BUDGET BEAT: West on North

An impish-looking guy in a blue do-rag greets us and seats us in a comfy booth at this long, compass-themed tavern. We are smitten. In a section of Humboldt Park that needed some action, Joe Sabath’s three-month-old hangout, complete with cozy back patio and upbeat staff, is just the ticket. I mean, where else can you score a terrific marinated skirt steak, teamed with rich skin-on mashed potatoes and stir-fried sweet peppers, for only $8? Or Thursday’s special, half a slab of meaty, subtly glazed barbecued ribs for a kindly $5.99? Sure, it’s bar food, but it’s bar food done right. A mound of crackly-skinned, syrupy Asian-style chicken wings proves the point, as do the cheese balls, battered and deep-fried cuties (with cream cheese and goat cheese) spiked with chives and bacon bits. Odd, yes—but delish. Adding to the lineup are a fully packed BLT&A (avocado), flatbreads (the crisp Margherita, studded with fresh basil and tomato chunks, is a gem), and thick, juicy burgers, which play host to toppings from caramelized onions to pico de gallo ($5–$10). To keep the chow good company, there are brews galore, including spiffy imports and $2 cans of Hamm’s. 2509 W. North Ave.; 773-278-7710. —JR


COMING: BLT American Brasserie

Chicago now owns a piece of the BLT pie, which includes BLT Steak, BLT Fish, and BLT Burger. So what will BLT American Brasserie—chef Laurent Tourondel’s first BLT-branded venture since splitting from his business partner—excel at? “Not sure,” says Tourondel, who also plans to introduce the concept in New York. With an opening menu that incorporates a smoker (glazed barbecue ribs), a wood oven (figs, pancetta, and Gorgonzola), and a grill (tuna a la plancha) and also dabbles in sushi and pizzettes, Tourondel says he’ll let Chicagoans decide. “I think people will tell me what they like and prefer.” Perhaps he should have named it BLT Pizza. 500 W. Superior St. —CB


SOON: Butcher and the Burger

When a specialty restaurant opens amid the height of said specialty’s popularity, its owner can count on this question from us: What makes yours better than theirs? Former Duchamp chef Allen Sternweiler obligingly lists what he says separates his Lincoln Park burger joint from “the rest of the bandwagon,” leading off with ten in-house patty seasonings, including a mixture of coconut, curry, and honey. We’re listening. Next he describes a butcher counter stocked with take-and-bake loaves of beef, elk, and shrimp. We’re intrigued. Then he hits us with the house-made bacon-flavored frozen custard. We’re salivating. 1021 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-697-3735. —CB