Has any fictional show made its city’s food scene look better than The Bear’s? Granted, that’s not hard with Chicago, which has not just some of the best fine dining in the whole country but also some of the best street staples, counter classics, and everyday fare. That’s made pretty clear in “Sundae,” which is not just a great episode of TV but also a showcase for some of the city’s most down-home and delicious eateries. If you haven’t been to Chicago on a gluttonous eating adventure in recent years, let this episode be a reminder that you absolutely should pull the trigger on that trip. (But seriously — if the city’s tourism board isn’t lining up a sort of press trip or public passport based on spots and meals featured in The Bear, it’s blowing it.)
The episode’s first big meal comes in the form of Carmy’s opening monologue, which is delivered via his check-in at group therapy. As he explains, after Googling the definition of fun, he has spent some time mulling over “what provides amusement or enjoyment” in his life — not just recently but when he was a kid. Back then, he says, anything that he thought could be fun got kind of fucked thanks to his overzealous and bumbling family, who often made promises they weren’t able to keep. These days, he still isn’t quite sure what he thinks is fun or how he can access that emotion since he’s always trying to remind himself to breathe, to be present, and that the sky is not falling and there is no other shoe waiting to drop. To Carmy’s credit, he’s refreshingly aware that “if I could provide more amusement or enjoyment for myself, it would be easier to provide for others,” which is a lesson we could probably all use a nudge on from time to time.
If this season is about Carmy finding his joy, that could happen through the introduction of Claire, who seems to be shaking him out of his comfort zone. First of all, she calls him out on giving her a fake number, telling him that he has clearly forgotten that she knows both his whole family and the Faks. She asked Neil for his number, and Neil — who calls himself Carmy’s best friend — provided it. After some gentle ribbing and casual hedging from Carmy, she ends up enlisting his help to move her mom’s things in a van, an act we don’t get to see onscreen but that presumably is both easy and awkward given that we’re dealing with Carmy here. Later on in the episode, we see him back at the Beef, where Neil, Richie, and Marcus have had to take down one of the key interior walls — but more on that later.
In order to help Claire, Carmy had to blow off a day of tasting and foodie adventure with Sydney. It seems like it was sort of a spontaneously generated idea, so you can’t blame him too much for thinking it was ditchable, but Sydney takes it especially hard in the wake of her conversations with her dad and basically every Chicago chef, restaurant owner, and front-of-house staffer she meets on her trek. After a truly immense and inspiring order at Kasama, the world’s first Michelin-starred Filipino restaurant, Sydney is off to a whole bunch of other Chicago classics, including Avec, Publican Quality Meats, Margie’s Candies, and Pizza Lobo. She also takes an architectural boat tour for inspiration, using the shapes of buildings in the Loop to inspire a pasta dish she crafts (and hates) later.
Sydney seems to be entirely in her head the whole time she’s out and about, whether it’s about how hard the restaurant industry is, how no one’s applying for jobs at the entirely unknown restaurant she’s trying to launch, or how she and Carmy haven’t actually formalized their partnership agreement. It’s all completely understandable, but instead of vocalizing her concerns, she internalizes them, quietly lashing out when the wall-removal is revealed later. Carmy is apologetic, and he should be — he could have at least sent a courtesy text — but it also seems as though this insecurity relates to some bigger issue she has about loss and self-reliance. I don’t want to assume it’s about her mom, but given where the show has led us over the past couple of eps, that’s probably not the worst bet to make. I’d love to not see Sydney blow up both the Bear and her career, but until she gets her shit together, that seems to be the course the show is setting.
• In an effort to up the restaurant’s dessert game, Sydney and Carmy discuss sending Marcus to Copenhagen to train for a bit. They wonder if he’ll be able to leave his mom, who is the woman we’ve seen in the hospital. Also, they’re using credit-card miles to send him, which is a classic restaurant detail that I love. Get those points!
• Ebraheim has seemingly just walked away from his training at Kendall College. Tina’s still hammering away, but I don’t really know what’s going to happen there, other than her absolutely killing it.
• Shout-out to Dark Matter coffee, which we see Nat drinking quickly in this episode. It’s so good that it’s on every single birthday, Christmas, and Father’s Day list my husband makes. Other ex-Chicagoans I know still have a subscription to get it in the mail — it’s that good.
• Richie’s daughter, Eva, is cute. Love her sass about how even though her mom got a promotion, he’ll still have to pay child support “because fair is fair” as well as his subsequent line about how he “love[s] Taylor Swift too” but “just needed a break.” That’s some very real parent shit.
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