loren Eric Swanson: North Park College

Monday, March 19, 2007

North Park College

This weekend I've been in the Chicago area speaking at a Externally Focused Conference. In our family photo album is a picture of my dad peering out through the gates of North Park College in Chicago (It has since been changed to North Park University). So yesterday I took a short drive to see how the campus looks. It's a great school with Swedish Covenant roots and an outstanding Swedish restaurant right across the street from what is now Old Main. Of course I stopped in for some Swedish Pandcakes and lingenberries. Tre Kroner is the name of the restaurant. A following is an online review:
Tre Kroner (Three Crowns in Swedish - check out their flag) is a small restaurant sitting in the incredibly diverse North Park neighborhood of North-Central Chicago. Walking in that neighborhood, you are apt to pass people of the over 20 language groups represented in only a few blocks. The restaurants within a few blocks of Tre Kroner reflect this as well - Chinese, Mexican, Ecuadorian, and Middle-Eastern cuisine are within 100 yds of the door (the Thai restaurant just closed, unfortunately). Across from North Park University and Theological Seminary (run by the Evangelical Covenant Church, a Swedish-descended denomination), Tre Kroner provides meals with a scandanavian flavor, mostly Swedish, but with a few Norwegian flares to round the pot. It is a mandatory item for nearly every overnight visit of mine to Chicago. Reservations are accepted for dinner, but I never make them, as the wait is usually short for a table. Lunchtime is a different story. Tastefull light jazz or big-band music plays quietly in the background. HOURS Tuesday-Saturday 7:00am-10:00pm. Sun 9:00am- 3:00pm LAYOUT Walking through the doors, your first impression is how small the restaurant is. On warm days, the line for tables often spills into the sidewalk. On cold Chicago days, a walk by the window will reveal whether there is any room to stand inside (next to tables) - if not, you may want to try again later. Two moderately-sized tables sit in the middle of the small room, each able to hold 6 people. The rest of the tables are for couples (those by the streetside window can seat 4 in a pinch) and line the walls. Some of the tables are quite cramped, and the tables themselves are close enough to make the setting "intimate" with those other than your planned dinner companions. DECOR The most apparent addition to the decor is the whole-wall mural of a pastoral setting with somewhat goofy-looking fairy tale creatures playing marbles. Yes, this sounds strange, and it is. But it somehow seems to fit with the decor. The rest of the walls are tastefully decorated with Scandanavian flags, pictures and posters. Tables are covered with linens with paper over-covers which are replaced between diners. A small bud vase and candle holder are on each table. The coffee/juice/cash register service area, complete with an espresso-cappuccino machine, is a cutout in one wall, decorated to look like a dark wood gazebo. SERVICE If the setting makes you think that you are in for a diner-style meal, the service will erase that thought immediately. Servers are well-trained, polite, attentive, and professional. The service is well above average, with attention to the rules of ettiquette above that of "fancier" restaurants. You don't have to worry about your main course being stacked on top of your half-finished soup in a rush for assembly-line efficiency, nor will a server hover over your table waiting for you to present payment for the bill. However, the servers are watchful, and a subtle glance will bring quick eye contact and immediate response. MEALS Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner are available through the week, with Brunch on Sundays. My favorites for Breakfast are their quiches, which change from day to day, but usually include a vegetable and a seafood selection at a minimum. Swedish pancakes and potato pancakes with ligonberry are another favorite with those I have met at the restaurant. Meusli, fruit, and other lighter fare are available. Expect to finish a good breakfast, including a stout espresso for about $10. Lunch and dinner offer similar menus and also vary from day to day depending on what is available at market. Quiche is usually available for lunch as well as breakfast. For dinner, I usually go full-hog" with several courses. Hearty breads, coarse grain crackers, and light swedish wafers with cheese spreads help you bide your time over conversation as you await your meal. Soups vary from day to day, and their thick vegetable offerings are among my favorites. If you wish for a salad, try their berry vinaigrette. The salmon dishes they prepare are always wonderful, with imaginative sauces that compliment rather than smother. Their fillets are also well-performed and again sauces are a high point. Portions are sufficient, not overwhelming. Presentation is a point of pride, and dishes are usually accompanied by a comfortable (if not huge) portion of vegetables such as asparagus arranged in a decorative manner. For non-meat eaters, there are several vegetarian offerings. Homemade berry pies and a cappuccino are my favorite finishing touches. I usually walk from lunch in the $10-12 range, and dinner will run me $20-30 with tip. One downside is that they don't have a liquor license, but they also don't charge you a corking fee if you bring your own bottle of wine.Recommended:Yes


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