Away from the Tourist Bustle, 5 Great Chicago Neighborhoods to Visit

by  Joseph Hernandez | Oct 1, 2013
Chicago skyline
Chicago skyline / JByard/iStock

The Windy City has a second nickname: The City of Neighborhoods. Truly, when you leave the downtown area dubbed The Loop, you’ll find yourself in one of Chicago’s many diverse ‘hoods, each with its own pulse, energy and identity. Below are five of the areas experiencing a boon in popularity.

Pilsen: Chicago’s large Mexican population calls this neighborhood south and west of the Loop home. The cultural anchor of artsy Pilsen is the National Museum of Mexican Art, with a vast collection of Mexican-American fine and folk art. Meanwhile, well-worn 18th Street is a hub of activity. Restaurants like Mundial-Cocina Mestiza—which dishes out Mexican classics elevated with European culinary flare—share street space with greasy spoons like Don Pedro Carnitas, but it's too difficult to decide between one or the other; cut your caloric losses and treat yourself to both.

Lincoln Square: Located off the northwestern end of the Brown Line on the L, sleepy Lincoln Square is a young family’s dream. Originally home to the city’s German population, it is now a buzzing neighborhood with cute shops, delicious international restaurants and a handful of attractions, yet still manages to fly under the radar. Catch a show or class at the Old Town School of Folk Music, or a second-run flick at the old-timey and charming Davis Theater. Looking to nosh? Take your pick: Nhu Lan Bakery serves some of the best banh mi around; saunter to Pannenkoeken Café for Dutch pancakes; or head to The Daily for classic American bar food, done right.

Logan Square: If Wicker Park is Chicago’s answer to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, then Logan Square is its Bushwick. Here, you’ll find hipster students mixed with Puerto Rican families in a quickly gentrifying area. Hip mixology spots like The Whistler serve up expert cocktails, but if you want to avoid the crowd, check out gin bar Scofflaw, which is far enough from the hustle and bustle to avoid drawing attention. Local boutiques, bookstores and cafes dot Milwaukee Avenue but nothing beats a Bourbon, neat at Michelin-starred Longman & Eagle, or the weekly farmer’s dinner at Lula Café

Andersonville: Formerly populated by Chicago’s Swedish population, Andersonville is now home to young families and LGBT professionals. Often considered the second Boystown, the quieter Andersonville is full of LGBT-friendly local businesses and services. Chicago Filmmakers, a small non-profit film group, organizes the Reeling LGBT Film Festival, the world’s second oldest festival dedicated to LGBT film, while Women and Children First—an iconic fixture in the neighborhood—is a women- and feminist-centric bookstore that hosts events and readings.

Wicker Park (Division Street): Walk 10 minutes south of the Damen Street Blue Line station and you’ll come to the southern edge of Wicker Park. Up and down Division, you’ll find a bustling-yet-more charming foil to the activity of the Six Corners area of the Wicker Park. Host to festivals like the Renegade Craft Fair, boutique-lined Division is like walking through Etsy in real life. Definitely check out mainstays Gamma Player and Le Dress, while Alliance Bakery is a must for tasty European-style baked goods.

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