It's one of Chicago's best neighborhoods, and one that requires a bit of a walk from the nearest Red Line stop: Berwyn. Whether you're heading west to the hustle and bustle of Clark Street or sticking closer to Broadway, there's much more to Berwyn than meets the eye (in this case, a Jewel and a Blockbuster).
Safety rating: Basic street smarts are in order.
Panhandler rating: None-too-rare and event.
Adria Mare is most likely the only restaurant around that features the cuisine of Dalmatia, though the fare won't strike you as too exotic, because it's essentially Mediterranean. As you might gather from the dangling fishing nets and the cheery oil paintings of sunny Adriatic views, the menu focuses on freshly prepared seafood. There's grilled calamari and sauteed octopus; shrimp, mussels and other shellfish; steaks of tuna and salmon; and filets of tilapia.
In addition to seafood dishes, four dense and rich risottos are available. Pasta and "international" dishes like the popular "German-style" chicken (with brandy and green apples) complete the menu. There is also a daily dessert. (If you're lucky, it will be spumoni.)
If you've just finished watching the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and actually feel like doing the time warp, then all you have to do is set one foot in Augie's. This eatery has been around since the '50s, and I sincerely doubt that much remodeling has occurred since then. Though there's a no-smoking sign, the place still faintly smells of cigarettes, and the candles on the wall are most definitely artificial. No complaints, though. Considering the no-nonsense and quintessentially American food served at Augie's, the atmosphere enhances, not detracts from, the experience of eating here.
When all is said, done and, most importantly, eaten, Augie's has an everybody-knows-your-name vibe. Combine that with bargain-priced food (my tuna salad sandwich, fries and a Pepsi cost a grand total of $6 and change) and plenty of small-sized booths to sit in, it's pretty no-fail. If you go around the 2 o'clock range, you can sit easily undisturbed. The popular time at Augie's, however, is breakfast, which makes sense given its large menu of pancakes, waffles and all sorts of delicious goodness.
Open since 1963, a recent makeover turned the decidedly un-hip Italian ristorante into a modern spot more in keeping with it increasingly chic neighbors. The restaurant drowns itself in ambience with an elegant decorative scheme that includes a huge mural depicting a scene from an Italian restaurant, exposed brick, mellow lighting (lighting that, during the day, is canceled out by the sun emitting from the open windows facing Clark) and comfortable booths that make you feel like you are sitting on air.
There are two sections in Calo's: Facing the entrance on the left is the bar, stocked with plenty of spirits and seats for watching sports on the big-screen television. Head to the right to dine from Calo's extensive menu and wine list. You will be able to find something you like, but stick to the staples of Italian food, such as pastas (gnocchi gorgonzola, $12.95; stuffed shells, $8.95 ) and panini. (though the bleu cheese burger may sound like a happening time, the person at my table who ordered it was less than impressed). Its self-proclaimed "famous" thin crust pizzas lays claim to a pretty serious neighborhood fan base.
Sure-bet for shopping
As a historically Swedish neighborhood, Andersonville has very few remnants of its Scandinavian past. But stroll into Erickson's Delicatessen and you'll surrounded by the blue and yellow hues of the Swedish flag, pickled herrings, salty black licorice and the friendliness of the blond-haired mom-and-daughter pair behind the counter.
Erickson's has been the place for all things Scandinavian since 1925, but don't be intimidated by the foreign sounding names or unfamiliar languages on some of the products. And don't get confused by its name, which probably would have been changed to Erickson's Gourmet Foods if it weren't for such a rich tradition that no one has felt comfortable breaking. About 90 to 95 percent of Erickson's products are imported, mostly from Sweden, Denmark and Norway, with a few items from Germany, Italy and Holland. You'll find more forms of lingonberries than you've ever imagined (fresh, syrup, juice concentrate, jamů) as well as potato sausage, flatbreads, popular cheeses and anything you'd need for a holiday smorgasbord.
Arena for the a.m.
When choosing an Andersonville breakfast spot, don't overlook Svea for its neighbor Ann Sather: It tastes as good, if not better. With just a little more seating capacity, Svea could vie for best breakfast spot in all of Chicago. The decor consists of folkloric artwork, an antique cash register, blue and yellow accents and exposed beam ceilings. Dining is cash only, and seating includes two- and four-person tables, as well as several bar stools along the '50s-style counter. You won't have to wait long to be seated and the service is fast and efficient.
Menu options include both breakfast and lunch, with Swedish favorites like Falukorv sausage, Swedish fruit soup ($2.15) and panbiff med lok. If you're particularly hungry, try the Viking Breakfast: two eggs and three pancakes with lingonberry compote, potatoes, toast and bacon or sausage ($8.30). For a special winter treat, order the Lutfisk (a traditional Swedish Christmas dish of boiled salted fish served with a simple cream sauce) to get serenaded by Glenn himself, as well as earning a complimentary Glogg.