Longtime Chicago food media personality Steve Dolinsky, formerly known as the Hungry Hound, will soon return to the dining beat, signing on as a food reporter at NBC’s WMAQ-Channel 5. Now rebranded as “the Food Guy,” Dolinsky’s new segment is slated to air on the 10 p.m. newscast on Thursdays starting this week. It will run again on Friday afternoons and weekend mornings.
Speaking to Chicago media reporter Robert Feder, Dolinsky says that he won’t try and reinvent his approach — the new segments will strongly resemble his previous work and he’ll continue to cover a range of restaurants, from upscale new openings to neighborhood favorites around the city and suburbs. He is, however, permanently shedding the Hungry Hound name, though it’s not yet clear whether the change is Dolinsky’s decision or an issue with ABC.
A multiple James Beard media award winner, Dolinsky departed ABC 7 Chicago in late January after 17 years after the station decided not to renew his contract. Much was made of his departure, as it quickly followed the retirement of Tribune dining critic Phil Vettel after 31 years. The news elicited a eulogy from Washington Post dining critic Tom Sietsema, who construed the exits as a possible death knell for Chicago’s standing among the top U.S. dining scenes.
Feder spoke with Kevin Cross, the president and general managers of NBCUniversal Local Chicago, who was responsible for hiring Dolinsky. Cross mentioned nostalgia in watching ABC 7’s James Ward who spent two decades doing restaurant reviews on TV, from 1995 to 2005. Vettel was among his fans.
Four months after Sietsema’s pronouncement, however, Dolinsky is back on TV and the Tribune (since purchased by the notorious Alden Capital Group) promoted dining reporters Louisa Chu and Nick Kindelsperger to co-critics. The sky was never falling on Chicago’s food media landscape: the pieces have in large part moved around as familiar faces and voices reemerged under new titles.
It remains to be seen if that same fate awaits Elliott Bambrough and Marley Kayden, co-hosts of Emmy Award-winning food show Chicago’s Best. WGN announced last month that it has canceled the show after more than a decade.
Dolinsky, who has a sequel to Pizza City USA due in October, wasn’t immediately reached for comment.
And in other news...
— Mammoth music festival Lollapalooza often draws celebrities to Chicago for performances and events. Sure enough, stars — they’re just like us! — also need to eat. Here are a few VIPs spotted dining around the city, according to reps:
- Boy band legend and frosted tips influencer Lance Bass joined actor Darren Criss (Glee, American Crime Story) and friends on Friday at speakeasy-style tiki bar Three Dots and a Dash in River North.
- Fred Durst took his new high-school-basket-ball-coach aesthetic out on the town on Friday, dining with members of Limp Bizkit at riverside restaurant Pizzeria Portofino.
- Surprise Lolla performer Machine Gun Kelly and actress Megan Fox took Kelly’s daughter to dinner on Saturday at glitzy RPM Italian in River North.
— Annual neighborhood food festival Taste of River North is canceled for 2021 due to pandemic fallout still facing Chicago’s hospitality industry, according to a news release. Though numerous restaurants in the area would like to participate, too many are still struggling with economic problems and staffing shortages that make it impossible to run a large public event, organizers say. The event, which would have marked the fest’s 20th anniversary, was slated for August 20 to 21. More details and information on refunds for advance ticket holders are available online.