Chicago Insider: Ania Jablonowski on cerveza tacos, Roscoe Village and Peace Park
How long you’ve lived here: My entire life (30 years), minus a pair of six-month stints in Denver and a bunch of summers in Poland.
What you like best about Chicago: It is home. Whether you’re born and raised here, are a transplant or just visiting, Chicago always seems to make you feel welcomed, loved and at home.
Best meal you’ve had recently: The cerveza taco at La Vaca Margarita Bar in Pilsen. The first bite, you’re thinking: “Whaaat?” in the best way possible.
Favorite big-name restaurant: Freshii is popping up all over Chicago, so I’ll tip my hat to that being a big name. In the land of deep-dish pizza and myocardial infarction fries, the healthy balance is imperative. I’m crazy about Freshii’s burritos.
Favorite “hidden gem” restaurant: BarTucci on the northwest side of the city. Owner Gino Bartucci really embraced his first-generation American roots and created a homey, inviting and memorable Italian experience. The casarecce alla barbabietola (fresh pasta with beets and goat cheese) is divine.
Best sports bar to catch the game: Wrigley Field (yes, the stadium itself).
A great night out with friends usually includes… attending an event or cause that one of the girls in the group is behind. Chicago’s got a great sense of sisterhood.
Favorite store or best shopping area: Roscoe Village has a quirky collection of antique and vintage shops that I can never resist. It’s a great balance of creepy cookie jars to Ditka sweaters and polyester everything in between.
The best way to spend a winter Saturday in the city: Not watching eight hours of online shows. Getting a little frostbite never hurt anyone. Well, maybe a little. But if you’re not taking advantage of all the fun outdoor activities like ice skating and urban exploring, you just can’t hang with Chicago.
One thing every visitor must do here: Impose on a local’s plans. Go for the genuine experience of what a real Chicago weekend feels like in the different neighborhoods and tag along with someone who is going with the flow. No agendas, only going where the cold wind blows.
Secret Chicago spot: Peace Park in East Lakeview, on the inner bike path just between Montrose and Irving Park. There is a high concentration of love and kindness in that little nook. Go there if you need a jolt of joy, and just breathe.
Underrated activity in the city: Winning the Stanley Cup. But seriously, learning about different cultures. We have someone from every part of the world here, and likely a tasty dish too. Venture off into ethnic pockets of Chicago to not just eat, but absorb some knowledge about that community and appreciate what makes this city so great.
What’s one place in Chicago you hear great things about but have yet to try? A hometown brewery like Revolution, Half Acre or Goose Island. I feel like that’s a very touristy thing to do in other cities, yet I forget we have several right in our own backyard.