THE GOOD GUYS: Blake in Bucktown

Meet Blake.

Blake loves writing. He loves food. Hence, he writes about food. A talented wordsmith and certified chef, he brilliantly combines the two in his professional life (magazine freelancer) and personal life with a blog called The Paupered Chef.
Blake and I get together for drinks almost weekly at a tucked-away neighborhood bar in Bucktown for the sole purpose of shooting the shit over cheap booze and reveling in the simple pleasures of Chicago. During these breaks from real-life responsibility, we mull over everything from style to food; business plans to literature; success to failure; and, of course, our unfinished ambitions.
But more than anything, Blake is full of thought. He considers everything carefully. And when he speaks, it’s not out of impulse. His words carry weight. And that’s one of many reasons I’m glad to call him a friend.
A few words about what Blake’s got on:

The belt, a distinctive eye-catcher, was a gift from good friend Max Wastler (of All Plaidout). It was in fact Max who introduced us over a quick drink at The Gage.

The bag, a Levenger, a gift from his dad eight years ago. Perfect for carrying plenty of reading material—and Blake’s an avid reader. The first few times we ran into each other, he sent me home with a couple of thick books by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Paul Auster. In turn, I loaned him Boss by Mike Royko. (When am I going to get that back, by the way?)

The shoes, hand-sewn in Maine.

“A week before I went on my honeymoon, I knew I wanted these shoes. The folks over at Quoddy were nice enough to rush the shipping ensure my travels would be comfortable and classic,” Blake says.

So here’s the deal: Over the next few weeks, we’ll be teaming up with Blake to produce a tiny cookbook of sorts. There will be four (count ‘em) recipes—one for each meal of the day—that will be constrained by situation (e.g. lunch while working from home), budget (e.g. $5, or maybe what you’ve got in the fridge) and time (e.g. you’ve got 10 minutes to throw an elegant breakfast together before heading to work.)
This is what you can expect: Beautiful photography, delicious food, and a few practical meals every guy should have in his repertoire. And it’ll all be styled.
Check back next Wednesday for the first installment.
On Blake: Slim olive chino by Wings & Horns; blue button-down by Gitman Brothers; summer gingham tie by J.Crew factory; hoof pick leather belt by Hickorees; “New Wayfayer” in tortoise by Rayban; leather satchel by Levenger, given to him by his father.

qmcilhargey - the belt is PHENOMENAL

thechicteach - I’m loving this so very much. And hand sewn shoes? Really? Yes, please.

Is it too much to say my future man must be a subscriber of The Midwestyle? No? Awesome.

midweSTYLE: Whiny pants

Colored denim. You’re seeing ‘em on the ladies and some of the more trend-driven men on campus, in the streets, on the runways and in the magazines.

Cool? Sure.
Novelty? Yes.
Wearable? Totally.
Worth spending your money on? Your call.

For me, it is. How do I know?
Run through this checklist of questions. If you answer “no” to a majority of these, then I suggest investing elsewhere:
  • Do you have a well-loved pair of dark wash, selvedge denim you can wear every day?
  • Do you have a sharp pair of dark grey chinos to throw on for a change?
  • Do you have a slick pair of black jeans to pair with a classic desert boot?
  • Do you have a broken-in pair of corduroys you can toss on with a sweater?

If you don’t have any of the items above, I’d consider focusing on those before you stop at the front of the store with the “latest and greatest” trends companies are pushing.

I answered yes, so I found a cheap pair from Uniqlo. In this case, wine-colored denim.

Fresh cut, too. My stylist, Kara of barbara & barbara, threw it down with a master fade.
You also know you’re in good hands when your hair stylisy says,

“I’m going to geek out on your neck line for 15 minutes, cool?”




On Jeff: Slim-fit twill “Wine” denim by Uniqlo; two-button, notch lapel “Marine” cotton blazer by A.P.C.; slim-fit, short-sleeve button-up by rag & bone; leather desert boots by Clarks.

Photos by Haley Hastings.

Raquel - Awesome photo with the fire escape. And I’m all for colored denim on guys! Definitely makes them stand out and seem confident.

Eric - Can I marry you?

HOW TO: Cargo

Don’t wear cargo pants.*
But if you feel like your daytime activities merit compartments beyond the typical five pocket chinos, go forth.

A brief and personal history on cargo pants:
Cargo pants were notable in my adolescence as candy-smuggling, soda-pop-holstering, hazardous-when-running pants that you wore because you didn’t want to carry a backpack. But let’s be honest, everybody knew you had something in your cargo pocket because it jutted out like mad. As kids, we thought our cargo pockets were like Harry’s invisibility cloak.

We all had our fun with our escapades to the local Barry Wood’s 24 Cinema on a Friday night. You know, you stopped by the nearest Dollar General to stock up on snacks and chocolates and little diabetic comas neatly packaged in “fun-size” labels to hoard in those once floppy compartments fastened on the side of your American Eagle camo shorts.

Zippered, camouflage, frayed, bleached-stained or destroyed. You loved your cargo shorts. They were practical for your Midwestern youth, throwing and stowing loot and plunder from the creek. Many games of capture the flag they had served you well. Even provided that extra place to hide paraphernalia from authorities (parents, duh). Modern technology advanced at such speed that some cargo pants evolved into a hybrid cargo pants/shorts. You knew that kid.

For me, that kid’s name was Jason, and his locker was two down from mine in sixth grade outside of Mrs. Merle’s room. He had a pair of these convertible pants I coveted at the mere age of 12. One day in September, he complained that it was too warm inside in the New Mark Middle School’s make-shift cafeteria, aka lobby of the school.

I thought to myself, “Jason, are you kidding me? They are pumping A.C. in here. I’m about to go to the nurse and ask to use the phone to call my mom to bring me up sweater because I’m so cold.”**

The only logical response to the heat in the obviously temperate “cafeteria” was to show off his new transforming pants with zippers. Behold, the convertible pants into shorts. The middle-school boy’s dream pant that you can wear all year long, enabling you to never shower again, which in turn allowed to you play Halo more. Duh.

Two days later, Jason got beat up and his pants were stolen.
Just kidding.
Actually, his dad bought them for him for camping purposes.

Me, I bought my own pair for candy-hauling, Friday night impish purposes—ya-know, the only kind of purpose a devious middle school boy can rationalize.

I digress with my nostalgic days of cargo pants.
Let’s move on and talk about modern day, though, shall we?

Don’t wear them… unless they are updated with a tailored cut. Examples as follows:

On Jeff: Slim “Trooper”cargo pant courtesy of J.Brand ; cognac “Lexington” wingtip by Florsheim; wool blazer by Billtornade (similiar); crisp white short sleeve button-down by rag & bone.

Levi’s also makes a rad light forest green cargo pant that is fairly tailored as well.

Styling suggestions with your updated cargo pants:

  • Don’t wear boots with your cargo pants.
  • Don’t wear camo with your cargo pants.
  • Don’t wear a bow tie with your cargo pants.
  • Don’t pretend that you’re not wearing cargo pants. Just be cool, okay?
On Jeff: forest-green cargo pants by Levi’s; white “Authentics” courtesy of Vans; orange- and white-striped tee by J.Crew; light heather grey slub cardigan by J.Crew.
Photography by Seth Putnam and Anthony Barlich.

* Unless you’re doing outdoorsy shit that would necessitate multiple pockets for the use of hauling game and bullets. I actually have a pair of cargo pants that’s aren’t tailored. They are for hiking, backpacking or something like that. They are from REI and are worn every summer when camping. I like the “idea of the outdoors” more than I like the actual outdoors, thus why my closet is overflowing with Patagonia synchillas in every color.
**This actually happened. She’s brought me many clothes throughout my elementary and secondary education because I either peed my pants, threw up on them or was near frostbite. I love you, Mom!

Caprice Gruber - I really like the slim style cargo pants, always been a fan of them, these days cargo pants are very much in demand, you will notice a lot of people wearing them on the streets.

Lily - your blog is amazing. new follower!

khaki pants for men

Little Lovables - okay, so your advice is great and all, and you are all super lovely… but now, show me a post on HOW to lovingly *make* our men actually dress nice.

Zosbo - Great read. I am glad to see cargos go. I must admit I am skeptical of the slim fitting cargo. You talk about the complete and utter lack of any function to the old baggy cargo, but what “cargo” can you squeeze into one of those little guys? A handful of jellybeans? It would make for a healthier movie experience I guess.

Big Star: In Our Blood

Tacos. Almost from south of the border. Food moonlighting as Mexican, moonlighting Texican in Chicago? Sure, but better. It’s more “inspired by” than pretend. And damn, this inspired food is good. See, the thing about Big Star is that it doesn’t fail. It does exactly what it’s supposed to do: brings a piece of the Texas border to the Midwest.
Not the whole thing. Just a little bit.

On Seth: “Stars” button-up by Scotch & Soda, Babe Lincoln.
On Jeff: Linen blend long-sleeve T-shirt from T by Alexander Wang; rolled khaki shorts by J.Crew; desert boots by Clarks; tan circle-frame shades courtesy of Topman; leather croakies gifted by Plett.


How sandy of you.


Which reminds us: Even if we only speak the language instead of having the heritage, “Mexican” food is part of us. Yeah, the place might be crowded. Might be hipster-ish. Might be just a dollar or two more than we want to pay, but once that $3 whiskey and those tacos hit our lips, you’re not going to catch us complaining.
Nope. Just tossing our heads back, sliding our arms around friends, saying salúd and buen provecho in perfect American mimicry.



Tecate with lime, empty shot glasses, bad good decisions.


However, if you’re in Columbia, Missouri, go to Taqueria El Rodeo.
Hands down, the best Mexican food in Columbia at a third of Big Star’s price and three times better service. Such amenities include: using your debit card and being called, unironically, “amigos.”





The only other better thing? Having neighbors who are actually from Mexico turn your backyard into a mirth-filled celebration of carne asada, beisbol and la risa. You may have to move to my neck of Logan Square for that one.


Don’t go, verano.

Abby L - Nuevo Leon is hands down the best Mexican food in Chicago

Tabitha - I still have yet to try Big Star, but not to far from there in Humboldt Park is Cemitas Puebla which is SO good!