It’s been a bad week for naming restaurants after America’s heritage: Boka Group’s Armour & Swift, a West Loop steakhouse whose name was meant to evoke Chicago’s meatpacking history (both having been early meatpacking giants). The problem was that Armour is still an active brand name with active lawyers, and they threatened action to protect their brand. Ironically the same company, after many mergers, wound up owning the Swift name too, but apparently it’s no longer defendable—because Boka’s Armour & Swift is now Swift & Co. Other suggestions (Sinclair & Luetgert?) were rejected. This is the second time Boka Group has had to change a name because somebody else already had it—the Girl & the Goat was originally going to be the Drunken Goat, which is a cheese brand from Spain.
Then Leadbelly, a two-restaurant burger chain on the northwest that’s sort of the VH1 version of Kuma’s, changed its name after reportedly spending a year negotiating with the House of Leadbelly Estate, owners of the trademark of the musician Leadbelly (who wrote “Bourgeois Blues” not likely suspecting that someday he’d have lawyers capable of inflicting them). As their announcement changing it to Brgrbelly put it, “While we were simply trying to honor the musician and the musicians he influenced, we did not have a national trademark on the use of the name.” So Goodnight, Irene to Leadbelly burgers by that name, but everything else, they promise, stays the same.
• Food media is buzzing about a nasty review by a Brit named Tanya Gold, of New York’s Per Se and Eleven Madison Park, in Harper’s. The piece manages some effective one-liners (“the food is so overtended and overdressed I am amazed it has not developed the ability to scream in your face, walk off by itself, and sulk in its room”) but many of them feel like they could be addressed to anybody, like the zingers at a Dean Martin Celebrity Roast. The real issue for me is: Can you imagine a piece about these restaurants, or any restaurants, in Harper’s which would praise them? That would find wonder and magic in the experience? No, you can’t, because Harper’s is the magazine for well-off dyspeptics; its core audience is people in William Hamilton cartoons (like former time-traveling editor Lewis Lapham), the WASP who’s been passed over for tenure and finds the whole world just dreadfully vulgar these days. Actually liking food is for those annoying little suck-ups at the Atlantic.
• Food media is buzzing a little about Eater National publishing a piece on “27 Food Stories Nobody Needs to Write Again.” It’s funny in spots and one doesn’t disagree about some (“I went on a fishing trip with a bunch of chefs and then we cooked the fish together afterwards,” ” I married into an ‘ethnic’ family and their food taught me how to feel feelings”), which are exactly about food as an aspirational lifestyle rather than a practical craft, but if Eater really wanted to kill these story types, they’d post the list in their own break room with “All Writers Must Read” written in red marker at the top. (Instead they say, “If you think you can write a version of one of these stories that is actually fresh, we’d like to run it. Drop us a line.”) Hey, we just hope the newest division of Comcast won’t have to write this next, because they’re about the last ones left.
• RPM Steak will have a dinner on Monday, August 24 with Local Option brewery, which will pour brews for the five-course dinner including Dampf Loc, an all-barley, warm-fermented ale originally crafted by Black Forest peasants, and Die Konigin, an unfiltered, oak-aged lager. The dinner is $150 per person; call 312-284-4990.
• New York’s Big Gay Ice Cream is coming to Chicago on a book tour, and will sign and serve ice cream sandwiches Sunday, August 30 from 2:30 to 4:30 PM at Bang Bang Pie. Since cookies go with ice cream, we are told, Mindy Segal will also be there signing her book Cookie Love, and since beer goes with everything, 3 Floyds will be there pouring this year’s Moloko Stout. Tickets are $10 and you can get them (and also purchase books) here.