Huckleberry's Bistro -- All of the menu items here are created with natural and organic ingredients whenever possible, and the variety of foods prepared fresh daily is staggering. They do breakfast, lunch and dinner. Soups are $2 a cup, hot sandwiches and entrees are $6 or less. Cold salads range from $6 to $9 a pound. The hot lemon chicken sandwich ($6 with salad) was generous, with saut & eacute;ed chicken breast topped with tomato and covered with creamy lemon-garlic pan sauce on a thick slab of asagio ciabatta bread. It was substantial, peerless in ingredient quality, delicious and messy. The curried red lentil salad has a smooth texture and a very subtle curry flavor, with sweet currants and vinaigrette for balance. 926 S. Monroe Call: 624-1349. (MC)
UpStage Supper Club -- You don't need to sign up for theater to sample the quisine of Chef Kile Tansy (formerly of Quinn's) as the third floor of the old Odd Fellows Hall on West First is now open for dinner. The Scallops Mornay appetizer ($10) was generous, with meaty scallops in a delicious sauce under a blanket of melted cheese, served with thin French bread toasts. The Spice Island Tuna ($17) was a monumental portion of two yellow fin tuna steaks, with a thick rub of a pungent spice mixture served over a delectable, creamy coconut-almond rice. On top of the whole thing was a generous amount of a colorful fresh mango salsa. Some lightly steamed spinach grounded this beautiful and very tasty plate. Look for the menu items to change about every three months. 1017 W. First Ave. Call: 747-8243. (LM)
Delhi Palace -- "Palace" may be a stretch (it's a remodeled fast food building) but the tables are nicely appointed and covered in glass. Oversize cloth napkins add a gracious touch. The menu is expansive and helpfully divided into sections. The Tandoori surprise ($15) was a big sizzling platter of meats -- tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, boti (lamb) kebab, minced lamb kebab, tandoori shrimp -- marinated in mixtures of yogurt and spices and cooked in the tandoor (Indian clay oven). The chicken goa curry ($10) was wonderful, served over the saffron-flavored basmati rice, or scooped up on a piece of naan bread that accompanied our meal. The elegantly flavored coconut milk-based sauce left a bit of heat behind while allowing the complex flavors to shine through. 11114 E. Sprague. Call: 927-0500. (LM)
Far West Billiards -- This is much more than merely a prime spot to get in a game of 8-ball. Far West is an easygoing neighborhood joint with a good jukebox, good booze, friendly servers and interesting chow. The fish taco platter ($8) comes with two white corn tortillas stuffed with lightly battered fried cod strips, spring greens and a wonderfully tangy feta-yogurt sauce, servings of fresh guacamole and pico de gallo salsa and a heap of tri-colored tortilla chips. The Pasta Carbonara ($8) is the perfect size for lunch and comes with a little cup of mixed field greens. The pasta was a nice toothsome al dente, and the sauce excelled with little bits of salty, savory prosciutto blended into the Alfredo sauce. Topped with grated Parmesan, it made for a fortifying, comforting meal. 1001 W. First Ave. Call: 455-3429 (MC)
Aki's Grill and Sushi Express -- Aki's is tidy, friendly and intimate in a way that encourages conversation. In addition to sushi, the menu features grilled chicken, steak and salmon with teriyaki sauce, tempura shrimp and veggies, chicken yakisoba noodles, chicken fried rice and miso soup. Reasonable prices encourage experimentation. The rolled sushi platters contain six to eight pieces and come with the chef's choice of three hand-formed pieces, wasabi and pickled ginger. The crunchy roll ($6.50) with a filling of tempura shrimp, cream cheese and avocado and the spicy tuna roll ($5.50) with a filling of spicy scallions and tuna were both delicious. The hand-formed nigiri of raw salmon, raw tuna and lightly seared albacore was fresh tasting and, quite simply, spectacular. 5 N. Stevens St. Call: 747-4266. (MC)
Spencer's -- Spencer's entree menu features top-quality, straight-ahead food in no-nonsense preparations that rely on USDA prime beef direct from the Chicago stockyards (though beef is not the only option). The salty prime rib (11-ounce, $21; 18-ounce, $27) was as tender as butter, while the Spencer's steak (a 14-ounce ribeye for $27) showed off the intense flavor made possible by searing in the restaurant's 1,600-degree infrared broiler. The strawberry shortcake ($6.25) has to be one of the best dessert values in town. Service was pleasant, well-informed, and generally efficient. 322 N. Spokane Falls Ct. Call: 744-2372. (LM)
Arny's -- Arny's serves up classic diner chow along with conversation and a big helping of attitude. It's breakfasts and lunches only, and all your faves are here. The Double Whammy is $6.19. The Stromboli with ham, provolone and homemade meat sauce on a French roll is $4.29. The colossal Bomber Omelet with six eggs, onions, green peppers, ham, stromboli sauce and cheese with 'browns and toast is $8.19. The Philly Steak sandwich ($6.49) with fries comes on a French roll and is bursting with more tender, savory beef strips, diced green pepper and onion than it can possibly contain. It's one helluva tasty sandwich. Be sure to try one of Arny's real ice cream shakes or malts. 1229 N. Hamilton. Call: 487-9588. (MC)
Capsule reviews are written by Lauren McAllister (LM) and Mike Corrigan (MC), unless otherwise noted.