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Budget Beat: Simone’s

Given the exuberant décor—salvaged pinball machines, high-school chem-lab equipment, and automotive scraps (the booths made from seat belts are surprisingly comfortable)—you might expect the food to be more playful than satisfying. But there’s more to this lively corner bar than meets the eye, starting with four kinds of empanadas (a steal at six for $7.50) and soups that sometimes include a wonderful vegan potato leek. We were struck by the excellence of our cheeseburger ($8) and its perfect hand-cut fries (with sweet-potato fries mixed in); it was as heartfelt as a plate of bar food could be. Both pizzas we sampled—a barbecue chicken version and one with potatoes, Parmesan, and rosemary simple syrup ($8 each)—also scored high. Tres leches cake from nearby Kristoffer’s made a fine finish. Some cocktails include organic herbs grown in the rooftop garden, and the beer list is serious; beginners can try $1 draft tastings before, or instead of, committing to a tall cold one. 960 W. 18th St.; 312-666-8601. (See 100 Bars We Love.)

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