At first glance, the area around the Thorndale stop looks like just another stretch of bleak and nondescript grid between Lakeview and Evanston. If you pay attention, though, you'll be rewarded with glints of obscured treasures and glimmers of exotica. You'll marvel at the ornate French gothic facade and sweeping Mediterranean interior of the Broadway Bank, originally designed in 1925 by Bernard Kurzon to be an auto showroom. You'll ponder shop signs in twisting Ethiopic script and hear people chatting in Amharic and Somali, or visit a shop that rents Nigerian videos. The mostly local restaurants offer a range of cuisines from eggs over easy to Ethiopian, and there are plenty of places where you can knock back a couple after work.
Best of the nightlife
It's rare that a bar can draw massive crowds no matter the season, but that's just what Moody’s Pub, with its rockin' beer garden and toasty interior, manages to do. During warmer months, wind your way through the pitch-black interior of this Edgewater pub to the hidden garden out back. The two-tiered garden has ample seating for couples and crowds, privacy from the road, waterfalls, wall ivy and plenty of silver maple trees, making this a hands-down winner for summertime socializing. When the weather turns cold, move indoors for cozy booths, really low lights and a roaring fireplace—the perfect antidote to the winter blues.
Good for groups
If Ethiopian cuisine is foreign territory, the Ethiopian Diamond is an excellent place to embark on a tasting journey. Dining here is an easy and tasty way to be adventurous: the dining room is large and colorful, the servers are friendly and helpful, and the food is simply superb. Ethiopian entrees are served on circular trays that are lined with injera, unleavened, spongy bread made from teff flour. Entrees are usually stews (or watts), arranged in small, fragrant mounds on the injera like paint on a palette. You eat without utensils, using other pieces of injera to pick up morsels from your tray. It's best to bring a friend or two along, because Ethiopian meals are traditionally eaten communally from the same tray. It's a big tray, too, so you'll appreciate the help.
There are only five seats in Barry's Spot and a cramped area in front of the counter. You might be surprised to find such a large number of options in so small a space. You can get pizza: entire pies fresh from the oven or phone book-size single slices from the rotating warmer. However, Barry's also offers rib tips, chicken wings, seafood, hot dogs, burgers, grinders, gyros, subs, pasta, salads and desserts. It's mostly a meat-fest, but vegetarians who like spinach can enjoy…well, the spinach pizza.
Where to chill
Ole St. Andrew's Inn
If you don't have a local watering hole of your own yet, Ole St. Andrew's Inn might be a good place to adopt. It's a quiet, low-key establishment where people can talk as they tipple and not shout to make themselves heard. Although there are four large televisions, the bartender cringes at the mention of the term "sports bar," and the televisions function on mute. The menu features the standard burgers-and-fish-and-chips pub fare. There is an interesting selection of beer on tap and, as you might expect, a long line of single malt Scotch on the top shelf.
This place doesn't have a fancy visual design or uber-hip indie-pop pumping out of the loudspeakers (unless that's what you want; the always-reliable internet jukebox is on hand here). But what it does have is that friendly neighborhood atmosphere, offering a quaint and comforting place to tip back a few. Also, beers are so cheap you'll freak (kind of the alcoholic version of Jimmy John's motto) at $2.75 for domestic and $3.75 for imported.
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