photo: Courtesy of Nick Flandro
Bustling activity isn't limited to the L platform of this transportation hub. Once you hit street level, a quick glance into any storefront will reassure you that this is one hood that never shuts down. Rows of students sip brew at the Bourgeois Pig; a stark yet chic setting greets martini drinkers at The Gramercy
; rowdy fans fill any number of sports bars. Chances are you'll find what you're looking for just off Fullerton
; chances are pretty good you'll have to push your way in, too.
Best of the nightlife
One part lounge, one part hip-hop, and one part speakeasy, Tonic Room aims to truly be a tonic. Touted for their ability to counter any ailment, tonics had a reputation as equal opportunity healers. In much the same way, Tonic Room is a design-you-own-evening locale, able to meld to both debaucherous and low-key expectations fairly well. Enjoy your favorite kind of counter-all-ills potion, often at prices that seem more last century than modern day. Tonic Room is as heavy on the sounds as it is on the sips. A hip-hop-heavy roster should please those looking for a good beat. Wednesdays feature live music, while iTuesday lets you control the tunes; bring your iPod and be the DJ for three songs or 15 minutes.
Good for groups
There's so much more to McGee's than DePaul students and $1 Bud and Miller bottles. (Though to be fair, the Thursday night special is one excellently priced incentive to haul down to this beneath-the-L-tracks bar). The front room's polished wood booths, plate glass windows, green-and-white tiled floors and brass detailing assigns a classic pub appearance to McGee's. The back houses a stage for live bands (look out for performances by local favorite Maggie Speaks) and two additional bars.
McGee's proudly claims more than 60 TV screens for patrons to catch all the Bears, Cubs and Bulls action. During football season, Saturday and Sunday brunch from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. makes the bar the perfect meeting spot for groups to gather and watch games over bloody marys and eggs benedict.
Sweets and Savories
This quiet cafe's nondescript exterior and veiled windows create the impression of an abandoned storefront, a perception quickly shattered upon entering this chocolate and rose-walled sensation. Those used to a more casual setting may be intimidated by the immaculate tablecloths and sophisticated clientele, but the warm, jeans-wearing wait staff quickly works to allay any fear of being in the wrong place.
Any unease about pricier entrees or correct fork usage dissipates after diving in to Chef David Richards' rich, flavorful creations. Menu mainstays include delectables such as sweet potato bisque, strawberry risotto and a kobe burger topped with foie gras pate. Brunch lovers will delight in Richards' red wine poached eggs, while tea aficionados can enjoy sips of fragrant, exotic blends. But most important among Sweets and Savories' offerings are the items on its dessert menu. A chocolate cake with cocoa buttercream induces exquisite sugar shock. An apple crisp with raisins and cranberries delivers flaky, fruit-filled goodness. And handmade chocolate truffles are decadent without overwhelming taste buds.
Where to chill
The first clue into the vibe at John's Place is its name, which, quite simply, originated from owner John Manilow wanting a down-home restaurant to call his own. A handful of menu items feature John's mother's original recipes, while others are adorned with personal suggestions from the owner himself (he recommends adding chorizo to the breakfast burrito). The dining areas could also be mistaken for a personal dining room (albeit quite a bit larger) with lofty ceilings, wide-open spaces and local artwork.
Sweet Mandy B's
Okay, so Sweet Mandy B's is about as under the radar as NYC's Magnolia Bakery. But cupcakes this good (and hues of frosting this bright and pretty) just can't be ignored. For the few stragglers who haven't yet popped into the queen "B" of the confection scene, think melt-in-your-mouth, sprinkle-festooned butter cream crowning golden cakes. Dream of home-baked pies, fresh chocolate chip cookies and snicker doodle treats sharing counter space with whoopee pies, rocky road brownies, s'mores and banana pudding cups. In short, ordering anything off the menu here is like taking a waltz with the sugar plum fairy. Expect nothing but pure, saccharine delight.
Explore more neighborhoods and train stops with our Virtual L navigator.