Local Flavor

Book Review: Local Flavor by Jean Iversen

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The term restaurant lover is not necessarily synonymous with the term foodie. By that I mean you can love food without caring for restaurants. More than that you can love food without having reverence for restaurants. I know plenty of foodies, but rarely find a person that loves restaurants for more than the food they provide. Jean Iversen is one of those people.

Iversen’s Local Flavor shows off her love of restaurants and Chicago. Chicago is one of those unique food cities that foodies dream of. There is so much food and so many restaurants that could be documented in a book like this. Iversen digs deeper than most to offer the most authentic local look at some of Chicago’s oldest restaurants.

At this point, I should mention that while Local Flavor does hold a few recipes, it is not a cookbook. If you want a recipe for Spinach Pie or a Scorpion, you’ll find it here, but there is little else here in the way of recipes. More importantly you’ll find the history of these fabulous restaurants and the families that built them.

One thing I particularly liked about Local Flavor was that Iversen attempted to give us the most complete picture of these restaurants. They were documented in a way that felt both casual and comforting. It was like talking with an old friend. Also, it shows us the fragility of even the best restaurants. Iversen made sure to add some stories of restaurants that closed during the writing process. Restaurants close. It’s a fact of life. Iversen chose to keep these restaurants in the book, as these stories still deserve to be told.

Local Flavor offers the history of families that immigrated to Chicago up to 100 years ago. If you’re looking for stories where the American dream is wrought with hard work, dedication, and love this is definitely the book you’re going to want to read. These are stories of people coming from nothing to build something that will pass through their family for generations to come. It is easy to immerse yourself in the content and that will make you want to visit these restaurants, even more.

The recipes are nice, but really, they are just filler to the much more entertaining true-life stories of these restauranteurs. When I saw this, I thought it was a cookbook and I was already imagining what I would be able to make when I cracked it open. What I found did not equal anything that I could tangibly make, but it did remind me that hard work and sacrifice often equal reward.

Is Local Flavor Recommended?

It is! If you want a cookbook you should definitely skip this. You won’t find a lot of recipes here to add to your repertoire. You will find an excellent non-fiction book about immigrants, families, and restaurants. It’s also a good choice if you love Chicago. I highly recommend giving it a read!


Ashtyn Law is a freelance writer living in Ohio. Focusing on film, she spends much of her days watching and analyzing film and television and also writing screenplays.

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