Union Pizzeria
Evanston has no shortage of restaurants, but this seems to be the one everyone was waiting for. Under a warehouse-high ceiling, the lounge, bar, and tables fill up fast—even on cold rainy nights. Literary types discuss Remembrance of Things Past over artisan beers, couples delight in meant-to-be-shared eggplant caponata, girlfriends start with orange-marinated olives and roasted beets with candied walnuts, and parents cheer for affordable daily plates like lasagne bolognese. Every table orders a thin wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizza. Me? I found the caesar salad dressing heavy on the anchovy, but I loved the homey chicken cacciatore, and Union’s handcrafted pizza Margherita went on my permanent must-have list. 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston; 847-475-2400. –Penny Pollack

Photography: Kendall Karmanian 



Summer Noodle & Rice

Though it sits next door to the bustling Granville el station, this Edgewater newcomer has a perfectly serene vibe. The shrine to Buddha helps, as do the welcoming staff and minimalist yet comfy d écor. Plenty of commuters have made Summer their to-go spot, but it is also a sunny destination for anyone with a yen for impeccably fresh, pretty Thai fare. The menu is extensive and inviting, augmented by a slew of Chinese items, but best to stick with the house forte: Thai. Jump right into appetizers of crisp-edged tofu triangles partnered with a sweet-tart chili sauce, dainty crab Rangoon, and a showy tepee-like formation of tempura-style sweet potato sticks. As its name implies, the restaurant has a way with carbs, offering spirited takes on classics such as glass-noodle-based pad woon sen ($6.95) and pineapple-laden curry fried rice ($7.95). Tossing chicken, duck, beef, tofu, or—best of all—hefty shrimp into the mix adds extra allure and another buck or two. To amp up the firepower, check out the lively mango shrimp, a sumptuous bounty of fried, tail-on beauties, diced sweet peppers, and juicy mango ($12). Delish. Even spicier is hot pop eyes ($7.95), a sultry pileup of curry- and chili-sparked spinach noodles and veggies. Finish with refreshing lychee sorbet, which provides just the ticket for cooling off Summer’s heat. BYO. 1123 W. Granville Ave.; 773-761-8500. –Jill Rohde

Photography: Tyllie Barbosa; Food Styling: Christina Zerkis




Last year, Bill Kim, the executive chef of Le Lan, was eating street food in Vietnam with Arun Sampanthavivat and Howard Davis when the trio had an epiphany: Wouldn’t it be nice to open a restaurant with "real" food? Something from the heart? "We decided to do a restaurant of people’s childhood memories," Kim says. That restaurant, which includes Mike Lindsay as a partner, is Soul, a 200-seat regional American spot with an art deco décor, craft beers, artisanal cheeses, and a kitchen led by Gramercy Tavern vet Karen Nicolas. She’ll be loading Soul’s rotisserie with suckling pig and Amish chicken—neither of which reminds me of my childhood, but, hey, a place dedicated to Ho Ho’s doesn’t sound nearly as good. 1 Walker Ave., Clarendon Hills; 630-920-1999. –Jeff Ruby



Deleece’s owners, Lynne Wallack and John Handler, have staked their claim on the old Platiyo space in Wrigleyville for a "unique" small-plates restaurant and lounge. More small plates? Give us a break. But shochu is the hottest spirit going in izakayas, Japanese pubs, and its début in Chicago is tantamount to a cocktail coup. (For the uninitiated: Shochu is similar to vodka but with fewer calories, a lower alcohol content, and various health benefits.) Wallack and Handler have it in combos like guava-ginger and green apple with lychee—and as for the small plates, chef/partner Josh Hansen plans an array of maki, yakitori, pokes (Hawaiian fish salad), and tartares. Let’s give shochu a chance. 3313 N. Clark St.; 773-348-3313. –Penny Pollack