White lobster pizza

Michael Taus must in some ways feel like a slave to his painstaking creations at Zealous. With Duchamp, a new collaboration with the guys behind Lumen, he can finally try anything he always wanted to try. "I love Zealous but want to do something different here," he says. "Thai bouillabaisse, white lobster pizza, fish and chips with crispy skate wing and garlic fries with homemade tartar sauce: It’s hard for me to write a menu and not have a little bit of everything." And on Sundays, Taus steps outside the serene new Bucktown space to grill high-end burgers on homemade rolls. Talk about zealous. 2118 N. Damen Ave.; 773-235-6434. –Jeff Ruby

Photograph: Tyllie Barbosa




Once you begin a meal with oven-baked biscuits and Southern-fried chicken livers, there’s no turning back. You might as well have the tender chili-rubbed pork rack, too. The spice rub kicks every mouthful to just below the burn line, while the Cheddar grits and escarole cool things off. As for starters, three huge chicken livers stay hot and juicy inside cornmeal-crust jackets, and the biscuits melt in your mouth. Hot chocolate affogato combines coffee ice cream, marshmallows, and beignets—brilliant. It’s safe to that chef/partner Bill Kim (Le Lan) and the executive chef, Karen Nicolas, know what they’re doing. 1 Walker Ave., Clarendon Hills; 630-920-1999. –Penny Pollack



Mana Food Bar

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, "mana" is a Polynesian term for a supernatural force that can be either good or evil. In Wicker Park, it’s a tiny global vegetarian restaurant from Jill Barron and Susan Thompson (Sushi Wabi and De Cero). "It’ll be roughly 12 hot dishes and 12 cold, in tapas and regular size," says Thompson. "Some pastas, a French-inspired onion tart, a Greek spanakopita, a Japanese dengaku. Jill and I are starting to eat this way; we just want a nice, casual, elegant option for vegetarian dining." Here’s hoping they use their mana for good. 1742 W. Division St.; 773-342-1742. –Jeff Ruby

Photograph: Courtesy of Mana Food Bar



Carlos Reyna’s latest outpost for Mexican street food recently opened on a sleepy stretch of Armitage Avenue in west Bucktown—though the occasional rumbling of the Blue Line overhead wakes it up. Like Maíz, his Humboldt Park corn palace, Tamalli zeroes in on simple, everyday food that goes easy on the taste buds and the budget. Menu prices top out at eight bucks, and even the antojito (snack)-size portions are often deceptively filling. The best bet is to share a bunch, starting with—natch—the tamal. Nothing beats the slightly sweet fresh-ground-corn-based tamal de elote, except maybe the earthy tamal oaxaqueño, prettily perched atop a banana leaf and topped with either chicken, chorizo, pork, or vegetables plus a garden’s worth of mesclun, cheese, and sour cream. Impeccably fresh guacamole dotted with dried cranberries is another hit, as is an ensalada starring jicama and mango splashed with a creamy avocado dressing. Don’t miss dainty enchiladas stoked with a feisty salsa verde or make-your-own tacos (alambre cazuela) with an extensive choice of toppings from cecina (marinated steak) to cactus. Terrific booze-free sipping options include a frothy, cinnamon-dusted horchata and fruit-filled gems such as a strawberry licuado or a smooth mango bebida fría. The setting, with its tropical colors, whimsical paintings, and open kitchen, is just as upbeat as the chow. Cash only and BYO ($2 per person). 2459 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-276-1441. –Jill Rhode