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SAVOR Return of the MAK; SideDoor brunch
DISH Dining Guide
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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The chork lives!

The chopstick/fork combination is the tool of the trade at Modern Asian Kitchen ( 1924 W. Division St.; ), a fast-casual spot also known as MAK that I initially profiled a few years ago.

Those into health will be happy to know that MAK continues to feature meats that are raised naturally—free of antibiotics, hormones and steroids. Also, no MSG is used in the items, and there are gluten-free offerings.

And those concerned about taste and quality will be relieved to discover that the menu offerings are still delicious.

There's a reason the chicken wangs ( not wings ) are popular, as those items are practically addictive. Other very tasty offerings include the eggplant skillet, pork-fried rice and ( especially ) the falafel. You really can't go wrong with the apps or entrees. ( However, the Chinese five-apiece and black sesame donuts fall a bit short of the desserts found at places like The Bakery at Fat Rice. )

However, there has been at least one major change at MAK. Jeff Wang ( of the Yum Dum food truck ) has taken over the spot from his friend and initial co-owner, Tommy Wang—and, no, they're not related. ( In fact, Jeff joked that he's the "better-looking" of the two Wangs. Relax, guys: You both look good. ) Jeff did indicate that the restaurant will add items from the food truck to add even more authenticity to the menu. I can't wait to try those.

By the way, there's no need to treat MAK as a BYOB spot, as there are beer and even sake offered. Please check out this spot.

SideDoor brunch

The history and decor that are part of SideDoor ( 100 E. Ontario St.; ) can be intimidating to some—but they, along with some appealing cuisine, are all part of the intrigue.

SideDoor, which is next door to the iconic Lowry's, is located in the historic McCormick Mansion. ( Incidentally, the gastropub's name comes from the relatively new Rush Street entrance—he first change in the building's exterior in nearly a quarter-century. ) The interior is eclectic and sophisticated, with everything from a large turtle shell on a wall to mysterious back rooms and semi-private enclaves.

Brunch takes you away from the weekend hustle-and-bustle that comes with being near Michigan Avenue. Start with a libation such as the tasty Off the Coast cocktail ( spiced rum, rum agricole, lime, honey, Giffard's passionfruit, Aperol and angostura bitters ), or partake of the many beer and wine offerings.

As for culinary items, it's a test for the indecisive, as there are so many cool-sounding items. Take, for instance, the Horse Shoe—a concoction of featuring Lawry's famous prime rib with fries, a four-cheese sauce and pickled jalapenos, topped with fried eggs. The Southern fried-chicken sandwich is delightful, although the bird was slightly overwhelmed by the toppings. And for those craving something sweet, look no further than the French toast sticks. Regarding apps, my dining companion absolutely loved the Wisconsin beer cheese, and I was partial to the crab-and-spinach dip.

SideDoor is just the break one needs before tackling those weekend crowds.

Note: Restaurant profiles/events are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.

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