Graham Elliot's Grahamwich closes, unmourned by all

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The celebrichef and his friend Perry
The Trib's Phil Vettel reports that Graham Elliot announced—at Lollapalooza—that Grahamwich, the MasterChef star's River North sandwich shop, closed as of yesterday. This shines light on two interesting aspects of the food scene circa 2013, the first being that somehow it's perfectly normal that we receive food-world news in the middle of a music festival.

At Woodstock the news was that there was some bad acid out there, man, but 40 years later, it would be bad arugula that would get the same attention. What's onstage (or in the case of no-shows Death Grips, not onstage) may be all rebellious anticapitalist rage against the machine, but you enjoy it while dining on the finest in hipster high-low fusion cuisine—Bar Toma, Franks N Dawgs, the Salsa Truck. The Lolla food beat on Twitter was nearly as active as coverage of the music itself.

Grahamwich grew out of the same high-low-fusion impulse, but what people will pay for in the free-flowing environment of a music festival doesn't work for office dwellers who eat lunch five days a week. When it opened, Grahamwich was a place where your $11 sandwich could be accompanied by a (huge) $3 bag of house-made chips or truffle-scented popcorn and a $3 house-made soda. Between a $20 lunch, a diet-busting portion of chips, and your cubicle colleagues shouting "OK, who made the whole office smell like truffles?" there was just a lot about Grahamwich that didn't really fit the office worker lifestyle.

Who stank up the office with truffle fries?

Beyond that, though, it turned out that the artisanal sandwiches underwhelmed. Discount the Yelp guy who gave it one star for not being open yet, but the opening batch of sandwiches ranged from pedestrian (a tofu wrap) to too exotic (smoked whitefish on naan with chutney, apparently for Indian tech workers who grew up on Woody Allen movies). Elliot got into a public feud with Time Out's Julia Kramer over her one-star review, but the most damning thing was the lack of popular support that followed in social media.

Once Grahamwich stopped being the center of attention for Elliot's combative public persona, no one paid it any attention at all—a problem one might also observe about his other attempt at a midlevel spot, Graham Elliot Bistro. Or, as you may know it better, the place Graham Elliot threw Hungry Hound Steve Dolinsky out of a year ago.

Steve Dolinsky and the Hungry Hound at Grahamwich, long before hostilities broke out
  • Michael Gebert
  • Steve Dolinsky and the Hungry Hound crew at Grahamwich, long before hostilities broke out

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