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In the Neighborhood

Recommended Edgewater restaurants

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Bananas Foster Cafe

1147 W. Granville | 773-262-9855

$$

AMERICAN, BREAKFAST, ENGLISH/IRISH/SCOTTISH | BREAKFAST, LUNCH: seven days | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Housed in a small corner space by the Granville Red Line stop, Bananas Foster Cafe seems to be filling a much-needed niche in Edgewater, drawing droves that are routinely lined out the door. And I can certainly see why it's a popular neighborhood spot for brunch: though the place was packed, service was smooth, and our food—eggs Benedict with Irish back bacon and standout ham and eggs with potatoes and baked beans—was well prepared and came out promptly. An English influence shows up in the lunch offerings, which include not just shepherd's pie but also fisherman's pie, chicken pot pie, bangers and mash, and steak, mushrooms, and ale pie. I wouldn't exactly call this fine dining—it's a former coffee shop with a garish yellow awning. But that's all the better these days. —Kate Schmidt

Ethiopian Diamond

6120 N. Broadway | 773-338-6100

$

AFRICAN | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

At this large, shabby-comfortable Edgewater storefront there are savory watts (stews) with beef, chicken, lamb, and fish, but vegetarians never need feel deprived. Vegan options include a spicy red lentil watt; yellow split pea watt; gomen (oniony collard greens); slightly sour tikil gomen (cabbage and carrots); and a mild watt made with potatoes and large chunks of carrot, all served on injera, the large, spongy pancake made with flour from teff, a tiny grain indigenous to Ethiopia. For appetizers there are sambusas, samosa-like pastry triangles stuffed with meat or vegetables and served with lemon and a tamarind sauce. Meat dishes include the classic doro watt, chicken stewed in a spicy red sauce with a hard-boiled egg; kitfo, described on the menu as "Ethiopian steak tartare"; and tibs, cubes of various meats or seafood available in a range of preparations and spice levels. There are African beers, served in frosty mugs, and tej, honey wine; service too is honeyed—the staff here couldn't be more genuinely welcoming. —Kate Schmidt

Huaraches Doña Chio

1547 W. Elmdale | 773-878-8470

$

MEXICAN | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS  | BYO

Huaraches Doña Chio is a modest restaurant with no decor to speak of, and the TV on the counter is usually turned to Univision. But it's one of very few Mexican restaurants in Chicago serving huaraches, gorditas, and sopes handmade from fresh masa. This means your huarache is patted out, pressed, and grilled to order, so it's slightly crispy on the outside and moist and chewy on the inside, never tough or stale or dry. You can get your huarache prepared with a layer of red or green salsa under the rest of the toppings (or fillings, if you're ordering a gordita), but I recommend going without—that way more of the fried masa stays crispy. (And you can always add it yourself from the bottles on the tables.) The selection of toppings is impressive too: not just standards like pastor, asada, and chorizo, but also tinga (spicy marinated chicken), rajas (grilled poblanos with onion), squash blossoms, nopales (cactus), brains, and huitlacoche mixed with whole kernel corn. Doña Chio also offers sopes, tacos, tortas, tostadas, burritos, and enchiladas as well as breakfast. There's posole and menudo on weekends, but given the quality of the masa, I'd be hard-pressed to forfeit a huarache for them. —Philip Montoro

Indie Cafe

5951 N. Broadway | 773-561-5577

$$

ASIAN, THAI, JAPANESE | LUNCH, DINNER: Sunday-Monday, Wednesday-saturday  | closed Tuesday | BYO

Indie Cafe serves Thai and Japanese food way above average in terms of quality, presentation, and value. The Andaman Salad, for instance, a substantial melange of steamed shrimp, succulent scallops, and calamari tossed with red onion, shredded carrots, and a sauce made with lemongrass, lime, and hot peppers, perfectly balances sweet, salty, spicy, and crunchy. The richness of the red curry and the subtle sweetness of the coconut milk in the Indie Signature Curry are likewise exquisitely counterpoised—it's tempting to slurp the leftover sauce straight from the bowl when you're done with the tender chunks of beef and potato. The sushi is delicious too. The Volcano Roll is nori rolled tight around thick slices of smoked salmon, yellowtail, crab, and octopus, with a luscious spicy mayo and speckles of bright red sriracha hot sauce on top. Everything is arranged beautifully: maki slices stand in a circle next to tiny mountains of ginger and wasabi and swirls of spicy mayo dotted with black sesame seeds; curries have sprigs of greens jutting out at acute angles and frilly herb garnishes. —Laura Levy Shatkin

La Fonda Latino Grill

5350 N. Broadway | 773-271-3935

$$$

LATIN AMERICAN | LUNCH, DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED MONDAY

The bulk of the dishes at this Edgewater eatery are Colombian—including starters like the wonderfully crisp spinach-and-mushroom empanadas, delicate arepas (white corn cakes) topped with mushrooms and cheese, and morcilla (blood pudding) with guajillo chile sauce—but Mexican and Cuban influences show up, as in black bean soup. Entrees like lengua en salsa roja (beef tongue simmered in a creamy tomato sauce with green peas) and arroz con camarones (yellow rice with shrimp, peas, onions, and peppers) are so generously portioned they'd be best shared, perhaps with soup or an order of churrasco (grilled loin of beef served with chimichurri sauce and sweet plantains). To drink there are margaritas, mojitos, sangria, and a concise but well-selected list of inexpensive wines. A lunch buffet Tuesday through Friday offers a limited sampling of the dinner menu for $8.95. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Lalibela

5633 N. Ashland | 773-944-0585

$$

AFRICAN | LUNCH, DINNER: SUNDAY, TUESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED MONDAY | BYO

A bit off the strip of Ethiopian places on North Broadway, Lalibela seems to be devoid of customers every time I pass by, which is a pity: the restaurant serves well-prepared home-style Ethiopian food. The menu features the usual watts and tibs but also items I haven't seen at other Ethiopian spots—for example, ye keyser selata, a tasty salad of fresh beets, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and onion. Yemser azifah was green lentils given some pleasant heat with onion and jalapeño; ater kik, yellow split peas, were comfortingly mild.Other vegetarian dishes include inguday tibs, mushrooms with onion and berbere, and quosta, spinach with garlic, ginger, and spices, many of which are imported from Ethiopia. But if you eat meat, you're really in business: the succulent Lalibela special tibs, lamb seasoned with onion, rosemary, and jalapeño, were the hit of the meal. —Kate Schmidt

Ras Dashen Ethiopian Restaurant

5846 N. Broadway | 773-506-9601

$

AFRICAN | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LAte: friday & saturday TILL 11

The chef at Ras Dashen, Zenash Beyene, sets a welcoming table for carnivores and vegetarians alike (many items are designated vegan friendly). There are some traditional African veggies, such as okra and collards, familiar as American-style soul food standards. Unlike more stewlike mixtures we've enjoyed at other Ethiopian restaurants, here grilled meats stand out: lamb seared to scrumptious caramelization, fish crusted with light coconutty char, and beef dressed with piquant berbere sauce. The spice level on many menu items is rather mild, which enables you to savor fresh ingredients (like rosemary sprigs in the lamb, reflecting the influence of the historical Italian presence, as do gelato and espresso). —David Hammond

Uncommon Ground on Devon

1401 W. Devon | 773-465-9801

$$$

CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL, GLOBAL/FUSION/ECLECTIC | BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYs | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL MIDNIGHT

As at the Wrigleyville original, the seasonal menu emphasizes locally produced, family farmed, and organic products including house-infused vodkas. (Order a "TreeTini," made with the pear vodka, and the restaurant pledges to plant a tree.) It's also the site of the city's first certified organic rooftop garden. The menu's eclectic and surprisingly carnivore-centric given the crunchy mantras: large plates include a pork chop, a duck duo, Gunthorp Farm chicken, and a Dietzler Farm steak with chimichurri. Breakfast and brunch feature standards like huevos and a breakfast burrito but also chilaquiles with house-made chorizo and a breakfast melt with Nueske peppercorn bacon served on Red Hen black bread. There's live entertainment most nights of the week. —Kate Schmidt

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