Upscale casual dining in Lincoln Park

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Lincoln Park is home to two of the highest high-brow restaurants in Chicago (Charlie Trotter’s and Alinea), and stumbling upon a burrito joint or hot dog stand in this tavern-heavy neighborhood is about as easy as tying on a buzz. There are also several great restaurants that fall somewhere between haute cuisine and gyros.

One of those places is Boka (1729 N. Halsted St., 312-337-6070), which has been good since it opened but is even better now that chef Giuseppe Tentori, a veteran of Charlie Trotter’s, has taken over. The outdoor patio in back is nothing short of delightful with a mature tree sprouting up on the far end, and tasteful lighting setting a nice, casual mood.

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Boka’s sister restaurant Landmark Grill + Lounge (1633 N. Halsted St., 312-587-1600) is also a nice option, although it is much clubbier and actually turns into a sort of nightclub scene after hours on the weekends. If you get there early enough, though (say before 9:30pm), you can avoid the tan kids with tattoos. The multi-level space allows for several dining experiences, from the comfortable secluded room upstairs to the cozy Arabesque/bordello lounge in the basement. The food is accessible (simple, American-inspired fare) and done very well.

Sweets & Savories might sound like a candy shop that sells beef jerky but it’s actually a pleasant little French bistro-like restaurant at 1534 W. Fullerton Ave. (773-281-6778). There’s tea service during the week (by reservation only), lots of specials, and one of the best hamburgers in town: Kobe beef, foie gras pate and truffle mayonnaise ($17).

It’s not the fanciest, but Sai Café (2010 N. Sheffield Ave., 773-472-8080) is one of the most reliable sushi restaurants in Chicago. It’s big and boisterous, like a sushi restaurant should be, with loud sushi chefs, lots of beer and people waiting at the bar for a table. And chef Charlie Trotter has taken his staff there for dinner. Endorsement enough?

It’s a cliché, but I’m going to use it anyway: North Pond Café (2610 N. Cannon Drive, 773-477-5845) is an oasis in the city. There, I said it. But it’s true. The Arts & Crafts-style room that houses the seasonal American restaurant was a warming house for ice skaters in its former life. Now you can sit and look out over that same pond while enjoying Bruce Sherman’s inspired cooking. Make sure to order anything on the menu that features an egg; Sherman loves them and does magical things with them.

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