BY JENNY PETERS
Chicago is filled with wonderful epicurean adventures, especially along the Blue Line Chicago Transit Authority “L” train that transports travelers to and from O’Hare Airport. Here are a few of our favorite stops along the way, perfect places to hop off for your first taste of Chi-town’s legendary hospitality or for getting in that last bite before you leave the Windy City.
Take a ten-minute walk from the station to Fat Rice on Diversey Avenue, where Chef Abe Conlon and his partner Adrienne Lo have created an outpost of Macanese deliciousness. The menu is a distinctive mashup of Chinese and Portuguese flavors that originate from Macau. It’s so good that Conlon won the James Beard Award for Best Great Lakes Chef in 2018 (and has been nominated for the last five years). So make a reservation to get a taste of Fat Rice’s namesake dish, Arroz Gordo, a pile of rice chock full of curried chicken, char siu, roasted beef, linguica, and chili prawns that will explain just why this lively place is always packed.
2957 W Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
THE HEAVY FEATHER
Meander north on Milwaukee Avenue for two blocks from the station to hit The Heavy Feather, a secret drinking joint with a distinctly retro feel. Nope, it isn’t a speakeasy from Prohibition; instead, it’s a fern bar circa 1972 with a dark underbelly. Burled walnut, leather banquettes and bar stools, glimmering glass, exposed brick, and stained-glass light fixtures make this a place where sipping a “Jail Break” whiskey cocktail or a “Pepper’s Hideout” bourbon concoction marks the start of a great night. Find it upstairs from the Slippery Slope, where DJs, dancing, and live music pull customers from all over town.
2357 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
More craft cocktails are in order up the block at The Whistler, where they’ve been putting on a party since 2008, with an award-winning and ever-changing mixology menu, all mixed up with art installations, DJ residencies, and live music performances. Every Tuesday is Jazz night, while the rest of the week filled with unexpected happenings. Don’t be surprised to find a poetry reading to pair with your Pinot Noir or a movie to go with your Manhattan, but get there early to find a spot no matter which day you visit.
2421 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Chef Paul Kahan may be best known for his award-winning restaurant Blackbird in the West Loop, but the 2013 James Beard Outstanding Chef is a force in Chicago, with 12 eateries and bars across the city. Four of them are within a five-minute walk of the Damen stop in Wicker Park, so perhaps a food-and-drink crawl is in order? Begin at Big Star on Damen Avenue, a self-styled “honkytonk,” for a few of their famous tacos al pastor, paired with one of their single-barrel bourbons, a shot of whiskey, or a margarita with mescal oat. And be sure to grab a seat on the patio, one of the coolest spots in town.
1531 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
If you’re in Wicker Park early, you might want to start at Chef Kahan’s Dove’s Luncheonette, a soul- filled melding of Southern and Mexican comfort food. Think biscuits and gravy, chicken fried chicken, pozole, brisket tacos, or Dove’s famous burger. Happy Hour runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday though Friday, and despite this looking like a 1960s luncheonette (bar stools at the counter and a jukebox in the corner), there’s a bar with a distinct focus on tequila and mescal. Dove’s is on Damen Avenue and is open early for breakfast and late for a nightcap, with special pop up events even going until 2 a.m.
1545 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
At Publican Anker, it’s all about Chef Kahan’s vision of a saloon circa the early 20th century, however this is no speakeasy. A gastropub with floor-to-ceiling windows and a huge central bar, Anker serves pub fare with a seasonal twist, with fresh veggies related to the time of year and raw oysters sourced from coast to coast. There’s always the “Super Pub” burger as well as chicken wings and wood-grilled proteins on the menu, as well as every libation your heart desires, starting at 3 p.m. most days. Find it on Milwaukee Avenue, about two blocks from the train station.
1576 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
THE VIOLET HOUR
Look for the single light bulb to find The Velvet Hour, Paul Kahan’s James Beard award-winning, elegant and sexy speakeasy on Damen. Inside you’ll find crystal chandeliers, high-backed leather chairs and floor-to-ceiling velvet curtains that carve out three distinct “salon"areas. It’s all designed to assist in sophisticated drinking, as the bartenders are constantly inventing new artisanal, seasonal cocktails. You’ll find some finger foods to keep you going, too, with the truffle chickpeas a must-try item. Get there from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday to partake of the Absinthe Happy Hour (L’Heure Verte) and you may never leave.
1520 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
REVIVAL FOOD HALL
Get o the “L” at Monroe to satisfy any craving at the Revival Food Hall, a massive food-and-drink marketplace located in the National — the restored 1907 building. Numerous casual, locally-based food stalls (and one book-and-record shop) make up the choices here, which range from Smoque BBQ to Lita’s Empanadas to Aloha Poke. Grab and go, then eat in one of the many cozy spots located throughout this 24,000 square-foot foodie heaven. During the All-Hall Happy Hour look for deals like Antique Taco Chiquito’s $5 Margaritas and Union Squared’s 48-ounce beer included with every whole pizza pie.
125 S Clark St, Chicago, IL 60603