Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides: Nick's Logan Square
Editor's note: We write about restaurants all over the city. But sometimes, you don't want to travel for food; you want the best eats right in your neighborhood. So we're having the Serious Eats staff share where they eat around their own 'hoods. Today? Serious Eats Chicago Editor Nick Kindelsperger.
View Nick's Logan Square in a larger map
I moved to Logan Square almost three years ago, and though it's hard to believe, I did so partly because I loved the restaurant scene. Since then, literally dozens of places have opened—many of frighteningly high quality. It's gotten to the tipping point where there are two hour waits for tables on the weekends at a number of places, and I have to struggle to get into my corner bar. But I'd have it no other way. Thanks to a group of passionate restaurateurs, Logan Square is now a magnet for the food obsessed.
I should remind you that this list is personal. Every few weeks, one of our writers is going to detail their neighborhood favorites. When putting this together, I wanted to be honest and include places that I actually visit to on a regular basis. See, Logan Square is a huge neighborhood, and I could have included a dozen more places (it saddens me to leave out Owen and Engine, Carnicerias Jimenez, and Bonsoirée). And, of course, I'd love to hear your picks. But this is my Logan Square.
Michelin-Starred Corner Bar: Longman & Eagle
When it first opened, Longman & Eagle was going to be my corner bar—that place I could go for a solid beer and some good snacks. But somewhere along the way the kitchen got serious, picked up a Michelin star, and became one of the busiest joints in town. I'd be annoyed if each visit wasn't better than the last. Heck, even the vegetarian menu (review here) is great. Sure, waits on weekends regularly stretch past two hours, but just try to visit during the week.
Brunch: Lula Cafe, Jam
When it comes to brunch in Logan Square, no other place has the corner on the market quite like Lula Cafe—a place that absolutely everyone seems to love. I didn't quite understand the fuss until the recent revamp, which doubled the space, and added an amazing new bar. Now I'm falling under its spell. If you're looking for a more breakfast food-focused menu, Jam (first look here) may be new on the scene, but it already feels right at home.
Mexican: Real Tenochtitlan
Though I'm amazed it's still open—the monstrous restaurant is almost always empty—I've never been disappointed with a meal at Real Tenochtitlan. Featuring some of the best moles in town and very good service, it's the one place I'm always trying to get people to check out.
Tacos: Taqueria Moran
As I explained in my Chicago Tacos post, Taqueria Moran is mostly just an above average taqueria—with one exception. The adobado tacos are some of the best marinated pork in the whole city. I'm not sure how they accomplish this while serving salsa that seems almost intentionally bad, but I try not to think about this too much.
Taqueria Moran, 2226 North California Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-235-2663
Breakfast: Cozy Corner Diner & Pancake, Johnny's Grill
Admittedly, I'm not the biggest breakfast person. But on the rare occasion I'm in need of a huge stack of pancakes with frilly accompaniments, Cozy Corner is the place. I've never had anything that I could claim was great or even above average, but if you don't at least enjoy the aging diner atmosphere of Johnny's Grill, I'm not sure we can be friends.
Cozy Corner Diner & Pancake, 2294 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-276-2215
Johnny's Grill, 2545 North Kedzie Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-278-2215
Cocktails: The Whistler
When I was thinking about moving to Logan Square, an expertly made cocktail at The Whistler helped seal the deal. Nowhere else in the city is the price-to-enjoyment factor as high. That's mostly due to the fact that the bar takes the time to properly make each drink (no matter how many people are in line) and then only charges $8 for each one. I nearly cried when I recently found out that head bartender, Paul McGee, was leaving to start a new place. Still, I have faith that the crew will continue the good fight.
Dive Bar: Whirlaway Lounge
Even with the new fancy places to drink, sometimes I need the kind of approachable joint where it feels like I'm drinking in someone's living room. And you kind of are at The Whirlaway, where Maria tends bar and wants to know your drink and your name. It doesn't have a cocktail list or a wine program, but it does have a killer jukebox and some very good bottled beer.
Dessert I'll Walk For: Miko's Italian Ice
Miko's Italian Ice doesn't have a storefront; it has a window that looks much like one a regular house would have. During the warmer months, it is opened to the street, ready to serve the vibrantly flavored ices. I can't even remember how many times a walk around the neighborhood with the dog has included a pit stop here.
Pizza: The Boiler Room, Ciao Napoli
Three years ago, the pizza options were frankly dispiriting. While there are still no destination worthy establishments, there are now some serious options, which is a huge improvement. The Boiler Room (review here) sells full pies, but I've always had better luck with the slices, especially if you specify that they come extra crispy. Ciao provides a solid wood-fired pizza with a thin crust and some top-quality ingredients.
The Boiler Room, 2210 North California Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-276-5625; boilerroomlogansquare.com
Where to Go When You're Feeling Sick: Gloria's Cafe
I'm not sure what it is about this Colombian spot on Fullerton Avenue, but I just know that when I'm feeling a little under the weather, I start craving a warming and meaty bowl of their chicken soup. It has always done the trick.
Gloria's Cafe, 3300 West Fullerton Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-342-1050; gloriascafeandrestaurant.webs.com
Wine Bar: Telegraph
Telegraph isn't just the best wine bar in the neighborhood, it's one of the best in the city. Featuring a quirky, European-only list with approachable prices, it's one of the rare places I go because I truly want to drink wine. (It helps that all the wines are kept at optimum temperatures, instead of just on the counter.) But the food is also equally impressive. John Anderes, an Avec alum, has crafted a menu of elegant little snacks and filling tartines.
Farmers' Market: Logan Square Farmers Market
Logan Square's wide boulevards provide the ideal location for the Sunday farmers' markets. (During the winter, the market moves indoor to the Congress Theater.) The past year the market had the ideal balance of straight-from-the-farm produce and high-quality vendors, so that you could shop for your vegetables while simultaneously snacking on sausage.
Logan Square Farmers Market, logansquarefarmersmarket.org
Shopping: Dill Pickle Food Co-op
Logan Square may lack a big grocery store—though there are a number of great Mexican grocery stores—but it does have city's only grocery co-op. Featuring an impressive collection of local products and a great bulk section, the Dill Pickle Food Co-op is one of my favorite reasons to live here.
Pastries: La Boulangerie
Located in one of those adorable corner storefronts, which screams for something like a French bakery to move in, La Boulangerie could easily survive on its looks alone. But the pastries and breads here are the real deal. The hardest part is just trying to figure out what to get. The croissants are flaky and light, and the macaroons are petite and delicate. But it's the ciabatta bread that I keep returning for.
Burgers: Longman & Eagle, Revolution Brewing
I'm not much for big grilled burgers, but even I can't deny the deliciousness of Longman & Eagle's massive offering (review here). I've also had a couple good burgers from Revolution Brewing (review here).
Matthias Merges's brand new "yakitori-inspired" doesn't look like any other yakitori in town—that's a good thing. Warm and inviting, it's the kind of place you wouldn't mind spending hours lounging in. I've only been a few times, and I'm waiting to see how the menu develops, but just about every chicken dish here is worth ordering.
I had kind of written off Wasabi as a dependable if unexciting joint—good for the times when you just need a fill of sushi and don't feel like traveling. But I was really impressed by the ramen, which made it on to the list of the Best Ramen in Chicago.
Sandwiches: The Brown Sack, Rewster's Cafe
The Brown Sack (review here) feels like the kind of sandwich shop you'd dream up as a kid; hefty, over-loaded versions of classics are served in a brightly colored room without any pretention. Still, they are serious about the sandwiches, and I've never been disappointed. Rewster's Cafe (review here) offers a more elegant take—perfect when you need a lighter dinner.
Cuban: Cafeteria Marianao
There are a number of Cuban joints around the neighborhood, but for some reason my favorite is the steak sandwich with mojo seasonings from Cafeteria Marianao (review here). Ordering can feel a little intimidating at first, but just be aggressive and you'll be rewarded.
Cafeteria Marianao, 2246 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-278-4533