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SAVOR The Fifty/50; Francesca's brunch; Baconfest Chicago
DISH: Weekly Dining Guide
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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The Fifty/50 ( 2047 W. Division St.; ), from—who else?—the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, beat a lot of other places to the punch regarding sports bars kicking it up and serving patrons something more than plain burgers and corn chips.

For more than a decade, this casual spot has claimed that it's a sports bar that offers something more—and a recent visit convinced me of that, at least for now.

The smoked pork-belly burnt ends are quite beguiling appetizers—maple-cured and applewood-smoked, and accompanied by honey-mustard dipping sauce. However, there are other apps such as tempura popcorn shrimp ( addictive ), beer-battered pickles, buffalo calamari and even tempura-battered cauliflower ( reaching out to vegetarians, in another turn for a lot of sports bars ).

The Fifty/50 is famed for its wings, and they come in three varieties: regular breaded, boneless breaded and applewood-smoked. ( They like applewood here. ) On the other end, there are several salads available, including the Wicker Park, appropriately ( mixed greens, toasted pine nuts, goat cheese, cucumbers, vine tomatoes and roasted shallot vinaigrette ).

And, of course, there are burgers and baby-back ribs galore. I actually found the burgers particularly fascinating, with varieties such as HELL ( with habanero salsa, roasted jalapeños, Fifty/50 hot sauce and pepper jack cheese ), The O-Face ( Merkts cheddar, BBQ pulled pork, waffled mac'n'cheese on a pretzel bun ) and the very tasty Big Hered, which is a bison-based concoction.

By the way, keep this place is mind for casual patio dining this summer if you're a dog owner, as that area of this spot is canine-friendly.

Francesca's on Chestnut brunch

Francesca's on Chestnut ( 200 E. Chestnut St.; ) has a brunch that measures up with its other meals.

That's wonderful for at least two reasons: great quality at fantastic prices ( especially considering the restaurant is in the heart of Streeterville, one of the most most expensive neighborhoods in Chicago, if not the Midwest ). Arancini Benedict ( $13 ) involves crispy risotto balls with prosciutto, poached egg, hollandaise and house potatoes—and could be a meal on its own. Ditto for the delicious brioche French toast ( $10 ), which is made simply and wonderfully.

However, practically everything is a hit here, including the Davanti burger ( $16; roasted tomatoes, crispy mozzarella, arugula, bacon jam, and roasted garlic aioli, served on a brioche bun—and, yes, it's served with fries ). However, if that's not your style, other offerings at this particular Francesca's restaurant range from smoked salmon salad ( $14 ) to rigatoni alla paesana ( $13; rigatoni with roasted sausage, wild mushrooms and peas in a light tomato cream sauce ).

And with the money you save, you can hit the shops on nearby Michigan Avenue—maybe.

Baconfest: Meat-and-greet

Thousands of attendees got to "ham it up" April 6-7 at the UIC Forum, where Baconfest Chicago took place.

At Baconfest—where a portion of the proceeds go to the Greater Chicago Food Depository—Chicago and suburban chefs concoct and serve dishes to thousands of bacon lovers. Just a few of the restaurants present this year included The Heritage ( which served bacon-and-red floriani cornmeal dumplings ), Bites ( Billionaire's BLT bao ), Carnivale ( maple-bacon pops ), Inspiration Kitchen ( bacon pistachio beet empanadas ), Italian Village Restaurants ( bacon BBQ truffle ) and Edzo's Burger Shop ( pancake-and-bacon milkshakes ). In addition, there were alcoholic beverages and other products ( such as Burton's Maple Syrups ) that complemented the meats.

Keep up with the latest Baconfest news at

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

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