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Random Thu Mar 29 2007

Will the old Time Out Chicago please stand up?

I have a love/hate relationship with Time Out Chicago; I used to love it, now I hate it. This week's issue features the First Annual Eat Out Awards, a completely frustrating, if not perplexing, 13-page section on the "best" eateries in Chicago as determined by TOC's food critics and its readers. The majority of the critics' choices are restaurants you can afford if you have a decent paycheck for your PR job in the Loop. How many times are we going to have to read about how innovative Alinea is? True, I might be bitter that I've never been, and likely will never have saved enough money to blow on dinner there, but I think I'm just longing for the days (i.e. TOC's first year of publication) when they wrote about 19 cent falafel more than they fawned over $19 personal pizzas at Spacca Napoli.

I even blame TOC for the ghastly outcome of the Readers' Choice awards, because the "choices" for which readers were to vote were rather out of touch. Smoke Daddy as an option for "Best Barbecue"? Give me a break! Smoke Daddy is merely okay in a pinch for barbecue, and it certainly doesn't hold a candle to the nominees with which it was listed. It won (?!), but I think that's due to a large Wicker Park readership who hasn't bothered to make the trek to any of the other nominees (Fat Willy's, Honey 1, Lem's, Smoque and Uncle John's).

Last week's feature was titled "Vs", and it claimed take Chicago "classics," make them go "head-to-head," and determine the outcome "in the ultimate citywide smackdown." What it really did, however, was pit apples against oranges, and then they closed their eyes and pointed to one, making for a read that left this reader saying "huh?" so many times, you'd have thought I was doing trigonometry. Spacca Napoli competed with Pizzeria Uno (for "Best place to eat a pie for dinner") and Goose Island Brew Pub (for "Most delicious homebrew"). I think it would have made more sense if Pizzeria Uno was against another Chicago-style pizzeria (some pizza experts don't even call that pizza!) or Spacca Napoli went head-to-head with Pizza D.O.C. (and you know how I feel about that). Likewise, Goose Island isn't really a "homebrew" because it distributes its beer. Comparing it with another local brewery (Two Brothers, perhaps?) would have made more sense.

I'm not about to cancel my subscription, because even with the annoying food coverage, I look forward to each new issue's arrival on Wednesdays. I do think that the "Eat Out" staff needs to take a week off, go to one of those spas the magazine raves about and do a little bit of reflection on the direction of their section––for at least as much time as I put into that last sentence.

 
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Donny B / March 30, 2007 3:33 PM

Isn't it a little misleading to criticize Spacca for $19 pizzas? I've been there multiple times and never paid that much. In fact, it's always been between $12-$14 for a 14" pizza. That's not too bad at all. I know you didn't like the experience there, but like other commentators have stated, Neopolitan pizzas are not traditional thin crusts. Parts of the crust get charred, it's a little doughy/soft in the middle, etc. But everytime I bring a new group there, everyone likes it, even those that aren't big pizza fans (yes, those people do exist).

But yeah, Pizza DOC is pretty good, too.

To each his own. I'm just sayin'.

Donny B / March 30, 2007 3:34 PM

I forgot - I also agree with the rest of your recap. Alinea - over it, and I've never even been there. Same with some of the other options. Bo-ring.

Bill / March 30, 2007 3:40 PM

Sure, some of the Reader's Choice winners were kinda lame but it's a Reader's Choice. Hello? I think Time Out's dining coverage is the best feature of the magazine. What makes it great is how they bestow the same love upon Hot Doug's as they do Alinea. Nobody else comes close to the depth and variety of their dining coverage. I've discovered many gems in the City thanks to my Time Out subscription. And by the way, Spacca Napoli is the best pizza in Chicago - well worth the $13.99 I paid for mine on Saturday. Cheers!

Chris H / March 30, 2007 7:38 PM

While I'm certainly not accusing anyone of anything, I know for a fact that magazines like Time Out in other cities sell the right to "win" their contests to advertisers.

Andrew / March 31, 2007 12:51 PM

Chris, I work at Time Out and I can assure you that the Readers Choice winners were based on the votes we received from our online ballots. Your damaging implicaton above is both false and irresponsible.

Adler / March 31, 2007 5:15 PM

That's a nice little conspiracy theory you have, Chris: "I'm not accusing anyone of anything?" Really? "Magazines like Time Out in other cities"? Could you be a little more vague? Sorry to disturb your aluminum-foil-helmet view here, but your note is completely wrong.

Andrew / April 3, 2007 11:06 PM

(Just to be clear, the Andrew above is not me, the editor of this site. I don't work for Time Out.)

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
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