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In Teevii Spiritu: Katerina's, Cafe Miranda, J's Hot Dog

Aaron D | Aug 12, 200301:23 AM

In case the other three, aren?t good enough, here are three more, though at least one has been mentioned, one I didn?t actually purchase anything at, and the other?s a hot dog stand.

Katerina?s has been mentioned before, but it?s undergone a bit of an overhaul in the past year or so, and I?m not sure there has been an update. I couldn?t find it though I vaguely recall one. In any case, it used to be a kind of dingy but comfortable, smoky, hipster hangout coffeebar with ratty, mismatched furniture, gelato, and an artsy sensibility. It?s been re-invented as a clean and comfortable, more upscale jazz bar with a small menu, full bar, full slate of coffehouse faves, nattily mismatched furniture, no gelato, and an artsy sensibility. The motto was and continues to be something like ?A café with its heart in the arts.? I liked it both ways, but was pleasantly surprised when my wife and I escaped from the monsoon of the Sunday before last on an ill-timed afternoon when we left the boy with a sitter. Remembering a notion that they had begun serving sandwiches, and regretting that the Long Room opens late on Sunday, we stepped into a clean and attractive room with a very pleasant (if a tad loud) jazz quartet entertaining about three guests. The cappucino or latte or whatever my wife ordered provided a welcome respite from the storm outside, but the food was the real surprise. We had eaten lunch earlier, but searching for open houses in a thunderstorm had made us hungry. We ordered a panini and something I think called tiriokopitas. The panini was quite good, with more ingredients in the filling than I would usually expect?chicken, olives, tomato, greens, blue cheese, prosciutto. That may not be quite right, but that was the impression the sandwich left, which is perhaps just as important. The flavors worked well together, and it was rather larger than expected, which in this instance I appreciated.

But the tiriokopitas (?) were, to me, a real gem of a dish. The phyllo dough was light and fresh in exactly the way that most of these kinds of things should be but aren?t, the filling was herbs and cheese (feta and something else I think), and each piece was delightfully drizzled with honey which really made each bite something to savor. Another inspired stroke was to garnish the plate with orange slices sprinkled with cinnamon, a fresh, citrusy counterpoint to the savory sweetness of the little pies. Don?t know much about jazz, but a chalkboard behind the bar promised all sorts of Trios and Quartets and Projects throughout the week, including the cabaret work of Spider Saloff on Sunday evenings. Definitely worth checking out.

Café Miranda is another place that serves coffee, deserts, and ice cream that opened last week on Western just across from The Cheese Stands Alone. The only thing made on-site is the coffee. An eclectic pastry selection includes cheesecake, cannoli, baklava, and fruit tarts, all provided by Sweet Connections, I think is the name. The source of the ice cream is a bit unclear to me. I think I heard Rangers Dairy Farm and Dean?s but I?m not sure quite what that means. When offered a sample of the gelato, I was generously given a whole pistachio scoop. It was not particularly good, but the owner assured me that Al Gelato would begin providing the gelato soon. She also said they would be offering sandwiches as of this week. Not sure if those are to be made on premises or not. Cute place, whimsically painted by a friend of the proprietor (whimsical may be the wrong word but it?s close; I?m also left with an impression of those colorful murals sometimes painted under el tracks), friendly people. I?m curious to hear more as other people try this place.

Finally, J?s Hot Dog stand. I?m not sure if this is the proper name. I left this place out of my embarrassingly long Irving Park summary I think and have amazingly never been, despite it being just blocks from where I live (of course, I?ve never been to the Leona?s that?s even closer, and I doubt I?ll live to regret that). Not much to say really. It?s a hot dog stand. I thought the dog itself was pretty good, though, as far as Vienna Beef goes, a definite step up from Alex?s on Irving Park, and maybe better than the recently closed Manny?s Dog House. But at this level of hot doggery, these are subtle shades of difference. No poppy seeds, by the way, and the bun offered a little less resistance to the tooth than I desire. But I?ll probably return when I crave a hot dog.

1920 W. Irving Park

Cafe Miranda
4544 N. Western Avenue

J's Corner Hot Dog
3845 N. Elston Avenue

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