I too almost had lunch with Gary and Erik at Tampopo yesterday, although they don't know it. I went biking along the river in the morning and had planned to hit Tampopo on the way back.
But then... the big gap in the riverfront bike path is at Peterson, where the city path dead-ends and you have to fight through the three-way Lincoln/Kedzie/Peterson intersection up to Devon before finally hooking up with the Skokie paths that run along McCormack. There's a little stretch of Devon just east of Kedzie, the last gasps of the orthodox Jewish/Russian strip, that's pretty desolate food-wise, its main feature a typical-looking burger place called something like The Great Chicago Hamburger Stand, where I once nearly berated the guy behind the counter how they could call themselves that when they didn't offer cheeseburgers or milkshakes or... and then I realized, dork, it's Orthodox, they can't mix meat and milk. (The visual clues-- like a big sign announcing shwarma in the window-- are more obvious now.)
Anyway, usually not a stretch worth checking out, but yesterday I spotted what I thought was a new place-- it's actually about a year old, but spanking clean and full of just-opened good attitude-- called Sarah's Kitchen.
Immediately I got good vibes, not only from the fact that it smelled so good but that there were several signs for daily specials on the windows, showing creativity well beyond the usual shwarma, kifta kebab and hummus. However, none of them happened to appeal to me, so I just ordered baba-ghanouj and a chicken kabob sandwich. It woudl be well worth keeping an eye on what she offers from day to day, however.
The baba-ghanouj was terrific, freshly made and heavy, heavy garlic (which stayed with me most of the day). The kabob sandwich maybe lacked some seasoning or something which would have made it more than the sum of its parts, but there was nothing to argue with about the parts, moist, tender chicken and a lot of veggies (including chunks of eggplant) well beyond the usual desultory tomatoes and cucumbers.
I also noticed a shelf of freebie goodies, including pickles and olives, as well as spices, which suggested the descriptions Rob and others have offered of Israeli falafel and shwarma stands. And, confirming the Israeli connection, there's a stack of Lubavitcher literature for your reading pleasure (assuming you can't read the Hebrew on the specials board). We haven't talked much about Israeli food as distinct from other middle eastern, but here's a restaurant clearly offering a straight from Israel immigrant experience, and I recommend it whole-heartedly.
3114 W. Devon