April 15, 2014

North Side Weekly: Eating burritos and watching Lifetime in Logan Square

It’s time to burst this Hyde Park bubble. We’ve read of a particular Northwestern student’s terrifying Red Line experience, and we have a plethora of resources on South Side happenings. But how does the other half live? What are their weekday watering holes? Where is their cash-only, President-endorsed restaurant? I ventured to the north, specifically Logan Square, to investigate and to experience.

I began my night at 2 Amigos, where I had the fortune of consuming the most generously portioned taco salad I have ever eaten, dwarfing any tortilla-wrapped food I have had at Chipotle, or rather, dwarfing any plate of food I have had for a mere $6. This meal itself revealed to me that the North Side is a land of plenty, a place where the word “burrito” roughly translates to “dense brick of food,” the margaritas refuse to be diluted with weak lime juice, and sour cream rests atop your meal like the frosting of a decadent meat cupcake. Following this hurriedly consumed meal, my party traveled further north on Milwaukee Avenue—a journey during which we navigated through many plaid-clad crowds as we headed toward the recently restored Comfort Station.

The Comfort Station dates back to the trolley riding days of the early 1900s when the station’s purpose was, as the name suggests, providing shelter for those looking for rest after a hard day of trolley transport. However, on this night, the Comfort Station’s purpose was to provide a venue for a screening of the Lifetime Original Movies made-for-TV gem, Fifteen and Pregnant. Natalie Jose, Candy Lawrence, and Katie McVay, three Chicago comedians, offered live commentary on this film, which somehow manages to capture Kirsten Dunst in the afterglow of Jumanji and prior to her roles in The Virgin Suicides and Spider-Man. Kirsten Dunst is very 15 and very pregnant, and the film itself is very funny.

However, we can all watch Lifetime Original programming in Hyde Park, too, albeit without the distinct pleasure of listening to comedians make gentle fun of Kirsten Dunst’s character’s overweight sister. Being at the screening was not unlike attending the first house movie night of one’s first year, when everyone thinks watching Teeth and Zoolander is a good way to get to know each other and really create lasting, fond memories. It is a relief to learn that our brothers and sisters up north operate on a familiar level of irony in regards to their taste in Friday night crowd-pleasing flicks.

What’s more unique to the Logan Square neighborhood is the Comfort Station space itself and others like it. Hyde Park suffers from a dearth of community spaces where, if you so desire, you can perform at an open mic one day and attend a smartphone symphony the next. Perhaps University-provided amenities and sponsored organizations are the appropriate substitute, but they don’t properly fill that gap. Don’t get me wrong; Hyde Park is not without its charms (I have learned of the benefits of the South Side on a weekly basis), but I think that if we trade yet another Asian food restaurant ending in “55” for a non-University space designed for community organization and enjoyment, we could stand to benefit.

After watching Dunst grapple with the very real difficulties of teenage pregnancy and a flaky greaser boyfriend in the ’90s, I visited Revolution Brewery (of Drinking Buddies fame). As one would expect, the beer was fantastic, the selection was expansive, and tap handles neatly lined the bar as far as the eye could see in the crowded room.

The brewery’s aesthetic was just like most other moderately upscale Chicago eateries, by which I mean lots of exposed brick and polished wood. I thought for sure I could get valuable insight into the North Side community by way of eavesdropping and conversing with inebriated locals; you know, really get a chance to witness the excess that popularly characterizes any space north of the Loop. Disappointingly, no one was interested in joining in my own conversation with friends about Kirsten Dunst’s career. Instead the room was mostly buzzing with references to booze, sports, and inside jokes.

Perhaps there is nothing incredibly special or different about living in Logan Square, at least as far as hanging out on Friday night goes. In that way, the city could be more homogenous than we think. Maybe there isn’t a huge disparity between a ramshackle second-story house show joint up north and what’s buzzing on 54th and Woodlawn.

In short, go north for the generous portions and unique community arts spaces, leave because the beer is eight bucks and you probably don’t own enough plaid and raw denim to compete. Either way, it’s important to know that even after your deadbeat boyfriend and fair-weather friends desert you, you’ll always have your catty mother to turn to in case of an unexpected pregnancy.