A Tavola

2148 W. Chicago | 773-276-7567

$$$

ITALIAN | DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED SUNDAY

The dining room at A Tavola is dimly lit and intimate, with only ten tables, though there are 12 more out on the patio. The menu is equally tiny, so strict vegetarians may have a hard time making the most of it. I went with the halibut, lightly dusted with seasoned flour and panfried, accompanied by a lemon and caper sauce—very simple, but perfectly moist and light. An appetizer of grilled portobello and sauteed oyster mushrooms stood out for its surprisingly complex flavor. There are also pasta dishes, including the best gnocchi I’ve ever had, swimming in sage butter and topped with fried sage leaves. I’m one who believes there are few more wonderful things you can do with food than bake it with a crisp crust of Parmesan cheese, so the polenta may have been my favorite. There was one bite left at the end of the night, and I seriously thought about having it wrapped up. —David Wilcox

Anteprima

5316 N. Clark | 773-506-9990

$$$

ITALIAN | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

Owner Marty Fosse ran the front of the house at Spiaggia at one time, and while Anteprima is a far cry from that rarefied temple of la cucina Italiana, his neighborhood place has many virtues. A dozen or so antipasti lead the menu, which changes frequently. My table’s orders of orecchiette with lamb sausage and dandelion greens arrived merely warm and a little gummy, but an order of spaghetti with fava beans was damn near perfect. Main dishes include a brick-grilled baby chicken, New York strip, and wood-grilled rabbit. There’s a long, all-Italian wine list with plenty of quartino options and a decent selection of grappa and other digestives. Good luck scoring a table out on the lovely enclosed back patio. —Mike Sula

Athena

212 S. Halsted | 312-655-0000

$$

GREEK, MEDITERRANEAN | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: EVERY NIGHT TILL MIDNIGHT

At Athena you’ll find old-world fare like loukaniko (homemade sausage), dolmades, lamb with artichokes in lemon sauce, and galaktobouriko, a faintly lemon-flavored custard that floats beneath several flaky layers of honey-soaked phyllo dough. The bright interior is spacious and colorful, but the big draw is the two-level outdoor garden, open spring to fall. Still, that’s not what keeps at least one customer coming. Someone who’s been dining here weekly since 1996, when the Tsoukalas family opened Athena, told me, “They make you feel comfortable, and that’s not true of all these Greek restaurants.” —Ryan Hubbard

Bad Dog Tavern

4535 N. Lincoln | 773-334-4040

$$$

BAR/LOUNGE, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2

The global-fusion-meets-contemporary-American menu at this sleek room is several cuts above bar food. An order of tempura-style green beans comes with a lime-ginger-soy dipping sauce; another successful fusion is the goat cheese wonton appetizer. There are pizzas with classic toppings, and sandwiches and salads with interesting twists, plus hearty entrees like an herb-marinated pork tenderloin served with garlic mashed potatoes. The several choices on tap include Delirium Tremens, and and there’s an outdoor patio that’s almost the size of the bar. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Big Star

1531 N. Damen | 773-235-4039

$

BAR/LOUNGE, MEXICAN | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2 | cash only | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Unlike Paul Kahan’s other ventures (Blackbird, Avec, the Publican), Big Star is a bar. Both food (by Justin Large, formerly of Avec) and drink (by Michael Rubel of Violet Hour) are pitched to a very agreeable price point, making the place a surefire, low-cost, high-value good time. If you’re not in the mood for a well-engineered cocktail, you can slum it with a one-buck Schlitz shorty. Or if you just can’t decide between a mixed drink and beer, try a michelada—Tecate in a salt-rimmed glass, with tomato juice, lime, and house-made hot sauce. Either way, pop for a five-buck platter of guacamole with chips and drop an extra buck for chiles toreados, a small bowl of peppers with flavorful heat. The queso fundido is surpassingly wonderful. High-quality pork belly, lamb, and al pastor tacos are served on fresh house-made mini tortillas that make the big flavors seem almost dainty. The downside: there are only a few tables and they’re for parties of four or more, so smaller groups have to hover and pounce on just-vacated bar stools; the utilitarian patio, once a parking lot, is likewise always packed. But the carryout window is always an option. —David Hammond

Birchwood Kitchen

2211 W. North | 773-276-2100

$

AMERICAN, EUROPEAN | LUNCH: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY; DINNER: TUESDAY-FRIDAY | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | BYO

There’s not a cheap shortcut to be found at this ambitious sandwich shop from former Pastoral cheeseman Daniel Sirko and partner Judd Murphy (also of Pastoral). Like every new venture these days it invokes the mantra of local, seasonal, and sustainable, but here those words have real meaning, with ingredients of hot and cold sandwiches—plus a make-your-own option with house-roasted meats (turkey, ham, beef)—largely sourced in the midwest and served on Labriola and Red Hen breads. The prices reflect that commitment, with most sandwiches in the $6-$9 range, such as a goat cheese and pickled beet sandwich with walnut pesto or a tuna melt with Gruyere and roasted tomato. The additional selection of small plates, soups and sides is augmented by burgers and a weekend brunch menu with items such as croque madame, Belgian waffles, and polenta and eggs. —Mike Sula

Bistro Campagne

4518 N. Lincoln | 773-271-6100

$$$

FRENCH | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SUNDAY BRUNCH

A reliable choice for classic French fare. The kitchen places a premium on organic ingredients; even the wine list has several bottles from sustainably farmed vineyards. The menu offers bistro standards such as French onion soup and mussels; entrees include steak frites and rotating preparations of lamb and duck. Escargots, delivered spitting hot, are prepared with a garlic-Pernod butter and a liberal dusting of bread crumbs for a sort of “snails casino” effect. Roast chicken, crispy on the outside and juicy within, was served over a bed of rich mushroom ragout and topped with a crazy blossom of fried onion. For dessert there’s a creamy creme brulee, pot au chocolat, house-made ice cream and sorbet, or perhaps a seasonal tart. The cozy, Prairie-inflected dining rooms are comfortable, but the outdoor-garden seating is also popular. —Martha Bayne

The Orbit Room

La Bocca Della Verita

4618 N. Lincoln | 773-784-6222

$$$

ITALIAN | lunch: Saturday-Sunday; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

The decor at this reasonably priced Lincoln Square spot is homey rather than hip—and that’s what its fans love about it. La Bocca is simply a casual place to get a very good Italian meal. We took the waiter’s recommendation and ordered the special chicken dish of the night—lightly breaded and served with a refreshing blend of arugula and vegetables—and the duck-stuffed ravioli in a savory tomato cream sauce; both were excellent. But there’s a lot more to try: close to 20 appetizers including celery-apple and fennel salads, homemade pastas, and entrees such as a whole branzino, not a fish you see very often. An appealing sidewalk cafe provides extra seating in warm weather. —Rachel Klein

Boka

1729 N. Halsted | 312-337-6070

$$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

The menu of Giuseppe Tentori, a nine-year veteran of Charlie Trotter’s, consistently pops with startling, enjoyable items. Scallop-stuffed squid with baby spinach, spicy pineapple, and black tapioca was one of the weirdest-looking plates I’ve set eyes on in a while and texturally freaky too—squishes and pops in every bite—but really tasty and fun to eat. A hyperglobal salad of Peruvian tabouli, English cucumbers, haricots verts, Greek feta, and radishes was an interesting combination of flavors, though the saffron risotto (no longer on the menu) took things too far—does anyone ever see flakes of gold leaf on a plate and think, “Mmmm, metal?” But it was sumptuous veal cheeks, topped with a dollop of excellent house-made mustard and served with broccoli hash and cauliflower-Yukon Gold potato puree, that won the day. Service was deft, knowledgeable, and unruffled despite the packed house on a Friday, and there’s elegant outdoor seating. —Mike Sula

Bonsoiree Cafe & Delicacies

2728 W. Armitage | 773-486-7511

$$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: sunday, TUESDAY-saturDAY | CLOSED MONDAY | BYO

This smart BYO spot started life as a casual deli and cafe but hit its stride after introducing multicourse prix fixe dinners. The eclectically influenced contemporary American menu showcases clean, streamlined, seasonal flavors; tasting menus are now available in five, seven, and 13 courses. On Saturdays the restaurant offers an $85 six-course “underground dinner”; to get an invite, sign up on the mailing list at bon-soiree.com. On “No Menu Sundays,” where the offerings are determined by what’s best at the farmers’ markets, a four-course tasting menu is $48, a seven-course menu $75. The enclosed patio makes for a pleasant experience. —Martha Bayne

Bourgeois Pig

738 W. Fullerton | 773-883-5282

$

AMERICAN, COFFEE SHOP | BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Sixteen years old now, this charming Lincoln Park establishment might easily be mistaken for having been around even longer. Located in an old brownstone, it’s true to 60s-coffeehouse form, with creaky hardwood floors, hundreds of newspapers and books lining the shelves, and a menu of homemade soups, salads, sandwiches, and baked goods posted on four huge blackboards. The extensive lineup ranges from a Great Gatsby Club (pesto, bacon, and smoked turkey) to a veggie panini with artichoke hearts and fresh spinach to a scrumptious daily quiche with a flaky, buttery crust. You can also build your own sandwich or get a half with a cup of soup or salad. The cafe expanded the patio last year. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Cafe Fresco

1202 W. Grand | 312-733-6378

$$

ITALIAN, BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH: saturday-Sunday; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: saturday till 3, other nights till 2 | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

It looks like a cozy corner bar, with its high tables, brick wall, and decorative swags of fabric, but Cafe Fresco lives up to its name, offering a mostly Italian menu better than you’ll find at many neighborhood spots. We started with a signature dish, grilled calamari served with spinach, roasted red peppers, olives, and a few sticks of feta. In addition to bar fare like chicken wings and burgers, there’s a lineup of midprice entrees, but we were drawn to the pastas. Gemelli Baronesa was spiked with slices of prosciutto and mushrooms and some deliciously sweet peas; pasta puttanesca was robust with olives, capers, and plenty of garlic. There’s a decent beer selection and a small but potable wine list (half-price on Tuesdays); cocktails were shaken up at our table. In warm weather the enclosed back garden patio—lined with ivy-covered walls, one with a trompe l’oeil painting of the cafe—beckons. —Kate Schmidt

The Chicago Firehouse

1401 S. Michigan | 312-786-1401

$$$

AMERICAN | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS

This sprawling three-story restaurant in a 1905 firehouse retains some of the building’s original character with fire poles, tin ceiling, and firebrick walls. Huge semicircular, brass-studded red leather booths line the perimeter of the bar’s dining area, while the carpeted main dining room has the feel of a suburban country club. Dishes tend to be hearty—starters include bone-in ribeye, French onion soup, and a special of prosciutto rolled with cream cheese and asparagus. Main courses take their cue from home cooking—pot roast, panfried rainbow trout, barbecued pork chops. The leafy outdoor patio seats 70. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Chief O’Neill’s

3471 N. Elston | 773-583-3066

$

BAR/LOUNGE, ENGLISH/IRISH/SCOTTISH | BREAKFAST, LUNCH: FRIDAY-SATURDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2

This northwest-side pub named after Francis O’Neill, Chicago’s first Irish police chief and a champion of Irish music, carries on his efforts, hosting regular jams. The entire bar—chairs, tables, bar fittings—and most of the staff was imported from Ireland, and the kitchen dishes up traditional fare: Galway Bay mussels, cheddar cheese soup with Guinness, fish-and-chips, and bangers and mash, a popular Sunday brunch and now breakfast on Saturday. The huge, festive outdoor beer garden seats 200. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Cooper’s

1232 W. Belmont | 773-929-2667

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, AMERICAN, BARBECUE/RIBS, BURGERS, PIZZA | LUNCH: SATURDAY-SUNDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: THURSDAY-SATURDAY TILL 2, OTHER NIGHTS TILL MIDNIGHT

Cooper’s came under new ownership a few years ago, but the menu of fresh, seasonal fare remains unchanged. There’s still a roasted beet salad with goat cheese and a duck confit mac ‘n’ cheese, plus barbecue and pizza along with sandwiches and burgers. The vegetable panini was stuffed with arugula, mushrooms, red pepper, and goat cheese, but the proportions were perfect, and the thin, crispy fries were some of the best I’ve ever had. For many the real draw of Cooper’s will be the selection of about 130 beers from around the world. The large off-street patio has the feel of a back porch—one that seats 60. —Heather Kenny

La Creperie

2845 N. Clark | 773-528-9050

$

FRENCH | LUNCH: TUESDAY-FRIDAY; DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | CLOSED MONDAY | OPEN LATE: TUESDAY-SATURDAY TILL 11 | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

This cozy family-run hideaway, easy to miss in the bustle of Clark and Diversey, has been satisfying budget-conscious diners for more than 35 years. The fare is mostly crepes—with seafood or ratatouille for dinner, banana liqueur, Grand Marnier, or Nutella for dessert, and scrambled eggs for brunch—but the menu also offers other casual French favorites such as onion soup gratinee and steak frites. There’s a large, colorful garden patio, and the atmosphere is friendly and uncontrived. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Crust

2056 W. Division | 773-235-5511

$$

PIZZA | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11 PM

Chef Michael Altenberg’s casual flatbread-pizza joint, the city’s first certified organic restaurant, is a sleek modern dining hall with bright orange molded plastic chairs and trippy Formica tables; the spacious tented back patio and sidewalk cafe add seats for another 130. The pizzas—er, flatbreads—have an airy, chewy, well-proofed crust and are topped with everything from savory silver dollars of pepperoni to a sunny-side-up egg to a take on an Alsatian Flammkuchen (caramelized onion, bacon, and caraway seeds with a bechamel sauce). All, meat included, tastes shockingly fresh; the baby greens in my Sun Salad (a tasty mix of greens and seaweed in a creamy sesame-ginger dressing) had to have had their lives cut violently short that same day. The bar offers a short but respectable wine and beer list that is mostly organic, plus a selection of cocktails with infused organic vodka. —Martha Bayne

Deleece Grill Pub

3313 N. Clark | 773-348-3313

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAl | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | closed monday | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL midnight, TUESDAY-THURSDAY TILL 11

The meat-focused sibling of John Handler and Lynne Wallack’s Deleece, the Grill Pub offers an affordable upscale comfort-food menu with some welcome features, including several variations on mac ‘n’ cheese, an extensive whiskey list, and a decent selection of beers. Most entrees—there are three steaks—come with two sides. The best of ours was the Gruyere and asparagus mac with crispy shallots. For appetizers, tender and crispy fried calamari with miso aioli recalled the sophistication of this location’s previous tenant, the short-lived Shochu, and warm house-made potato chips were a fun free starter. There’s a kids’ menu, and outdoor seating behind the restaurant is blessedly sheltered from street noise. —Anne Spiselman

Dick’s Last Resort

315 N. Dearborn | 312-836-7870

$$

bar/lounge, Barbecue, american | lunch: monday-saturday; dinner: seven days | Open late: Sunday-thursday till 1, Friday-Saturday till 2

If you don’t have a boat to dock at this riverside eatery, now located in Marina Towers, you can just stroll on in for 40-ounce beers and buckets of barbecue and assorted fried things. The long community tables and live rock and jazz (no cover charge) are all designed to provide a raucous postwork pick-me-up. Service is always attentive and lively. Outdoor seating for 70 people overlooks the river. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Duchamp

2118 N. Damen | 773-235-6434

$$$

Contemporary/Regional | Dinner: Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday | Sunday brunch | Closed Monday | Open Late: Friday & Saturday till 11

“Aesthetic delectation is the danger to be avoided,” declared Marcel Duchamp. So he’d have to scoff at Michael Taus, whose chummy Bucktown spot Duchamp is aesthetically delectable in a couple ways. Unlike at the chef’s pricier Zealous, main courses here run between $12 and $21. We approached a crispy fried skate wing “fish-and-chips” with some unease, but the dense pieces of fish held up well to the oil under the bread-crumb batter. “Return to Thailand Bouillabaisse” was simply a luxuriant coconut curry with mussels, shrimp, and a gorgeous piece of sea bass. Small plates were a little more expensive, relatively speaking, but mostly gratifying: a white pizza with sweet lobster offset by some beefy trumpet mushrooms, smoked salmon corn blinis like little turbans ornamented with dollops of creme fraiche. There are a few questionable decor choices—clear Plexiglas dining room chairs and bar stools that resemble torture devices might’ve made the ol’ Dadaist happy—but the broad communal tables don’t seem to foster a rushed, chaotic environment, and the two-level outdoor seating, complete with a bar, is expansive. —Mike Sula

Dunlays on the Square

3137 W. Logan | 773-227-2400

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, AMERICAN | LUNCH: TUESDAY-FRIDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, MONDAY-FRIDAY TILL 2, SUNDAY TILL MIDNIGHT

The brunch overflow from Lula Cafe often makes its way to this second location of Dunlays. In addition to eggs, omelets, and pancakes there’s the cholesterol-enhancing Big Mike’s Irish Breakfast: a fried egg, rasher of bacon, sausage, broiled tomato, potatoes, and a pint of Guinness. At other meals the menu offers standard bar fare—burgers, sandwiches, salads—but there are also more upscale options, like a grilled artichoke with remoulade sauce, house-smoked salmon with toasts and a tarragon-chive sauce, and rotating fish specials, plus pizza and ribs. The sidewalk cafe is dog friendly; there’s even a smoked pig’s ear on the menu—”for Spot.” —Kate Schmidt

Enoteca Roma

2146 W. Division | 773-772-7700

$

ITALIAN, SMALL PLATES, BAR/LOUNGE | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL MIDNIGHT, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 11

This laid-back wine bar is an extension of Letizia’s Natural Bakery and shares its charming back garden seating. It offers Letizia’s standard menu plus more than a dozen varieties of bruschetta, pizzas, dinner salads, and various meat, cheese, bread, and olive combinations in the tradition of rustic Roman cuisine. There are nine pastas as well as larger plates, including pork shoulder in red wine served over polenta and lasagna with venison Bolognese, but the salumi plates are enough for a light meal or ample snack for two. Enoteca Roma’s specialty is, of course, wine, served without attitude: says owner-manager Fabio Sorano, “You can get PBR or you can get Pahlmeyer.” —Susannah J. Felts

The HandlebarCredit: Chad Magiera / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Epic

112 W. Hubbard | 312-222-4940

$$$$

contemporary/regional | lunch, Dinner: seven days | Open late: Saturday till 3, Monday-Friday till 2; rooftop open till 11 daily

The name Epic aptly describes the proportions of this industrial-chic restaurant and lounge with 14,000 square feet on two floors, plus a 3,000 square foot rooftop deck, a 21-foot ceiling and a 40-foot-long bar in the first-floor lounge, and 23-foot front windows in the second-floor dining room. But the portions of high-priced food from executive chef Stephen Wambach are anything but. Our gnocchi appetizer had seven thumbnail-size pillows of pasta and five coins of salty lamb sausage in creamy fennel beurre blanc—for $15. Steaks get their own section on the one-page menu, but our ten-ounce seven-pepper-crusted hanger ($23, the least expensive choice) had a streak of tendon running through the chewy beef. The global wine list is on the expensive side as well; beers and cocktails seem more reasonable. The rooftop, “Epic Sky,” features private cabanas for canoodling. —Anne Spiselman

Feed

2803 W. Chicago | 773-489-4600

$

SOUTHERN/SOUL FOOD | BREAKFAST: MONDAY-FRIDAY; LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | BYO | cash only | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

The project of Donna Knezek, one of the original owners of Leo’s Lunchroom and a founder of Bite, Feed is a shack with a chalkboard menu that begins 1/4 chicken, 1/2 chicken, whole chicken. Needless to say, get the chicken: salty and succulent, it has the golden crackle of skin that makes rotisserie bird so viscerally satisfying. Sides include fried okra, a comforting corn pudding, and rich and cheesy baked mac ‘n’ cheese. There are also pulled pork and barbecued chicken sandwiches; brunch items might include pulled pork hash and green tomato eggs Benedict. For dessert there’s pie and fluffy, creamy banana pudding served in a Styrofoam cup with Nilla Wafers throughout. Feed’s BYO, but it serves sweet tea and there’s a corner store with a decent beer selection a few blocks east. Enter the kitschily decorated brick patio from California. —Nicholas Day

The Fireside

5739 N. Ravenswood | 773-878-5942

$$

AMERICAN, BARBECUE/RIBS, BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH: MONDAY-SATURDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 5, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 4

From the outside it looks like a tavern but inside you’ll find a home-style restaurant with a spacious patio that’s tented and heated in the winter. While offerings are extensive, many diners opt for the ribs, glazed in a sweet, tangy sauce. The kitchen’s open till 4 AM on Saturdays, 3 AM other days. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Flatwater

321 N. Clark | 312-644-0283

$$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL, bar/lounge | LUNCH: Tuesday-Friday; DINNER: Tuesday-Saturday | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | Closed Sunday-Monday | OPEN LATE: Friday-Saturday till 11

The flower-bedecked riverfront terrace is the main selling point of this spot, with its view of the river, a few shiny high-rise wedges, and of course the occasional tour boat. The lunch menu offers fancied-up starters, salads, and sandwiches like seared scallops with sweet potato puree and bacon “candy,” a BLT with house-cured bacon, and an Angus cheeseburger. The dinner menu’s broadened with a range of meat-based entrees. —Susannah J. Felts

Folklore

2100 W. Division | 773-292-1600

$$$

latin american, south american | Lunch: Sunday; dinner: seven days | open late: Friday & saturday till 1, other nights till 11:30 PM

A cozy, dimly lit place with exposed brick, tall candles on the tables, and Argentine paraphernalia like mate gourds decorating the walls, Folklore offers a steak-centric menu of authentic Argentine fare very similar to that of its sister restaurant, Tango Sur. But there are plenty of other options on the large menu, including several vegetarian ones and a few fish dishes. A creamy risotto with asparagus, spinach, and shrimp was slightly gummy, but baked eggplant layered with spinach and cheese and topped with tomato cream sauce turned out to be one of the highlights of the meal. Empanadas of moist ground beef in a flaky shell were even better with the excellent house-made chimichurri sauce. Still, steak is what Argentina’s best known for, and Folklore offers several imported cuts of lean grass-fed beef as well as fattier domestic steaks; our bife de chorizo (strip steak) was perfectly cooked to medium rare as requested. The chorizo was also a real standout, one of the best renditions I’ve had. Because the portions were so big, it turned out that we’d accidentally ordered an overwhelming amount of food; this didn’t escape the notice of our friendly server, who brought us a complimentary flan—rich, creamy, and topped with dulce de leche—for being the “customers of the day.” There’s sidewalk seating for 60 people. —Julia Thiel

Fontana Grill & Wine Bar

1329 W. Wilson | 773-561-0400

$$$

ITALIAN, POLISH/RUSSIAN/EASTERN EUROPEAN | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS

Nino Divanovic’s Italian wine bar has an intriguing concept, offering select pours by the ounce, at $1-$2 a pony shot. The menu offers both Italian and Balkan appetizers, pizza, salads, sandwiches, and entrees. The twain meet in an appetizer of cevapi and grilled polenta, minced-beef-and-lamb sausages riding a raft of cornmeal and drizzled with a “cucumber alfredo” sauce that tasted a lot like tzatziki. Thin-crust pizzas are nicely charred, a bit sturdier than other Neopolitan-style efforts around town and in some cases taken down a peg by less than stellar toppings. One of the most unusual dishes is the house-made papardelle: these rustic, almost dumplinglike noodles have a good flavor and texture but outmuscle their delicate butter and truffle oil sauce. They’d be great with something heavier (Stroganoff, Bolognese). The adjacent garden patio is a glorious place to sample the goods. —Mike Sula

Fulton’s on the River

315 N. LaSalle | 312-822-0100

$$$$

SEAFOOD, STEAKS/LOBSTER | LUNCH: MONDAY-SATURDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 11

The lower-level dining room at this Levy Restaurants endeavor is spacious and elegantly understated, with handsome decor and an adult-contemporary soundtrack. We were planning on sticking to seafood until we saw the platter of U.S. prime steaks, one of Fulton’s specialties. We moaned and murmured with pleasure over our main courses—a New York strip and a whole Maine lobster—but prudently stopped halfway through to save room for dessert: key lime icebox pie with a graham cracker crust. Seating on the riverfront patio is first come, first served. —Kathie Bergquist

Got Spaghetti?

6154 N. Milwaukee | 773-594-7724

$$

ITALIAN, PIZZA | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED MONDAY | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 2; SUNDAY, TUESDAY-THURSDAY TILL 1

This friendly new neighborhood restaurant in the former Rusty Armadillo is a real find, with a rooftop patio, modest prices, and well-executed Italian classics. Spicy mussels arrabiata is a nice twist on a standard, served in a generous portion for $9.95. Mix-and-match pasta choices come with that tasty arrabiata, excellent peas and pancetta, and Bolognese sauce in addition to marinara, alfredo, pesto, and aglio olio. Veal Vesuvio was surprisingly light and appealingly lemony—and a mere $15.75, including a side of pasta. Other entree options are steaks—a blue-cheese-encrusted tenderloin, New York strip, or rib eye—chicken Parmesan, Vesuvio, or Milanese, and weekend specials like Italian meat loaf. Another weekend-only special of poached pears far surpassed a cannoli. —Kate Schmidt

Halsted’s Bar & Grill

3441 N. Halsted | 773-348-9696

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, AMERICAN, BURGERS | LUNCH: MONDAY-FRIDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY TILL MIDNIGHT, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 11 | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

Let’s start with the onion rings, something Philip K. Dick might have invented as the perfect drug: each puffy hoop as big as a doughnut and studded with coarse salt, the Bass Ale batter and the onion itself nearly atomizing the moment you bite down. It’s exactly what you might want with a night’s worth of alcohol in your bloodstream, and sure enough, Halsted’s Bar & Grill has begun to corner the market on Boys Town bar food. The former X/O, which was lively but almost genteel, has been transformed into something resembling Sidetrack with food, complete with overly loud music and a large see-and-be-seen patio in the back jammed with guys (and the occasional girl). If that’s your scene, you’ll love it. —Rob Christopher

The Handlebar

2311 W. North | 773-384-9546

$

GLOBAL/FUSION/ECLECTIC, VEGETARIAN/HEALTHY | BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 2, MONDAY-THURSDAY TILL MIDNIGHT, SUNDAY TILL 11 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

A cyclist hangout—the bar stools are made from chrome rims, vintage bikes hang from the patio fencing, and there are specials for messengers on Mondays—this is a theme restaurant that doesn’t feel precious. The food is cheap and vegetarian friendly: most entrees are under $10, and the only meat option is fish. The chefs don’t do anything flashy, but they do a little bit of everything and do it well—the samosas with tamarind chutney, for example, are on par with any you’d find on Devon. The kitchen also does a bang-up job with comfort food: seitan and tofu sandwiches come with a variety of sides including a respectable vegetarian version of southern collard greens and an addictive smoked Gouda mac ‘n’ cheese I’ll crave on my deathbed. —David Wilcox

Lutz Continental Cafe & Pastry ShopCredit: ZOL87 Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Heartland Cafe

7000 N. Glenwood | 773-465-8005

$

AMERICAN, VEGETARIAN/HEALTHY, BAR/LOUNGE | BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11 | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

The Heartland serves a mean buffalo burger, plus salads, sandwiches, and enough hearty vegetarian entrees to satisfy the pickiest eater, from veggie chili to tofu scrambles, barbecue seitan, and a macrobiotic plate. Fine dining it’s not (though specials like steamed artichokes show some aspiration), but it is a north-side sanctuary for hungry bohemians of all stripes, with live music (funk, folk, and jazz) and a Wednesday-night open mike. It also has a left-leaning general store and an often-bustling outdoor patio. —Martha Bayne

Jam

937 N. Damen | 773-489-0302

$$

contemporary/regional | BREAKFAST, LUNCH: SUNDAY-MONDAY, WEDNESDAY-SATURDAY, DINNER: wEDNESDAY-sATURDAY | CLOSED TUESDAY | byo | cash only | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY (dinner only)

Jerry Suqi (Chickpea) and chef Jeffrey Mauro (Trotter’s, North Pond) have teamed up on this fussed-up Ukrainian Village brunch spot. Early notices touted Mauro’s sous vide malt custard French toast and eggy plates fashionably loaded with pork cheeks and belly, which gave me the impression that this was going to be the sort of brunching meant for blanketing uneasy stomachs and pounding heads. And indeed Mauro’s egg sandwich, a French roll with slabs of meaty braised pork cheek covered in a lava flow of egg yolk, has a restorative quality, marred only by a cloying sweet-and-sour peach ketchup. Meals start with imaginative amuses, such as intensely anisey fennel sugar-lemon custard doughnut holes. Mauro’s now tackling dinner too, with options including a $25 four-course tasting menu, or five courses for $37. —Mike Sula

Juicy Wine Company

694 N. Milwaukee | 312-492-6620

$$

bar/lounge, small plates | dinner: monday-saturday | open late; saturday till 3, friday till 2, monday-thursday till 1

You’d expect Juicy Wine Company to be all about the grape, but the instant you walk in the door it’s clear the place is just as much about the cheese, offering an a la carte selection of cheeses and cured meats, and even a butter “experience” that pairs three artisanal butters with various sea salts. Charcuterie includes salumi made by Seattle-based Armandino Batali (Mario’s pop). All wines served in-house—we had a seriously complicated 1994 Davis Family Russian River pinot noir—are available to go. Downstairs the wood-trimmed, minimalist space is split between a wine wall and in the front and a low-key seating area of tables and banquettes in the rear; upstairs is a cozy bar and lounge, complete with DJ booth and a rooftop patio. —Martha Bayne

Jury’s

4337 N. Lincoln | 773-935-2255

$$

AMERICAN, BURGERS | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

Every hot and happening restaurant row should have one old-school place still chugging along, resistant to all trends, and that’s the function Jury’s serves on this stretch of Lincoln Avenue just south of Montrose. With its white-tablecloth interior and supper club menu, the place clearly aims for more sophistication than the other taverns along this strip, though its main claim to fame is still its hamburger, which won a best-burger-in-da-city contest some years back. It’s a terrific example of the classic bar burger, a half-pound slab of quality beef seared to a steaklike char and accompanied by nothing more exotic than Grey Poupon and a mound of steak fries. There’s a patio in back, and a small sidewalk cafe where canine companions are welcome. —Michael Gebert

LM Le Restaurant

4539 N. Lincoln | 773-942-7585

$$$

FRENCH | DINNER: TUESDAY-SATURDAY | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | CLOSED MONDAY

This classically oriented French contemporary spot is a boon for the Lincoln Square restaurant jungle. The cramped and awkward space that has seen many a tenant (Tallulah, She She) has been brightened considerably, bathing in a warm amber glow filigreed classics like creamy sea-salt-dusted foie gras torchon or a clod of sweetbreads, delicious despite their alarming appearance. A pair of soups (including thick, rich lobster bisque jazzed up with crispy beignets), a pair of salads, and you’re free to negotiate a list of familiar entrees: whitefish, veal cheeks, seared scallops, grilled sturgeon, etc. These range from outstanding (a juicy pan-roasted poussin with chanterelles and bright green parsley-chive gnocchi) to bland (a tender grilled sirloin whose blanket of shallot jam couldn’t rectify its lack of flavor). At dessert a classic tarte tatin for two was unforgivably soggy, but a magnificent peanut butter cream and chocolate tart with honey mousse was luscious and the most surprising bite I tried. The enclosed back patio remains another selling point. —Mike Sula

Longman & Eagle

2657 N. Kedzie | 773-276-7110

$$$

BAR/LOUNGE, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | saturday & sunday brunch | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

At Longman & Eagle the food is executed by Jared Wentworth, yet another proponent of snout-to-tail eating. Wentworth’s meat challenge goes on and on: Kobe meatballs, duck rillettes, fat slabs of salty bacon-armored paté—squab one night, rabbit another, woodcock on a third—and a recent special of tete de cochon, not a whole pig’s head but a crispy headcheese croquette atop a bed of stinging nettles. Even the fish dishes can’t escape mammalian adornments: catfish is topped with ham-hock relish, and seared tuna swims in foie jus. A sunny-side up duck egg layered on beef tongue hash is a satisfying late-night breakfast and might even inoculate you against the dozens of whiskeys behind the bar. The sprinkling of perfect crispy-fried Ipswich clams on an oversize block of toasted brioche, though, is sure to provoke frustration in anyone who’s ever dropped a few bucks at an actual clam shack. Even on a single plate execution can diverge to extremes—beautiful braised rolled veal breast is a meaty paragon, but its partner, a short rib stuffed in undercooked manicotti, just looks embarrassed for itself. To be fair, like its fellow Logan Square phenomenon Revolution Brewing, Longman & Eagle is so consistently slammed that it may need even more time than usual to even things out. There’s now a sidewalk cafe as well. —Mike Sula

Lutz Continental Cafe & Pastry Shop

2458 W. Montrose | 773-478-7785

$$

GERMAN/AUSTRIAN, BAKERY | 7 AM-7 PM SUNDAY-THURSDAY, 7 AM-8 PM FRIDAY-SATURDAY

Now renovated, the dining room and lovely back garden at Lutz Continental Cafe retain their old-world flavor, and the lunch offerings—classic sandwiches, quiche, goulash soups, and crepes—are worth every pfennig. Just be sure to save room for dessert. The cafe offers its full menu from 11 AM to 5 PM daily, and serves cake and coffee until half an hour before the shop closes. —Holly Greenhagen

M. Henry

5707 N. Clark | 773- 561-1600

$

AMERICAN, BREAKFAST | BREAKFAST, LUNCH: TUESDAY-SATURDAY | SUNDAY BRUNCH | CLOSED MONDAY | BYO | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

This charming cafe from partners Michael Moorman and Jorge Aviles offers an eclectic selection of breakfast, brunch, and lunch dishes featuring natural ingredients and house-baked breads. There’s a turkey sandwich with walnut pesto and cranberry sauce, a miso-glazed veggie burger, a Jamaican jerk chicken sandwich, a veggie Dagwood, and five others, along with nourishing “peasant bowls” with beans, noodles, organic rice, and veggies. Breakfast and brunch entrees include a dish called Vegan Epiphany, organic tofu scrambled with red and green peppers, onions, and yuba (a baconlike soy product), and Dulce Banana Rumba, thick-cut brioche French toast with warm bananas, rum, golden raisins, and pecans. Prices are reasonable, and the staff is friendly and eager to accommodate. An attached patisserie offers breads, focaccia and other savories, and an array of tempting-looking treats for takeout; outside is a fancifully decorated patio. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Market

1113 W. Randolph | 312-929-4787

$$$

BAR/LOUNGE, AMERICAN, PIZZA | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2

This sprawling sports bar’s ownership includes White Sox GM Kenny Williams, and the corny menu shows it: appetizers are the “Starting Line Up” and “MVPs” “most valuable pizzas.” Market says its aim is to provide traditional American food with a twist, and the result is innovations like seasoned wings tossed in buffalo sauce with blue cheese potato skins (the dish is called Idaho vs. Buffalo) and a bizarre appetizer of dumplings stuffed with chicken and pepper jack cheese, then rolled in barbecue sauce and chives. The “MVPs” include a chicken Vesuvio pizza complete with peas, and the South-Side Slugger is a half-pound cheddar burger topped with smoked ham, “angry onions,” and a fried egg. There’s a short list of entrees in the $20-$30 range, but most people head here for the extensive outdoor seating, which includes a beer garden, a rooftop patio, and a sidewalk cafe. —Kate Schmidt

May Street Cafe

1146 W. Cermak | 312-421-4442

$$

MEXICAN, GLOBAL/FUSION/ECLECTIC | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED MONDAY | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

On a dismal industrial stretch of Cermak, the bright, tropical-toned facade of May Street Cafe jumps out like a red-hot tamale. There are other surprises in the cuisine, like a not-bad alligator appetizer with a nutty, sage-based mojo criollo. Michoacan-style mole was more hot than sweet, with pasilla and ancho chiles and just a touch of chocolate, and the chiles rellenos also packed a lot of peppery punch. Double-cream Brie and pear quesadillas were inspired; served with sweet crema and chipotle ketchup and listed as an appetizer, they would also be a rich, sweet way to end the meal. The covered garden terrace seats about 60. —David Hammond

Moody’s Pub

5910 N. Broadway | 773-275-2696

$

BAR/LOUNGE, AMERICAN, BURGERS | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 2, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 1 | cash only | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

A good place to grab a burger and beer for lunch, dinner, or a late-night snack, even on Sundays. The menu is small, its centerpiece a burger that’s been called the best in town (it’s also been called the most overrated). Also available are fries, steak and chicken breast sandwiches, a dinner salad, and fried cod, shrimp, and chicken. The beer selection is limited, but the margaritas and sangria are outstanding. In summer the large garden is the place to sit. —Ellen Joy

Nightwood

2119 S. Halsted | 312-526-3385

$$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: MONDAY-SATURDAY TILL 11

At Nightwood, the Pilsen venture from the Lula talent trust of Jason Hammel, Amalea Tshilds, and chef Jason Vincent, the vibe is minimalist but polished, from the open kitchen and floor-to-ceiling windows to the clean cubism of the outdoor patio. The simple yet sophisticated seasonal food mirrors the elegant surroundings. Some standouts on my visits were delicate grilled Wisconsin trout, half a juicy roast chicken complemented by peppery mustard greens, devastating pork belly, and a duck potpie whose rich flavors were teased out with a restrained, confident hand. Appetizers included a nicely balanced arugula and steak salad with flavorful roasted beets and a terrific duo of silken, miso-cured pork tenderloin and savory shank. There’s a roster of creative house cocktails and craft beers, though Pabst Blue Ribbon (“Wisconsin, lager”) also makes the cut. The wine list is weighted toward sustainable and/or biodynamic small producers and, like the menu and the restaurant design, demonstrates an abundance of taste, consideration, and savvy planning. —Martha Bayne

90 Miles Cuban Cafe

2540 W. Armitage | 773-227-2822

$

CUBAN | BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | BYO | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

The second outpost of Alberto and Christine Gonzalez’s Cuban cafe has table seating and a charming outdoor dining area in addition to a counter, but it retains the warmth of the tiny original on Clybourn. Sandwiches include innovations like one with tofu in Creole sauce alongside traditionals like a medianoche, lechon, and Cubano. A special of masas de puerco consisted of delicious deep-fried pork chunks smeared with mojo and served with rings of white onion. The crispy tostones and a savory goat cheese empanada were pleasing as well. There’s Latin music on the sound system, and the space is decorated with wallpaper showcasing vintage Cuban posters; service is crack. —Kate Schmidt

NoMi

800 N. Michigan | 312-239-4030

$$$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL, FRENCH, BAR/LOUNGE | BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS

This swank restaurant on the seventh floor of the Park Hyatt pulls out all the stops, from a temperature-controlled wine cellar entrance to windows with a knockout view of Michigan Avenue. Under executive chef Christophe David appetizers include a range of sushi platters and rolls and seasonal dishes such as morels and white asparagus with smoked ham. Main courses on the changing menu also show seasonal influences, with offerings like diver scallops with smoked eel agnolotti and a scallop-thyme jus. In the garden patio and lounge a smaller menu of tapas, sushi, sandwiches, and salads is served. The garden seats about 50 people. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Old Oak Tap

2109 W. Chicago | 773-772-0406

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | LUNCH: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

At the Old Oak Tap, a barstaurant from the owners of the Continental and Darkroom, the 1,500-square-foot front patio is frequently jammed, with every third diner bouncing a baby between sips of Saison DuPont. The menu, created with consulting chef John Manion (Mas), is full of spiffed-up bar standards like sweet-and-spicy sriracha wings, roasted beet and goat cheese salad, and sandwiches stuffed with tilapia or five-spice pork belly. And I mean stuffed: the lump crabmeat club was an ungainly mound of crab salad with four inches of fresh ciabatta on either side and finished with chunks of bacon and avocado. Deep-fried rock shrimp glazed with chipotle aioli and a rib eye salad with romaine and avocado proved more navigable, but underneath the spicy mayo the shrimp seemed oddly flavorless. The craft beer list showcases a lot of predictable crowd-pleasers—Stone IPA, Bell’s Oberon, Half Acre Daisy Cutter—but also a couple intriguing curveballs like the Magic Hat #9 Pale Ale, a light, fruity, strangely pleasant brew I’d never tried before and liked a lot by the fourth sip. —Martha Bayne

The Orbit Room

2959 N. California | 773-588-8540

$

bar/lounge, american | Lunch: friday-sunday; dinner seven days | open late: MONDAY-FRIDAY TILL 2, SATURDAY TILL 3, SUNDAY TILL MIDNIGHT

In addition to bar staples like nachos, wings, and burgers, this friendly Avondale watering hole offers French onion soup, P.E.I. mussels, a Cubano sandwich, and hand-tossed pizza. There’s a nice selection of draft beers, including locally brewed Metropolitan, and a respectable list of specialty cocktails, if that’s your thing. The attractive outdoor patio is done up tiki style. —Kate Schmidt

Las Palmas

1835 W. North | 773-289-4991

$$$

MEXICAN | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL MIDNIGHT

This branch of the local Las Palmas chain is more sophisticated than the others in the city. Appetizers include empanadas, arepas, ceviches, and guacamole prepared tableside. The traditional steak taco entree was smoky and good, topped with queso añejo and chipotle jam; other large plates include pan-roasted mahi-mahi over purple-potato puree and lamb shank braised in banana leaves. A jumbo margarita easily carried me through my meal—that and the strolling guitarist and pleasant weather on the charming back patio. —Kathie Bergquist

Park Grill

11 N. Michigan | 312-521-7275

$$$

AMERICAN, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL, BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH

Proximity to Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park keep this place crowded, and dining on the patio, the winter home of the McCormick Tribune ice rink, is by request only, so don’t expect to waltz in. Another reason for the crowd might be the solid American cooking of Bernard Laskowski (Bin 36, MK North), though there’s not much out of the ordinary—fried calamari, an array of salads, and carnivore pleasers from the grill, like a 16-ounce bone-in rib eye or Kobe burger. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Pasta d’Arte

6311 N. Milwaukee | 773-763-1181

$$$

Italian | Lunch: Tuesday-Friday; Dinner: seven days | open late: friday & saturday till 11

This Norwood Park restaurant serves terrific regional dishes like bucatini manzo, hollow pasta served with a homey short-rib tomato sauce; even the bread stands out. House-made pastas include decadent lobster ravioli in a rich cream sauce and gnocchi with Gorgonzola and walnuts. An appetizer of tender long-stemmed grilled artichokes came piled with salad and good-quality prosciutto and Parmesan and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Large family groups tend to fill the courtyard (which has a retractable roof) and narrow dining room, and there’s a charming bar in the back of the house as well as a small sidewalk cafe out in front; service is polished and professional. Don’t miss the house-made limoncello and gelato from Angelo Gelato. —Kate Schmidt

Pegasus

130 S. Halsted | 312-226-3377

$$

GREEK | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL MIDNIGHT, OTHER NIGHTS TILL AT LEAST 11

On a Saturday night at nine my group of 13 was able to walk right in and be seated. Everyone enjoyed the dishes, from a fava dip, cheese phyllo squares, and salads to a gyros platter, Athenian chicken, and arni yuvetsaki (lamb baked in a clay pot with orzolike Rosa Marina pasta and a red wine sauce). The rooftop patio offers a first-class view of the downtown skyline. —Susannah J. Felts

Piccolo Sogno

464 N. Halsted | 312-421-0077

$$$

ITALIAN | lunch: monday-friday; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

Ex Coco Pazzo chef Tony Priolo and vino pro Ciro Longobardo’s Piccolo Sogno, or “little dream,” offers one of the most idyllic outdoor dining areas in the city—and on most evenings, a parking lot packed with Beemers and Lexuses. But working through flat-tasting but ample meaty dishes like thick slabs of Roman-style porchetta or wine-braised beef brasato takes effort, especially in the aftermath of overpowering earlier courses such as greasy fried fontina-stuffed zucchini flowers. Someone knows what they’re doing with pastas, though, particularly the house-made green-and-white fettuccine with veal ragu. Service was well-informed and practically heroic in reaction to a kitchen clearly in the weeds. —Mike Sula

Prosecco

710 N. Wells | 312-951-9500

$$$$

ITALIAN | lunch: monday-friday; DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | closed sunday | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY-SATURDAY TILL 11

Prosecco is the sort of top-heavy place where phalanxes of handsome managers in dark suits do a lot of glad-handing while the lone guy bringing out the food is practically running. That top-heavy philosophy applies equally to the kitchen, which seems to operate under the rule of thumb “when in doubt, add butter—and truffles.” Orechiette tartufate was a devastatingly rich plate of pasta tossed with wild mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and a whole lot of black truffle cream and white truffle oil. We had better luck with a Cornish game hen, whose stuffing of porcini mushrooms, sausage, chestnuts, and black truffles delivered enough smoky, nutty flavor to give the dish structure. We shared the pasta and an appetizer, a trio of white tuna, ahi tuna, and salmon crudo—only the citrusy salmon really sang. And though we steered clear of the veal chop, the filet mignon, and the gold-leaf-dusted risotto, the bill still came to more than $200. The patio is delightfully decorated with lanterns, lots of wrought iron and greenery, and a Persian carpet. —Martha Bayne

The Purple Pig

500 N. Michigan | 312-464-1744

$$

SMALL PLATES, BAR/LOUNGE, MEDITERRANEAN | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 1, OTHER NIGHTS TILL MIDNIGHT | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Snout-to-tail cooking is the name of the game at The Purple Pig, a convivial take on an Italian enoteca from Scott Harris (Mia Francesca), Jimmy Bannos Sr. (Heaven on Seven), and chef Jimmy Bannos Jr. While there was no actual snout, sow’s ear became the proverbial silk purse in crunchy-chewy fried strips with crispy kale, marinated cherry peppers, and a fried egg to mix in, all served in a cute wine-colored pig bowl. But not all the pleasures are porcine at this noisy spot, where diners perch on bar stools, at high communal tables, along the banquette, or out on a narrow patio. There are also cold antipasti like expertly seasoned giant Greek lima beans, crisply fried sardines crisscrossed over a refreshing salad of shaved fennel in a lemon vinaigrette, or a glossy golden quail on a puddle of salsify puree ringed by a drizzle of pomegranate syrup, plus a fairly extensive list of cheeses. The all-European wine list has at least 50 bottles for $40 or less; any can be ordered by the half bottle, and quite a few are also available by the glass or quartino. —Anne Spiselman

The Red Canary

695 N. Milwaukee | 312-846-1475

$$

bar/lounge, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: Monday-Friday till 2, SATURDAY TILL 3, Sunday till midnight

A throbbing “gastrolounge,” the Red Canary is a clubby cavern done up in an overfamiliar Fauxhibition style that’s at odds with the juvenile vodka-dominated cocktail list and tableside keg service. The most interesting element of the space is the long, tinted window into the kitchen, which makes the crew appear to be a pack of laboring molemen, bent over fussy platings that might never be noticed on the dimly lit club floor. A new menu of “comfort food” features appetizers of buffalo shrimp and bacon-wrapped scallops and main dishes including seafood pot pie and baby back ribs. Out back is a dressy patio filled with dressy types. —Mike Sula

Resi’s Bierstube

2034 W. Irving Park | 773-472-1749

$$

GERMAN/AUSTRIAN, BAR/LOUNGE | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2

Regulars like this German beer parlor for the filling traditional fare—classics like schnitzel, sausages with sauerkraut, goulash, and potato pancakes. But the real draw are the beers, currently 15 on tap and more than 100 bottled. In warm weather the charming tree-lined outdoor patio is lantern lit, with picnic tables for seating, and the atmosphere is generally mellow and cheerful. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Roof

201 N. State | 312-239-9501

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, SMALL PLATES, PIZZA | LUNCH: FRIDAY-SUNDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SUNDAY-TUESDAY TILL MIDNIGHT, WEDNESDAY-SATURDAY TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

From its opening, SRO crowds have been lining up to get onto the glass-walled patio of Roof, the industrial-sleek black-and-gray lounge on the 27th floor of the new Wit Hotel. Soul music pulsates insistently as waitresses in short black outfits navigate among booths, living room-like areas, and long communal stone tables. There’s a decent selection of bottled beers and mostly European wines by the glass or bottle. Truth to tell, chef Todd Stein’s 20 small plates ($5-$16) are more enticing than they need to be—I loved the salmon crudo, five slices of buttery fish set off by a subtle lemon emulsion, pine nuts, and cured Calabrian chiles. Two tips: arrive around the 3 PM opening time if you want to eat in relative quiet, and if it’s not reserved for a private party, check out “the hangover,” a table for eight on a smaller patio that has the best views. —Anne Spiselman

Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar

954 N. California | 773-292-1616

$

BAR/LOUNGE, SMALL PLATES | DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED SUNDAY | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, MONDAY-FRIDAY TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

The main attraction here, not surprisingly, is the intriguing list of small-batch beverages put together by a trio of Webster’s Wine Bar vets. There are a good many interesting selections—including a passel of wines from Greece, Austria, and unusual spots like Slovenia—among the more than 60 bottles and 17 available by the glass. But executive chef Remy Ayesh’s tight, well-curated menu of small and midsize plates, cheese, and charcuterie is no afterthought, peppered with items engineered to trigger Pavlovian gushes of saliva: bar plates include a few sweet and savory duos, including bacon toffee with spiced mixed nuts. Among the generally solid larger plates, the loosely packed burger with bacon-chive aioli is super. This is a fine spot to take a sip or two, dark and comfy with an outdoor patio that in the warmer months brightens an otherwise stark intersection. —Mike Sula

Rose Angelis

1314 W. Wrightwood | 773-296-0081

$$

ITALIAN | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | closed monday | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11 | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

The four adjoining rooms of this Lincoln Park storefront feel intimate even when they’re crowded, and the reasonably priced entrees are so large that doggie bags are the norm. The bruschetta is a rustic version with huge chunks of tomato; pizzas have a nice thin crust, and most entrees are classic pasta dishes like linguine with seafood in tomato sauce and a massive eggplant parmigiana in a sweet red sauce. More ambitious are the delicate duck-filled tortelloni (served with spinach, tomato, and melted mozzarella in a cognac reduction) and a portobello ripiene. The two outdoor patios are flower filled and protected from the street. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Sheffield’s

3258 N. Sheffield | 773-281-4989

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, AMERICAN, BARBECUE/RIBS | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Ric Hess, owner of this Wrigleyville tavern, spent months perfecting three house-made sauces (Memphis, Texas, and North Carolina style) for the barbecue turned out by his wood-burning Southern Pride smokers. His pulled pork is pretty respectable, served with properly tangy coleslaw and a tasty and properly vinegary mustard-based sauce, and sides including red-skin potato salad, corn bread, and collards with bacon show the care being taken in the kitchen. There are tons of craft brews on tap and by the bottle, and the staff is chipper and superfriendly. Outside there’s seating in a leafy walled courtyard. —Kate Schmidt

The Southern

1840 W. North | 773-342-1840

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | SUNDAY BRUNCH | CLOSED MONDAY | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, TUESDAY-FRIDAY TILL 2, SUNDAY TILL MIDNIGHT | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

“I’ll remember the food this time,” said the friend I brought to the Southern, who’d accompanied me when I reviewed this Wicker Park restaurant’s previous incarnation, Chaise Lounge. The Southern’s slightly refined Dixie-inspired fare in a casual bar setting is a much better platform for chef Cary Taylor’s talents. We nibbled on slim, tortillalike johnnycakes served taco-style with soft, vinegary pork and sweet chow-chow (pickled vegetable relish) that was served in a little canning jar. Red pepper dressed up cheddary shrimp and grits, making for a colorful rendition of this classic. There’s a wide selection of whiskey, old-fashioned cocktails, and southern beers like Abita’s Turbodog and Southern Star Bombshell Blonde Ale. —Heather Kenny

SushiSamba Rio

504 N. Wells | 312-595-2300

$$$$

South American | Lunch: Monday-Saturday; Dinner: seven days | open late: saturday till 2, Tuesday-Thursday till 1, sunday-monday till midnight

This branch of a chain with locations in New York and Miami serves a dizzying combination of Japanese, Brazilian, and Peruvian food—the 20-seat sushi bar alone is a whirlwind of activity. The cuisine reflects what’s typically available in big cities in Brazil and Peru, where thanks to turn-of-the-century Japanese immigration it’s as easy to find edamame as churrasco, the traditional Brazilian barbecue platter. The wine list includes several little-known varietals like Spanish Xarello and Italian Arneis; there are also dozens of sake varieties, plus martinis, mojitos, and caipirinhas. Ten sidewalk tables comprise the restaurant’s outdoor seating. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Tapas Barcelona

1615 Chicago, Evanston | 847-866-9900

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TAPAS/SPANISH | LUNCH: MONDAY-SATURDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

The patio of this Evanston restaurant fills up quickly, possibly a bigger draw than the decent if unspectacular fare. This isn’t the place for the unexpected or unusual, but the traditional is sometimes executed very well. The Spanish omelet, for instance, was near perfect; bacon-wrapped dates sitting in a pool of bell pepper sauce had my companion practically drooling. Other options—like the thin grilled scallops—were not so good. Duck sausage was better, rich and satisfying, but the side of mushroom ragu was oddly bereft of mushrooms. Fortunately, there’s a full list of specialty cocktails, not to mention a decent beer and wine menu. —Chip Dudley

Taxim

1558 N. Milwaukee | 773-252-1558

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GREEK | LUNCH: SATURDAY-SUNDAY; DINNER: SUNDAY-MONDAY, WEDNESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED TUESDAY | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

At Taxim chef-owner David Schneider has raised the bar for what passes as serious, interesting regional Greek food. Humble seasonal ingredients shine in simple, wonderful dishes like fresh-shelled favas with yogurt and lamb confit. Pomegranate-glazed duck gyros are an updated nod to street food, dressed in a thin, unstrained house-made yogurt that’s deployed with amazing results in a number of dishes, from sauteed baby eggplant to a brawny minced goat kebab, as well as on its own for dessert, accented with some tart candied kumquats. The selection of hot and cold mezzes and large plates—which also includes supersweet roasted peppers, capers, and kefalograviera cheese and a phyllo-clad goat feta and ramp pie—apparently just hints at Schneider’s repertoire, said to include hundreds of recipes from Greece and Asia Minor. The all-Greek wine list is affordable and interesting; add to that a weekend yogurt bar and sidewalk cafe. —Mike Sula

Tepatulco

2558 N. Halsted | 773-472-7419

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MEXICAN | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

Tepatulco opened under the peripatetic Geno Bahena; perhaps predictably, he’s since taken off, but the menu retains many of his favorites, and the outdoor patio, which seats 200, remains popular. On my last visit camarones aguachiles verdes, a Sinaloan version of shrimp lightly “cooked” in lime marinade, was delicately flavored, and the sopes de chapulines—little masa cups stuffed with black beans, cheese, and grasshopper bits described on the menu as “succulent”was an accessible dish for one with bug parts. Salmon was grilled and deliciously dressed in a green pumpkin-seed-based mole. Simple but satisfying chicken Milanesa was a meaty capon breast with peppery pickled red onion—complemented by the menu’s one Mexican red wine as well as margaritas, shaken tableside. —David Hammond

The Terrace at Trump

401 N. Wabash | 312-588-8600

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BAR/LOUNGE, AMERICAN | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: EVERY NIGHT TILL 11 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Million-dollar views of the Wrigley Building and the Chicago River are the main reason to check out the Terrace at Trump—but not the only one. The thoughtfully designed space, accented by burbling fountains and stands of prairie grass, offers a welcome variety of seating options, among them comfy couches, large round tables, cocktail tables for couples, a communal table, and a small bar. And thanks to a no-standing-room policy, the place doesn’t get packed. Frank Brunacci, executive chef of Sixteen, oversees the compact menu, which is predictably sophisticated and expensive. The downside of controlled access is that the wait for seating outdoors can stretch into hours. The way to avoid it: go around 2:30, when the doors open, and relax over a late lunch. —Anne Spiselman

Terzo Piano

159 E. Monroe | 312-443-8650

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ITALIAN | LUNCH: SEVEN DAYS; DINNER: THURSDAY 

A diverse crowd turns up here for lunch (dinner is Thursdays only), drawn by everything from the star power of chef-partner Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia) to the views, though the best vista of Millennium Park—from the north end of the terrace—can’t be enjoyed from any of the tables. The one-page menu is lavish about listing the midwestern sources of ingredients in the mostly Italian-inspired dishes. But frankly, I don’t care if the piccolo lamb burger on the uno, due, tre burgers started life at Pinn-Oak Ridge Farms in Wisconsin, since it ended up an overdone, overspiced, dry puck of meat unredeemed by Indiana’s Capriole goat cheese or ketchup made from McWethy Farms tomatoes. Colorful pizzasize flatbreads headed for other tables made me wish I’d ordered one. I might return for desserts like espresso doughnut holes with a mini glass of cherry soda and zeppole (fig-filled pastries) with vin cotto and dark-chocolate ice cream, but given that lunch for two cost more than $100, the food—and service—should have been better. —Anne Spiselman

Trattoria Isabella

217 N. Jefferson | 312-207-1900

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italian | lunch: monday-friday; dinner: seven days | open late: friday & saturday till 11

This West Loop Italian restaurant mirrors its increasingly condo-ridden neighborhood—shiny, handsome, and seemingly soulless. As Tom Jones wailed over the sound system, white-shirted waiters and bussers hovered; friendly but bumptious, over the course of the meal they gave us spotted water glasses with a flourish, salad forks with an entree, and piled on our courses until the spacious booth table was completely overtaken by large white plates and bowls. Our choices from the menu of standard-issue offerings—a Caesar salad, bland grilled octopus overwhelmed by balsamic vinegar, spaghetti carbonara—were, well, standard issue. I suggest the only reason to come here is the handsome side patio—god forbid Tom Jones is piped out there too. —Kate Schmidt

Tre Kronor

3258 W. Foster | 773-267-9888

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SWEDISH | BREAKFAST, LUNCH: SEVEN DAYS; DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | BYO

Every morning the kitchen at Tre Kronor turns out their legendary Danish, cinnamon rolls, and a number of cheese-filled omelets. Most of the foods are Scandinavian, though there’s one quisling burger on the lunch menu; other offerings include quiche and Norwegian meatballs on limpa bread. Tre Kronor’s herring, made in-house, is a superbly moist and meaty version, and Swedish meatballs here are light, delicate, and deliciously dressed with sweet-tart lingonberry sauce. In line with the robust Viking tradition, you won’t find a salad here without cheese or bacon or both; the menu is full of the kind of fortifying food you’d want to eat before heading out to herd reindeer or invade your southern neighbors. There’s outdoor seating under a canopy of trees. —David Hammond

Twisted Spoke

501 N. Ogden | 312-666-1500

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BAR/LOUNGE, AMERICAN, BURGERS | Lunch: monay-friday; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | saturday & sunday BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, SUNDAY-FRIDAY TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

“Eat, Drink, Ride” is the motto at this casual joint at the corner of Grand and Ogden. The place is decorated to look like a biker hangout, with several hogs half-buried nose down in the dirt outside, an industrial metal interior, and a rust-covered facade. The menu offers bar munchies, burgers, and a dozen or so huge sandwiches—barbecued chicken and pulled pork, a grilled portobello—all of which are served with equally huge handfuls of crispy fries; there are also wings, gumbo, and chicken tacos with pico de gallo. Saturday nights after midnight the Spoke offers “Smut ‘n Eggs”—breakfast and old stag movies. Up the stairs is a rooftop patio that’s surprisingly airy for a biker bar, no matter how ersatz. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Volo Restaurant Wine Bar

2008 W. Roscoe | 773-348-4600

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BAR/LOUNGE, SMALL PLATES, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED SUNDAY | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 2, MONDAY-THURSDAY TILL MIDNIGHT

Talented executive chef Stephen Dunne executes a constantly changing menu of small plates like sweet, plump mussels steamed in white wine and butter and flecked with parsley or spicy-sweet steak tartare made with Kobe beef and topped with shards of sesame flatbread. There’s an artisanal cheese plate offered every night—it changes frequently but might include French favorites like Epoisses, Valencay, and Sainte-Maure or domestic selections like Humboldt Fog and Point Reyes blue. Wine from an impressive global list comes by the glass, carafe, flight, or bottle, and the large outdoor dining area is pretty as a picture. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Zed 451

739 N. Clark | 312-266-6691

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South American | Dinner: seven days | sunday brunch | open late: friday & saturday till 11 | Sunday Brunch

The Orlando investment firm that snapped up Sal & Carvao three years ago must have known there were enough knickered “gauchos” scampering around River North’s Brazilian-themed feeding factories to occupy a flattened rain forest. But it also knew that the all-you-can-eat-meat-on-a-blade concept still has juice, especially if marketed to Sex and the City wannabes who don’t care as much about eating as about being seen in the right place eating. I was no fan of Sal & Carvao, but I don’t remember feeling as blatantly manipulated there as at its replacement, Zed 451. The game began the instant we approached the host stand and were directed into a holding pattern in the bar, where we were free to order weak pours at stiff prices before finally being permitted to feed at one of several long-available tables. In the dining room, the Brazil-on-Disney shtick and the simple, reasonably palatable flame-roasted meats have been replaced with white-coated “chefs” who table-shave a less beef-centric variety of proteins gussied up with global-fusiony marinades and accents, such as bricks of Parmesan-crusted pork loin, citrus salmon, and mango mahimahi. The “Harvest-Table” is laden with salads and vegetable dishes in enough sugary dressings to accommodate heroin withdrawal, and if the trio of “artisan cheeses” was any less industrial than supermarket deli-case varieties, I’ll go bag groceries at Jewel. That doesn’t keep people away from the rooftop lounge, though. —Mike Sula

Zella

1983 N. Clybourn | 773-549-2910

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BAR/LOUNGE, AMERICAN | lunch: saturday-sunday; DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | closed monDAY | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, THURSDAY & FRIDAY TILL 2, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 11 | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

This restaurant at the busy corner of Clybourn and Racine is more bar than restaurant. The front room’s been gussied up with a dozen tables, white tablecloths, and candles. The menu is mostly bar appetizers like chicken wings, spinach dip, and quesadillas. Salads, pizza, and burgers and sandwiches—including a steak sandwich with caramelized onions and blue cheese and a buffalo chicken wrap—make up the rest of the menu. The back room opens onto a spacious bi-level beer garden, which is a real draw in warm weather. —Laura Levy Shatkin