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Northern exposure

First there was a Starbucks. Then came the condos. Then, another Starbucks. With a spate of new spots and more on the way, something's definitely up with Uptown. Not sure where to start exploring? Consider the latest options.

New eats
From the Vietnamese gems on Argyle Street to the African outposts scattered along Broadway and Wilson Avenue, Uptown's no stranger to foreign flavors. The most recent addition to the melting pot is Marigold Indian Restaurant. Open since August, Marigold turns Indian upside-down by mixing American ingredients with traditional techniques and flavors.Need a taste of Americana? Check out The Spot. With a restaurant downstairs and two bars upstairs, one with a sports-bar vibe and the other with a cozier lounge-like atmosphere, The Spot is a spot for, well, whatever strikes your fancy--and the crowd is as diverse as the entertainment. The casual restaurant serves classic fare such as chicken parmesan over pasta and prime rib with garlicky mashed potatoes; upstairs, go for a pint or a cocktail. Super-friendly service and a hodgepodge of special nights, including martinis and manicures on Mondays (5 to 8 p.m., $20) and the Sunday night "Drew and Paul" comedy show (9 p.m.) aim to make The Spot a hit.

New drinks
Don't confuse Nick's on Wilson with Nick's Uptown. While the latter is uptown from Nick's Beer Garden (1516 N. Milwaukee Ave. 773-252-1155), it's not actually in Uptown. (It's in Buena Park, for the record.) Nick's on Wilson--indeed in Uptown--carries just the sort of laidback, comfortable vibe you might expect from a bar in the unpretentious 'hood. Open since early July, Nick's draws a dressed-down local crowd with free wi-fi, a pool table and selection of board games that runs the gamut from chess to Snakes and Ladders.

You'll find the same easygoing charm at the 10-month-old Driftwood, a vaguely beach house-themed watering hole steps from the intersection of Broadway and Montrose Avenue. Like Nick's on Wilson, it's not flashy--but it's got everything you need for a low-key night out: a pool table, four flat-screen TVs, a neighborhood crowd and drink prices that won't break the bank.

New sights
After nearly 20 years in four different homes on the North Side, the Annoyance Theatre picked up once again and moved to Uptown in July. The new digs, just north of Montrose Avenue and next door to Marigold, include a 110-seat theater and a spacious lobby bar. One thing that didn't change in the move: the theater's absurd and addictive brand of humor. To help inaugurate the new space, Annoyance revived its original 1987 production "Splatter Theater," a fake blood-filled parody of "Friday the 13th"-style slasher flicks. "Splatter Theater" runs through Nov. 4.

New sounds
Uptown's always been a mecca for music lovers, with the venerable Green Mill for jazz aficionados and a pair of classic Jazz Era theaters-turned-concert venues, the Aragon and the Riviera, attracting big national acts. Now there's a new kid on the block: the Kinetic Playground. And what a playground it is. You'll know the 500-capacity club by the kaleidoscope of colors in the trippy murals painted over the front windows. Inside, the playful vibe continues. Depending on the night, you might hear anything from rollicking neo-hippie jam bands to rootsy rockers.

M. Kathleen Pratt is the metromix print editor.kpratt@metromix.comOriginally published Oct. 24, 2006.

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