Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz burst into our consciousness in 2003 when they combined forces—and names—to open Boka in the theatre district. Two years later and one block south, they followed up with Landmark, a more casual and even hotter spot. Now along comes Perennial, a "chef-driven American bistro" just across from Lincoln Park. Actually, two chefs: their trusty executive chef, Giuseppe Tentori, at the helm, and chef de cuisine Ryan Poli (Butter) bringing in creative dishes such as sautéed rainbow trout with carrot purée, English peas, bacon, and a scoop of mint "air." Sounds as though the Boka boys are well on their way to conquering Lincoln Park. 1800 N. Lincoln Ave.; 312-981-7070. –Penny Pollack

Photography: Tyllie Barbosa; Food Styling: Christina Zerkis



We thought we weren’t all that hungry, but then Debbie Karhanek, mistress of ceremonies at Simplegourmet, waved a platter of just-sautéed pot stickers under our noses. On second thought . . . The tender dumplings tasted as good as they looked—crunchy with fresh vegetables, perfect with their gingery dipping sauce. They were right up there with the robust sausage-kale soup, the Southwest chicken salad with mango and firm black beans, and a warm panino of Brie, thick-cut bacon, and fresh spinach. Karhanek and her chef, Leyla Wheelhouse, are on to something at this spiffy takeout spot, where outdoor tables mean you don’t have to take the food far to enjoy it. Soups, scones, and muffins change daily, as do the offerings in the bakery case and the diverse prepared foods in the deli and freezer cases, which augment a menu of sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Expect anything from feathery raw-beet salad and white Cheddar soup to herbed roast chicken and spinach-artichoke lasagne. No matter how full you are, get a potato chip cookie for later—you won’t be sorry. 1459 Elmwood Ave., Evanston; 847-332-2100. –Joanne Trestrail




Laurent Gras, the chef of L.2O, has spent the past six months toying with us. His tantalizing blog charted every last detail about his upcoming Lettuce Entertain You seafood restaurant, from the delivery of a triple-decker steam-injected Pavailler oven from France to his plans for mojama, a Spanish salt-cured tuna. "We are thinking about drying it in a barn alongside an orchard or apple trees to get that fragrant aroma from the fruits," he writes. About the only thing he didn’t do was give us a taste. Considering Gras’s meticulous approach and Lettuce’s deep pockets, we’re expecting big things when the spot is finally unveiled on May 14th. 2300 N. Lincoln Park West; 773-868-0002. –Jeff Ruby



"It’s going to be a lot of my cooking, which is something you probably know about," says chef Giuseppe Scurato. Yes, we do. Scurato masterminded a contemporary American menu at Boka when it opened in 2003, and the place was an instant hit. Now he’s back—at Topaz, an unlikely gem buried in a Burr Ridge shopping center. There, Scurato effortlessly laces his modern American menu with French, Italian, and Spanish touches: He bathes frog legs in gribiche sauce, sets a flawless poached egg next to balsamic-drizzled asparagus, and pairs chorizo with perfectly seared scallops. And don’t get us started on his classic American strawberry shortcake. Yeah, we know his cooking. Just forgot how good it was. 780 Village Center Driveway, Burr Ridge; 630-654-1616. –Penny Pollack

Photography: Kendall Karmanian