Kirk Williamson

Back in days of yore, when Ludlow Liquors first swung its doors open in Avondale, the work of its kitchen and first chef was described as a “permanent food installation.” In the years since, there’s been nothing permanent about it, as it has been home to an ever-shifting but always interesting cast of weird and wonderful kitchen warriors: Nick Jirasek and his Beefy Boys and crab “dragoon”; Mickey Neely and his Sicilian pies and Wee B’s-style burgers; “Asian stoner food” power couple SuperHai—and a whole rogues’ gallery of pop-up chefs.

This January 23 another concept settles in on the corner of California and Wellington when Monday Night Foodball launches a new 2023 season. Sure, I’m sad that the Reader’s weekly chef pop-up is leaving its ancestral home at the Kedzie Inn, but Ludlow already feels comfortable. And not much is changing except the coordinates: you can still read about each chef and their menus every week right here, and access the earliest menu drops by following each chef, @chicago_reader, and @mikesula on Instagram.

We’ve assembled a stellar lineup, if I may say so myself, with old and new faces alike, from separate but equally sorcerous Texas-style barbeque specialists like Mike Shaker of Shaker Barbeque and Joe Yim of Knox Ave BBQ to Michelin-grade smokers Tom Rogers and Adam McFarland of Better Boy.

We have Jamaican food from Tameisha Brown of Be Irie Restaurant, fresh off her pop-up debut at Honey Butter Fried Chicken; crunchwrap king Khaled Simon of Taco Sublime; and a cheese party from Reader People issue star Alisha Norris Jones of Immortal Milk.

Palita Sriratana of Pink Salt is coming back hot from her recent Thailand travels; Jessica Walks First of Ketapanen Kitchen headlines with Native, Tribal, and foraged foods; MNF veterans Thattu preview their up-and-coming Keralan street food brick-and-mortar; and Foodball OGs Joey Pham (fka Flavor Supreme) and Mike “Ramen Lord” Satinover are joining forces with Cat Pham (aka @scratchsniffpurr) for a post-Super Bowl/pre-Valentine’s wonton soup and egg roll night.

But first it’s all kicking off with Marko and Nemanja Milunovic, whose marvelous Balkan eats and drinks launched the 2022 season. More on that here.

That ain’t all. There are other big Foodball doings in store in 2023, so put your fat pants on and strap in.