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The Hot List

For March 2016

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

1Pork & Mindy’s

No matter how desperate you are for a pork bao, do not park in the nearby Walgreens lot.
Critic’s Notes The Bao to the Pork could have used an extra pop or two of sauce (little too bland for my tastes), but the pillowy toasted bao bun’s an ingenious sandwich vessel. —Carrie Schedler
1623 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-799-8759 Website

Related: Read more about the Bucktown sandwich spot.
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Pork & Mindy’s Photo: Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune

2Packed

Michael Sheerin invents badass dumplings.
1321 E. 57th St., 312-219-6544 Website
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Packed Photo: Nick Murway
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3Ramen Misoya

Is this the start of a new ramen trend or round 2 of the 2014 craze?
Critic’s Notes I’ve been on a bit of a ramen kick since visiting Japan a few months ago and I have to say that this is hands-down the best I’ve tried since Tokyo. The menu appears totally overwhelming, but servers do a great job explaining your options. Word to the wise: Unless you like your ramen supremely salty, forgo the more authentic “gold” miso broth and opt for “silver.” —Carly Boers
213 E. Ohio St., 312-496-3566 Website
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Ramen Misoya Photo: Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune

4Bunny

Hop to it—“it” being an Iliana Regan microbakery.
Critic’s Notes I ordered half the menu and still wanted more, particularly of the crackly whiskey-glazed doughnuts, the oatmeal-porridge loaf, the poke-topped tartine, maybe a couple of cookies for good measure. —CS
2928 N. Broadway Website
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Bunny Photo: Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune
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5Osteria Trulli

Where the portions are huge and it’s hip to be unhip.
Critic’s Notes This was a first: A few minutes after settling in with our friends and the menus, the fire alarm went off. For some unfathomable reason, no one panicked. In fact, no one even stood up and headed for the door. Somehow, we all knew it was a false alarm. Or maybe we were all hooked by the aromas coming out of the kitchen. —Penny Pollack
1510 E. Hintz Rd., Arlington Heights, 224-347-1010 Website
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Osteria Trulli Photo: Courtesy of Osteria Trulli

6Naoki Sushi

If you are in the mood for kozara or ohzara, Rich Melman’s your man.
Critic’s Notes You get there through a side door that weaves through the Intro kitchen. I kind of felt like I was eating in a sushi closet. Super fresh fish, though, and interesting maki. —CS
Belden-Stratford, 2300 N. Lincoln Park West, 773-868-0002 Website
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Naoki Sushi Photo: Lenny Gilmore/RedEye
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7Dos Urban Cantina

Forgive the cliché, but you should really save room for the most amazing chocolaty chocolate cake ever.
Critic’s Notes Effortlessly hip vibe, refreshingly creative menu, shockingly reasonable prices. I thought I had wandered into the wrong restaurant in the wrong neighborhood in the wrong city. —PP
2829 W. Armitage Ave., 773-661-6452 Website
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Dos Urban Cantina Photo: Courtesy of Dos Urban Cantina

8The Spanish Square

Stage 773 is across the street. You could snag a tapa or two during intermission.
Critic’s Notes Cool room. Nice job of looking Spanish without going overboard cutesy, or God forbid, Disney-esque. Wood tables and (very hard) wood chairs. No stack of plates on the tables. Simple white plates and black cloth napkins. Thank you for no dishtowels-cum-napkins. I’m thinkin’ a nice low-key evening A couple of tapas, A glass of wine. —PP
1358 W. Belmont Ave., 773-717-7900 Website
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The Spanish Square Photo: Courtesy of The Spanish Square

9Cantón Regio

Here’s the nuevo idea from the Nuevo Leon family: a steakhouse.
Critic’s Notes Cantón Regio is an earnest place. Everyone is energetic and happy and proud and taking advantage of the BYO policy. It’s not meant to replace Nuevo Leon—they had this in the works long before NL burned down. A nice addition to the neighborhood. It’s cash only, but they do have an ATM up front. —Jeff Ruby
1510 W. 18th St., 312-733-3045 Website
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Cantón Regio Photo: Courtesy of Cantón Regio

10Grassroots

Nothing says neighborhood friendly quite like reclaimed wood and an imported European pizza oven.
3747 N. Southport Ave., 773-325-1710 Website
Grassroots Photo: Courtesy of Grassroots
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