Best of 2016: Our Favorite Food Stories—Hot Dogs, Empanadas, Kimchi Fries and Strange Foods

Four Food stories resonated with our readers this year. Two of the posts with the most reader visits for our entire website were on the Food page.


Hot Dog Chicago

The champion post on Third Coast Review in 2016 was “Hot Dog Chicago3cr-kyd-bill-savage-teaching: Ketchup, Maxwell Street, Yellow Signage and Democracy” by Bill Savage, a guest author, Northwestern University professor and pop culture savant.

One reason for the popularity of Bill’s street food disquisition is his willingness to dispute the common (Chicago) wisdom about ketchup on hot dogs.

“Among the more ridiculous storylines in Chicago street-food culture is the idea that anyone who puts ketchup on a hot dog is not a real Chicagoan. That’s the mild version of the common attitude: more extreme no-ketchup zealots suggest hellfire and damnation await anyone who violates this Condiment Commandment.”

Bill’s essay also covers the nature of Maxwell Street dogs and hot dog stand signage.


IMG_66051Empanadas on Southport

Another popular Food post this year was Emma Terhaar’s gourmet tour of the Southport Corridor in search of empanadas. She found them in abundance and rated the best venues. The result: three great empanada places on a two-block stretch of Southport where you can indulge in these greasy meat and cheese pies.





Kimchi Fries

kimchifriesJust thinking of kimchi fries makes me hungry. These little mountains of crispy fries, cheese, bacon, sesame seeds, habanera sauce and caramelized kimchi are more than a side dish. They are heaven in a basket. Also kimchi is healthy, you know. Fermented foods are good for your gut.

Kim Campbell bravely went on a tour of the few Chicago eateries that serve kimchi fries and told us about her five favorites. I personally favor bopNgrill, probably because that was the site of my first kimchi fries experience.


Strange Foods Chicago

Finally, Emma, our Lit editor, sought out the founder of Chicago’s first Strange Foods Festival, designed to highlight the best mom-and-pop restaurants in our richly ethnic city. Emma (besides being lit-wise, she’s an inveterate cook and foodie) previewed the festival with its founder over a bowl of pho.

A month later, Emma recapped the festival, which featured 15 different restaurants, folk dance schools, musicians and martial arts performers in an event space in West Town for an afternoon of bold flavors. The festival emphasized traditional ethnic ingredients and favorite dishes not often found in mainstream restaurants. Like steamed cow brain.

Nancy S Bishop
Nancy S Bishop

Nancy S. Bishop is publisher and Stages editor of Third Coast Review. She’s a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and a 2014 Fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. You can read her personal writing on pop culture at, and follow her on Twitter @nsbishop. She also writes about film, books, art, architecture and design.