ARTS

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May 9, 2003

Kill Obscurity

If you're like me, you've spent a little too much money lately and have just paid the rent. I know I'm feeling strapped for cash and ideas. This means that the only theme that I could think of to fit the following restaurants is that they're reasonably-priced and college student-friendly.

Leo's Lunchroom may look like a dive, in that nostalgic-diner way. The majority of the menu is super cheap, and because it's open until 11p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, it makes for really good pre-bar/club food. Their strength is solid sandwiches and surprising salads. Every evening features more expensive entree specials, but it seems incongruous with the atmosphere, and the cheap stuff is filling and delicious anyways. The space is cramped, which can result in great service. Sit at the counter if you're looking to socialize. If you're going for dinner it's B.Y.O.B., but otherwise they offer lesser-known sodas, coffee and sometimes hot cocoa. Leo's is at 1809 West Division Avenue in Wicker Park. Take the Blue Line to Division, then the 70 to Wood Street. (773) 276-6509

Cafe Bolero serves up Cuban comfort food in a low-light, potentially romantic, potentially family, atmosphere. It may look like a dress casual restaurant, but it isn't necessarily so. The food is reasonably priced, and you can get a lot for a very little, like the Cubano sandwich for under $10. Most of the dinner entrees come with sides, but you can also order tapas as appetizers or for dinner. If you like pork, you must have the lechon. The shakes are fresh and delicious and they have huge mojitos for $12. Every time we've dined at Bolero the service has been friendly and familiar. I would suggest sitting in the back room nearer to the bar. Cafe Bolero is at 2252 North Western Avenue. Take Blue Line to Western or take the 74 bus to Western. (773) 227-9000

If you're a sushi snob, Nohana may not look like much, but the fish is fresh and the food is cheap (for Japanese food that is). It's the perfect place if your stomach doesn't understand that cravings for Japanese food don't necessarily correspond with the amount of money in your wallet. There are bento boxes for under $12 and sushi assortments starting at $10. Most orders come with green tea, soup, and rice. During my visit we spent around $15 each, and left full--not bad for Japanese. The problem is finding parking around the area. Nohana is located at 3136 North Broadway Street. Take the Red Line to Belmont and walk, or take the 36 from there. (773) 528-1902

The first time I visited Artopolis was the first time, in my long-life as a Chicagoan, that I had set foot in Greek town. It's easy to spot Artopolis; it's perhaps the newest looking location in all of Greek town. We were warmly welcomed by the maitre d' and seated next to the bakery. Artopolis is huge, and so is the menu. The Mediterranean pizzas are filling and delicious, and for the first time in a long time I found an edible Caesar salad. The Greek style coffee is really good, and make sure you get some treats from the bakery before you leave. Artopolis is located at 306 South Halsted Street. (312) 559-9000

---Bonnie Yap