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Ixcateco Grill Anselmo Ramirez has some serious culinary cred.

He cooked for 12-plus years at Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, and for Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris at Prairie Grass Cafe.

"Before (as a pastry chef), I was sequestered in the kitchen, kept away from the guests; here, I'm talking to people and get to hear their stories."Maple & Ash Steakhouses tend to be buttoned-down restaurants, but this Gold Coast spot, which opened in late October, breaks the mold a bit with its menu descriptions.

For now, here are capsule reviews (no star ratings yet) of places that caught our collective eye. They are inclusive one-biters, generally inexpensive — if one tastes bad, you're already on to the next toothpick.

Bom Bolla, a Basque-inspired, Wicker Park spot, with a robust roster of cava and sherry, has that small plate thing going, but what makes it next-level-worthy is the finesse exhibited by chef Matthew Lair and his team.

) and there's a chef's-choice option whose title we can't print.

Chef Danny Grant, who snagged two stars at Ria when it was part of the Elysian Hotel (now the Waldorf Astoria), oversees the steak and seafood menu, and partner and sommelier extraordinaire Belinda Chang oversees the beverage program.

Oil colored an evil fiery red pools atop the naan that sits underneath.

If your stomach is clad in iron, it's a dish worth splitting with the mates.

There are a lot of sexy-sounding dishes on this menu, but the results are often heavy-handed.

The alluring spaghetti with duck Bolognese and duck egg was unbearably salty; the veggie casserole served in a hollowed butternut squash was a dense mass of starch and cinnamon spicing.

Conçu et animé par les étudiants, ce forum favorise l’insertion des futurs ingénieurs dans le monde professionnel qui les attend.

The end of the year approaches, and we find ourselves with a folder full of places that we intended to evaluate (and we may get to some of these next year).

The real winners are the bocadillo sandwiches (hat tip goes to Evanston's Hewn bakery) filled with garlicked pork sausage and mustard, and the surprising standout, one stuffed with white corn meal-fried calamari and saffron aioli. Community Tavern Chicago has an abundance of steakhouses, but they cluster together, downtown and in River North, like members of the same wolf pack.