"Chicago" by Carl Sandburg

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders

-excerpt from the poem "Chicago" by Carl Sandburg (1916)

Chicago Skyline

Chicago Skyline
The Chicago Skyline from a Near West Side highrise

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Andersonville Re-Visited

The Breakdown
Bustling Clark Street in Andersonville
An overview: From time to time, we are going to re-visit various neighborhoods that we’ve already seen.  Yes, we understand that there are plenty of other neighborhoods we’ve yet to blog about, and we promise we’ll get to those.  The purpose for re-visiting is essentially this: the neighborhoods offer so much that it’s impossible to do them justice in just one blog entry.

We came back to Andersonville for a couple reasons.  First of all, it’s such a likeable, pleasant neighborhood, that just being in Andersonville is a pleasure.  Secondly, due to the chilly December weather we faced in our previous Andersonville entry, this gave us an opportunity to spend more time in the area and focus on a few other great places that the community has to offer.  For a look back at our original entry, please click here.

The boundaries: Technically Bryn Mawr Avenue to the north, Foster Avenue to the south, Magnolia Avenue (just before you hit Broadway) to the east, and Ravenswood Avenue to the west.  Again, since it’s not actually a community area, Andersonville’s boundaries aren’t really official, and its sphere of influence extends north of Bryn Mawr and south of Foster (case in point, the Hopleaf is about a block south of Foster, but most know it as being located in Andersonville).

Considering its location, Andersonville overlaps with Ravenswood to the west, and the Lakewood Balmoral residential neighborhood to the east.  Also, Foster Avenue officially divides Uptown to the south and Edgewater to the north.  The heart of Andersonville is the business corridor along Clark Avenue.

Charming tree-lined streets in
Andersonville/Lakewood Balmoral
Population make-up: Andersonville is made up of two Census tracts: 308 and 309.  As of the 2010 Census, Andersonville is home to 7,354 people.  This is an 11.2% decrease since 2000.  The population make-up is 67% white, 15.5% Hispanic, 10.5% Asian, and 4% black.  About 2.5% of the population is bi-racial.

A brief history: It's commonly known that the world's second-largest Polish population is in Chicago.  What most don't realize is that 100 years ago, Chicago was also home to the world's second-largest Swedish population.  Swedes flocked to this area, and turned farmland into homes and businesses.  Many of them left the city as the suburbs grew in the 1950s.  In the 1980s, the neighborhood began to attract a large gay and lesbian population, moving north from North Halsted in Lakeview in search of more affordable residences.  Today the LGBT culture thrives in Andersonville.  And although the Swedish culture isn't as prevalent here as it was 100 years ago, taverns, restaurants, bakeries, and museums remain to make sure residents and visitors alike never forget the indelible mark the Swedes left on the Windy City.

Getting there: By "L" you can take the Red Line to Berwyn or Bryn Mawr and head about a half-mile west to get to Clark Street.  By bus, your best east-west bet is the Foster bus (92).  If traveling north-south you can get to the business district by taking the Clark bus (22), or put yourself just a block to the west by taking the Ashland bus (50).

Lady Gregory’s (5620 N. Clark Street)
The new corner at Clark and Berwyn
Lady Gregory’s is a new Irish pub in Andersonville that seems to be enjoying a receptive welcome by the residents.  (Which is good, since it now pretty much dominates the entire corner of Clark and Berwyn, right in the heart of pedestrian shopping/traffic.)  It seems that the change has been for the better, when one compares the slightly dilapidated grocery stop to the shaded sidewalk cafĂ© tables of Lady Gregory’s.

Laura’s Take: This might color my opinion of Lady Gregory’s, but we stopped by during one of the most perfect summer evenings of the year. The whole neighborhood seemed to be out enjoying the cool evening sun with a stroll or an ice cream. We grabbed a table outside and ordered a Magner’s draft cider (me) and a Goose Island Pere Jacques (Mike) from our waitress, who was on top of things and attentive. We decided we couldn’t pass up the “Amusements” menu and ordered deviled eggs and truffled popcorn after a while. Both were really great, especially the eggs. Once I saw the fish and chips come out of the kitchen, I wished we had stayed for dinner as well. An Irish pub might seem a little mainstream for a place like Andersonville, but I would say that the beer list and the menu will draw in the customers successfully.

Deviled eggs and truffled kettle corn at Lady Gregory's
Michael’s Take: Newer joint, we welcome thee to Andersonville.  Lady Gregory’s is a pleasant, cozy Irish pub with a menu elevating itself into affordable fine-dining status.  The aforementioned deviled eggs were mixed with Thai chili oil and miniscule garlic chops.  Four for $4 is a pretty good deal.  Yes, I know I’m crazy, but popcorn is one of those things I just don’t particularly care for.  That being said, I had plenty of helpings of the truffle oil kettle corn.  A $3 order can be split two-ways with an accompaniment.  Lastly, the beer selection embraces the craft brew movement with an outstanding selection of imports and local microbrews.  Prices for the bevs are VERY reasonable, especially for trendy city drinking.  Although we didn’t engage in any entrees, we were impressed enough with the place to want to come back and dine.

Anything Else We Missed:  We didn’t spend much time inside since it was such a nice evening.  However, the appearance is spacious, clean, and comfortable.  Despite the pleasant night, there were plenty of patrons inside as well.  This is a solid addition to the already bountiful drinking & dining scene in Andersonville.

Middle East Bakery & Grocery
(1512 W. Foster Avenue)
The neon electric sign that rolls through words like “pickles”.  This is just a small hint as to what you will find inside: a treasure trove of hard-to-find treats and gadgets of the best kinds.

Laura’s Take: Since living in the area, I’ve found myself coming back to this shop time and time again.  Mostly it’s for the pure olive oil handmade soap that they sell for less than $2 a pop, but I love perusing the aisles every time. There is a variety of stuff. Definitely something for everyone including fresh baked Middle eastern breads, grains and nuts, yogurt and cheese products from Syria, mysterious spreads, Turkish coffees and associated brewing paraphernalia, and walls full of every cooking and baking spice and seed in every form you could want. You can even buy fresh falafel at the deli counter.  I’ve always found that the staff is especially welcoming, friendly, and helpful with questions about their products.
Aisles upon aisles of unique culinary ingredients

Michael’s Take: It’s really incredible how much this store has to offer in such a tiny space, and yet walking through it, you don’t really feel cramped.  Anyone in Chicago who enjoys cooking Middle Eastern or Greek food would get great value out of a pilgrimage to this shop.  The employees are incredibly warm and helpful.  If you’re looking for spices, teas, or candies, strongly consider giving the fine folks at Middle East Bakery & Grocery your business.

Anything Else We Missed: It’s also a great place to pick up a hookah.

Svea (5236 N. Clark Street)
Unlike the Italians or the French, when we think of the Swedes perhaps their cuisine isn’t the first thing that comes to mind (although what is?  Swedish Bikini Team?).  That being said, what would Chicago’s Little Stockholm be without a place to get some nice open-faced cold sandwiches?

Yellow pea soup-
Don't forget to add the mustard!
Laura’s Take: Part of the charm of Svea is its decor, with bright blues and small tables that create a kitcheny feel perfect for brunch, breakfast or lunch. The small dining room is cute, and its european heritage is paid its full homage in simple but very Swedish choices (well, except the 4th of July placemats... maybe those disappear with the season).  I hope you like meats and/or hearty breakfast items! Neither of us tried the pancakes, but our open-faced salmon and sausage sandwiches were fresh and filling. Those Northern Europeans are not shy of butter (good source of winter fat): expect the pleasant buttery surprise, even hidden on the bread from your sausage sandwich. The menu is not exotic but it is true to form. The atmosphere makes for a nice time with a few other people, or you could even come by yourself and not feel out of place.
Smoked salmon and sausage open-faced sandwiches;
laced with onion and pickles
Michael’s Take: OK, so I’ll admit I’m one of about 20 people on the planet that really REALLY likes anchovies.  So naturally I was pumped when I saw the egg and anchovy open-faced sandwich on the menu.  After placing the order, our waitress came back with the words that will haunt me for eternity, “sorry, but we’re out of anchovies.”  So I slightly over-exaggerate.  The replacement, a sandwich layered with Gothenburg sausages, was more than reasonable.  The sausage was sliced uber-thin, comparable in taste and texture to salami.  The smoked salmon was even better.  The helpings of meat on the sandwich are more than sufficient.  Another nice surprise was the yellow pea soup, which was like a lighter split-pea soup, and was further enhanced by the addition of Swedish mustard.  The mustard has the texture of a brown mustard, but slightly sweeter.  Service was quick and pleasant.

Anything Else We Missed: Want dinner?  You, my friend, are out of luck.  They’re only open till about 2:30 on weekdays, and 3:30 on weekends.  Fortunately, if you want a nice Scandanavian breakfast, they’re open seven days a week starting at 7:00 am.
The cozy dining room at Svea

Andersonville: The Final Tally
Yep, this neighborhood is still awesome. One of the most pedestrian-friendly stretches to shop and be seen, Andersonville has a friendly yet alternative feel that is one-of-a-kind. It's still developing too.  Heard on the street outside Lady Gregory's: "Everytime I come through here there's something new." You may have to go a little out of your way to get here, but that's part of what keeps it real. The neighborhood feeds off the ethnically diverse enclaves that surround it - the ethnic influences are evident in the grocery and tea and food shops.  At the same time, there are options for those who are looking to spoil themselves with a mani-pedi or pick up some stylin' chic decor for the home.  Andersonville, you rock!

Andersonville in red.  The locations in yellow are from our previous Andersonville entry.

Sidewalk sales are hard to resist in the Andersonville summer

Intersection of Lakewood & Balmoral,
the heart of the Lakewood Balmoral
historic residential neighborhood

Historic home in Andersonville

Andersonville (red) in relation to the Loop (blue)


  1. I love reading your blogs. Can't wait for next months !

  2. Hey thanks Kyle, we really appreciate your support!