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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Friday, December 1

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Interview Fri Aug 15 2008

Pilsen's Take Me Out Taken Out by 18th Street Fire

takemeoutsign.jpgKaren Lim's popular Take Me Out hot wings joint in Pilsen was heavily damaged by the early morning fire that gutted the 1500 block of West 18th Street on Aug. 11. In its brief, four-month life, the eatery received rave reviews for its "Little Hotties" Asian hot wings.

The mighty wings first arose at Great Sea, the longtime Albany Park Chinese-Korean fusion restaurant run by Lim's parents, but her version are no slouch either. On a recent pre-fire visit, the wings were fried to a succulent, caramelized, crispy goodness reminiscent of roast duck, and smothered with a spicy-sweet mix of soy sauce, chili, ginger and garlic.

I knew the wings would be on my short list of favorite Windy City eats when, after I could eat no more, I had an overpowering urge to suck the sauce from the serving platter with a straw. "I'd say mine were better, but my parents had a 21-year head start, so we're about even," said Lim, standing with husband Nathan in the middle of the shuttered eatery on Wednesday, the first time the police let them inside to see the damage.

It was an accidental tour. I was out front peering through the glass at the darkened dining room when Karen and Nathan appeared behind me and asked if I wanted to see the damage up close.

"Everyone knows BomBon and Andrade Jewelers are gone, but no one thinks we were burned out because the front of the store looks okay," she said. "The fire came into our kitchen from the back. It's pretty scorched. Plus, we lost all the food, the walk-in cooler isn't working, and all the walls have water damage."

Looking around the ruined kitchen, the fire's trail is clearly visible. Entering through a rear window, flames ate their way up the back wall, ruining the stove and HVAC equipment in their march towards the front counter. Sprinklers helped save the rest of the interior, but the intense heat managed to melt or warp whatever didn't burn.

"We're discouraged," said Lim. "This was my baby -- it took ten months to create, but just one day to destroy." Even so, customers have been ringing the phone off the hook asking when they'll be able to get their hands on the transcendental hot wings again.

Lim hopes to be back up and running in three months' time. That may be a tall order, though. "Our insurance broker didn't sign us up for adequate coverage," lamented husband Nathan. "We're not sure how we're gonna finance all the repairs."

Still, Karen Lim's not backing down. "Don't worry about Nathan, we've been married six years and he never smiles," she said. "But I'm still smiling. I already told him, this place is my destiny."

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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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