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New Too 

Ten more recent openings, including Floriole Cafe & Bakery and Vintage 338

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Floriole Cafe & Bakery; Vintage 338

Floriole Cafe & Bakery; Vintage 338

Al Primo Canto

749 N. Clark | 312-280-9090

$$$

SOUTH AMERICAN, ITALIAN | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS  | OPEN LATE: EVERY NIGHT TILL 11

I'd had a memorable meal on a stormy night at the Edgebrook location of this Brazilian churrascaria and galeteria, so I was surprised and dismayed by the middling quality of the "endless feast" on offer at the new place, housed in the former Le Lan. For $29.95, you get starters, sides, three pastas, and three meats, including the marinated grilled young chicken that gives the restaurant its name. But will you really want all that? The hummus that started the meal was tasty, as were a simply dressed salad and light polenta sticks with Parmesan. And off the a la carte menu, oven-roasted calamari with green olives and beans would have been excellent if it hadn't been so ridiculously oversalted. But the pastas were just OK, and the centerpiece of the meal was a low point, the steak tough and chewy and the oily chicken flavorless, though the lamb was respectable. Most dismaying were a couple of items that had been standouts on my earlier visit: cheese balls were lost under the pita wedges in the bread basket, and by the time we stumbled across them were cold and gluey rather than the airy morsels I recall. And my favorite dish the first time around, crisp twice-fried potatoes served with Gorgonzola sauce, turned up pallid and soggy. Service was alternately pandering and patronizing, and we were hustled out without an offer of dessert or coffee. —Kate Schmidt

Crepes a Latte the Cafe

1840 W. Irving Park | 773-549-4444

$

COFFEE SHOP, FRENCH, BAKERY | MONDAY-THURSDAY 7 AM-9 PM, FRIDAY-SATURDAY 7 AM-10 PM, SUNDAY 7 AM-8 PM | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Born of a catering operation specializing in trade shows, this airy Parisian-style cafe with a perpetual soundtrack of bland jazz has a slick corporate feel showcasing a lineup of breakfast, sweet and savory crepes, hot and cold caffeinated uppers, and a smattering of house-made sweets and pastries. From the modish design to the plastic utensils and patio furniture, you could easily imagine this as the first link in a long and middling chain. —Mike Sula

Deca Restaurant + Bar

160 E. Pearson | 312-573-5160

$$$$

FRENCH | BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS  | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11:30, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 11

The Ritz-Carlton Chicago has been trying to get its lobby restaurant right for years, but the latest incarnation, Deca Restaurant + Bar, isn't any more likely to attract locals than the last cafe. The 12th-floor location is among the problems, along with intrusive white noise from the lobby's iconic fountain. High expectations for what is now the ritzy hotel's only dining option may also play a role—if I'd had the same meal at the same price in a neighborhood bistro, I'd have been happy. True, the steamed mussels were cooked until shriveled and came without the french fries listed on the menu, but our cold appetizers were terrific. The chicken liver and foie gras mousse, in a canning jar under a skim of sauternes jelly, was as silky, flavorful, and delicate as could be, and the warm, lightly toasted brioche buns transformed it into comfort food for adults. Perfectly prepared leeks vinaigrette paired with Fourme d'Ambert blue cheese and caramelized walnuts—as well as a drizzle of olive oil and barely a hint of vinegar—will go on my year's best list. Grilled lamb "cutlets" turned out to be four little quite salty chops, but they were cooked as ordered and arrived atop decent ratatouille. I'd return just for the aptly named Deca-dent chocolate cake, ten espresso-moistened layers finished with chocolate frosting. Wines currently are half price Sunday through Thursday, which makes sampling from the more than 40 available by the glass affordable rather than astronomical. Service wasn't as attentive as it should have been. —Anne Spiselman

Dos Diablos

15 W. Hubbard | 312-245-5252

$$$

MEXICAN/SOUTHWESTERN, BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2

Our server proposed chile con queso, which he enthusiastically let us know was a "kind of Velveeta," and while we appreciated his innocent honesty, our appreciation for anything at Dos Diablos turned out to be short-lived. Despite their logo photo of Cheech and Chong-looking Mexican banditos, Dos Diablos traffics in what might best be called Ameri-Mex, a mutant cuisine where vapid flavors vie with volume as the predominant characteristics of most dishes. The three-and-a-half-pound chimichanga is "free" if you can ram it down in less than 20 minutes. A much smaller Big Chimi was advertised as "crispy golden brown" but seemed merely dipped in oil, a thick tube of soft and salty starches and proteins. Guacamole ("The best in town!") was thin and soupy; taco salad ("Eat the bowl!") was like any other you've ever seen; table salsa was just about flavor-free, and chips seemed poured from a gigantic food service bag. A special of lobster tacos tasted basically of the two primary ingredients, seafood and tortilla, and at $22 were not cheap. Our side salad was dressed in a sour and stinging vinaigrette; the chocolate tamale, a "molten" sauce served in a corn husk, was welcome in that it signaled the end of dinner. This is a hopping place, well packed after work on a weeknight, perhaps because it fronts a hot strip of Hubbard. But eating at Dos Diablos filled us with remorse—this is depressing food at inflated prices ($10 for a Michelada? Banditry!). —David Hammond

Flo & Santos Pizza & Pub

1310 S. Wabash | 312-566-9817

$

PIZZA, POLISH/RUSSIAN/EASTERN EUROPEAN, BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: EVERY NIGHT TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

An improbable-sounding Polish pizzeria actually makes some sense here in the midst of Kleinerland, keeping company with Gioco and Opera and the Mexican funhouse Zapatista, with which it shares owners. Pies are Chicago-style cracker crust, attractively misshapen and charred, but regrettably too thick and doughy for the style. An interesting range of toppings is offered, and the handful of specialty pies (Italian beef, buffalo wing) is trumped by the Flo's Polish. Topped with kraut, kielbasa, and bacon, it isn't the train wreck you might imagine, as its novel elements are mitigated by an abundance of cheese and tomato sauce. Big booths, big TVs, lots of beer, sandwiches, and twists on bar snacks such as blue cheese waffle fries, flying pork wings, and a generous $5.99 pierogi sampler served with kraut, sour cream, and thick, chunky applesauce add up to an agreeable spot to while away some hours in the South Loop. —Mike Sula

Floriole Cafe & Bakery

1220 W. Webster | 773-883-1313

$

BAKERY, COFFEE SHOP | tuesday-friday 7 am-3 pm, saturday-sunday 8 am-4 pm | CLOSED MONDAY | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

The bright, spacious brick-and-mortar HQ of this Green City Market veteran is yet more evidence that the city needs to get behind small-business incubators such as Kitchen Chicago, where proprietor Sandra Holl got her start. Here a big open window gives a full view of the doings in the kitchen while you snack on Holl's magnificent seasonal pastries made with primo local ingredients, from ephemeral offerings such as this spring's rhubarb galette to more permanent fixtures such as the sticky canelé de Bordeaux. A sandwich of the day (augmented by a salad du jour) can feel overbreaded and underfilled, but since it's all about the bread anyway, there's little to complain about. —Mike Sula

The Piggery

1625 W. Irving Park | 773-281-7447

$$

BARBECUE/RIBS, BAR/LOUNGE, AMERICAN  | breakfast, LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2

The second unremarkable effort in this spot since Biasetti's went under, and the second laying claim to that institution's lauded but frankly overrated rib recipe. There is—excepting one brief period in Biasetti's history—no smoke involved in the mushy sauce-slathered slabs. Otherwise the menu in this sports bar rather desperately hews to all things pork: ham and split pea soup, bacon-wrapped jalapeños, pork-stuffed mushrooms, pork nachos, meatballs, and sliders. Some sandwiches, pizzas, and a few fish plates add variety, but between ribs, underseasoned onion rings, and undercooked fresh-cut fries, this is the bar food for the blandest of tastes. —Mike Sula

Pizzeria Serio

1708 W. Belmont | 773-525-0600

$$

PIZZA | DINNER: SUNDAY, WEDNESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED MONDAY, TUESDAY | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL MIDNIGHT | BYO | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Lakeview's new pizzeria prides itself on its "classic thin-crust pizza" cooked in a 800-degree brick oven, but we found ourselves wishing they'd head back to the drawing board with a micrometer in hand, perhaps after a research junket to Lincoln Square's Pizza D.O.C. Our two pies were "thin" only by the Chicago's prevailing standards of pizza maximalism, and even if the dough had started out with the right stuff, it was charged with far too much sauce and cheese to achieve the crisp tensility of the real deal. The sauce, cheese, and toppings were good enough but nothing to write home about, and the Diavolo, topped with sopressata, peperoncinis, and red onion and promoted to us as dangerously spicy, didn't live up to its fearsome billing. Dessert is limited to a rather oddly cakey but not unpleasant take on that familiar standby, tiramisu, which came ankle deep in a pool of cold cream. Housed in the brick shell of the former Acme Audio & Recording Corp (where, according to house lore, Dylan cut some tracks), the new eatery is a spare but very pleasant space. It's BYOB for now, with a handsome bar awaiting its license. —Cliff Doerksen

Rendezvous Bistro

2656 W. Lawrence | 773-865-7466

$$

FRENCH | DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED SUNDAY | BYO

On the fringe of Lincoln Square, Rendezvous Bistro is one of those little neighborhood places people love to rave about even if (or perhaps because) it's a complete cliche, from the Frankophile decor to the Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf playing in the background. Moroccan-born owner Simo Yaacobi spent decades at Kiki's Bistro, and the menu here is very similar, though more compact. Attractions include reasonable prices, the BYO policy, and the relative quiet, especially on weeknights. We were told that the terrine of foie gras was house-made from goose liver, but the thin slice we got was short on flavor. Snails in garlic-herb butter were better, partly because they weren't too salty, something that could not be said of the soup a l'oignon. Steak frites, ordered extra-rare, arrived medium well, but we quickly got a barely seared replacement. Duck two ways was the highlight: the perfectly rosy sliced breast and moist confit of thigh were mated with baby lentils, braised red cabbage, a triangle of feather-light polenta, and a subtle peppercorn sauce. —Anne Spiselman

Vintage 338

338 W. Armitage | 773-525-0521

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, SMALL PLATES, MEDITERRANEAN  | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | sunday brunch | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 2, SUNDAY-THURSDAY TILL 1  | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Father-son team Tom and Chris Barkulis like southern European wine and food, and they want you to as well. It's hard to argue with the case they make for Vintage 338: head chef Blaze Correia (formerly of Rockit); about 30 Spanish, French, and Italian wines, all $36 and under; a pretty Lincoln Park location; and late-night hours. While you're choosing, start with a tapa like the papas asadas, roasted fingerling potatoes with a creamy, tangy aioli. Then pair a light and easy Don Sancho Londono Cortijo blanco with a trio of warmed Brie pyramids—peppercorn, champignon, and triple cream—and dip your cheese and bread into the duo of finger-licking honeys; cleanse your palate with a crisp, sweet slice of apple. Move on to the rojos and combine a glass of the excellent Barco de Piedra tempranillo, a Spanish aged in French and American oak, or try a glass of the lingering Arrogant Frog pinot noir with the Español plata, a delectable selection of cantimpalo, sobrasada chorizo, and Serrano ham paired with three cheeses: creamy goat Caña de Cabra, blue-veined Valdeon, and yellow manchego. Also worth a try is a generously portioned smoked salmon panini with dill and chive spread. —Izidora Angel

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