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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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Saturday, May 25

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Review Fri Nov 21 2008

Better Than Excellent

Everyday we eat and if we're lucky, we eat well. If not, a pity. But when we eat exceedingly well as I just did, that's another story entirely. I have a hope that by documenting this phenomena so close to experiencing it, i'll be able to prolong the magic of the moment. Or at least get back to it by rereading this.

I've eaten there now about half a dozen times. It's always excellent, but somehow today it was even better than excellent. It just got to me on so many levels. Smell to start with. Primitive senses coursing through my body upon opening the door.

Brain synapses instantly flood my reptilian psyche, saying "me likey"!!!

Visually, a working class family-run storefront. There's thousands throughout Chicagoland and I'm certain that within a few, greatness resides. Maybe few and far between, but some of them have got it going on. That's part of the game. Searching for and ocassionally finding that ellusive, near unobtainable thing. Or quoting Guisspe Verdi "the pursuit of joys untasted".

Like today.

Spare, economic, utilitarian but smart surroundings run by people (family often) putting out heartfelt food from a world they inhabit no longer. Food as reminder of what was left behind. A link to the past. Soul food for their souls and in turn, ours.

And taste: a type of deja vu but not. Hard to explain. It reminded me of the first exotic foreign foods I so loved as a child only amped up to the 10th power, as if they were on fire. I couldn't stop myself from gloating while nearly levitating. My chi engorged, I could only smile and shovel it in between my laughter and wonderment.

I kept saying how happy this food made me. At least I thought I was but for all i know, i may have been babbling senseless gibberish. I"ll have to ask my buddy next time I see him.

This was an all too infrequent motherlode from the serious eating gods.

Is this wrong? I mean, it's such a simple pleasure and I'm dying over here. With everything else going on in the world I'm sitting here making my lunch out to be earth shattering, which even as I'm writing this I can't help but think it was. I'm not mistaken. It was.

In a way it was familiar but not. Genetic memory? But whose genes? I grew up in Chicago, not Sichuan Provence. But it was like coming home, or the reason to get up in the morning, in hopes of experiencing what I'm describing here. I sleep well at night knowing this type of bounty is hopefully somewhere in my near future.

Personally, I eat well nearly all the time. I rarely don't, but when I do (meaning don't) I tend to pout like a Goddamn baby. Before I even realize it, a physical change transforms me. My brow furrows, my bottom lip juts, my head slants down... a physical reaction reddily apparent in my body language before I can even say it in words. A natural inclination like a reflex.

I could tell you what I ate but will it have the same effect on you? I'd hope so because it's a bit of a haul to get there. So if you go, the crispy, juicy, chewy, spicy noodles with chilies and assorted goodies and the pancake with pork are what did it today. Oh, and some pickles from the refrigerated case next to the counter and Katy's candidate for best potsticker with soup dumpling aspirations in captivity. It was a veritable money shot while biting into it.

In fact, the only criticism I can find for today's meal is that it's not closer to my home.

Long ride.

Katy's Dumpling House
665 N. Cass Ave.
Westmont, IL
(630) 323-9393

Hours: 11am - 9pm
Closed Wednesdays
Cash only


Alan Lake has been a professional chef for 25 years and has won numerous awards, professional competitions and distinctions. He's mainly consulting now, setting up projects like kitchen design, menu development, hiring and training staff, research, etc. He has also been a professional musician most of his life, coining the term "jazzfood" to describe "solid technique based upon tasteful improvisational skills." Just like the music.

- Alan Lake

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Kate / November 21, 2008 12:04 PM

"...but for all i know, i may have been babbling senseless gibberish." Exactly.

Theresa / November 21, 2008 4:01 PM

Great story - I laughed; I cried; I ordered lunch.

consumatron / November 21, 2008 9:42 PM

.Pancake with pork.

.Dan Dan Noodles.

.die happy.


Julia / November 24, 2008 2:51 PM

for the love of god, someone get this man an editor. this is painful to read.

Oh no / November 27, 2008 8:27 PM

I wish you hadn't written this article. Now I'll have to wait for the rush to die down until I can go again! It's a secret, see? Please don't write any more articles about Katy's from now on.

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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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