Frasca Pizzeria and Wine Bar

3358 N. Paulina


At FRASCA, a month-old place featuring small plates and pizza from a brick oven, our youthful server enthusiastically raved about each of our “great choices.” We wisely chose the olive oil flight, three extra virgins served with semolina bread for $5, and discriminatingly sampled the prosciutto-wrapped fontina–though it’s hard to go wrong with meat and cheese on a stick. From the “Old World Farmer’s Table” menu, a selection of cheeses, meats, and bruschettas to mix or match, we selected three bruschettas at $3 each: white beans and balsamic, smoked salmon and capers, and, my favorite, ricotta topped with honey and pistachios. We could have made a meal out of this feast of appetizers, and perhaps we should have–the rest of our dinner was better in theory than in practice. When my pizza with clams, oregano, and garlic arrived it looked great, promisingly thin and just barely charred around the edges. But you could have teethed a baby on the crust, and I’ll be breathing fire from the garlic for weeks. Desserts also sounded intriguing, but the panna cotta was grainy (and arrived in a martini glass–enough already) and cinnamon doughnut holes, served with vanilla ice cream and a honey dipping sauce, were too eggy and chewy (though they were taken off our bill when we expressed dissatisfaction to our crestfallen server). Frasca’s mostly Italian wine list offers a good selection, including red and white flights with choices steering sippers away from your more typical Chiantis and pinot grigios. –Kathie Bergquist


2706 N. Ashland


The ghost of the old-school Burgundy Inn has been thoroughly exorcised from FIXTURE, the sleek new late-night spot that’s taken its place. The beer list ranges from an economical $2 Point to a bevy from the Quebecois craft brewery Unibroue, with a few Belgians thrown in for good measure. More than two dozen wines are available by the glass or as one of four tasting flights, each named–in an affectation equal parts macho and precious–after an actor who’s played James Bond. But even if all the action was at the bar the quiet night I was there, under chef Sarah Nelson the food more than holds its own. The menu of small plates and desserts digs deep into the global goody bag: bulgogi short ribs, lobster seviche, asparagus-and-shiitake maki. You’d think the meatball-size buffalo sliders–served with caramelized onions, blue cheese, and a smear of foie gras mayo–would be heart-stoppingly rich, but the lean, clean flavor of the meat keeps the balance intact. The mac ‘n’ cheese, which mates mild fontina with aged cheddar, bacon, and bay scallops, almost shouldn’t work but does, pulling the various smoky flavors together into one complex bite. The best thing I tried was a plate of shredded suckling pig dressed with tangy habanera barbecue sauce and heaped with pineapple marmalade. Dense and moist, it had a surprising kick that would have made me giggle if I hadn’t been so busy stuffing more into my mouth. –Martha Bayne


3244 N. Lincoln


At BOURBON it’s all about the bourbon: the menu features Jim Beam in everything from a barbecued shrimp appetizer to a pulled pork sandwich, and you can finish off with a Knob Creek creme brulee. The southern-inspired food includes standbys like mac ‘n’ cheese, jalapeno corn bread, and fried green tomatoes, along with more unusual dishes like a seared alligator sandwich with andouille sausage and picante sauce. Unfortunately the kitchen at the two-month-old restaurant has yet to hit full stride. Though the mixed greens salad gets points for presentation, green apple slices artfully arranged into an X on top, the Jim Beam vinaigrette it came with didn’t taste like much of anything except oil. The “alligator bites” appetizer is great as long as you down the pan-seared reptile chunks quickly–once cool, they’re gummy in that cold-calamari kind of way. Bread pudding with chocolate ganache and caramel also looked terrific on the plate, but ours tasted a bit dry. As you might guess, the drinks menu focuses on bourbon, offering 60-some varieties along with blended scotches and single malts; prices range from $3 (Jim Beam White Label) to $24 (Johnnie Walker Blue). Add $1 for ice and a water chaser. –Anne Ford


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Tokyo 21, 901 W. Weed, 312-337-2001

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Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Joeff Davis.