NFT Chicago Ravenswood / Albany Park

Ravenswood / Albany Park

Once home to Charlie Chaplin, and hallowed jogging ground of infamously incarcerated Governor Rod "Blago" Blagojevich, a Ravenswood local, the quarter-mile section of Ravenswood known as The Manor has been a charming riverside haven for generations of Chicago's elite. Farther west, Albany Park boasts the distinction of being one of the nation's most culturally diverse 'hoods, a diversity reflected in local shops where you'll find the kim chee shelved between taramasalata and queso quesadillas.

If you're in the mood for halal meat or in the market to purchase a hookah, North Kedzie around Lawrence Avenue is a magnificent Middle Eastern mélange of grocery stores and restaurants. If, on the other hand, you're in the mood for a wild night, be prepared to hail a cab. There isn't much of a nightlight in this charming but sleepy neighborhood.


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Posted By:  Jamie Smith
Photo:  Jamie Smith

Ravenswood Antique Mart
Put down that Crate & Barrel catalog! For what you'd pay for the Authentic Gold-Rimmed Rustic Bayou Dinner Plate you can get something with twice the style at Ravenswood Antique Mart. Specializing in mid-century modern, the RAM showcases pieces from the 1920s to the 1970s, from art deco to disco fabulous. The shop is a marketplace where dealers who have travelled and scavenged to seek out the best, most interesting pieces can put them up for your perusal. It's stocked entirely with the kind of stuff whose character comes from decades of use and not trumped-up catalog copy. If you're a fan of new-does-old master Jonathan Adler or the kind of trinkets they sell in the interior décor section of Urban Outfitters then come check out the real thing in Ravenswood.

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Once upon a time, knowing how to calculate your bowling score was as American as apple pie. But with these new-fangled computerized bowling alley scorers, today’s players don’t even really need to know that an “X” means you got a strike. Luckily, for those that bemoan this electronic intrusion on one of America’s best pastimes, there’s Lincoln Square Lanes. Located above a hardware store, this twelve-lane alley will soothe your retro desires once you step into the classic wood paneled alley. The prices are pretty retro too: $4 per game per person and $3 for shoe rental. They’ll even sell you socks for $3 a pair. If you’re stuck buying for the beer frame, that won’t break your wallet either, thanks to the decent prices in the bar.

Posted By:  William Moy
Photo:  William Moy

The Penguin keeps company with a Korean restaurant and a laundromat in a tiny strip mall. The flag of Argentina is proudly displayed in its picture window, although the interior is so quaint that you might mistake the place to be closed. Don’t walk away—go inside and be prepared to enjoy some of the best gelato around. While Italy is renowned as the best place for gelato, you can get some excellent stuff in Buenos Aires too thanks to the Italians who immigrated over the years. The gelato at the Penguin is so rich and thick that you will want to savor it slowly. You can indulge in a small serving and still get a very reasonable portion of one or two different flavors. The dulce de leche has a brilliant caramel flavor. The lighter fruit flavors come across more like sorbet, as the pineapple is loaded with fruit chunks. Wine connoisseurs may very well appreciate the distinctive sabayon flavor. If you want to make a meal of it, the Penguin also serves pizza and empanadas, again revealing the mixed Italian-Latin American heritage of this shop.

Posted By:  Keidra Chaney
Photo:  Keidra Chaney

This Ravenswood-area shared-use kitchen and retail space was established by chefs Alexis Frankfort and Jeff Leverenz to give culinary students, catering entrepreneurs, and freelance chefs affordable access to professional quality-cooking equipment, as well as a space to sell their wares and conduct classes and tastings. The space is also home to a storefront-café that’s open to the public, with a homey, country-kitchen atmosphere and, rather anachronistically, free Wi-Fi. Sandwiches, pastries, and soups prepared by the kitchen’s tenants are for sale. Try the fresh lime soda and grilled three-cheese sandwich for lunch. Starting in mid-June, the café will feature a Sunday crepe brunch from Vella Café from 9 am-1 pm. For more information on availability and rates for the shared-use kitchen, go to the website or contact

Posted By:  William Moy
Photo:  William Moy

This unassuming independent coffee shop just west of Lincoln Square consists of two spaces. Walk into the main room at the corner to order your food and drinks. It is interconnected to a secondary space with more seating and works of art displayed on its walls, although you have to take a few steps outside to access this area. If you are not hustling to the nearby Rockwell station on the CTA Brown Line (temporarily closed for renovation), this is a good spot to relax with a bagel or a thick sandwich served in a basket. I enjoyed a Cubano with ham, turkey, cheddar, tomato, and red onion generously piled between thick slabs of crunchy flatbread. Although not from Green Bay, my cheesy friend liked the Packer Backer, sort of a quattro formaggi sandwich served with the same tasty flatbread. These are substantially sized sandwiches that should not disappoint you. Choose from beverages like coffees, teas, juices, and soft drinks. Some outdoor seating is added during the warmer months.

Posted By:  Keidra Chaney
Photo:  none

Dharma Garden
Chicago has such a reputation as a meat-and-potatoes city that it’s easy to overlook the many vegetarian-friendly restaurants that are available in the city. Dharma Garden on Irving Park serves Thai entrees with no MSG and a variety of soy or wheat-based meat substitutes, in addition to the usual meat options. (The mock “duck” and “beef” are especially tasty approximations.) Entrees aren’t cheap, compared to similar restaurants, running at $9.95 and up. If you’re used to a certain level of spice in your thai food, you may find some of Dharma Garden’s selections a bit bland. However, the food is generally freshly prepared and delicious, and there are selections suitable for even the most hard-core vegan diners.

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See Ravenswood / Albany Park...
Restaurants (19)
Nightlife (4)
Shopping (5)
Landmarks (6)