Best Neighborhood Joint
Greek Corner | 958 N. Damen Ave.; 773-252-8010
Across the intersection from a gas station and vacant lot, Greek Corner is a rite of passage for newcomers to the neighborhood, as in, “Have you been to Greek Corner yet?” The nondescript exterior of this no-frills BYOB café belies the great Greek eats available for dine-in and takeout. One of the best pleasures is people watching from the side patio on Damen Avenue. The loaded gyros ($4.95) transcends standard iterations, and the Greek pizza made with pita (from $11.50) is a winner.
Best Coffee Shop
Café Ballou | 939 N. Western Ave.; 773-342-2909,
Owner Christine Kordiuk, who is fluent in Ukrainian and Polish, named her charming café after the boat that brought her parents to the United States from a displaced persons camp after World War II. A seamless blend of the old and new neighborhoods, the crowd here is just as likely to include elderly Ukrainian women stopping in for a light lunch after church as espresso-pumped hipsters surfing the free wireless Internet.
Kasia’s Deli | 2101 W. Chicago Ave.; 773-486-6163,
The pride of Ukrainian Village—sold from the same Polish deli Kasia Bober opened in 1982 that’s stocked with sauerkraut, sausages, and other fresh meats and cheeses. Bober still uses her grandmother’s recipe for the pierogi, which come in a dozen varieties ($3 for a frozen pack of 12). Lesser known but equally delicious are the 14 soups, ranging from barley to Ukrainian borsch.
Best Watering Hole
Happy Village | 1059 N. Wolcott Ave.; 773-486-1512
The obvious choice is Tuman’s, but this East Village haunt harbors a friendly staff, a likable neighborhood crowd, and cheap brews (bottles average $4). The best reason to go, though, is the large outdoor patio, set up with picnic tables, plastic chairs, small flower beds, and a goldfish pond. After a few beers, flag down Claudio, who frequently walks through the patio to hawk his tamales: five for $6.
Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral
1121 N. Leavitt St.; 773-486-6064
Situated just a block south of Division Street, this gorgeous Russian provincial cathedral is open to the public on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Designed by Louis Sullivan to remind the area’s Russian immigrants of the churches they had left behind, it was built in 1903 after a hefty donation from Czar Nicholas II. The knowledgeable staff of volunteers will deconstruct the building’s intricate interior and answer questions. It’s 30 minutes well spent.
Willow | 908 N. Damen Ave.; 773-772-0140
Opened this past fall, Amy Doehla’s home furnishings boutique has quickly become a must-shop for its classy selection of everyday tableware. You can also find unexpected gifts like a molded ceramic hand with a beckoning finger that can be mounted on a wall for use as a coat hook ($78); antler candlesticks ($46 to $58); and a “pirate” mirror that superimposes an eye patch and shoulder parrot onto your reflection ($48), all of which—you must trust us—are not as cheesy as they sound.
Best of Chicago - Table of Contents
Best of Chicago - 01
Best of Chicago - 02
Best of Chicago - 03
Best of Chicago - 04
Best of Chicago - 05
Best of Chicago - 06
Best of Neighborhhoods - Albany Park
Best of Neighborhhoods - Evanston
Best of Neighborhhoods - Highwood
Best of Neighborhhoods - Hyde Park
Best of Neighborhhoods - Ukrainian VIllage and East Village
Best of Chicago - Architecture