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‘The Bear’ Evokes a Love-Hate Relationship With Chicago’s Dining Experts

In true Chicago fashion, folks have strong feelings about Carmy and his crew

A still from Ever, with Richie eating out of spoon.
Who’s ready for another helping of The Bear?
FX/Chuck Hodes

Chicago’s media dish on their favorite spots in 2023 as part of Eater’s ongoing tradition of polling the city’s experts for their year-end takes. Here, the panel provides their take on “The Bear,” a well-regarded TV show about Chicago’s restaurant world that still managed to chafe some locals.

Amy Cavanaugh, Chicago magazine dining editor: I think The Bear has done a great job of showing viewers around the country what Chicago dining and restaurants are like. It means that every time I talk to a friend from another city who watches the show, they ask me about Italian beef, and I’m okay with that.

Monica Eng, Axios Chicago: I think it is overall good for Chicago restaurants if you can judge by traffic to places like Pequod’s, Kasama, and Mr. Beef. But the factual stuff — mostly from the first season — still drives me nuts. Why is an Italian beef place closed for lunch, serving family meal, and employing a pastry chef, to name a few. I’d like to hear less gratuitous yelling in Season 3.

Alex Jewell, Best Food Alex: This answer could be an entire essay. I’ll try my best to be succinct here, but it isn’t a simple binary thing. The Bear has and will continue to bring national and local attention to Chicago food, and I genuinely think it captures certain things really well. Economically, a pseudo-industry has sprouted up in the excitement, and it has fed much-needed money back into some of the city’s institutions.

That being said, from my perspective, passing things like Italian beef through writers’ rooms and national television doesn’t result in the kind of beef I’d spread my legs apart for, so to speak. It results in the New York Times publishing an Italian Beef recipe that made me tweet rude things. I’ll pass on Season 3 speculation.

Jeffy Mai, editor Time Out Chicago: It’s both helped and done a disservice. Many Chicago restaurants have gotten exposure from the show, at the expense of fetishizing workplace abuse and staff trauma. From a purely entertainment standpoint, I’m still invested in whatever Carmy and the crew are planning to do.

Michael Nagrant, author of the Hunger, a Substack newsletter; former Sun-Times and RedEye dining critic: The Bear is fantastic for Chicago restaurants in general, absolutely the best show made about the restaurant world, maybe of all time. However, it also gave every single Chicagoan a reason to protest too much — aka dig deep on the anxiety so many of us all have about being flyover country or the Second City, etc. — that we lost our minds and our identity clinging to the fact that it’s filmed here as some kind of affirmation of greatness. Chicago is maybe now the third or fourth best dining scene in America right now, and if The Bear was a beacon for anything, it’s that it’s much cheaper to film in Chicago and there are a lot of tax breaks to be had, not an indication that we’re killing it.

My Season 3 hope is a continuation of telling it like it is, but instead of a focus on the kitchen, there’s a full episode centered around a media dinner with influencers and journalists engaging in sycophantic pay-for-play and vying for money, adulation, and maybe even a little bang with Carmy.

Janice Scurio, South Side Sox and CHGO Sports: I’ve got another stunning admission for you: I’ve never seen The Bear (you can stop gasping now.) Relax. I will probably watch it someday. The only way I can see myself being sick of it is if I’m in a foreign country and mention I’m from Chicago, and the person I’m talking to won’t shut the hell up about how much they love The Bear.

Danny Shapiro, founding partner of the Scofflaw group; co-host of the Joiners podcast: Good for Chicago restaurants because it brings interest to our hospitality scene. I’m not sick of it. Season 3 — I’d enjoy it if The Bear [restaurant] were to just succeed. Could be cool for Marcus to spin off and do his own thing.

Sarah Spain, ESPN writer, TV and radio host: LOVE The Bear. [It’s] good for viewers, good for Chicago restaurants (despite the lines at Kasama and Margie’s). In Season 3, I want more Marcus, Ebra, and Richie, and less speculation about Carmy and Sydney — they’re fascinating as business partners, not will-they-or-won’t-they romantic leads!