Phil Vettel, a graduate of Eastern Illinois University, joined Tribune Company (at Suburban Trib) in 1979, and has been The Tribune’’s restaurant critic since 1989. He has a wife and two sons, one or more of whom often accompany Phil on his culinary adventures. He also makes a mean egg-salad sandwich.

Recent Articles
  • Phil Vettel reviews Wherewithall

    CHICAGO, Ill. — Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim, the husband-wife duo behind the acclaimed Parachute, recently opened Wherewithall, just a block south of their first restaurant. It’s a cute space, a mix of individual and banquette seating, the look softened by fabric shades on the hanging lights. The menu is limited; Wherewithall serves exclusively a four-course dinner, priced at $65 dollars. But the restricted format, the chefs say, opens the doors for creativity and experimentation. The constant change means that […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Rooh

    CHICAGO, Ill. — Chef Sujan Sarkar has highly regarded restaurants in India, Great Britain, San Francisco and New York, and now he’s landed in Chicago with Rooh, which opened in May in the Randolph Street restaurant corridor. Don’t expect the usual, classic Indian dishes here; Sarkar’s food embraces tradition, but with a modernist approach. Take, for example, the tuna bhel, a sort of mash-up of bhel puri and tuna tartare. The tuna is mixed with black puffed rice and vegetables, […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews St. Clair Supper Club

    CHICAGO — The St. Clair Supper Club is the Alinea Group’s homage to the Wisconsin Supper Club. The retro décor hits all the right notes: The paper placemats on bare-wood tables, the tufted-leather banquettes, the ironically tacky specials board. There’s even a Brandy Old Fashioned, which is how they do an Old Fashioned in the North Woods. It’s far too sweet for me, but no question, it’s absolutely authentic, albeit with better ice than you’ll find up north. The narrow, […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews two waterfront pizza restaurants

    CHICAGO, Ill. — In no particular order, Chicagoans love dining outdoors, dining by the water, and pizza. Two new Chicago restaurants offer all three. First is Robert’s Pizza and Dough Company, which overlooks the River East Arts Center’s waterfront promenade. The front room has a bar and open-air views of Ogden Slip, and there’s plenty of interior room when the weather turns cold. Robert Garvey is the pizza perfectionist who created the outstanding pie crust; Michael Luth is the chef […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Aboyer & Silencieux

    WINNETKA, Ill. — Three restaurants, one chef, one roof. That’s the set-up in Winnetka, where Michael Lachowicz’ four-star George Trois restaurant – beautiful as always – has been joined by Aboyer and Silencieux, both of which opened in early May. Aboyer is the larger, noisier restaurant; Aboyer, after all, means “to bark.” The large room contains 56 seats and an open bar, features dark walls and a splash of color, and even turns wine storage into a decorative element. The […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Ocean Prime

    CHICAGO, Ill. — A seafood restaurant with a steakhouse sensibility, Ocean Prime opened in the spring at Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue. It’s not the easiest restaurant to spot; the window signs are subtle to say the least. But there is a sign over the door, once you find it. Inside, the decor is very modern steakhouse-y, with white-linen tables, leather booths, and soaring ceilings with uplit pillars and elegant chandeliers. And, of course, there is a serious wine cellar. […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Kumiko and Kikko

    CHICAGO — A nondescript corner on Lake Street, just west of the Loop, is home to not one, but two Japanese concepts. Kumiko is the large restaurant at street level, but we’ll get back to that. First, it’s down the staircase to Kikko, which is a 10-seat counter, in the style of a sushi bar, serving a 12-course menu by chef Mariya Russell. Indeed, one of the big draws of Kikko is the ability to watch Russell at work, up […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Cira and Cabra

    CHICAGO —The Hoxton, a boutique hotel in the Fulton Market District, is home to a pair of restaurants that should be on your radar. On the ground floor is Cira, which begins at the lobby and its magnificent bar and extends all the way to the open kitchen in back. Chef Chris Pandel’s food has a Mediterranean focus, but that focus has pretty flexible boundaries. And so the pasta program will include an all-Italian pistachio ravioli, with saffron-orange butter, pistachio […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Cafe Cancale

    CHICAGO, Ill. — Cool and refreshing as an ocean breeze, Café Cancale is a two-month-old French seafood restaurant. Sitting on the northern edge of Wicker Park, the restaurant is light and airy, with awning covered and shaded windows, and a few mirrors creating a porthole effect. The name comes from a coastal town in Brittany, known for its oysters, and so naturally, oysters are a big part of the menu. Six varieties are offered daily, served on ice with a […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Galit

    CHICAGO — Chef Zach Engel won a James Beard Foundation award for his work at Shaya, an Israeli restaurant in New Orleans. Now he’s in Chicago, offering up food from throughout the Middle-Eastern region at Galit, which opened at the beginning of April in Lincoln Park. Galit seats about a hundred or so diners at free tables, L-shaped banquettes and a counter that overlooks the open kitchen. Sit at the counter if you can, and enjoy the kitchen action, and […]

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