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in Lincoln Park or Fullerton on the Red line

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Basil Leaf Cafe

View Map2465 N. Clark St., Chicago
Tel: (773) 935-3388
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Editorial Review of Basil Leaf Cafe

photo: Courtesy of Nick Flandro

Open since 1998 (it moved to this location in 2008), Basil Leaf serves up typical Italian fare, including pastas, salads, sandwiches and meaty entrees. The eatery shuns the typical cheese-heavy execution of most American renditions in favor of burst-on-your-palate freshness. For instance, penne broccoli with roasted garlic and walnuts in basil oil is addictive and flavorful without being the least bit greasy. The tomato cream dishes are particularly popular here, as are some of the more inventive pasta plates, such as fettuccine jambalaya, with shrimp, chicken, mushrooms, artichokes and Cajun spices.

Portions run huge, so your best bet may be splitting an entree and indulging in an appetizer, such as calamari or grilled portabella in balsamic vinegar. Lunches are a bit more reasonably sized and a bit cheaper, though a recent order of soup and salad yielded a cauldron-sized bowl of savory minestrone and a salad that would pass in some restaurants as dinner-size. The sandwiches here are no afterthought either, with skirt steak, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes on ciabatta competing for favorite with chicken, avocado, alfalfa sprouts and tomatoes on multigrain.

Dinner entrees run $9.95-$24.95; lunch averages $9.95-$16.95.

Average cost: $10-$20

Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Rockwood

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11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday

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chicago, metromix