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Swede for a day
By Teresa Schmedding | Daily Herald Staff

Stroll down Clark Street in Andersonville and you'll find great restaurants and shops and the Swedish American Museum.

 

ANDERSONVILLE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

St. Boniface Cemetery in Andersonville is filled with unique headstones carved in the shape of trees.

 

ANDERSONVILLE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

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Published: 5/23/2008 12:13 AM

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A Korean restaurant, a bar filled with obscure Belgium beers, a German cemetery and a Neo-Futurist theater. Not quite what you'd expect in a Swedish neighborhood in Chicago, but that's what makes Andersonville a cool spot to spend the day.

But you have to soak up some of the Swedish atmosphere to pay homage to the Swedish immigrant farmers who settled this quaint neighborhood on Chicago's North Side, whose heart is located at Clark and Foster streets.

To start off, you have to hit Ann Sathers for breakfast. There is no other place on the planet that serves better cinnamon rolls. They're large enough to serve as a sticky, warm, frosty pillow if you slip into a sugar coma before you finish your serving (note: Ann's knows how to do it right. The cinnamon rolls are served first!). And the rest of the food, which ranges from traditional American omelets to the more ethnic Swedish pancakes with lingonberries, is outstanding as well. I'd recommend that you try not to eat for a couple of days before you pull up a chair in this hectic, yet quaint, restaurant. The portions are huge, and you'll want to lick your plate clean.

Now that you've sated your appetite, it's time to walk off some of that breakfast. Andersonville is filled with cute little shops offering unique wares. Presence clothing store offers items you'd never find in a Gap. His Stuff will fulfill the needs of the most ardent metrosexual (or any guy who doesn't want to dress like he's going to a Bears game) and Hip Fit lives up to its name. The Paper Trail offers offbeat stationery and cards. Don't pass by Alamo Shoes without poking your head in, but clean out your closet beforehand because you'll be coming home with a few purchases.

If antiquing (or scouring through old junk) is your game, just wander up and down Clark Street and duck your head into any of the several antique shops. I like the Brown Elephant, which lacks that normally musty used-furniture store smell, and it raises funds for HIV care.

You can't miss Women and Children First, a fabulous bookstore. If you crave independent thinking and unique book choices, you can browse for hours through this store, which seems to be the antithesis of a Border's. The children's section offers old classics and new ones, and their lesbian book selection is second to none. But rest assured, they carry best-selling novels as well. Make sure you check out their Web site for events. The bookstore brings in a lot of authors.

If you're interested in spicing up your love life, duck into Tulip toy gallery on Berwyn and check out a wide array of adult toys and accessories. This tasteful shop is a far cry from seedy sex toy shops, and it's a fun place to peruse whether you're a serious shopper or just looking for a fun bachelorette party gift (or just want to gawk and giggle).

Getting back to the Swedish roots, you should stop into the Swedish American Museum. While it appears to be just a storefront on Clark, the museum is actually three floors with special exhibits and the Children's Museum of Immigration. The current special exhibit (through June 15) is works of Swedish painter Martin Bornholm and photographer Eva Skold Westerlind.

By now, your feet might be getting a little tired from all that walking, so it might be an ideal time to stop in at Toujours Spa and Salon for a mani-pedi or massage. Once you step through the doors, you'll forget you're in the midst of a busy city. You could try an acupressure or Swedish massage, or the unique Raindrop massage, which is designed to help those with problem backs.

Hungry again? Time to break for lunch. We've only covered the part of the neighborhood north of Foster -- we've got a long way to go before we wring all the fun out of Andersonville.

Lunch can be a problem. There are too many places to choose from. There are a few chain spots, like Jimmy John's or Charlie's Ale House. (I have to admit, the food is soooo good at Charlie's that I shirk my normal city anti-chain snobbiness and eat there often). Or you could try something a little more eclectic. Hamburger Mary's is just a crazy, colorful spot and Huey's has great dogs, but by far my favorite is Sweet Occasions, and not just because of the Fat Elvis ice cream.

Sweet Occasions resembles an old-time sweet shop with hard candy in tins for sale, piles of cakes and pies, floats and tubs of hand-packed ice cream. For lunch, they serve sandwiches, salads, soups, quiches and paninis. It's quaint and homey (often packed with kids) and the food is delicious. Also worth noting: If you dine elsewhere in Andersonville, show your receipt at Sweet Occasions and they'll give you a discount on dessert. Back to that Fat Elvis ice cream I mentioned earlier: It's a dreamy concoction of light banana ice cream with peanut butter. They also offer 7 Sinful Sundaes (gluttony, greed, wrath, lust, sloth, envy and pride) that serve more than one.

After lunch, you can continue on your North Side shopping quest or venture south of Foster. The Wooden Spoon offers gourmet kitchenware; Baan is a cool Asian import store; and there are some specialty children's clothing stories and gift shops.

Farther south on Clark near Lawrence is St. Boniface Cemetery. It's worth a quick side trip into the predominately German cemetery to check out the headstones in the shape of tree stumps, which represent a life cut short. The tree headstones were started by the Woodman of the World Fraternal Society, founded in the late 19th century but were discontinued in the 1920s because they were too expensive. The tree headstones in St. Boniface vary in height from a few feet to 20 feet and include embellishments such as a fireman's hat, an anchor, birds, lilies and plants.

Time is running short, so we need to focus on your plans for an evening in Andersonville. Dinner spots, much like lunch, abound. Reza's and Andies Mediterranean restaurants are a popular draw, as is Tomboy for high-end American cuisine. T's restaurant and bar doesn't appear to have the ability to serve up a bad dish, and Anteprima and Calo's are Italian delights. Swanky Jin Ju Korean restaurant is worth singling out. When you walk through the door, you are transported into a world of Zen with outstanding barbecue spare ribs, spicy kim chee soup with pork, tim ge and bi bim bap. If this sounds like a foreign language to you (well, it is), don't be intimidated. The neat thing about Jin Ju is the patient, down-to-earth servers willing to help you make your choices -- including helping you sort through the unique drink menu that includes items like cucumber martinis.

For liquid consumption, you can't miss the Hopleaf Bar, which recently added a restaurant that features German food that's not your normal pub fare. And the beer isn't your normal pub beer. Here, you can get Cidre Bouche Reserve French beer for $30, Belgium Kwak for $7 a goblet or a simple Goose Island IPA. Just don't order a Coors Light like I did my first time there. The kindly bartenders in this conversation bar will just scowl at you.

Simon's Tavern is an Andersonville institution and neighborhood favorite. The drinks are pretty typical (except the Glogg in winter is outstanding), but the history of the place is a big draw. If you can find the owner, you might be able to sweet talk him into giving you a tour of the downstairs, where the No-Name Club thrived during Prohibition.

Before you consume too much liquor, you might want to take in a show at the Neo-Futurarium. The Neo-Futurists describe themselves as theater that is a "fusion of sport, poetry and living-newspaper." The ensemble casts produce eclectic plays that are highly interactive and shockingly cheap (tickets are $7 plus the roll of a die -- meaning you could pay as little as $8 or as much as $13). Short on time? No problem. Hit the "Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind" show where the cast attempts to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes. The hilarity of their plays is a great way to cap off an evening!

Andersonville

Roughly bounded by Winnemac on the south, Elmdale on the north, Ravenswood on the west and Magnolia on the east.

For more information:

Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, 5356 N. Clark St., 2nd Floor, andersonville.org (order a free neighborhood guide)

Women and Children First

5233 N. Clark St., womenandchildrenfirst.com

Swedish American Museum

5211 N. Clark St., samac.org

Sweet Occasions

5306 N. Clark St., sweetoccasionsandmore.com

Hopleaf

5148 N. Clark St., hopleaf.com

Neo-Futurists

5153 N. Ashland Ave., neofuturists.org

St. Boniface Cemetery

4901 N. Clark St.