Six successful sister restaurants
Belly Shack Bill Kim and Yvonne Cadiz-Kim’s follow-up to Urban Belly tries hard to evoke the streets, both in its interior design and its food. Some of the food doesn’t have the, um, punch of the streets: The Korean barbecue could use more life, the tostones more chimichurri and the Asian meatball sandwich fewer noodles. On the other hand, the somen noodles with shrimp and corn chips are brilliant, the brussels sprouts with chorizo are addictive, and the soft serve (topped with Mindy Segal’s brownies) will transport you to your Dairy Queen days—which, admittedly, is not the same as transporting you to the streets of the Bronx. But it’s a start. 1912 N Western Ave (773-252-1414). El: Blue to Western. Bus: 49, 56, 73. Lunch, dinner (closed Mon). Average main course: $10.
bin wine café Bin 36’s little sister in Wicker Park has brought on L20 alum Phil Rubino as chef de cuisine. His three-course prix-fixe “farm menu” offers a value for $25. But we’re still smitten with the stuff bin was known for before his arrival: essentially good wine, good cheese, and good snacks. Granted, some of Rubino’s food (like a lightly smoked trout appetizer) is tempting. But a seat at the bar (or outside in summer, when the sidewalk patio invites lingering), a flight of wines and a simple pizza is all we really need. 1559 N Milwaukee Ave (773-486-2233). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72. Brunch (Sat, Sun), dinner. Average small plate: $10.
Frida’s Marlene Benitez’s follow-up to Andersonville’s La Cocina de Frida has the same ambition as her original spot: classic, homestyle Mexican food, some of it with a minor twist. Funnily enough, this new version seems to be doing a better job with the execution. The guac is rich and creamy, the ceviche balanced between sweet and spicy, the chicken immersed in a complex peanut-and-chile guajillo salsa. In fact, anybody who has found themselves disappointed in the Andersonville locale may find checking this one out worth the trip. 3755 N Southport Ave (773-935-2330). El: Brown to Southport. Bus: 9, 80, 152. Brunch (Sat, Sun), dinner. Average main course: $14.
Pizzeria Due This crowd-pleasing sister to the original Uno’s pizza institution features a cozy, below-street-level dining room/bar that reeks of that “old Chicago” feel, complete with black-and-white tiled floor, historical photos, and plenty of Ditka and Butkus memorabilia. Knife-and-fork, deep-dish pizza is its sole raison d’être, with a rich crust that gets crisp from its time in a traditional black iron pan. The pastrylike crust is the vehicle for a massive amount of cheese and fillings, with a straightforward tomato sauce ladled on top. We prefer the bright-green fresh spinach and broccoli (your perky waiter calls it “spinoccoli”) over the bland sausage. Tourists love it, but, secretly, jaded locals do, too. 619 N Wabash Ave (312-943-2400). El: Red to Grand. Bus: 29, 36, 65. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $15.
Silver Spoon This Thai spot is the sister restaurant of Lincoln Square’s outstanding Spoon Thai, and being right next to the Thai Consulate, we figured the food would be far from Americanized stuff. Surprisingly, the fare is decidedly tame, even for Gold Coast tastes. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (and could be a good jumping off point for Thai-food novices) because what it does, it does well. Chive dumplings get things off to a good start, the somtum (papaya salad) is fiery and flavorful, and the panang beef curry is perfectly balanced, with manageable heat. 710 N Rush St (312-944-7100). El: Red to Chicago. Bus: 3, 4, 10, 26, 66, 145, 146, 147, 151. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $7.
Trattoria D.O.C. Lincoln Square’s Pizza D.O.C. must be suffering from an inferiority complex since its prettier, more interesting sister opened in Evanston. The bright space houses a wood-fired oven that churns out 29 varieties of the original location’s signature thin-crust, uncut 12-inch pizzas. Don’t miss the spaghetti alle vongole e bottarga, a perfectly seasoned plate of pasta and clams with a nice crunch from dried roe. If you’re trying to limit your carbs, the mahi mahi with garlicky capers and olives won’t seem like a sacrifice at all. 706 Main St, Evanston (847-475-1111). El: Purple to Main. Bus: 200, 201, 205. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $14.