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Boystown's Wood packs a punch despite the punch line

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The notion that Tank Sushi and onetime Sushi Wabi owner Franco Gianni innocently named his diffuse small-plates joint in the heart of Boystown after his carpenter father, as Eater reported, is cute in light of the way the phone is answered during Sunday brunch, with a cheerful "Morning, Wood!" Ha. Get it? A boner joke in the gayborhood. Oh, you stop.

I just finished complaining about the preponderance of unfocused small-plates restaurants last week and here's yet another, with its beet salad and pork belly, flatbreads and pasta, charcuterie and cheese plates, oversweetened cocktails and perfunctory wine list. To be fair, the neighborhood doesn't have anything like this. A fear of focus might grip the city's restaurateurs, but that doesn't mean every neighborhood shouldn't have something similar to Wood within walking distance. Sometimes you just want french fries with your spaghetti, and chef Ashlee Aubin, a vet of Alinea, HB Home Bistro, and Zealous, doesn't do too badly at all.

Much is made of the woodburning oven but Aubin's crew evinces a particular facility with frying, currently dunking into the oil light ricotta-and-basil-stuffed squash blossoms whose mildness is offset by an acidic eggplant puree. A late-season soft-shell crab, crispy and greaseless, has a relative lack of natural sweetness that's brightened by the current crop of sweet corn and green beans. As for that oven, it churns out a trio of flatbreads—bacon and onion, summer vegetable, and "country ham" (which is actually just prosciutto)—with regrettably tough crusts. There are a couple of worthy house-made pastas, though—namely a ruddy tagliatelle with tomatoey sausage ragu—and a handful of larger plates, recently lobster in a panko-fried eggplant patty that distinguished itself from more typical dishes like short ribs and roasted chicken.

At the very least Aubin shows a serious commitment to sticking with the seasons and changing things up with regularity. But his real ace in the hole? The double-fried Belgian frites sold from a window behind the restaurant after 10 PM. These are crusty on the outside, creamy on the inside, and though they aren't on the menu, you can have them anytime. At $5 an order, they're the best bite in the restaurant.

Correction: This review has been amended to reflect the correct pronoun for chef Ashlee Aubin.

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