Best Harbinger for the Future

Green mom-and-pops

Critics' Picks

"Local" and "sustainable" are such marketing shibboleths these days that they sometimes seem meaningless—one recently opened hotel restaurant goes so far as to include Dean Foods and "Einstein Bros. Bagels, Chicago" among the purveyors proudly listed at the bottom of its menu. So it's heartening to see genuinely local independents continue to open. In January Cleetus Friedman (now at Fountainhead) reluctantly closed his scrupulously sourced Ravenswood deli, City Provisions. But in the last year or so several restaurants have followed in the farm-directed footsteps of spots like Edzo's Burger Shop, Pleasant House Bakery, and Hoosier Mama Pie Shop, with notable newcomers including Lakeview's Indie Burger and City Farms Market & Grill; Bridgeport's Mr. Spanky's, home of chef-owner John Schultz's stuffed buns and house-made bacon, sausages, and sides; and Rogers Park's Sauce and Bread Kitchen, from Co-Op Sauce's Mike Bancroft and baker Anne Kostroski of Crumb Chicago. All are small, all are special, and all, let's hope, are themselves sustainable.