NFT Chicago Uptown


An uneasy truce exists in Uptown amongst Starbucks-hopping yuppies and the perpetually displaced poor. Gentrification is slowly creeping into Uptown as condos and super chains like Target pop up, but be wary of where you are, block to block. Uptown boasts several milestones of Chicago history including still operational Green Mill and the Uptown Theatre, currently in renovation. Graceland Cemetery is a pretty walk for those who don't mind the morbid. The landmark is full of elaborate mausoleums, the final resting place of the men and women who built the Second City.

Uptown's nightlife is lively, chock full of shiny new bars as well as reliable old standbys. See more.

>Green Mill (famous for live jazz, Big Band Thursdays and Sunday night poetry slams) and Big Chicks (a favored, gay neighborhood bar with great art) have long drawn folks to Uptown. Bar on Buena is justifiably renowned for their beer menus and flights, and Bongo Room's brunch is worth the wait.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Poetry: Deep in the Heart of Chicago

By Nina Williams
Chicago is home to a series of extremely gifted and innovative spoken word poets, but what is spoken word and how does one find it? Follow Nina Williams around to some of the most interesting neighborhoods in Chicago to find out what this scene is all about.
Adventures in Resale & Vintage Shopping

By Keidra Chaney
Clothes other people have worn?! Who buys that? Keidra Chaney does--from hoity toity vintage minidresses to a wide assortment of 90s Japanese tees. Don't forget to check for bed bugs.

Beer: English for Beer.

By Jill Jaracz
Beer: It may be the world's most popular alcoholic beverage but that doesn't mean you have to be democratic about it. From cask-conditioned to microbrewed, let Jill Jaracz show you a whole new world of fermented yeast.

The Cheapskate's Guide to Chicago

By Dana Kaye
Dana Kaye sure said it straight when she declaimed: "You don’t have to be gay to enjoy all the drink specials on Halsted." But you do have to be on a budget. Chicago is no city for the thrifty, but Dana Kaye is not one for following the rules. Take heed as she stealthily discloses the secrets to getting by with no money.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Brendan Keating
Photo:  Brendan Keating

Sun Wah BBQ
Few dishes are as legendary as Peking duck. Formerly reserved for the Chinese imperial court, this delicacy has inspired poetry, been a favorite of Castro's, and even helped defrost Sino-US relations. In Chicago, one of the best places to sample this delectable dish is Sun Wah BBQ, ironically located in Little Vietnam in Uptown. A lowly hole in the wall until mere months ago, Sun Wah has moved up and around the corner into a massive hall that still manages to completely fill up on weekends. Despite the upgrade, it still feels authentic, with duck carcasses hanging in the window, chefs slicing and dicing all of God's creatures on war-torn cutting boards, and curt service too efficient to be rude. But with duck this good, they could serve it in a bedpan and you'd still ask for more. Your order of duck will come with sauce, yummy little buns, veggies, duck soup, and duck fried rice. Round it out with some Chinese broccoli and an appetizer and you’ve got dinner for three to four. Word to the wise--make a reservation for your table and your bird before arriving--then you'll have all of your, ahem, ducks in a row.

Posted By:  Brendan Keating
Photo:  Brendan Keating

Tweet is not your mom's brunch spot. Well, maybe it is if your mom is a hard-drinking, art-collecting, foodie lesbian. When Tweeting, you will first be greeted by the gregarious owner/hostess/mother figure, who will most likely ask you to wait at the adjoining bar until a table frees up. In the bar, you may drink alcohol or free coffee. You may also crack open a Where's Waldo, which will be like new to you because you';ve forgotten where Waldo is. When you hear your name followed by "Come on down!" you will know that it is time to eat. Once seated, you will be offered free corn bread. You will then admire the eclectic art collection on the walls while you peruse the menu full of fresh, down-homey brunch goodness like biscuits and gravy, a house specialty. You will enjoy the atmosphere and the camaraderie in this breakfast joint/gay and straight friendly bar in the northeast corner of Uptown--however, not as much as you will enjoy the huge portions of the tasty food. When finished, you will pay your bill, only in cash, and start the rest of your day hoping it will be as good as your breakfast.

Posted By:  Brendan Keating
Photo:  Brendan Keating

Hai Yen
If Thai was the new Chinese, Vietnamese is the new Thai. And in Chicago, no one does Vietnamese like Argyle. This Uptown Street is crowded with noodle joints--Pho 777, Pho 888, and Tank Noodle. Each one has its advocates, but for consistency, quality, and innovation, hit Hai Yen. However, go prepared. The menu is more challenging to navigate than Halong Bay, and please don't trust the waiters' recommendations. Trust mine. Here's what to order: Banana Blossom Salad--Like eating a summer's day. Chao Tom--Grilled shrimp and sugar cane are secret lovers. Bo Luc Lac--Filet mignon, butter, and watercress on top of rice that's never had it so good. Catfish Kho To--Caramelized catfish in a clay pot. Yum. Pho--This has been your favorite food since childhood. You just didn't realize it until now. You also can't go wrong with the beef fondue, aromatic Hawaiian leaf, or if you're feeling adventurous, an entire red snapper. Hai Yen is a great place to bring a crowd and swap dishes, but call ahead for group reservations. Hai Yen's treasures are no secret. Pho-nominal!

Posted By:  Raf Miastkowski
Photo:  Raf Miastkowski

Tokyo Marina
It isn't really clear where Tokyo Marina's name came from, aside from the fact that its sushi is plucked from the deep blue. There are no photographs of majestic yachts or paintings featuring gale-stiffened sails in this no-frills sushi restaurant. Its decor more resembles a cafeteria than a harbor-themed restaurant (or even a Long John Silver's). The sushi here is decent and reasonably priced, though the entree dishes are a tad on the skimpy side. Fortunately, a variety of rolls are available that are reasonably priced (for sushi), like the tasty French maki roll for only $4.50. Tokyo Marina is great for an inexpensive sushi dinner without all the bells and whistles. However, if you're like me, sushi is not a good option before embarking on a drunken bar crawl down Clark Street.

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

La Patisserie P
If you take the Red Line to Argyle Street, you'll find a bunch of South East Asian restaurants, groceries, and shops. And then there's this bakery, which is an interesting fusion of Asian and European styles. You can get yummy Asian buns filled with sausages or barbequed chicken, or you can indulge in cookies, eclairs, and scrumptious pieces of cake. In what's truly an American melding of flavors, owner Peter Yuen not only apprenticed in classical baking in Hong Kong, but he also studied at the French Pastry School here in Chicago. This bakery combines the best of his talents. It's a great place to pick up a quick, cheap snack, or when you need to impress a dinner host with a fine dessert. Just make sure you try out all the worldly flavors La Patisserie P has to offer.

Posted By:  Jamie Smith
Photo:  Jamie Smith

Tapas Las Ramblas
My meal at Il Fiasco (the former name of the soon-to-be-reopened establishment 'Tapas Las Ramblas') could not have been less of a disaster. Most Italian restaurants try to give you your money's worth by serving you an industrial size portion a la the Cheesecake Factory, but not at the Fiasco: my meal was manageable and made with quality ingredients. Aside from the yummy food, I had the good fortune to visit on ½ price wine night. The bargain basement prices belie the quality, which seems to be a theme at this restaurant. In addition to being open until 1:00 am on weekends, they offer nightly specials (½ price wine Mondays and Tuesdays, $5 sangria night, and more). The service was excellent and so was the table right next to the open window looking out onto Clark Street. The passing pedestrians serve as eclectic scenery for a neighborhood joint that stands out in the best way.

Posted By:  Jamie Smith
Photo:  Jamie Smith

If only I had space on my wall for that vintage medical diagram of the brain. It would look so great next to the antique map of Peoria. Or maybe they just look so good together because Foursided is really good at what they do. Their custom framing and display techniques could make an old boot look like a work of art and I'm sure that if you had an old boot you wanted put behind glass they could take care of you. Everything in the store is so aesthetically pleasing and old-looking in the coolest way, even the stuff that isn't actually old. Amongst antique typewriter keys and custom collages you'll find some of the prettiest and funniest paper gifts in the city. If you don't already know where you're buying this year's Christmas cards, may I suggest Foursided. It's a great place to get something framed and an even better place to get something to get framed.

Posted By:  Max Minor
Photo:  Max Minor

Annoyance Productions
Of all the improv/sketch theaters in Chicago, none best capture the original go-fuck-yourself improv vibe that defined the city’s comedic heyday quite like The Annoyance Theatre. Started by improv comedy god Mick Napier, the Annoyance is best known for silly, satirical, over-the-top revues like “Co-ed Prison Sluts,” horror spoof “Splatter Theater,” and current pro wrestling/comedy show “Body Slam: The Rise and Fall of C.A.W.C” Recently re-opened in Uptown, The Annoyance fights a location battle, waiting as the neighborhoods around them continue to transform, for as of now, the theater is still just a little too far north for your average Chicago comedy connoisseur. Yet with Second City, I.O. and Comedy Sportz creating a laughter stranglehold on the near north side, the Annoyance’s location may soon seem a stroke of genius. As the Annoyance Theater continues to grow with the surroundings, one hopes they don’t remain avant-garde for long.

Posted By:  Elissa Pociask
Photo:  Elissa Pociask

Ba Le French Bakery & Restaurant
Gallery District sandwich and a drink: $11 + a guilty conscience. Gargantuan Banh Mi, shrimp spring rolls, Thai iced tea and train fare to Argyle: $10 + a bag of leftovers. One bite into the delectably spicy, sweet, tangy, chewy, crunchy sandwich suddenly makes the French colonies in Indochina look rosy. Well, maybe not, but Banh Mi's heavenly union of eastern flavor and the western baguette definitely warrants the trek to Vietnamtown. Aside from the sandwiches, patrons can also pick up a number of items a la carte, like shrimp puffs, freshly baked loaves, sugar cane juice, and mysterious tasty blobs wrapped in banana leaves and string. Be sure to check out the surrounding shops, too. Need some lemongrass? Gyoza wrappers? A cheap wok? A fly swatter? You won't be disappointed.

Posted By:  Ceda Xiong
Photo:  Ceda Xiong

Ba Le French Bakery & Restaurant
The three most important sandwich experiences in a person’s life should include a philly cheese steak, a milanesa torta, and a banh mi sandwich. A banh mi sandwich is a singularly unique fusion of French and Vietnamese cuisine, combining the classic baguette with a savory meat and toppings mixture that span the taste bud’s imagination. At the end of the little strip of Vietnam on Argyle, Ba Le has the freshest and highest quality ingredients in their banh mi sandwiches. If you want to explore more than just the sandwich, they have a variety of Vietnamese treats available along with their own brand of delicious paté. For bubble tea fanatics who like to enjoy the drink north of Cermack, you’ll love the varieties available here, made with fresh fruit.

Posted By:  Brian J Solem
Photo:  Brian J Solem

Dollop Coffee & Tea
In a pre-Starbucks America, perhaps Dollop was just another run-of-the-mill coffee shop, complete with well-worn furniture, well-brewed coffee, and well-educated staff members. But since this Buena Park mainstay has retained these essential characteristics in the wake of a newer, more sterile hegemonic ideal of coffee purveyors, it deserves attention and accolades. As a regular coffee drinker, I appreciate their rotating selections of complex brews, ice cream flavors, home-made pies and other delicacies. Although the food and drinks in a café should be enough to merit a visit, Dollop satisfies in its setting as well. There are plenty of seating options—from tables and chairs to droopy couches and armchairs. Literature abounds; I find myself perusing back-issues of National Geographic magazine (of which there are hundreds) nearly every time I visit. The clientele tend to belong to Uptown’s unsung indie-alternative scene. Dollop is a perfect reminder that, although places to buy coffee are plentiful, the actualized notion of the “coffee shop” is not.

Posted By:  Brian J Solem
Photo:  Brian J Solem

The Neo-Futurarium
I wish that Too Much Light was so popular that it didn’t need to be written about on a website dedicated to Chicago’s lesser-known virtues. Sadly, on average, 3 out of 5 Chicagoans I have spoken with have never seen 30 original plays performed in 60 minutes, nor have they heard the whispers cooing “Neo-Futurists” over the megaphones shouting “SECOND CITY!” As the longest-running show in Chicago (but with many of its 30 plays changing each week), Too Much Light touches the “heart” with personal anecdotes-cum-performance pieces, examines world news events (from a left-of-center perspective, generally), and creates memorably humorous moments with smart-humor-based sketches. It’s an intensely schizophrenic experience, with emotions running the gamut. Like Chicago’s reputation as the home of culinary innovators, the Neo-Futurists regularly dapple in experimental, post-modern, multi-media flights-of-fancy. The cost is unbeatable—tickets range from $8-$13, based on the roll of a dice, meaning that a patron would pay less than 50 cents for each play. If theatre is what you crave, grab a plate and gorge at this all-you-can-eat buffet of well-made dramatic cuisines.

Posted By:  Ceda Xiong
Photo:  Ceda Xiong

Carol's Pub
Carol's pub is only a block away from one of Chicago's most famous cemeteries, St. Boniface, and it is a fitting mausoleum to the dying art of the honky tonk bar. Carol's houses one of the most famous karaoke night in Chicago, where locals from Lincoln Park and Lakeview alike can belt out their best George Strait. Once upon a time, this bar was known for its litany of characters, but Lakeview's rapid gentrification has produced more of an "insert-any-college-name-here" sweatshirt and jeans crowd. Beers here are moderately priced, like any average bar in Lakeview, but the pitchers are probably the best deals. While Carol's might have evolved into a place where yuppies get down with their hillbilly fantasies, the bar still retains its patina of authenticity thanks to the colorful wait staff. You'll either love it or hate it, depending on where your priorities lie.

Posted By:  Annie Anderson
Photo:  Annie Anderson

Is there anything more joyful than watching your furry four-legged friend having the time of his life, meeting other canine pals and frolicking in the waters of Lake Michigan? No! So it’s a good thing that there’s at least one legal off-leash city beach designated solely for dogs. Open year round, the Montrose Dog Beach, or “Mondog,” as the regulars call it, provides endless entertainment for collies, retrievers, mutts, bullies, hounds, puggles and all the rest of our apartment-bound urban pooches. The grassy knolls above Mondog make for a nice lookout for those without a canine companion. From this vantage, I’ve seen many a dog waste itself—in the best way possible—on the pleasures of the fetch, heel, wrastle and wrangle of Mondog.

Hook your pup up with a Dog Friendly Area (DFA) tag and permit, available from 50+ Chicagoland veterinarians, before hitting the beach. It’s only $5 per dog, and it’ll save you a potential fine of up to $500 for not being DFA-registered.

Posted By:  Nina Williams
Photo:  Nina Williams

Nestled between Lakeview and Uptown, the Profiles Theater is practically hidden between various furniture stores and fast-food joints. Upon entering the theater, an intimate stage is revealed, bordered by two sets of seats offering an undisrupted view of each performance. The Profiles Theater is inundated with a talented team of directors and actors who often touch on socially taboo subject matter such as murder and child abuse. Oh and be prepared because and they won’t shy away from nudity either. It is a true diamond in the rough. If you’re looking for a genuine, gritty theater experience, then you must visit the Profiles Theater. Warning: during the winter this theater is freezing, so it’s best to keep your coat on during the performance.

Posted By:  Darwyn Jones
Photo:  Darwyn Jones

It seems people only mention the Aragon to bitch about the sound system, but there is more to it than that. Dance halls (yeah, it was a dance hall—ask your Grandma) were once considered places of ill-repute. Women were seduced. Alcohol was illegally distributed. There may have been prostitution. Say it ain’t so! The Aragon was built in 1926 to save the reputation of dance halls. Duh-du-du-DAH! It was classy. It epitomized the time of big bands, crooners, and elegance. The interior resembled a castle courtyard complete with gold-leaf columns, palm trees, and stars (twinkling lights in the ceiling). It was billed as “the most beautiful ballroom in the world.” Well, eighty years later, the interior has been renovated to shine again and the reputation is forever tarnished. We know about Al Capone’s escape route, the waterlines in the basement from a 1958 flood, and the transitions from discotheque to roller rink to bingo hall. There have been so many fights that it snagged the nickname ‘Aragon Brawlroom.’ Still, this is history. So, the next time you drop dough on a concert and find the sound less than pleasing, take a look at your surroundings. This is Chicago, baby.

Posted By:  Rick Karlin
Photo:  Rick Karlin

Inspiration Kitchens
Café Too is a project of the not-for -profit Inspiration Corporation. The staff is led by a professional chef and host who train adults who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, to work in the hospitality industry. They are trained in food preparation, management, and service. Inspiration Corporation also provides assistance with job placement and helps train its student/clients in job interview skills. The on the job training program through Café Too serves breakfast and lunch every weekday, brunch on weekends, and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. The prices are quite reasonable, with brunch entrees in the $4-8 range, lunches $5-$9, and most dinner entrees priced less than $10. You’re not getting cafeteria fare for that price either. For dinner one of the menu’s staples is Uptown chowder, a fragrant and flavorful mélange of potatoes, corn and other vegetables in a creamy base. A dinner salad features ten grilled shrimp perched atop a bed of baby greens and lightly dressed with an Asian inspired dressing. Brunch and lunch options are even better. Huevos rancheros arrives on a large plate piled high with fresh tortilla chips and black beans topped with fried eggs.

Posted By:  Garin Pirnia
Photo:  Garin Pirnia

Holiday Club advertises itself as a swinger’s club straight out of Sinatra and Martin cool, but the lounge area in the back is the only element of the era. The dimly lit bar boasts two sections. Through the entrance is the dimly lit dining area overflowing with over five tv screens blasting a variety of sports. The full-service bar offers weekly drink specials such as $7 bucket of minis. Not only are the drinks good, but so is the food. Their BBQ chicken wrap is quite tasty along with their typical junk food menu of cheese fries, pizza, quesadillas, and chicken kabob. Holiday Club serves Sunday brunch consisting of the liquid variety: mimosas and Bloody Marys. The other room acquiesces to the lounge atmosphere containing an abundance of booths and another bar. On certain nights of the week, the bar hosts karaoke so people can make fun of the vocally challenged. If karaoke isn’t enough, the bar’s jukebox plays a nice mix of indie and mainstream tracks to really get the party started.

Posted By:  Keidra Chaney
Photo:  Keidra Chaney

Now that the CTA Brown Line Montrose stop is closed for repairs for the next 12 months, it’s time for us Ravenswood denizens to get off our butts and support our neighborhood eateries who will be losing quite a bit of foot traffic in the next year. While popular places like Beans and Bagels, Margie’s, and Glenn’s Diner seem to have loyal clientele that will hang in there during these cold winter months, more under-the-radar places like La Amistad may not be so lucky. La Amistad is pretty much your run-of-the mill storefront taqueria, no frills, no Mexican fusion, just the usual: tacos, quesadillas, and burritos. The food is better than the average neighborhood taco stand, and, if you’re looking for authentic Mexican fare in Ravenswood, this is your best bet. It’s clean, welcoming, reasonably-priced and BYOB–and features daily rotating dinner specials for about $5, including the curiously named “Polish Platter” for weekend brunch. How can you beat that?

Posted By:  Bathsheba Birman
Photo:  Mike Tutaj

The Neo-Futurarium
Written by kids and performed by adults, this sketch-comedy show draws from work by students at underserved Chicago public elementary schools. Barrel of Monkeys, an ensemble of actor/educators, leads on-site creative writing workshops that culminate in a school-wide performance. Since its inception, the program has reached 5,000 lower-income students in 32 schools. Inaugurated in 2001 to showcase more than 400 stories and songs from these assemblies, the hour-long performance changes weekly based on audience votes. Additional matinees on Saturdays at 2 pm run from Feb 17-March 24. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Visit the website for a printable $2 off coupon.

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