Our Story

We at LTHForum.com come here because we love food. We love to eat, we love to cook, we love to discuss food – and we believe that by sharing our experiences and knowledge we will all eat better. Those of us who have been here a long time have seen ample evidence of the truth of this.

We also come here because we like to meet for meals. Most of us prefer the perfect little hole-in-the-wall shack that serves unusual (to us) cuisine, prepared and explained by the owner and cook, often while his/her kids are doing their homework at the table in back. That does not mean we do not enjoy fine dining – we certainly do. But our first love is finding original, delicious experiences that take us to new places, even if we physically remain in Chicago. We actively seek out new food, new neighborhoods, new countries, new cultures.

We engage with our food by understanding how it is grown, how it is made, what went into it, and where it came from. To that end, we really like places where the people producing the food will engage with us and share what they know.

And whether you’re an explorer who always wants to be first to try the new tripe taco in Humboldt Park, or the person who prefers to visit the taqueria after you get word from someone you trust, we welcome you.

We encourage you to join our discussion.

Our focus is, first and foremost, what’s on the plate. And if there’s a dish you wish to investigate, there’s probably someone here who knows all about it – where it came from, how it’s been modified, and how it relates to other dishes and traditions. You might even find that a discussion about it has taken place already.

We are not a place where people come to glamorize what they eat, attack others about their tastes or thoughts, complain about service (much) or make grabs at attention. But we are interested, and we are thorough. If you choose to post on LTHForum.com and share your experiences and opinions, you’ll be asked to explain what you ate and why you feel how you feel. We like context, because it helps us to understand where you’re coming from and what your contributions to our community will be.

It’s this that differentiates us from other, more anonymous sites – and makes the LTHForum.com community what it is.

How It All Began

LTHForum.com was founded in 2004 by a bunch of Chicago refugees from another food discussion site, Chowhound. We took issue with some of Chowhound’s more restrictive policies, and decided to strike out on our own. From the beginning, LTHForum.com was meant to be inclusive and open, despite our members’ strong – and often disparate – opinions about food.

One night in 2004, about 14 people met for dinner at Little Three Happiness, the café in Chicago’s Chinatown that also gave us our name. The result of that meeting was LTHForum.com. We all agreed to move our posts here, and these 14 people became the new site’s moderators. None of us knew what to expect going forward, but we knew we would continue to share our thoughts and break bread together.

Then, in 2006, the Great Neighborhood Restaurant Program was started to create a crowd-sourced guide to what we think are some of the best places to eat in and around Chicago. It is a crazy, random, eclectic, idiosyncratic and delicious mix of places.

While the food world – and the whole world – has changed a lot around us, LTHForum.com has remained an active and thriving community, evolving along with it. We’ve explored slow food, local food, farmers markets and much more as the city’s culinary offerings have exploded. Today, Chicago-based food explorers have more choice, quality, and information than ever, and LTHForum.com reflects that too. We even discuss eating healthy at times, though most of us share the belief that healthy food can and should still be delicious.

Naturally, over time the group running the site has changed. It has always been a labor of love, run by a central core of volunteers and often funded by them as well. At this point, most of the founders have left their day-to-day roles at LTHForum.com, but still participate in the conversation. Other members have left Chicago, but remained attached to this community.

In 2011, the site was acquired by the present owners, three long-time members (see Meet the Team). Their intent was simple – respect the culture of the site, update its look and feel to make it more attractive and welcoming, and put the site on a firm financial footing by selectively attracting simpatico sponsors and advertisers to underwrite it. With the release of this updated site in July, 2013, we are getting close to achieving those goals.

Although we could not have foreseen the path LTHForum.com would take when we started it almost a decade ago, one thing hasn’t changed. We are still explorers, on a mission to discover food and promote it to the world. And whatever success and influence this site has achieved comes from our simple formula: Shop, cook, and eat well; then, please come and tell us all about it.

Join us!

Meet the Team

LEAD MODERATORS (mods@lthforum.com)

David Hammond (David Hammond) is a corporate communications writer/consultant and a founder/lead moderator of LTHForum.com. Hammond writes weekly food and travel columns for the Chicago Sun-Times and Wednesday Journal and produces radio segments for “Eight Forty-Eight” and “Worldview” (Chicago Public Radio, WBEZ 91.5FM). He also contributes to Chicago Collection, Chicago Reader, Chicago Tribune, The Local Beet website, Reforma (Mexico City), Timeout Chicago, Where Magazine and the WildJunket blog.

Catherine Lambrecht (Cathy2) is a founder and lead moderator of LTHForum.com. In addition to initiating LTH’s holiday party and annual picnic, she boasts a list of accomplishments any foodie would envy. She founded the Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance, acted as program chair of the Chicago Foodways Roundtable of Culinary Historians of Chicago, and has performed duties as president of both the Illinois Mycological Society and the Highland Park Historical Society. She is also proud to have been a Master Gardener, a Master Food Preserver and Vice Chair of the Advisory Council for the University of Illinois Extension at Grayslake, as well as a Vice President of the Lake County Extension Foundation.

MODERATORS (mods@lthforum.com)

Dominic Armato (Dmnkly) is extremely jealous of most of you. A member of LTHForum.com since ’05, he now lives halfway across the country in Phoenix, Ariz., and is appropriately charged with overseeing the Beyond Chicagoland forum. So while Dominic laments his distance, he’s extremely jazzed to still be able to contribute to the forum that did so much to shape his food appreciation, in the niche that seems most appropriate. Beyond the keyboard, he helps operate a family packaging business, does his best on a daily basis to mold his two kids into fine, upstanding youngsters with excellent palates, and occasionally finds himself in a recording studio portraying a popular wannabe pirate (it’s a long story…just Google him). He’s both honored and humbled to be an LTH mod, and hopes he can give back just a fraction of what the community has given to him.

Matthew Dean (Santander), LTHForum.com moderator, had a culinary awakening in the city of Santander, Spain, while conducting archaeological fieldwork; since then, saffron, smoked paprika, squid ink and lemon peel have flavored many of his experiences. Dubbed “The Pizza Professor” by Chicago Sun-Times journalist Mike Nagrant, he came by his knowledge honestly, having grown up around Calabrese cuisine and experienced it from basement ovens to the Taste of Melrose Park. Matt is a longtime Great Neighborhood Restaurants committee member and enjoyer of late-night LTH dinners. He works at The University of Chicago and is a professional singer (http://www.rookerychoir.org, among others), producing interfaith concert events in his spare time. His young Oak Park-based family is sustained largely by Freddy’s Pizzeria and Cemitas Puebla.

Mary Godlewski (The GP), a Chicago resident born and raised in Oak Park, learned much from her parents about food. Her parents had a catering business on the side, and her father especially was not afraid to try new foods – if a client group’s guest speaker was from West Africa, he’d cook a West African meal. Seeking out good food has been a family tradition: on their way to the grocery store in upstate New York to get dinner fixings, she and her father just had to stop at the hot dog cart first. And when Mary studied in France in college, she and a friend went on a quest to find the best chocolate éclair in Rennes. Mary’s screen name stands for the “Godlewski Planner,” because she has a tendency to organize activities and mentally keep track of others’ calendars – a skill/curse that makes her a perfect office manager in real life, and a fine choice to take on a more public role for LTHForum.com, her comfortable online home. Her father would be proud.

Darren Lubotsky’s (Darren72) Chicago food roots run deep. His great-great grandfather’s first occupation when he arrived in America was as a horseradish grater at the Maxwell Street Market. Darren’s interest in sharing his love of food and cooking began early. By age 10 he had hosted several underground breakfasts for his family, preparing delicacies such as cottage cheese pancakes, French toast, and a fusion of oatmeal, mustard, and peanut butter that was deemed to be ahead of its time. Later, he changed careers – he is now an economics professor – but still moonlights at home as an amateur pitmaster, bread baker and coffee roaster. Darren has been a member of LTHForum.com since 2006 and is in his rookie year as a moderator. He credits LTH for helping him find countless hidden restaurant gems and make some great friends along the way. He lives in Andersonville with his wife, Beth, and his incomparable Airedale, Walter.

EDITOR (editor@lthforum.com)

Helen Lee (nukegirl) is an editor and social media junkie who has been writing about Chicago and its restaurant scene since 2008. She learned to love food from a mother who used chopsticks as her only kitchen tool and a father who enjoyed traveling around Kansas searching for the best fried chicken. She would love nothing more than to go visit every single GNR. Her work has appeared in numerous blogs and magazines, including the Chicago Tribune syndicated network, Chicago Windy City Guide, and Hungry? Chicago (2009). She lives in the north suburbs with her eight-year-old son.

OWNERS (management@lthforum.com)

When Ron Kaplan (ronnie_suburban) isn’t eating, cooking, photographing food or writing about it, he’s busy at work selling all-natural ingredients to various segments of the food industry. The son of a South-side deli man – and grandson of a Kosher butcher – he’s been getting his grub on since before he could walk. Living for two years in New Orleans in the early ‘80s further reinforced his unending love for all things culinary. His Internet-food connection began in 2001 when he stumbled upon eGullet.com. It was obsession at first sight. After a multi-year stint there as both a host and manager, he turned his focus to LTHForum.com, where he’s been a member since May 2004. In 2008 he was named an LTH moderator and was also dubbed “The Food Geek” by Chicago Magazine. He’s currently a member of the Bread Bakers Guild of America and the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and is a certified Kansas City Barbecue Society judge. He lives in north suburban Chicago with his wife and son.

Matt Miller (milz50) The new co-owner of LTH Forum. His bio is coming soon.