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Event Thu Aug 08 2013
If I could move to any neighborhood in Chicago, it'd be Andersonville. It's a little microcosm of diversity, with its Swedish roots, fabulous LGBT community, 2-kid-n'-dog families, and thriving Middle Eastern population. Where else can I finish a Turkish pide dinner with a few Toska tarts and glögg? Andersonville. Where else can I experience Lakeview without actually having to live there? Andersonville. Where else can I hit up Edgewater elotes and Argyle pho without having to drive more than five minutes? That's fucking right--Andersonville.
So when I got invited to the Taste of Andersonville, I wept in glorious happiness because not only did it give me an excuse to dine in one of my favorite neighborhoods, but also because the event is an interactive experience. You see, it's like a culinary scavenger hunt, where participants meander up and down North Clark Street for restaurants mapped on their "passports." Diners chose between three "routes": the Salt Route (vegetarian-friendly), the Pepper Route, and the Enchilada Route (a combination of the salt and pepper routes):
Andies Restaurant - Falafel, Eggplant Dip, Stuffed Grape Leaves, Pomegranate Sangria
The Coffee Studio - Mediterranean Veggie Flatbread
Huey's Hot Dogs - Hand Cut French Fries
Kopi - Gazpacho
m. Henry - Rustic Peasant or Veggie Quiche with Salad
Ne:wa - Rice Pilaf with Paanchakol (red skinned potatoes) or Ne:wa Chile (chicken), Thelawala Chaat (a Kathmandu-style smashed Samosa)
Noodle Zone - Tofu Pad Thai
Ranalli's - Pizza Samples
The Wooden Spoon - Wood Fired Pizza
Ann Sather - Brownies
Fireside Restaurant - Build Your Own Smoked Gouda Mac n' Cheese Bar, Cajun Meatloaf
Hamburger Mary's - Mini Burgers: Beef & Vegan Black Bean
Homemade Pizza Company - Pizza Slices
JB's Deli - Corned Beef Sandwich, Pastrami Sandwich, Grilled Veggie Wrap, Reuben Strudel, Side Pasta Salad
Jerry's - Mini BBQ Pork Sliders
Johnny Brown Bag - Arancini
Konak - Chicken Chops & Rice Pilaf
Lady Gregory's - Mac & Cheese, Truffled Kettle Corn, Thai Chile Deviled Eggs
Svea Restaurant - Pickled Herring
Vincent - Salmon Tartare, Crispy Wontons, Lime, Fresno Chilies
First Slice Pie Cafe - Blueberry Peach Streusel Pie Bites
Before I arrive to pick up my taste passport (and a few cocktails) from the Swedish American Museum, I stop by the Farmer's Market on Berwyn St. With no intention of saving stomach space before my dinner crawl, I sample fresh Saturn peaches, a medley of delicious tofu, bacon cheddar spread, and hazelnut truffles. After my friend and I picked up our salt and pepper routes, we trekked through the neighborhood to locate our eats. Jerry's jalapeno-marinated BBQ pork sliders, the eggplant dip from Andie's, and chaat from Ne:wa were particular standouts. And of course, you really can't go wrong with mac n' cheese from Fireside and Huey fries.
Other than the food, I learned a couple of important tidbits from my first dinner crawl:
1. Like a bar crawl, you don't do dinner crawls alone. It's a social experience.
2. I don't care if it's plastic eggs or mini sliders--scavenger hunts are just so damn fun.
3. If it's summer in Chicago, eat al-fresco (in Andersonville). Because with our 7-month winters, you better take advantage of the weather.
4. Andersonville truly is a diverse community. No joke, I literally saw a multiracial, gay couple walking their handicrippled pitbull AND adopted Asian daughter past a Persian spice shop. WTF that's so awesome.
Although I wasn't utterly blown away by the food, but that may have been because I had difficulty finding some of the restaurants. Not too familiar with the A-hood, I walked down more than my fair share of random side streets. Between braving the gusty wind, dodging fearless bikers, avoiding solicitors, and wiping off food bits from my shirt, I was slightly irritable. But that's not to say the restaurants aren't fantastic because they really fucking are--I'd eat Turkish Cuisine and Konak chicken chops all day if I could. In the end, the experience only confirmed how much I love Andersonville.