I’m a little bit in love with Hulu’s slam-bang, delightfully foul-mouthed new restaurant-centric series The Bear even though I’ve been plagued with bad restaurant nightmares since the day I did my last waiter checkout and turned in my greasy apron (“Restaurant nightmares never go away,” says my mom, somehow sadly and schadenfreudally at the same time).
The series does nothing to dispel her sage wisdom and there’s one episode—the seventh one—that is so precise in its observation about the true-life nightmare of a restaurant service gone wrong that I had to go lie down for a bit after I finished it.
Set in a Chicago sandwich shop—The Original Beef of Chicagoland—the show focuses on Carmy (Jeremy Allen White; you’ll recognize him from Shameless), a top-level chef who has inherited the shop from his recently deceased brother (I’m dancing around some things here) and returned home to run it. He also inherited the entrenched and initially-resistant-to-change staff, alongside the daily presence of his incredibly loud-mouthed, hotheaded cousin Richie. I’ll tell you now: there’s a lot of 100% accurate restauranty shouting between these two.
There’s also a fantastically drawn female character: Sydney (Ayo Edebiri), who shows up in the first episode as The Beef’s new sous chef (I did have to pause and think about this. Do sandwich shops have sous chefs? Maybe?), and functions as a fantastically (mostly) centered foil for the twin tornadoes of Carmy and Richie.
The arc of the series is pretty small-scaled, though in its brief eight episodes, it manages to work in—and remember it’s a comedy!—suicide, cocaine, street violence, the mafia, familial resentment, hidden treasure and, well, short ribs and risotto.
Which brings me to the food. The food-porn factor is on the low side, but when they do show it, your lunch plans will immediately change. I watched the whole series in an afternoon and then spent two hours trying to figure out where the nearest decent hot beef sandwich shop was. The bad news: 400 miles away. The good news: I just gassed up the car.
The Bear streams on Hulu. You’ll have to hunt up your own hot beef sandwich.