By janet rausa fuller For Sun-Times Media

July 2, 2014 11:48AM

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Updated: July 7, 2014 12:04PM

As a kid, Don Sritong longed for good ol’ American hot dogs and hamburgers, not his Thai mom’s spiced attempts at them. Now, of course, he craves his mom’s cooking. The spicier, the better.

A sommelier, Sritong always thinks in terms of balance, which explains the detailed menu pairings at his restaurant Coppervine, 1962 N. Halsted. When he eats out, authenticity appeals most to him — but a full-bodied Brunello always helps.

Top Thai: “Opart Thai [4658 N. Western] is the real deal. Their ‘Tiger Cry’ beef salad with fresh lime, cilantro, chilies... the beef should be just at medium-rare and served cold. A lot of Thai restaurants in town overcook it and serve it hot. Opart serves it the right way, with the savory sticky rice. I’ll order it really spicy, like five-star spicy, and drink my German Spatlese.”

Chicago classic: “It’s super cliche, but I love going to Gibsons [1028 N. Rush]. It’s a total throwback. Those guys are stellar in their attention to detail. They’re almost Ritz-Carlton-like in how they remember my name, my [steak] cut, the size I order.”

Top ramen: “Wasabi [2115 N. Milwaukee] is a recent discovery for me. I get the spicy roasted garlic ramen. It’s super spicy, super flavorful. The broth is silky. The ingredients are really fresh. It just has that umami depth I crave.”

Play dough: “We like La Madia [59 W. Grand]. It’s super simple but very fresh. They do this truffle pepperoni pizza with three types of pepperoni, drizzled with a little truffle oil. Great wine program. And they’re really good with kids. They’ll give my son dough to play with. He can roll out his own pizza.”

Brunch spot: “Riverview Tavern [1958 W. Roscoe] is a straight-up neighborhood pub, super family-friendly, great kids’ menu. I love their Sunday brunch, but I really love their Bloody Marys. They make the mix in-house. There’s this one they do with cheese, pepperoni, salami. You can even top it with a piece of pizza and a slider.”

Date night: “We’ve had a lot to celebrate lately with the restaurant, our new house, my wife just got a new job. Our default has been Sixteen [401 N. Wabash]. That thing is running flawlessly. Think what you might about Trump’s taste, but I think there’s a time and place for it.”

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