Friday, February 27, 2009

Annals of Authentic - Victorio's Barber Shop, Elmwood Park

A wise scribe once equated connoisseurship of food with appreciation of a good barber. Hear hear. In that vein, let me introduce you all to Victorio, a highly ideal barber and his shop in Elmwood Park.

Does Victorio meet all my needs in a barber? I shall say upfront, I have certain barber-wish list items unfulfilled by Victorio. For one thing, a man deserves a decent shoe shine with his cut, but that, my friends, is an art dying even faster than the art of barbering. I also very much like the feel of getting my hair cut in some place like the basement of the Palmer House, with their row of about ten chairs, but not only did I not particularly like my one haircut there years ago, I do not even believe they are in business anymore; gone as in the Friday fillet of sole and oddly green cole slaw. I also fantasize that my barber is a bit of a bookie on the side, that I can play my favorite number with him or take a square in the weekly Calcutta. Victorio, I can tell, is much too nice of a guy to get caught up in that kinda stuff.

We know what he lacks. What then, are the many traits that have made me happy, to have settled in with Victorio as my guy. It starts actually not with him but on the way to him. Victorio keeps a small pot of coffee going. I never go near, not the least because he has only creamer. Instead, I stop nearly always at Massa, on the way, on North Ave., for an espresso. There is something about the act of popping off a shot of caffe that makes me feel more like a man, more able to get the best from Victorio. And he always gives me his best. He is firstly modest, not wanting to impose his sense of fashion. He is secondly, and much more vital, not so in love with his scissors. Some barbers just cut and cut, frankly I believe, because they like the sound of it. Victorio uses his scissors well. It's a hell of a good $15 cut.

It is not the cut one truly wants in a barber. It is the experience, the accessories. It starts with the magazines. Of course there should be papers that you do not want it to be generally known that you peruse. This is a safe haven. But there should also be journals that appeal to your better instincts, to be the Esquire man of the 60's, and along with the Playboys and Maxims, Victorio has Wine Spectator and other finer rags.

Then, mostly, it is the bells and whistles that matter to me. Is my neck that much sharper looking because Victorio shaved it with a real, Sweeney-Todd, straight razor. What does all that talc do for me. I want it though. If other traditional barbers have the Clubman lotions and the hot lather, do they have this: a Mad Man era neck massager. Yes, us real men, us barber shop dwelling men, feel secure in letting a quiet man stand behind us and make us feel good for a few minutes. It is not the trim we desire. We want more. We want what Victorio gives.

I cannot guarantee you, however, that Victorio will give you the best hair cut possible. I do think you will find his place authentically good.

7900 W North Ave
Elmwood Park, IL 60707
(708) 453-3899

Monday, February 23, 2009

Edible Information

I'd kvell about the new issue of Edible Chicago despite the fact that the Local Beet's Melissa Graham* gets a good write-up, and despite the fact that my name gets more than a bit of play. Ann and crew put together an issue making it very clear that local food in Chicago does not hibernate come winter. I picked up my copy at Fox & Obel. Green Grocer should have it by about the time you see it, and a few other places to pick up the magazine can be found here. Get your copy now.

Fox & Obel, Green Grocer, mmmm, I guess I was doing a bit of shopping. What did I buy? Well, the day to day exploits of me and the rest of my Local Family can be found at the Local Beet. Saturday I made it to Chicago's Green City Market, I'm sure I'll have a report on Sunday's shopping up soon. For more up to date reports on the ins and outs of eating local, you can find me on Twitter here.

To help you all in your quest to eat local, the Beet highlights interesting upcoming events. We also post weekly, a column of eat local activities. When things get going by May, we won't be able to tell you of each area market. Instead, we will have the most complete, user friendly guide to area farmer’s markets. The Local Beet already has your a guide to area CSAs (and addressed some of your CSA concerns).

The Local Beet also wants to hear from you. We want your knowledge and input. A few weeks ago, a friend asked me why we did not include a certain restaurant in our (admittedly work in progress) list of local-friendly restaurants. It was no slight I assured her. Let us know any restaurants or shops that sell “our kind of food.” Please add generally to our resources. We have a forum to collect and disseminate data. If you need info, ask away.

In addition to our farmer's market guide, the Local Beet has some other great things in the works, especially in the area of food policy. Keep your eyes focused on our developments.

I am very proud to be associated with the Local Beet and Edible Chicago. I am working closely with Michael Morowitz, Melissa Graham and others to make the Beet an outstanding online resource, and I know that Ann and Rebbecca and others are working to make Edible Chicago an outstanding print resource. Eating locally in Chicago is getting better all the time.

*Melissa can also be found blogging here.