As birth-day winds into birth-night, The Takeout—we turned one today!—is thinking about all the memorable birthday meals we’ve had. That’s the subject of tonight’s Last Call—and we invite you to share your favorite birthday meal memories in the comments below.
I’m not a big birthday celebrant (never enjoyed the attention), and blowout dinners always feel like an indulgent expense. I can trace this back to my years as a restaurant critic, which dulled the novelty of going out for a fancy meal. So on my birthday, my treat of choice is eating a big-ass spread of my favorite cuisine: Japanese food. Here in Chicago there’s an outpost of the popular Japanese supermarket chain Mitsuwa, and my last few birthdays have been spent at the food court here. I just go nuts: Fatty slices of beef gyu-don, tonkatsu cutlets from well-marbled Berkshire pork, fried chicken karaage, tempura of every kind, and some sort of tsukemen—the type of ramen where you dip cold noodles into hot broth. This is all I want every year. And it makes me very happy. [Kevin Pang]
No restaurant closing announcement has bummed me out more than the demise of Sabatino’s on West Lawrence Avenue in Chicago. It is/was the kind of old-school place fit for both Tony Bennett and Tony Soprano. I could only afford to eat there once a year, both money-wise and calorie-wise—I wouldn’t eat all day in preparation for the colossal dinner ahead—so I usually saved it for my birthday. My meal was always the same: Focaccia in the bread basket. A lasagna plate so large I would live off the leftovers for the following three days. A plate of tiramisu with a sparkler in it, as I was serenaded by the lovely Sabatino’s waiters. This year it was announced that Sabatino’s is closing after 49 years of serving devoted Chicago patrons like myself, right before Christmas. Maybe I can squeeze in a half-birthday trip on December 21? Thanks for all the good times, Sabatino’s, and the many birthday nights where I was fuller than after Thanksgiving dinner and my stomach stuck out like Santa’s. [Gwen Ihnat]
It’s kismet that The Takeout’s birthday coincides with this wonderful molé guide we ran today, because one of my most memorable birthday dinners took place at Mexico City’s Pujol, a restaurant whose signature dish is called “molé madre, molé nuevo.” I ate this meal in February, so both molés’ deeply complex flavors and surprising contrasts are still fresh in my mind. It felt like an appropriate meal for a 30th birthday: the brightness of something young, melding with the (hopefully) sophistication of something older. [Kate Bernot]