Who needs meat to complicate a dish like spicy panfried scallion pancakes with kimchi and chili-garlic sauce, or slow-roasted shiitakes in a crispy potato nest with savoy cabbage, or a dense, flavorful fennel risotto cake with preserved lemon and a Syrah reduction? At GREEN ZEBRA, the new, mostly vegetarian restaurant from Spring owners Shawn McClain, Peter Drohomyrecky, and Sue Kim-Drohomyrecky, the dishes have so much flavor and texture you'll never miss the flesh. The generous tasting portions range from $7 to $14 apiece, making it possible to feast without busting your budget. McClain's menu doesn't exclude die-hard meat eaters: there's a crispy chicken dish drizzled with tangerine honey, and a daily fish special--one night it was Alaskan halibut with sunchokes and white asparagus, redolent of the tandoori spices that seasoned the accompanying pearl couscous. The wine list may look familiar to Spring fans--heavy on crisp, refreshing whites like Austrian and Alsatian Riesling, gruner veltliner, and pinot gris, but also including light reds from the U.S., France, Australia, Italy, and New Zealand. Sleek and upscale, with recessed lighting and techno music, Green Zebra is a far cry from the earnest, brown-rice-and-granola vegetarian restaurant of the past. Green Zebra is at 1460 W. Chicago, 312-243-7100. --Laura Levy Shatkin
Every meal at PIPO'S ARGENTINA GRILL, which opened in November, should start with the empanadas. The flaky pastries are stuffed with melted cheese, corn, peppers, and eggs; ground beef, peppers, onions, and raisins; or chicken, onions, and peppers. Entrees, split between traditional steak and chicken options, are for hearty appetites. Gigantic platters of tender, boneless chicken breasts, either flavored with lemon or liberally sprinkled with garlic, are as light as this place gets. Red-meat offerings include slabs of churrasco--lean charbroiled steaks with or without an inch-thick topping of grilled onions. Diners who want variety can choose the parrillada, or mixed grill, a sampler plate for one or two with steak, beef short ribs, chorizo, blood sausage, and chicken, all cooked at the table on a grill imported from Argentina. Homemade chimichurri, a condiment made from olive oil, vinegar, and finely chopped parsley, oregano, onion, garlic, and other seasonings, is served in both hot and mild variations. For dessert there's some of the best flan and bread pudding around, garnished with a piping of dulce de leche. Pipo's Argentina Grill is at 2550 W. Addison, 773-305-3333. --A. LaBan
When Linda Mallers opened Race Logix, an Evanston sporting goods store, in 2002, she wanted it to be more than a place to pick up running shoes or a Speedo. She outfitted the shop with couches and a plasma-screen TV and served postrace bagels to encourage athletes to hang out. This spring she decided to make the store even more inviting, adding a cafe called ORAL FIXATIONS, operated by pastry chef Journey Shannon. Shannon serves the kind of health-promoting fare you'd expect to find next to a display of bike helmets: a vegan jerk-tofu sandwich on focaccia, vegan lasagna, freshly squeezed juice, and smoothies. But she also offers barbecued chicken, ham and turkey on focaccia with chipotle mayonnaise, and a variety of baked goods--amaretto bars, "heaven" cookies (walnuts, coconut, and dark chocolate), brownies, turtle cheesecake, and sweet-potato pie. "We're not exclusively health," says Shannon. "You won't find any wheatgrass sandwiches on whole-grain bread." Most of the athletes who congregate at Race Logix prefer "the stuff that's full of sugar," she says. "After a long day of running or biking or swimming, people crave something sweet." Oral Fixations at Race Logix is at 1642 Maple, Evanston, 847-556-1027. --LLS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/A. Jackson.