Things are usually off to a good start at a restaurant when the server puts (free) fresh bread down in front of you. That’s the case at Cafe Istanbul, an upscale Mediterranean restaurant in Wicker Park where most things carb-adjacent are made in-house - lahmacun, pita, even the rigatoni with veal sausage. But the main thing you should focus on here are the meats. The best way to do this is by ordering the mix grill that has a bit of everything, including doner, chicken, beef, shrimp, and lamb kebabs with fluffy basmati rice. The space is loud (the kitchen is semi-open, and there’s a TV in the dining room), but white tablecloths and the full bar make it feel nice enough for a celebratory group dinner.
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Phodega is a small counter-service spot with great pho that also sells corner store essentials.
Cumin is an Indian/Nepalese spot in Wicker Park with a huge menu. Expect everything from goat stew to samosas to a bunch of vegetarian options.
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Rotisserie Ema is a lunch spot that's connected to the sit-down Ema in River North. Come here to carry-out falafel, hummus, and Mediterranean salads.
The Purple Pig
Purple Pig has been around awhile, but it's still a great small plates restaurant that makes for a fun night.
Beatnik is a restaurant and cocktail lounge in West Town serving average food in a beautiful environment.
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