A little off the beaten path are the Argyle Street, Uptown and Ravenswood neighborhoods. Some of the best of these neighborhoods include:
Hai Yen: A good, local’s spot for Vietnamese specialties. The green papaya or banana flower salad, the spring rolls and the fish in a clay pot are well-worth the trip. Parking is easy to find on the street. If not there are lots on the side streets nearby. 1055 W. Argyle
Other good choices at Argyle and Broadway include the contemporary Bale for Vietnamese ban mi sandwiches. They have a large selection of sandwiches on their homemade bread plus a number of rice dishes, noodle bowls and spring rolls. 5014 N. Broadway. Sun Wah BBQ Restaurant, at 5039 N. Broadway, features Chinese specialties. They are known for their Beijing duck dinner. The duck is lean and wonderful and well-worth the trip. Tank Noodle at 4953 N. Broadway features some great authentic Vietnamese dishes. For a fun local food tour check out Rebecca Wheeler for her Chicago Food Walks.
Green Mill: This is a former prohibition-era speakeasy that is now host to great jazz. Try to see Patricia Barber on Monday evenings if she is not touring. She is now starting her performances at 9 pm. There is parking in the lot behind the club. 4802 N. Broadway.
Lill Street Art Center: A great arts education center with classes on everything from painting, digital photography, jewelry, textiles to print making. There is a great store with items from students and well-known artists, like Michael Wisner from Colorado who does wonderful pottery. First Slice Pie Café has great food, tea and desserts. 4401 N. Ravenswood.
Architectural Artifacts: This is one of our favorite stores in Chicago. At 4325 N. Ravenswood, the store, started in 1987, has been expanded to 80,000 sq. ft. and continues to features antiques and architectural artifacts and pieces salvaged from buildings around the world.
Further north at 5121 N. Ravenswood, is KOVAL Distillery. Established in 2008, KOVAL produces organic whiskey, liqueurs and specialty spirits in Chicago’s first distillery since the mid-1800s. I would recommend taking a tour/tasting in this facility north of the production facility. Here you can learn about their history, attention to quality and try their gin, vodka, barrel aged gin, white whiskey, rye whiskey, bourbon and four grain whiskey. All are really excellent. They also teach cocktail classes, so make sure to check the website for dates and times.
South of Lill Street is a small Julius Meinl Coffee Bar and Patisserie on the site of their bakery. 4115 N. Ravenswood.
Have lunch at the beach in Montrose Harbor at The Dock. The beach house at Montrose Harbor recently opened in the summer and has good outdoor seating.
I also like the Broadway Antique Market at 6130 N. Broadway for a huge selection of antiques and collectibles on two floors. Nearby is Ethiopian Diamond restaurant for a great experience in ethnic food and music. 6120 Broadway.
West of Ravenswood is Arun’s Thai Restaurant at 4156 N. Kedzie. Opened in 1988, I first read about it in Patricia Schultz’s 1000 Places To See Before You Die and went with a friend. I just went back and highly recommend this outstanding restaurant. The restaurant has a beautiful collection of Thai paintings, artwork and silks. They offer three tasting, degustation menus, a seven course, a ten course and a twelve course. We chose the ten course which includes five appetizers, three antrees and two desserts. The food was beautifully prepared and presented. The service was excellent. You can choose it you want the food mild or spicy. There is a lovely balance of savory and spicy, light and rich, tender and crispy.
I have always enjoyed The Bongo Room on N. Milwaukee in Wicker Park. I recently tried one of their other two locations at 5022 N. Clark just south of Andersonville and east of Ravenswood. It has great food for breakfast, brunch or lunch and has an outdoor patio for warmer months. The best is there is free parking in the lot south of the restaurant. Nearby is Big Jones, known for its Southern specialties for brunch, lunch and dinner at 5347 N. Clark. I have enjoyed its shrimp and grits for Sunday brunch.
One of my favorite new finds in town is Band of Bohemia at 4710 N. Ravenswood Ave. Opened in 2015, it already has a Michelin star. A culinary brewpub, they feature their own creative beers and a menu of appetizers, small plates and large plates. They offer a tasting menu and brunch menu as well on weekends. The duck breast and pork collar were really excellent as was the autumn salad, winter squash and the sorghum bundino for dessert, consisting of blackberry, brown butter ice cream, smoked almonds and sea salt.