1631 Chicago, Evanston 847-868-8945 foundkitchen.com
Unless my mom is reading this (hi, Mom!), I'll confess there's little in the midwest I hold in higher regard than restaurateur Amy Morton's Found Kitchen & Social House, which provides at least three entries on the short list of reasons to get on the Purple Line: 1) Chef Nicole Pederson's thoughtful, seasonal, and unwaveringly delicious small plates, flatbreads, sandwiches, and entrees. Pederson is a vegetable magician—a bowl of roasted brussels sprouts and squash, seasoned with harissa, was one of the best things I ate last winter—but that doesn't change a simple supper axiom here: If there's large-format meat on the menu, get it. 2) A bar capable, on a recent cocktail list, of putting chocolate syrup in a manhattan. Think about that twice. First: gross. Second: chocolate as a flavor, as opposed to a sweetener, is actually a clever complement to vermouth, and the thing was fantastic. That's thanks to 3) Jan Henrichsen, who oversees the bar as well as the front of the house, and is maybe the most convivial host in two cities. Her good cheer is contagious, infecting staff as well as diners—everyone is happy to be here.