Yesterday was a sad day for sausage, as TOC reported the impending bulldozing of Harry’s Hot Dog’s and the apparent abandonment of Rockstar Dogs (wait–is that bad thing?). Furthermore we in the food media were saturated with the oddly delivered news that Mambo Grill is “temporarily closing” at the end of the month and laying off workers.

It’s tempting to view days like that as part of the overall grim economic zeitgeist but it is easy to cherrypick anecdotal good news, if only to cheer yourself up. For instance, a few weeks ago Homaro Cantu told me sales were up at Moto over last year, and plenty of new, high-profile restaurants continue to open at a surprising pace. You’ll be reading reviews of Tocco, Sunda, Tapas Valencia, and Markethouse all in good time, along with a whole bunch of lower-profile spots.

Just a brief stroll though my neighborhood–the ever vibrant and volatile Kedzie corridor around Lawrence and Montrose– reveals a handful of very recent openings you might not know about unless you’d happened by:

Opening soon at the corner of Lawrence and Kedzie is a new Middle Eastern joint, Al-Amira, replacing the 24-hour Assyrian Mataam al-Mataam, which only moved east a bit to 3222 W. Lawrence.

Replacing the late Cups coffeehouse directly across from the Brown Line station is Antojitos!, a little Mexican snack shop, with tamales, elotes, quesadillas, coffee, cinnamon tea, and licuados. Everything is priced under $2. That’s at 4645 N. Kedzie, 773-267-0723.

Farther south, yet another Middle Eastern spot has opened, Zahrat al Madaa’en, serving the basics along with a selection of casseroles and kalayas (like skillets) such as kifta bissineya, minced, spiced lamb and beef, topped with sliced potato in either tomato or tahini sauce. 4503 N. Kedzie, 773-279-7200.

Finally, around the corner and west a bit, it’s the long-awaited return of the ex-Lincoln Square Colombian chicken rotisserie Pollo Volador, aka Flying Chicken, ready to do battle with nearby Brasa Roja, D’Candela, and Fina Estampa.

If you’ve spotted any new signs of resturant life in your neighborhood–the sort of places that don’t hire publicists–please drop a line to