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Lee Kuebler has lived in Ukrainian Village for six years now and enjoys eating out in his neighborhood when he's not busy working as chef de cuisine at Ada St. "The food scene has been blowing up in Ukrainian Village," he says. "There are new restaurants popping up on Chicago Avenue all the time."
Kuebler enjoys the mix of people in his neighborhood and how safe it feels. "There's a lot of Eastern European families and it's a nice quiet neighborhood," he says. "But it's close enough to West Town or Wicker Park that you can access those neighborhoods but stay away from it too. It reminds me of Lakeview but quieter with tree-lined streets."
Here are some of his favorite eats in Ukrainian Village, with a few stops in nearby Humboldt Park.
Hot Dog: Phil's Last Stand. They do char dogs, Chicago style. They're open late and one of my favorite hot dog spots in the entire city. It's one of those places that's opened up since I've lived in the neighborhood. A great addition.
Pizza: I don't eat pizza often in Ukrainian Village, but when I do, it's usually late and I'm drunk, so I go to Bacci. They have big New York slices of pizza that you have to fold in half to eat. It usually hits the spot for late night cravings.
Burgers: Usually I go to The Beetle for a good burger. They don't do anything super special but it's close to my house and has a sentimental place in my heart. I've got a lot of good memories there.
Breakfast/Brunch: Most of the time I'll venture out of Ukrainian Village for brunch, but I like Bite Cafe. It's a cool atmosphere. They don't try to do anything fancy, but you can tell that there's somebody in the kitchen that cares about what they're doing. I had a pork pozole with a poached egg that was just killer.
Coffee: Star Lounge. It's right across the street from my apartment. I go there three to four times a week. In the summer I drink solely iced coffee, otherwise I like their house blend. They do all sorts of wild specialties though, like coffee on tap. I've never seen anyone so passionate about coffee than the people that work at this place. Every time I go in there, I see them doing something new with coffee, and I always ask them about it. I'm not that adventurous with my own coffee. I like it just with cream and sugar. But it's fascinating to hear when they're doing with it.
Puerto Rican: There's not much Mexican in Ukrainian Village but there's an awesome Puerto Rican spot on the border of Humboldt Park. Papa's Cache Sabroso. They do rotisserie chicken, gandules (pigeon peas) and rice and jibaritos, Puerto Rican sandwiches served on fried plantains instead of bread.
Italian:A Tavola. It's so good. I don't know if they're known for it, but they definitely make the best gnocchi in the entire city. The menu is really small and doesn't change often, but it's super approachable, super simple Italian food. It's a little ten table restaurant and a great romantic spot. It's really a hidden gem. Nobody's ever heard of it and you can drive past it five times without ever seeing it. It's literally in an apartment building and the first floor has a wooden door and the name of the restaurant is inconspicuously displayed next to it.
Sushi: Kai Zan. I've had the omakase, but usually when I go here I stop in early evening and grab a quick small bite and take off. If I get off early or I just want to grab a six-pack and chat with a friend over seafood, I'll pop in here for a little bit. These guys are really creative, so I tend to order off their specials menu. The dudes are super talented so I like trying their newest inventions.
Groceries: There's this little Amish grocery store on Western Avenue, Amish Healthy Foods. That place is pretty cool to go get farm eggs from and they have a lot of game, frozen bison and venison that's kind of cool. There's also Rich's Deli. That's probably the grocery store I frequent most often. They have some pretty unique Eastern European things. And all these places in Ukrainian Village have ducks, or rabbits or pheasant or squab. It's pretty cool to grab something kind of offbeat.
Essential Neighborhood Spot: Kasia's Deli. They've got pierogi that you can eat there or take them to cook at home. That's Ukrainian Village right there, good Polish food. I usually get them fresh and bring 'em home and boil them and sautée them in brown butter.
Date Night: I think A Tavola is the best date night spot. It's the best restaurant in Ukrainian Village. They always have gnocchi with just brown butter and sage. Those little pillows are just so perfect. Completely unfussy. It's dimly lit with white table cloths and candles on the tables. They've got a great little patio in the summer. It's a real sexy date spot.
Drinks: Usually I drink at Archie's at Iowa and Rockwell. It's just a dive bar, and there's no food except cheese balls that they'll give you if you ask for them. There's free pool and the place has a real community feel. It's like Cheers. For $5 every day they've got what they call a ham and beans. A can of ham and a shot of Jameson every day. That's usually when I stumble to Bacci, after a night at Archie's.