It’s a foodie dream come true: After three years, this Bucktown gem finally started accepting reservations. The restaurant has matured in other ways, too, from its still-strong cocktail program to its desserts. (Just try the Basque cake.) We have a hard time moving away from signature dishes, like the salad of heirloom apples and the devastatingly delicious egg-and-ricotta–filled raviolo, but it’s worth it to try the always-changing daily specials. 2152 N Damen Ave (773-862-5555). Brunch (Sun), dinner. Average main course: $19.
Honey 1 BBQ
The father and son behind this rib house know a thing or two about barbecue—they hail from a part of Arkansas where smokers are more common than microwaves. Bring a hungry crew, stake out a table in the simple but spick-and-span dining area and order up a couple of slabs of meaty, tender spareribs, a whole mess of rib tips and a plate of hot links. If you’re still hungry after the main event, juicy smoked chicken and crispy catfish should round things out. 2241 N Western Ave (773-227-5130). Lunch, dinner (closed Mon). Average main course: $9.
This neighborhood coffee shop has ambitions far larger than the tiny space would imply. Baristas are superfriendly, direct-trade coffee is roasted in-house, and sandwiches are named for storytellers. Coffee is roasted in-house in small batches weekly, and the café offers a variety of roasts and brewing methods (such as pour-over and French press) that turn out lovely cups of coffee. 2035 N Western Ave (773-904-8177). Mon–Sat 6:30am–9pm; SSun 7am–8pm. Average sandwich: $6.
If you think all hot-dog stands are the same, you’ve obviously never experienced the perfection that is Redhot Ranch. Juicy Depression dogs are served with fresh-cut fries that are crisp on the outside and pillowy inside; shrimp, available by the half or full pound, are entirely greaseless. And it’s all served until 4am during the week and 5am on weekends. 2072 N Western Ave (773-772-6020). Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $3.
The name of this Bucktown deli, which translates to brown bag, seemingly refers to the sandwich offerings: subs, grinders and “hotties” (e.g., a juicy Italian beef), any of which could be taken to go. But with a back room for seating (and with the time-consuming process of slicing meats to order, as in the mortadella, salami, capicolla and prosciutto on the standard Italian sub), it wouldn’t be so strange to get that sandwich “for here” and save the bag for stocking up on fresh produce and Italian imports in the small market. 2151 W Armitage Ave (773-278-8028). Mon–Thu 10am–4pm; Fri, Sat 10am–11pm; Sun noon–6pm. Average sandwich: $7.