Caramel latte and mocha from Java and Mug

Caramel latte and mocha from Java and Mug

Beef bimbimbap from Cafe Orient 33

Beef bimbimbap from Cafe Orient 33

Arabic coffee and shisha at Ugly Hookah Cafe- best part, you can bring your own food in! (Rice and chicken shawarma pictured from Shawarma Inn)

Arabic coffee and shisha at Ugly Hookah Cafe- best part, you can bring your own food in! (Rice and chicken shawarma pictured from Shawarma Inn)

In the Albany Park or North Park area? Here are some of my favorite places to visit in the neighborhood! Click on the pin within the google map for more information.

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A Taste of the World- A trip to Devon ave, Chicago

Growing up in Detroit, a melting pot of cultures, finding Pakistani restaurants was never hard. Finding good Pakistani restaurants was a completely different story. Whenever my parents were feeling homesick or had a serious craving for pani puri, a trip to Chicago was always in order. Devon avenue is well known among the American Pakistani community as being the place to get authentic Pakistani cuisine. After moving to Chicago, I always loved living so close to Devon ave. as it not only reminded me of my Pakistani roots, but also of my family’s several trips during my youth.

After exploring Devon a few times, I realized that there was so much more than the Pakistani restaurants my family frequented. In fact, you could find almost every Asian and South Asian cuisine on the street. Upon realizing this, Devon became my go-to for practically every craving, and the perfect place to take friends when we weren’t quite sure what mood we were in for dinner.

September being a sacred month for my roommate and I (birthday month!), over-indulging was definitely called for. We started the lead up to our birthdays by visiting one of our favorite spots for sushi. Hello Sushi, located on 1553 W. Devon ave is a great spot to go, especially if you’re a newcomer to the world of sushi like I am. The menu is approachable and the staff is very friendly, and the food is absolutely delicious.

Later on in the week, my mom paid me a visit and we had lunch at our favorite restaurant on Devon. Kabul Express, sister to Kabul House located in Skokie, IL, is a restaurant that serves traditional Afghan fare. We ordered our usual- an order of Kabuli pulao (a rice dish with carrots, golden raisins and braised lamb) and a chicken kebab sandwich with mint chutney. We had no problem eating both dishes between the two of us.

Finally, as the weekend approached, my roommate and I took a trip to Royal Sweets. One of the restaurants my family used to visit when I was young, Royal Sweets is a traditional Pakistani chaat house that sells small meals and snacks meant to be eaten with afternoon tea. We ordered masala chai (tea spiced with cinnamon and cloves) and, perhaps my favorite Pakistani snack, samosa chaat.

Embedded is a short slideshow detailing my trips to Devon ave. After watching it, I hope you crave a trip to Devon as I do, though I should probably be craving a juice cleanse.

A Taste of Mexico

In honor of Mexican Independence Day, and my craving for guacamole getting out of hand, a trip to my favorite Mexican restaurant Garcia’s was in order last week.

A favorite among Mexican-Americans and enthusiasts alike, Garcia’s boasts an extensive menu including a variety of tacos, tortas, flautas and enchiladas. Essentially, there is something for everyone.

Having been here several times, I stuck with my favorite dish: corn tortilla enchiladas filled with mushrooms and spinach served with rice, beans and a healthy (or not) portion of melted cheese. Vegetarian friendly and completely delicious. My dinner companion chose to order the combination plate that included a serving of flautas and beef tacos with a side of rice and beans.

We started our night sitting on the patio, but the rain threatened our plans and the Garcia’s staff very quickly ushered us inside and to a table by the bar. The service was just as great as the food.

Whether you’re looking for a new spot for date night, lunch with friends, a late night bite or just somewhere to beat that Mexican craving, Garcia’s is definitely the place to go. The fun and casual ambience is great for a relaxing evening, and the food cannot be beat. Added bonus- Garcia’s is located just across from the Lincoln Square fountain, a great place to walk off some of those just-devoured chips and salsa.

Garcia’s Restaurant is located at 4760 N Lincoln ave. Open Monday-Thursday 10am-1am, Friday 10am-3am, Saturday 10am-4am and Sunday 10am-12am. Metered street parking is available on Lincoln ave, W. Lawrence ave, as well as on surrounding side streets.

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End of September food events

Looking for something to do this month? Here are two upcoming events promising some delicious ethnic food.

Lakeview Taco Fest: September 20-21, Southport ave. between Addison and Roscoe. Noon-10 pm daily. Expect traditional taco flavors like beef and pork, but also new like jerk chicken and lobster tacos. Admission is free but prices vary by stall. Live music by local bands during peak hours.

Oktoberfest Chicago: September 26-28, Southport and Lincoln ave. Friday 5pm-10 pm, Saturday 11am-10pm and Sunday 11am-7pm. Traditional German fare will be served, as well as a craft beer tasting on Friday ans Saturday nights. Two music stages will host German pop performances throughout the day.

A day trip to Italy

Italian food fanatics should flock to Eataly Chicago, located at 43 East Ohio Street. Created by celebrity-chef Mario Batali, the hub for all things Italian boasts 23 food stalls and restaurants within the two story space. A Nutella bar, Italian grocery store, and a wine bar are just some of the stations to encounter at Eataly.

My first, but surely not last, trip to Eataly took place this past weekend. The weather was anything but pleasant and my friends and I were looking for something to do to kill time while in the area, before moving on to other plans.

We walked in and were immediately struck by how big the space was; I’m talking gigantic. Every inch of the building was occupied by Italian groceries, ranging from meats to cheeses to, my favorite, the Italian chocolates. We walked around a little awestruck at first, then ventured up to the second floor which houses the sit down restaurants.

With not enough time to actually sit down and eat, we decided to hit the focaccia station. Bread being my biggest guilty pleasure, I could have fainted seeing all the delicious ways the Italian staple was being served.

I decided to order the margherita foccacia- a giant hunk of bread covered in mozzerella cheese and basil. One bite and I was ready to find myself a handsome Italian and say arrivederci​ to America.

Best part about Eataly; not only is there something for everyone, there is something for every budget. Our trip to the foccacia bar was less than $5, for a fairly large portion. The sit down restaurants were a little more pricey, as expected, but nothing was too outrageous.

Eataly is a great place to get all the sights and smells of Italian cuisine without having to board a flight. My advice- try and clear your afternoon schedule before entering. You’ll want to take your time perusing all the different stations and shops.

Eataly Chicago is located at 43 East Ohio street. Open daily from 10:00 am- 11:00 pm. Easily accessible from Grand red line station, valet parking is offered, street parking is limited. For more info visit Eataly.com

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