Tuesday, September 11, 2007


It may not sound entirely possible, but I'm relatively certain--the sun shines brighter in Andersonville.

Out of the canyon walls of downtown and the towering buildings of the near north, Andersonville's sidewalks radiate sunshine and streets play with their leafy-green shadows. Rosy-faced babies strapped in strollers squint in the light and their parents, clad in the hippest clothing you'll see parents wearing, glance in the storefronts. In our own Swedish farmhouse-turned-apartment, the third floor rises above the neighbors' dark brick buildings and the sun filters through skylights. It's not a dream. It's the North Side.

And while Andersonville is hip, it's no Wicker Park where the need to be counter-culturally cool hangs tangible in the air. There's no need for presumption along this north bend of Clark Street. In fact, it's that effortlessness that makes Andersonville just so cool, like the older kid you secretly admired in high school who was quirky but comfortable with himself no matter what everyone else was doing.

The neighborhood, tucked just south of mostly-Hispanic Edgewater, is rooted in hard work and charm. The streets are dappled with brightly-painted old farmhouses turned apartments. Before they were apartments with dark-paved city streets, they were homes for large Swedish families who worked in the cherry orchards and farms surrounding their northern suburb. Of course, it didn't take long for Chicago to bloat and swell onto the north side, loosening its belt as it devoured its own boundaries. Some Swedes stayed, but Middle Eastern, Hispanic, and Korean families moved in, adding their own tastes to a neighborhood filled already with flavor. Soon afterward, young hipsters moved in and opened their new boutique stores, sweets and coffee shops, but kept the feel of the neighborhood--keeping the dive bars divey, the old Swedish water tower towering, and the cheap produce shops...well, cheap.

My new favorite haunt is undoubtedly Sweet Occassions where I've rediscovered a love for all things Irish Mint. I also have spent a ridiculous number of hours poking around in The Brown Elephant, trying on big derby hats and oversized sunglasses. Andrea and I spent most of Thursday afternoon layering every scarf there about our necks and checking our reflection in the mirror.

John and I have also totally exploited the restaurants in the neighborhood, traveling beyond even the Hopleaf (God bless the Kwak) and trying out pizza places like Ranalli's Anderonsville outpost, Turkish/Middle Eastern Reza's, and of course Hamburger Mary's, which is no independent spot, of course, but I had never eaten there before.

But I have to say that my favorite dinner so far was the only one we've made at home. Try this C&J Fatty Sandwich recipe:

Ingredients: Sourdough bread, bacon, fresh peanut butter, Muenster and Gouda cheeses, Granny Smith apples

-Fry bacon til it's good and crispy.
-Cut up apples into thin slices.
-Slice the loaf of sourdough into medium-thickness slices and toast.
-Slather one side with the peanut butter, another side with butter.
-Layer the apples, sliced cheeses, and bacon onto the sandwich and close the sandwich.
-Fry in pan on medium heat. Try butter in the pan rather than other oils, and enjoy!!

No comments: