BUDGET BEAT: Market Bistro at Fox & Obel

The petite filet dinner at Market Bistro
Market Bistro’s petite filet dinner

Of all the ways I’ve ever rationalized a visit to the gorgeously over-the-top grocery store Fox & Obel—I was in the neighborhood anyway! I needed an onion!—penny-pinching had never occurred to me until recently. My real motive was to wander among the splendid displays of food and wallow in the beauty of it all. But it turns out there’s a terrific bargain on the premises: Market Bistro, with its wall of windows overlooking the Ogden Slip, is a cozy candlelit dining room with a pocketbook-friendly menu based on F&O’s wares. My companion and I shared a bottle of Max Ferd.Richter Zeppelin riesling ($15, same price as in the store) while enjoying perfect baguettes, fresh from the bakery. And I’ve feasted on rich tomato-basil soup ($4.99), flash-fried calamari with salsalike smoked tomato dipping sauce ($5.99), marvelous linguine with wild mushrooms ($8.99), and, most impressive, a six-ounce petit filet with potato purée, grilled asparagus, and a red wine reduction ($9.99). Desserts are individual cheesecakes ($4.99) and tarts ($5.99) from the same pastry case I’ve gaped at so often over the years. I’m pleased to report they taste as good as they look. 401 E. Illinois St.; 312-379-0132. —JT


COMING: Vera Chicago

Carnivale veterans Liz and Mark Mendez are committed to authentic Spanish fare at Vera, even if it means serving “old-lady wine” and smelly fish. Liz concedes that sherry is a favorite among blue hairs, so to ease younger Chicagoans into the rosy libation, she selected a variety of styles—ranging from slightly sweet to saccharine—that complement her husband Mark’s traditional offerings, which include rabbit paella (great with dry sherry), cheeses (a match for sweeter sherry), and small fish like anchovies and sardines. “If I have to give it away to make people understand it goes with the food,” says Liz, “I’ll do that.” 1023 W. Lake St.; 312-243-9770. —CB



A year ago, when Matthias Merges left Charlie Trotter’s, he started scouring Chicago neighborhoods for an “unexpected area” where he could open an American restaurant inspired by folk art and crafts. Then Merges found a building “with great bones” in Logan Square that struck a chord with him and his love of Asian flavors and techniques, pristine products done simply, and grilling. And grill he will—on a kushiyaki gas grill, a binchotan-burning yakitori grill, and a gas-powered charcoal grill. Simple things, you know, like chicken wings with umeboshi and chicken gizzards with shiso kimchi. 2853 N. Kedzie Ave.; 773-904-8558. —PP


Photograph: Anna Knott