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Restaurants & Bars 3

Howard Street, The Gateway and Montenegro (long and rambling)

A Okrent | Feb 27, 200402:24 PM

Well, I'm back in town, eating up a storm. For the most part, I've been staying close to Howard Street. Maybe it has to do with a sentimental homecoming feeling, because I grew up on this street. Or maybe it's Howard Street pride. Even from a very young age I felt that living on Howard gave me a certain street cred that most Evanston kids couldn't claim. I identified with it, and thought that doing so gave me an air of slightly dangerous urban mystery.

So maybe all this played into my impressions of The Gateway when I went there last week (Clark St. just south of Howard). Man, I love this place. There was a short thread on it a while back. It used to be called "My Place For...?" (ellipsis and question mark included on the sign). It's been there over 30 years. Back when it had portholes for windows on the street side, the Rogers Park grandmas and grandpas used to flock there for the nice pieces of fish. Our family nickname for it was "geezer heaven", but we still went for the very well prepared Greek seafood specialties. It has since been extensively renovated, and added live jazz and a beautiful bar. The restaurant has been moved entirely into the bar and the other room is for private events now. My visit the other night impressed me so much, not just because of the still very delicious Greek seafood, but because it is a truly multigenerational bar. In the pub culture of the UK you often see 70-80 year olds sipping a pint right next to the 20 year olds. Where do you see that here? Every time the door opened, I turned my head to see what slice of society was coming in next. A fur-coat bedecked yiddish speaker with a walker? A world-weary jazz lady with pink hair? A neo-hipster with the lowest waistbanded jeans ever? Some sat at tables, some went to the bar, but no one was out of place. No pressure to act cool. Just good eatin', drinkin', music, and company.

Last night I finally went into the little storefront on Ridge (just south of Howard) that has "Montenegro Food" painted on the window. My hubristic smug sense that I was making a big discovery was put back where it belongs when I discovered RST's review of this place today (link below). The owner/cook was very warm and friendly. She said she didn't have any sandwiches, but she could offer a sausage and potato pita. This montenegran 'pita' is a phyllo dough (but more bread-like) stuffed with sausage and potato, rolled into a long, thin tube, and shaped into a plate-sized spiral. She also makes a spinach/cheese version, but she said people usually call in their order ahead of time so they can pick them up hot and fresh. Mine was delicious and savory even though not hot and fresh. I also took a dessert item, a sort of fat churro soaking in sugar syrup. I took it to be polite; it was the only other thing she had to offer, and I don't generally go for sweets--the sweeter the worser, for me--but I enjoyed it. It wasn't as sweet or as greasy as it appeared to be. If you want to call in your pita order the number is 773-973-1505.

As for other Howard Street options, I've posted on the fried chicken at the Fish Keg before (Howard, just west of Ridge). I love the super thick coating, but some don't.

Maybe one day I'll visit the western, eastern, and southernmost points of Chicago to see what else goes on at the fringes.


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