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New Too

Eleven more recent openings, including Epic, Lockdown Bar & Grill, Life on Mars, and more

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[Plus: Logan Square On Tap: The new brewpub and gastropub in Lula-land.]

Ameer Kabob
1050 N. Milwaukee | 773-489-8888
$
MIDDLE EASTERN | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 2, OTHER NIGHTS TILL MIDNIGHT | BYO
Two people can feast for less than $20 at this lemon yellow storefront with a takeout counter and eight tables. Start by sharing the vegetarian plate, which brings together hummus, baba ghannouj, crunchy falafel patties, rice-stuffed grape leaves, and refreshing tabouleh that's heavy on parsley but light on cracked wheat and onions. Then go for the "combination feast" of three tasty kebabs: big chunks of moist marinated chicken breast, surprisingly tender beef, and well-seasoned ground-beef kifta. They come with plenty of fluffy rice, three little pieces of grilled vegetable, forgettable iceberg lettuce salad, and the kind of pita bread you can sink your teeth into. —Anne Spiselman

Bagel on Damen

1252 N. Damen | 773-772-2243

$

Coffee shop | Breakfast, lunch: seven days

A tiny, sunny storefront at Damen and Potomac, Bagel on Damen trades mainly in carryout, though there are a few small tables and stools that offer seating for about a dozen. The bagels come from New York Bagel & Bialy, the coffee from Stumptown, and the small selection of grocery items from "many independent grocers and producers." Most of the menu is dedicated to bagel sandwiches, which range from breakfast options with eggs and bacon to vegetarian creations to meat-and-cheese sandwiches. Both the Lox and the Shroom (portobello mushroom, greens, onions, roasted red peppers, and shiitake and rosemary cream cheese) were tasty, if structurally unsound—I managed one bite of the Shroom before it collapsed entirely. Curried butternut squash and Granny Smith apple soup was pleasant but a little bland, the curry flavor almost nonexistent; I hoped I'd fare better with the barley beef short rib soup on a return visit, but it was salty enough to float lead, and all but inedible. —Julia Thiel

Eggsperience

35 W. Ontario | 312-870-6773

$

BREAKFAST, AMERICAN, BURGERS | BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: 24 HOURS DAILY | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

This large River North diner, the first Chicago location of the suburban chain, is almost frighteningly cheery, decorated in buttercup yellow with touches of sky blue and grass green and enormous displays of colorful fake flowers. Open 24 hours, it focuses (as the name would suggest) on breakfasts that feature eggs, though it also offers lunch-oriented sandwiches, wraps, salads, and burgers. Portions are enormous, and everything we tried was more than decent: the pancakes were fluffy, the hash browns crispy, and the skirt steak in a "super skillet" tender and flavorful. Despite the extensive menu, vegetarian options are severely limited on the lunch side of things, though the breakfast menu has several more choices. Juices are fresh squeezed and smoothies are excellent. —Julia Thiel

Epic

112 W. Hubbard | 312-222-4940

$$$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, monday-friday TILL 2

The name Epic aptly describes the proportions of this industrial-chic restaurant with 14,000 square feet on two floors (plus a 3,000 square foot rooftop deck opening in spring). But epic doesn't extend to the portions of high-priced food from executive chef Stephen Wambach. Our gnocchi appetizer had seven thumbnail-size pillows of pasta and five coins of salty lamb sausage in creamy fennel beurre blanc—for $15. From the raw bar, the $17 selection of east- and west-coast oysters turned out to be three Wellfleets and three quarter-size kumamotos. Steaks get their own section on the one-page menu, but our ten-ounce seven-pepper-crusted hanger steak ($23, the cheapest) had a streak of tendon running through the chewy beef. Spiced lamb shank with a little preserved lemon in russet lamb jus was hefty but surprisingly bland. Our favorite entree was four smallish seared sea scallops on a fricassee of salsify and black trumpet mushrooms. Executive pastry chef Christine McCabe (Sugar) turns out complicated creations like milk chocolate-hazelnut crunch with chocolate mousse, acai emulsion, and huckleberries, but they had one too many flavors for me. —Anne Spiselman

Izakaya Hapa

58 E. Ontario | 312-202-0808

$$

ASIAN, JAPANESE, BAR/LOUNGE | DINNER: THURSDAY-SATURDAY

The latest salvo in owner Jeff Zhang and Sandy Yu's (Jia's, Shine, Rise) campaign to support Sushi Taiyo is to turn the second floor into Izakaya Hapa and capitalize on the Japanese tapas trend. (Vancouver's similarly named Hapa Izakaya is so popular it has expanded to three locations.) But don't expect the head-and-tail-on fried fish, beef intestine stew, and other exotica Japanese businessmen share while downing sake, shochu, and beer after work. The big menu is geared to Americans, with variations on tempura and teriyaki, accessible stir-fries and noodles, and familiar appetizers and salads. For sushi and such, you can order from the Sushi Taiyo lineup. Instead of beak-to-feet chicken parts, "yakitori" here refers to a wide range of grilled meats, seafood, and vegetables on skewers; our spongy fish balls were tasty, but the short ribs we tried to order were unavailable, as were onigiri yaki, broiled rice balls the menu says are "great to combine with sauce." They would have come in handy for the bland Japanese curry with puny, chewy shrimp and the spicy, much better green curry hot pot with succulent scallops and vegetables in coconut-milk broth. Desserts are the same as downstairs, among them decent green tea creme brulee and orange mousse cake that only hinted at orange. Pitchers of mojitos and alcoholic lemonade are among the drinks, along with martinis and other cocktails, more than a dozen sakes, wines by the glass or bottle, and a handful of beers. —Anne Spiselman

Klopa Grill & Cafe

4835 N. Western | 774-745-5672

$

EASTERN EUROPEAN | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | open late: every night till 11 | BYO

This Serbian grill in the epicenter of Balkan Chicago distinguishes itself from the many cafes and hangouts in its orbit with an outwardly friendly vibe (no tinted windows, no cold stares from regulars), and though the interior is as bare-bones as it gets, once the crowd fills in you won't even notice. Apart from the signature sausages of Serbian meats—the unencased cylinders of minced beef known as cevapcici (in both pork and lamb mixes)—there's a large selection of animal proteins such as pljeskavica, the substantial cevap in burger form; various chicken parts including bacon-wrapped breast and bacon-wrapped livers; snappy paprika-spiked sausages; and pork schnitzel, all culminating in the house specialty, the leskobacki opanak, sort of a Balkan Bacon Explosion, a 500-gram bacon-wrapped cevap with a core of ham and Swiss. Carnivores attempting to convert their vegetarian friends might find their efforts frustrated by starters such as roasted red pepper ajvar, a tangy chile-cheese spread, and a clean vinegar-based slaw, all augmented with baskets of lepinya, a fresh, puffy bread, and a selection of sweet and savory crepes. —Mike Sula

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