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Restaurant Crawl Offers Left Sides of Many Menus

How much could one hungry writer pack in during less than three hours at the Albany Park and North Park Restaurant Crawl?

The event along Foster and Kedzie avenues provided plenty of gastronomic opportunities, with 21 restaurants and dessert nooks that ranged from Lebanese, to Filipino, to ribs and pizza. About 150 people attended from all over the city and beyond (for more on their reactions, please click here).

North Park University co-workers enjoy some pad thai at Rice & Roll.

Gordon Walek

Though lacking the ambitions of the Earl character in the movie “Diner,” who famously consumed the entire left side of the menu, I set about to accomplish what I could during the event, held Sept. 27. It was co-organized by the North River Commission, Albany Park Chamber of Commerce, Hollywood North Park Community Association and North Park University, and co-sponsored by Harris Bank, Charter One and LISC/Chicago.

6:15 p.m.

Headed westward from the check-in location at Frankenstone Artisans, 3310 W. Foster Ave., which featured samples from Ay Ay Picante!, Marie’s Pizza and Ssyal Ginseng House. The Foster Avenue stretch of restaurants began near Kimball at Merla’s Kitchen, 5207 N. Kimball Ave., which served a miniature version of its Signature Platter—a sampler plate with succulent chicken adobo, Pancit Bijon (similar to angel hair pasta) and a tasty beef empanada. I skipped the sticky rice to save stomach room.

6:30 p.m.

Next up was the Roots Room Social Club, 5203 N. Kimball, which featured only popcorn and non-alcoholic red punch for taste consumption—but the main dish was for the ears, in the form of a live world-music band that perfectly fit the visual vibe of the multicultural-themed space, which is BYO alcohol.

6:40 p.m.

Quick stop in North Park Village Pizza, 3352 W. Foster. It didn’t boast the most exotic flavors of the night, but I certainly enjoyed the mini-slices of tomato and sausage pizza and tangy ribs. I then passed up Beijo de Chocolat, 3334 W. Foster, figuring to make my way back closer to dessert time; this turned out to be probably my biggest mistake of the evening, as I failed to return to this chocolatier and tea shop before closing time, crushing the hopes of my inner Homer Simpson.

Semiramis offered couches and a coffee table full of food.

Gordon Walek

6:55 p.m.
More tanginess was to be had at Smokey Bear’s BBQ House, 3314 W. Foster, which featured pulled pork sandwiches with four different choices of sauce: sweet, chipotle, the vinegary Carolina, and the zippy but not overwhelming house sauce. Here I connected with LISC communications manager and photographer extraordinaire Gordon Walek—and we heard a woman, apparently without irony, ask the barbecue house staff whether they had any vegetarian offerings.

7:15 p.m.

Another quick stop at Rice and Roll, 3312 W. Foster Ave., yielded a pleasantly chunky and chewy dish of pad thai, full of peanut bits and thick noodles. Wanting to save room and having eaten and sipped at both fine establishments many times before, Gordon and I chose to skip over Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, 3234 W. Foster, and Starbuck’s North Park, 3232 W. Foster Ave.

7:45 p.m.

After hoofing it a few blocks south on Kedzie, near Ainslie, we reached the Dawali Mediterranean Kitchen, 4911 N. Kedzie, which provided a choice of falafel or chicken shwarma sandwiches. Had the falafel, one of the larger portions to be found during the evening and quite crispy and flavorful.

8:15 p.m.

After skipping a couple more dessert places that Gordon and I did not find time or room to return to—Jaafer Sweets, at 4825 N. Kedzie, and La Baguette North Bakery, 4734 N. Kedzie—it was time for some Caspian eggplant, cucumber salad, pitas and hummus, and a Lebanese red wine called Massaya at Noon O Kebab Persian Restaurant, 4651 N. Kedzie. The eggplant dish, flavored with tomatoes and cilantro, stood out.

8:30 p.m.

The most varied spread and comfortable seating of the evening was found at Semiramis Lebanese Restaurant, apparently a local favorite based on the number of crawl attendees who spoke highly of it. A coffee table surrounded by couches held pitas, hummus, baba ghannouj and falafel, along with French fries served with what incongruously looked like mashed potatoes—but was actually sumac and garlic mousse, intended for dipping with the fries, and truly a garlic lover’s delight.

Dessert is 100 percent guaranteed to bring smiles.

Gordon Walek

8:40 p.m.
We stopped very briefly into Salam Restaurant, 4636 N. Kedzie, and chose to take our pita, hummus and falafel to go, to save at least a little room for dessert.

8:45 p.m.

We collected and ate selections from the dessert plates at Nazareth Sweets, 4638 N. Kedzie; the cream pastries were particularly tasty.

8:50 p.m.

The last stop of the night was Fruityland Ice Cream, 4610 N. Kedzie, where I enjoyed a banana fruit popsicle, made on site, while standing amidst a battalion of carts for said popsicles. Those must fan out all over the neighborhood and beyond during the day to parks and other places where children gather.

9 p.m.

Heading back toward Foster Avenue on the shuttle bus that took participants up and back along the route all night, I vowed to make it back next year—and to hit Beijo de Chocolat first, no matter what my mother would say about it.

To see a slideshow with more photos, please click here.

Posted in Economic Development, Albany Park


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