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Cheese, Please

From fondue to fancy flights

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Avec615 W. Randolph | 312-377-2002

F 8.3 | S 7.0 | A 7.4 | $$$ (18 reports) Mediterranean, Small Plates | Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 1, Monday-Thursday till midnight | Reservations not accepted

rrr At first, sitting on a bench between strangers in this cedar-lined, saunalike room makes me feel a little apprehensive, like I'm wrapped in naught but a sweaty towel. But as the wine flows and the evening grows long, everyone's gabbing like pals, offering around chorizo-stuffed dates and dredging juices off empty plates with warm rustic bread. Chef Koren Grieveson's Mediterranean "peasant" food is paired with an ever intriguing and ever changing selection of uncommon wines and cheeses—I once had a powerful molten glob of Spanish sheep's-milk torta del casar that was unforgettable, if only because I couldn't seem to wash the smell from my fingers for a week. The chefs make excellent and varied use of the wood-burning oven, and it never ceases to amaze me how combining just two or three seasonal ingredients can be, in the right hands, a kind of alchemy. —Mike Sula

Bin 36339 N. Dearborn | 312-755-9463

F 7.6 | S 7.7 | A 6.9 | $$$ (13 reports) American Contemporary/Regional, Small Plates, Bar/Lounge | Breakfast: seven days; Lunch: Monday-Friday; Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 2, Thursday till midnight, Monday-Wednesday till 11

At this unique hybrid of retail wine store, casual bar, and formal dining room, curved racks of wine divide the retail corner from the bar, which serves tasting portions of light, eclectic fare ranging from seafood sliders and charcuterie to burgers. The full-service dining room serves an American bistro menu that includes items like an appetizer of steamed mussels and crispy fries in white wine and seared Alaskan halibut with roasted red bliss potatoes and fried green tomatoes. The vast selection of wines (50 by the glass, about 300 by the bottle) is organized into "bins" of four or five related wines with associated bin numbers, several of which appear on the menu next to each dish. The restaurant also offers flights of two-and-a-half-ounce tasting portions. A first-class cheese selection features several exceptional goat cheeses. Servers are, of course, wine savvy. —Laura Levy Shatkin

The Bluebird1749 N. Damen | 773-486-2473

$$Bar/Lounge, Small Plates, American Contemporary/Regional | Dinner: seven days | Open late: Saturday till 3, other nights till 2 | Reservations not accepted

Want some bacon with your porchetta? On the menu at the Bluebird, a new late-night lounge/wine bar/gastropub from the owners of Webster's Wine Bar, it's hard to find anything not spiked with smoked pig. An otherwise sane addition to the nightlife corridor stretching up Damen from the Wicker Park crotch, Bluebird's a nice mellow scene, on a Sunday night at least. For the most part the starters are great—lots of cured meats and funky cheeses, salads, flatbreads, and so on. The classic frites, simultaneously crispy and floppy and served with little cups of addictive curried ketchup and garlic aioli, are no-brainer perfection. But heartier main plates were a mixed bag. There's a satisfying bowl of beer-braised rabbit with shallots, mushrooms, and (surprise) bacon over fettuccine. But the brined and smoked "baconed pork chop" tasted of nothing but smoke and salt—though maybe my taste buds were just numb by then. The wine list is organized by "climate"—IMHO a fairly useless conceit—but the by-the-glass options we tried were excellent, and the extensive beer list is sophisticated and heavy on the Belgians. —Martha Bayne

Cru Cafe & Wine Bar25 E. Delaware | 312-337-4001

F 7.6 | S 6.7 | A 7.0 | $$ (6 reports) Global/Fusion/Eclectic, Small Plates | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Every night till midnight | Reservations accepted for large groups only

Outfitted with fancy chandeliers, cozy fireplaces, and lots of dark, pretty wood, Debra Sharpe's reincarnated Cru Cafe & Wine Bar exudes all the elegance and luxury you'd expect of the Gold Coast—and at a commensurate price. Not surprisingly, the wine list is the centerpiece, with more than 50 wines, ports, brandies, grappas, and sakes available by the glass or in flights of three, plus 30 half-bottle options and another 400-odd bottles in the cellar. The menu offers a range of well-executed nibbles, from charcuterie and cheese plates to some substantial sandwiches and entrees, including a "Cru club" of Maine lobster, beef tenderloin, and avocado with chipotle mayo. Taken as a whole the scene at this space screams class, and it passes a critical test with flying colors: the warm hospitality the smooth staff showed this couple of scuzzy-looking journalists was downright gratifying. —Martha Bayne

Eno505 N. Michigan | 312-321-8738

Bar/Lounge, Small Plates | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 1, Monday-Thursday till midnight

For a wine bar—not to mention a wine bar specializing, for God's sake, in cheese and chocolate—Eno is blessedly free of frills. In fact, it's downright manly inside this Hotel InterContinental hideaway, with dim lighting, dark wood paneling and red leather walls, and comfy leather-backed bar stools. Wines, cheese, and chocolate are all available a la carte or as flights of three; you can make up your own or pick one from the extensive menu. With the help of a friendly bartender/cheese pusher as refreshingly low-key as the decor I sampled a sinful truffled Gouda and two cave-aged Wisconsin cheeses, one of which—Willi Lehner's Li'l Willi's Big Cheese—was on special that month, and a charter member of the stinky-foot cheese club. Wines range from $9 to $35 a glass, and more than 600 are available by the bottle, around 50 of which are priced at under $30. Holiday hours: 1 PM to midnight Monday-Thursday, 1 PM to 1 AM Friday and Saturday, 1 PM to 10 PM Sunday. —MarthaBayne

Enoteca Roma2146 W. Division | 773-342-1011

F 8.5 | S 6.8 | A 6.8 | $ (5 reports) Italian, Small Plates | Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till midnight, other nights till 11 | Vegetarian friendly

rrr This laid-back wine bar is an extension of Letizia's Natural Bakery, a Wicker Park fixture since 1998. Connected to Letizia's cafe and back garden entrance by a short hallway, it offers Letizia's standard menu plus more than a dozen varieties of bruschetta, pizzas, dinner salads, and a number of meat, cheese, bread, and olive combinations in the tradition of rustic Roman cuisine. Larger plates on the recently expanded menu include pork shoulder, lamb chops, and Cornish hen, but the Salamini Flight alone—salami and a trio of saucisson, served with grainy mustard, roasted red peppers, and Italian bread—is enough for a light meal or ample snack for two. Enoteca Roma's specialty is, of course, wine, served without attitude: says owner-manager Fabio Sorano, "You can get PBR or you can get Pahlmeyer." Susannah Felts

Everest440 S. LaSalle | 312-663-8920

F 9.3 | S 9.4 | A 8.0 | $$$$$ (7 reports)French | Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday | Closed Sunday, Monday

rrr If the leopard-print carpeting and white lacquered columns at this dining room on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange seem dated, that impression is quickly dispelled by chef Jean Joho's tasting menu. Dinner began with an amuse bouche: a mousse-light brandade, a sip of artichoke soup, and a dab of celery remoulade festooned with a crispy piece of fried fish. The sauce accompanying a smoky-flavored roast lobster bore hints of horseradish, a flavor that came to the fore later in the form of horseradish-crusted grouper. A single scallop served atop a bed of shredded cabbage was dressed in a hauntingly good sauce featuring melfor, an Alsatian honeyed vinegar, with hints of bacon and pleasant bursts of caraway. The crowning dish, a medallion of venison served with tiny portions of spaetzle and red cabbage, was a revelation. This was followed by an impressive selection of artisanal cheeses. Throughout the wine pairings, which included classic Alsatian offerings such as a Tokay, a Riesling, and a pinot gris as well as a big American zinfandel with the cheese course, were right on the mark. We floated through the desserts on a cloud of bliss right up to our after-dinner coffees, offered with a selection of petits fours. Kathie Bergquist

Fiddlehead Cafe4600 N. Lincoln | 773-751-1500

F 7.2 | S 7.5 | A 6.5 | $$$ (8 reports)American Contemporary/Regional | Lunch: Saturday-Sunday; Dinner: seven days | Saturday & Sunday brunch | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11

The kitchen at this casual, warm, wine-centric cafe offers a range of global appetizers and spiffed-up bistro standards like the signature three-way steak frites, served with russet, sweet potato, and polenta fries. The menu changes seasonally, but certain standards—roasted garlic hummus, seared ahi tuna—remain constant. Current entrees include lamb shank, grilled dorade, and monkfish wrapped in house-made pancetta and served with a garnish of house-made bacon. Fiddlehead Cafe was awarded an order of excellence by Wine Spectator this summer, and with a wine list of more than 350 bottles plus a couple dozen reds, whites, and bubblies available by the glass or in flights of three, it's hard to go wrong. But to get to a knockout like a 2004 cab-merlot-Syrah blend from Washington State's Hedges winery, you have to first figure out how to interpret the cutesy little icons that indicate traits like "dry," "complex," "berries," or "oaky." Still, to a person the staff at a recent visit was unflaggingly friendly, and the cheese selection—choose from 25 on offer or try one of five set flights—is outstanding. Martha Bayne

Fondue Stube2717 W. Peterson | 773-784-2200

F 6.9 | S 7.2 | A 6.0 | $$$ (5 reports)European | Dinner: seven days

What it lacks in ambience it makes up for in fondue. But be prepared to work (and to take your coat to the dry cleaner): you'll be dipping into hot oil as well as cheese and chocolate. This, combined with the dated decor, detracts from the romantic potential that some Raters seek in a fondue experience (see Geja's); others praise the Stube for its lack of pretension and standout cheese fondue. Laura Levy Shatkin

Francesca's Forno1576 N. Milwaukee | 773-770-0184

F 7.1 | S 7.1 | A 7.1 | $ (7 reports) Italian, Small Plates | Lunch: Monday-Friday; Dinner: seven days | Saturday & Sunday brunch | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11:30

In a departure from the Francesca chain's reliable if conservative fare, Francesca's Forno offers a seasonal menu of small plates that cost less than $10 and cover virtually the entire Italian culinary landscape. The flavors in an antipasto of roasted beets with Gorgonzola and a scattering of crushed hazelnuts worked beautifully; mortadella and a sheep's-milk cheese chosen from a list of several salumi and formaggi were also excellent. Unable to forgo a large plate, we tried a grilled swordfish special with roasted artichokes and a balsamic reduction, a nice example of the kind of thing Francesca's can do so well: simple, delicious peasant food. Chip Dudley

Frasca Pizzeria and Wine Bar3358 N. Paulina | 773-248-5222

$$$Bar/Lounge, Pizza, Small Plates | Lunch: Saturday-Sunday; Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11

At Frasca our youthful server enthusiastically raved about each of our "great choices." We wisely chose the olive oil flight, three extra virgins served with semolina bread for $5, then discriminatingly sampled the prosciutto-wrapped fontina. From the "Farmer's Table" menu, a selection of cheeses, meats, and bruschetta to mix or match, we selected three tasty bruschetta for $8. Brick-oven pizzas are the rage all over town these days, but it isn't often that there's a build-your-own option in addition to the traditional standards; Gorgonzola, fennel sausage, and arugula are among the available ingredients here. Entrees come in the form of roasted meat, fish, and fowl, but I'd have been all over orecchiette with soppressata, cannellini beans, and olives if I hadn't stuffed myself on appetizers—not such a great choice. Frasca's mostly Italian wine list offers a good selection, including red and white flights with choices ranging far from your typical Chiantis and pinot grigios. —Kathie Bergquist

Geja's Cafe340 W. Armitage | 773-281-9101

F 7.6 | S 7.8 | A 9.0 | $$$$ (8 reports)European | Dinner: seven days | Open late: Saturday till midnight, Friday till 11:30

Geja's is often touted as the most romantic restaurant in town. There are dissenters—one Rater complains, "First you have to cook your own dinner and then you go home smelling like you rolled around in cooking oil. . . . Very unsexy"—but I'm among those who find it a wonderful evening out. The candlelit basement feels like a Spanish cave, with wine bottles, curtained booths, and a live guitarist. And the fondue dining experience is a welcome change from the usual restaurant routine. The appetizer fondue is a smooth cheese blend (Gruyere spiked with kirsch) served with bread and fruit. For the main course you can select beef tenderloin, chicken, lobster, scallops, shrimp, or a combination of several of the above to cook in a pot of hot oil. All are served with a large assortment of fresh vegetables and flavorful dipping sauces; an all-vegetable option is also available. Rachel Klein, Rater

Joie de Vine1744 W. Balmoral | 773-989-6846

$$Bar/Lounge, Mediterranean, French | Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 1, other nights till midnight

There weren't any wine flights listed on the menu, even though all of the food (just snacks and desserts—cheese, charcuterie, olives, chocolate truffles) is offered in grouped tasting portions. But when we asked the bartender, he said, "Sure, pick any three wines you want off the menu for $15." The tasting pours were generous, making this a great deal. Joie de Vine doesn't have the deepest wine list, but they do have a reasonable selection of both old- and new-world wines, most bottles between $20 and $40. The sound was off on the flat-panel TV showing a Bulls game, but it still seemed out of place amid the ambient grooves and sleek decor. Kathie Bergquist

Juicy Wine Company694 N. Milwaukee | 312-492-6620

$$European, Small Plates, Bar/Lounge | Lunch: Monday-Saturday; Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 3, Monday-Thursday till 1 | Reservations accepted for large groups only

From the name you'd expect Juicy Wine Company to be all about the grape, but the instant you walk in the door it's clear the place is just as much about the cheese. A "retail plus" wine bar from Rodney Alex (formerly of Wicker Park's Taste), Juicy offers a dozen-odd "cheese experiences," a selection of cured meats, and even a butter "experience" that pairs three artisanal butters with various sea salts. Charcuterie includes salumi made by Seattle-based Armandino Batali (Mario's pop). Wines served in-house are marked up a flat $15 over the retail price, making even the swankier labels relatively accessible. Any bottle for sale in the shop is available at this "chill-out price"; there are also a dozen reds, whites, and bubblies by the glass. The staff is casual and helpful—Alex pressed a shaving of a rare Swiss something on us as we were halfway out the door—and in all it's a pretty pleasant (er, "chill") scene. MarthaBayne

The Melting Pot609 N. Dearborn | 312-573-0011

$$$European | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: every night Till midnight

When I think of fondue I imagine unpleasant 70s rec-room scenes involving halter tops and platform shoes, so I was pleasantly surprised on a recent visit to the Melting Pot, an underground grotto with sleek decor, high-backed booths, and Chet Baker on the sound system. As for the food at this local outpost of a national chain, well, it's fondue. Take some raw meat—in our case very nice chunks of lobster, marinated pork, beef fillet, and ahi tuna—stick it on a skewer, boil it in oil or one of three broths, then dip it in a sauce. It's fun and all, but for the money (about $80 per person with drinks and tip) I'd prefer to have someone else cook my dinner for me. Dessert was great, though—you can choose from 11 variations on indulgence in chocolate, and what's not to like about melted chocolate and peanut butter? The wine list is extensive, though there could be more by-the-glass offerings, and our server was refreshingly unaffected and instructive. —Chip Dudley

One Sixty Blue1400 W. Randolph | 312-850-0303

F 8.7 | S 8.6 | A 8.7 | $$$ (14 reports) American Contemporary/Regional, Bar/Lounge | Dinner: Monday-Saturday | Closed Sunday | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11

rrr Parisian-born chef Martial Noguier says his goal is to "modernize" old French recipes for an American audience. So he dresses up a salad of Belgian endive with blue cheese, tomatoes, candied walnuts, basil oil, and a hazelnut vinaigrette. Kurobuta pork tenderloin comes with pork belly, red cabbage confit, apple salad, dried cherry, and a juniper sauce. Only the Delmonico steak, the restaurant's much-ballyhooed signature dish (Michael Jordan's favorite) disappointed, literally collapsing from the weight of my knife. The remarkable cheese selection quite deservedly has a menu of its own, offering a panoply of international and domestic choices, selected flights, and composed plates both warm and cold. Desserts go the classic route: rum baba, chocolate souffle, an orange-chocolate bombe, and house-made sorbets, truffles, and cookies. The meal was pleasant and the ambience surprisingly soothing—our Aussie waiter was affable and enthusiastic. Then the check came. Peter Margasak

Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine2945 N. Broadway | 773-472-4781

$$European, American | Lunch: Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday; Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday | Closed Monday

This Lakeview gourmet shop may be best known for its outstanding artisanal cheese selection, but it also offers carryout sandwiches and picnic baskets featuring other mouthwatering products. Take the panino di prosciutto—San Daniele prosciutto with aged cheese and field greens on a fresh baguette—or the salumi Basquese, spicy salami with piquillo peppers. Any sandwich is only as good as its bread, and Pastoral's is made by Jory Downer of Bennison's Bakery in Evanston, a past winner at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in Paris. Pastoral has a new second location at 53 E. Lake. KathieBergquist

Pops for Champagne601 N. State | 312-266-7677

$$Small Plates | Dinner: seven days| Open late: Every night till 1

I'm happy to report that in my long life I've now had a much stronger bash at what Dorothy Parker called "sufficient champagne," thanks to a stop at Pops for Champagne in the old Tree Studios. The extensive menu of more than 125 champagnes and sparkling wines is served in "real," French glasses—they're shorter—that make the champagne-drinking experience much more pleasurable. (I've never liked tipping my shoulders back to tuck a test tube under my nose while twiddling its flimsy stem between my fingers.) The glassy new downtown locale provides the giddy sense of being a champagne bubble yourself, floating in a glowing flute: glamorous low lighting warms every corner and is reflected over and over in the old curved windows, and there are cozy banquettes and squashy stools. Pops serves smart, salty little nibbles to encourage imbibing—oysters, salami, and 16 cheeses, plus more substantial selections—and there's a jazz club in the basement. In a nutshell: lovely, fizzy fun. ElizabethM. Tamny

Quartino626 N. State | 312-698-5000

F 7.8 | S 7.4 | A 6.3 | $$$ (16 reports)Italian, pizza | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Monday-Saturday till 1, Sunday till midnight

Quartino takes its cue from Italy's enoteche, wine bars that serve small plates of everything from antipasti to beef tenderloin. Chef John Coletta occasionally puts his own subtle spin on classic recipes but stays true to the main tenets of Italian cuisine: the best ingredients, simply prepared. Plates of thinly sliced sopressata, rich duck prosciutto, and soft, pungent mortadella (the only salumi not cured in-house) come with garnishes of giardinera, jammy mostarda (candied fruit with a touch of mustard seed), and a sweet-and-sour cucumber sauce; cheese selections, most made of cow's milk, are garnished with grape salad, fennel salad, and an apricot-rosemary puree. Fried polenta sticks, served with a red pepper sauce, are perfectly prepared: crisp on the outside and soft and creamy inside. Homemade gnocchi didn't quite achieve pillowy transcendence, but a peppery arugula pesto invited forgiveness. The only complaint about a grilled Nutella panino for dessert was that it didn't arrive oozing hot; profiteroles with vanilla gelato and chocolate sauce made for an elegant if messy ending. Wines—many offered in the U.S. here exclusively—are available by the quartino (quarter liter), half liter, and carafe, and there are also plenty of options by the bottle. Heather Kenny

Sepia123 N. Jefferson | 312-441-1920

F 8.8 | S 8.0 | A 9.6 | $$$$ (5 reports)American Contemporary/Regional | Lunch: Monday-Friday; Dinner: seven days | Sunday brunch

rrr One of the most hyped of new restaurants over the past year, Sepia, just around the corner from Blackbird, is holding up quite well. Creative chef Kendal Duque (Everest, Tru, NoMi) runs the kitchen, and out front savvy servers seem happy to be there. The succulent slow-baked veal breast on wide, lightly minted noodles quickly became a signature entree not simply by default but because it's delicious. I also liked the thick Berkshire pork chop, now served with apples, arugula, and cassis vinegar ($26). Flatbreads, which head the menu, should be a natural with cocktails, but I didn't have much luck: the little one topped with applewood-smoked bacon and seasonal fruit didn't go at all with the Sepia Mule, which features house-made ginger-infused vodka. A fine cheese plate, however, can make up for a lot of things, and the one here features domestic artisanal selections such as a Benton Harbor manchego and a Massachusetts Berkshire blue. The eclectic, affordable wine list ($30-$80 bottles, $8-$12 by the glass) rounds out an enjoyable experience. AnneSpiselman

Spiaggia980 N. Michigan | 312-280-2750

F 9.2 | S 9.5 | A 9.5 | $$$$ (8 reports)Italian | Dinner: seven days

rrr Whoever says people don't dress for dinner anymore hasn't been to Spiaggia lately: the guests are as perfectly appointed as the room. Chef Tony Mantuano offers tasting menus, but on this visit we went full bore and ordered a la carte, starting with sea scallops paired with Italian lentils and cotechino sausage; a trio of pesce cruda; and surprisingly delicate house-marinated anchovies with buffalo mozzarella. Pasta here, as one might expect, is terrific: handmade spaghetti alla chitarra came with sweet lobster, spring garlic, dried tomatoes, and arugula; squid ink and saffron spaghettis with surprisingly meaty Dover sole and baby fennel fronds. Mantuano's risotto is not to be missed, and my grilled pork loin—served with morels, ramps, braised pork cheek, and a chunk of guanciale—was so damn good I felt abandoned when they took the plate away. Desserts—an intense chocolate semifreddo and mouth-puckering lemon panna cotta—were grand, but Spiaggia's cheese program is second to none, with superior offerings like a signature aged cow's-milk cheese and a cheese made with grape must and grape seeds, which crunch under your teeth. —Gary Wiviott

The Tasting Room at Randolph Wine Cellars1415 W. Randolph | 312-942-1313

$$European, Small Plates | Dinner: Monday-Saturday | Closed Sunday | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 1, Monday-Thursday till midnight

This sleek two-story bar is stocked with a large selection of spirits and more than 300 wines available by the bottle (about 100 by the glass). The contemporary space has exposed brick walls, natural-wood floors, high ceilings, and huge windows that showcase a dramatic skyline view. The cheese selection is remarkable and very reasonably priced. On your own or following the recommendations of the knowledgeable staff, you can pick from dozens of offerings such as fresh French chevre, mild Spanish iberico, and a sweet, nutty Italian piave. Or opt for a preassembled off-the-menu board that's amply garnished with fruits, nuts, and bread. The menu also includes flights of seafood and charcuterie, plus small plates like beef tenderloin skewers and a variety of thin-crust pizzas. Much of the seating area is outfitted with comfy couches, so you can relax for hours. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Vintage Wine Bar1942 W. Division | 773-772-3400

F 6.5 | S 6.4 | A 8.4 | $$ (5 reports) Bar/Lounge, Small Plates | American Contemporary/Regional | Dinner: seven days | Open late: saturday till 1, other nights till midnight

This unpretentious Wicker Park spot has loungey armchairs, a cozy fireplace, and walls hung with graffiti-like paintings. Nearly half of the wine list of about 75 bottles is priced between $30-$50; 30 or so wines are available by the glass. The menu's been fancied up a bit: steamed mussels that once came with frites now are served with fingerling potatoes, and a seared pork loin has been replaced with confit pork belly. But entrees retain touches like sides of black-eyed peas and grits, and sharing plates—including a cheese flight you choose from a list of both domestic and international artisanals—are always earthy. "No snobbery or looking down one's nose because you don't know the details of a particular wine," the menu promises; Raters tend to think this holds good. Laura Levy Shatkin

Volo Restaurant Wine Bar2008 W. Roscoe | 773-348-4600

F 7.5 | S 7.8 | A 7.1 | $$ (9 reports)Bar/Lounge, Small Plates, American Contemporary/Regional | Dinner: Monday-Saturday | Closed Sunday | open late: Friday & saturday till 11

Talented executive chef Stephen Dunne executes a constantly changing menu of small plates: sweet, plump mussels steamed in white wine and butter and flecked with parsley, spicy-sweet steak tartare made with Kobe beef and topped with shards of sesame flatbread. Seared scallops might come with American sturgeon caviar and leeks, and Dunne throws a massive curveball with a dish like turducken roulade with prosciutto and chorizo. There's an artisanal cheese plate offered every night—it changes frequently but might include French favorites like Epoisses, Valencay, and Sainte-Maure or domestic selections like Humboldt Fog and Point Reyes blue. Wine from an impressive global list comes by the glass, carafe flight, or bottle, and the outdoor dining area is pretty as a picture. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Webster's Wine Bar1480 W. Webster | 773-868-0608

$Global/Fusion/Eclectic, Small Plates | Dinner: seven days | Open late: Saturday till 3, other nights till 2

Across the street from the Webster Place movie theaters, this cozy wine bar offers an extensive variety of vintages from around the world. The dark room has comfortable couches in the front window, and there's an upstairs room for crowded weekends or private parties. The wine list is divided into bottles and by-the-glass pours, including two-ounce servings that can be combined to create personalized tasting flights. The list, more than 600 strong, is reasonably priced, with decent midrange options between $26 and $40 as well as splurges to the tune of $500; by-the-glass prices range from $6 to $15. The wine-friendly food includes artisanal cheese plates, thin-crust designer pizzas, tapas for sharing, and entrees such as New Zealand rack of lamb. About twice a month Webster's offers casual, innovative wine tastings for between $30 to $50; the next one, "New Old World Wines," is on December 12 and will feature wines from China, India, and Mexico. —Laura Levy Shatkin

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