If we truly lived in a town that cared to eat well, restaurants like chef Chris Pandel’s beercentric The Bristol would be distributed evenly instead of concentrating in overcrowded, gentrified ghettos like Bucktown or Lincoln Square. The seasonal menu at this new arrival promises interesting variety at accessible prices, including of late a broiled eel sandwich, a perfect pairing of grilled mackerel and romaine in the Caesar, and “Scotch olives,” a mutation of a Scotch egg (a boiled egg encased in sausage and deep-fried) and Italian olives all’Ascolana (fat green olives stuffed with pork and veal and deep-fried). The Bristol’s snack portion consists of smaller fruit somewhat overwhelmed by their envelope of crispy pork sausage—but I’d be helpless not to order it again. Challenges are even more evident on the daily chalkboard menu, where snout-to-tail items beyond pork belly or the increasingly common headcheese put the Bristol (along with places like Mado and the Publican) in the growing class of restaurants catering to the public’s curiosity about the fifth quarter and other uncommon proteins. It’s indicative of Pandel’s guts that he’s unafraid to leave the foot on a roasted half chicken, but at the same time he occasionally shows too much restraint. A supper-club-style relish plate special with potted salmon and beer cheese featured beets with a sprinkling of grated bottarga, the delicious, famously funky cured roe of a mullet. But it was applied with such moderation that if I’d never eaten it before I’d think it was nothing more than some ungarnished purple root vegetable. Similarly, the gaminess inherent in a grilled goat trio—chops, belly, and rib—was so disguised by a sweet, sticky hoisin sauce that I could have been eating lamb. If these dishes still sound fearsome, there’s plenty here to feed the timid—duck-fat fries, grilled seafood, a burger, a steak—and the beer list is deep and fascinating, with lots of large-format bottles and unusual choices. The Bristol’s not yet a one-of-a-kind destination, but it shows potential as the kind of neighborhood beer hall everyone deserves to have within walking distance. —Mike Sula

In the last year or so there’s been a welcome surge of Cuban sandwich joints, particularly in neighborhoods underserved by any sort of eating operations. Alberto and Christine Gonzalez’s 90 Miles cuban Cafe—a reference to the distance between Cuba and Florida—is the latest such island, located on a highly traveled but restaurant-poor section of the Clybourn corridor. Given their efforts to offer pressed sandwiches for all tastes—tofu (gasp!), a vegetable version, and grilled cheese are available—the Gonzalezes aren’t likely to silence purists’ debates over the nuances of the iconic pressed ham, cheese, and roast pork cubano or medianoche (the same ingredients, on sweet bread). But Alberto—whose family ran a pre-Castro catering business before hopping the Mariel boat lift—knows the fundamentals. If his takes on the classics are perhaps a bit too stuffed to always ensure a thorough melting and melding of cheese, meat, and mustard, they’re as good as anyone’s and better than a few. He’s also an expansionist, adding the timba (guava and cheese), the plantain steak sandwich guajirito (essentially a jibarito with cheese, hold the mayo), a plantain-layered lechon combo, and a gut-busting ham croqueta with grilled onions and Swiss; a chorizo and grilled onion sandwich is among yet more items promised soon. It’s impressive that such a tiny spot—it’s counter seating only—can turn out such an array so well, including full dinner plates and specials such as rice and black bean congris, sides like fried yuca, sweet or green plantains, and papas rellenas, and omelets, plus tropical fruit shakes and de rigueur Cuban coffee. Everything’s house made except the pastries, which are shipped frozen from Miami and baked on the premises. The one sweet exception—and 90 Miles’s secret weapon—is the budin de pan, raisin-studded bread pudding thriftily made from the leftover Turano sandwich bread. —MikeSula

If you want to have the Devon Avenue Indian experience right on Randolph—and are willing to pay $3 to $4 more per entree for it—head to Jaipur. Everything from the red-heavy decor to the medium-size menu is traditional at this newcomer, the antithesis of hip Veerasway across the street. Our meal began with free papadum, and from the limited appetizer lineup we enjoyed crisp pea-and-potato-stuffed samosas and aloo papdi chaat, a typical snack of chickpeas, potatoes, onions, and flour crisps sauced with spiced yogurt, tamarind, and mint chutney. But except for deftly seasoned saag paneer, spinach laced with cubes of firm cheese, our main courses were nothing to shout about. Tandoori chicken, served on a platter of sizzling onions and green peppers, paired a dry breast with a moister leg. The lamb in the vindaloo was well trimmed and reasonably tender, but the tomatoey sauce, while intricately spiced, seemed toned down for Western tastes. Top-notch naan, puffy and hot from the tandoor, was the biggest hit. On the downside: spongy, overfried gulab jamun. —Anne Spiselman