As a die-hard public transit fan (I don't own a car), I know of no greater pleasure than taking a train trip to a new place. The Brown Line offers a cornucopia of wonderful stops in a variety of neighborhoods, including Lincoln Park, Albany Park and Lincoln Square.
One of my favorites is the Western Avenue Brown Line stop as it's right next to the cluster of local shops on Lincoln Avenue and beyond. For this mini-tour, I'm offering a few destinations right on Western Avenue for you to check out. After this, you should definitely wander on your own to check out other avenues of opportunity in the Lincoln Square neighborhood.
The Biscuit of Champions
Located just a block south of the Western stop, Dave and Megan Miller are at at the helm of Baker Miller, a breakfast spot. And the Miller in their name? Yes, they are actual millers and you can buy their flour on premises and at other outlets around town.
Their menu is divided into sweet and savory items and I'd suggest grabbing some of their coffee and their biscuits and gravy. The soft wheat biscuits are covered in vegetarian sawmill pepper gravy and you can add a bit of sausage as well. The oatmeal is also top-notch and they also have sandwiches and other pastry items. It's a great way to start your journey here and just remember they are closed on Mondays.
Oh, Such Silver!
A few doors down, you'll find a curious storefront decorated with woven textiles and other curious. It's the headquarters of Nomadic Ant, purveyors and designers of unique and wonderful silver jewelry and more. Their work brings together silver, nickel, turquoise, red coral, onyx and other materials in a most artful fashion. It's a fun place to visit and you should definitely check out their website before heading on over there. Bonus: Every third Thursday they have "Bring Your Vinyl" from 5-9 p.m. Bring your Coltrane, Sufjan, or what have you to listen and possibly trade.
A Bit of Germany
The DANK Haus German American Cultural Center is hard to miss as it's a few hundred feet north of the Western Avenue El station in an imposing building (look for the German and American flags). Once inside, I'd recommend starting with the "Lost German Chicago" exhibit and then moving on to the Scharpenberg Art Gallery, which contains rotating exhibits by German and German American artists. If you're interested, they also offer German classes, which is perfect if you're interested in learning the language of Grass, Goethe, and other literary luminaries. Not surprisingly, they also offer quite an Octoberfest celebration.
Photos: Western Brown Line by trippchicago via flickr; Nomadic Ant courtesy of Facebook; DANK Haus by Max Grinnell