Alfresco! | Restaurant Review | Chicago Reader

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Alfresco!

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Deleece Grill Pub

3313 N. Clark | 773-348-3313

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAl | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | closed monday | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL midnight, TUESDAY-THURSDAY TILL 11

The meat-focused sibling of John Handler and Lynne Wallack's Deleece, the Grill Pub offers an affordable upscale comfort-food menu with some welcome features, including several variations on mac 'n' cheese, an extensive whiskey list, and a decent selection of beers. Most entrees—there are three steaks—come with two sides. The best of ours was the Gruyere and asparagus mac with crispy shallots. For appetizers, tender and crispy fried calamari with miso aioli recalled the sophistication of this location's previous tenant, the short-lived Shochu, and warm house-made potato chips were a fun free starter. There's a kids' menu, and outdoor seating behind the restaurant is blessedly sheltered from street noise. —Anne Spiselman

Dick's Last Resort

315 N. Dearborn | 312-836-7870

$$

bar/lounge, Barbecue, american | lunch: monday-saturday; dinner: seven days | Open late: Sunday-thursday till 1, Friday-Saturday till 2

If you don't have a boat to dock at this riverside eatery, now located in Marina Towers, you can just stroll on in for 40-ounce beers and buckets of barbecue and assorted fried things. The long community tables and live rock and jazz (no cover charge) are all designed to provide a raucous postwork pick-me-up. Service is always attentive and lively. Outdoor seating for 70 people overlooks the river. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Duchamp

2118 N. Damen | 773-235-6434

$$$

Contemporary/Regional | Dinner: Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday | Sunday brunch | Closed Monday | Open Late: Friday & Saturday till 11

"Aesthetic delectation is the danger to be avoided," declared Marcel Duchamp. So he'd have to scoff at Michael Taus, whose chummy Bucktown spot Duchamp is aesthetically delectable in a couple ways. Unlike at the chef's pricier Zealous, main courses here run between $12 and $21. We approached a crispy fried skate wing "fish-and-chips" with some unease, but the dense pieces of fish held up well to the oil under the bread-crumb batter. "Return to Thailand Bouillabaisse" was simply a luxuriant coconut curry with mussels, shrimp, and a gorgeous piece of sea bass. Small plates were a little more expensive, relatively speaking, but mostly gratifying: a white pizza with sweet lobster offset by some beefy trumpet mushrooms, smoked salmon corn blinis like little turbans ornamented with dollops of creme fraiche. There are a few questionable decor choices—clear Plexiglas dining room chairs and bar stools that resemble torture devices might've made the ol' Dadaist happy—but the broad communal tables don't seem to foster a rushed, chaotic environment, and the two-level outdoor seating, complete with a bar, is expansive. —Mike Sula

Dunlays on the Square

3137 W. Logan | 773-227-2400

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, AMERICAN | LUNCH: TUESDAY-FRIDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, MONDAY-FRIDAY TILL 2, SUNDAY TILL MIDNIGHT

The brunch overflow from Lula Cafe often makes its way to this second location of Dunlays. In addition to eggs, omelets, and pancakes there's the cholesterol-enhancing Big Mike's Irish Breakfast: a fried egg, rasher of bacon, sausage, broiled tomato, potatoes, and a pint of Guinness. At other meals the menu offers standard bar fare—burgers, sandwiches, salads—but there are also more upscale options, like a grilled artichoke with remoulade sauce, house-smoked salmon with toasts and a tarragon-chive sauce, and rotating fish specials, plus pizza and ribs. The sidewalk cafe is dog friendly; there's even a smoked pig's ear on the menu—"for Spot." —Kate Schmidt

Enoteca Roma

2146 W. Division | 773-772-7700

$

ITALIAN, SMALL PLATES, BAR/LOUNGE | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL MIDNIGHT, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 11

This laid-back wine bar is an extension of Letizia's Natural Bakery and shares its charming back garden seating. It offers Letizia's standard menu plus more than a dozen varieties of bruschetta, pizzas, dinner salads, and various meat, cheese, bread, and olive combinations in the tradition of rustic Roman cuisine. There are nine pastas as well as larger plates, including pork shoulder in red wine served over polenta and lasagna with venison Bolognese, but the salumi plates are 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 J. Felts

The Handlebar
  • Chad Magiera / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
  • The Handlebar

Epic

112 W. Hubbard | 312-222-4940

$$$$

contemporary/regional | lunch, Dinner: seven days | Open late: Saturday till 3, Monday-Friday till 2; rooftop open till 11 daily

The name Epic aptly describes the proportions of this industrial-chic restaurant and lounge with 14,000 square feet on two floors, plus a 3,000 square foot rooftop deck, a 21-foot ceiling and a 40-foot-long bar in the first-floor lounge, and 23-foot front windows in the second-floor dining room. But the portions of high-priced food from executive chef Stephen Wambach are anything but. Our gnocchi appetizer had seven thumbnail-size pillows of pasta and five coins of salty lamb sausage in creamy fennel beurre blanc—for $15. Steaks get their own section on the one-page menu, but our ten-ounce seven-pepper-crusted hanger ($23, the least expensive choice) had a streak of tendon running through the chewy beef. The global wine list is on the expensive side as well; beers and cocktails seem more reasonable. The rooftop, "Epic Sky," features private cabanas for canoodling. —Anne Spiselman

Feed

2803 W. Chicago | 773-489-4600

$

SOUTHERN/SOUL FOOD | BREAKFAST: MONDAY-FRIDAY; LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | BYO | cash only | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

The project of Donna Knezek, one of the original owners of Leo's Lunchroom and a founder of Bite, Feed is a shack with a chalkboard menu that begins 1/4 chicken, 1/2 chicken, whole chicken. Needless to say, get the chicken: salty and succulent, it has the golden crackle of skin that makes rotisserie bird so viscerally satisfying. Sides include fried okra, a comforting corn pudding, and rich and cheesy baked mac 'n' cheese. There are also pulled pork and barbecued chicken sandwiches; brunch items might include pulled pork hash and green tomato eggs Benedict. For dessert there's pie and fluffy, creamy banana pudding served in a Styrofoam cup with Nilla Wafers throughout. Feed's BYO, but it serves sweet tea and there's a corner store with a decent beer selection a few blocks east. Enter the kitschily decorated brick patio from California. —Nicholas Day

The Fireside

5739 N. Ravenswood | 773-878-5942

$$

AMERICAN, BARBECUE/RIBS, BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH: MONDAY-SATURDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 5, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 4

From the outside it looks like a tavern but inside you'll find a home-style restaurant with a spacious patio that's tented and heated in the winter. While offerings are extensive, many diners opt for the ribs, glazed in a sweet, tangy sauce. The kitchen's open till 4 AM on Saturdays, 3 AM other days. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Flatwater

321 N. Clark | 312-644-0283

$$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL, bar/lounge | LUNCH: Tuesday-Friday; DINNER: Tuesday-Saturday | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | Closed Sunday-Monday | OPEN LATE: Friday-Saturday till 11

The flower-bedecked riverfront terrace is the main selling point of this spot, with its view of the river, a few shiny high-rise wedges, and of course the occasional tour boat. The lunch menu offers fancied-up starters, salads, and sandwiches like seared scallops with sweet potato puree and bacon "candy," a BLT with house-cured bacon, and an Angus cheeseburger. The dinner menu's broadened with a range of meat-based entrees. —Susannah J. Felts

Folklore

2100 W. Division | 773-292-1600

$$$

latin american, south american | Lunch: Sunday; dinner: seven days | open late: Friday & saturday till 1, other nights till 11:30 PM

A cozy, dimly lit place with exposed brick, tall candles on the tables, and Argentine paraphernalia like mate gourds decorating the walls, Folklore offers a steak-centric menu of authentic Argentine fare very similar to that of its sister restaurant, Tango Sur. But there are plenty of other options on the large menu, including several vegetarian ones and a few fish dishes. A creamy risotto with asparagus, spinach, and shrimp was slightly gummy, but baked eggplant layered with spinach and cheese and topped with tomato cream sauce turned out to be one of the highlights of the meal. Empanadas of moist ground beef in a flaky shell were even better with the excellent house-made chimichurri sauce. Still, steak is what Argentina's best known for, and Folklore offers several imported cuts of lean grass-fed beef as well as fattier domestic steaks; our bife de chorizo (strip steak) was perfectly cooked to medium rare as requested. The chorizo was also a real standout, one of the best renditions I've had. Because the portions were so big, it turned out that we'd accidentally ordered an overwhelming amount of food; this didn't escape the notice of our friendly server, who brought us a complimentary flan—rich, creamy, and topped with dulce de leche—for being the "customers of the day." There's sidewalk seating for 60 people. —Julia Thiel

Fontana Grill & Wine Bar

1329 W. Wilson | 773-561-0400

$$$

ITALIAN, POLISH/RUSSIAN/EASTERN EUROPEAN | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS

Nino Divanovic's Italian wine bar has an intriguing concept, offering select pours by the ounce, at $1-$2 a pony shot. The menu offers both Italian and Balkan appetizers, pizza, salads, sandwiches, and entrees. The twain meet in an appetizer of cevapi and grilled polenta, minced-beef-and-lamb sausages riding a raft of cornmeal and drizzled with a "cucumber alfredo" sauce that tasted a lot like tzatziki. Thin-crust pizzas are nicely charred, a bit sturdier than other Neopolitan-style efforts around town and in some cases taken down a peg by less than stellar toppings. One of the most unusual dishes is the house-made papardelle: these rustic, almost dumplinglike noodles have a good flavor and texture but outmuscle their delicate butter and truffle oil sauce. They'd be great with something heavier (Stroganoff, Bolognese). The adjacent garden patio is a glorious place to sample the goods. —Mike Sula

Fulton's on the River

315 N. LaSalle | 312-822-0100

$$$$

SEAFOOD, STEAKS/LOBSTER | LUNCH: MONDAY-SATURDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 11

The lower-level dining room at this Levy Restaurants endeavor is spacious and elegantly understated, with handsome decor and an adult-contemporary soundtrack. We were planning on sticking to seafood until we saw the platter of U.S. prime steaks, one of Fulton's specialties. We moaned and murmured with pleasure over our main courses—a New York strip and a whole Maine lobster—but prudently stopped halfway through to save room for dessert: key lime icebox pie with a graham cracker crust. Seating on the riverfront patio is first come, first served. —Kathie Bergquist

Got Spaghetti?

6154 N. Milwaukee | 773-594-7724

$$

ITALIAN, PIZZA | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED MONDAY | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 2; SUNDAY, TUESDAY-THURSDAY TILL 1

This friendly new neighborhood restaurant in the former Rusty Armadillo is a real find, with a rooftop patio, modest prices, and well-executed Italian classics. Spicy mussels arrabiata is a nice twist on a standard, served in a generous portion for $9.95. Mix-and-match pasta choices come with that tasty arrabiata, excellent peas and pancetta, and Bolognese sauce in addition to marinara, alfredo, pesto, and aglio olio. Veal Vesuvio was surprisingly light and appealingly lemony—and a mere $15.75, including a side of pasta. Other entree options are steaks—a blue-cheese-encrusted tenderloin, New York strip, or rib eye—chicken Parmesan, Vesuvio, or Milanese, and weekend specials like Italian meat loaf. Another weekend-only special of poached pears far surpassed a cannoli. —Kate Schmidt

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