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Bite Cafe a refreshing break from the norm

Bite Cafe’s fried chicken leg sandwich combines lightly breaded chicken leg mewith pickled slaw Tabasco aioli. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Bite Cafe’s fried chicken leg sandwich combines lightly breaded chicken leg meat with pickled slaw and Tabasco aioli. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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1039 N. Western; (773) 395-2483;

Hours: Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Prices: Dinner, $6-$16; lunch,
$6-$11; desserts, $6.

Try: Farro salad, fried chicken leg sandwich, bucatini pasta, cream cheese pound cake.

In a bite: Bite Cafe is Empty Bottle’s culinary offshoot, “featuring creative, healthy and inexpensive contemporary American everyday fare,” a portion of it vegetarian. Salads, sandwiches, Amish chicken, pork chop dinner. Late-night fare includes burger and fries, meatball sandwich and poutine.

KEY: ★★★★ Extraordinary;

★★★ Excellent; ★★ Very Good;

★ Good; Zero stars: Poor

Updated: June 16, 2011 6:57PM

Bite Cafe on North Western Avenue is a ray of sunshine in a restaurant world that is whipping up one culinary rainstorm after another. Bite Cafe, which has been given a good refurbishing, is small (10 tables or so), light, bright and quiet. More pluses include reasonable prices, a BYOB policy, and a menu of dishes — breakfast, lunch, dinner — that are a bit out there, but in a good way.

And for those of you who continue to e-mail me about pleasing vegetarian places to eat, Bite Cafe puts a stamp on that, but not to excess. For example, breakfast fare that a veg-head might enjoy includes a tofu scramble, a sweet potato hash, eggs and granola with Greek yogurt. And the dinner menu includes a provocative veggie muffaletta with layers of peppers, roasted tomatoes, olives and provolone. Nice.

And for lunch, vegetarians might glom on to the colorful farro salad with its wealth of good taste, pleasing textures and bits of healthy eating. Beets, cucumber, pickled radish, toasted walnuts and a gentle vinaigrette dressing complete the dish.

If your tastes are a bit “meatier,” the fried chicken leg sandwich is a beauty of a feast (and seems to have become a signature dish). Tucked into a sturdy bun, the smash of lightly breaded fried chicken leg (boneless, of course, and very meaty) gets its flavor egged on with a pickled slaw that gets “heat” from a Tabasco aioli. (You could put that Tabasco aioli on a doorknob and I would want some.)

The main guy in the kitchen at Bite Cafe is Rodney Staton (from Longman & Eagle, a favorite stop of mine). Staton knows of what he cooks. For example, a pasta dish, bucatini, could not have been better. Thick strands of perfectly al dente pasta were mixing it up in a bowl that included cuttings of spring onion, earthy and meaty cuts of cremini mushrooms, English peas and just a touch of mint. Springtime in a bowl. Unfortunately, this particular version of this pasta dish has been taken off the menu for now. Hopefully, it will be brought back soon, because it is totally spot-on and delicious.

Wrap it all up after dinner with a slab of delicious cream cheese pound cake topped with strawberry swirl ice cream. Or why not the thick and rich fudge brownie that comes with toasted walnuts, caramel sauce and coffee ice cream?


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