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A culinary tour of Edison Park

Mangia on meatballs, fill up on pho and chow down on 'cue on the Northwest Side.

Illustration: Jennifer Thermes

“Who needs Lincoln Park when we’ve got Edison Park?” a longtime resident of the blue-collar Northwest Side neighborhood—named for Thomas Edison—says. She’s right: The plethora of Starbucks and ho-hum sushi joints on the yuppified near North Side has got nothing on the jam-packed, multiethnic restaurant row crammed along a two-block stretch of Northwest Highway and Olmstead Avenue, just a stone’s throw from O’Hare and accessible via the Edison Park stop on the Union Pacific NW Metra line.

One of the  neighborhood’s mainstays is 1.Elliott’s Seafood Grille & Chop House Supper Club(6690 N Northwest Hwy, 773-775-5277), an upscale-but-easygoing steak and seafood spot run by a family that’s been a part of Chicago’s restaurant scene since 1939. You’ll find reliably tender cuts of meat that can be ordered with indulgent blue cheese, horseradish or garlic crusts, plus substantial fish dishes like salmon stuffed with ricotta cheese and Parmesan-crusted orange roughy.

Across the street is the crown jewel of the neighborhood: 2.Zia’s Trattoria(6699 N Northwest Hwy, 773-775-0808), a see-and-be-seen spot where beautiful people cram asses-to-elbows to sip martinis and indulge in upscale Italian dishes like butternut squash–stuffed ravioli with mascarpone cream and chef-owner Joe Calabrese’s signature pancetta-wrapped pork tenderloin. Be prepared to stand around and look pretty on weekends, when the wait can be long if you don’t have reservations.

If you’re in the area at lunchtime, there’s no better place than 3.Tony’s Italian Deli & Subs(6708 N Northwest Hwy, 773-631-0055), where the hot meatball and sausage subs are favorites of the neighborhood Joe Twelvepacks. There’s a big selection of heat-and-serve red-sauce dishes to take home, and there are aisles of imported Italian groceries, so you can get your shopping done, too.

Saturdays are the day to stop next door, at 4.Conca D’oro Pastry Shop(6710 N Northwest Hwy, 773-631-1962), where Julia Bertolini waits on a never-ending line of regulars who stream in to take home goodies like sausage and peppers, chicken Marsala and eggplant parmigiana from the massive platters she cooks up once a week. That’s in addition to trays of beautiful butter cookies, biscotti, doughy pizzas and hand-piped cannoli that line her bakery shelves every other day.

If the sugar high just isn’t cutting it, you’ll find a massive and discounted selection of wine, beer and hard stuff across the street at 5. Worldwide Liquors(6715 N Northwest Hwy, 773-631-3230).

And if you time it right, you can stop in for a free wine tasting at 6. Wine Compliments (6716 N Northwest Hwy, 773-775-1100; tastings are usually at 2pm on the second Saturday of every month), a pretty little shop where you can buy stemware and bottle stoppers to go along with your chardonnay.

Now, of course, you’ll  need something to sop up all that wine, so head to 7.Nonno Pino’s(6718 N Northwest Hwy, 773-594-1155). Despite the fake-warehouse decor that screams chain restaurant, the menu’s filled with inspired options like asiago-crusted chicken and a rotating list of five weekly entrée specials. Most dishes are served family-style, and the doting staff indulges kids with goodies like bottomless cups of chocolate milk and gelato that’s made daily on-site.

Rather just roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty chowing down on some good old messy barbecue? Sidle up to the counter at 8.TailGators BBQ Smokehouse(6726 N Northwest Hwy, 773-775-8190), order the “low and slow” cooked ribs, hickory-smoked pulled pork or Texas beef brisket, then plunk yourself down at a table with a massive napkin dispenser affixed to the wall and get the party started. These ain’t no amateurs—’cue king Bobby Flay once featured TailGators’ baby backs and baked beans on his Food Network show.

If a quick snack is more your thing, 9.Don Juan’s has an extensive tequila selection and refreshing margaritas (its guacamole isn’t bad, either). And while you won’t mistake Northwest Highway for Argyle Street, the steaming pho noodle soups and sautéed catfish cooked in a clay pot at 10. Nam Viet (6731 N Northwest Hwy, 773-763-030), a Chinese/Vietnamese spot, are a nice alternative to the heavier fare you can find here. The steamed-bun lunch specials are a good way for neophytes to ease into Asian cuisine. 

Around the corner, 11.Moretti’s Ristorante and Pizzeria(6727 N Olmstead Ave, 773-631-1223) is a sports bar/pizza joint with 40 TV screens that’s been in the neighborhood since 1992. Its massive outdoor beer garden is a summer rite of passage in Edison Park, as popular with singles tipping back bottles of Miller Lite as it is with families devouring thin-crust and pan pizzas.

Finally, because it’ll be a while before you’re doing any outdoor imbibing, it may be a better time to head down the block to 12.Edison Park Inn(6715 N Olmsted Ave, 773-775-1404), a two-story pub with pool tables and seven bowling lanes, where you can munch on bar food and pizza made in wood-burning ovens between matches.

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