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Escape from Lincoln Park

With a variety of appealing restaurants and bars concentrated within a few blocks of its namesake Metra stop, the Northwest Side neighborhood of Edison Park is a haven for city dwellers looking for a low-key escape. Start with these top spots.

Basta Pasta
This bustling Italian-American restaurant offers traditional cuisine and old-school Italian tunes to boot. Hearty dishes like rigatoni and pollo splendida (chicken breast stuffed with angel hair pasta and broccoli, topped with porcini mushroom sauce) are served in a lively atmosphere. Don't miss the creamy, whipped ricotta cheesecake. Carryout orders should be picked up at the Oshkosh Avenue location.

Don Juan Restaurante/Patricio
For more than 20 years, family-owned Don Juan Restaurante has earned a loyal following with its traditional south-of-the-border fare and offbeat daily specials (think venison fajitas). A recently added taqueria menu offers quick options for those eating on the run. Favorites include the Baja fish and veggie tacos. Those looking for a more sophisticated setting can reserve one of the eight tables at Patricio, a more upscale dining room with a seasonally focused menu.

Edison Park Inn
Diners with ants in their pants will dig this game-oriented, two-floor pub. The second floor features three pool tables, eight bowling lanes, a foosball table and live music on Friday and Saturday nights. Downstairs, have a beer ($1.50 for domestic bottles Tuesday and Thursday) and catch games on one of several TVs. A better-than-average bar menu offers plump, crispy chicken fingers and pizzas cooked in a wood-burning oven.

Edison Park Palace
This newly opened family-owned restaurant offers both Indian and American cuisine in a casual, homey atmosphere. Breakfast and lunch feature American fare such as omelets, sizzling egg skillets, sandwiches and steaks. Dinner is strictly Indian. Go for the fish Malabar (salmon wrapped in banana leaves and grilled with onions and peppers) or tandoori-roasted eggplant mashed with tomatoes and Indian spices. A popular dessert is kheer, a fragrant rice pudding with raisins and almonds.

Elliott's Seafood Grille and Chophouse
The Elliott family, Chicago-area restaurateurs since 1939, own and run this upscale yet unpretentious seafood and steak joint. Popular dishes include Italian-style pork chops, rack of lamb and thick-cut steaks. Seafood offerings include horseradish-crusted Chilean sea bass, stuffed salmon, coconut shrimp and tender fried calamari.

Emerald Isle
A far Northwest Side staple, this Irish-American bar caters to those looking for a good time with nightly drink specials and live bands playing everything from alternative rock to blues on Fridays and Saturdays. Dine on juicy chicken sandwiches and spicy Buffalo wings, then work off the calories playing darts, Golden Tee or bowling.

The Mecca Supper Club
This intimate, unassuming supper club is the perfect spot for an after-work cocktail or a leisurely weekend meal. The surprisingly inventive menu seems to have something for everyone: Appetizers include baked escargots with garlic bread; entrees range from a steak sandwich to fried lake perch and fresh oysters (weekends only). Bread pudding and tapioca provide a sweet ending.

You don't have to be a sports fanatic to have a good time at Moretti's, but with 40 big-screen TVs constantly broadcasting every athletic event under the sun, it helps. This casual spot specializes in Italian and American fare but is best known for its thin- and deep-dish pies. An enormous tree-lined beer garden seats 300.

Nam Viet Restaurant
Those hesitant about trying Vietnamese cuisine will feel at ease at this friendly spot--the waitstaff is more than happy to make recommendations based on your heat and flavor preferences. House specialties include shrimp and pork pancakes rolled in lettuce leaves and served with sweet and sour sauce (for dunking). Also popular is catfish cooked in a sizzling clay pot. For dessert, try the rich and warming fried banana crisps, flamed with rum and served with a cup of hot chocolate.

Nonno Pino's
With rotating appetizer and entree specials five days a week, plus a regular menu of 12 pasta dishes and 10 meat, chicken and seafood entrees, Nonno Pino's offers something for everyone. The atmosphere is relaxed and dressed-down; black-and-white family photos decorate the walls, and service is friendly. House specialites include pistachio-crusted chicken and grilled calamari in garlic broth with chopped Roma tomatoes and grilled green onions. The gelato is made fresh daily.

Tony's Italian Deli
The best lunch option in Edison Park has been serving fresh Italian subs, pizza breads, salads and pasta dishes since it opened in 1978. The house calzone, stuffed with prosciutto, sausage, ricotta and Romano cheeses, is a gooey wonder. Hot dishes include lasagna, meatballs and mostaccioli. Take home some tiramisu, lemon cookies or Italian ice for dessert.

Zia's Trattoria
Elegantly plated lunch and dinner entrees fly from the open kitchen to the U-shaped dining room of this bustling trattoria. For lunch, try the baby spinach salad with calamari, walnuts, blue cheese, tomatoes and honey mustard dressing. Popular dinner options include beef tenderloin stuffed with herb cheese and drizzled with Barolo wine sauce. Don't leave without tasting the signature pasta, ravioli di zucca, a rich configuration of butternut squash-stuffed ravioli with mascarpone cheese sauce, topped with hazelnuts. The bar offers specialty summer martinis.

Jessica Volpe is a metromix special contributor.

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