Probably the most significant Chicago restaurant world stories of the last week and a half were the opening of Three Dots and a Dash and the closing of West Town Tavern (followed by the opening and then closing of Chicago Taco). How did the Chicago food media handle each?
Let’s start with West Town Tavern. I never went, but everything that I had heard led me to believe that WTT was a nice neighborhood spot and it always seemed to be kind of just chugging along. A little googling revealed that the place had been open since 2002, so basically it was ancient by restaurant life expectancy standards. On July 22, seemingly out of nowhere, WTT abruptly announced that they were closing. Three days later we found out that the restaurant would be re-opening the next day (under the same ownership) as Chicago Taco. Chicago Taco opened for a night, and then closed, and that, it seems, is that. So what happened? Perhaps this would be an interesting story for a local food journalist to pursue. Well, apparently not. At this point we’re stuck with Eater comments (potentially the lowest form of discourse known to man) and Twitter speculation.
On the other hand, Three Dots and a Dash is now open. Paul McGee/Lettuce Entertain You’s tiki bar/soon to be bro vs. cocktail hipster Octagon of Truth is now fully operational underneath Bub City. I know this because Twitter was flooded with pictures and talk of the free drinks from friends and family. I also know this because Time Out Chicago posted this. Is it an opening report? Maybe. Is it a review? Coyly no, I guess. It does sound like the author and companions had a great time boozing it up, and we’re left with the comment
So how was everything? We’re planning to review Three Dots and a Dash once it’s been open for at least a month, but we’ll say that we finished every drink in front of us.
Well, if you’re going to review it in a month then don’t say anything. Besides, I’m pretty sure that I’d be pretty excited about any bar where I drank the entire menu (on someone else’s dime I assume). So in the end, what’s the point? Is this any better or more valuable than a press release? I will say that the upside to this potential tiki revival is that we’re finally going to get some pictures of cocktails that don’t look like this (found via Google Image Search)
The difference in coverage between these two stories is pretty typical of the Chicago food media these days unfortunately. Non-critical coverage of the latest PR driven opening, and non-existent coverage of the closing of a venerable neighborhood restaurant. I don’t blame any individuals for this, at least not entirely. But this is what happens as media outlets cut budgets and people. All of us really come out worse off.
UPDATE: This was a major oversight on my part, but if you are interested in a substantive discussion of tiki that goes beyond “ZOMG we drank all of the drinks” check out the latest Airwaves Full of Bacon podcast here. It’s a great listen on tiki and other subjects, and really represents the best of non-PR driven journalism right now.