Elmwood Park How is this Elmwood Park institution (accessible from the city via the North Avenue bus) different than your neighborhood beef place? Well, unlike yours, it has the city's BEST Italian beef and BEST Italian ice, according to basically everyone. Bring cash and an appetite.
Albany Park This unassuming and proudly under-the-radar fish market has some of the best/freshest/cheapest sushi in the city. Rolls for under $10? Yes, it’s possible. Tell your girlfriend: there are options besides Mirai.
Portage Park Better than any date night at the AMC, this beautiful old-school theater shows vintage movies and films you won’t find in chain theaters, from Ghostbusters to Blade Runner. And check out those ceilings!
Harwood Heights Off the #81 bus on Lawrence and Harlem you'll find Old Warsaw Buffet, aka Pierogi Heaven. Sure, there are plenty of Polish delis and restaurants up and down Belmont and Irving Park Road, but let’s be real: when you’re getting your pierogi on, nothing beats a buffet. And no buffet beats Old Warsaw.
Avondale Ditch that funky, rigged, home brew-ish thing you attempted last summer, and pick something up at this home brewing store, which has everything you need to start making your own beer and wine, not to mention, ahem, “urban hydroponic horticulture.”
Portage Park Quietly located in Portage Park, this museum exhibits art inspired by combat and created by veterans. With over 2,500 pieces displayed there on a rotating basis, consider it your patriotic duty to stop by at least once.
Portage Park This old-school Italian supper club will make you feel like you’ve been time-warped back to the 1960s. Yes, there is killer fried calamari, baked lasagna, and filet mignon on the menu, but the real magic happens on Wednesday nights when it serves up a lobster special. Do it.
Portage Park Located at the “other” Six Corners (the one not in Wicker Park), Portage Theater is one of the oldest movie houses in the city built specifically for film. It went through some growing pains, but moviegoers can now watch both silent and sound classics. Trivia You Can Pretend You Knew: the interior was used for filming scenes for the movie Public Enemies.
Jefferson Park Originally founded in 1997 by two University of Iowa students as a gift to a neighborhood lacking in artistic expression, this intimate little theater located near the Jefferson Park Transit Center specializes in more comedy than drama -- including improv-only shows that give Second City a run for its money.
Humboldt Park Located a stone’s throw from the Division/Humboldt bus stop (and directly in the heart of the actual Humboldt Park), this museum is housed in an architectural gem that was originally used as a carriage house for buggies visiting the park. From art exhibits and workshops to party and wedding receptions, the museum is sure to enrich your understanding of just how influential Puerto Rican heritage is in Chicago.
Irving Park Looking for a music venue West of Western that's NOT overrun by hipsters? Check out this neighborhood bar/venue where the ghost of former owner Andrew Zelek (circa Peacock Lounge) still lingers. Allegedly. Looking for a music venue West of Western that IS overrun by hipsters? Check out all the other ones.
Montclare Check (Czech?) out this authentic cafe in the Montclare neighborhood for relaxing ambiance while enjoying traditional Czech food and drinks. Located 121ft from the Belmont and Normandy stop (#77 bus), this affordable place will have you being all "ano prosím" ("yes, please").
Little Village When you’ve had your fill of Los Comales and Big Star, head to Little Village for some uber-authentic Mexican courtesy of the fine folks of El Milagro. And yes, the restaurant is owned by the same people who make those corn tortillas you just bought at the Jewel last week.
Berwyn For the next time you wake up in Berwyn in need of brunch (that happens, right?), hit this new dinner/brunch spot (located down the street from old-school music venue FitzGerald’s) for duck sausage flatbreads and shrimp tagliatelle.
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Lisa Chatroop and Laura Vecchia contributed to this article.