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When Charlie Trotter alum Matthias Merges opened the playful, yakitori-inspired restaurant Yusho in Avondale a little more than two years ago, it was pioneerish; the most notable cuisines in the hood at the time were hot dogs and hamburgers (damn fine ones, but still). More predictable, though no less thoughtful or delicious, was his early 2013 follow-up: the craft-cocktail outpost Billy Sunday, just up the street in Logan Square.
Merges’s next venture—nearly 80 blocks south, in Hyde Park—was another pioneering effort, his most ambitious so far. A10 promised to bring “handcrafted quality foods” (its slogan) to the sophisticated south-side neighborhood, which had long been deprived of the type of culinary talent Merges possesses—and that the north side is awash in. (The soon-to-open Yusho Hyde Park and the Promontory, from the Longman & Eagle team, will continue to reverse that injustice.) Still, my early experiences there were mixed. Though the cocktails were as revelatory as any I’d sampled at Yusho or Billy Sunday (and I’d sampled most), I found some of the food uneven. The blood sausage and squid tentacles, for example, was a destination-worthy dish (please bring it back to the fall menu!), but other entrees suffered from conceptual or executional missteps. Two recent visits saw all former blemishes erased, however. There’s no better summer snack than the current menu’s small plates of farro piccolo with burrata and fried ricotta with octopus, paired with a Gin Old Fashioned. A10 is no longer an exemplary restaurant for Hyde Park. It’s an exemplary restaurant, period.