Illustration: Gina Triplett


Elderflower Margarita at Mi Tocaya Antojeria

We’ve always said that even a bad margarita is still kind of good, but one taste of Mi Tocaya’s brilliant twist on the drink may cause you to abandon that belief. The secret is a hit of St. Elder; the floral liqueur adds a delicate sweetness that’s never syrupy. The result is decidedly … grown up. (Insider tip: The $13 cocktail appears only on spring menus, but the bartender will make it on request year-round.) 2800 W. Logan Blvd., Logan Square,

Happy Hour

Oysters and Beer at Fisk & Co.

The ultimate after-work wind-down: half a dozen bivalves (like Hood Canals and Island Creeks) and an icy local beer from, say, Maplewood or Hopewell, all for $10 on weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. There’s also a buck-a-shuck bargain, so you can keep those chilled mollusks coming. 225 N. Wabash Ave., Loop,

Photo: Courtesy of Mindy’s HotChocolate


Triple Vanilla at Mindy’s HotChocolate

If you know Mindy Segal, it will come as no surprise that her genius for desserts extends to frozen drinks. Her restaurant’s trusty Vitamix blender spins seven housemade ice creams into sippable delights, but it’s the unassuming vanilla ($9) that shines. The base is an ice cream containing a vanilla trifecta — vanilla sugar, vanilla bean, and vanilla extract — and makes for an ethereal concoction that’s anything but “plain vanilla.” 1747 N. Damen Ave., Bucktown,

Photo: Courtesy of Paulie Gee’s


Big Bad Wolf at Paulie Gee’s

Determined to create an upscale version of his favorite pizza from childhood — the Pizza Hut Meat Lover’s pie — owner Derrick Tung sourced soppressata from New York City, worked with a local butcher to create a proprietary garlic-fennel Italian sausage, and spent six months perfecting his own bacon jam. The combo makes for a spicy-sweet hardcore meat party. When placed atop Paulie Gee’s singular crust — charred in a leopard-spot pattern, crisp at the perimeter, chewy at the center — it becomes otherworldly. 2451 N. Milwaukee Ave., Logan Square,



Curing fish is both a science and an art, and Frunchroom, a teeny new Jewish-Italian hybrid deli, has mastered both. The Skuna Bay salmon fillets ($6) are rubbed with dill, sugar, and smoked salt to impart an extra bit of sultriness to the fish beyond what it picks up in the cold smoker. It’s all but begging for a bagel and schmear. 4042 N. Milwaukee Ave., Portage Park,

Butcher Shop

Homestead Meats

This diminutive storefront is what you always imagined a butcher shop to be in some mythical past. Ehran Ostrreicher gets all his meats from seven area farms (including Slagel Family Farm and Gunthorp Farms), cuts and trims everything himself, and will offer you plenty of guidance on how to make the most of your rack of lamb. The selection of housemade sausages changes frequently, but if you see the Turkish kebab sausages ($12 a pound), grab them — the beef-and-lamb blend pops with mint and tomato and may be one of the best encased meats in town. 1305 Chicago Ave., Evanston,

Photo: Courtesy of City Mouse

Place to Eat with Your Pup

City Mouse

You’ll often spot dogs on the terrace of the Ace Hotel’s adored restaurant. But what makes this place special is that you don’t have to leave your pup behind when eating inside: Canines are welcome in the front lounge (which serves the full menu), and the staff will keep your furry friend’s thirst quenched. If you do sit outside, don’t worry about escape attempts: Dividers distance the sidewalk — and all passing smells. 311 N. Morgan St., West Loop,

Rooftop Bar


Perched on the 26th floor of the Dana Hotel, this lounge exudes sophistication without feeling annoyingly posh. Despite the spot’s cosmopolitan vibe, Apogee’s cocktail menu shows off its fun side. Have your choice of glamorous and potent libations, which arrive with surprises — be it eccentric glassware, a sprig of fresh flowers, or a cloud of cotton candy. If you can, score a spot on one of the cozy settees near the fire pit. But if you can’t, no loss: The panoramic view of downtown is unmissable. 2 W. Erie St., River North,

Photo: Tim McCoy

French Fries


Fries aren’t meant to steal the show, but they do at this retro joint, where the just-greasy-enough sticks of wonder warrant their own menu section. Each one is double-fried and lightly salted, and hits its marks. We love them in their unadorned glory — or with pulled pork and bacon on top. 1043 N. California Ave., Humboldt Park,


Minna’s Restaurant

Come for the handmade tortillas — hearty yet pliant, still warm from the griddle, and an upgrade worthy of the 50-cent charge — but stay for the chorizo and potato filling in the taco ($2). The meat’s satisfying fattiness and gentle spice get absorbed by the chunks of potato, which turn into powerful flavor bombs that detonate upon biting. Plus, putting carbs inside other carbs is never a bad idea. 5046 W. Armitage Ave., Belmont-Cragin,

Nonalcoholic Cocktail

Your Special Island at Lost Lake

“Often, guests request spirit-free beverages with this look of guilt,” co-owner Shelby Allison says. That’s why the tiki titan created this boozeless and bold mélange ($10) that’s as delicious — and festively garnished — as its high-proof brethren. Pineapple and lime juices set a tropical tone, and a bracing hit of Stumptown cold brew means you’ll still get a buzz. 3154 W. Diversey Ave., Logan Square,

Smackdown!Designer Doughnuts

Do-Rite Donuts

Photo: Anjali Pinto

Stan’s Donuts

Photo: Courtesy of Stan’s Donuts
Number of locations Three, all within a two-mile radius of downtown Nine — and the Chicago-based chain is planning to spread its sugar-coated tentacles even further in the near future
Priciest doughnut A truly massive apple fritter ($3) that will leave a sticky cinnamon residue on your fingers for the rest of the day LeStan ($5), a croissant doughnut made with laminated dough and topped with vanilla bean cream
Likelihood you’ll have to wait in line Low — unless it’s 8 a.m. on a weekday and you’re stuck behind 20 people trying to bring in food for a meeting Way up there, considering every high-traffic corner of the city seems to have a Stan’s
Best doughnut-adjacent offering A fried chicken sandwich on a glazed doughnut ($7), the ideal blend of salty and sweet Boston cream bismarck cake ($15), which measures over a foot long
Doughnut that will look best on your Instagram Candied maple bacon ($3), because do you know how popular #bacon is? Lemon-pistachio old-fashioned. Its mossy green hue looks good with any filter.

Winner:Stan’s. You can’t beat convenience when it comes to sweets, even when you have to wait for them.


The Region

It’s not a fancy burger — it’s a sauce-dripping-everywhere burger ($8) that satisfies unlike any bistro offering. The crispy smashed-patty burgers are inspired by the Indiana diner chain Schoop’s and come with a mayo-based condiment called Region Sauce. Grab napkins. 2057 W. Roscoe St., Roscoe Village,

Kids’ Meal

Fish and Chips at Dutch and Doc’s

The kids’ menu at this Wrigleyville newcomer includes this classic grand slam: tender cod nuggets in a golden breading with skinny fries ($7). It’s colossal to kids and delicious to adults. 3600 N. Clark St., Wrigleyville,