Most of us at the U of C have a deep and enduring passion for learning. Perhaps this is why some people become so wrapped up in the Life of the Mind that they neglect other aspects of their lives. Though scholarship should be our priority, we should also make time to take advantage of the amazing opportunities beyond the walls of the library. While it’s tempting to camp in a Reg cubicle until the beginning of spring quarter, beat the winter blahs by bundling up, braving the blustery winds, and getting off campus and into the city.
Although it is kind of a trek, trendy Andersonville is worth the trip. Take the #55 bus to the Garfield Red Line station and ride to the Berwyn stop. Before you balk at waiting on the platforms, remember that the elevated stops are outfitted with heat lamps. Walk down Berwyn to Clark Street and get ready to stuff your face, your closet, and your bookshelf without emptying your wallet.
Fuel up for a day of shopping with a savory crepe at Icosium Kafe (5200 North Clark Street). The food at this charming Moroccan restaurant is both beautiful and bountiful. Start your meal off with the mint tea and honey, served in a lovely silver teapot, or the monster-sized and succulent dulce de leche. All crepes come with a side of soup, so be sure to opt for the delicious vegetable puree with hints of yellow squash and carrots. For the main dish, choose from a sweet confection like the Crepe Aziz (fresh strawberries, kiwi, and dark chocolate or nutella), or a savory dish like the Cheka Chouka crepe (roasted bell peppers, arugula, goat cheese, carmelized onions, Roma tomatoes, pine nuts, roasted garlic, and baby spinach). If you don’t find a crepe on the menu to salivate over, you can make a custom one. Unlike many crepes, these thin pancakes aren’t sickly sweet, but light and porous. The decor is amazing—beaded chandeliers and fresh flowers adorn each table—and the service is great; our waitress let us sit and chat at the table long after we finished our meal and didn’t bring us the check until we asked for it. Expect to spend about $10 a person for food and drinks.
If you’re not in the mood for crepes, feed on some fabulous falafel at Taste of Lebanon (1509 West Foster Avenue). Gorge on massive portions of schwarma, lentil soup, and falafel wraps piled high with tomatoes and tahini. Cheap eats are a dime a dozen in Chicago, but these prices are almost ridiculous. A meal of pita, soup, and sandwich will run you only six dollars. Be sure to plan ahead though: Taste of Lebanon is cash-only and closed on Sundays.
Those of you who can never get enough cheap, chunky accessories will want to raid the kitschy costume jewelry selection at Presence (5216 North Clark Street). I scored a headband with delicate felt flowers, a simple gold ring with a single amber stone, and a whimsical necklace with shreds of pastel shells. Frugal fashionistas will also want to scour the handbag selection. I found a chic faux-snakeskin clutch for $14. The cocktail dresses are perfect for a last-minute party ensemble—you can look like a million bucks for less than $40. A zebra-print dress with kimono sleeves might be inappropriate for Sosc class but would be a cute look for a night on the town.
Bibliophiles should make a stop at Women and Children First Bookstore (5233 North Clark Street), a great place to shop for feminist classics and provocative new releases in queer literature. If your bookshelves are already overflowing, peruse the gift section, which includes snarky, politically charged satirical pieces and alternative menstrual products. The bookstore also hosts feminist-friendly readings and gatherings such as the upcoming Lesbian Poetry Celebration on February 15. Check their website (womenandchildrenfirst.com) for a full list of events.
On your way back to the El, grab a tasty bite to go at the Pasticceria Natalina (5406 North Clark). This elegant-but-affordable Sicilian bakery offers pastries, cannolis, marzipan fruits, and deliciously rich dark chocolate. When the weather gets warmer, remember to cool down with some homemade gelato.
As college students, though we strive to sustain the Life of the Mind, we should also remember to get a life outside of the classroom. There’s too much to do in the whole city to have the South Loop be the northern extent of our Chicago adventures. Just for a few hours, leave Foucault in your Reg locker, get on the El, and get exploring!