2023 N. Damen
There's no table service at BABYLON EATERY, but this Bucktown spot turns out food every bit as good as that of some of its more regal counterparts, and at half the price. Standards like shish kebab, falafel, baba ghanoush, dolma, tabbouleh, and Jerusalem salad dominate the menu, but there's a smattering of harder-to-find stuff such as borek--like egg rolls filled with aromatic ground beef. The space is lovely, with brick walls and high ceilings that make the room seem bigger than it is. They must be doing something right, because by the time we left there was a line out the door. BYO and "hookah service every weekend." --Chip Dudley
1616 N. Kedzie
According to the menu, "Kitty is da Boss" at MAMA KITTY'S, a new breakfast-and-lunch spot in Humboldt Park that attracts a quiet crowd of older neighborhood folks and youngish professionals popping in for takeout. We went for breakfast, and the three-egg omelet, grits, bacon, French toast with cinnamon and powdered sugar, and greasy potatoes did the job. My eggs were done like I asked, over easy, a sign that the food was cooked for me, not slapped off the griddle at lightning speed. Our waitress was great, and there were tons of condiments available (sugar-free syrup, sport peppers, blackberry jelly, Mrs. Dash, tartar sauce, A.1.). The prices at Kitty's are definitely cheaper than my usual neighborhood diner (Cozy Corner): two eggs, toast, grits or potatoes, and coffee for $2.70, tax included. The menu's fine print bans profanity and illegal activity, "unless Police are present." Because "Whatever Kitty sez goes." --Katherine Young
Vintage Wine Bar
1942 W. Division
Brothers Alex, Anthony, and Adrian Basich teamed up with Anthony's wife, designer Laura Basich, to open VINTAGE WINE BAR, an unpretentious Wicker Park place with loungy armchairs, a cozy fireplace, and walls hung with graffitilike paintings. Descriptions of grape varietals are printed above each category on the mostly domestic wine list, which includes about 85 bottles (all except 3 under $50, and more than half less than $30) and 25 by-the-glass options. The list is easy to navigate--there aren't many oddball or challenging wines, but rather an assortment of food-friendly selections like a 2003 Villa Maria sauvignon blanc from New Zealand ($24), a 2001 Marcus Molitor Riesling from Germany ($34), a 2001 Hill of Content grenache shiraz from Australia ($25), and a 2002 Brooks pinot noir from Oregon ($39). Chef Rachid El Moussaouiti sticks to small plates, two of which easily make a meal. The four salads--Caesar with a chicken option; house with Dijon vinaigrette; endive with Granny Smith apples, blue cheese, and a honey-mustard vinaigrette; and pear with mixed field greens, blue cheese, and spiced pecans--are big and tasty. The petite filet mignon is marinated in rosemary with roasted garlic, green beans, sauteed watercress, and a mushroom jus; the crab cakes come with a zippy chipotle aioli sauce; the mussels are steamed in white wine and served with a tomato-herb sauce; and a grilled loin of pork is topped with a robust mustard chutney. --Laura Levy Shatkin
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Robert Drea.