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Feb 18, 2002 09:40 AM

3100 N. Central - Nomination for best chowblock

  • v

I know it is a little early to start politicking for the annual chowhound awards, but I am going to start campaigning for the 3100 Block of North Cenral as the best chow block in the entire six county chicago metroplex.

We had dinner last night at Grota, one of many Polish buffets around the city, but maybe the best. At least for me, I could fill myself up on the classic vital information food pyramid: pickly-stuff, fried things, starches and kolachy. To show I am no shill, I will admitt that the coffee, generously offered, stunk. All you need to know about Grota's buffet was that nothing stayed on the line too long, so the food was both fresh and plentiful.

Yet, Grota is a mere cog in the 3100 chow machine. You will find both Czech and Slovakian places. I imagine that at one time, the two joints shared one space, but then a few years ago, they peacefully decided to go their seperate ways. The Slovakian place, Happy Noodle, makes their own noodles and serves hot foods; the Czech bakery is strictly a food store but serves more than baked goods. Their refrigerator case is stocked with meals for homesick bohemians including local versions of kung pao and something described as fish eyes.

If you tire of Slavic cusine, there was a Mexican seafood resturant, a middle-eastern market and Central Gyros, named by Hot Dog Chicago in 1983 as the best gyros in Chicago.

I have just scratched the surface of this wonderous block. In closing, I must thank AnneK for turning me on to this block, and I must thank the fact that I lifted weights yesterday priming my appetite to the fullest to enjoy the block.

Vote early and vote often for the 3100 block of North Cental.


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  1. A fun time at Grota (3112). Yeah, the coffee was certainly not a highlight.

    Not sure but isn’t Happy Noodles (3121) Slovenian, not Slovakian? In any case it’s an interesting little place. I look forward to returning to try the potato dumplings with plum and poppy seed. I already regret not buying some of their homemade noodles. The poppy seed with cherry strudel was pretty good though. And the window painting of a group of Happy Noodles, sitting around a table drinking, was memorably bizarre.

    But don’t ignore the 3200 block either! If you’re willing to extend the boundaries a block or so north, there’s Central Homemade Sausage (3246), one of the better sausage shops around (especially if you speak Polish; I’ve posted on this shop before). There’s another place I’ve been meaning to try and I’m mad at myself for not realizing how close we were. Reportedly, Alexandra Foods (3308) has some of the better cheap pierogi around. I think the store sells nothing but pierogi (frozen only) and they’re only $2 per dozen if you buy more than 10 dozen. Can’t beat that. Also there’s a pretty good fruit market right around there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Rene G
      Vital Information

      According to the owner, Happy Noodle is definately Slovakian as in Czech and.

      Although I am more than happy to extend my opinion of the 3100 block to the 3200 block of central, I have to add that I forgot to mention the greek pastry place also on the 3100 block of central.


    2. Maybe it is because I missed out on "the taste of 3100 N. Central" but I still have to put my nomination in for kedzie right next to lawrence for chowblock

      any other contenders?

      8 Replies
      1. re: zim

        obvious contenders include:

        - Devon west of Western
        - Argyle east of Broadway
        - Wentworth south of Cermak
        - Archer west of Wentworth
        - Roscoe west of Damen
        - Lincoln Avenue south of the Lincoln Square mall
        - Grand east of Racine
        - Northwest Highway north of Devon

        And although the following locales are less houndish, there is plenty of good food to be had in Randolph St., Rush St., Clark St. north of Belmont, Southport south of Irving Park, and any number of Damen and North blocks in Bucktown.

        1. re: Harry V.

          - Lincoln Avenue south of the Lincoln Square mall

          Why stop there?

          Rocco's is just past the bend of Lincoln and Western. It looks like a million other Italian beef places. But it's better than 999,998 or so. Fresh ingredients, nice range of chicken and panini sandwiches, real French fries.

          1. re: Mike G

            Except that right across the street from Rocco's is ... McDonald's. Gotta penalize the block a little for that.

            Agree about Rocco's, pretty good place. Wish it stayed open a little later than 9:00 pm. South of the mall you can also get decent sandwiches at Costello, although I think the original Costello on Roscoe might be a little better.

            1. re: Mike G
              Vital Information

              While I stand firm for now with the 3100 block of N. Central (bonus points for diversity and obscurity), I have to mention that Lincoln does include two of my all time favorite chow's:

              El Llano and Flying Chicken (both Columbian)


            2. re: Harry V.

              The only problem I have with the "obvious contenders" which all feature some good eatin' is lack of range of cusines. This ability to get a great bit of a number of cuisines is why I stand firm in kedzie & lawrence

              1. re: zim

                Good point. I think my choice will be Lincoln Avenue, the section clustered around Wilson. From 4518 N. Lincoln to 4647 N. Lincoln can be found:

                La Bocca della Verita, a first-class neighborhood Italian
                the excellent contemporary American She She, where the cooking is good and decidedly not frou-frou
                Villa Kula, acclaimed as Chicago’s best (only?) teahouse, and a very nice place for lunch
                Anatolia Kebap, a Turkish place that has been mentioned quite favorably on this board
                Costello, a quite-good neighborhood sandwich joint
                Grecian Taverna, supposed to be an OK Greek place (I haven’t been there)
                Woodrow’s, satisfactory although not sublime bar food
                Tartufo, a weird but interesting Italian place supposedly featuring Balkan influences
                The Daily, not-too-interesting gussied-up bar food, but a nice place for cocktails
                Simplon Orient Express, an eclectic Balkan-themed place I know next to nothing about.

                That’s a pretty decent lineup for both quality and variety.

                I also would be happy to choose 6700 N. Northwest Highway, which features:

                a very good Mexican (Don Juan/Patricio)
                a fine Italian (Zia’s Trattoria)
                a pretty good Italian-American (Nonno Pino’s)
                a well-regarded Vietnamese (Nam Viet)
                basic bar food (Emerald Isle)
                fancy bar food (Mickey’s)
                a good deli (Tony’s)
                an old-time joint (Mecca Supper Club)
                a good diner/breakfast spot (Ruby D and Me)
                a respectable bakery (Conca d’Oro)
                a good grocery store (Happy Foods)
                and a good place for ice cream (Cafe Borgata)

                As a matter of fact, I’m changing my vote to 6700 N. Northwest Highway.

                1. re: zim

                  I stand with you on Lawrence--Kedzie. It has the bonus of having good places to get food raw, halfway prepared, or to go at a number of different ethnic bakeries, grocers, butchers, and produce markets.

                2. re: Harry V.

                  I think I would support the Kedzie-Lawrence block area, but what about the other unmentioned options:

                  --Clark and Foster junction, with mid-East bakery, Svea, new Jin Ju Korean restaurant, Swedish delis, an African grocery store, other decent (if not great) restaurants (including Kan Zaman, Tokyo Marina, and many more if you expand the "block" concept)...
                  --some South side block area--maybe the part of 75th with Lem's and a few other excellent restaurants, or some part of the Southwest (Mid-eastern/Mexican/Polish...)
                  --some part of Milwaukee between Logan Square and Avondale for Mexican, Polish and other hot spots?