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After a failed fling with faux sophistication, this pioneer of Òcasual fine diningÓ has returned to its high-quality comfort-food roots. The dry ribs are back, the bread is made from scratch, and the tomatoes taste juicy again. A new test kitchen, helmed by a collective of accomplished local chefs, keeps menu evolution freshÑyou can taste their works-in-progress at the Hornby Street location, which offers great lunchtime deals. Some of the winning dishes (sticky barbecue pork buns, brightly herbed Mediterranean calamari) have rolled out to all restaurants. But most, including a to-die-for Wagyu beef burger and a lobster Cobb salad, are reserved for flagship locations. And there’s the catch: consistency should be a chain’s calling card. At Earls, there’s still a disconnect between the flagships and everywhere else.

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