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The Hot List

For February 2016

10 places everyone’s talking about and dining at
(in order of heat)

1Monteverde

Where “food that is soulful” is code for monumental portions.
Critic’s Notes The place is staggeringly crowded, with customers spilling into aisles. Bravo to chef Sarah Grueneberg for using tigelle (a Modena peasant bread, kind of like somewhere between toast and English muffin), which is pretty obscure in Chicago. —Jeff Ruby
1020 W. Madison St., 312-888-3041 Website

Related: Check out Monteverde’s artichoke crostino and other goodies in What Penny Eats.
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Chicago restaurant Monteverde Photo: Galdones Photography

2Band of Bohemia

As form follows function in modern architecture, food follows foam in this modern brewpub.
Critic’s Notes How many more ways can I express my love for the weirdo beers here? I wish I could stock my fridge with orange-chicory six-packs. —Carrie Schedler
4710 N. Ravenswood Ave., 773-271-4710 Website

Related: Browse photos of our night at the Ravenswood brewpub in Seen on the Scene.
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Band of Bohemia Photo: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune
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3Bar Marta

A crew of Hogsalt alums bet their giant meatballs that Humboldt Park will be the next hot resto zone.
Critic’s Notes Initially, this feels more like “Sodikoff lite” than a fresh, new concept—from the Bavette’s-esque setup of the place down to the font printed on the doors listing opening hours. But upon reflection, I changed my tune: Sodikoff has mastered the hip-yet-comfy vibe, and that vibe is perfectly befitting of Humboldt Park. It’s more of an homage to Hogsalt Hospitality’s sheer coolness than a ripoff. —Carly Boers
2700 W. Chicago Ave., 773-697-4489 Website
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Bar Marta Photo: Courtesy of Bar Marta

4Oyster Bah

This is the seventh Lettuce spot in Lincoln Park. Time for a Melman street sign?
Critic’s Notes Our waitress made it clear that she would explain anything or get an explanation and meet our every need. Wow! That’s not an easy speech to pull off without sounding like a pompous ass. —Penny Pollack
1962 N. Halsted St., 773-248-3000 Website
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Oyster Bah Photo: Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune
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5Napolita

Proving it’s never too late to get on the Neapolitan pizza bandwagon.
1126 Central Ave., Wilmette, 224-215-0305 Website
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Napolita Photo: Courtesy of Napolita

6Shophouse

Another DIY from Team Chipotle. This time it’s Southeast Asian bowls.
Critic’s Notes Well, now we know where everyone who used to slam Chipotle burritos at lunch has taken refuge—I was waiting in line behind them for more than 20 minutes. The flavorless bowl I got was hardly worth wasting half my break. —CS
24 E. Jackson Blvd., 312-588-0064; 1022 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, 224-353-6505 Website
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Shophouse Photo: Bill Daley/Chicago Tribune
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7Rojo Gusano

Mexican-born Dudley Nieto plays his trump card—tacos—in Albany Park.
Critic’s Notes Management gave free shots of mezcal to everyone at the table. Crazy strong and smooth. One of my guests came away in a better mood than I have ever seen him in. —PP
3830 W. Lawrence Ave., 773-539-4398 Website
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Rojo Gusano Photo: Barry Brecheisen

8Bang Chop

It’s not a new percussion band, just the sounds you hear coming from the Thai kitchen.
Critic’s Notes The “gateway drug” appeal of those well-done yet familiar Thai dishes makes you want to get to know Thai food a little better, which seems to be the plan here. (Bang Chop will do rotating specials highlighting regional dishes. The first one will be something with northern Thai sausage! They just got a meat grinder.) —Maggie Hennessy
605 W. Lake St., 312-285-2800 Website
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Chicago restaurant Bang Chop Photo: Courtesy of Bang Chop

9Buck’s

Carriage House reborn as more laid-back Southern.
1700 W. Division St., 773-384-9700 Website

Related: Check out pics from our visit to the Wicker Park restaurant in Seen on the Scene.
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Buck’s Photo: Hilary Higgins

10Dos Urban Cantina

Dos couples working together: a true labor of love.
Critic’s Notes Chic yet cozy, buzzy, and totally perfect for the neighborhood. I enjoyed pretty much everything I tried–meatballs, mole, a sweet corn tamal. But I loved the vanilla bean flan. Rich, custardy, drizzled with honey. I’m still thinking about it. —CS
2829 W. Armitage Ave., 773-661-6452 Website
Dos Urban Cantina Photo: Courtesy of Dos Urban Cantina
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