You'll wait for a table at these buzz-worthy restaurants, but dining critic Phil Vettel says it'll be time well spent.
1. Longman & Eagle (Two Stars) 2657 N. Kedzie Ave., 773-276-7110. This wood-filled corner tavern in Logan Square looks like a good place to stop for a shot of whiskey, and indeed there's an exhaustive selection of that libation on hand. But chef Jared Wentworth's kitchen churns out an impressive assortment of bar snacks, small plates and main courses. Inventive cooking, very good service and an excellent bar — that's a hard combo to beat. Recommended: Meatballs with polenta, oxtail with scallops, butternut squash risotto. Open: Dinner Monday-Sunday, lunch Monday-Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday. Entree prices: $15-$23. Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Not accepted. Noise: Conversation-challenged. Other: Wheelchair accessible.
2. Girl & the Goat (Three Stars) 809 W. Randolph St., 312-492-6262. Stephanie Izard's long-awaited restaurant, following her "Top Chef" win in 2008, lives up to the hype. Girl & the Goat is exciting and fascinating, a casual atmosphere (waiters wear goat-logo tees) wherein modestly priced small plates give full rein to Izard's flavor-balancing high-wire act, alternately challenging diners with goat meatballs with anchovy and escargots, and soothing them with seared scallops over shredded veal. Offbeat desserts are delightful continuations of the chef's sweet-and-tart flavor aesthetic. Recommended: Hiramasa with pork belly, green beans in fish sauce, rabbit rillette, potato-dumpling doughnuts. Open: Dinner Monday-Sunday. Prices: Small plates $4-$18. Credit cards: A, DC, M, V. Reservations: Strongly recommended. Noise: Conversation-challenged. Other: Wheelchair accessible, valet parking.
3. Davanti Enoteca (Two Stars) 1359 W. Taylor St., 312-226-5550. Scott Harris has had a hand in a lot of new restaurants in the last year or so, from Purple Pig to his ongoing Mia Francesca expansion, including this late-2010 entry in Little Italy, which sort of combines Harris' love of rustic Italian and his Mario Batali-inspired contemporary leanings. The result is a pretension-free small-plates concept whose modestly priced nibbles are so appealing you can run up a substantial check without realizing it. This is moderated somewhat by the bargain wine program, a retail-plus-$7 system that particularly rewards those who venture beyond the lowest-priced bottles. Given its wild popularity, Harris' only mistake was not building it twice as large. Recommended: Chicken-liver pate, egg toast, spinach-ricotta raviolo, chicken Sole Mio, cannoli sundae. Open: Lunch and dinner Monday-Sunday. Entree prices: $9-$14. Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Not accepted. Noise: Conversation-challenged. Other: Valet parking (across street).
4. Chicago Cut Steakhouse (Three Stars) 300 N. LaSalle St., 312-329-1800. This 2010 arrival quickly established itself as one of the top steakhouses in town, and in Chicago, that's saying something. Prime steaks are dry-aged on the premises (the filet mignon is wet-aged) for more than a month, and the beefy payoff is evident in every bite. Very good side dishes and desserts are pluses, and I love playing with the interactive, iPad wine list (a first for the area) but outstanding service is what makes this place so very easy to love. Recommended: Tuna tartare, bone-in filet, steak au poivre, Key Lime pie. Open: Breakfast, lunch, dinner Monday-Sunday. Entree prices: $18-$51. Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Strongly recommended. Noise: Conversation-challenged. Other: Wheelchair accessible, valet parking.
5. Mastro's Steakhouse (Three Stars) 520 N. Dearborn St., 312-521-5100. Everything about this California-based chain (Chicago is Mastro's sixth location) is big. Big dining room, big lounge (live music nightly), big steaks, big drinks, big tab. Yes, you pay a lot at this River North outpost, but the value's there in the top-quality steaks and the beyond-generous cocktail and wine pours. Steaks are dry-rubbed before cooking and dabbed with butter after, brought to the table on plates so hot you can feel the warmth on your face. There are some great side dish and raw-bar offerings, overindulgent desserts and excellent service. No wonder this place is popular. Recommended: Lobster mashed potatoes, veal chop, lamb chops, warm butter cake. Open: Dinner Monday-Sunday. Entree prices: $25-$51. Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Strongly recommended. Noise: Conversation-challenged. Other: Wheelchair accessible, valet parking.
This Week's Theme
Phil Vettel recommends
Tough to get into, but worth the effort
The lobster mashed potatoes at Mastro's Steakhouse. (Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune)