Lincoln Park is not short on casual restaurants, places where freshly-minted college graduates can show up in shorts and sandals and not be asked to leave. But a lot of those places serve their food in paper bags, or on plastic trays.
For some grown up food, in an actual restaurant that will not wipe out a week’s paycheck, try these places.
Cafe Ba-Ba-Reba (2024 N. Halsted St., 773-935-5000) got itself a new chef recently, and if you haven’t been there in a while, you should give it another try. The food is downright good, especially the new Seared Spanish Sausages ($6.50). There’s another tapas restaurant in Lincoln Park worth checking out, too: Emilio’s Tapas (444 W. Fullerton, 773-327-5100). You cannot go wrong with either one.
For good old Italian in a cutesy setting, it is hard to come up with a better place than Rose Angelis (1314 W. Wrightwood, 773-296-0081). The food is consistently good and moderately priced, which is why they’ve been hosting Lincoln Parkers’ second dates for a solid decade. There’s an outdoor patio, too.
Another nice Italian option is Vinci (1732 N. Halsted St., 312-266-1199), which serves everything from pastas to porterhouses, and has been doing so since 1991. The restaurant itself is very bright and airy, with exposed brick walls and shiny, wooden floors. The affable Paul LoDuca owns Vinci and the Adobo Grills in Old Town and Wicker Park, so there’s your proof of quality.
Mon Ami Gabi (2300 N. Lincoln Park West, 773-472-9077) is a classic French bistro in one of the coolest buildings in Lincoln Park, the ornate Belden-Stratford. Besides the great food and the vaguely Euro-atmosphere, Mon Ami Gabi features wines by the glass served from a rolling cart.
Directly next door, also in the Belden-Stratford, the high-end classic French restaurant Ambria (773-472-5959) is closing after a 20-year-run. Make a reservation soon if you want to try it before it’s gone.
Finally, for a piece of Chicago restaurant history and some damn good sandwiches and milkshakes, stop by R.J. Grunts (no apostrophe; that’s a verb) at 2056 N. Lincoln Park West, 312-929-5363. The original Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, the place claims to have the nation’s first salad bar (and it’s a good one). They also serve the stellar Carol’s Cookies for dessert.