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What to Eat at the revamped Bite Cafe, Open Today

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Following a top-to-bottom rehab, Bite Cafe opened its doors to the public today and when we popped by around 2 p.m. to have a look, nearly every table was filled. Clearly there's a demand for a quality restaurant near the Empty Bottle, which owner Bruce Finkelman (Longman & Eagle) calls a classic American diner, albeit a tad more upscale.

At 15 years, the space went from somewhat of a grungy teenager into a more grown-up older sibling. There's still a chalkboard displaying rotating daily features, but the space has a more aesthetically pleasing vibe, with refreshed exposed brick, plush counter seats that you literally sink into, black metal-topped counters, dangling pendants, white crown molding and loads of afternoon light from the large front windows.

And the menu got a makeover as well, courtesy of chef Rodney Staton (Longman & Eagle, Spiaggia, Topolobampo). Staton, along with pastry chef Maggie Laleman (Hot Chocolate, Lula Cafe), plays both sides of the carnivore fence by including plenty of vegetarian dishes, like Philly Cheese Fake (a sandwich of smoked portabella, green peppers, onion and provolone); green lentils with cippolini onion and feta; and a Veggie Muffaletta with piquillo pepper.

Other standout dishes include the fried chicken leg sandwich with Tobasco aioli; buccatini with sorrel and pistachio pesto; and the Hangover Salad with bacon, toasted brioche and a poached egg over arugula and frisee. Some of the items carry over to the everyday brunch menu, but also look out for the breakfast "poutine" (fries, smoked bacon gravy, poached eggs and pickled chiles); sweet potato hash; the grilled cheese with aged cheddar, Butterkase and cippolini marmelade: and, of course, the requisite burger and fries.

Be sure to save room for Laleman's desserts. We got to nibble on the "rejects" of her chocolate cookie bar, which were actually winners in our book. She's also doing banana fritters and a butterscotch pot de creme. And yes, Bite will remain a BYO joint, so be sure to, well, bring your own since it'll be open late night.

Bite Cafe Menu

Bite Cafe

1035 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL

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