The Chicago Corner
The cuisine: Home cooking for people who can relate to the words "the Loop," "the El" and "the Cubbies."
The back story: Albanian-owned Italian-American restaurants are nearly as common as brisket and banana pudding in the Metroplex, but this one comes to North Texas by way of Chicago, and is much the better for its "Northern" dialect. Owner Adam Arif is a Windy City native who grew up in the restaurant business. Arif previously co-owned Mina's in North Richland Hills; he opened Chicago Corner in a true corner of an Arlington shopping center a little more than a year ago.
The food: Since there are dozens of restaurants in the area that offer pasta with pink sauce, we went straight for the Chicago side of the menu and were rewarded with the most authentic Chicago cuisine we've tasted since crossing the Mason-Dixon Line. "It will take a while, of course," the crusty waitress informed us when we ordered a deep-dish pizza. We understood completely.
The crust was thick and buttery and built up to a height of about an inch-and-a-half on the sides. Fillings (choose up to four) are layered thick, as is the cheese. The sauce goes on top. Yes, you read that right. The prices might sound high -- $17.99 for the 12-inch, $19.99 for the 14-inch and $21.99 for the 16-inch -- but one slice each of the small put us away, meaning leftovers for two nights.
The Chicago hot dog ($2.99) fits the bill in every detail: The dog is all-beef, the bun is studded with poppy seeds, and the relish is Emerald City green. Mustard, onions, peppers, tomatoes, celery salt and a dill pickle slice complete the dog's dressing. The Italian beef sandwich ($6.99) was the biggest hit, however. A long slab of Italian bread was split, piled high with sliced beef and topped with grilled peppers, and came soaked in au jus (don't even think about eating this baby with your hands).
The atmosphere: How to say this gently: If you're a Chicago native and hungry for the city's specialties, you'll come to Chicago Corner despite the decor. There are pictures of Chicago institutions like Soldier Field on the wall, and it's fun to pick out your 'hood on the neighborhoods map, but the place could use some spiffing up.
The details: Hours are 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 6 a.m.-midnight Saturday and Sunday (they've just begun serving breakfast). Major credit cards accepted. BYOB. Get 20 percent off carryout orders.