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The Hot List

For January 2016

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

1Monteverde

So hot that West Madison Street could go on the climate-change watch list.
Critic’s Notes Surprisingly intimate. Fewer tables than I expected and nicely spaced out. Chef Sarah Grueneberg made the rounds (I know some of her investors were there), but I was blissfully unknown to her. She is such a nice gal. You just want this place to be great! And here comes the pasta. Orecchiette clearly made with love. —Penny Pollack
1020 W. Madison St., 312-888-3041 Website
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Monteverde Photo: Galdones Photography

2Latinicity

Think Eataly, only smaller and with Latin food. Just as crowded, though.
108 N. State St., 312-795-4444 Website

Related: Browse photos of our night at the pan-Latin restaurant.
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Latinicity Photo: Courtesy of Latinicity
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3Swift & Sons

From the same group as Momotaro. What more do you need to know?
1000 W. Fulton Market, 312-733-9420 Website
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Swift & Sons Photo: Eric Kleinberg

4Maple & Ash

Because the Viagra Triangle needed another huge steakhouse.
Critic’s Notes Another gargantuan two-story steakhouse. All very attractive and hip and vibey. My corner table overlooked Rush Street, which was way cool. A bunch of freebies, including a small Maple & Ash martini. A plate of Manchego cheese, cut into finger-friendly pieces. Another plate holds giant radish slices, olives, and Maple & Ash butter (to spread on the radishes). Ash-coated butter. Get it? Maple & “Ash.” —PP
8 W. Maple St., 312-944-8888 Website
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Maple & Ash Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune
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5Ballaro

No entrée over $30—as promised.
Critic’s Notes Formerly Pops for Champagne and then Gabe’s Lounge. Completely redone space. Wood floors, brick walls, hanging Edison bulbs. Achieves urban chic and suburban friendliness. What’s friendlier these days than free bread—zippy Parmesan flats, less zippy focaccia. But free. —PP
214 Green Bay Rd., Highwood, 847-780-3396 Website
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Ballaro Photo: Courtesy of Ballaro

6Arbor

The New York Times beat you here. Giddyup.
Critic’s Notes Strange doesn’t begin to capture the dinner experience here. It starts with text exchanged between you and on of the partner, it ends hours after you have become best friends with your waiter from Moldova. (He was hired to manage the garden.) —PP
2545 W. Diversey Ave., 312-866-0795 Website

Related: Read about this locally-sourced restaurant.
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Arbor Photo: Nas Alejeyan
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7Hot Bar by Baker Miller

Right next to a Brown Line stop. Pay attention or you will end up at the Merchandise Mart.
4642 N. Francisco Ave. Website
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Hot Bar by Baker Miller Photo: Courtesy of Baker Miller

8Arlen’s Chicken

Here’s what happens when Michael Kornick and David Morton (DMK Burger Bar) run a fried-chicken contest.
Critic’s Notes The kitchen looks bigger than the whole dining room. Rolls of paper towels on every table and a teensy menu of mostly chicken nuggets, tots, and shakes—no wonder this place is full of young families and hungover-looking college kids. —Maggie Hennessy
815 Noyes St., Evanston, 847-424-8226 Website
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Arlen’s Chicken Photo: Lindsey Becker

9Dos Urban Cantina

Must be the Year of Rick Bayless Alums.
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. —Carrie Schedler
2829 W. Armitage Ave., 773-661-6452 Website
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Dos Urban Cantina Photo: Courtesy of Dos Urban Cantina

10Vivial

Comfort food and cocktails, sure. But chocolate shots sound like a game changer.
Critic’s Notes A lovely intimate dining room and bar. Feels grown up. Just a few steps from the Music Box. I would have never guessed that the Jolly Posh guy had this in him. —PP
3755 N. Southport Ave., 773-312-3755 Website
Vivial Photo: Courtesy of Vivial
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