4662 N. Broadway. Uptown. 42gramschicago.com
Eclectic. Chef Jake Bickelhaupt (Schwa, Alinea) and his wife, Alexa Welsh, the hostess, live above this sleek BYO storefront, and the welcoming dinner party experience is meant to feel like a trip upstairs. The prix fixe menu and communal seating mean groups of strangers make their way together through Bickelhaupt’s 14 to 15 creative courses: a tumbler with a gelée of gin that looks like an ice cube; a bulbous duck tongue with duck cracklings and ash-baked eggplant; a play on tom kha soup with coconut noodles on a white porcelain spoon; pork-rindish pecorino crisps atop pecorino foam and fondue. It’s nonintimidating fine dining, and the whimsy never fatigues, nor does the meal drag. Online reservations only.
D Tue–Sat. Wheelchair accessible, BYO (up to $5 corkage). $$$$
2375 N. Milwaukee. Logan Square. 773-276-0270
German. House-cured boar wurst with pickled grapes, fennel, and frisée? A slew of craft beers and frou-frou signature cocktails? A late-night space on the hottest street in Logan Square? Yes, the hip-ification of Bavarian food is complete. The Radler’s loose and ragged charms start with its spirited decor, which includes giant grandfather clocks and eclectic local artwork. But they extend to chef-partner Nathan Sears’s fun menu: a mix of the traditional (pretzels brushed with clarified butter and served with barley malt butter and blackberry jam) and the modern (fried fingerlings with yogurt salsa verde). Earnest servers and an impeccable beer program featuring more than 20 German-style drafts sweeten the deal.
L & D daily. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, will seat past 11 p.m. (Mon–Sat). $
3023 N. Broadway. Lake View. 773-296-6901
Mexican. This small-plate BYO stays loyal to its popular dishes, for better or for merely good. Half the menu consists of seasonal creations, and the other half never changes. Excellence is scattered throughout both categories, along with less exceptional efforts. All dishes show attention to textural contrasts, but for every standout, such as the pork ribs with honey-pasilla sauce, radishes, crema, and queso fresco, there’s a plate filler, such as the bland but serviceable mushroom empanadas. By and large, though, Chilam Balam sets a high bar in a basement restaurant. Servers are attentive and soft-spoken. Let them concoct margaritas from your tequila. Cash only.
D Tue–Sat. Br Sat, Sun. Child friendly BYO (up to $5 corkage), high noise level. $
2651 W. Peterson. Rogers Park. 773-784-3383
Sushi/Japanese. It may sit on a stretch of Peterson notable only for the Wolfy’s Hot Dogs sign, but this stalwart competes in the sushi big leagues. Whether you order à la carte or put yourself in the chef’s hands, you’ll receive fish of unimpeachable freshness, with as much devotion shown to presentation as to preparation. But don’t ask for extra wasabi: Chef Katsu is not about to let mere amateurs monkey with his creations. Stiff prices, bland room.
D Wed–Sun. Wheelchair accessible. $$$$
222 E. Ontario. Streeterville. 312-649-9010
French. Roland Liccioni’s elegant French cuisine leans more toward Once than Next, but let’s hear it for Mary Beth Liccioni’s exquisite salon, where well-attired diners can still luxuriate in the glow of fine French wines, foie gras, and truffles without the annoyance of cell phones or cameras. Among treasures on the prix fixe menu: warm lobster and shrimp salad with mango dressing, and a duo of veal sweetbreads in red wine sauce and prime beef rib eye in foie gras sauce, both lavished with truffles. The fish course might include sautéed Dover sole with asparagus in saffron beurre blanc. Of course you may also indulge in fine aged cheeses and superb soufflés. Polished servers offer smart advice on the rare vintages. Prix fixe options: three courses, $65 (before 5:30 p.m.); four courses, $115; five courses, $130.
D Tue–Sat. BYO (up to $5 corkage, Thu only). $$$$