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The 38 Essential Chicago Restaurants, January '11

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It's time to update the Eater 38, your answer and ours to any question that begins, “Can you recommend a restaurant?” This highly elite group covers the entire city, spans myriad cuisines and collectively satisfies all of your restaurant needs, save for those occasions when you absolutely must spend half a paycheck. Every couple of months, we'll add pertinent restaurants that were omitted, have newly become eligible (restaurants must be open at least six months) or have stepped up their game.

This time around, we're making a few changes. We love Alinea, but it's just too pricy for the Eater 38—and nearly impossible to get in since receiving three Michelin stars (we're also making space for Next when it finally opens). In its place we're popping in Ruxbin. What's the connection? Both chefs, Grant Achatz and Ruxbin's Edward Kim worked under Thomas Keller. While Kim isn't doing molecular gastronomy he experiments with flavors and global influences. Next off is Great Lake. Yes, the pizza is worthy, but waiting hours to snag a table in the 14-seater is mind numbing. We're replacing it with the just-eligible Girl & The Goat. Sure, tough to get a reservation, but the space is 10 times the size—and it was the hottest opening of 2010. Finally we're bumping Hopleaf. Love the beer list, but we want to see what the kitchen churns out once it expands. Coming on board is Lula Cafe, an omission from our first Eater 38 back in October. It's a pioneer in the casual, locally sourced, organic game and it should've been on in the first place.

For those of you readying the pitchforks because your favorite restaurant isn't on the list, wouldn't it just be more productive to nominate it for inclusion? State your cases for (or against) restaurants in the comments or in the tipline.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Anteprima

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Urban Belly

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Hot Doug's

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Kuma's Corner

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The Bristol

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Lao Sze Chuan

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Purple Pig

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Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar

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Smoque BBQ

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Ceres' Table

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HB Home Bistro

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Wakamono Sushi Bar

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Perennial

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Francesca's Pizzeria Napoletana

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DMK Burger Bar

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Kith and Kin

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Longman and Eagle

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Bonsoiree

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Nightwood Restaurant

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Gilt Bar

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Piccolo Sogno

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Hemas Kitchen

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Demera Ethiopian

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Sun Wah Bar-B-Que

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Pho Xe Tang/Tank Noodle

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De Cero Restaurant

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Glenn's Diner

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Coalfire

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Big Star

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Chickpea

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Tac Quick

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Girl & The Goat

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Lula Cafe

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