Albany Park/Irving Park secrets

Restaurants, historic sites and more hidden spots.
 (Photograph: Marina Makropoulos)
Photograph: Marina Makropoulos4637 N Manor Ave, where Charlie Chaplin lived for a year while filming
 (Photograph: Marina Makropoulos)
Photograph: Marina MakropoulosKorean ginseng soup at Ssyal Ginseng House
 (Photograph: Marina Makropoulos)
Photograph: Marina MakropoulosSsyal Ginseng House
Named for Washington Irving, the writer who dreamed up �The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,� the Irving Park community was originally called Irvington.
After the Civil War, early Albany Park settler Richard Rusk built a racetrack on the land now bounded by Spaulding Street, Argyle Street, Albany Avenue and Lawrence Avenue, drawing hundreds of city dwellers every weekend to play the ponies.
By John Greenfield |

Furtive food
Markellos Baking Co.
(3520 W Lawrence Ave, 773-539-9344) is a Greek-owned 24-hour bakery that reflects the neighborhood’s diversity. Besides Greek sweets, snag Mexican, Guatemalan, French and Middle Eastern delicacies. Try a Guatemalan tamale, stuffed with olives and peppers and wrapped in banana leaf (available only on weekends).

Near the Muslim Community Center (4380 N Elston Ave, 773-725-9047), established in 1969 and one of the nation’s oldest mosques, a cluster of North African eateries includes Zebda (4344 N Elston Ave, 773-545-7000), a spot for Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian dishes; Tassili (4342 N Elston Ave, 773-685-6773), where expats gather to watch soccer and chow down on tagines; and Pomera Bakery (4304 N Pulaski Rd, 773-545-6411), where Algerian pastries include chabakia, an addictive cookie fried in olive oil, then dipped in honey and sesame seeds.

Find chicken soup infused with Korean ginseng and packed with meaty chunks of Cornish game hen at Ssyal Ginseng House (4201 W Lawrence Ave, 773-427-5296). Best part: It’s said to cure impotence (and hangovers).

Hidden history
Just west of Ravenswood Manor Park is a stately red-brick mansion (4637 N Manor Ave) that once housed Charlie Chaplin: The Little Tramp stayed here in 1915 while filming 14 comedies at Essanay Studios (1345 W Argyle St) in Uptown, now the site of St. Augustine College. Seeking better pay (and hating Chicago weather), Chaplin skipped town after only a year. He did manage to finish a few films, though, including His New Job.

The Villa Historic District, bounded by Pulaski Road, Hamlin Avenue, Addison Street and the Union Pacific/Northwest rail line, was established in 1907 with double-wide lots, houses set back 38 feet from the street and broad boulevards designed to provide “light, air and beauty.” Look for a number of unusual Prairie Style and Craftsman houses, including distinctive bungalows designed by architects Clarence Hatzfeld and Arthur Knox.

Mysterious miscellanea
At the confluence of the Chicago River and the North Shore Channel, the North Branch Spillway (5100 N Francisco St) creates a gleaming waterfall, which drops about five feet. If you’re lucky, you’ll spy a blue heron fishing in the white water below the dam.