Located near the northwestern end of the Brown Line in an intensely multicultural section of Albany Park, this curious station sits at ground level. Clanging railroad-crossing arms come down across Kedzie as the (not-so-elevated) L meanders past. Many meat markets pepper the sidewalks, as do frenzied, indoor bazaars selling everything from cell phones and blankets to lingerie and cookware. Explore with us:
Andy's Fruit Ranch
A small but modern grocery store with an amazing produce section, Andy's Fruit Ranch sells fresh edibles as unfamiliar as bitter melon. Resembling a deflated zucchini and boasting a distinct tartness, this pear has medicinal value as a hypoglycemic. It's just one of many odd fruits and vegetables that sit in residence with the more mundane tomatoes, apples, oranges and bananas. There are also all kinds of interesting dry beans in clear unmarked bags. Move on to Andy's sprawling meat and seafood counter, where homemade sausage beckons from behind the glass, as do whole fishes and complete giant squids, all with big clammy eyes. Along with all the other amenities of a standard grocery, the Ranch also stocks imported chocolate out the udder.
Serving famous tacos "al pastor" since 1979, this is a small, anonymous-looking restaurant, with sparse decor and a large energetic jukebox. Tacos al pastor come heaped with pork that's been marinated in a special secret sauce; though they're generally smaller than a standard taco, here they only cost $1.47. At Taquerias Uptown, they join all the familiar Mexican fare on the menu.
Good for groups
Salvation Army Family Store
Unlike so many thrift stores, this particular Salvation Army is warm and inviting. The carpeting absorbs some of the harshness of the fluorescent lighting, and a hodgepodge of sound floods the store from the overactive electronics section, where antiquated televisions and stereos hold court. The clothing racks are overstuffed, and perhaps because it's a donation center, nothing looks picked over, most notably the unusually large collection of hats. There is also a healthy bric-a-brac assortment with jelly glasses to die for.
Where to chill
Pool halls are the pinnacle of places to be caught solo, narrowly beating out even video-game arcades. There's a certain degree of cool involved in walking into a long, dark pool hall like this one, toting a custom cue in a sleek, black case, and wearing a chip the size of Paul Newman on your shoulder. When on a mission to shoot some serious stick, co-conspirators only get in the way. But at Uno, there's no extra head charge, so should someone tag along, the rate remains flat.
Best of the nightlife
Noon O Kabab
This might be the best Persian food in the world; well, at least in the city. The pre-meal spread of onions, feta, parsley and a radish, served with flatbread, opens the palate up for the hummus and baba ghanoush; both are fresh, creamy and delicious. With the appetite thoroughly intrigued, move on to the huge plate of food that is the main course. The lion's share of menu space goes to meat dishes (lamb, beef, chicken and seafood), but there's a small vegetarian selection as well.
The dishes are served with extra long steamed rice, and grilled vegetables. All of the food tastes remarkably fresh. The authentic, if not slightly gaudy, atmosphere is very pleasing. Traditional Persian artwork, in tandem with the plastic tablecloth covers, gives Noon O Kabab an unpretentious level of sophistication. The reasonable prices make it an ideal dinner-date restaurant, and because the owner typically visits every table at least once, everyone gets to look and feel important.
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