Black cod at Ruxbin

Ruxbin (851 N. Ashland Ave., 312-624-8509), the little restaurant that could, has earned recognition from Bon Appétit, GQ, Details, and a host of local publications in less than three years in existence. Now the owners are working to spread their crafty food and instant-friends atmosphere up North Ashland Avenue, into the space at number 1401 that until recently housed MC Bistro, aiming for a fall opening.

The food at the as-yet-unnamed spot will be along the same lines as the menu from an event Ruxbin cohosted with Time Out Chicago, which included everything chicken wings (like an everything bagel), michelada seviche, and versions of aguas frescas and the Filipino egg-rollish dish lumpia. “It’s something that you roll up your sleeves for,” says Vicki Kim, a Ruxbin partner. “Guttural food. You just kind of get in there.” Still playful, but simpler and more casual, she says. Maybe that makes it the miniature golf of restaurants.



Ruxbin (851 N. Ashland Ave., 312-624-8509). American Contemporary.
  ½ (very good to excellent)
$$$ ($40–$49 per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)

Yes, weekend wait times are maddening. But once you’ve settled into this candlelit 28-seater, with its whimsical decor (recycled church pews for booths, old cookbooks perched along tangerine walls) and refreshingly down-to-earth staff, it’s tough to stay irked. On the compact menu, clever combos and impeccable details make for memorable dishes. Try the octopus appetizer, braised in red wine for three hours and plated with black soybean paste, roasted grapes, and lightly fried chickpeas. Familiar-sounding entrées surprise, too: Shrimp and grits is actually a steaming medley of seafood bathed in tomato-tarragon shrimp bisque, all atop a tender polenta cake.

Dishes We Liked: Arctic char crudo (market price), octopus ($12), shrimp and grits ($29), beef osso buco ($26); brownie sundae ($9)

Editor's note: New restaurant reviews, updated to reflect critics’ recent visits, appear each month in Chicago magazine, in Dine, as well as on our website. Listed restaurants are rated from one to four stars, where one is good, two is very good, three is excellent, and four is superlative. Ruxbin previously was not listed. The new review appears in the March issue, on newsstands Thursday.


Photograph: Nate Chung