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River North’s Greek Fine Dining Destination Pleases Vettel

Plus, Lao Peng You provides an escape from the cold

A dining room with tables on the left, a bar on the right, and hanging lighting.
Avli brings elevated Greek dining to River North.
Barry Brecheisen

New Greek spot Avli is an “important addition to the River North dining scene,” writes Phil Vettel. Avli is the their restaurant from chef Louie Alexakis and crew, with locations in Lincoln Park and suburban Winnetka. The “serious fine-dining independent” offers a sophisticated take on staples, including baked saganaki topped with peppered fig marmalade and honey. Shared plates are “hit or miss.” Zucchini fritters served on a garlic-potato spread are “addictive,” but pork souvlakia is “overcooked.” Among the mains, thin-cut lamb chops don’t “do much for [Vettel], flavorwise.” The real star is the Berkshire pork gyro, presented as a sandwich with “so much meat that, even split in two, it’s knife-and-fork eating.” Overall, Avli isn’t a flawless experience but it’s a welcome one “at a time when luxury housing starts are gradually pricing Chicago’s Greektown out of existence.” [Tribune]

Chinese dumpling specialists Lao Peng You’s comforting dishes are perfect for combating Chicago’s winter according to Michael Nagrant. Chicken soup in West Town is “almost mahogany, fat-kissed, and redolent with a smoky essence.” It holds “springy” noodles and “silky poached chicken capped with golden skin.” Housemade beef dumplings “harmonize” with a “”flavorful” broth, while a woodear mushroom salad “bursts with garlic and lip-numbing chili spice.” Bing is similarly impressive — a “savory doughnut with crispy ridges and glutinous chew stuffed with various fillings tucked into a paper sleeve like some glorious Chinese-riff on a McDonald’s hash brown.” Nagrant’s favorite version contains “funky cumin-perfumed lamb.” [Michael Nagrant]

Chicago Ramen is the latest suburban noodle standout. Mike Sula heads to suburban Des Plaines for tsukemen, which is a dish consisting of cold noodles dipped in a “dense, nutty broth” that’s “as rich and sedating as any tonkotsu.” The restaurant also specializes in white mapo tofu ramen, the “White Walker of ramen varieties.” It’s a “riff on the lava-colored Sichuan mapo tofu” and features a light chicken broth, “soft, silky tofu,” black pepper, and Thai chilis “lurking in its depths.” All in all, Sula says these “potent medicine[s]” should “restore your faith in the idea that there’s nothing a really good bowl of ramen can’t fix.” [Reader]

Cooper Hawk’s Gold Coast location “is not a foodie paradise” but it ”works best for wine-fueled celebrating” and business lunches. The chain’s flagship features a “long-winded menu” full of winners and losers. Hummus topped with roasted carrots, cauliflower, and sweet onions is “darned good,” as are chicken pot stickers with Asian cabbage slaw. Soy-ginger Atlantic salmon is another hit that’s accompanied by “luscious” wasabi-buttered mashed potatoes. However, the meat on the prime rib sandwich is “overdone and overchewy,” and beef tenderloin medallions on a “life balance” plate are “similarly overcooked.” [Crain’s]

Cooper's Hawk Esquire Chicago

58 E. Oak Street, Chicago, IL 60611 Visit Website

CHICAGO RAMEN

578 East Oakton Street, , IL 60018 (224) 938-9982

Avli River North

702 North Wells Street, , IL 60654 (312) 643-5656 Visit Website

Lao Peng You

2020 West Chicago Avenue, , IL 60622 (872) 206-8624 Visit Website

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