• Lamb albondigas with romesco

On Wednesday night, in the midst of a gale, Vera Chicago, the new Spanish wine bar from Mark Mendez and his wife, Liz, opened in the former Rushmore space in the West Loop. Mendez, executive chef at Carnivale for a decade, has an unfussy hand skilled at bringing out the “essences” of ingredients—as evidence, check out the Key Ingredient he did with us—and this was one restaurant opening that, amid the ongoing blitz, I was genuinely excited about. So last night we stopped in for a bite.

I’m glad the Mendezes ditched their original name for the spot, Uva (Uva, meet OON—what’s up with that?). The graceful “Vera” is a name far more suited to this cream-colored, high-ceilinged room with a handsome dark wood bar and cheese counter, an exposed brick wall, and black four-tops plus a row of two-tops with banquette seating.