How Swede it is (and isn't)

Lifestyle and LeisureDining and DrinkingRestaurantsFamilyCookingBars and Clubs

Andersonville is known primarily as a Swedish enclave, but those who dine up and down Clark Street around Foster Avenue are as likely to find pita and panjun as lingonberries and lutefisk.

Indeed, Andersonville has become one of Chicago's most diverse neighborhoods (and a bit of a Middle Eastern pocket). But those who are so inclined can still buy lutefisk here, along with other Scandinavian specialty foods, at delis such as Wikstrom's and Erickson's. Other remnants of the neighborhood's Swedish history include the Swedish American Museum, the annual Midsommarfest street fair in June and Simon's Tavern, where the house specialty is glogg (traditional Swedish hot spiced wine). Here's more of the smorgasbord of restaurant offerings:

Hopleaf Bar
Long a mecca for lovers of Belgian-style beer, this Andersonville tavern has widened its appeal with the addition of a dining room and dinner menu. Expect anything but typical bar food, says owner Michael Roper. Instead, the focus is on affordable, beer-friendly Belgian cuisine: moules frites (beer-steamed mussels served with french fries and aioli), an artisanal cheese plate, salads and sandwiches, including smoked duck and organic ham and Gruyere.

Charlie's Ale House
One sure sign of the area's continuing gentrification is the arrival of Chicago's third Charlie's Ale House. Nearby Hopleaf may have better beers on tap, but if you're looking for a bite along with your brew, there's no denying the appeal of this family-friendly spot. The menu of gussied-up bar fare includes appetizers such as salmon croquettes and a chicken quesadilla with pico de gallo. Entrees include the Big Fat Greek Chicken Salad (mixed greens, grilled chicken, red onion, cucumber, garbanzo beans, kalamata olives and feta cheese) and a half-pound burger that hits the spot-and is a bargain at $6.95. Heartier dinners include pot pies (chicken or lobster and shrimp) or meatloaf and pot roast served with mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.

Jin Ju
Here, the traditional Korean dining experience gets an MTV makeover. The idea, explains owner Agnes Hong, is to make Korean food more accessible to young, hip and non-Korean diners. To that end, the dining room is minimalist chic; dishes are served in courses, rather than family-style; and informed servers help diners navigate the menu, and even recommend the perfect Korean beer or "soju-tini" to go with it. Appetizers include dae ji kalbi (barbecued pork spare ribs served with sweet pickled onion) and mandoo (fried dumplings filled with beef, scallions, bean sprouts and tofu). Recommended entrees include Korean staples bulgoki and dol sut bi bim bop. An expansion will soon extend the bar area and double the seating.

La Tache
If you closed your eyes and tried to imagine the perfect little neighborhood restaurant, it would look a lot like this new French bistro, with its dark wood paneling, a tiny lounge just inside the door with a faux fireplace and zinc bar, and huge Art Deco lamps suspended from the ceiling. Chef Dale Levitski's menu is equally impressive. Starters include steamed mussels in saffron broth, crepes stuffed with blue cheese, grapes and spinach; and a heavenly salade Lyonnaise. Entrees (all less than $20) consist of familiar bistro fare with modern American flair. Duck breast is seared and served over a bed of baby turnips, leg confit, swiss chard and a perfectly balanced cognac-cherry reduction. Desserts include a savory pear tart with a decadent buttery crust.

Sunshine Cafe
Don't be put off by the kitschy plastic entrees on display in the window and the slightly shabby dining room-what this family-friendly Japanese BYOB lacks in style it makes up for in tasty, cheap Asian comfort food. Servers dodge screaming, scampering kids, delivering shrimp dumplings, steaming bowls of udon soup (choose beef, pork, chicken or vegetable), tonkatsu (breaded pork tenderloin with egg and onions over rice) and a variety of sizzling stir-fries. Daily specials, handwritten and photocopied, might include dobo (a julienne of burdock root and carrot marinated and topped with sesame seeds) or house-made eggrolls.

Svea
Cinnamon roll-slinging Ann Sather packs 'em in on weekends, but we prefer this tiny breakfast and lunch spot, decked out with blue- and yellow-checked tablecloths, blue wood paneled walls and an old-timey lunch counter. We recommend the Viking Breakfast: two eggs any style; Swedish-style potatoes (cubed and fried with a bit of onion); grilled falukorv (a mild pork sausage); crepe-like Swedish pancakes with lingonberry sauce; and limpa, a light rye bread flavored with anise, made down the street at the Swedish Bakery. For lunch, try the Three Crown Special: salt pork, brown beans, meatballs, mashed potatoes, vegetable and choice of appetizer.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comments
Loading