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Food (F), Service (S), and ambience (A) are rated on a scale of 1-10, with 10 representing best.

The dinner-menu price of a typical entree is indicated by dollar signs on the following scale: $ = less than $10, $$ = $10-15, $$$ = $15-20, $$$$ = $20-$30, $$$$$ = more than $30.

Raters also grade the overall dining experience; these scores are averaged and Rs are awarded as follows: RRR = top 10 percent, RR = top 20 percent, R = top 30 percent of all rated restaurants in database.

Moonshine The menu at this casual, comfortable spot is a collection of the owners’ favorite bar food: burgers, pizza, ribs, and steaks. Freshly mashed guacamole came with red, white, and blue corn chips and a mole-ish dip made of dark roasted chiles. The New York strip sandwich was cooked exactly to order and topped with blue cheese; mushrooms are another option. Co-owners John Sanchez and Chris Storey grew up together in New Mexico, and a southwestern influence comes through in the fajitas with beef, chicken, or shrimp and the chiles offered as a pizza topping or a side with the guacamole. The kitchen’s open till 11:30 nightly, with a late-night menu available till 1 AM. Arrow Lunch Sat-Sun, dinner daily, 1824 W. Division, open till 3 AM Sat, 2 AM Sun-Fri, 773-862-8686. $$ —Laura Levy Shatkin

Rockstar Dogs This hot dog stand from nightclub impresario Dion Antic inhabits a short, narrow, angry red corridor decorated with a pair of wall-mounted guitars and a bunch of framed black-and-whites of rock stars in their native habitats. There’s a stripper pole set up by the front door, and temporary tattoos or guitar picks are given out with each order, perhaps to convince the impaired that they’re getting something of value for price. Rockstar is using Vienna natural-casing beef franks—a fine product—and each order comes with fries and a can of soda. But are they worth $6 or $7? Hell no. They’re just hot dogs, albeit with some above-par toppings—Merkt’s cheese on the J. Timberlake, charred jalapenos on the bacon-wrapped Los Lobos. But put lipstick on a pig and it will still look like a pig. Cash only. Arrow Lunch and dinner daily, open till 4 AM Thu-Sat, 2 AM Mon-Wed, 11 PM Sun, 801 N. Ashland, 312-421-2364. $ —Mike Sula

Vintage Wine Bar This unpretentious spot has loungey armchairs, a cozy fireplace, and sometimes live music (see Music). More than half the wine list of about 100 bottles is priced between $30-$50; 40 or so wines are available by the glass. The menu is comfort-food oriented, offering mussels with pommes frites alongside pizzas and small plates meant for sharing. “No snobbery or looking down one’s nose because you don’t know the details of a particular wine,” the menu promises; Reader Restaurant Raters tend to think this holds good. The kitchen is open till midnight Friday and Saturday. Arrow Dinner daily, open till 3 AM Sat, 2 AM Sun-Fri. $$ —LLS


Aki Sushi Aki Sushi serves the standard repertoire, with a larger-than-average selection of nigiri. There’s a clear attention to freshness, and while I’m usually skeptical about maki, I was impressed by the White Sox roll—seared spicy tuna, crabmeat, cucumber, and onion wrapped with a tender piece of white tuna and sprinkled with black tobiko. Ponzu sauce overwhelmed the Rainbow Carpaccio, lovely slices of tuna, salmon, and white tuna fanning out from a pile of greens. But when it comes to the basics, Aki does the trick quite nicely. Arrow Lunch and dinner daily, open till 1 AM Fri-Sat, midnight Mon-Thu, 11 PM Sun, 2015 W. Division, 773-227-8080. $$$ —Peter Margasak

Bob San Hats off to Bob Bee. Sure, his lounge is the place to be seen washing down your crabby dragon roll with a saketini, but the sushi bar at Bob San is also a haven for people who take their sashimi and sushi seriously. Show a little interest and Bee and his crew will guide you through the day’s best and most unusual catches, presenting them in artful textural combinations and contrasts that don’t distract from their god-given freshness—a face-off between fresh- and saltwater eel, for example, or a plate of engawa, the pale pink and resilient fin muscle of a flounder. In these encouraging circumstances it’s easy to forget what comes from the kitchen: simple, winning dishes like gomae or black cod with miso, a silky and ephemeral piece of fish that melts in the mouth. Arrow Dinner daily, open till 12:30 AM Fri-Sat, 11:30 PM Mon-Thu, 1805 W. Division, 773-235-8888. $$ —MS

Alliance Bakery; El Barco

Jim Newberry

Mirai Sushi The ambitious menu at Miae Lim’s stylish sushi and sake bar includes nigiri and maki, daily fish specials, and several unique creations. The sweet hotate salad, for example, is seared scallops served with sauteed arugula in a sweet soy-mustard sauce. And the sakana carpaccio is a nice twist on the traditional Italian version—thinly sliced tuna, salmon, and whitefish garnished with capers, cilantro, and sesame oil. Reader Restaurant Raters laud the food: “Expensive but worth every penny,” says one. Arrow Dinner Mon-Sat, open till 11 PM Fri-Sat, 2020 W. Division, 773-862-8500. $$$ —LLS

Mon Lung You’ll find all the Chinese-American standards on the vast menu at this longtime East Village restaurant—there are 146 items to choose from, plus a list of lunch specials that literally runs from A to Z. The house specialties are chop suey and Cantonese-style chow mein, but you can also get barbecued ribs or fried chicken wings to go with that fish-tofu soup or Mongolian beef. There’s a private party room available. BYO. Arrow Lunch and dinner Tue-Sat, dinner Sun, open till 11 PM Fri-Sat, 1009 N. Ashland, 773-227-8824. $ —Kate Schmidt

Thai Village Homey, comfortable, classic, dependable . . . all the stock adjectives apply, and yet somehow Thai Village stands out from the crowd. Crab Rangoon is crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside; the traditional Thai curries and noodle dishes are prepared with fresh ingredients, judiciously spiced, and served piping hot in generous portions. BYO. Arrow Lunch and dinner daily, 2053 W. Division, 773-384-5352. $ —Martha Bayne


Alliance Bakery This small bakery turns out a fine selection of delicious offerings: savory croissants, a flaky yet firm kolacky, a nutty six-grain bar to salve one’s conscience. And any chocolate item is rich and wonderful. Strong Intelligentsia coffee and espresso drinks are available, in addition to Naked juices, hibiscus lemonade, and a few upscale sodas. The well-maintained 1930s interior is warm and charming. Arrow Mon-Sat 6 AM-9 PM, Sun 7 AM-9 PM, 1736 W. Division, 773-278-0366. $ —Claire Dolinar, Rater

Letizia’s Natural Bakery Letizia Sorano opened her bakery and coffee shop ten years ago, shortly after moving from Rome to the States. The “natural” in the name means no bleached flours, hydrogenated oils, or artificial colors or flavors; within these restrictions she regularly makes pies, cookies, biscotti, cheesecakes, and truffles (layers of sponge cake and ganache in flavors like raspberry and white chocolate). Also on the menu are 20 kinds of panini and pizza rustica with toppings including pesto, prosciutto, and kalamata olives. Arrow 6:30 AM-11 PM daily, 2144 W. Division, 773-342-1011. $ —Holly Greenhagen

Sweet Cakes This Ukrainian Village bakery, tucked behind a fence and a yard, offers brioche and croissants in addition to cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and scones. A house specialty is the egg muffin, an Asiago-dusted corn muffin with a boiled egg in the middle. All the packaging is environmentally friendly, and there’s free WiFi. Arrow 8 AM-6 PM Sun, Tue-Sat, 935 N. Damen, 773-772-5771. $ —KS


Couch Bar & Grill Neighborhood bar and grill offering a range of sandwiches, burgers, and bar bites including clam strips, breaded mushrooms, buffalo wings, and cheese fries. Arrow Dinner Tue-Sat, open till 3 AM Sat, Tue-Fri till 2, 2344 W. Grand, 312-942-9030. $

The Fifty/50 This sports bar/lounge/restaurant does a little of everything, but the three levels help to keep the space from feeling like it’s having an identity crisis. The basement level is loungier than the first floor, which is dominated by the bar and plasma-screen TVs and has a sportscast piped into the bathrooms; the top floor is the most restauranty. All the specialty cocktails incorporate beer, though generally not enough that you actually taste it—it seems more like a gimmick than an attempt to improve the drinks. The menu is mostly basics like sandwiches, steaks, and appetizers, with a couple vegetarian choices, and as such it’s pretty successful. “Slider” versions of hamburgers, pulled pork, and a couple other sandwiches are nice options, as are the variety of fries and mac ’n’ cheese toppings. The kitchen’s open till 1 AM. Arrow Lunch Fri-Sun, dinner daily, open till 3 AM Sat, 2 AM Sun-Thu, 2047 W. Division, 773-489-5050. $$ —Julia Thiel

Innjoy The sexy room is the main attraction here, with recessed chartreuse lights illuminating the off-white walls and violet lights casting a glow on the black tin ceilings. This place caters mostly to late-night drinkers or low-budget diners. There’s barely an item over $8: a few appetizers, several salads, and a large variety of pizzas, topped with either classic ingredients or specialty items like coq au vin, shrimp provencal, or wild mushrooms in a cream sauce. There are also a half dozen or so sandwiches. It’s basically a college bar menu, but it may serve as a nice alternative to the neighborhood’s slew of high-end eateries. Arrow Dinner daily, open till 3 AM Sat, 2 AM Sun-Fri, 2051 W. Division, 773-394-2066. $ —LLS

Mac’s The long bar and loud music make this corner hangout feel more like a bar than a restaurant—but the eclectic American dishes are more sophisticated than you might expect. A generously portioned grain salad is a medley of organic quinoa, barley, and wild rice tossed with mixed greens, pine nuts, dried cherries, and marinated portobello mushrooms. A duck breast salad comes with baby spinach and mandarin oranges. There are also some items that come a bit closer to traditional bar food: an eight-ounce sirloin burger, a steak sandwich, meat loaf with mashed potatoes. The kitchen’s open till 1 AM on Saturday, other nights till midnight. Arrow Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sat-Sun, open till 3 AM Sat, 2 AM Sun-Fri, 1801 W. Division, 773-782-4400. $$ —LLS

Smoke Daddy When in the company of barbecue-seeking friends, vegetarians usually have to resign themselves to an order of fries or the like. But Smoke Daddy serves up a mean veggie burger right alongside barbecued pork and chicken sandwiches and meaty, messy ribs. The menu also features sides like sweet potato fries and mac ’n’ cheese. The casual room is frequently crowded; live music (see Music) starts every night around 9, so would-be conversationalists beware—it can get really loud. The kitchen is open till midnight on Friday and Saturday, other nights till 11. Arrow Lunch and dinner daily, open till 2 AM nightly, 1804 W. Division, 773-772-6656. $$ —MB


Atomix This sunny room furnished with 50s-modern-style tables and chairs doesn’t have a huge menu, but who cares when you can design your own sandwich (using a grease pencil to mark off options on a laminated card)? Ingredients include hummus, cold cuts, and lots of homemade spreads, including an olive variety and a dairy-free cucumber-dill. Vegans will find vegan baked goods, chili, and a grilled soy cheese sandwich, and of course there are plenty of coffee drinks. Atomix also has a photo booth. Arrow Lunch and dinner daily, 1957 W. Chicago, 312-666-2649. $ —HG

Cafe Ballou Cafe Ballou’s pressed-tin ceiling is painted ivory, and the tables are set with crocheted doilies and teacups filled with flowers. Sheer lace curtains hang in the front windows, and there’s a floral rug on the floor. The space might bring to mind a great-aunt’s parlor but for the stacks of glossy magazines, the blackboard-chalked menus, and the free WiFi. The cafe serves Intelligentsia coffee and offers daily drink and lunch specials, such as half a turkey sandwich, a cup of soup, and a salad for $6. The food’s made to order, simple and fresh, and there’s a daily selection of pastries made by a local caterer. Cash only. Arrow Breakfast and lunch Sun-Tue, Thu-Sat, dinner Sun-Tue, Thu-Fri, 939 N. Western, 773-342-2909. $ —Susannah J. Felts

Greek Corner Restaurant Cafe This neighborhood joint at the southwest corner of Damen and Augusta serves up surprisingly good Greek fare from the counter. My companion’s Spartan Chicken Wrap was a melange of feta, olives, tasty grilled bird, and other fixin’s inside a warm pita, but for my money the standard gyros plate is can’t-miss: the meat’s freshly shaved and flavorful, and the pita triangles are grilled and well seasoned. BYO. Arrow Lunch and dinner Mon-Sat, 958 N. Damen, 773-252-8010. $ —Todd Dills

Janik’s Cafe Reader Restaurant Raters’ praise for this family-owned cafe (formerly Janik’s Subs) is near universal, with special props for the friendly service. The breakfast menu is more brunchlike, with chilaquiles and eggs Benedict in addition to the standard eggs, French toast, and omelets. At lunch there are homemade soups and more than 25 sandwiches, ranging from a Cuban to hummus and including warm options like a meatball sandwich or a tuna melt. Janik’s also serves smoothies and Homer’s ice cream, and there’s sidewalk seating in the summer. Arrow Breakfast and lunch daily, dinner Thu-Sat, 2011 W. Division, 773-276-7930. $ —KS

Milk and Honey Cafe Brunch is line-out-the-door popular at this blond, light-filled charmer, offering mimosas, huevos rancheros, and pancakes along with house-made granola. But the lunch menu is also worth a trip: bread from Red Hen and Turano Bakery is loaded with grilled chicken, thick-cut bacon, roasted tomatoes, and blue cheese; capicola, provolone, and tomato; or a grilled portobello with sauteed spinach, herbed goat cheese, and roasted red pepper. All come with potato chips and a pickle; nicely prepared side dishes might include a caprese or pesto pasta. Arrow Breakfast Mon-Fri, lunch daily, brunch Sat-Sun, 1920 W. Division, 773-395-9434. $ —LLS

Village Cafe European-style storefront serving Intelligentsia coffee and Mighty Leaf tea. There are pastries from around the world, plus ice cream and a broad range of inexpensive sandwiches. Cash only. Arrow Daily 7 AM-10 PM, 2304 W. Chicago, 773-276-7676. $


Bite The food is surprisingly good at this cafe attached to the Empty Bottle (see Music). Frequently changing specials might include skate wing with a lemon-butter caper sauce and mashed potatoes or a barbecue tofu plate. The regular menu, which also changes a couple times a year, is also eclectic and vegetarian friendly, offering dishes like blackened catfish tacos, a pulled pork burrito, curried vegetable and tofu stew, and orechiette with broccoli, raisins, and pine nuts. Brunch is a huge draw, frequently packed from its 8 AM start to its 3 PM close. BYO. Arrow Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, brunch Sat-Sun, open till 11:30 PM Wed-Sat, 1039 N. Western, 773-395-2483. $ —LLS


Caffe Gelato This sleek family-run gelato shop offers 18 seasonally rotated flavors, including bacio (chocolate hazelnut), frutti di bosco (berries), ananas (pineapple), and panna cotta. You can also mix flavors or get your gelato fix in the form of a shake with a shot of espresso. The shop is closed from November through February. Arrow Open Mon-Thu 7 AM-9 PM, Fri-Sat 8 AM-9 PM, Sun 10 AM-9 PM, 2034 W. Division, 773-227-7333. $ —SJF

Piccolo Cafe The gelati, panini, salads, and bruschetta here are all made in-house. The selection of gelato flavors rotates, but on my last visit it ranged from Vietnamese cinnamon to lychee to lemon-basil, an unexpected standout. A premium is placed on fresh ingredients—which means not only that the strawberry is made with fresh strawberries but that they roast the nuts for the pistachio and hazelnut and cure the beef for the bresaola panini. The chocolate flavors available on my visit—Jivara, a milk chocolate, and Manjari, a dark variety made from Madagascan cocoa beans—were made with Valrhona cocoa powder. Quality over quantity seems to be the mandate here: small cups of gelato are the only size available, and there are no cones. The flavors are so intense, though, that even a modest cup is plenty. Arrow Fri-Sat 11 AM-10 PM, Sun-Thu 11 AM-9 PM, 859 N. Damen, 773-772-3355. $ —JT

Starfruit This new shop offers a twist on frozen yogurt, substituting frozen kefir, the cultured milk product Starfruit describes as the “lighthearted love child of taste and nutrition.” It’s available by the cup, with add-ins ranging from goji berries to Cocoa Pebbles, as well as in fruit parfaits and smoothies. You can also opt for organic frozen kefir, and Starfruit uses all-biodegradable packaging. Arrow 8 AM-11 PM daily, 1745 W. Division, 773-328-2900. $ —KS


A Tavola The dining room at A Tavola is dimly lit and intimate, with only ten tables. The menu’s tiny too, and strict vegetarians may have a difficult time making the most of it. I went with the panfried halibut in lemon-caper sauce—very simple, but perfectly moist and light. An appetizer of grilled portobello and sauteed oyster mushrooms stood out for its surprisingly complex flavor. There were also three small pasta dishes, including the best gnocchi I’ve ever had, swimming in sage butter and topped with fried sage leaves. But I’m one who believes there are few more wonderful things you can do with food than bake it with a crisp crust of Parmesan cheese, so the polenta, thick and gooey, may have been my favorite. There was one bite left at the end of the night, and I seriously thought about having it wrapped up. Arrow Dinner Mon-Sat, 2148 W. Chicago, 773-276-7567. $$$ —David Wilcox

Enoteca Roma This laid-back wine bar attached to Letizia’s Natural Bakery (see separate listing) offers Letizia’s menu plus more than a dozen varieties of bruschetta, pizzas, dinner salads, and a number of meat, cheese, bread, and olive combinations in the tradition of rustic Roman cuisine. Larger plates include pork shoulder, lamb chops, and Cornish hen, but the Salamini Flight alone—salami and a trio of saucisson, served with grainy mustard, roasted red peppers, and Italian bread—is enough for a light meal or ample snack for two. Enoteca Roma’s specialty is, of course, wine, served without attitude: says owner-manager Fabio Sorano, “You can get PBR or you can get Pahlmeyer.”Arrow Dinner daily, open till midnight Fri-Sat, 11 PM Sun-Thu, 2146 W. Division, 773-342-1011. $ —SJF

Leona’s Since its start 48 years ago with a single restaurant on Sheffield, Leona’s has grown into a successful local chain on the strength of efficient delivery, friendly service, and generous servings of simple American-Italian chow. A warm loaf of bread served on a small chopping block with herbed ricotta spread and marinara kicks off the meal, after which you select from a vast menu that includes pizzas, pastas, steak, chicken, ribs, sandwiches, and salads. This location is one of several with kiddie playrooms that let parents eat in peace. Arrow Lunch and dinner daily, open till 11:30 PM Fri-Sat, 1936 W. Augusta, 773-292-4300. $$ —LLS

Via Carducci la Sorella At this northwest-side outpost of Via Carducci, linguine with seafood was utterly flat, the mussels, shrimp, and calamari vulcanized, and while a special of lobster-stuffed pasta was better, it wasn’t $20 worth of special. One successful dish, recommended by our waiter, was a baked red onion stuffed with seafood and Parmesan. Also on the positive side, the wine list is extensive and inexpensive, and the desserts—caramel cheesecake and a luscious tiramisu—are outstanding. Arrow Lunch Mon-Sat, dinner daily, open till midnight Sat, 11 PM Sun-Fri, 1928 W. Division, 773-252-2246. $$ —Chip Dudley


Adobo Grill The second location of the Adobo Grill is all dark reds, Mexican folk art, and paintings of loteria cards, but the night I was there a steady backbeat of cell-phone conversations threatened to kill the ambience. The food was for the most part great, including appetizers like chunky, spicy, bright guacamole, mashed tableside, and a tart scallop ceviche. Grilled lamb chops, a special, were caramelized on the outside and rosy pink on the inside, and they tasted even better than they looked. And I could spend all night with Adobo’s incomparable margaritas—then come back the next morning for a cafe de olla (coffee with cinnamon, orange peel, and brown sugar), served at the excellent Sunday brunch. Arrow Dinner daily, brunch Sun, open till 11 PM Fri-Sat, 2005 W. Division, 773-252-9990. $$$ —CD

Angels & Mariachis The decorations at this new two-story “taco bar & rock cantina”­—bull’s heads, lucha libre masks, Mexican novena candles, murals, photos, more—are so overwhelming that it’s hard to look away long enough to focus on the menu. And it takes some focus to decide what to order, when ten varieties of tacos vie for space on the menu with soups and salads, molletes, queso fundido, tortas, and flautas as well as standards like guacamole and quesadillas. The selection of tequilas, available in flights of blanco, reposado, and anejo as well as in single shots and a variety of margaritas, is respectable, as is the list of Mexican beers. There are also machines (the kind 7-Eleven uses for Slurpees) for frozen margaritas and frozen sangria, which you can get mixed together. ArrowSat 3 PM-2 AM, Sun-Fri 3 PM-2 AM (starting 5/15 open daily at 11 AM), 1721 W. Division, 773-227-7772. $$ —JT

El Barco Shaped like a boat getting ready to cast off across Ashland, El Barco isn’t short on gimmicks: menus are so absurdly gigantic that one covers half of a four-seat table, and many selections come on huge troughlike platters. But the house-made salsas are very good, and we enjoyed some excellent grilled squid and octopus, though the breaded fish and shrimp on our mixed seafood grill could have come from the kitchen of Señora Paul’s. The popular signature dish at El Barco is huachinango, red snapper, which we saw perched in front of about half the diners in the place. Available with a variety of sauces, this whole cooked fish is mounted upright on a rack for easy access and pierced with a number of red plastic swords. The downside to this presentation is that the fish isn’t cooked in the sauce, but the meat is moist and flavorful nonetheless. Arrow Lunch and dinner daily, open till midnight Fri-Sat, 11 PM Wed-Thu, 1035 N. Ashland, 773-486-6850. $ —David Hammond

Buenos Aires Forever Traditional Argentine parrillada, or mixed grill, is the showstopper at Buenos Aires Forever. An order for one or two, served from a tabletop grill, includes bits from all over the cow: ribs, sausage, sweetbreads, kidneys, and flap meat, a thinly sliced short loin cut similar to skirt steak. If you’re not into that, there’s a decent range of alternatives, including salads, sandwiches, and pasta. Ensalada rusa was a daunting heap of potatoes, peas, carrots, and hard-boiled eggs dressed with ladles of mayo. An entree of beef Milanesa is pounded thin, breaded, and fried; top that with ham, mozzarella, and tomato sauce and it becomes a Napolitana. The menu also offers flaky empanadas stuffed with traditional fillings like creamed corn or ground beef spiked with raisins and green olives. Arrow Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, 939 N. Ashland, 773-486-8081. $$ —MB

La Condesa The menu at this mariscos place ranges from morning huevos and chilaquiles to Guerrerense specialties like cecina and vuelve a la vida. The seven soups include shrimp, fish, tripe, and a chicken soup with bacon, celery, vegetables, and chipotles. Cecina, dried beef, is accompanied by cactus salad, avocado, and beans; the house combination special pairs it with chicken breast, chorizo, and cactus in a molcajete sauce. In addition to huachinango a la Veracruzana and other mariscos, La Condesa serves parrillada, a feast of grilled meats and seafood for two people ($50). Arrow Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, open till 11 PM nightly, 1003 N. Ashland, 773-276-5121. $ —KS

Dona Naty’s Tacos There’s a lot more than tacos on offer at this little storefront: tortas, tostadas, burritos, enchiladas, gorditas, flautas, plus several platillos for under $10. Reader Restaurant Raters single out the tacos al pastor for praise and like the aguas frescas, fresh-squeezed fruit drinks in flavors including tamarind and lemon. Arrow Lunch and dinner daily, open till 11 PM nightly, 1815 W. Chicago, 312-243-2209. $ —KS

La Pasadita Restaurant Why are there three La Pasaditas clustered within half a block of each other? The short answer is that this local institution is an example of the American dream come true. The patriarch of the Espinoza family opened the first shack in 1976, and when it took off, he expanded across the street to 1140 N. Ashland. A competitor’s plans prompted him to acquire 1132 N. Ashland, which made its debut in 1996 with more tables and a bigger, somewhat Americanized menu. Fans of the original praise the authentic atmosphere—counter seating only, and not much of that—and a menu limited to a handful of tacos and burritos. But 1132’s creature comforts beckon, even though it’s nothing fancy. The food is on about the same level, with choices including quesadillas nortenas, cheese-stuffed corn tortillas smothered with onions and tomato sauce, and parrillada especial, enough chicken, spicy sausage, carne asada, and thinly sliced short ribs to feed a family of four for a mere $25. Arrow Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, open till 3 AM nightly, 1141 N. Ashland, 773-278-0384; 1140 N. Ashland, 773-278-2130; 1132 N. Ashland, 773-384-6537. $ —Anne Spiselman

Picante Taqueria A tiny, entirely competent burrito place, with one or two frills (horchata, outdoor seating). No surprises in the pricing department, either: burritos run about $5, and you can get a substantial taco for under $2. Picante may seem like a place that’s at its best when you’re at your worst, but I’ve found it to be satisfying even during the daytime. Arrow Lunch and dinner daily, open till 3 AM Sat, 2:30 AM Fri, 2:30 AM Thu, midnight Mon-Wed, 11 PM Sun, 2016½ W. Division, 773-328-8800. $ —Anna Hathaway, Rater

Ritz Tango Cafe By day a cafe serving pastries, specialty coffee drinks, sandwiches, panini, and empanadas; by night a tango studio, with classes, practices, and open dances overseen by owners Dinah D’Antoni and Jorge Niedas. BYO. Arrow Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, 933 N. Ashland, 773-235-2233. $

El Taco Veloz This late-night spot has an large menu offering tacos, burritos, huaraches, and gorditas, but it’s best known for the Jaliscan dish carne en su jugo, “meat in its own juices,” a bowl of stewed beef, bacon, beans, avocado, onion, and radishes. Posole and menudo are available only on weekends, but you’ll find other specialties like cecina and barbacoa daily. On Fridays there’s Mexican karaoke, and on Saturdays a Mexican Elvis impersonator has been known to perform. Arrow Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, open till 2 AM nightly, 1745 W. Chicago, 312-738-0363. $ —KS

Taqueria Traspasada No. 2 The ambience is pure taco shack—counter seating, bright lights, dirt-cheap prices—but the spicy marinated tacos al pastor, homemade horchata, and roasted-pepper salsa are out of this world. The tacos come garnished with onion and cilantro, the tostadas are light and crunchy, and along with the usual chicken and steak the meat choices include beef brains and tongue. A specialty is the torta ahogada, or “drowned sandwich,” with meat and pickled onions drenched in a hot red sauce. On Saturdays and Sundays menudo and carne en su jugo are available, as is birria, or goat, served in consomme or in tacos. Wash it all down with a bottle of Mexican Pepsi (made with real sugar instead of corn syrup). Cash only. Arrow Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, open till 3 AM Fri-Sat, 1 AM Sun-Thu, 1745 W. Chicago, 312-738-0363. $ —Kathie Bergquist

Tecalitlan Prices have gone up in the last few years, but Tecalitlan remains king of the East Village cheapskate dining circuit, drawing a steady crowd of both Spanish- and English-speaking locals. Steaming combo platters, hefty burritos, and the usual array of a la carte tacos, tortas, tostadas, etc emerge from the kitchen with dizzying speed—a blessing if you’re in a hurry, but not so conducive to a leisurely evening out. The dimly lit front room features a ceiling mural depicting the sun’s daily course across the sky; the back room is bathed in fluorescent light and a lot less charming. Arrow Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, open till 3 AM Fri-Sat, midnight Sun-Thu, 1814 W. Chicago, 773-384-4285. $ —MB


Bella’s Pizza & Restaurant Relocated to Ashland after a fire at its Chicago Avenue location, Bella’s Pizza & Restaurant offers just about any Italian or American standard you can think of, from pizza (thin, pan, stuffed, all available by the slice as well) to pasta to barbecue to nachos. Reader Restaurant Raters praise the pies here as greasy in a good way—“the best slice in Chicago,” says one. Arrow Lunch and dinner daily, open till 1:30 AM Fri-Sat, 12:30 AM Sun-Thu, 658 N. Ashland, 773-252-0505. $ —KS

Crust Chef Michael Altenberg’s casual organic flatbread-pizza joint is a sleek modern dining hall with bright orange molded plastic chairs and trippy Formica tables; the spacious back patio and sidewalk cafe add seats for another 120. The pizzas—er, flatbreads—have an airy, chewy, well-proofed crust and are topped with everything from savory silver dollars of pepperoni to a Greek mix of artichokes, olives, and feta to a take on an Alsatian Flammkuchen (caramelized onion, bacon, and caraway seeds with a bechamel sauce). Everything, meat included, tastes shockingly fresh. The bar offers a short but respectable wine and beer list, plus a selection of cocktails with infused organic vodka. ArrowLunch and dinner daily, brunch Sat-Sun, open till 1 AM Thu-Sat, 2056 W. Division, 773-235-5511. $$ —MB

Pizza Metro Roman native Marco Schiavoni runs this storefront devoted to traditional southern Italian baking. Pizzas rolled out on well-oiled 32-inch-square pans are covered with toppings that include potato and rosemary, grilled chicken and vegetables, and blue cheese. There’s also a short menu of sandwiches, salads, soups, and pastas. Pizza Metro has a second location at 925 N. Ashland (773-772-3267) and a third straight west at 2534 W. Division (773-489-9880). Arrow Lunch and dinner daily, 1707 W. Division, open till 1 AM Sun-Mon, Wed-Sat, 11 PM Tue, 773-278-1753. $ —A. LaBan


Andrzej Grill Serving a dining room about the size of a single-car garage, Andrzej and Anna Burak crank out traditional dishes for a steady stream of Polish neighbors. House-made soups include very good chicken noodle, a tangy sauerkraut soup, and “summer soup,” a refreshingly cool beet soup with sour cream. There are goulash-stuffed potato pancakes and stuffed cabbage, but the most popular item at our table was the platter of peppery meatballs in a creamy mushroom sauce, served as are many dishes on boiled potatoes flecked with dill. Uncommon on Chicago menus, the toothsome veal ribs are surprisingly rich. There’s also a vegetarian menu section featuring pierogi and salads. Come early—it’s lights-out at 7 PM. Cash only; BYO. Arrow Lunch and dinner Mon-Sat, 1022 N. Western, 773-489-3566. $ —DH

Mitch’s & Janina Delicatessen They cure and smoke their sausages and meats in-house at this old-fashioned Polish deli and bar. Also available are home-cooked Polish meals, which vary daily and don’t cost more than $10 for a heaping plateful. There’s a small bar in the back corner. Arrow 7 AM-9 PM Mon-Sat, 8 AM-6 PM Sun, 1012 N. Western, 773-486-0684. $ —KS

Podhalanka Polksa Restauracja It isn’t just the knickknacks and portraits of the pope in this former tavern, a remnant of Division Street’s days as the great “Polish Broadway,” that remind me of my grandmother; I’ll be damned if I don’t sense her presence in the pungent whiff of cabbage that floats from the kitchen or the gentle tang of fermented rye flour in the zurek. At Podhalanka you’ll still see old-timers at the bar, warming their bones with cabbage or barley soup or fat pierogi stuffed with piquant ground pork, cabbage, or potato and cheese. But you’ll also find younger folks who may or may not speak Polish working down bowls of caraway-flecked sauerkraut and heaps of smashed potatoes in gravy, accompanied by something big and meaty: a stuffed pork roll, perhaps, or uncured spareribs cooked in sauerkraut until tender. These meals are almost entirely drained of color, but they’re big, inexpensive, and preceded by baskets of fresh bread and butter. Arrow Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, 1549 W. Division, Chicago, 773-486-6655. $ —MS

Sak’s Ukrainian Village Restaurant It’s TVs and draft beer up front, food in the back at this 90-something-year-old neighborhood place, where the crowd, according to one Reader Restaurant Rater, ranges from Girl Scouts to old men. The inexpensive menu features sausage and kraut, chicken Kiev, and Ukrainian burgers, made with spiced ground meat and served with mashed potatoes and a vegetable. “The hamburgers and the potato pancakes are as good as any I have had,” says one Rater. “The only weakness can be the bar staff, who tend to give you an idea of what service in the Soviet Union must have been like.” The kitchen closes at 10 PM. Arrow Lunch and dinner Sun, Tue-Sat, 2301 W. Chicago, 773-278-4445. $ —HG

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