There's so much going on around the hub that is Diversey that we just can't stay away. Music rattles out of open doors; newer drinkers stumble back to the comforts of their apartments, considering a quick meal along the way; a couple smiles through the window of a restaurant that fits the bill in the romance department. There's no shortage of places that give you what you need when you exit this in-the-heart-of-things L stop.
Panhandler rating: Sure, but nothing headache worthy.
Safety rating: You'll always be in company, just make sure it's good company.
Maza's menu delivers the same options one might expect from a street side cafe in Beirut, minus the protestors milling about. The baba ghanoush and hummus openers are as appetizing and ever, and are a must for any Middle Eastern food enthusiast. If you are leaning toward a hot appetizer, lock your sites on the spinach pie and falafel plates and fire away. If you can't decide, which is understandable given the array of options, just choose them all: The Maza deluxe will feed the table with a little bit of each appetizer for $30.
When it's time to order the entrees, the standard chicken and lamb kabobs top the slate, as well as traditional Lebanese plates like lamb tartar and shawirma. If you have your heart set on a more exotic plate, check out the rolled grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat. Despite the creativity of the recipes and the restaurant's prime location, Maza won’t drain your wallet of life. Most entrees run about $10, with filet mignon and lamb chops setting the high water mark at $17. It is an intimate space, with seating for maybe three dozen, mostly at small, two-person tables. The white table cloths, polished floors and exquisite place settings encourage you to be on your best behavior. Although the walls, tables, and flooring are brightly colored, the dining room is dimly lit, which matches well with the formal backdrop and intimate tables.
Best of the nighttime world
It's a two-room establishment with two equally stacked bars. The main room is populated with a handful of tables, a pool table and a pinball machine. If you want to get a certain kind of mood going, come when it has just opened and the place is empty. It can be a dark, sinister bar when the right music is on and only a few patrons are in your midst. Plug the jukebox with the live version of "The End" and listen to Jim Morrison's voice weave around the candlelight and imagine yourself a modern day Colonel Kurtz adrift in the sea of iniquity that is the city of Chicago.
The jukebox contains a collection of live CDs from around the western world. They mostly contain the rock legends from the '60s and '70s: Zeppelin, the Doors and Stones, along with Chicago legends in their own right, Wilco, and jam bands Phish and Widespread Panic. The rear bar is back in a large room like the basement of a house party, only with a much higher ceiling. A few couches are thrown against the walls and they have parties back there, concerts, CD-release parties and the like. Tuesday's $2.50 pints are a huge draw.
Good for groups
The Broadway location of Cesar's brings some life to a quieter stretch of the street. This spot has a newer and more spacious feel to it, with several dining rooms; however, the menu is the same, and you can still count on margaritas that pack a punch. Take your pick of frozen or rocks, salt or no salt, in flavors like lime, mango, strawberry, banana, raspberry and blue curaco.
Cesar's serves jumbo margaritas with enough kick to knock your socks off, as well as the socks of the guy next to you. Still, the food manages to one up the margaritas. Cesar's famous tacos come stuffed with your choice of meat, served with spicy rice and beans. Other signature dishes include homemade tamales suizos, the super burritos and Cesar's torta, a Mexican sandwich filled with sour cream, refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes and avocado with your choice of chicken breast, steak or veggies. This location recently debuted the opening of the third floor Last Call Lounge, a sleek spot with two large bars, couches to lounge on and plenty of room for eating.
If music is your thing, then you should be able to hear Delilah's calling your name. DJs are the main attraction, as the identity of the spinner ranges from the regular patron to a member of your favorite local band. Music styles pit country/western against rock, punk, metal and R&B. Delilah's overtakes two floors, with plenty of booths to sit down in and stools to sit near the bar. When the place is crowded, the chairs will fill up and standing might prove to be awkward at times. It's normally elbow-to-elbow during Punk Rock Mondays, and with good reason: the pool is free and the cheap beer (really: It's a buck for domestics) keeps aflowing.
A whopping three-quarters of the patrons who grace this bar are regulars, the rest music lovers who stumble in before or after a show at the not-too-far-away Metro. Loyal customers stay for the huge selection of beer (plus specials like Wednesday's $2 PBR longnecks) that pales in comparison to the 240 whiskeys on hand. Curiosities like enough whiskey to sate Sinatra and Sunday night movie screenings of cult flicks like "Twin Peaks" have kept the bar going strong for 11 years. Beyond the booze, it's a center for local arts in its own way: The art-clad walls change with the mood of owner, Mike Miller, meaning you'll get an experience that looks a little different, but always feels top-notch. With nary a cover charge, the bar is very welcoming despite the ominous black that covers the walls and ceiling.
Place to be seen solo
Duffy's is much bigger from the inside than it looks from the outside. The bar serves up a decent beer list (domestics and some imports) and the hugest sandwiches, which are quite tasty. Patrons sit in one of two huge rooms on gigantic stools and tables. It's like Alice in Wonderland after a super-sized dose of "Drink me." Many of them take in sporting events during the day, making it pleasantly occupied, but not too crowded. Daily drink specials up the ante as well, most notably Friday's $5 martini deal.
Food-wise, Duffy's offers classy bar appetizers like goat cheese and artichoke fritters and the all-popular sliders. Soups, salads and a few entrees round out the menu, in addition to a heavy roster of sandwiches, including buffalo chicken, reuben, grilled vegetable, black & blue burger and tuna croissant. The service is still somewhat spotty (maybe it's the size of the place that slows them down in travel time, but waitresses, bartenders and other members of the waitstaff need to work together more to time things) but with the pleasant, kick-back atmosphere of the place, who cares? No one here is in a rush, and no one should be.