The Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen is known for its murals and mosaics. (©Seth Anderson)
Here in Chicago, civic pride goes down to the neighborhood level. Block by block, we own—and boast about—what’s here, what’s gone away, what’s coming. Take a bite from our sampler of four Chicago neighborhoods that subside on more than hype alone.
We’re just as over the term hipster as you are, but if it gives you a reference point to describe a gentrified neighborhood with an artistic backbone, great restaurants and an even greater nightlife scene, then so be it.
Before the ‘hood got noticed, brunch favorite Lula Café, now in its 15th year, was luring the locals with its farm-to-table fare cooked on a four-burner stove. You’re more likely to snag a dinner reservation, though—tables for brunch might be weeks out. For a post-dinner cocktail, hit Revolution Brewing for the Anti-Hero IPAs, Scofflaw for potent gin cocktails or Billy Sunday for a Harvey Walbanger. Not ready to call it a night? Hit the Skee-Ball lanes—and dance floor—at Slippery Slope.
Getting there: Take the Blue Line to Logan Square.
From a pure real estate perspective, it’s hard to deny the clout—and walking score—of this lakeside neighborhood. Stately row houses, mansions and townhomes mix with modern condos; DePaul University, in the heart of it all, along with critically acclaimed theater companies keep its spirit young. You can see why the Bugaboo strollers are permanent fixtures. With all this culture and a free, neighboring zoo at your front door, why would you leave?
Kickstart the day with a pressed juice and Pitchfork Wrap at Blue Door Farm Stand, then walk off Gruyere, Swiss, Havarti cheeses along boutique shopping rows Armitage and Halsted avenues (we have never left Lori’s shoes without a pair of pumps). Too cold out? The Peggy Notebaert Museum’s Judy Istock Butterfly Haven feels downright tropical, and you’ll have that momentous smartphone snap of a Monarch landing on your eye. Catch Steppenwolf Theatre’s reimagined Gilbert and Sullivan production “Mikado.” Wear the loose pants for dinner at any one of the gourmet fantasies planted here—Balena, Alinea (if you can get a table), Boka, North Pond Café, L20 and so on. Have a nightcap at The Red Lion Pub, whose pints taste better in the company of Tudor beams, Union Jacks and wall-to-wall shelves stacked with books about British history.
In this north side hamlet of diversity known for its fierce support of locally owned businesses, civic pride peeks back to historically Swedish roots and looks forward as one of the city’s largest gay and lesbian communities.
It’s worth the wait for brioche French toast at m. henry. Then browse long-beloved Women and Children First bookstore and stop for a photo-op at the Swedish Dala horse before visiting the well-run Swedish American Museum, whose top-floor children’s museum steers refreshingly clear of bells and whistles. Indie shopping rules with doting salesmen at Alamo Shoes, indoor art market Andersonville Galleria, and fun frame shop Foursided. Nights mean Southern-accented fried chicken at Big Jones and 64 beers on tap at Hopleaf—try any with the legendary mussels. Stay late for dancing at gay bar @mosphere, hunkering down at super-divey Simon’s bar with a warm mug of glögg (available starting Nov. 26), or catching 30 plays in 60 minutes at the Neo-Futurarium.
Getting there: #22 Clark bus or walkable from Berwyn and Bryn Mawr Red Line El stops
When Chicagoans think Pilsen, we stereotypically think taquerías and vibrant public murals and mosaics. And that, there are—you’ll see one of those murals upon exiting the Pink Line El train. But there’s also a thriving art scene, with more than 30 galleries dotting a few tight-knit blocks. Like the layered paintings at Oscar Martinez gallery, textured photographs at Xavier Nuez, and performance art at Temple Gallery. Anchoring the area’s artistic endeavors is the National Museum of Mexican Art.
As for that authentic Mexican cuisine, locals swear by the budget-priced, 50-year-strong BYOB Nuevo Leon, while DeColores lures diners with its mole poblano and raved-about guac. Stop at Chocolat for Uzma Sharif’s handmade truffles, and Dulcería Lupitas for sweet, sour, and red pepper-spiked candies to fill a piñata. Bringing a new vibe to the neighborhood is the revitalized historic Thalia Hall, a triple threat with beer hall Dusek’s, cocktail bar Punch House and a music venue.
Getting there: Pink Line El train to 18th Street