Best Pickup Scene
Miramar | 301 Waukegan Ave.;
Gabriel Viti’s well-reviewed French- and Cuban-themed restaurant has attracted the North Shore’s most fertile pickup scene, especially during the mid-evening hours when singles old enough to be past their first marriages (if not their second) swarm its bar and sidewalk tables. The communal hand-washing area stokes the vibe.
Best Citified Dining
Sage Grille | 260 Green Bay Rd.;
With its calmly urban décor, the dramatic fireplace in the lounge, and a generally cool, elegant attitude, Sage Grille is the place to eat in Highwood when you’d really rather go to the city but don’t have time. The chef, Greg Darrah, is from Acqualina; his dishes, served by a smart, refined staff, use Midwestern-grown produce, such as morels and asparagus.
Gabe’s Backstage Lounge | 214 Green Bay Rd.; 847-266-1313
Continuing his campaign to turn all of Highwood into Viti-ville, Gabriel Viti last fall took over a sagging Champagne-and-jazz bar and relaunched it as Gabe’s Backstage Lounge, his fourth venue in town. Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday nights, it offers live music by a range of local acts. The place has a frat-house sensibility, but this is a middle-aged, coed frat. It’s rowdy—but only to a point.
Bent Fork Bakery | 333 Waukegan Ave.; 847-926-4438
Like a tiny espresso bean that packs a wallop, the cramped quarters at Bent Fork Bakery deliver an enormous payload. Elizabeth and Michael Bearwald don’t just make brownies; they make Intense Brownies. The cookies—especially the toffee, Key lime, and ginger molasses varieties—are all sublime.
Best Authentic Mexican
Las Tres Hermanas | 329 Waukegan Ave.; 847-432-0774
Fabiola and Cutberto Sanchez, who named the place in honor of their three daughters, cook the best, most mountainous chilaquiles (a heart-stopping combo of eggs, cheese, and tortilla strips) north of 26th Street in Pilsen. Their steak tampiqueña is a crowd pleaser, and the décor—red vinyl booths, framed paintings of the rocky Mexican countryside, and Spanish-language programming running on the TV set behind the cash register—are all comforting relics of a glitz-free age.
Best Lunch Buffet
Curry Hut | 410 Sheridan Rd.; 847-432-2889
The food at Curry Hut is spicy, uncommonly tasty, and absolutely unacceptable to palates raised on blander ethnic cuisines. For the aficionado, it’s an unparalleled lunch option and, at $8.95, a bargain.
Everybody from Abercrombie-clad high-school kids to shuffling older men come to Gino Savino’s classic old-time barbershop (400 Sheridan Rd.; 847-433-3960) for a $20 cut. What they get along with that is Gino’s take on the world, Gino’s jokes about women, and Gino’s talkback to the people on TV. He’s a riot, and the cuts look sharp.
The Highwood Bocce Club | 440 Bank Ln.; 847-926-8118
Tucked behind commercial spaces in the center of one Highwood city block, this low brick building is Chicago’s premier facility for playing bocce, a pastime that’s part bowling, part shuffleboard, part pool. Once the host of the sport’s world-cup tournament, the club is also a hangout for seniors from the town’s old-line Italian families, who will gladly tell you how to avoid hitting the “pallino” and when the rule of advantage applies.