Nathan Kirkman

From bohemian fine dining to gussied-up comfort food, this is where the city chows down.

Hot Doug's: Corner shops throughout the city sell hot dogs "dragged through the garden" (with mustard, pickles, relish, peppers, and more). But the wiener cognoscenti head to Hot Doug's for haute dogs, including those made with exotic meats such as rabbit, boar, and gator--plus duck-fat fries on Fridays and Saturdays only. 3324 N. California Ave., Avondale, 773/279-9550, closed Sun., hot dogs from $1.50

Lula Café: The bohemian alternative to starchy fine dining, Lula Café focuses on organic and local seasonal ingredients, and even holds popular Monday-night farm dinners with purveyors from the area. They're an incredible bargain at $24 for three courses. 2537 N. Kedzie Blvd., Logan Square, 773/489-9554, closed Tues., entrées from $13

Spacca Napoli: Chicagoans take pride in deep-dish, but recently, they've discovered the crispy goodness of thinner-crust Neapolitan pies. At Spacca Napoli, people queue up for the chance to order funghi (mushroom) and quattro formaggi (four cheese) pizzas that are cooked to perfection in an Italian-made, oak-burning oven. 1769 W. Sunnyside Ave., Ravenswood, 773/878-2420, closed Mon. and Tues., pizzas from $8

Hopleaf: Leaving deep-fried fare to every other corner bar, Hopleaf takes beer and food pairings seriously. Its mighty collection of Belgian beers--around 100--complements a menu of moules frites (a bucket of steamed mussels and fries accompanied by aioli dipping sauce), salt-cod croquettes, and veal sweetbreads. 5148 N. Clark St., Andersonville, 773/334-9851, entrées from $15

Avec: Next to his marquee restaurant, Blackbird, celebrated chef Paul Kahan runs a more casual spin-off that serves the kind of small-plate Mediterranean fare he seeks when he punches out: mixed olives, homemade salami, blood-sausage pizza, braised octopus. The first-come, first-served communal tables mean strategic diners snag seats before 6 p.m. 615 W. Randolph St., West Loop, 312/377-2002, plates from $5

West Town Tavern: Good-time Charlies past their beer-pounding prime dream of a tavern like West Town: exposed brick walls, a vintage oak bar, a well-priced wine list, and a chef who knows how to do gussied-up comfort food--from a cheese ball flavored with, among other things, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, and cumin, to a satisfying zinfandel-braised pot roast. 1329 W. Chicago Ave., West Town, 312/666-6175, closed Sun., entrées from $18

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