Atlantic Bar & Grill This all-things-to-all-people spot has all the usual trappings of an American Irish pub—fireplace, darts league, passable shepherd’s pie, and a dozen beers on tap. The sister bar to the downtown Celtic Crossing, it’s family owned and remarkably friendly. On a recent visit Rosie, a fire-haired barmaid with a real brogue, brought out house-made potato chips still warm from the fryer.
Bobbie’s Runaway Up the street from the flashier Leadway is this tiny shot-and-a-beer dive, notable only for nightly beer specials (a featured $2.50 domestic bottle each weeknight; 5-for-$12 buckets on Sundays).
Cafe Muppet The exterior, with its tinted glass and neon beer signs, is strangely compelling: what mysteries lie inside? At least one—according to the bartender, there’s live Bosnian and Serbian music on the last weekend of the month, but though that’s when we were there the only music we heard was a barrage of hair metal from the jukebox. The squared-off bar in the back corner serves bottled beer only and is off-puttingly cramped, but it does leave room for the busy pool table, which seems to be a real draw.
C & S Four booths and a rail are all that make up Chuck and Sharon’s cozy if unremarkable dive, where the ’85 Bears remain the heroes of the day. Darts, video bowling, and a jukebox provide the entertainment. Cash only.
Carola’s Hansa Clipper The neighborhood’s history as a German enclave is apparent in this friendly dive bar, which features seven German beers on tap and decor from the old country. Alongside, though, are nods to a changing demographic: bags tournaments on Tuesdays, an open mike on Wednesdays, Golden Tee, and a dog-friendly policy.
The Globe Pub This North Center spot seemingly shows every professional soccer game played anywhere in the world at any time (rugby, Australian Rules football, and plain old American sports get their due as well). Team scarves cover virtually every inch of wall space that’s not behind a flat-screen TV, and European beers are available from a huge, ever changing list (the vast majority in bottles). The back room, another full-size bar, draws crowds for open mikes and a pub quiz. The menu is standard pub fare along with “traditional selections” like chips and curry and chicken potpie, with breakfast on weekends. The Globe is also the home bar of the Chicago Fire and the Chicago Red Stars; $15 will get you a shuttle to Toyota Park.
Goldie’s Bar The brown awning sports a martini glass logo, but the $1 Pabst pints all day every day are a better indication of the flavor of this place. Cash only.
Heuttenbar The lederhosen have definitely been exchanged for business casual, but this alpine-lodge-inspired institution is an authentic alternative to the larger beer halls in the area. Proximity to the Brown Line and strong German beers like Spaten and Kutscher Alt on tap make for a lively happy hour, and during warmer months the mirth spills out onto the sidewalks through the open windows.
Hidden Cove Anyone who’s been out too late north of Irving Park Road has at one time or another been pulled (or pulled someone) into this late-night karaoke bar, most likely with mixed results. Trivia and Golden Tee draw an after-work crowd, but on weekend nights the swaying masses still pack the place despite of the cheesy lighting and deep-fryer waft.
Leadway Bar & Gallery The decor here is a tempest of metalwork, copper fixtures, brushed aluminum, tile mosaics, and paintings, along with other flourishes like the grille of an old Pontiac GTO protruding from the back bar, an aquarium stocked with piranhas, and a neon Homer Simpson. There’s sidewalk seating for those on the verge of a stimulation-induced seizure. The Leadway serves reasonably priced pub grub and hosts an open mike on Wednesdays as well as occasional live music.
Margie’s A refreshing relic of the area’s blue-collar roots, this third-shift bar has done little to keep pace with gentrification save adding some flat-screen TVs. Frosty mugs of Old Style remain the preferred drink ($2, $1 on Monday), and regulars who know each other well enough to ignore each other abound. There are two pool tables; cash only.
Ricochet’s Standard sports-and-pitchers place that pronounces itself an antidote to pretentious spots with expensive drinks and trendy food. The requisite darts, TVs, and cute-but-approachable female bartender are in place, but so is a sense that Ricochet’s is comfortable in its skin and doesn’t really care what you think.
Saint Pauli Club A velvet Elvis looks over the eclectic crowd drawn to this 4 AM dive, and the long, racetrack-shaped bar makes it easy to keep an eye on everyone in the place. A regular to my right slurringly informed me that the Saint Pauli Club was the best bar in the world. I can’t remember exactly, but I think I slurred back to her in full agreement. Upon sober reflection, though, that may be a tad hyperbolic. Cash only.
Sunnyside Tap This odd little time warp looks like it hasn’t had a face-lift since around 1988. That means Spuds McKenzie and other vintage beer swag that doesn’t show any sign of purposeful curation. The jukebox even holds 45s. The bartender says she doesn’t keep regular hours, sometimes coming in as early as 9 AM, other times not till 1 PM, and while the tap’s licensed till 2, she often closes early. Cash only.
Time Out Sports Bar This formerly forgettable divey sports bar on Rockwell is now a bustling spot with hardwood floors and cafe-style doors that open onto the street. It’s also become an (apparently) fashionable après-softball place, with good beer specials ($6 domestic pitchers on Wednesdays and Fridays) and plenty of TVs.
Education & Recreation
ARTango Maria Alferov and Burak Ozkosem cofounded Tango Eclectique, which offers instruction for all levels, including lessons for same-sex partners. A tango festival July 1-6 features six duos of Argentine masters, “electro-tango” DJs, and an orchestra.
Bloom Yoga Drop-in classes including prenatal and postpartum yoga as well as multiweek workshops covering runner’s yoga, back health, and “itsy bitsy yoga” (for tots up to age four). The studio also offers massage in 30- to 90-minute sessions. An attached store sells yoga gear.
Brahma Kumaris Part of the “Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization,” this center offers courses on meditation, positive thinking, and stress-free living. Classes are free and open to people of any religious background.
Chicago Mosaic School This nonprofit mosaic arts school offers classes and workshops taught by regular faculty and visiting artists, ranging from mosaic basics to “Color Theory and Application.” There’s an open studio every Sunday from 9 AM-3 PM ($15). See also Galleries.
The Chopping Block This tidy, well-stocked kitchen supply store hosts demonstrations and hands-on classes covering subjects that include sushi, grilling, pies and tarts, beer and wine tasting, and knife skills.
Dance Center Chicago Classes cover everything from ballroom and Latin dance to “first dance instruction,” which teaches soon-to-be newlyweds how to dance at their wedding reception. Weekly group classes and private lessons are available.
DANK Haus Courses in German for adults and children offered September through June. Registration required. See also Galleries, Music, Movies, and Volunteering.
Degerberg Academy of Martial Arts A mixed-martial-arts studio offering instruction for kids and adults in the “Degerberg Blend,” a combination of English, French, American, Thai, and Filipino fighting styles, with light- and full-contact training options.
Design Dance Classes for all ages in a range of styles; summer courses for adults include go-go, belly dance, and “Ms. Bea Haven’s Art of Burlesque.”
(Fill in the Blank) Gallery This new storefront gallery also offers classes in screen printing, figure drawing, and painting. There are drop-in figure drawing classes Tuesdays from 6 to 9 PM starting July 14 ($15, 18+) and printmaking classes Saturdays from 1 to 4 PM starting July 18 ($45). See also Galleries.
Flamenco Arts Center In addition to flamenco for kids and adults, classes include 60s-style go-go (wear tennis shoes, not boots), hula dance, and west African drumming.
Inside Out Art Studio Classes for all ages in mask making and drawing and painting, as well as summer art camps for kids. See also Galleries.
Lillstreet Art Center Ten-week sessions of art classes (eight weeks in the summer) in categories including metalsmithing, printmaking, textiles, glass, and ceramics; five-week beginner courses in each category (four weeks in summer) offer newcomers to the medium a chance to experiment. Other offerings include workshops and kids’ classes and summer camps. See also Galleries.
Lincoln Square Lanes This 12-lane bowling alley over a hardware store has been operating since 1918, which it claims makes it the oldest bowling joint in the city (it still doesn’t have electronic scoring). League bowling may limit lane availability from September to May, and the lanes are closed Mon-Wed in the summer. Reservations are recommended for large groups.
Lincoln Square Pottery Studio Offers classes in both wheel-throwing and hand-building techniques for kids and adults; use of the studio through an independent study session is an option for more advanced potters. The studio also hosts field trips to the suburbs, where pyrotechnic firing techniques like raku can be practiced with impunity.
Old Town School of Folk Music Eight-week classes cover not only instruments from the dobro to the dulcimer (the ukulele category alone lists nine different courses), but also voice, songwriting, dance, and theater for all ages. Private lessons, workshops, and kids’ summer camps are also available. See also Music, Volunteering.
Skyline Gymnastics Dianne Durham, a former member of the U.S. National Gymnastics Team, runs this gymnastics center. There are classes for adults and eight-week sessions for kids 18 months and up, an open gym for members, and a summer camp.
Waveland Bowl A 40-lane bowling alley with all the bells and whistles, making it a good choice for those who eschew hand scoring and don’t mind sharing the lanes with young parties of bumpered birthday bowlers. Fog machines and blacklights go into full swing for “cozmic” bowling on several weekday evenings and weekend afternoons each week.
Architectural Artifacts Even if you’re not in the market for a $12,000 inlaid Moroccan hall seat or a life-size, electrified bronze maiden from France, you’ll be blown away by this 80,000-square-foot, ever-changing collection of historic, quirky, and/or monumental stuff for sale—all handsomely displayed in two linked, century-old factory buildings, with a four-story atrium (available for parties) at the center. Gleaming vintage sinks, pinball machines, movie posters, classic cars, statues of disembodied hands, colorful industrial springs ($2 per linear inch)—it’s all here. Owner Stuart Grannen says he’s turning part of the ground floor level into a museum sometime soon; that’ll be great but redundant. This is already the best kind of museum: endlessly surprising. And you can touch.
Avram Eisen Gallery Located in a garden-level double storefront, Eisen’s friendly, one-year-old gallery combines a custom framing service with a focus on contemporary painting, photography, and prints by local artists. Look for work by Gary Borremans, R.W. Ruehlen, and Timmy Samuel, among others.
Chicago Mosaic School Obsessive behavior is a good thing at this four-year-old institution, which bills itself as “the first and only” academic-based, nonprofit mosaic arts school in the United States. Located on the second floor of a former factory, it has a two-room gallery—a portrait show featuring a pebbly Michelle Obama was up when I stopped in recently—and a spacious studio for classes and workshops with titles like “Smalti’s Next Level” and “Architectural Installations.” Visiting artists from around the globe augment the regular faculty, and there’s an open studio every Sunday ($15 gets you a 9 AM-3 PM slot). The separately owned Tiny Pieces store rents space in the back and has everything you’d need to make your own piece. Don’t miss the Byzantine-style john. See also Education & Recreation.
Chicago Printmakers Collaborative Founded 20 years ago by Deborah Maris Lader, whose studio is next door, this storefront under the el is the longest-running independent artists’ print shop in Chicago. For a $200 monthly fee, professional artists get access to work space, presses, and a community of colleagues. There’s also a three-hour supervised work session option for $40, a gallery (open Fri-Sat noon-5 PM and by appointment), and classes in etching, lithography, screen printing, and more. Up to 20 artists are in residence at any one time.
Cornelia Arts Building A privately owned converted ice house (circa 1910) with 25 rental studios housing about 50 artists. There are open houses in the spring and fall, as well as an annual holiday show and sale in December, but no official phone number or Web site for information, so you’ll just have to stay alert for your chance to get a look inside.
DANK Haus Celebrating its golden anniversary year, this nonprofit cultural center is dedicated to “promoting and preserving German culture, heritage, and language.” Housed in a six-story, 1927 Beaux Arts building with a ballroom and a sixth-floor terrace, the center offers a language school, a library, a gallery, and a free museum focused on the history of Germans in Chicago (the museum is currently open by appointment, but regular hours are slated to begin in October). Check for classes and cultural events, including German-language films. See also Education & Recreation, Movies, Music, and Volunteering.
(Fill in the Blank) Gallery Five artists—Kristen Althoff, Kelly Tucker, Mary Richards, Whitney Larson, and Katie Hogan—opened this one-room storefront last January as a place where art can be “discussed, exhibited, and taught.” They show emerging artists from Chicago and beyond, and offer classes in screen printing and painting—with more to come, they say. The current show, up through June 28, is new oil paintings and charcoal works by Detroit-based Shirah Anderson. See also Education & Recreation.
Homey Gallery This spacious three-year-old shop offers contemporary art and furnishings for home and garden. The selection varies with the season, but recently included a neon-green, faux-ceramic iron bunny ($85) and piles of big terra-cotta hearts (about $100 each) to liven up the backyard. In general, prices range from $200 to $5,000. See also Shopping & Services.
Inside Out Art Studio Master mask-makers Jeff Semmerling and Sonia Schaefer—whose fabulous, mostly leather creations have been commissioned for use in theater and ritual by everyone from Disney to indigenous Canadians—have their workshop in this storefront. Hundreds of masks are on display, and Inside Out offers all-ages classes in mask making and other arts, as well as summer art camps for kids, run by certified teacher Donna Lurie Semmerling. See also Education & Recreation.
Lillstreet Art Center A self-described “community” of artists and students, 34-year-old Lillstreet left its original home in a converted stable on Lill Street six years ago for a three-story former gear factory where it has lots more space and state-of-the-art equipment. The large, sunny first floor features a gallery showing luscious ceramics and other art, a gift shop offering more of the same (and handmade jewelry), plus the nonprofit First Slice Cafe. The second and third floors house artists’ studios and classrooms for Lillstreet’s broad array of workshops and classes for adults and kids, covering ceramics, metalsmithing, jewelry, painting, drawing, printmaking, textiles, and glasswork. See also Education & Recreation.
Moka The vibe is sleek, modern, and corporate at this “full-service” studio selling architectural and interior-design services as well as art. Moka carries work by more than 50 contemporary artists—”upcoming” to “masters”—at prices ranging from $5,000 to $20,000, and calls itself Chicago’s most international gallery.
Morpho Gallery Like its neighbor, the Avram Eisen Gallery (Eisen and Morpho owner David Leigh are former partners), this is a cozy Bowmanville venue for contemporary Chicago artists. Morpho offers a rent-to-own plan on work by a roster that includes Bert Menco, Elizabeth Ockwell, and David Sisk, and hosts pay-to-hang, commission-free shows of emerging artists (two are coming up July 10-30 and August 7-28). Leigh also deals in 19th- and early-20th-century French prints.
OAK Gallery The Web site for this gallery whose name is an acronym for “one of a kind” touts fine art, fine glass, jewelry, and “ancient Vietnamese pottery recently recovered from a shipwreck.” There’s a show of contemporary prints scheduled to open June 27, featuring work by Sir Frank Brangwyn, Harold Altman, Robert Kipniss, and Helen Hyde.
Sacred Art After three years in Roscoe Village, owner Sarah Chazin relocated her jam-packed shop to a Lincoln Square storefront. She sells paintings, prints, jewelry, ceramics, and more by about 50 Chicago artists—and does custom framing, too. Scads of Windy City-themed works—including neighborhood posters, cityscapes, and variations on CTA signs—make great gifts and souvenirs.
Volcan Gallery Emily Appenzeller and Jim Licka offer their own paintings and those of others, along with live music and chandeliers—dreamy, hand-blown, neo-Deco, botanic-themed imports from Belgium—at the “experimental” storefront gallery they opened six months ago. The current performance schedule features an open mike every Friday and local bands (including Licka’s Umbra and the Volcan Siege) every other Saturday; suggested donation usually $5-$7. The gallery is also available for private events.
Alt Q Festival This annual queer music showcase, produced every spring by the tireless Scott Free, presents a surprisingly diverse array of acoustic talent. Since its beginnings in 2001, Free has done a laudable job mixing established and up-and-coming performers, both local and touring, and winning new fans for all of them. Past performers have included Husker Du vet Grant Hart and women’s music heavy hitters Toshi Reagon and Melissa Ferrick.
Scot’s I’m dating myself when I admit that I remember when Susie B.’s used to occupy this space, but how could I forget it? It was great lesbian scene. In its more recent incarnation, Scot’s is a sunny, friendly fern bar for the boys. One of Scot’s biggest attractions is its satellite jukebox, a real money sucker. Cash only.
Spyner’s Spyner’s is a lesbian-owned neighborhood bar whose clientele ranges among old-man-bar regulars, neighborhood yuppies and hipsters, and lesbians young and old. A stone’s throw from the Brown Line stop at Western, it’s a popular place for an after-work drink, and the kind of bar where you can while away a Saturday up to and through the weekend nighttime karaoke. Spyner’s sponsors many a lesbian sports team, and during the summer and fall, women in softball jerseys pack the bar.
Sulzer Regional Library Named after Conrad Sulzer, a Swiss immigrant farmer who settled in the area in the 1800s (see cover story), the library, larger than neighborhood branches, features collections specializing in north-side neighborhood history. a Mon-Thu 9 AM-9 PM, Fri-Sat 9 AM-5 PM, Sun 1-5 PM, 4455 N. Lincoln, 312-744-7616, chipublib.org. —Jerome Ludwig
The Book Cellar Lots of independent bookstores have charm, but the Book Cellar has it in spades. To wit: a friendly, committed, knowledgeable staff; a comfortable little lounging area in the front windows with plenty of daylight, a cafe serving better-than-average sandwiches, salads, and soups along with coffee drinks, teas, and sodas and a really nice selection of wines by the glass and beers by the bottle. There’s sidewalk seating during nice weather, and the store’s event calendar is packed with readings and discussions. And yeah, they sell books too. The store celebrates its fifth anniversary on Sunday, June 28, with cake and a 20-percent-off sale. a Mon, Wed-Fri 10 AM-10 PM, Sat 10 AM-11 PM, Sun, Tue 10 AM-6 PM, 4736 N. Lincoln, 773-293-2665, bookcellarinc.com. —JL
Ravenswood Used Books Owner Jim Mall says he used this spot as a warehouse for his antiques business until switching to books six or seven years ago. He estimates the shop has 15,000 to 20,000 books, “maybe more,” in all categories “except romance novels.” The appealingly claustrophobic space is fun—albeit challenging—to browse, and you’ll have to here: titles are arranged by subject but good luck finding any organizing principle beyond that—including alphabetization. Round a corner and you’re likely to be confronted with a Mexican mask or a quirky lamp or some odd knickknack, and books are stacked row behind row on the shelves, in piles on the floor, and on stereo speakers nearly up to the tin ceiling. Happy hunting. Mall keeps a bookish blog at chibooks.blogspot.com. a Daily noon-6 PM, 4626 N. Lincoln, 773-593-9166. —JL
Variety Comic Book Store It’d be easy to miss the door to this basement-level shop (est. 1975) if it weren’t flanked by a wide, door-height mural of comic-book superheroes. Inside is an unpretentious (staff included—no Simpsons Comic Book Guy here) space jam-packed with thousands of comics, collectible as well as new, in racks and boxes and towering piles, along with a small section of graphic novels. It’s closed on Mondays for the summer. a Tue, Sat noon-5 PM, Wed noon-7 PM, Thu noon-6 PM, Fri noon-6:30 PM, Sat noon-5 PM, Sun noon-4 PM, 4602 N. Western, 773-334-2550. —JL
DANK Haus On the third Monday of each month at 7 PM, this German cultural center hosts a free screening of a contemporary German film with English subtitles for its “German Cinema Now” program. See also Music, Galleries, Education & Recreation, and Volunteering.
Davis Theater Back in 2000 this theater became a cause celebre when a developer tried to buy the building and turn it into condos. Neighbors banded together, bought the place themselves, and took over the management. The four screening rooms are passable, with some of the screens at slight angles, the result of the theater having been carved into four separate spaces in the 80s. But whoever’s booking the place has good taste, and you can feel the love when you walk in the door—love for the movies and love for the neighborhood.
Accordion Italian Music Studio Sam Franco, who teaches private lessons at this studio, has been playing the accordion since he was ten years old—that is, for 75 years. If his name sounds familiar, that might be because you remember him from a 1996 episode of This American Life. Franco claims to be the last jazz accordionist, which he isn’t—Will Holshauser and Richard Galliano, to name just two, are still very much alive—but he’s surely a member of an endangered species. He doesn’t cater to any one style, insisting instead that his instruction prepares his students to play anything; if you have a keen and specific interest in, say, Bulgarian wedding music, you might want to take that into account. Franco can seem cranky, but it’s always in a charming way—beneath his sometimes bristly exterior is a garrulous sweetheart with a deep and abiding love of music. He declined to go on the record with an hourly rate for his lessons, saying, “This ain’t about money.” His studio is open by appointment only.
Andy’s Music The windows of Andy’s Music are crowded with instruments from all over the world, but nothing you see from the sidewalk can prepare you for the scope and volume of the inventory that fills the shop’s 4,500 square feet. Though they’ve got the usual Guitar Center stuff—including backline gear and PA systems available for rent—the real attraction is the dizzying selection of hard-to-find ethnic instruments. There are koras, balafons, and n’gonis from Africa, sitars, tambouras, and rudra veenas from India—and that’s just scratching the surface. You can find harmoniums, harpsichords, charangas, shruti boxes, steel-pan drums, cajons, jawbones, cuicas, and what looks like hundreds of wooden flutes. The list goes on and on. You’ll need to get somebody’s attention if you have a question—the staff are decidedly noninterventionist—but it’s definitely worth the effort. Andy’s is like a museum where everything’s for sale.
Atlantic Bar and Grill Local polka-rock favorites the Polkaholics frequently play this pub, which also books rock bands and Irish music. See also Bars.
Beat Kitchen Whenever some out-of-town magazine runs a list of the top music venues in Chicago, it invariably includes the Empty Bottle and Schubas and almost always snubs the Beat Kitchen. But it’s one of the better rock clubs in the city, with a big, loud live room in back separated by marginally soundproof doors from a bar and restaurant up front, which serves decent sandwiches and pizzas and a selection of beers ranging from Hamm’s in cans to bombers of New Holland Dragon’s Milk. The club’s bookings, which lean heavily on punk, probably don’t appeal to the demographic customarily targeted by lists of music venues in magazines, but connoisseurs of punk can appreciate that the Beat Kitchen’s definition of the genre includes everything from hardcore and emo to psychobilly and weird artsy stuff. Imminent shows of interest include Vee Dee (6/25), the Jai-Alai Savant (6/28), Pterodactyl (7/3), and Kayo Dot (7/4).
Chicago Fret Works To all appearances Chicago Fret Works is your basic guitar-repair shop: instruments in various states of disassembly hang from the walls, one guy does body work and another does electronics, and in a little case there are a couple of locally made effects boxes and some unflashy but necessary gear like humidifiers for acoustic guitars. But they can do more than just basic work—on their Web site they show off some of their most difficult and exotic jobs, from faux aging a new Telecaster to look 50s vintage to rebuilding a Martin acoustic that got on the wrong side of some airport baggage handlers. Their prices, on the other hand, are on par with your average luthier’s.
Chicago Guitar & Amplifier A guitarist with a not-insignificant chunk of cash in his pocket and an urge to step up from factory-made gear would do well to visit Chicago Guitar & Amplifier. Operating out of an off-street coach house on a not-so-quaint stretch of Lincoln, this team of young luthiers can turn a mass-produced ax into a one-of-a-kind specimen or build something totally custom from scratch. For their own instruments they favor quality materials and vintage aesthetics: mahogany and rosewood for bodies and necks, nitrocellulose finishes over the paint, and silhouettes reminiscent of classic midcentury models. They also offer amps that house the shop’s own electronics in enclosures made by the local metalheads behind Emperor cabinets, and they’ll soon be selling Emperor cabs customized with flourishes like sunburst paint jobs.
DANK Haus Opened in 1959 as a chapter of the Deutsch Amerikanischer National Kongress, DANK Haus is a German cultural center that houses a small museum, a library, a ballroom, and a language school in its rather monolithic building; several spaces can be rented for private functions. DANK Haus occasionally screens German films and hosts concerts, often of traditional German music. Its Jazz on the Terrace series, held in the building’s sixth-floor lounge (or on the rooftop terrace, weather permitting), is usually the first Friday of the month; the next show is July 10. See also Education & Recreation, Galleries, Movies, and Volunteering.
Deadwax Brick-and-mortar record shops are dropping like flies, so it’s nice to see a neighborhood operation like Deadwax hanging on. As its name suggests, the store devotes most of its floor space to vinyl, mostly secondhand, and the atmosphere invites browsing. The selection is broad, and though you probably shouldn’t rely on Deadwax to stock the latest releases, you’re likely to find something worthwhile on every visit. The shop also sells used CDs, books, and loads of videos and DVDs.
Experimental Sound Studio Opened back in 1986, Experimental Sound Studio is a crucial resource for artists involved in avant-garde music or pursuing multimedia projects that require a sensibility outside the comfort zone of the average studio hound. Executive director and cofounder Lou Mallozzi is a distinguished sound artist and an adjunct professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and ESS considers education a big part of its mission: it offers workshops in basic subjects like mixing and editing, microphone selection and placement, and how to use Ableton Live or Pro Tools, as well as more specialized classes about, say, radio-documentary production or “the intersection of visual and musical experience” (that is, graphic scores). A few years ago ESS established the Creative Audio Archive to house and preserve innovative and experimental recordings made in and around Chicago—it currently includes a selection of 1980s recordings from the Links Hall performance series, a huge trove of Sun Ra material, and the entire vast collection of concerts recorded by activist Malachi Ritscher. There’s also a small visual-art gallery on the premises, and the main studio hosts an ongoing series of Sunday-afternoon solo performances; upcoming highlights include saxophonist Dave Rempis (6/28) and drummer Tim Daisy (7/12).
Hidden Cove A karaoke favorite, the Hidden Cove also books cover bands on Saturdays and occasionally on Fridays; they generally wrap up early, before the karaoke starts. See also Bars.
Horseshoe There’s only live music at the Horseshoe from Thursday through Saturday, but the place has a honky-tonk vibe all week long. Ads for way-cheap drink specials outnumber band posters on the outside of the club, and on the inside its wood-panel decor is the closest thing to a barn in the neighborhood. Sunday through Wednesday the big draw is Texas-style barbecue, which nonvegetarian friends assure me is the real deal; on weekends the bar becomes the north-side headquarters for Chicago’s rockabilly contingent, hosting country and rock combos that tend toward straight interpretations of classic 50s stuff. Upcoming shows include the Long Gone Lonesome Boys (6/27), the Barehand Jug Band (7/7), and the monthly Folk You! showcase (7/17).
Hungry Brain This comfortable, unassuming bar caters to a fairly young crowd—hipsters and theater people are well represented—and though the beer selection is fine and the jukebox better than most, it’s the Sunday Transmission concert series that really sets the Hungry Brain apart (there’s occasionally music other nights too). Booked by drummer Mike Reed and cornetist Josh Berman, the series has been running since 2001 and became part of the Umbrella Music organization a few years back; it attracts a mix of local, national, and international artists playing jazz, improvised, and experimental music. There’s no cover charge, but patrons dutifully cough up some cash when the promoters pass the hat—or rather the wicker bicycle basket—during each set. Upcoming highlights include Sabir Mateen’s Omni-Sound (6/28), Keefe Jackson (7/5), and Herculaneum (7/12).
Julius Meinl This outpost of the famed Viennese coffee company hosts small-scale jazz, classical, and world music on Friday and Saturday nights. Upcoming acts include Irish harpist Aislinn (6/26) and the Ken Shiokawa duo (6/27). See also Restaurants.
Laurie’s Planet of Sound The employees of Laurie’s Planet of Sound are among the city’s most vocal advocates for the continued existence of independent record stores, which I suppose comes naturally when you work for one of the city’s best independent record stores. While they lack the square footage of a place like Reckless, they make up for it with a well-curated selection of vinyl and CDs, heavy on indie rock and other genres friendly to indie rockers (they’re especially good with soul and psych reissues). Some styles are underrepresented—hip-hop CDs get just two and a half rows—but I’m willing to forgive that on account of the overabundance of record-geek catnip like button sets, posters, retro iron-on patches, and Pee Wee Herman swag. As part of its outreach the store maintains a Twitter presence: @lauriespos.
Leadway Bar & Gallery The Open Arms Open Mic night takes over the Leadway’s back-room gallery every Wednesday night from 9 PM to 12:30 AM. The bar also occasionally hosts other performances, including recitals from students at the Old Town School of Folk Music. For more information on the open mike, contact email@example.com. See also Bars.
Martyrs’ You won’t find too many blogged-about Next Big Things at Martyrs’; take a quick glance at the club’s calendar and you’ll see mostly folksy troubadours, alt-country bands, and rock outfits playing everything from 50s retro to uncomplicated alt-pop. But that schedule bears a second look: for every safe sure thing like Tributasaurus—a tribute band that makes frequent appearances in the guise of, say, the Cars or Pink Floyd—there’s an Afrobeat group, a New Orleans jazz combo, or an electronic dance act. Martyrs’ has also hosted some great shows during the World Music Festival, including Vieux Farka Toure and Boban Markovic. Its large live room, excellent sound system, and unfussy atmosphere make for a consistently satisfying concertgoing experience. Upcoming shows include Robbie Fulks (7/17), T-Model Ford (7/18), Adrian Belew (7/24), the Rebirth Brass Band (7/31), and Alasdair Roberts (8/10).
Metal Haven Most indie record stores stock little more than crossover-proven metal like Mastodon or Pelican, but this humble-looking shop is so metal that not even light can escape. And when you bring a stack of gory-ass grindcore or death-metal records up to the counter, you won’t get a weird look—in fact you’ll probably end up having an illuminating conversation with the clerk and tossing a couple albums he recommends onto the pile. Don’t be fooled by Metal Haven’s placid strip-mall exterior: inside is a dark and brutal realm where Carcass shirts hang for the taking and the staff know how to pronounce band names like “Njiqahdda.”
Old Town School of Folk Music Founded back in 1957 in the Old Town neighborhood, the school moved to bigger digs in Lincoln Park in 1968, and then in 1998 to its current home—the former Hild Library, an art deco gem built in 1931. Music lessons remain the institution’s bread and butter—it offers classes in practically any genre you can think of—and there’s also a music store on site that sells instruments, CDs, and instructional books. The school is also a great place to listen to music. Its 425-seat concert hall, partly ringed by a gorgeous WPA mural, is the city’s best midsize listening room: no seat is more than 45 feet from the lip of the stage, and the sound and sight lines are excellent. The Old Town School books plenty of folk and country, as you might expect, but you can regularly see top-notch jazz, rock, soul, and gospel, as well as other regional American styles. There’s also a great Wednesday-night world-music series with no formal cover, just a very reasonable five-dollar suggested donation. Upcoming highlights include Boukman Eksperyans (7/8), the Folk & Roots Festival in Welles Park, featuring Karsh Kale, Black Joe Lewis, and many others (7/11-7/12), Michael McDermott (7/31), the Savoy Family Band (8/2), Ruthie Foster (8/22), and Dar Williams (8/23). See also Education & Recreation and Volunteering.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Vintage The atmosphere of this little shop fairly crackles with gear lust. There are only maybe 20 or 30 guitars and basses hanging on the walls, but on a recent visit they included two clean vintage Fender Mustangs, a massive white Mosrite bass, a couple of Airline guitars of the type favored by Jack White, and a completely cherry Gibson Melody Maker in the old SG body shape with a rich coppery brown paint job—plus a pointy hot pink Ibanez, maybe just to keep people on their toes. They’ve also got several glass cases crammed with effects boxes, which range from predictable picks like reissue overdrives to bizarre specialized pedals from boutique manufacturers like Zvex and Death by Audio.
Silvie’s Lounge Silvie’s is about as basic as a rock club gets: on one side there’s a barroom with pool and darts, and through a door there’s another room with tables and booths and a PA set up in front. You’re not likely to see any particularly big bands there—it only takes a few dozen people to make the music room feel pretty full—but the club’s open-minded booking habits bring in a diverse cross-section of north-side talent, ranging from acoustic singer-songwriters to heavy alt-rock to hip-hop. And given its modest size and cheap drinks, you can take a few buddies to hang out and dance to a friend’s DJ set and it’ll feel like a party in your own private clubhouse. Silvie’s hosts an acoustic showcase every other Monday and a variety show every Tuesday. This week’s headliners include the Bradley Report (6/25) and Sylis Assigned (6/26).
Viaduct Theatre The Viaduct occasionally presents live music, often curated by outsiders, and starting in mid-July it’ll be fairly regular on weekends. The diverse offerings so far have included indie rock, samba, jazz, folk, and even a heavy metal burlesque show. Every Thursday in July the space hosts Reset List, a rock concert where the songs are all improvised on the spot based on titles provided by the audience. Also upcoming is a Viaduct benefit DJed by the Windy City Soul Club (7/4). See also Theater.
Volcan Gallery This newish storefront gallery hosts an open mike every Friday and local bands every other Saturday. See also Galleries.
Gross Park Home to basketball and volleyball courts, a soccer field, a playground, weight-lifting facilities, a game room with Ping-Pong, and a youth program.
Hamlin Park Prairie School pioneer Dwight H. Perkins designed this park’s field house, which holds a gym and assembly hall. The park also offers an outdoor pool, baseball and tennis facilities, and weekly boxing classes.
Legion Park This long, slender park along the North Shore Channel has playgrounds, tennis courts, and two baseball fields.
Revere Park In addition to playgrounds, gyms, baseball fields, and basketball and tennis courts, this park has a mural art summer camp. The field house auditorium hosts seasonal theater productions.
River Park This riverside park offers an array of facilities, including seven tennis courts, two baseball fields, a pool, a turf soccer field, a running track, a 300-seat auditorium, water and soft-surface playgrounds, a canoe launch, and fishing.
Ronan Park A 1930s pumping station looms behind this park, which borders River Park along a naturalized portion of the North Shore Channel. Under various names, it follows the North Branch of the Chicago river northeast all the way to Wilmette Harbor. —NT
Rosehill Cemetery Founded in 1859 on more land than Grant Park and Millennium Park combined, this cemetery is Chicago’s largest, one of its oldest, and home to some of its grandest dead guys. They include well-known figures like Charles Dawes, Richard Sears, Oscar Mayer, Montgomery Ward, and 11 mayors.
Welles Park This park’s got a fitness center, an indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, baseball fields, horseshoe pits, and a wrought-iron gazebo used for live music performances, both planned and spontaneous. The Old Town School of Folk Music holds an annual festival here every July. And in the 1920s Abe Saperstein, founder of the Harlem Globetrotters, got his start coaching basketball in the (now demolished and replaced) field house.
Winnemac Park This 40-acre park has basketball and tennis courts, a stadium with a running track, and a fitness center. Renovations since 1999 have added soccer and softball fields, walking paths through prairie-style plantings, and a new playground.
THEATER & PERFORMANCEThe Lincoln Square and North Center neighborhoods are home to some of Chicago’s most adventurous performing-arts companies, with fare ranging from challenging new work by African, European, and South American playwrights to campy drag shows, and from lyrical modern dance to aerial acrobatics. The Chicago Moving Company’s annual Other Dance Festival adds to the mix, showcasing a broad variety of troupes. The strengths of the folks listed below are their originality, their defiance of commercialism, and their deep connection to the communities in which they work. —Albert Williams
American Theater Company Founded in 1985 as American Blues Theater, this group moved into its North Center digs in 1993 and changed its name to American Theater Company in 1997. It was the focus of controversy earlier this year when a slew of original ensemble members walked out, citing “administrative and artistic differences” with artistic director PJ Paparelli, who came aboard in November 2007. But ATC has announced a full 2009-2010 subscription season that opens with the Chicago premiere of Yeast Nation (The Triumph of Life) (9/10-10/18), by former Chicagoans Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann, the Tony-winning authors of Urinetown: The Musical. Set billions of years ago in “the primordial soup,” the show concerns a colony of salt-eating yeasts whose dream of freedom kicks off an evolutionary chain reaction. Next up is ATC’s feel-good Christmas perennial, It’s a Wonderful Life: The Radio Play (11/27-12/27), then Lisa Loomer’s comedy about modern suburban parenting, Distracted (1/28-2/28), and the world premiere of Welcome to Arroyo’s, Kristoffer Diaz’s tale of two siblings trying to transform their family-run bar into a New York hot spot (4/15-5/16).
Corn Productions This scrappy little troupe specializes in original shows for both the adults-only and children’s markets, with the grown-up stuff skewed heavily toward campy comedy and improv. Past productions have included Jesus—The Wonder Years, the long-running musical Floss!, and the “Tiff and Mom” drag series, about the adventures of a mother and daughter from Berwyn. Started in 1992 by Robert Bouwman and Todd Schaner, Corn moved into its home, a renovated tavern now called the Cornservatory, in 1999. Improv Children of the Corn 2—Off the Cob (a showcase featuring Imaginary Friends, Butter, and the Sauce) has the run of the space Thursdays through July 30, and A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre Company performs its premiere production of Tina Haglund’s The Clitoris Stories there through July 12. Corn presents its 10th Semi-Annual Golden Cobby Awards Show Benefit on July 8. The event features selections from the 2008-2009 season—including the Reader-recommended Storefront Theater Musical—as well as a raffle, silent auction, “and all the booze you can consume for a mere donation of $25.” Then: The Original Improv Gladiators, Season Seven (7/17-8/29), in which improv groups from around the city compete. Corn’s weekend kiddie matinee offerings start up again in the fall, with Rachel Corn and the Secret Society (10/17-12/6).
Halcyon Theatre “We challenge audiences to think and dream of the richness of our world, both in far away lands and our own backyard,” proclaims this multiethnic, 13-member ensemble on its Web site. Halcyon is wrapping up its third season with the Alcyone Festival 2009, which runs through July 18 and features six new plays by women on the theme of “terrorism, the cult of martyrdom, and its effects upon the innocents.” Next season opens with the Chicago premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winner Nilo Cruz’s Lorca in a Green Dress, about the martyred, gay Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, and the world premiere of Nigerian writer Rotimi Babatunde’s look at a farming community hit by a drought, A Shroud for Lazarus. The plays run in rotating repertory, August 20 through October 3. In the spring, artistic director Tony Adams will stage the premiere of his own Trickster, combining the biblical book of Genesis with the legend of Don Juan and Native American trickster tales. Alcyone Festival 2010 will explore the work of Cuban-American playwright Maria Irene Fornes.
Lincoln Square Theatre Located inside the Berry United Methodist Church, the Lincoln Square Theatre was founded in 2001 as a project of the Lincoln Square Arts Center and produces two or three shows a year—most of which, says executive artistic director Kristina Schramm, feature historical and literary elements. The company’s fall production, Ambrose Bierce: Tales and Times (10/19-11/22), comprises adaptations of the sardonic writer’s stories and selections from his satirical masterpiece The Devil’s Dictionary. To promote it, LST is sponsoring a contest for short essays on the question, “What happened to Ambrose?” (Bierce disappeared in 1913 while in Mexico traveling with Pancho Villa’s army.) LST shares its space with three other troupes that enjoy the status of “artistic associates”: the Halcyon Theatre (see above), Caffeine Theatre (caffeinetheatre.com), and the Courier 12 Collective (courier12collective.org). Devoted to developing new work, Courier 12 will perform a reading of Future Anxiety by Laurel Haines on July 27.
Viaduct Theater A nonprofit interdisciplinary arts center dedicated to showcasing offbeat theater, music, film, dance, and visual art, the Viaduct boasts two performance spaces and a bar that was named “Best Lobby Bar” in the Reader‘s 2008 “Best of Chicago” roundup. Whitney Blakemore and Robert Whitaker, who founded the Viaduct in 1998, not only rent out those spaces but have also mounted a number of their own productions, including a well-received revival of E.E. Cummings’s Him directed by Blakemore. The Viaduct is currently home to two theaters, the Sinnerman Ensemble and the Magpies Project. See also Music.
The Magpies (themagpiesproject.com ) describe themselves as “an ongoing art-making project” whose performances “construct kaleidoscopic narratives that cull together personal stories, historical research, and non-traditional art fields in order to cultivate new ways of intervening in the world.” This fall, they’ll perform The Perks of Compulsive Hoarding 2, the middle part of a trilogy about the urge to collect useless stuff, by cofounder Shawn Reddy (11/13-12/6). They also present “The Happy Family Sunday Series”: “demonstrations” inspired by P.T. Barnum’s exhibit of a lion, a tiger, a panther, and a baby lamb sharing a cage in ostensible harmony.
Sinnerman’s ten members met in 2005, while studying at the School at Steppenwolf Theatre. The ensemble (sinnermanensemble.org) opens its fourth season this fall with Chekhov’s Ivanov (10/1-11/7), directed by Sheldon Patinkin. Next spring, they’ll premiere Chicago writer Braden LuBell’s Days of Late, which tells the interwoven stories of eight people attempting to escape isolation. —AW
DANCEAmeba Acrobatic and Aerial Dance Ameba was established in 1999 with the goal of “integrating the athleticism and daring of acrobatics and aerial arts into the creative voice of contemporary dance.” The group’s original works employ bungee cords, swings, and rope ladders to expand the “creative and physical possibilities of the vertical dance space.” Besides giving occasional performances and leading classes at its home base, the Belle Plaine Studio, the 12-member ensemble performs at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts and other venues around town.
Breakbone DanceCo The name isn’t necessarily hyperbole. Though she’s working to move into a process focused on “the effect that space has on our physical body and psyche,” founder Atalee Judy is known for a punk-influenced “bodyslam” style Reader critic Laura Molzahn describes as “a punishing but thrilling technique that involves dancers throwing themselves through the air and landing full force on the floor.” Judy, who started Breakbone in 1997, is an artist-in-residence with the Chicago Moving Company at Hamlin Park (see below). Coming this summer: Excavation of Remains (7/27-8/7). Then Breakbone will appear as part of the Other Dance Festival (9/24-9/25).
Chicago Moving Company Nana Shineflug’s internationally applauded, 37-year-old modern dance troupe has performed throughout Europe and South America as well as around the U.S. In 1995, under the auspices of the Chicago Park District’s Arts Partners program, Shineflug established a resident arts partnership with Hamlin Park to develop the field house as a community arts center as well as a performance space for CMC and other troupes—particularly Breakbone DanceCo (see above) and the Cindy Brandle Dance Company (cindybrandledance.com). Under CMC’s direction, Hamlin Park hosts the Dance Shelter Concert each spring, and the Other Dance Festival in the fall. This year’s Other Dance Festival (9/17-10/2) will feature 16 artists and ensembles in addition to CMC, including Lucky Plush Productions, Same Planet Different World Dance Theatre, the Cindy Brandle Dance Company, the Dance COLEctive, Mordine & Company, Peter Carpenter, Ayako Kato and Art Union Humanscape, and Hedwig Dances. Tickets at brownpapertickets.com.
Perceptual Motion Dance Company Founded in 1984 by Lin Shook, PMDC proudly identifies itself as “a multi-generational modern dance company.” Some members only recently graduated from college while others boast dance resumés ranging back to the 1940s and ’50s. The troupe performs at various venues around the city, and hosts classes at its North Center home base. PMDC will participate in the Ravenswood Art Walk (10/3-10/4, artwalkravenswood.org), offering a class on Saturday in its own space, and then inviting the class participants to perform with the troupe on Sunday at Architectural Artifacts, 4325 N. Ravenswood. On November 7, the company will cap its 25th anniversary season with a benefit at the Belle Plaine Studio, 2014 W. Belle Plaine. The evening will feature wine and chocolate tastings, a silent auction, and a preview of new work; the company’s new dancers will be introduced during an interactive performance.
AMERICANAlps East Friendly, uncommonly tidy if ultimately unremarkable diner.
Chubby Wieners Hot dog stand under the Brown Line stop at Western serving Chicago-style dogs, Polishes, and burgers as well as Italian beef sandwiches. The fries draw praise from many.
Costello Sandwich & Sides Neighborhood sandwich shop where the soups change daily and generously stuffed sandwiches are reasonably priced.
Cordis Brothers Supper Club Wise Fools Pub owners Mike and Dan Cordis have built a comfortable neighborhood joint with a few modern touches. Despite the DJs and a rib eye cooked medium-rare perfect, however, I still kept looking around for my grandparents and the overcooked saddle leather they used to serve at the Wagon Wheel.
Drew’s Eatery This little hot dog and ice cream shop across from Welles Park draws ’em in for kid-friendly organic sausages and pedigreed sweets. Owner Andrew Baker’s commitment to sustainability extends all the way to biodegradable takeout containers.
First Slice Pie Cafe In 2002 chef Mary Ellen Diaz launched First Slice, a nonprofit that makes hand-cooked meals for the homeless; First Slice Pie Cafe in the Lillstreet Art Center helps to fund it. In the tiny space she offers slices of several truly scrumptious pies, plus cakes, cookies, bars, and fair-trade coffee served in mugs made at the center. Savory offerings include simple, hearty dishes such as turkey chili and a shredded duck sandwich on sourdough.
Jeri’s Grill Jeri’s Grill at Western and Montrose might be the only place in town with a “jailhouse special”—fried bologna with eggs, hash browns, and toast. The bacon cheeseburger is juicy and happy making. Dessert specials include homemade bread pudding, which, the waitress says, “is what made my jeans tight.” Cash only.
Le Sabre Restaurant It’s not too much of a stretch to call this small diner a neighborhood institution. For more than 40 years it’s served up good coffee and a menu full of the usual: short stacks, eggs, patty melts, and some Greek specialties. Service is quick and friendly.
Lincoln Restaurant Civil War memorabilia fills the walls and surfaces here, and menu items continue the theme, with egg dishes named after Confederates and Yankees alike. Portions are huge, and Formica and vinyl are the decorating mainstays—the bar in back reminded one visitor of a Quentin Tarantino movie set.
Margie’s Candies The Tiffany-style lamps and parlor chairs were salvaged from the basement of the original shop, and the soda fountain at this North Center location of the venerable Logan Square ice cream parlor is a refurbished 1950s model. And lactose intolerance be damned, when two scoops covered in whipped cream, nuts, and hot fudge that’s made fresh daily are plopped down in front of you in a scalloped bowl you’re reminded of all that’s good in the world.
Smokin’ Woody’s The neighborhood was glad to welcome Smokin’ Woody’s about a decade ago, but the truth is it wasn’t a destination barbecue place then, and it’s not now, even after a change in ownership, though it has its devotees and has definitely improved with the change. The ribs are smoked pink and firm, but even at that Woody’s has trouble holding its own turf during the annual Ribfest invasion. Cash only; BYO.
AMERICAN CONTEMPORARY/REGIONALBrowntrout New environmentally friendly contemporary American restaurant from Sean Sanders (Bin 36, Atlantique). BYO for now.
Cafe Selmarie This cozy bakery has grown into a small gem of a contemporary American restaurant that’s popular for its weekend breakfasts and pleasant, uncomplicated dinner specials. Desserts—creations like raspberry Bavarian cream torte and orange flourless chocolate cake—are stellar.
Chalkboard Classy as this airy, elegant space is, the menu is decidedly friendly, offering dressed-up versions of classic American comfort food. Daily specials are listed on the restaurant’s namesake, but often also on a paper menu that includes chatty asides from chef-owner Gilbert Langlois (Rushmore, SushiSamba Rio). The combo of roasted tomato bisque with grilled blue cheese in brioche was right on: the soup silky and rich, the sandwich thoroughly dunkable. The menu changes frequently. On weekends there’s high tea from 2 to 4 PM.
Chelsea Grill The awning outside Chelsea Grill says “comfortable food,” which judging by the one-page menu is code for upscale, seasonal comfort food. No matter: I’d be happy to have this little storefront in my neighborhood. The highlight of my meal was the thick butternut squash soup with a trio of succulent chipotle shrimp that gave it a spicy kick. Short-rib pot roast made an ideal dinner, and the tasty Chartwell Farm double-cut pork chop was cooked to a perfect medium.
Fiddlehead Cafe The kitchen at this casual, warm, wine-centric cafe offers a range of global appetizers and spiffed-up bistro standards. The menu changes seasonally, but certain standards like the roasted garlic hummus remain constant. There’s a wine list of more than 350 bottles plus more than 30 reds, whites, and bubblies available by the glass or in flights of three, and a new beer list offers more than 100 craft and Belgian brews. The cheese selection is outstanding.
Jack Rabbit Affordable prices, ample portions, and an agreeable changing lineup may win the former Brioso converts. But the food I sampled lacked soul. The nicely crisped wild mushroom and chicken quesadilla had a well-balanced filling, though some might find it skimpy. An extrafirm Mexican cinnamon bread pudding was disappointing, but velvety-moist chocolate cake was a winner.
Sola Chef Carol Wallack has dreamed up a menu board with expert balance. Seasonally changing soups range from a cold cucumber-and-melon soup to a hot-and-sour lobster; a sea greens salad was crisp with water chestnuts and played the bitterness of hijiki against the sweet spiciness of hoisin. The black cod, marinated three days in miso paste and rice vinegar, was particularly memorable. We also tried Colorado lamb chops with eggplant and leeks, for which our server suggested a medium-weight Cartlidge & Brown pinot noir—an excellent match.
ASIANCho Sun Ok Restaurant Woo Bok Lee opened his restaurant in 1980, and it stands today as the oldest operating Korean restaurant in the city. Its specialties are five varieties of naengmyeon (buckwheat noodles) and “stone pan cooking.” The latter (for two or more people) involves gas burners on the table fueling a heavy stone griddle upon which a variety of seasoned meats are seared. Marinated vegetables and steamed rice (or noodles) are then cooked in the rendered juices, the rice crisps on the pan, and the resulting aromas can be whiffed down the block. Originally a North Korean specialty, naengmyeon are served cold and slippery, a bracing refreshment in hot weather, usually in light beef broth garnished with slivered cucumber or radish, hard-boiled egg, mustard, and red pepper paste. I prefer the two “dry” variations served here with hot sauce, one topped with raw, chewy skate.
Essence of India The kitchen and service here run like a well-oiled machine. Vegetable pakoras came hot enough to burn our hands; another commendable appetizer was the jhinga karahi, deep-fried shrimp marinated in spiced vinegar and lemon juice. Our entrees were mild but toothsome: the gosht korma (bone-bracketed cubes of lamb in a saffron sauce) was rich and deep; so, in an entirely distinct way, was the murgh tikka masala (chicken in an herbed cream sauce). For dessert, the rasmalai (cheese dumplings poached in sweetened milk) were terrific.
Han Bat This unassuming, half-hidden hole does one thing well enough to win written testimonials from Korean pop stars. It’s sul lung tang, or ox-bone soup, a great bowl of goodness. Bland, silky, and rich with marrow, it’s a specialty of the region surrounding Seoul. Here it’s available with a choice of chap chae or white noodles and a variety of cow parts (flank, brisket, tongue, tripe, spleen, tendon, or a combination) and accompanied only by hot roasted corn tea and the refreshing, crisp, and spicy contrast of kkakdugi (diced radish) and whole cabbage kimchi, which a waitress scissors into pieces at the table. The soup can be livened at the diner’s discretion with sea salt, chopped green onions, and chile paste.
House of Wah Sun Chef-owner Mark Chiang’s meat and seafood are surprisingly tender, as in a dish of melt-in-your-mouth beef with tomatoes and green pepper in black-bean sauce. The fried rice is excellent. Portions are extraordinarily generous and easily feed two. A full bar includes tropical drinks like Singapore Slings, Zombies, and something called the Samoan passion, all served in tiki-bar-appropriate glasses and a steal at $6.50 to $7.95.
Isla Pilipina Unlikely as it may seem, the deep-fried pig’s foot was scrumptious, and I’ve never enjoyed trotters much. A bowl of taro leaf cooked in coconut milk along with Asian spices and a few shrimp was a delicate balance of bitter and sweet, rough and creamy. But to my palate sinigang, a traditional soup with tamarind, was sour to the point of inedibility. The menu description of pancit palabok promised pan-fried noodles with shrimp or meat, but we got pretty much only scrambled egg—not bad, but not as advertised. BYO.
Kan Pou When Doungpon Morakotjantachote arrived in Chicago a few years ago, she was surprised to find that no one was baking for the local Thai community. Now she and her husband have opened a full-fledged restaurant along the Western Avenue Thai strip, but as the name—Thai for “cloves”—suggests, sweets are still the real point of distinction. The most novel item is alien-egg-looking sakoo dumplings, little balls of spiced chicken and sweet turnip coated in cassava, the same gummy starch used for tapioca and bubble tea. But the real reward comes at the end of the meal—at the very least you’ll want to sample the butter cookies brightly flavored with lemongrass, ginger, and sesame seed, or indulge in a dessert sampler. BYO.
Lincoln Restaurant Of all the reasons people give for being intimidated by Korean restaurants, I think the most legitimate is that they’re so darn communal. I’ll be the first to admit it ain’t easy to stroll solo into some place filled with Korean families digging into delicious-looking food that can’t be found on the menu. This tiny lunch counter renders the problem moot, serving a small selection of extremely well-made simple Korean standards, from a very red shredded beef soup (yuk gae jang) with nice big chunks of meat and radish to a fat, fleshy grilled croaker to an incendiary sam gyeop sal (stir-fried pork belly with kimchi), one of my all-time favorites. Add in an irresistible eggplant kimchi and the sweet mother-and-daughter team that runs it—this place is full of little surprises that make it one of the more welcoming places I know for Korean food. BYO.
Nhu Lan Bakery Banh mi, the miraculous French-inspired Vietnamese sub, is something that should be available on every corner—but isn’t. So Nhu Lan Bakery, a Vietnamese bakery in Lincoln Square, is a treasure for the neighborhood. Demi baguettes are baked fresh daily to cradle nine different fillings (only five were available on my last visit), typically accented by pickled, julienned carrot and daikon, cucumbers, mayo, cilantro, thinly sliced jalapeños, and dressed with spicy-sweet nuoc cham, a potent fish sauce. Among my favorites is the “special,” a meat-lover’s sub with a schmear of rich paté, headcheese, ham, and a fried pork sausage called cha hue. These sandwiches run a mere $2.75 to $3.25; buy five and get one free.
Opart Thai House With more than 100 items on the menu, Opart Thai House offers the gamut of flavors, from sweet to kick-ass spicy, and a huge variety of ingredients. The many curry, noodle, and rice dishes are sauteed or stir-fried with seafood, poultry, beef, or one of endless combinations of fresh vegetables and sauces. Some tasty favorites include pad kra praow (sauteed basil, hot peppers, and garlic over rice). BYO.
Orange Garden This Cantonese throwback with a striking art deco facade is straight out of a smoky Chris Ware cartoon. But execution is solid. Hot-and-sour soup was chock-full of tofu, bamboo shoots, black fungus, and egg. Bite into the stupendous egg rolls and the next table will hear the crunch. I’d put Orange Garden’s beef chow fun up against the best in Chicago or NYC’s Chinatown: the dish has real wok hay (literally, the “breath of a wok”). BYO.
Roong Petch This Thai-sushi storefront offers fine, reasonably priced food and pleasant service. A tod mun appetizer—six fried curry fish cakes served with sweet, piquant cucumber sauce and ground peanuts—shouldn’t be missed. The panang chicken is another winner—chunks of perfectly cooked chicken and strips of red and green peppers in a rich coconut milk and red curry sauce. There’s a long list of nigiri, maki, and specialty maki available at modest prices. BYO.
Royal Thai Restaurant The lunch menu is great: you get pot stickers, soup, and a decent-size entree at a reasonable price, and there are loads of vegetarian options. The food’s a bit above average, the prices below. BYO.
Siam Country Offerings are typical at this inconspicuous storefront near the Brown Line el stop at Damen: pot stickers and tempura, Thai appetizers like spring rolls and beef salad, and a full slate of both noodle dishes and hot entrees, plus a long list of curries. The ingredients are fresh, but if you want it spicy you’ll have to ask. BYO.
Snow Spice Thai This BYO Thai restaurant has all the standard appetizers, soups, and noodle and rice dishes, but also throws a few curveballs into the mix, offering salads like mango salsa shrimp and avocado fish. BYO.
Spoon It’s not like there’s been a revolution against boring Thai food in Chicago, but there’s certainly a healthy resistance, and it was born in Chai and Vanna Gumtrontip’s little restaurant. It began in the summer of ’03 with the discovery of the Thai-language “secret menu” by a handful of chowhounds, who had it translated and began plumbing the depths of its aggressive, brilliantly seasoned dishes. Word spread, and the waitstaff eventually began relinquishing funky Issan sausage, rich boat noodles, banana blossom salad, one-bite salad, incendiary papaya salad sprinkled with dried shrimp or pickled crab, and the miraculous Thai-style fried chicken (kai thawt). So far some of my favorite items are naem khao thawt, a tangy, crispy fried rice salad with peanuts, cilantro, and pressed ham and Issan-style minced duck salad. BYO.
Sticky Rice Thai Currently closed; expects to be reopening soon. A wonder cabinet of Thai food run by a charming and very patient staff, this is endlessly interesting and cheap enough to serve as your substitute kitchen. Their standard English-language menu would be novel enough, with things like deep-fried quail and shrimp on sugarcane, but thanks to a translation of the lengthy Thai-language menu, the options are almost inexhaustible. Among the standouts are banana blossom salad, Burmese-style curry, duck curry with lychees, and northern Thai. BYO.
T-Spot Sushi The T stands for tea at this swanky spot with a Euro vibe, and the restaurant features a long list of them, including a pricey rare white as well as green, oolong, black, and herbal, and custom blends like a minty Moroccan. Getting down to brass tacks, we tried the Chicago Fire maki, crunchy tempura encased in velvety avocado and dabbed with chile sauce; while we loved the textures, the roll didn’t have much heat, though a spicy tuna roll lived up to its billing. We also tried a handful of standard sushi and maki and found them to be, well, standard. BYO.
Tank Sushi Tank’s formula—sleek contemporary space,signature cocktails—has been done before. But it still feels welcoming and casual enough for the neighborhood folkies and hippiesters. Many of the sushi combinations show a global influence: the Latin Heat (superwhite tuna and smoked salmon with avocado) sports cilantro and a healthy slice of jalapeño. The maki menu also features vegetarian rolls.
Thai Oscar Of the three Thai restaurants clustered together on the 4600 block of Western, I prefer this one, though one fellow critic calls Thai Oscar “probably the worst option in a neighborhood full of good or better-quality Thai.” One upside is that it serves both Thai and Japanese food, satisfying more tastes. All the appetizers we tried were good, but the great big leek dumplings deserve special mention: the batter was crisp on its outer layer and splendidly gooey underneath, the leek filling savory and just slightly tooth-resistant. The tom kha kai soup, a hot-and-sour concoction made with coconut milk and lemongrass, was fresh and tangy. Service was friendly and efficient. BYO.
Thai Room This storefront Thai restaurant is our regular standby for take-out and dine-in. The pad thai with chicken and the pad kei mow are both tasty and served with fresh ingredients, piping hot. The cucumber salad is a refreshing starter—better than at most other Thai restaurants. The vegetarian egg rolls are good, and the crab rangoon is a favorite.
BAR/LOUNGEBad Dog Tavern The menu here is several cuts above bar food. An order of tempura-style green beans comes with a lime-ginger-soy dipping sauce; another successful fusion is the goat cheese wonton appetizer. In addition to sandwiches and salads, there are pizzas with classic toppings, plus hearty entrees like a pork tenderloin served with garlic mashed potatoes. There’s a large outdoor patio. a Lunch, dinner daily, brunch Sat-Sun, open till 3 Sat, 2 daily, 4535 N. Lincoln, 773-334-4040, baddogtavern.com. $$$ —Laura Levy Shatkin
Brownstone Tavern & Grill This sports bar and grill proclaims itself headquarters for alumni of the University of Texas. There’s plenty of standard pub grub: chicken wings, sliders, quesadillas, salads, and wraps. Raters praise the ambience but deplore the service.
Celtic Crown Celtic Crown has carved out a nice little niche for itself in a crowded landscape. The menu lists the usual mix of salads, sandwiches, a few higher-priced dinner options like strip steaks and barbecued ribs, and Guinness-infused edibles. The Crown outdoes most burger suppliers in town simply by serving hamburgers on buns that don’t break down two bites into your meal.
Cinners The regional specialty known as Cincinnati three-way chili was invented by a pair of Macedonian restaurateurs trying to make a living in a city full of Germans. Now Cincinnati native Tony Plum has plopped his bar and chili parlor in Lincoln Square. The place is a bit of a nostalgic theme park, with red-and-black walls covered in photos of old Reds ballplayers, Cincinnati streetscapes, and beer cans from defunct Queen City breweries. Then there’s the chili, spiced with cinnamon, allspice, cocoa, cumin, Worcestershire, and more, and served on pasta or dolloped on steamed Coney dogs and piled with cheese. Adding raw onions or kidney beans makes it a four-way; fully loaded it’s a five-way.
Daily Bar & Grill This onetime neighborhood favorite was retooled a while back, and while nothing’s been changed beyond recognition, the room is sleeker and the music’s louder. Chicken wings have replaced grilled salmon and pasta specials, but some items from the old menu remain, including pizzas, sandwiches, salads, and a couple comfort-food entrees. The swank upstairs Parlor Room has red velvet curtains and leather couches and can accommodate 50 people for private parties, and there’s a large outdoor seating area. a Dinner daily, open Sat till 3, 2 Sun-Fri, 4560 N. Lincoln, 773-561-6198. $$ —Michael Lenehan
42 Degrees N. Latitude This place calls itself a “kitchen and bar,” but it feels a lot like a restaurant: comfy booths and tables surrounded by dark wood and brick. The menu has a selection of different-sized plates and appetizers such as pita wedges with carrots, cucumber, and a trio of dips. The veggie burger here had nice texture and bite, and a hanger steak was perfectly cooked and served with crisp pommes frites.
The Grafton The long room of this Celtic pub, divided into front and back spaces, is handsomely finished in dark oak with tin ceilings. The menu is full of expected specialties like Irish stew, fish-and-chips, and shepherd’s pie, all served in large portions. Live music several nights a week is relegated to the back room, leaving the front conversation-friendly.
Jury’s Jury’s clearly aims for more sophistication than the other taverns along this strip, though its main claim to fame is still its hamburger, which won a best-burger-in-da-city contest some years back. For once one of those things got it right: this is a terrific example of the classic bar burger, a half-pound slab of quality beef seared to a steaklike char and accompanied by nothing more exotic than Grey Poupon and a manly mound of steak fries. Not surprisingly, the same char crust turns up on the steaks themselves, which rank among the city’s best in their midrange price class. a Lunch Mon-Sat, dinner daily, open till 11 Fri-Sat, 4337 N. Lincoln, 773-935-2255, jurysrestaurant.com. $$ —Mike Gebert
Laschet’s Inn There’s a range of robust provender here to accompany the wide selection of German beer on draft. Big steaming plates of roast veal or sauerbraten, cooked long and laden with rich gravy, are the most dependably hearty dishes, but the relatively lighter, crispy schnitzels wouldn’t starve anyone either. These dishes are icons of meat-and-potatoes eating, which isn’t to say there aren’t opportunities for decadence: you can’t get any more fancypants than the hackepeter appetizer—coarse rye bread topped with raw minced beef garnished with chopped onions and capers. The kitchen’s closed on Monday. a Lunch, dinner Sun, Tue-Sat, open till 3 Sat, till 2 Sun-Fri, 2119 W. Irving Park, 773-478-7915, laschetsinn.com. $$ —Mike Sula
O’Donovan’s There was a time when O’Donovan’s Monday-night dollar burger attracted people in droves, but since the formula was copied by other pubs and the price went up, crowds are no longer a problem, and at two bucks a pop, these are good, decent bar burgers. Service can be uneven.
Paddy O’Splaine’s The latest of Lincoln Square’s ever growing roster of TV-centric barstaurants seems incapable of producing anything in a timely manner from the standard menu of pizzas, sandwiches, and main dishes. The bar’s slow too.
Rockwell’s Neighborhood Grill The menu at this friendly neighborhood tavern and restaurant won’t surprise anyone—burgers, a smoked turkey club, a French dip sandwich, Caesar salad, burritos, fajitas, and a few higher-end items like salmon—but the food is fresh and flavorful. The dog-friendly outdoor seating area on Eastwood looks out on a nice residential street with a few handsome bungalows.
Wild Goose Bar & Grille The grub served at this pub is a little above standard bar food in terms of quality and preparation—the french fries are hand cut and the chicken fingers made from scratch. As you might expect for a place with 15 TVs, the vibe is sporty.
Xippo Brothers Nikola and Alexander Samardzija have recently renovated the corner tavern operated by their Serbian grandmother into an even slicker hideout decorated in black and silver, with couches and bottle service. There’s a revamped menu of appetizers and small plates as well as a new dessert menu.
CAFE/COFFEE SHOPBeans & Bagels Friendly neighborhood coffee shop under the Ravenswood stop at Montrose. There’s a sandwich menu, salads, desserts, and pastries in addition to bagels from New York Bagel & Bialy.
Delicious Cafe Husband-and-wife team Chelsea Walerod and Kevin Porter worked together as baristas before opening this new North Center coffee shop with the help of family and friends. There’s an extensive menu of specialty coffee drinks and an all-vegetarian lineup of vegan pastries and sandwiches like grilled cheese (with a soy option) and tofu eggless salad.
The Grind This coffee shop serves soups, salads, sandwiches, and quiche in addition to a range of coffee drinks. Work by local artists changes monthly; out back is a new garden patio.
Julius Meinl As at other locations of this Austrian chain, the North Center outpost serves the gamut, from breakfast pastries and eggs to sandwiches, salads, and quiche to Austrian dinner specialties like goulash or roasted lamb with spinach and spätzle. Live music Friday and Saturday night.
The Perfect Cup This bright, spacious room at the corner of Leland and Damen attracts a regular crowd of people reading, working, or chatting. Food offerings are limited to bagels and pastries. Cash only.
Ventrella’s Caffe James Ventrella modeled his homey cafe on the restaurants and shops he visited as a child in Chicago’s Italian neighborhoods. Hence the many vintage pieces, such as a sink from a 1930s-era Pullman railroad car and a fridge from the mid-50s. Even the mint in the iced tea is vintage of a sort—Ventrella gets it from his mom. His other offerings include Lavazza coffee and espresso, panini, soups, and baked goods. But don’t miss the gelato and sorbetto, crafted in flavors like chocolate espresso bean, stracciatella (vanilla ribboned with chocolate), and pistachio.
EUROPEANBalkan Restaurant This friendly BYO serves Slavic favorites like cevepcici; sarma, meat-stuffed cabbage rolls; meat, cheese, and spinach-and-cheese pitas; and, from Friday through Sunday, Balkan-style roast lamb.
Barba Yianni Grecian Taverna This is a good place to try Greek wines with traditional cuisine. Egg-lemon soup is a highlight, as is the skordalia; also served are a very good spanakopita, great kebabs, thin-cut lamb chops, and delicious moussaka.
Bistro Campagne A reliable choice for bistro standards such as French onion soup and mussels; entrees include steak frites and rotating preparations of lamb and duck. Escargots, delivered spitting hot, are prepared with a garlic-Pernod butter; roast chicken, crispy on the outside and juicy within, was served over a bed of rich mushroom ragout and topped with a crazy blossom of fried onion. For dessert there’s a creamy creme brulee, pot au chocolat, house-made ice cream and sorbet, or perhaps a seasonal tart.
Chicago Brauhaus Chicago Brauhaus serves arguably the best German food in town. Massive wooden tables and chairs and folksy decorations create a Bavarian atmosphere, enhanced nightly by a live band in Tyrolean costume. Motherly waitresses promptly accommodate parties of any size. Appetizers are hearty: there’s matjes herring, a thin, flavorful marinated fillet in fresh sour cream with a boiled potato on the side, and steak tartare with all the trimmings. If you can squeeze in a main course after all this, try a beef roulade or the pork shank with sauerkraut.
Glunz Bavarian Haus This German-Austrian restaurant is anchored by alcohol, with 16 beers available on tap, 20 more by the bottle, and a selection of wine drinks including May wine produced by the Glunz family. The bar’s ambience spills over into the dining section and the patio alike. The menu is small but classic: soups, sausages and entrees of Wiener schnitzel, duck, pork, and roast chicken, all with the proper accompaniments.
Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro Under executive chef Jeannie Carlson, the menu at this huge bar and restaurant in a rehabbed Lincoln Avenue funeral home is a mix of British Isles standards and creative contemporary Irish bistro fare. My friend’s Guinness-and-onion soup arrived in a sizzling hot crock with a bubbling white-cheddar crust; though a bit undersalted it was still savory and satisfying. Her shepherd’s pie, served in a similarly blister-inducing piece of crockery, was a hearty mix of lamb, carrots, and pearl onions underneath a crown of piped-on mashed potato rosettes. I opted for a plate of grilled sea scallops served with carrots and fingerling potatoes. The staff do their darnedest to make you feel at home—our waiter kept promising to buy us shots.
Mythos Greek Taverna For years people have been predicting that Greek food is headed for a renaissance, so I was hoping it was finally here. But Lincoln Square is something of a Little Greektown, and in its own way Mythos is just as theatrical. A few things were very good: the loukaniko sausage, fragrant with fennel and orange peel, is terrific, as are the garlicky tzatziki and the zucchini-and-cheese fritters, kolokytho keftedes, with a side of skordalia for schmearing. But most of the flesh I’ve tried was brought out overcooked, and a grouper baked in garlic butter was practically murdered. Much has been made about the made-to-order pastichio, but it’s just one of many dishes here that look good on paper, less so on the plate. BYO.
Pannenkoeken Cafe Linda Ellis, owner of this tiny cafe, fell in love with Holland on her first trip in 2001, and she got hooked on pannenkoeken, the large, thin Dutch pancakes—so much so that she apprenticed herself to a gruff elderly master of the art. These days, she’s expanded her pannenkoeken repertoire to a dozen, offering combos such as raisin and ginger marmalade, apple and ginger, and ham and cheese. BYO.
Restaurant Sarajevo This Bosnian restaurant serves specialties like cevapcici on house-made pita bread and Bosnian-style roasted veal alongside omelets; sandwiches and burgers; fish, chicken, and pasta dishes; and dessert crepes.
Trattoria Trullo Giovanni DeNigris specializes in the food of Puglia. One such dish, eggplant stuffed with spinach and bread crumbs, was dull and mushy, but pasta courses showed more promise, like the ur-Pugliese orecchiette with rapini and ziti with white bean puree. Secondi were good enough but overshadowed by their accompaniments—for example, perfectly cooked vegetables. The wine list, as you might expect, is heavy on Pugliese reds. The front of the house is now a pizzeria.
LATIN AMERICANCafe 28 A Cuban-Mexican eatery inconspicuously located near the Brown Line tracks on Irving Park. Main courses range from a bistec a la Cubano to a blackened duck with pasilla-portobello sauce. Weekend brunch offers Cuban sandwiches, empanadas, and breakfast items such as a variety of eggs Benedicts and stuffed French toast.
FDM Mexican Cuisine & Lounge Housed in a former nightclub, this sleek sister to Logan Square’s Fonda del Mar is all blond wood and curving white lines, as if plopped down straight from an Ikea showroom. There’s a varied list of margaritas and cocktails, but menuwise, despite claims to contrary, there are only a few items that deviate from the mothership’s. Execution of most—from an oversalted cucumber-jicama salad to a past-its-prime marlin ceviche to an overcooked monkfish escabeche wobbly atop bland mashed potatoes and swimming in its vinegary sauce—doesn’t bode well for FDM’s chances of standing out in the increasingly wide field.
Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant Reasonably priced and family friendly, this Mexican eatery presents absolutely no surprises, but its local popularity is entirely understandable. Beginning with the margaritas, everything we tried gave honest weight, including the caldo de camaron (shrimp soup with vegetables), milanesa (breaded steak), beef tongue taco, chicken in mole, and pastel de tres leches. Service was friendly and efficient, the ambience loud, the portions Brobdingnagian.
Mixteco Grill Based on the name and the looks of the place, you might take Mixteco Grill for a nicer-than-normal diner. Don’t be fooled: this is a restaurant set on greatness. The menu is pan-Mexican, featuring Oaxacan moles, Pueblan salsas, Guerrerense meats, and other regional specialties. One bite into the fish tacos and my dining companion pronounced them her favorite ever. The pollito envinado, a little wood-grilled chicken special served with red wine-guajillo sauce, gave me new hope for restaurant chicken. Cochinita pibil, a Yucatecan classic, is pork slow cooked with achiote and other relatively mild spices, then perked up with pickled onions and incendiary habanero salsa. Delicate handmade tortillas add to every dish. BYO.
Los Nopales The grilled tilapia tacos at this low-key storefront are so good, so bright and fresh, that at these prices it seems like you’re stealing. Tangy ceviche with tilapia and shrimp has a splash of orange juice, which adds an appealing sweet aftertaste; tortilla chips come served with two salsas, one green, on red. On one visit my entree was grilled pork tenderloin with an aromatic sauce flavored with guajillo and chile de arbol and a side of cactus salad (nopales means “prickly pears”); there are weekly specials. BYO.
Taqueria el Asadero When I arrived in Chicago my goal was to eat in every one of its hundreds of taquerias and find the best one. I stopped when I got to El Asadero. It’s simply the best, run by wonderful people, well priced. You can’t get a better taco, burrito, or quesadilla at Frontera or Topolobompo. Don’t come for atmosphere—it’s a typical-looking storefront taqueria where the food comes in plastic baskets lined with waxed paper. Come for the best taqueria in town. Cash only; BYO.
PIZZAApart Pizza The style here is northern Italian thin crust cooked in a gas-fired oven, with a few dozen topping variations, from the standard to something called the Francese (Brie, ham, and egg). The dough’s fresh, the toppings are decent inching toward good on the signature Apart pie (sausage, pepperoni, and mushrooms), and it’s great for pickup or delivery—home is where this pizza’s best.
Pizza Art Cafe A hidden jewel 50 feet away from the Rockwell el stop, serving crispy thin-crust pizzas cooked in a wood-fired brick oven. There are also a few pasta and risotto dishes along with chicken marsala and salmon. We tried the mussels as well, a large bowl with a great white wine broth. On a second visit we enjoyed a flavorful spaghetti with roasted seasonal vegetables. There’s now a sidewalk cafe too. BYO.
Pizza D.O.C. This restaurant named after the stamp of approval given to Italian wine, cheese, and other culinary products of verifiably high quality holds up to the same exacting standards. Pizza crusts are topped with combinations of tomato, mozzarella, artichoke, porcini, and ham and egg, then cooked in a wood-burning oven. For heartier appetites there’s a variety of pasta dishes like gnocchiti al formaggi with mascarpone, Parmesan, and blue cheese or specials such as porcini risotto, Cornish hen, or osso buco alla Milanese.
Shopping & Services
Armanetti Wine Shoppe and Beverage Mart This store claims to have one of the best beer selections in town (around 800 kinds), and also specializes in bourbon, scotch, and tequila. The number of wines it stocks approaches 1,000, at prices ranging from $3.99 to $200. It holds free beer tastings on Fridays from 5:30 to 8 PM and free wine tastings on Saturdays from 2 to 6 PM.
Bellybum Boutique The key word here is boutique. This store for moms and moms-to-be includes an all-organic selection of cloth diapers, chichi diaper bags for men and women, and chic “transition wear”—clothes for early pregnancy that can also be worn postnatal. The store also hosts events, including free entertainment for babies, pre- and postnatal workout classes for moms, and a support group for stay-at-home dads.
Buy Choice Resale This 15-year-old consignment store sells women’s accessories and clothes for sizes zero to 5X. Prices are on the low end ($5-$100) and there are “more than fairly traded” collections that support Vietnamese designers.
Caravan Beads This independently owned shop specializing in seed beads also has a selection of vintage and modern beads from all over the world. There are regular classes (most are $25) and a free Bead Therapy social group on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month at 6 PM.
The Dressing Room This boutique specializes in casual women’s clothes and accessories that are trendy but not flashy—lots of colorful leather belts, printed cotton tops, and oversize handbags. It’s the place to go when you’re looking for that perfect summer dress or a quick fix like an inexpensive pair of earrings. You can always find some good jackets, and the jeans selection isn’t bad either, with versions from Joe’s Jeans, Hudson, and others. A small toy table in the back keeps tots occupied while moms comb the racks. Head down the street to Dressing Room Shoes (4657 N. Lincoln, 773-878-7400, same hours) for even more bags and shoes.
Elite Sportscards & Comics This store offers sports and trading cards, memorabilia, and a weekly Yu-Gi-Oh! tournament Saturdays at 11 AM.
Easy Rider Bike Shop Independently owned store offering used bikes, new bikes, and flat-rate tune-ups.
Embellish When this accessory store focusing on local and indie designers opened last August on a not-so-busy strip of Lincoln, I admit my first thought was “good luck.” But owner Barb Skupien has a great eye, scouring the Web to find designers and getting tips from her customers. I love the stained-glass cuffs, earrings, and necklaces by local designer Etta Kostick. Also of note: soft leather envelope clutches and bags printed with whimsical Vuitton-like graphics.
The Enterprising Kitchen The natural soaps and spa products sold here are made by participants in this nonprofit organization’s program to help prepare low-income women for employment. See also Volunteering.
Festa T-Shirts These shirts pander to the regionalist in all of us (“northside girl—we’ve got everything except parking”), but the real attraction, some say, is Festa’s popular holiday pub crawl, “The 12 Bars of Christmas.”
Fine Wine Brokers A staple of the neighborhood for nearly 15 years, Fine Wine Brokers looks a bit snooty but is really a friendly place for wine lovers of all income levels. Locate wines from your preferred region by the map painted on the walls, or check out the newly expanded beer selection, featuring Belgian options and English ales. Also new: a selection of cheese, meat, paté, olive oil, and other comestibles. The store holds free wine tastings every Saturday from 1 to 4 PM and occasional classes.
Hazel Gift shop selling fresh flowers and home decor, as well as cards and jewelry, some by neighborhood artists.
Homey The name evokes Pier One-style housewares, but the selection looks more like the Modern Wing gift shop. Wedged between two auto shops under the Brown Line, this home and garden store is also an art gallery. See also Galleries.
Knit 1 This mod shop is warm and cozy even by the standards of yarn stores. It’s little more than a table surrounded by shelves full of yarn, but they still find room for weekly knitting and crocheting classes for all levels.
Lulu’s at the Belle Kay Well-preserved vintage women’s gowns, furs, purses, shoes, and costume jewelry dating from the 1920s to 1980s. Prices range from $110 to $700.
Maya Essence Volunteers for Casa Guatemala, a nonprofit that supports humanitarian causes abroad, run this year-old store selling clothes, accessories, jewelry, chocolate, coffee, and honey—mostly South American and all fair-trade. There’s space in the back for community art exhibits and other events.
Merz The interior is a re-creation of a turn-of-the-20th-century apothecary shop, and Merz has indeed been around for a while—since 1875, in fact. Besides sweet-smelling soaps, lotions, and perfumes from high-end brands like Dr. Hauschka and Diptyque, the shop carries more mundane items (bath oil, mouthwash, etc) from Europe—brushing your teeth seems less of a chore when you’re doing it with Marvis toothpaste from Italy. Staff pharmacists and herbalists will also listen to your ailments and dispense appropriate homeopathic and natural remedies. My only complaint: it’s closed Sundays.
Multiple Choices III This brightly lit store sells “preppy and practical gifts” like stationery, picnic gear, and tumblers stamped with Big Ten football helmets.
Old Sau’s Resale & Antique Shop The recession hit North Center’s resale stores particularly hard; on a block once studded with antique shops, Old Sau’s is one of only two that remain. The store is packed with an eclectic mix of furniture, clothing, and accessories, including vintage designer bags and jewelry.
Praha Owners Todd and David based this inexpensive “lifestyle store” on a shop in Amsterdam, but the name references Prague, where their first line of cottage-style furniture was produced. Alongside found furniture and recycled metal items, the shop sells gourmet food and bath products.
Quake Collectibles Jam-packed from floor to ceiling with enough sci-fi collectibles to make any hardcore nerd tremble. The usual Star Wars and Star Trek figurines abound, and a sizable collection of used comic books ($1) and records ($3) broaden the shop’s appeal for the more casually geeky. Owner David usually mans the counter, and has been known to give a deal to the serious collector. Or so I hear.
Royal Treatment Veterinary Spa Barbara Royal’s specialty vet practice offers alternative therapeutic and rehabilitative services for pets, fromacupuncture and massage to cold laser light treatments, and underwater treadmill sessions. There are also weekly “doga” classes (yoga for dogs and their owners). Appointment required.
Smythson Yeats This antique store specializes in art deco and art nouveau furniture, but the broad selection, ranging from 18th century to the mid-1950s, also features an especially large collection of desk globes.
The Stadium Seat Store “For the Cubs fan who has everything,” this store sells actual Wrigley Field seats installed in 1967 and removed during renovations in the 1990s. In addition, there are Sox seats and freestanding Wrigley chairs from 1914.
Stay Dog Hotel The well-heeled bring their dogs to this “modern dog hotel,” which has better facilities than most human Ramadas. For an extra fee during daycare, doggies can enjoy one-on-one personal training in the lap pool (all dogs wear life vests); for boarding they can await their owners’ return in 160-square-foot suites with river views, fresh flowers, and “black and white prints by Keith Carter.” Owners can even watch their dogs on webcams. The facility incorporates a grooming “spa,” a retail store, and a training business, Barker Behavior, which also makes house calls.
Stellar 26 Youngish looking duds by both local designers and big west coast brands.
Thairapy Plus The sprawling, richly decorated interior of this spa and jewelry studio has space for hair, nails, massage, facials, waxing, and even jewelry repair.
Timeless Toys, Ltd. A spacious and fun independent store specializing in classics like puppets, puzzles, games, blocks, and other hands-on toys. An eco-dollhouse made from reclaimed rubberwood features a solar panel and a wind turbine.
Traipse Owner Margaret Jung relocated a few blocks south of Lincoln Square proper last March, but the store is pretty much the same—she still carries brands known for combining hipster appeal with comfort. Chief among those is Cydwoq, whose handmade leather shoes have a fairy-tale quality—the flat handmade sandals look like something a fashion-conscious genie might wear. You can also find the line’s rustic-looking leather bags and belts here. Chunky platforms by Biviel and Cordani come in bright colors like green and blue and are a little safer. There are even a few pairs around from the coveted Spanish brand Chie Mihara. Men can find off-kilter takes on standard footwear by Cydwoq and Camper.
West Lakeview Liquors This store, which has been around since 1988, boasts that it has the best keg selection in town—and with several hundred choices, from Three Floyds Dreadnaught to Surly Furious to Allagash White, it just might. They also offer a large selection of wines under $10, and free beer tastings Friday and Saturday nights from 6 to 9 PM.
Western Automatic Music This store sells, rents, and repairs a vast selection of vintage jukeboxes, pool tables, video games, and pinball machines.
Zola Jones The man who sits sewing behind the counter at this shop and atelier is Jason Loper, who named the store after the line of handcrafted bags that’s in turn named after his cat. The newest design is a sporty piece made of vinyl-like material he calls “vegan leather” that can be converted from a backpack to a messenger bag. Loper also carries items by independent and local designers, such as vintage-y looking fabric-hemmed rubber gloves and cuffs made of repurposed and scavenged leather, perfect for that casual-yet-tough summer look.
Zulu Dog & Cat Boutique “We have socks for dogs,” says co-owner Jennifer Phillips. Then, holding up what appear to be tiny slippers, she adds, “They’re actually supposed to go inside their boots.” That’s more or less par for the course at this posh pet shop, which offers organic treats and dog food, grooming services, and Shih Tzu-size Cubs uniforms. The store also hosts frequent events, such as a Dog First Aid Clinic and pet photo shoots.
Cambodian Association of Illinois Founded in 1976 by refugees who’d fled the Khmer Rouge, this organization provides aid to about 5,000 Cambodians in Illinois. Volunteers can apply (in person or online) to tutor youths in the after-school program, teach ESL classes to seniors and adults, provide computer lab instruction, or assist with the museum, library, and archives.
DANK Haus Volunteers at this local center for German culture provide assistance setting up and running its many special events and act as docents for its museum and library. For more, contact the volunteer coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org. See also Education & Recreation, Music, Movies, and Volunteering.
The Enterprising Kitchen This nonprofit social enterprise provides job and financial training and stress relief in the form of yoga and art therapy to low-income and unemployed women. Volunteers work as attendants and drivers for their farmers’ market and craft-fair stands and do clerical and organizational work. Professional expertise in soap making, financial planning, tutoring, or mock interviewing is particularly helpful. Contact volunteer coordinator Lynne Cunningham at email@example.com.
First Slice Cafe Chef Mary Ellen Diaz runs this nonprofit cafe in Lillstreet Art Center, which both sells food to the public and delivers high-quality meals to men, women, and children in need. Volunteers help prepare and serve food; to get involved, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. See also Restaurants.
JHP Community Center This center offers martial arts classes, academic development and homework tutoring, and arts programs to at-risk youth ages 7 to 18. The tutoring program for elementary school students accepts adults and high schoolers during the school year and provides training.
Lawrence Hall Youth Service This child welfare agency provides shelter, foster care, counseling, and educational services for at-risk, abused, and neglected youth and their families. Volunteers assist with clerical work, landscaping, tutoring, fund-raising, and event staffing. Volunteers must be at least 21, complete an application (available online), schedule an interview, and attend training.
Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce This association of 300 local businesses, institutions, and professionals addresses issues affecting the community. Volunteers can join planning committees or staff special events.
Neighborhood Boys and Girls Club Not affiliated with the national Boys and Girls Club, this organization provides athletic facilities, after-school tutoring and computer classes, and leadership and scholarship programs as well as putting on special events for area youth. Volunteers chaperone events, coach sports teams, and assist with after-school programs. Contact Bonnie Werstein at email@example.com to learn how to get involved.
Northcenter Chamber of Commerce This merchants’ association runs special events throughout the year, including Ribfest. Volunteers can assist with setting up and running these events or join chamber committees on other projects.
Old Town School of Folk Music The venerable live music venue and music school relies heavily on volunteers, who assist with concert promotion, membership drives, and the day-to-day administration of the school and resource center. After attending a volunteer orientation and logging enough hours, volunteers are awarded “points” that can be used toward concert tickets or music lessons. Contact the volunteer manager at firstname.lastname@example.org. See also Music and Education & Recreation.