So I drove the length of Belmont to 5600 West, hoping to try the Bulgarian place Chicago By Night. I'd seen a flyer in the back of a cab advertising it as a happy-go-lucky Bulgarian diner/sports bar. Maybe like the Sofia Hooters. Also, RST noted that a Bulgarian contact had mentioned it. I unfortunately stepped into this overwhelmingly smoky place with my wife, who would be the only woman there other than the scantily clad waitstaff. The crowd was basically a group of surly looking guys having after work beers and smokes, watching soccer in silence. Didn't see anyone eating, and didn't feel real comfortable, so we left. (PS, neither of us has too fragile a psyche. I'm prone to stroll into small-town taverns where the locals are a bit cool to outsiders. As long as I'm respectful I've rarely had problems. Here I felt palpable hostility and got looks from the staff that said "get lost.")
So on to Lutnia down the street. A truly bizarre place, but very good polish food and nice folks. Decor was basically Liberace's rec room. White, down to the baby grand, with mirrors, silk flowers and red shag carpet. You also get fine service from a tuxedo clad waiter with your free soup (white borscht was good) and free appetizer (a boiled egg smothered in a mayo-based salad dressing w/ a dollop of decent caviar (!)). I had the veal goulash (paprikash) which was quite excellent with its enourmous potato pancacke. Also, for you fans of (female) Polish servers with "fetchingly broken English," to borrow your phrase, you really might want to stop by.
Anyway, I spent 40 bucks and felt like Polish royalty. I realize that Lutnia is challenge-exempt, since it is fairly well-documented.
Coming back down Belmont, at around Pulaski (?) I noticed a very primitive looking place with a hand-painted sign proclaiming "Botanas Indias" and hand-made tortillas. I went into this bare-bones storefront at around 9 pm, and was informed that there was no food, yet. Apparently, strangely, they had just started cooking the evening's offerings in the dented pots and pans atop the ancient stove.
My last stop was the Greek American coffee shop, a few strip malls east of the Penguin on Lawrence. This is truly one of the cafeneios that RST was telling us about. A bunch of old Greek guys playing cards, drinking coffee, smoking and watching soccer. No one spoke English, which I took as a good sign. I ordered two souvlakis with salad to go, and the little old lady behind the counter stared cutting up the meats and vegetables. Given the kind of place this is, I'd like to report that it was a real find. However, the food was only ok, without much flavor. Rice pudding was fine, also.
So, I tried. Maybe this will help someone who has been considering a visit to one of these rarely-if-ever discussed places.
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