The Sit Down
A street that’s home to Rajun Cajun—which serves not only fried chicken, greens, and corn bread but also tandoori chicken, saag paneer, and paratha—is the perfect location for The Sit Down, a bicultural yet decidedly nonfusional new restaurant. In this spiffy space, formerly the Hyde Park Produce Market, the menu is divided almost equally between Italian dishes and . . . sushi. Bruschetta and tekkamaki. Pizza and nigiri. While we’re still not convinced the two cuisines blend harmoniously in a single meal, we’ve been very happy taking them one at a time. Our recent Italian dinner started with robust pasta fagiole soup ($3.50) and an unexpectedly compelling risotto-like dish of shrimp with basmati rice and arugula ($6), then segued into ultrathin-crust pizza vero with prosciutto and black olives ($9 for a 12-incher). Highlights of our Japanese night included beautiful seared tuna tataki ($10.50) with citrus-soy ponzu sauce, a wonderfully tasty salmon trio house maki ($11), and assorted nigiri (most $4 to $6 for two pieces). House-made desserts include an all-American brownie and dense cheesecake ($3 each), either of which goes well with the excellent coffee. BYO. 1312 E. 53rd St.; 773-324-3700.
“Ravinia just has a quaint comfortable feel for me,” says Michael Paulsen, the chef/ owner of Abigail’s, the American bistro he plans to open this month in Highland Park’s most charming neighborhood. Market-driven menus are hardly news these days, but during the summer, Paulsen’s Wednesday night $35 three-course dinner will reflect his shopping spree at Ravinia’s weekly farmers’ market. So, farmers, listen up: Paulsen is thinking about a duck confit salad with frisée, lolla rosa, and sun-dried cranberries and a poached Maine lobster with hearts of palm and persimmons in a blood orange vinaigrette. Plan accordingly. 493 Roger Williams Ave., Highland Park; 847-849-1009.
Playing sequel to the wildly popular original in Arlington Heights, Fuego number two has claimed the first two floors of a new entertainment complex in Logan Square. This 250-seat spot promises authentic moles and margaritas, drawing on recipes from the grandmother of the executive chef, Juan Luis Gonzalez. Abuela Paula’s creations include pan-seared Baja California sea bass with pistachio mole, cilantro white rice, and chayotes. As for the margaritas, you’ve got your work cut out for you, what with 200-plus tequilas to choose from. Upstairs, a high-profile concert venue is on the way this summer. Stay tuned. 2047 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 312-252-1122.
The big draws of this ambitious sports restaurant/bar are its sidewalk café, beer garden, and massive “Miami-esque” rooftop deck outfitted with cabanas, lounge chairs, and flowing linens. But a lot of good all that does us right now: This is Chicago and it’s still spring. So let’s focus on the food by Joe Rosetti, a veteran of Gioco and Room 21. Count on handmade pastas, prime steaks, and thin-crust pizzas, plus other, more playful options, like homemade cotton candy and “Buffalo versus Idaho” organic chicken wings laid inside a twice-baked potato. And come baseball season, Market may be your best bet to spot a ballplayer: Kenny Williams, the general manager of the White Sox, is a partner. 1113 W. Randolph St.; 312-929-4787.
Photography: Anna Knott