Four city restaurants with roots in the 'burbs
Emilio’s Tapas Sol Y Nieve The namesake chef behind this Streeterville staple knows a thing or two about tapas—the Spaniard was the opening chef for Café Ba-Ba-Reeba!, Chicago’s first tapas spot. Here at his solo venture (which started in Hillside, where a location still remains), classics rule the show: salty-sweet bacon-wrapped dates in roasted red-pepper sauce, killer garlic potatoes, crusty bread topped with tangy tomatoes and whisper-thin jamón serrano, and perfectly grilled shrimp in garlic butter. Skip the too-rich goat cheese–eggplant rolls and the oversauced spicy potatoes, but don’t miss the velvety flan. 215 E Ohio St (312-467-7177). El: Red to Grand. Bus: 2, 3, 66, 157. Dinner. Average tapa: $7.
Hackney’s Pity the Printers Row outpost of this local pub. In the suburbs, Hackney’s gets so much more respect—people are constantly drooling over the famous “Hackneyburger.” Its lone city outpost isn’t given as much acclaim, but it’s nonetheless a warm, inviting, friendly place to get a drink. And it seems to be grooming other Chicago legends: The drinks menu features local beers, vodkas and gins. 733 S Dearborn St (312-461-1116). El: Red to Harrison. Bus: 2, 6, 22, 36, 62. Lunch, dinner. Average beer: $5.
Tapas Valencia Tapas are supposed to be simple, but the bites at this small-plates joint —the sister restaurant to Naperville’s Mesón Sabika —go one step further: They’re easy. Sometimes that’s a good thing, as with the hearty Spanish tortilla and the grilled scallops with couscous. But other dishes here arrive either overseasoned, oddly seasoned or underseasoned. Luckily, those undulations even out when coupled with a bottle (or three) from the wine list. 1530 S State St (312-842-4444). El: Green, Orange, Red to Roosevelt. Bus: 29, 62, 129. Dinner. Average small plate: $9.
Zealous After more than 15 years in business (the first few while the restaurant was located in Elmhurst), Michael Taus’s baby remains as innovative as ever. His creative menu, offset by the minimalist decor, showcases seasonal ingredients in new ways. Look for signatures such as truffled sweet-potato risotto, Asian crab cakes with mango-basil emulsion and macadamia nut–crusted grouper with rock shrimp–taro root hash. Don’t forget to pair your meal with one of the 750 wines from the breathtaking wine cellar. 419 W Superior St (312-475-9112). Bus: 66. Dinner (Tue–Sat). Average main course: $30.