Bruno’s, a tap room and package goods liquor store at 6562 North Sheridan Road since 1956, has finally defeated the Rogers Park Goliath, Loyola University. Loyola, with 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore firmly jammed in their hip pocket, has bought up much of the land around their campus over decades. They wanted Bruno’s, a 1922 Art Deco building distinguished by a unique terra cotta frieze showing the city’s twenties skyline, so they could build some gigantic complex on land they own bounded by Sheridan, Albion and the Red Line tracks. The long-running feud, featuring multiple city inspectors, legal wrangling, offers of nowhere-near-enough-money, even a request to donate the place, has finally ended. Loyola never formally surrendered, but construction of a soulless rental/retail complex south of Bruno’s and a new hotel going up to the north show that Loyola has finally given up on razing this neighborhood institution.
6562 N Sheridan, 773.764.7900
Best of Chicago 2015
Argo Bakery and North Shore Kosher Bakery
Unless you live there or grew up there, you have no reason to go to West Ridge, or as everyone from there calls it, West Rogers Park. The neighborhood is not convenient to anything, unless Lincolnwood is a thing. It’s not trendy, nor is it likely ever to have an infrastructure supportive of the development of a community of hipsters or artists. But what it does have is food, cheap and good. The corridor of Indian and Pakistani restaurants and stores that runs down Devon from Ridge to California is well established, but there remains very little evidence of the once-dominant Eastern European culture of the area. Except in the bread. North Shore Kosher Bakery has been around since the now long-forgotten past when Touhy Avenue used to have a vibrant retail district. Now, it is just about the last business between Sacramento and Francisco Avenues, and certainly the last of what used to be several kosher bakeries in the neighborhood. The assortment is classic Jewish carbs: bagels, onion rolls, rye bread (with or without caraway seeds but why, really, would you ever want it without?), challah loaves for Friday night, the start of Shabbat, and coffee cake. Simply the best damn coffee cake in Chicago, kosher or otherwise. Compared to North Shore, Argo is an upstart newcomer that has only been around since the late 1990s. Their selection is minimal; it’s more or less one bread in two different shapes, round or baguette-ish. But this simple bread, baked quickly against the walls of the traditional, dome-shaped Georgian oven, is pure carb heaven. Add feta cheese and olives and you have dinner. You can buy Argo’s bread at several ethnic grocery stores, but fresh out of the oven it might make you check out some ads for apartments on the Far North Side.
Argo Bakery, 2812 W. Devon, 773.764.6322; argobakery.com; North Shore Kosher Bakery, 2919 W. Touhy, 773.262.0600
Best of Chicago 2015
Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest
During the summer months, there are too many neighborhood street festivals across the city to count. But the Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest in the city’s Rogers Park neighborhood just seems to belong in a way that others don’t. Given the neighborhood’s demographic’s social-justice mindedness, the notion of a festival to show off and help support the neighborhood’s local artisans and small businesses is one welcomed by the area’s residents. Few fests pack in the foot traffic or aura of mutual support as Glenwood, centered around neighborhood institutions including the Heartland Café and Red Line Tap. It offers the best of the area’s usual with a chance to discover even more.
Best of Chicago 2014
Red Line Tap
Yes, you can watch the competitive ladder-climbing of the local scene at places like Empty Bottle and Hideout, but when it comes down to catching what fresh hell has spawned up from the cornfields of Indiana and Iowa, Red Line Tap is where it’s at. A Rogers Park neighborhood fixture, the venue has a small stage in a seating/dance area adjacent to the wrap-around bar. Earnest youngsters and touring vets alike have been known to cram on the stage and just cut loose, and it continues as one of the least precious places to do so in the city. As it says on the Tap’s site, “Cheap drinks, music nightly, lousy service.”
7006 North Glenwood, redlinetap.com
Best of Chicago 2013
Sambussa is not a Brazilian dance, but a fried beef, onion and pepper dumpling, Demera’s awesome answer to Indian samosa and Polish pierogi. Throw delicious stewed lemon, ginger and garlic-marinated chicken (doro wot) and berbere-spiced lentils (ye-misir wot) and whatever else you want on Demera’s value-priced Messob platters. Sop it all up with a bit of the excellent sour injera bread and you’ll dispel the myth that Africans only subsist on rice.
Demera, 4801 North Broadway, (773)334-8787, demeraethiopianrestaurant.com
Audience choice: Ethiopian Diamond, 6120 North Broadway, (773)338-6100; 7537 North Clark, (773)764-2200, ethiopiandiamondcuisine.com
Best of Chicago 2012
So what if it looks like a flat, round moist sponge and you have to move fast before one of your table mates grabs the section you were eyeballing: injera bread is the new naan. And at Ethiopian Diamond (Edgewater) and Ethiopian Diamond II (Rogers Park) injera is presented in the traditional custom owner Almaz Yigizaw grew up with in Gondar, Ethiopia. Stews made of goat meat, lamb and vegetables are spooned on top of injera to be shared. The bread disappears like a pizza as hands reach in to pull pieces of it to scoop up the stews. Heads up: Only the right hand is acceptable for breaking injera. Silverware is available upon request. The house-made mead here isn’t bad either.
Ethiopian Diamond, 6120 North Broadway, (773)338-6100; 7537 North Clark, (773)764-2200, ethiopiandiamondcuisine.com
Best of Chicago 2012
Stroll through tiny La Unica supermercado to the counter in back, tune out the extra-loud soap opera on Telemundo, and order yourself the boneless breast of chicken cooked in butter (yes!) and herbs. It will break your heart. As will the saucy black beans with bay leaves and fried plantains you’ll get on the side. Cops are always eating here, so you know it’s good, and you’ll be safe, too. Some other publication said La Unica had the best Cuban sandwich in Chicago, but there’s so much more.
1515 West Devon
Best of Chicago 2010
Praise the Lord and pass the Bibles. You’ll find them here, right near Loyola University, alongside Christian music and icons. Browse the spiritual and inspirational books and if you can’t find what you need, they’ll kindly order it for you.
1143 West Sheridan
Best of Chicago 2010
Chicago is teeming with ethnic restaurants, but until recently, there seemed to be a dearth of authentic Persian restaurants. Husband-and-wife team Goly and Azim Nassiri-Masouleh named the quaint Rogers Park neighborhood restaurant after the Northern Iran region they are from. The small menu consists of fresh herbs sprinkled on succulent kabobs and a variety of veggie dishes. Entrees are priced under $10 and come with soup and a massive heap of rice. Persian tunes play in the background while customers sip on their BYOB of choice.
6653 N. Clark
Best of Chicago 2008