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The Dining Room at Kendall College

900 N. North Branch | 312-752-2328

$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL, GLOBAL/FUSION/ECLECTIC | LUNCH: MONDAY-FRIDAY; DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED SUNDAY | BYO

With a prix fixe option ($29 for a three-course dinner Tuesday through Thursday, $18 for lunch Monday through Friday) and a BYO policy a corkage fee of $5 at lunch, $10 at dinner, the Dining Room at Kendall College is one of the best fine-dining deals in town. A teaching restaurant for advanced students in the school's culinary and hospitality programs, the Dining Room offers a changing seasonal menu evenly between "surf" and "turf" preparations, with a few veggie options thrown in. Monday nights are given over to the Kendall College Dining Series, a five-course dinner for $38 by reservation only. The next one, due up Monday, May 10, will focus on northern Italian cuisine. —Martha Bayne

Duchamp

2118 N. Damen | 773-235-6434

$$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | closed monday | SUNDAY BRUNCH | 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 the chef's pricier Zealous, main courses here run between $12 and $21, and for that kind of money they're a lot more satisfying than might be expected. We approached a crispy fried skate wing "fish-and-chips" with tartar sauce with some unease, but the dense pieces of fish held up well to the oil under the bread-crumb batter (though the garlic spuds on the side didn't). Small plates were a little more expensive, relatively speaking, but mostly gratifying: a white pizza with sweet lobster offset by some beefy trumpet mushrooms; an off-menu tempura rock shrimp toast afloat in a thick, rich lobster bisque; smoked salmon tartare blinis like little turbans ornamented with dollops of creme fraiche; duck rillettes set atop swabs of cauliflower puree. This is a comfortable, enjoyable spot the neighborhood's lucky to have. On Tuesdays a three-course prix fixe dinner with choices is $25. —Mike Sula

Erwin

2925 N. Halsted | 773-528-7200

$$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED MONDAY | sunday brunch

Mark Bittman, the New York Times's minimalist, would approve of Erwin, the namesake restaurant of chef Erwin Drechsler. The emphasis is on seasonal food prepared simply, to bring out the freshness of the ingredients. Appealing appetizers include an onion tart with Danish blue cheese and walnuts and a spicy crab cake with carrot-daikon salad. Roasted beets paired nicely with a thin crisp of ricotta salata and a red onion marmalade; toasted almonds add texture. Entrees that make the most of that wood grill (you can smell the smoke from down the street) include flank steak, a pork chop with green tomato jam, and a hamburger, served with a heap of fries and house-made pickles and worth every bit of its $13 price. Desserts keep up the homey simplicity—for example a fruit crisp with pears and dried cranberries served with French vanilla ice cream. A three-course prix fixe with a choice of soup or salad, an entree, and dessert is $18. —Kate Schmidt

Eve

840 N. Wabash | 312-266-3383

$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | LUNCH: tuesDAY-friday; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | saturday & sunday brunch | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

With Eve chef Troy Graves is bringing some relief to the Viagra Triangle. The food reflects the chef's predilections for serious meat as well as his generosity in portioning. In some cases that's overgenerous—a grilled lobster sausage sprawled across the plate atop cold chanterelles and hot bacon dice, garnished with a large branch of thyme someone forgot to string with Christmas lights. For all Graves's intriguing combinations he has a tendency to sabotage himself: some attractive-sounding sheep's milk ricotta dumplings turned out to be dense, dry concussion grenades mining an otherwise enjoyable lamb ragout with Swiss chard. Still, there's enough to like here to consider Eve a relatively progressive provocation to the neighborhood's Axis of Mediocrity. A three-course meal with choices is $29 on Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 7 PM. —Mike Sula

Quince

1625 Hinman, Evanston | 847-570-8400

$$$$

AMERICAN, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED MONDAY

Executive chef Andy Motto lives up to his impressive pedigree (Le Français, Les Nomades, the French Laundry, Tru, Charlie Trotter's, Le Lan, Old Town Brasserie). Dishes like a starter of liquid cauliflower encased in squid-ink ravioli and topped with apple compote and a tiny squib of smoked salmon combine what might seem like ill-compatible elements in a way that's completely transporting and refreshingly gimmick-free. (Your implement for this? A spoon.) Motto's interest in southeast Asian flavors is showcased in offerings like crispy pork rolls in a serrano vinaigrette dotted with thinly sliced chiles and French breakfast radishes. A halibut fillet served over barley in a heavenly coconut-lemongrass broth and topped with crunchy shallots was mind-blowing, one of the best things I've ever eaten in my life. Little touches—like the scallion-walnut rolls included in the bread service, or the finger-size chard-and-Parmesan-stuffed cannelloni served with a combo of sliced duck breast and duck thigh confit—make a big impact, as did a stellar dessert wine, Australia's Noble One. Complimentary thimble-size red velvet cupcakes finished the meal. On Sundays a three-course prix fixe is $35. —Kate Schmidt

Sabor Saveur

2013 W. Division | 773-235-7310

$$$

FRENCH, MEXICAN, GLOBAL/FUSION/ECLECTIC | DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED MONDAY | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11 | BYO

This Ukie Village restaurant is going for the kind of Mexican-French fusion you may have enjoyed at Mexique. Delicate lettuce cream soup is much tastier than you'd think such a thing could be. Bocoles are small, crisp masa-black bean cakes used as pedestals to present delicious combinations like chorizo and shrimp in a saffron beurre blanc, and the fruit "tamale" is a creative blend of ground beef and pork with watermelon and purslane, all enfolded in phyllo. Sea bass, marinated and drizzled with an achiote-based sauce, is highlighted with xoconotzle, or cactus flower fruit, a complementary flavor and visual accent. Desserts, like a cream-cheese Napoleon of crisped flour tortillas and cinnamon with chicharron sauce, continue the cultural fusion. Chef Yanitzin Sanchez avoids the overwhelming richness sometimes found in both French and Mexican traditions but preserves flavor. A three-course prix fixe is $35 between 5 and 7 PM. —David Hammond

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