Charmers lives up to its name with lovingly prepared coffee drinks and bagels piled high with goodies.
One thing that's great about the Jarvis L stop is that you step off the train to find a definite lack of garish fast-food signs. Instead, you see nice homes on tree-lined streets. Among the most residential-looking of the Red Line stops, this stop drops you in the middle of a quiet part of Rogers Park, just west of the lake. If you don't know someone in the area, it may be hard to find a reason to go there. But just because there aren't a lot of obvious destination-worthy venues doesn't mean there isn't plenty to do.
Best of the nightlife
With empty kegs lined up by the front door, five television sets and navy blue speckled carpeting that would be at home in the cheapest hotel, this place isn't for the ostentatious. But connoisseurs of hole-in-the-wall drinking establishments will be right at ease. The tavern has a vague nautical theme, with maps of Lake Michigan, a boat's wooden steering wheel and a lifesaver on the walls. The drinks match the decor; Schlitz and Miller Lite are on tap for $2.25, while seasonal specials are around $5. Food is limited to frozen pizzas for $8. And when you leave, the bartender will thank you for coming, while someone at the bar drinks a beer and wonders what the hell you were doing there.
Good for groups
You won't know you've reached Poitin Stil until you're literally at its front stoop, as its surroundings are nothing more than a city park and old Rogers Park homes. The name, pronounced "poo-chine still," means moonshine in Gaelic, and with slight prodding, owner Susan Murphy will eagerly point out the antiquated black-and-white picture of her father and grandfather making the illegal beverage. Many of the pub's patrons are (surprise!) Irish, but the drink specials are good enough to draw any crowd.
Gruppo Di Amici
Wood-fired, Roman-style pizza is slightly different from Neapolitan thin-crust, says Gruppo di Amici owner Phaedra Divras, but your non-Italian palate may not notice. What you will notice is that the pies don't come larger than 12 inches ($11-$14), making a pizza delight perfectly sized for one. But there's no need to shoot for just one taste. A gruppo of three or four can cover half the pizza menu, trading a slice of 4-Formaggi (gorgonzola, swiss, fontina, Holland) for a bit of the Capricciosa (tomato, olives, mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, egg and artichokes).
Where to chill
Highlighting Lake Michigan as a place to hang out in Chicago may seem like kind of a cop out, but Jarvis Beach is not your typical city-run lakefront attraction. Unlike its more popular counterparts on the South Shore and North Avenue, Jarvis Beach could use a little attention (and attendance). This modest strip of sand and lake water gives credence to the "less is more" adage. With only a few hundred feet of shoreline interrupted by a giant mass of boulders in the middle, Jarvis Beach is not big enough to be overrun by people, making it the ideal quiet place to gather your thoughts and simply stare at the lake, with a bench available for just such an activity.
From the 1930s until 2004, this Jarvis Square space was a local bar. A new owner has reopened the neighborhood hangout under the same name, but Charmers now offers a classed-up coffeehouse experience with squeaky-clean tile floors, polished mirrors and stone tabletops. Locals may recognize the golden figures inspired by Greek mythology adorning the walls, as these Art Deco fixtures are the originals from the watering hole's heyday. You'll find a mix of lovingly brewed lattes and mochas, as well as smoothies and milkshakes. Food options include bagels with various shmears, scones, muffins and croissants. If you're in the mood for something heartier, step through the back hallway and find yourself in Charmers' sister operation, Dagel and Beli, where you can order a steamed bagel sandwich piled high with goodies. You're free to sit in either establishment once your order's up.
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