This Ecuadorian/pan-Latin spot is decked out with colorful works of art. But even with all that distraction on the walls, the appetizers (such as the signature piping-hot, tamale-like humita) and desserts (particularly the spongey, sweet corn cake wrapped in a banana leaf) steal the show. The juicy churrasco steak is tasty and filling with sides of avocado, fries and eggs, and the guatita (peanutty tripe stew) is popular with regulars during colder months—especially when coupled with a cold Mexican beer. 3466 N Pulaski Rd (773-794-9672). El: Blue to Irving Park. Bus: 53, 60, 80. Lunch, dinner (Tue–Sun), (closed Mon). Average main course: $11.
Things to know when planning a trip to Tango Sur: You will wait for a table at this crowded Argentine grill, and when it’s time to order, it’s best to keep it simple. Go for a steak or the lengua a la vinagreta (poached tongue marinated with vinegar, garlic and pepper), both of which will benefit from a dunk in the housemade chimichurri sauce. Oh, and bring more wine with you than you think you’ll need—with waits like this, you’re going to want a drink. 3763 N Southport Ave (773-477-5466). El: Brown to Southport; Red to Addison. Bus: 9, 22, 152. Lunch (Sun), dinner. Average main course: $14.
Diners come to this megaproject from Paul Kahan and crew for three things: to sample the massive list of brews while basking in the golden-hued, beer hall–like space; to begin their Sundays with arguably the best brunch in town; and to try the organ meats that they otherwise might be scared of. Because veal heart alone can be intimidating. But veal heart with matsutake mushrooms, aged Gouda and bread crumbs? We’ll have two. 837 W Fulton Market (312-733-9555). El: Green, Pink to Clinton. Bus: 8, 65. Brunch (Sun), dinner. Average shared plate: $19.
Chef Jean Joho is best known for the jacket-required dining style of Everest, but his brasserie is casual both in design and spirit. The menu of simple Alsatian food matches: The classic salad lyonnaise, rife with chewy lardons, is a solid starter, but it can’t compete with the crispy, onion-filled tarte flambé (which you can score free from the bar on Tuesdays). Still, if you are craving something a little more Everestish, there’s always the sweetbreads, served with crispy macaroni, sauteed spinach and Dijon cream sauce. 59 W Hubbard St (312-595-0800). El: Red to Grand. Bus: 22, 36, 65, 156. Dinner. Average main course: $20.
The Moroccan-themed, Suhail-designed space that was deemed the date destination upon opening in ’99 is still warm, cozy and lush—in other words, exactly how you’ll feel after downing one of the obscenely potent cocktails. Most people come here for the traditional Mediterranean stuff: fire-roasted Prince Edward Island mussels, lamb tagines, etc. But don’t discount the foie gras with savory French toast, Fuji apple crisps, walnut powder and an apple cider reduction. 531 N Wells St (312-670-4338). El: Red to Grand. Bus: 65, 125. Dinner. Average main course: $18.
Since 1962, the Gutierrez family has been running this mecca of Mexican food, starting every dinner in the bright, whimsically decorated space with an unexpected amuse-bouche. Enjoy that little bite, but don’t fill up on it—there’s a lot more where that came from, like roasted chicken pieces covered in a thick, dark, intense mole, and Mexico’s famous menudo (tripe soup), one of the best hangover cures known to man. 1515 W 18th St (312-421-1517). El: Pink to 18th. Bus: 9, 18, 60. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Average main course: $10.