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Restaurants: New Too

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Restaurant listings are culled from the Reader Restaurant Finder, an online database of more than 4,200 Chicago-area restaurants. Restaurants are reviewed by staff, contributors, and (where noted) individual Reader Restaurant Raters. Though reviewers try to reflect the Raters' input, reviews should be considered one person's opinion; the Raters' collective opinions are best expressed in the numbers. Complete searchable listings, Raters' comments, and information on how to become a Rater are at chicagoreader.com/restaurantfinder.

New Too

Antica Pizzeria5663 N. Clark | 773-944-1492

$$ Italian, Pizza | Dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till midnight, other nights till 11 | BYO

At this Andersonville joint chef-owner Mario Rapisarda (a Spiaggia vet) serves pies of the Neapolitan species, with thin, charred, blistered crusts that get a bit swampy toward the center. They're as pricey as the ones at Ravenswood's Spacca Napoli, but topped less lovingly: I was happy with the quality of the olives on the quattro stagioni, but the prosciutto could have been better. The balance of the menu is composed of a few antipasti—including calamari, tender but overbattered—and salads, including a particularly well-composed arugula-radicchio-frisee trio with diced black olive and some crumbles of goat cheese. There are also a handful of pastas and a few fish and poultry entrees, all delivered with supreme haste. Their house-made desserts include profiteroles, tiramisu, and a wonderfully creamy panna cotta in a martini glass. —Mike Sula

Cafe Senegal2131 W. Howard | 773-465-5643

$African | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Cash only

Owned by brother and sister Boubacar and Diaw Sow, this tiny restaurant is all about the cuisine of Senegal, where Diaw learned to cook from her mother and aunts. Food here is mostly zabiha halal (with the exception of a recently introduced menu of Jamaican food). Ceebu jen is delicately stewed red snapper on tomato rice; sup kanja is described as an "okra sauce" but it's more complex than that sounds, with chunks of lamb, dried fish, and smoked turkey. Senegal is known as the peanut capital of the world, and the legume is prominent in mafe yapp, traditional peanut butter stew, and dakhine, lamb and beans in a peanut sauce. Served as dessert (though probably also an excellent breakfast), thiakhri is simply yogurt and couscous with raisins, and cools the palate after hot sauces that are served with meat pasties. Diaw makes her own sugary sorrel and flu-season-appropriate ginger beverages, and starting in two weeks she'll be serving omelets and baguettes on a Frenchified breakfast menu. —David Hammond

The Counter666 W. Diversey | 773-935-1995

$Burgers, Ice Cream | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11 | Reservations not accepted

There must be some latent anti-west coast bias in me that initially smirked at the idea of a bunless "burger bowl," what the folks behind exploding Santa Monica burger chain the Counter call what's essentially a burger salad. But the two I sampled, belonging to a pair of carb-conscious but pleasure-loving eaters, were really tasty. And that's the thing—if the natural beef patties here are all as consistently seasoned and cooked to order as the ones I've tried, then a bad burger can really only be blamed on the decisions of the customer. But building a burger from a clipboard list of options—with more than 300,000 possible combinations—is a daunting proposition, and the potential for crimes against nature is enormous. It's possible, for instance, to order a one-pound veggie burger with Danish blue cheese, hard-boiled eggs, grilled pineapple, corn-and-black-bean salsa, carrot strings, honey-cured bacon, and peanut sauce on an English muffin. However, if you feel incapable of wielding that power responsibly, the house Counter burger—with provolone, lettuce, tomato, fried onions, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette—is an excessive and reliably good default. —Mike Sula

Farmerie 5858 E. Ontario | 312-440-1818

$$$American, American Contemporary/Regional| Lunch: Mon-Sat; Dinner: seven days | Sunday brunch. | Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11.

On a recent visit to this contemporary American local/sustainable spot, at least half the food was on track. One of the specialty maki, Ocean's Bounty, with lobster, salmon, shrimp, avocado, and tempura crunch, was an enjoyable nibble alongside a lychee fizz, a refreshing mix of Ketel One citron, sparkling wine, lychee, and lime. Duck confit spring rolls arrived hot and crispy with a colorful garnish of curry aioli and spiced edamame. But the short rib ravioli, though the pasta was reasonably delicate, was ruined by a bland, grainy filling and dull tarragon broth. Wild mushroom-barley salad turned out to be the highlight of my meal, the nutty grain set off by sauteed mushrooms, slightly melted Brie, celery root, and a subtle sherry-bacon vinaigrette. Mushy cranberry stuffing marred the Indiana pork chop, which was glazed with sweet apple chutney and accompanied by nicely roasted fingerling potatoes and sauteed rapini. Door County cherry pain perdu, custardy brioche bread pudding with tart cherries and hazelnut ice cream, and a rich chocolate tart paired with chocolate ice cream and espresso sauce ended the evening on a positive note. —Anne Spiselman

Five Guys Burgers & Fries2140 N. Clybourn | 773-327-5953

$Burgers | Lunch, dinner: seven days | Reservations not accepted

This is the second local outpost of the Virginia-based burger chain, an absurdly popular concept defined by fresh-cut fries, free toppings, free peanuts while you wait, and fresh, hand-formed patties cooked well-done. It's that last little hedge against a potential Jack in the Box-type catastrophe that bugs me most about Five Guys. Sure, it sounds safe, but you'd think a company that boasts about using no fillers and no preservatives in its beef would want to show it off a little more. Its "never frozen American beef" burgers, presumably the same hormone-saturated flesh banned by the EU, aren't really any better than the chum patties they're pushing at McDonald's or Burger King. They're overcooked and underseasoned, undeserving of the rapturous accolades from across the country that cover the walls. In fact, I feel sorry for the Floridians, Delawareans, and South Carolinians who don't seem to have access to better burgers—or if they do, the sense to appreciate them—and consistently vote these things the tops. The fries, though, thick, long, and crispy, are something special. —Mike Sula

Monticchio4882 N. Clark | 773-275-7080

$$Italian | Dinner: Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday | Closed Monday | Open late: Saturday till 1; Sunday, Tuesday-Friday till midnight

Housed on the ground floor of a hideous condo building erected on the ruins of the Rainbo Roller Rink, with a commanding view of Saint Boniface Cemetery, you could surmise that this new "pizza pub" is tempting fate with such potentially cursed digs. Or you could simply wonder whether there are enough potential regulars in the immediate area unwilling to travel a bit farther north to patronize more serious pie makers such as Great Lake and Antica Pizzeria. The hand-pulled Neopolitan-style pizzas available here can't touch Antica's or Spacca Napoli's—they aren't fired hot enough, nor is the crust rendered with any sort of finesse. The alternative option—so called "classic" square-cut thin crust pizza—is available with the usual uninspired toppings, fine if all you care to do is have something to soak up the liquor. A small selections of pastas (avoid the gluey gnocchi), mostly deep-fried antipasti (ditto the dry, bland arancini), salads, panini, and house-made desserts fill out the menu. —Mike Sula

Shiso449 W. North 312-649-1234

$$Asian, Japanese | Lunch, dinner: seven days | BYO

The decor at Shiso is cute and modern-looking, the service is good, and that's probably all this Old Town sushi spot needs to succeed—indeed, it was packed with trendy young urbanites the night we were there. Never mind that the goma-ae (steamed spinach with a sesame dressing) was still frozen in the middle, the gyoza were mushy and didn't taste homemade, and the salmon sashimi lacked flavor. Mayonnaise features prominently in most of the specialty maki and, along with the cream cheese, overwhelmed the "giant" roll, although the "crazy crump" maki wasn't bad. A spicy tuna tempura appetizer, though uninspired, ended up being one of the best things we had. And shiso, an herb common in Japanese cooking, was remarkably absent from the extensive menu. Our waitress looked confused when we asked if anything had shiso in it and finally explained that they just use it as garnish on the plates. It didn't appear on ours, however. —Julia Thiel

Sortie Lounge1212 N. State | 312-440-5100

$$$Mediterranean | Dinner: Sunday, Tuesday-Saturday | Closed Monday

On a weeknight in January, three-month-old Sortie Lounge was empty—but being able to hear the Turkish background music while dining was a pleasure, and the new chef has talent. Since we were told he was revising the menu, we forgave the many discrepancies between the eight items on the "mix appetizer" and the six we got, including good eggplant salad and thick yogurt with vegetables and mint. The lahmacun, a Turkish variation on thin-crust pizza topped with minced lamb, peppers, and tomato, was first-rate. The mixed grill provided a sampling of decent lamb and chicken kebabs, comparatively mild adana kebab (chopped, seasoned lamb and beef), tasty lamb-and-beef doner (like gyros), and a small lamb chop plus rice, grilled tomato and peppers, and fancy-cut baby vegetables. Fingernail-size manti got high marks for delicacy, but the yogurt cooled the beef-stuffed dumplings too quickly. Creamy rice pudding with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream was a fine dessert, but the Turkish coffee was muddy. No vintages were listed on the mostly American wine list with adequate by-the-glass options. Turkish beer and raki (an anise-flavored aperitif) were available, but no Turkish wines. —Anne Spiselman

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