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We only wished there were fewer crisp pieces and more meaty hunks, which would have varied the texture — but the lavender barbecue sauce was a unique and worthy accompaniment.

Ditto to the fried products, in particular the french fries, and the fried chicken sandwich, a shatteringly craggy slab of herbed and juicy fried boneless chicken between crisp buttered buns.

Bom Bolla, a Basque-inspired, Wicker Park spot, with a robust roster of cava and sherry, has that small plate thing going, but what makes it next-level-worthy is the finesse exhibited by chef Matthew Lair and his team.

What sticks out particularly is the way the restaurant treats bread.

In August, she took over a venerable Logan Square diner (keeping the name), expanded into the floral shop next door and started cranking out — well, I suppose "Irish diner food" sums it up as well as anything.

Son of a Butcher Tavern In Logan Square, a brooding Bohemian bar called Son of a Butcher Tavern uses all the trigger words that stimulate the pleasure centers of carnivores' brains: marrow, chorizo, gravy, piggie, meatballs, crispy pork belly. ) When working with such assertive, fat-laden ingredients, the key isn't overloading on saucing and seasoning — it's pulling back and exercising restraint.

There are a lot of sexy-sounding dishes on this menu, but the results are often heavy-handed.

Chef Danny Grant, who snagged two stars at Ria when it was part of the Elysian Hotel (now the Waldorf Astoria), oversees the steak and seafood menu, and partner and sommelier extraordinaire Belinda Chang oversees the beverage program.

As soon as you're seated, the hospitality begins: First a complimentary house cocktail, then wood plates of olives, cheese and radishes arrive, and the bread isn't far behind. For years it was Small Bar, which was putting out incredible food, in spite of the soccer bar ambience and the neighborhood's rowdy reputation.

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