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Oak Park, most famous for its architecture (Frank Lloyd Wright's Home and Studio and other notable works are here) and native literary luminary Ernest Hemingway, also has a diverse menu of dining choices.
The proximity of the two communities presents an appealing opportunity for diners seeking a great meal, good value and freedom (in most cases) from flocks of foodies. Here's a sampling of what's there:
Amarind's. This is the spot everyone's talking about and the exception to the no-foodies rule. Why the buzz? Chef/owner Rangsan Sutcharit has brought what he learned at four-star Arun's with him to his own place. Locals and other in-the-know eaters have become passionate devotees of his sophisticated cooking. Be prepared to wait for a table in the castle-like corner spot dotted with vases of "lucky" bamboo stalks. Then settle in for a slew of stellar dishes. On our don't-miss list: bay scallop salad with spicy ginger-lime sauce; spinach noodles with crabmeat and chile sauce; and chicken Panang curry with roasted cumin and lemongrass.
Avenue Ale House. Head to this elegant arts-and-crafts-style pub for dining and imbibing (sit on the rooftop when weather allows). Specialties include hefty burgers (we recommend the Alehouse with blue cheese and crispy onions), serious salads (choose the grilled asparagus with balsamic reduction or the chopped salad with tortilla chips and citrus vinaigrette). Nearly 70 brews are also served.
Buzz Cafe. Just off the main drag of the village's Harrison Street gallery area, this funky coffeehouse percolates with commuters snagging scones and stoking up with generous jolts of Intelligensia. On weekends, its mood mellows and customers linger while listening to live music.
Los Cazadores. Even if you're not a margarita fan (there are six varieties here), it's worth ducking in here for the interesting Mexican fare. Order the pork with red chili sauce, the chicken mole or the smoky carne asada.
Sparacino Ristorante. This exceptional Italian spot features impressive cooking and an upscale -- but not stuffy -- ambience. Steffania Sparacino runs the front of the house, while her brother, Mark Sparacino, commands the kitchen. His care and creativity are evident in specials such as risotto crab cakes with roasted red-pepper sauce; rigatoni Norcina, with sauteed pancetta and Italian sausage; oven-roasted halibut with a pistachio crust; and handmade portobello ravioli with sun-dried tomatoes and roasted-garlic cream sauce. When warm breezes blow, dine in the sidewalk cafe area.
Leigh Behrens is the Editor of metromix.com.
Originally published May 1, 2002. Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times