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Slicker and more cutting edge than the neighboring Earwax, Square One is a combination juice bar, screening room, magazine stand, and restaurant. Owners Eric Williams (who also runs the Silver Room jewelry shop down the street) and Jeanette Fernandez have covered an exposed brick wall with magazine slots offering everything from Eye Spy to House & Garden, while the remaining walls and ceiling are painted a jarring orange to match the orange vinyl chairs. An amazing sound system puts out high-volume hip-hop, house, reggae, and breakbeat with various DJs holding forth in a visible booth at uncertain times and days. There's also a large movie screen hung above the juice area for the Wednesday-night film series. The menu ranges from salads, grilled cheese sandwiches, falafel, and veggie burgers to entrees like jerk chicken and vegetable stir-fry, with hardly an item over $8. Chef Jimmy Sadegi (Rushmore, One Sixty Blue under Patrick Robertson) says his favorite dish is the halibut with roasted vegetables and apple salsa. The massive open basement is currently used for private parties and more movie screenings. Square One is at

1561 N. Milwaukee, 773-227-7111.

This former Days Inn has been converted into Chicago's second W hotel, where Cornerstone Management, which owns One Sixty Blue, has opened the upscale Mediterranean-influenced contemporary American restaurant Wave. Chef Jason Paskewitz (Pump Room, Signature Room at the 95th), worked in conjunction with One Sixty Blue's Martial Norguier on the menu, with some success. The grilled baby octopus is a nicely balanced starter, with the smokiness of the octopus offset by crunchy frisee salad, briny olive tapenade, and a subtle but slightly acidic tomato vinaigrette. Molded three-bean salad is topped with crispy pancetta and feta cheese. Seared jumbo sea scallops are separated from a mound of al dente Israeli couscous by a layer of wilted arugula, and the whole thing is surrounded by a satiny carrot sauce (though the purported cumin went undetected.) The heavily fish-based entrees include several good combinations: pan-roasted halibut with a ragout of flageolets and pancetta; wood-grilled salmon with clams and roasted fennel in a charmoula (parsley, cilantro, and tumeric) sauce; turbot with earthy porcini mushrooms, fava beans, and a red wine fume. The impressive wine list includes some hard-to-find American wines; unfortunately an incorrect vintage was brought to the table, albeit by a charming and apologetic server. The free-flowing cocktail lounge opens onto a dining room done up with red and white leather chairs, a large community table at the center, and booths lining a windowed wall. Wave is at 644 N. Lake Shore Drive, 312-255-4460.

It was a quick transition from the homey, retro Blue Stem to the decidedly more contemporary Pangea. The walls are now a rich royal blue with tasteful black-and-white abstract photos, red vinyl booths line one wall, and soft woven-straw fixtures encase the lights. Music is played at bar-appropriate volumes, so this experience isn't for the faint of heart. The menu keeps to straightforward American dishes, all nicely executed. Appetizers like shrimp cocktail, beef carpaccio, and mussels in a creamy white wine sauce are all true to their simple flavors. Entrees might be a couple of pork chops or a filet mignon, or a more composed dish of lemon pepper-crusted chicken served on sweet potato pancakes with a dried cherry compote--but they're all inspired by home cooking. Though the bar takes up half the room, the wine list seems to be low priority, and bottles are listed without vintages. Still, prices are reasonable and the staff is friendly. Pangea is at 1935 W. Irving Park, 773-665-1340.

If Arun Sampanthavivat's posh restaurant isn't in your budget, try Amarind, the serene Thai eatery owned by chef Rangsan Sutcharit, a nine-year veteran of Arun's. The room is simple, but the menu, elegant plating, and painstakingly artistic garnishes are hard to beat at these prices--there's hardly a dish over $10, and it's BYO for now. Fluffy chive dumplings are light as a cloud, full of fresh chives and served with a black soy dipping sauce redolent of molasses. Crab rolls are also intriguing; cylinders of ground crabmeat and chicken are rolled in tofu skin, briefly fried, then cut on a bias into one-inch-thick pieces, set off by a sweet but piquant apricot honey sauce. Soup and noodle dishes are familiar and tasty, especially the house noodles--a large serving of delicate homemade spinach noodles with shrimp, crab, and bean sprouts tossed in a ground chili and tamarind sauce. An entree not to be missed is the beef penang curry; while the beef was sliced a bit thin, resulting in somewhat chewy pieces, the satiny smooth sauce was otherworldly. Amarind is at 6822 W. North, 773-889-9999.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dorothy Perry.

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