Chicago (again) April 2016

Visiting our son over April break. We’re excited to eat at the new restaurant where he is a Sous Chef: Dusek’s Board & Beer.

Chicago Chef


We meet at Eataly,

Of course we’ve been here for an hour,

Strolling and waiting,

But like other experiences,

We see it again through your eyes

When you arrive.

It’s the way parents are with their firstborn.

You tell us about the aging of cheese,

And that ramps are locally grown.

I tell you about Hemingway’s Moveable Feast.

The pride in your smile to welcome us

Into your world

Says more than words ever can.


At Dusek’s Board and Beer,

They call you Chef

Which takes me aback,

For it’s the first time I recognize you

As someone other than son.

The food keeps coming:

English Pea Agnolotti,

The pasta made with your own hands

Reminds me of your great grandmother

That her passion is inherited by you.

The Housemade burrata

Ensues a debate over ricotta or mascarpone

You choose the latter with a hint of truffle,

Something you suggest we try in Italy.

Iron roasted mussels compliment

Pan roasted rib eye– the tenderest beef

I’ve ever sunk my teeth into.

We are schooled by a friendly and intense

Wait person on the history of “the ordinary”

Which, today, is slow roasted Maine Cod.

The ordinary is not so ordinary,

As it changes by the day.


You take us down to the bowels of building

To the kitchen where the magic happens.

Cooks and chefs don’t stop to shake our hands,

But offer a “Hello Chef” and “Nice to meet you”

The atmosphere hints at respect with a side of intimidation.

We climb up to the top floor of the building to Thalia Hall

A concert/event venue. The peeling walls and baroque style

embellishments tell of a dated establishment

It exudes character.


We meet at Lula’s Cafe the next morning,

Your favorite breakfast establishment in “all” of Chicago.

It’s a hipster locale right in Logan Square.

With the best lox sandwich I’ve ever eaten,

But it isn’t the lox, rather the cream cheese

(a blend of smooth with a bite of dill and caper).

Our small talk is the appetizer to what your five year plan is:

A subject your father keeps coming back to

Because he likes things orderly and planned.

You comment on the waitress,

“God, she’s gorgeous,” you trail off in thought

But she isn’t. I want to bring you back.

The way you see things has changed.


Later we weave through Wicker park,

A Soho-esque feel (for I relate everything city

To our standard: New York).

Walking the steps you walked dozens of times

Without us, in that big city, on your own.

We pass Big Star and Texas Sparrow,

You tell us the story of a bike traveling chef

Who happens to pass us by.

Though it’s windy, we sit for a drink on the patio.

Even drinking with you feels foreign,

But in a welcoming way.

Upon your suggestion, we order the Michelada Tecate,

With salted rim & salsa. And a side of chips & guacamole.

You do know what you’re doing;

Your pairings always exquisite.


For our last supper, you request Nico Osteria

An upscale, Gold Coast Italian restaurant

Across from Gibson’s Bar and Steakhouse.

Your father balks because it’s pricey,

But since you were born, we’ve always wanted to give you

Everything you’ve wanted.

A larger than life photograph of a woman

Peers over our table like the Mona Lisa.

Passersby look questioningly at who she might be.

You recognize her as Nico from the Velvet Revolvers.

Your vintage knowledge always takes me by surprise.

We decide to share plates, each choosing an item.

You dispel your father’s reservations to try something new

Or foreign, for you are used it by now

And know how to handle him.

He chooses the stuffed pappardelle w/ milk braised pork.

I choose the gnocco fritto with black currant pepper jam–

Something half familiar.

You admire the chef, Paul Kahan– talk of his accomplishments

The way I like to imagine people will talk of yours one day.

We sip wine and the subject moves to you and Sarah visiting

Boston, Cape Cod, Cheshire– all of your happy places.

She’s never been East and I sense that

you hope she’ll love it.

You both order the Affogato

A dessert I’ve had a thousand times

In my grandmother’s kitchen;

Though, I didn’t know it had a name.

I stick to the Tiramisu,

Another comfort of home,

A place I want to take you back to,

But I know you will never return

The same person you were when you left.


To Ryan: April 2016


Poetry & Hockey


At Big Star, sipping margaritas,

I read poetry about love

While you two

Sit across the table

Rambling an exchange

Of hockey trade foibles

And Stanley Cup predictions.

The rhythm of your connection

Playing like the heartbeat

That connects stick to puck

And puck to net.

Instinctive. Necessary.

The goal of your love.

It’s not lost on me

That I’m reading from a collection

Entitled “Chasing the light”

In this moment, we have found it.


To Ryan & Anthony @ Big Star in Chicago on 4/14/16


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