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Three Uptowners pick their favorite neighborhood hangouts

Spots locals love, from ethnic markets to an old school barber shop.

 (Photograph: Michelle Nolan)
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Photograph: Michelle Nolan

WALK MAN Juan Palomino, pictured with his dogs on Sunnyside Avenue, enjoys strolling Uptown�s more scenic side streets.

 (Photograph: Michelle Nolan)
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Photograph: Michelle Nolan

POOL TOGETHER Emmanuel Abidemi steers new arrivals from Africa to the McCormick Boys and Girls Club, where he spent time as a teenager.

 (Photograph: Michelle Nolan)
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Photograph: Michelle Nolan

OF GOOD STOCK Sun Wah co-owner Kelly Cheng (left) and her sister Laura love Sea World Food Market for fresh fish and other staples.

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Juan Palomino
private events manager at Blackbird(619 W Randolph St, 312-715-0708)
“The No. 1 thing I love about Uptown is the proximity to the lake,” says Palomino, who works in the West Loop but has lived in this neck of the woods for four years with his wife, Elizabeth. “In summer we walk to the dog beach every weekend with our vizslas, Luca and Emilia. We also love to walk down Greenview, just to look at all the beautiful single-family homes.” But when the weather turns frigid, Palomino ducks into one of his favorite bars for a warm-up, the Green Mill(4802 N Broadway, 773-878-5552), or Uptown Lounge(1136 W Lawrence Ave, 773-878-1136), his preferred spot to grab a drink before a concert at the Aragon(1106 W Lawrence Ave, 773-561-9500). And when one too many turns into a rough night out, he finds some stomach lining in the form of al pastor tacos at [node:148119 link=Carmela’s;] (1206 W Lawrence Ave, 773-275-5321). For sit-down dining, it’s hard to impress a guy who works with Mike Sheerin, a Food & Wine Best New Chef, but Palomino says Magnolia Café(1224 W Wilson Ave, 773-728-8785) is “a great spot for dinner, mainly because everything on the menu is simple and delicious, it has a superfriendly staff and it’s not at all expensive.” Plus, the way Palomino sees it, what Uptown lacks in gourmet dining options it more than makes up for with its history. “The fact that this was Capone’s ’hood makes it so much more interesting, and with all the shootings that happen, it almost seems like he’s still around.”

Kelly and Laura Cheng
managers/co-owners Sun Wah Bar-B-Que(5039 N Broadway, 773-769-1254)
Dominated by storefronts specializing in pho and take-out shops that do bang-up business in banh mi, Uptown’s Argyle Street is so saturated with Vietnamese fare that it’s often called Little Saigon. But for more than two decades the Cheng family has drawn loyalists with their Chinese cooking, specifically roasted suckling pigs and crispy-skinned Beijing duck. Co-owners Laura and Kelly Cheng have become regulars at nearby Tai Nam Market(4925 N Broadway, 773-275-5666), where they pick up minty “holy basil” to use in meal-ending sorbets, and dirt-cheap bags of Three Horses rice, their preferred brand at home. The sisters stock up on fresh fish and still-squirming lobster and crab at nearby SeaWorld Food Market(1130 W Argyle St, 773-334-5335), but for a ready-to-eat meal they’re more likely to hit Tien Giang(4925B N Broadway, 773-275-4928) than über-popular Tank Noodle, “mainly because the food is more homestyle and the noodles have that spaghettilike chew,” Kelly says. On the rare break she takes from the restaurant, Kelly sneaks in a haircut at Van’s Beauty Salon(5022 N Broadway, 773-878-0413), which she notes “isn’t as cheap as Great Clips and isn’t as fancy as Mario Tricoci, but you’ll get a solid haircut for a good price.” And for DIY beauty, she hits up USA Nail & Beauty Supply(5006 N Broadway, 773-334-8080), which sells the gold-standard nail polish brand O.P.I. for almost half the price of most salons. “Working as much as we do,” Kelly says, “a manicure isn’t going to last anyway.”

Emmanuel Abidemi
owner of Iyanze (4623 N Broadway, 773-944-1417)
For a teenage immigrant from Nigeria, Uptown circa the mid-’90s might have been far from home, but it didn’t feel removed. “This neighborhood is an entry point for a lot of Africans, with many places that help bring back the feeling of home,” says Abidemi, the “30-plus” year-old owner of two restaurants, Uptown’s Iyanze and Lakeview’s Bolat. He’s a regular at the Ghanaian-owned Makola African Super Market(1017 W Wilson Ave, 773-935-6990), which he loves for the camaraderie as much as for the African movies and soothing shea butter. But for the male equivalent to a sewing circle, Abidemi heads to I Perfection Beauty Salon(4546 N Broadway, 773-561-8562). “It’s like one of those barber shops you see on TV where the men in the community come together to refresh their looks and connect,” he says. And for the new generation of arriving Africans, the older guard steers them toward McCormick Boys and Girls Club(4835 N Sheridan Rd, 773-271-8400). “I credit this place for holding the Uptown community together with their open-door policy of allowing any kid from any walk of life to come in and have a safe environment,” Abidemi says. “I was practically raised there, and I found it to be a great refuge.”

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