTHForum, what are you reading?
I tend to read cookbooks like novels. Right now I’m reading Breath of a Wok by Grace Young. I'm also reading Heat by Bill Buford…bedside reading is The Field Guide to Meat. [laughs]
That’s good sleeping reading.
It is good sleeping reading! And it's well diagrammed.