This weekend, I hit three board favorites, two for the first time.
N.Y. Bagel and Bialy, 4714 W. Touhy, Lincolnwood: Someone in my office reported that she makes regular runs up from the city to stock up on bagels here, and I know a lot of folks on this board swear by this place. (Our family patronizes the N.Y.C. Bagel and Deli on North Ave., because it's a lot handier to us and sits across the street from our beloved Peet's Coffee.) This bakery turns out a product that's slightly smaller, saltier and chewier than our regular bakery (all to the good), though neither bagel is quite as crusty as the genuine East Coast, N.Y.C. article. (I prefer what are now called mini-bagels, but which are actually closer in size to the standard bagel I was exposed to as a child.) I appreciated the friendly, efficient counter service, although some of the customers were a bit surly (one huffed out loud when the server mentioned that they had no sesame mini-bagels, but did have blueberry in stock). While routine trips from Hyde Park would be out of the question, I plan to make stops here whenever I come back north.
Pita Inn, 3910 W. Dempster, Skokie: Compared to most middle eastern dining I've encountered in Chicago, this location seemed, well, nearly antiseptic, like a spotlessly-clean chain restaurant (even Pita Inn is a registered trademark, even though they only appear to have the three locations locally). Kudos to the bus staff, who never let a dirty plate linger even half-a-second. Our family ordered a variety of standards (shwarma, falafel, hummus). The shwarma, to me, was the stand-out (but is sage a standard ingredient? it really stood out on my sandwich). Also very friendly and efficient behind the counter.
Village Cremery, 4558 W. Oakton, Skokie: First time I've had ice cream here in over a year, and it still flattens the competition. In the past, I've sampled the more exotic signature flavors (yam, corn, halo-halo), but this time I went with tiramisu, and was not disappointed -- the best ice cream I've had all year (besides the fresh batch of balckberry my spouse made at home). My son's chocolate was also excellent. The man doling out the cones, I believe, was the owner and is his own best salesman.