Best New Restaurant

rThe Reader’s ChoiceMixteco Grill

I struggled to get a consensus from my fellow food contributors before crowning one of the many worthy contenders in this category. But all the possibilities—the Publican, Takashi, Mado, Mercat a la Planxa—had one thing or another that gave us pause, and most often it was money. Even the most obvious choice, Laurent Gras’ magnificent L2O, stuck in our craws—at those prices it had damn well better be superior.

Though I couldn’t get a unanimous vote, the winner in the end was Lakeview’s pan-Mexican (but mostly Oaxacan) Mixteco Grill. It’s unassuming from the outside, but chef-owner Raul Arreola and his staff are vets of many of the city’s upper-echelon Mexican spots, and the brilliantly flavored and affordable appetizers and entrees here compete with the best of ’em, from the creamy poblano-sauced corn tamales known as uchepos gratinados and the fish tacos to lamb in mole and slow-cooked cochinita pibil dressed with the hottest habanero salsa north of the Yucatan. The food, the BYO policy that keeps the restaurant accessible to a wide range of budgets, and the back-bendingly friendly service all contributed to an early popularity that may have stretched Mixteco’s capabilities to the limit. But a recent expansion should make the place even more diner friendly. a1601 W. Montrose, 773-868-1601. —Mike Sula

&Our readers’ choiceThe Publican

a845 W. Fulton, 312-733-9555,

Best Place to Eat If Someone Else Is Paying

rThe Reader’s ChoiceAlinea and L2O (tie)

After dinner at Alinea with college friends, we realized our bill was half the cost of a year’s tuition, room, and board in the early 70s. Unfortunately our parents weren’t covering us this time around. But then you don’t “go out to eat” at Alinea like you do at other restaurants. Chef Grant Achatz challenges the conventions of dining out, playfully pushing limits while stimulating familiar sensations—diners are said to have teared up at the childhood memory of autumnal bonfires conjured when pheasant with cider gel is served with smoking oak leaves.

Alinea doesn’t exist to satisfy hunger. You’ll leave with a full belly, but more significant, you’ll have a lot to think about. Whoever’s picking up the tab, I’d recommend that you forgo the wine pairings and enjoy only a glass or two; otherwise, there’s way too much that’s way too good, and you risk blurring your senses, which—like your memory of this experience—you’ll want to keep sharp.

I might have chosen L2O alone for this category, but I have to wonder if there’d be an L2O without an Alinea. That’s not at all to say that L2O is an imitation—Achatz and French-trained chef Laurent Gras drink from the same stream, but at L2O it’s mostly about seafood, and perhaps the best quality seafood in Chicago.

Gras goes for tasteful visual fun. Raw tuna and hamachi are cut into a how’d-he-do-that checkerboard pattern; lobster is presented three ways, as a delicate chunk of meat, as a dumpling, and awash in a bisque. Fork-perfect halibut is flanked by transparent tubes of gelled tomato water, each containing a cherry tomato. Go ahead and giggle—it’s allowed. There are the requisite foams and powders, but L2O proves itself by delivering on the fundamentals as well as the finesse: the bread service, for example, is a selection of six, all spectacular, with house-made butter. And for the price of admission you can take a postprandial stroll through the kitchen and get a sense of the hardware required for such a dining experience. A poor man’s substitute is Gras’ splendid blog ( aAlinea, 1723 N. Halsted, 312-867-0110, L2O, 2300 N. Lincoln Park West, 773-868-0002, —David Hammond

&Our readers’ choiceAlinea

Best Diner

rThe Reader’s ChoicePatty’s Diner

For me this category is a perpetual toss-up between Moon’s Sandwich Shop (last year’s winner) and Patty’s Diner. This year the Tugboat Annie of the sacred order of grill women gets her due. Gruff with a heart of gold, she turns out bountiful breakfasts of picture-perfect eggs, heaps of home fries, plump sausages, crisp bacon, fluffy pancakes, and, best of all, griddled salty-sweet ham cut from the bone. House-made biscuits and gravy with potatoes is popular, as is the tasty corned beef hash, but if you ask me, ham hash paired with two eggs over easy takes the brass ring. Off-menu “old potatoes” are home fries given a second seasoning and deep-fried till crisp—a must-order in my book.

At lunch, juicy charred burgers handmade from house-ground meat are given a turn on an ancient grill and served on a house-baked bun. The chunky chicken salad sandwich is made with fresh-roasted chicken, and daily specials come with homemade bread and soup; I love the soul-satisfying beef barley. Meat loaf and beef stew satisfy too, but don’t miss the Wednesday turkey special: roasted turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, and gravy—old-school comfort food done right. Patty’s is the diner everyone wishes was in their neighborhood. a3358 Main, Skokie, 847-675-4274. —Gary Wiviott

&Our readers’ choiceGlenn’s Diner

a1820 W. Montrose, 773-506-1720,

Best Vegetarian Restaurant

rThe Reader’s ChoiceGreen Zebra

Years ago, the first vegetarian restaurant I visited in Chicago was a spare room serving variations on stir-fried vegetables over brown rice. At Green Zebra, now approaching its five-year anniversary, Shawn McClain (Custom House, Spring) elevates meatless cuisine into the realm of fine dining.

The menu changes seasonally; on our last visit we enjoyed blue cheese agnolotti, which delivers a powerful cheesy punch, and a Napoleon-like stack of interleaved red and golden beets, garnished with sweet mascarpone that was balanced by aged balsamic vinegar. Servings tend toward the small, so you’ll need to select a few plates per person from the long list of globally influenced options: Thai-spiced carrot soup with crispy noodle; miso risotto with glazed turnips, bok choy, and baby carrots; ricotta gnocchi with heirloom squash, rapini, and preserved lemon. There’s also the option of a chef’s tasting menu—oh, and one or two selections that involve fish or poultry.

The wine list nods to vegetable-based cuisine by offering significantly more whites than reds; nonalcoholic beverages include some unusual choices, like pink peppercorn-thyme soda and cilantro limeade. Servers are uniformly knowledgeable, fun, and eager to guide. a1460 W. Chicago, 312-243-7100, —David Hammond

&Our readers’ choiceChicago Diner

a3411 N. Halsted, 773-935-6696,

Best Buffet

rThe Reader’s ChoiceFogo de Chao

Rooted in the gaucho tradition, this gonzo meat circus brings the primordial experience of cooking animals on sticks over fire to the urban jungle that is River North. Accordingly, many patrons work themselves into a macho carnivorous frenzy, ignoring or dismissing what is surely one of the greatest salad bars in the universe, piled high with vegetables, cheeses, olives, salami, and smoked salmon. The meat portion of the meal is where the buffet goes 3-D—it’s still all you can eat of whatever you’d like, but it’s delivered to your table by an army of impeccable waiters in gaucho pants. This bounty is further supplemented by never-ending refills on mashed potatoes, fried polenta sticks, roasted bananas, and cheese puff pastries. Can’t swing the high price tag? Go for lunch, when the whole shebang’s $32.50. Then take the afternoon off. a661 N. LaSalle, 312-932-9330, —Kristina Meyer

&Our readers’ choiceRed Apple

a3123 N Milwaukee, 773-588-5781,

Best Japanese Restaurant

rThe Reader’s ChoiceTampopo

A great Japanese restaurant—owned by Koreans. Daniel Choe named his place after Juzo Itami’s “noodle western,” whose eponymous heroine is named for the Japanese word for dandelion. Like that woman’s ramen shop, Choe’s restaurant is bright and earnest. Unlike her, he offers more than just three kinds of noodles—he’s got 14 types of ramen, udon, and soba, plus donburi, bento boxes, sushi, and nearly two pages of traditional Japanese appetizers and entrees. Choe has a deft touch with the deep fryer, rendering delicate items like panko-fried oysters light and greaseless. He handles artistic presentations—like a startling whole reassembled squid that looks capable of wrestling a submarine—just as easily as home-style dishes like good ol’ sukiyaki or agedashi tofu (fried bean curd with ginger in a minced radish sauce with tiny mushrooms and soybeans). a5665 N. Lincoln, 773-561-2277. —Mike Sula

&Our readers’ choiceJaponais

a600 W. Chicago, 312-822-9600,

Best Dim Sum

rThe Reader’s ChoiceShui Wah

Let’s face it: dim sum in Chicago is nothing to gush over. So searching for the best is less about epiphany than it is a slow process of elimination. Fatal offenses include being detained in a dingy holding pen, wasting your Sunday morning waiting for your number to be called, getting seated on the far side of the dining room so that your dumplings are cold and congealed by the time the cart rolls around, having to eat on top of Hefty bags between pools of chile oil and hoisin sauce, and an indifferent waitstaff that can’t be bothered with requests from pesky customers. Which local dim sum purveyor has managed to dodge all of these pitfalls?

The last place standing is Shui Wah. Dim sum is all they do, and they do it daily. There are no extraneous menus, just a paper listing of their small and focused selections, which cover the basic dumplings, buns, rolls, and sweets. The room is small, and it gets crowded on weekends, but service is lighting quick and fairly friendly. They actually ask you what kind of tea you’d like as you sit down, which should be standard practice around town but isn’t. And there’s no cart service, so everyone to order exactly what he or she wants and get it fried or steamed to order. Spring rolls, chive dumplings, salt-and-pepper squid, shrimp-stuffed eggplant, “baby bones,” i.e., beef ribs, in satay sauce, and pan-fried turnip cake are all favorites of mine. No one bite is going to change your life, but everything is consistently above average, and occasionally something is really damn good. a2162 S. Archer, 312-225-8811. —Kristina Meyer

&Our readers’ choicePhoenix Restaurant

a 2131 S. Archer #2, 312-328-0848,

Best BYO

rThe Reader’s ChoiceMado

When I asked my hard-core wine-aficionado friends what their favorite places to BYO were, their responses tended toward white-tablecloth joints with wine programs, where they could bring their small-production boutique wines or off-list stunners and happily pay steep corkage fees for the privilege of schmoozing with the sommelier. But for those of us who appreciate the joys of wine and food without worshipping at the feet of Robert Parker, the primary draw of a BYO is the opportunity to enhance an experience with wine in a budget-friendly way. There are scads of excellent mom-and-pop ethnic restaurants in Chicago that fit the bill, but for me there’s no more satisfying combination than wine paired with lovingly cured or beautifully braised and wood-roasted animal flesh, and Wicker Park’s Mado is the perfect place for this.

Run by husband-and-wife team Rob and Allison Levitt, both trained at the Culinary Institute of America, Mado’s focus is snout-to-tail charcuterie and seasonal, locally sourced food prepared simply yet skillfully. The menu is constantly changing, but might feature sunchokes with lemon and parsley; fried farm egg with baked ricotta, roasted shallots, and boar bacon; tagliatelle with braised lamb and ricotta salata; and meats, poultry, and seafood from the wood-fired oven, grill, and rotisserie.

With extensive fine-dining experience, the Levitts offer beyond-the-basic BYO supplies such as champagne flutes, perfect for Sunday brunch sparklers, or the rustic tumblers—such as you might find in a Tuscan trattoria—that once held my Sangiovese, its light acidity and minerality enhancing the richness of roasted meat. Best of all, there’s no corkage fee. a1647 N. Milwaukee, 773-342-2340, —Gary Wiviott

&Our readers’ choiceTango Sur

a3763 N. Southport, 773-477-5466.

Best Wine List

rThe Reader’s ChoicePiccolo Sogno

Charlie Trotter’s and a handful of other top-end restaurants are renowned for their encyclopedic wine lists; what makes Piccolo Sogno’s special is partner Ciro Longobardo’s uncompromising commitment to Italian wines. He recently boosted the lineup from 400 to more than 500 bottles, but even more impressive than the number is the range: every region of the mainland is well represented, along with Sicily and Sardinia. While notable producers and great grapes—the Brunellos of Tuscany, the Barolos of the Piedmont—show up in abundance, Longobardo has gone out of his way to find selections from as many microareas as possible to showcase a variety of styles, both traditional and modern.

He’s also sensitive to price, and his list starts at $20 for a 2007 Trebbiano D’Abruzzo DOC, Farnese, and includes lots of bottles for less than $45. It tops out at $550, for a 1999 “Masetto” Rosso Toscana IGT, Tenuta Dell’Ornellaia, but since the markup is 2.2 times wholesale or less (compared to the industry standard of three times wholesale), even that’s not exorbitant, relatively speaking.

Longobardo has managed to snag a few rarities, among them a 2005 “Orma” Rosso Bolgheri DOC, Podere Orma ($148), a Super Tuscan from a small producer. On his wish list for the future are more older vintages, because he admits some of the wines are too young to drink.

Even the 40 or so sparklers are all Italian—including complex pours like N.V. Cuvee Brut Franciacorta DOCG, Bellavista ($14 glass, $56 bottle). More than 40 wines are available by the glass ($4-$19), facilitating wine-and-food pairings and regional explorations. And when warm weather arrives, I can sip my Nero D’Avola from Sicily, Carignano from Sardinia, and Barbaresco from the Piedmont in one of the loveliest gardens in the city. a464 N. Halsted, 312-421-0077, —Anne Spiselman

&Our readers’ choiceItalian Village

a71 W. Monroe, 312-332-7005,

Best Cheap Mexican Restaurant

rThe Reader’s ChoiceCarnitas Don Pedro

The Sunday-morning pork rush at Carnitas Don Pedro presents a trial of forbearance appropriate for the after-church crowd. First you have to worm your way between two counters and a handful of small tables to the back of the line, which may snake into the kitchen, where sturdy men are stirring giant copper vats of pig parts with paddles. From there, whether you’re waiting for a table or takeout, you’ll be inching forward amid a scrum of customers, cooks, and waitresses. If you’re taking out, you’ll eventually return to the front of the store, where birria, barbacoa, menudo, brain tacos, and a piquant cactus salad are ordered on the right, chicharrones, fresh chorizo, and mountains of glistening, steaming carnitas on the left. Specify meat, fat, offal, or some of each and the hombre with the long blade chops it, piles it high in a cardboard boat, wraps it tight in butcher paper, then hands it to you along with a sizable snack to help you fight the urge to break into the package on the way home. The well-seasoned carnitas, at just $5.80 a pound, are among my favorites in the city—the high volume ensures they’re hot and juicy, and they come with a brilliantly flavored dark green salsa flecked with plenty of red chile. Cash only. a1113 W. 18th, 312-829-4757. —Mike Sula

&Our readers’ choiceLa Pasadita

a1132 N. Ashland, 773-384-6537; 1140 N. Ashland, 773-278-2130; 1141 N. Ashland, 773-278-0384,

Best Late-Night Eats

rThe Reader’s ChoiceHai Woon Dae

When it comes to late-night Korean barbecue, the small, friendly Hai Woon Dae is a better bet than the vastly more popular San Soo Gap San. As at the latter, live coal grilling is the focus, but there’s a greater, more interesting, and lovingly prepared selection of table meats and kitchen-cooked dishes. I particularly like the yook hwe, beef tartare dressed with raw egg and julienned Asian pear (also available on bi bim bop), steamed eggs (gyelan jjim), cold spicy buckweat noodles with raw fish (hwe naengmyeun), the panfried bacon with kimchi (sam gyeop sal kimchi bokum), and a thick, tangy kimchi pancake. Not to mention the three kinds of grilled mackerel, a great selection of two-person “casseroles”—hot pots bubbling with goat and vegetables or pig trotters and shank—and a plate of pungent preserved crabs (gye jang bak ban) you won’t forget for weeks. a6240 N. California, 773-764-8018. —Mike Sula

&Our readers’ choicePie-Eyed Pizzeria

a1111 W. Chicago, 312-243-3735,

Best Dessert

rThe Reader’s ChoiceMado

When Mado opened, Allison Levitt’s simple, fragile, ethereally light shortbread cookies caused just as much commotion as husband Rob’s house-made charcuterie. “People who have tried them before tend to order them again and again,” she says. “But sometimes it takes some convincing to get that first order. ‘They’re just shortbread? That’s it? Like, some cookies on a plate? Like Girl Scout cookies?'” The story of their origin is just as uncomplicated—she uses the recipe from Tartine, the cookbook published by Elisabeth Prueitt, owner of San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery. “The thing about this shortbread, and I think most dessert recipes, is that the execution can really change a recipe,” Levitt says. “Nobody’s mom makes Toll House cookies exactly the same way, even though we all use the same recipe.” a1647 N. Milwaukee, 773-342-2340, —Mike Sula

&Our readers’ choiceHot Chocolate

a1747 N. Damen, 773-489-1747,

Best Bang for Your Buck

rThe Reader’s ChoiceSun Wah Bar-B-Que

With a few hours’ advance notice, four people can eat like emperors for less than ten bucks apiece at family-run Sun Wah Bar-B-Que, which offers a multicourse Beijing (aka Peking) duck dinner for $30. Tart, lightly sweet house-pickled daikon radish kicks off the extravaganza, and then the duck, bronzed and glistening, rolls out of the kitchen, to be carved tableside and served with warm steamed buns, shredded scallion, and hoisin sauce. The leg, thigh, and wing are carved with flair, and then the still-meaty carcass goes back to the kitchen to reappear as duck-bone soup—rich broth, tofu, and Chinese greens—and a steaming-hot mound of duck-fried rice. House-made sorbet provides a refreshing end.

Not in the mood or don’t have the company lined up for a blow-out meal? Five bucks gets you your choice of succulent, crisp-skinned Hong Kong-style roast pork, deep-flavored soy sauce chicken, or barbecue ribs, each with rice, greens, and half a brined egg. Or if you’re really broke, a belly-filling bowl of plain congee (rice porridge) you can dress with toasted hot chile oil or punchy hot-pepper vinegar is a flat $2. Sun Wah is closed on Thursdays. a1134 W. Argyle, 773-769-1254. —Gary Wiviott

&Our readers’ choiceSultan’s Market

a2057 W. North, 773-235-3072; 2521 N. Clark, 312-638-9151;

Best Place to Take a Toddler

rThe Reader’s ChoiceCurio Cafe

To quote one of our voters, I don’t own a toddler. So when I made this pick, what I really meant was “best place to eat brunch with your friends who have a toddler if you actually want to carry on a conversation with them.” This corner storefront has a family-friendly vibe, from its mismatched, hand-painted chairs to the La Leche League flyers on the bulletin board to the sunny inspirational slogans on the blackboard, but the key is the communal kids’ table and play area: send the wee ones off to mingle and you’re free to talk in your grown-up voice for at least 15 minutes at a go.

I was introduced to the Curio, tucked away in a residential pocket of Avondale, by a pal with a three-year-old, but I’ve returned many times with a party of adults for the food, which is not only delicious but often organic, hormone free, free range, and/or fair trade. My favorite is the Guatemalan plato tipico—a plate of eggs your way, dabbed with mild red sauce and served with sliced avocados, perfectly seasoned refried black beans, a square of salty queso fresco, sweet fried plantains, and warm corn tortillas. Smaller breakfasts include a bacon and egg sandwich on a croissant and a pretzel bun with house-made strawberry cream cheese; crepes, pancakes, and French toast involving strawberries use the real thing. And despite all the wholesomeness, this is a place that’s not afraid to put chocolate chips in your flapjacks. A savory Spanish omelet incorporates serrano ham, Spanish chorizo, red onion, and red pepper, but you can choose from these and many more high-quality ingredients to build your own.

On the lunch side, there are fresh-looking house-made soups, pastas, and salads—but I’ve only watched other people eat them while I’m making little egg tacos out of my plato tipico. A simple dinner menu is available on Friday and Saturday only; it’s BYO with no corkage fee. a3400 N. Lawndale, 773-463-2233, —Kiki Yablon

&Our readers’ choiceWishbone

a1001 W. Washington, 312-850-2663; 3300 N. Lincoln, 773-549-2663; 6611 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-749-1295;

Best Foo-Foo Coffee Drink

rThe Reader’s ChoiceVella Cafe

Co-owner Melissa Yen came up with Vella’s cardamom latte, a modern twist on Turkish coffee: Intelligentsia Black Cat espresso and steamed milk flavored with cardamom, rosewater, and cinnamon. It’s on the menu year-round, but I crave it most in the dead of winter—it’s like a vacation in a mug. a1912 N. Western, 773-489-7777, —Kiki Yablon

&Our readers’ choiceIntelligentsia

No drink specified. a3123 N. Broadway, 773-348-8058; 53 W. Jackson, 312-253-0594; 53 E. Randolph, 312-920-9332;

Best Microbrew

rThe Reader’s ChoiceCane and Ebel

This red rye ale from Warrenville microbrewery Two Brothers (owned by brothers Jim and Jason Ebel) is spicy and complex, with a citrusy aroma and a bitter finish. The Thai palm sugar in the mahogany-colored brew doesn’t add any noticeable sweetness but probably helps balance out the strong Simcoe and Summit hops—and the hops in turn hold the rye and malt flavors in check without completely overwhelming them. Cane and Ebel started out as one of Two Brothers’ many one-off artisan experiments in 22-ounce bottles, but it was so popular they did another run, then added it to their roster of seasonal beers as a late winter/early spring brew in 12-ounce bottles. Last fall, with its popularity still growing, the Ebel brothers made it available year round. It’s on tap at Alive One, Four Moon Tavern, Casey’s Tavern, Murphy’s Bleachers, and the Hopleaf, and available in four-packs at Binny’s, Sam’s, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and many independent liquor stores. —Julia Thiel

&Our readers’ choiceGoose Island

No brew specified. aMultiple locations,

Best Wine Shop for Tightwads

rThe Reader’s ChoiceThe Q Retail Wine Shop at Quartino

Quartino’s wine shop is really more like a wine corner—an alcove next to the front door crammed with cases of a couple dozen Italian wines, many available only there. They can’t compete with Trader Joe’s on price—nor can most other small wine stores, for that matter—but many of their bottles are reasonably priced at around $10, and the shop boasts that Antica Osteria (available in bianco or rosso) is the best $5 wine available in America. On a recent visit they also had a $9 Bruscus Lambrusco, a $12 Leone de Castris Salice Salentino, a $10 Trambusti Chianti, and a small selection of more expensive bottles on special for $10 apiece. All the wines sold in the foyer are also available at the bar, and for the handful that are priced above $30, it might be worth it to try before you buy. But for many of the less expensive ones, ordering a quartino, or quarter liter (the smallest amount available, it’s equivalent to about a third of a bottle, or a little over eight ounces) costs only a few dollars less than buying the whole bottle. a626 N. State, 312-698-5000, —Julia Thiel

&Our readers’ choiceTrader Joe’s

a44 E. Ontario, 312-951-6369; 3745 N. Lincoln, 773-248-4920; 1840 N. Clybourn #200, 312-274-9733; many suburban locations;

Best Bread

rThe Reader’s ChoiceFox & Obel

You can’t talk about the best bread in Chicago without mentioning L20’s bread service—it’s phenomenal, and if you can still afford a night out at L2O, enjoy! For the rest of us, there’s Fox & Obel. The breads are handmade multiple times a day by expert bakers who fashion each loaf from an aged sourdough mother and organic flour—no commercial yeast is ever used. That may sound precious, but I assure you this isn’t foodie snobbery. This bread is everything bread should be: crusty and burnished, tender and chewy, heady, nutty, slightly sour, and fairly priced at under $4 (many La Brea loaves at Jewel top that). The selection varies, but traditional varieties like French baguette, whole-wheat sourdough, and semolina are permanent fixtures. Loaf-pan sandwich breads are just as good, especially the butter-rich brioche and the made-for-BLT potato bread. Raisin-nut bread usually makes me wince, but Fox & Obel’s dense version has become a favorite. Executive baker Pamela Fitzgerald and head baker Eliu Rodriguez have quietly redefined what I expect from my daily bread. a401 E. Illinois, 312 410 7301, —Kristina Meyer

&Our readers’ choiceRed Hen Bread

a1623 N. Milwaukee, 773-342-6823; 500 W. Diversey, 773-248-6025;

Best Vegan Nosh

rThe Reader’s ChoiceChicago Diner

Concocted from Chicago Soydairy’s Temptation Vegan Ice Cream, Chicago Diner’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Peanut Butter Vegan Milkshake is as freakishly decadent as its name would suggest. The pricey $6.95 behemoth ($5.50 for a small) is richer than any shake I’ve ever had, vegan or otherwise, and strikes the perfect accord of peanut butter, vanilla, and cookie dough flavors—the chocolate chips, peanuts, and drizzles of chocolate syrup are unnecessary, though not unappreciated. If you plan to eat anything else at the same sitting, I strongly suggest splitting your shake with a friend. a3411 N. Halsted, 773-935-6696, —Kevin Warwick

&Our readers’ choiceChicago Diner

Best Doughnuts

rThe Reader’s ChoiceOld Fashioned Donuts

This Roseland shop gives the magical Dat Donut a run for its dough, with artisanal classics sold in an atmosphere more amenable to the appreciation of fine fried cake. Here the bulletproof barriers are almost an afterthought—you can reach over and shake hands with the baker, who will alert you to a new batch of fresh, shiny glazeds about to be unspooled in the display case. These dunkers are lovingly hand-cut in the window and “Fried in Pure Vegetable Oil,” as the sign says. The blueberry is riddled with bright constellations of something that tastes suspiciously of real fruit; other flavors include pineapple and caramel frosted, buttermilk and honey wheat, and coconut and toasted coconut. But the crown jewel is the apple fritter—not a doughnut per se, but a six-inch discus of crispy, chewy, soft, sweet, spicy, fruity synergy. a11248 S. Michigan, 773-995-7420. —Mike Sula

&Our readers’ choiceDunkin’ Donuts

aMultiple locations,