The majority of geography geeks, like me, haven't the time or disposable cash to visit Byblos, the proclaimed oldest city in the world located in Lebanon. Take a shortcut and visit Byblos Mediterranean Cuisine in North Park. Sit beside a gorgeous seaside mural as live Middle Eastern music plays and Alexandria, arguably Chicago's most talented belly dancer, whips her hips around the room.
Similar in concept to Alhambra Palace downtown, this establishment offers its community a closer, and cheaper, alternative. While the design isn't as elaborate and authentic as Alhambra's, the space maintains a neat and elegant design nonetheless. Cherry wood pillars hold up a room of organized tables blanketed with white tablecloths over hardwood floors. A saltwater aquarium adds flare and azure bulbs line the walls.
The average person likely won't see a reason getting dolled up for an establishment where the average plate is $9.95. However, regulars understand the Byblos experience is a formal affair where looking sloppy risks turning off a room of attractive, olive-skinned visitors.
A couple rules the average person may wish obliging by include refraining from talking geography with your servers; they're not exactly impressed that you have a mental map of the Middle East in your head. Second rule, have some background knowledge in Mediterranean fare; the servers (on our visit, anyway) aren't too eager giving recommendations or up selling, although they will say the Byblos combo (beef kabob, shish tawook and kafta kabob served with charred tomatoes, green peppers and onions, $10.95) is the best.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: David-Anthony Gonzalez