Bistronomic Martial Noguier—the veteran of one sixtyblue and Café des Architectes—has gone decidedly more casual at his new restaurant. Here it’s all simple bistro foods: pâté, oxtail ravioli, roasted chicken. Most of it is prepared according to the textbook and executed skillfully. Still, these dishes, seen hundreds of times before, leave behind a nagging déjà vu. You’ve been here before—what was it that brought you back again? It’s not the room, and not the crowd. But it just may be the delicious grilled cheese du jour. 840 N Wabash Ave (312-944-8400). El: Red to Chicago. Bus: 36, 66. Lunch (Tue–Fri), dinner. Average share plate: $12.
Cheesie’s Pub & Grub “Do you like grilled cheese? Do you also like macaroni and cheese?” Answer affirmatively to both of these questions, and the woman behind the counter of this divey bar where grilled cheese—and only grilled cheese—is served will conclude that you will like the Mac: mac and cheese between two pieces of Texas toast. It’s a mess of a sandwich, just like all the others, which come topped with less extreme ingredients, such as chicken breast or ham. And yes, the combination of Merkts cheddar, American cheese, elbow noodles and the cutest little cup of spicy tomato soup is very hard not to like. Stumble into Cheesie’s blitzed from next-door Berlin, and it might just be love. 958 W Belmont Ave (773-388-1574). El: Red, Brown, Purple (rush hrs) to Belmont. Bus: 8, 22, 77. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $8.
Miko’s Flipside Café Will Von Hartz has popped up in the Miko’s Italian Ice space (which normally shutters for the season), transforming it into a charming temporary hideaway for cold-weather necessities like pour-over coffee and grilled smoked-Gouda-and-cheddar sandwiches. Defying the constraints of the hole-in-the-wall space, everything from the garlic-rosemary sandwich bread to the Valhrona chocolate cake is made in-house, a feat that can’t help but make us wonder whether the Flipside will be the first thing we will ever miss about Chicago winters. 1846 N Damen Ave (773-645-9664). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72. Lunch, dinner. Average baked good: $3.
The Southern Mac From the outside, this brick-and-mortar outpost of the Southern Mac food truck looks as tiny as the version on wheels. But venture inside and you’ll find a good amount of seating and more than a dozen varieties of macaroni and cheese. The menu includes a surprisingly good salad (mesclun with apples and pistachios) and a mess of a “stuffed grilled cheese” sandwich (pimiento cheese haphazardly injected into one huge slice of toasted bread). But our favorite thing here is the Mexican chorizo mac and cheese, every bite of which is spicy, gooey and loaded with flavor. In other words, it’s the kind of meal you could build a business around. 60 E Lake St (312-262-7622). El: Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple (rush hrs) to State/Lake; Red to Lake. Mon–Fri 10:30am–8pm; Sat, Sun 10:30am–6pm. Average main course: $7.