FRANK ON FOOD
Although I take infinite pleasure in writing about food, readers of this column should know that in spite of my considerable culinary background-and a fondness for a well spread table-I do not write restaurant reviews. I am not a restaurant critic.

Nevertheless, I have opinions, and, when I find a good restaurant, I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from being able share with you my views about that restaurant.

To say that I just found Wishbone Restaurant isn’t quite true. Actually, I discovered-and truly enjoyed-this gem of a restaurant years ago at their location on Washington Boulevard, just west of Chicago’s Loop. They have another location on north Lincoln Avenue. Long known for its popular and super-satisfying menu of what chef/owner Joel Nickson lightheartedly describes as “reconstruction cooking,” I have just rediscovered Wishbone in our own backyard, as part of the legendary FitzGerald’s on Roosevelt Road in Berwyn.

In what I can only call one of the smartest collaborations in recent memory-Bill FitzGerald himself described Wishbone as “a dream choice of a partner”-the pairing of these two fine enterprises promises to be a win-win situation for everyone concerned, especially the patrons. Customers can eat great Southern cooking in the restaurant, which is located right next door to the nightclub, or just as easily get the same wonderful food to bring into the club, the Sidebar, or out in the beer garden. And kids are welcome, too.

Speaking of kids, both FitzGerald’s and Wishbone are family run businesses, and in my experience that translates into a level of involvement and caring that’s hard to match in today’s corporate world.

As to the food, Nickson’s “reconstruction cooking” really boils down-pardon my pun-to a well-thought-out refinement of the type of cooking he grew up with in his native North Carolina. Classically trained in some of the most demanding restaurants in New York, chef Nickson honed his craft, moved to Chicago, returned to his (cooking) roots, and consistently produces some of the best, most satisfying back to basics from scratch cooking that I have had in a long time. Utterly satisfying Southern cooking.

FitzGerald’s itself has a great and legendary tradition with great music of all kinds being heard within its walls since the 1920s. In keeping with that tradition, Bill FitzGerald continues to search out and showcase some of the best talent in America, all which can be experienced in recently restored surroundings that are casual, comfortable, and above all unpretentious.

Speaking of unpretentious, that is exactly what chef Nickson wants you to feel about Wishbone. It is his hope that you will feel just as welcome dropping in for a quick hamburger as you would gathering up the whole family and going out for a special meal.

If you have never been to either FitzGerald’s or to Wishbone, this weekend is the perfect time. On Friday, June 29, FitzGerald’s kicks off its 27th Annual American Music Festival, a four-day extravaganza-closed Monday, July 2nd-that will run through Tuesday, July 3. Rain or shine, 39 different bands, from bluegrass to big band swing, will appear on four stages. Casual, comfortable, and above all, unpretentious.

For more information, call FitzGerald’s or Wishbone at 708/788-2118 or visit them at their website at www.fitzgeraldsnightclub.com.

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Frank Chlumsky

Frank Chlumsky, former executive chef of Philander's restaurant in Oak Park, teaches in Chicago at Kendall College's School of Culinary Arts. In his 37-year career, Frank has owned restaurants in Michigan...