Steingold’s in North Center isn’t traditional but those who check their expectations at the door “will be rewarded with[the] lip-smacking Jewish deli of the future,” writes Michael Nagrant. The meats, while “inspired by Jewish food culture,” aren’t the kind that grandma used to make. The “delightfully glistening” pastrami stars wagyu beef smoked for six hours and rubbed with a blend of spices, Order it crowned with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing for the best Reuben in town. Poultry is shown just as much love on the Grandma Rachel, featuring olive oil and herb-rubbed turkey, espelette pepper-spiked coleslaw, and bubbly Havarti.
Purists will scoff at the “Sister-In-Law” that pairs the “luscious” pastrami with housemade dill kimchi and Chinese mustard in a baguette, but Nagrant is a believer. On the fish side, the tartine sandwich “skews traditional in flavor, but looks a little like a modernist painting.” Crisp latkes also “make a good case” as a vessel for caviar while matzo ball is “light, not dense, and the broth is rich, soulful, and swampy.” From top to bottom, Steingold’s is “one of the best destination sandwich shops in Chicago.” [RedEye]
Despite some execution issues, Mike Sula thinks The Delta in Bucktown is a “fun interpretation” of southern cuisine. Tamales are the restaurant’s signature dish and they’re “fairly faithfully re-created and upgraded” using ground beef brisket “enrobed” in cornmeal grits. There are also “controversial” tamale creations offered with varying degrees of success. The Mother in Law comes covered in Chicago-style toppings but the “dense, dry carb bomb is tough to swallow.” In contrast, the “delicious and beautiful” Jim Shoe — lamb and beef tamales piled high with housemade pastrami, provolone, giardiniera, and more — is a mess worth devouring.
The Delta’s kitchen’s fry game is a bit of a miss as well. Hush puppies are “sodden with oil though crunchy and scarfable,” while fried chicken arrives “bleeding raw batter under its crispy skin.” The menu also features fried chicken-liver rice with mushroom and bacon, and a whole grilled catfish smothered in beurre monte sauce that Sula calls the “best thing on the Delta’s menu.” Beignets provide an appropriate sweet finish and the beverage program features icy smashes “that are complex and restrained in sweetness, such as the herbaceous ‘Fernet Me Now.’” [Reader]
Portsmith is the winner that the Dana Hotel and Spa in River North has been looking for. Graham Meyer reviews the lunch menu and finds dishes like seared ahi tuna with “gently surprising romesco, and also a more-surprising avocado browned in clarified butter.” A “pure-tasting” hamachi crudo is a solid option, as is the clam chowder bathing “plump, tender” mussels. There are minor missteps, such as a “gummy bun” with the king crab bao, but overall Portsmith is erasing the sins of the hotel’s past. [Crain’s]