Chicago’s Bucktown is a young, fun neighborhood with great independent boutique shopping and fun restaurants. Don’t miss:
Mindy’s Hot Chocolate: A great neighborhood spot with really good food. It is a restaurant and dessert bar. Don’t miss the desserts as chef Mindy Segal received a 2011 James Beard Foundation nomination for Outstanding Pastry Chef in the country. 1747 N. Damen.
Le Bouchon: A traditional French bistro with great ambiance and food. You will feel like you are in a small neighborhood restaurant in Paris. 1958 N. Damen. They are also open for lunch which I prefer to avoid the crowds.
Feast: A great restaurant just north of the intersection of Milwaukee, Damen and North. They have a lovely outdoor seating area that is perfect for lunch on a gorgeous summer day. 1616 N. Damen
Club Lucky: Looks like an old neighborhood supper club with good Italian food and retro atmosphere. The Christmas decorations in December are outstanding. 1824 W. Wabansia.
Cafe Absinthe: Located at 1954 W. North Ave., Cafe Absinthe has been a neighborhood staple since 1994. The atmosphere, with exposed brick walls, is warm and perfect on a cold Chicago night. It is known for its good French/American cuisine.
Jane’s: Located at 1653-55 W. Cortland, this is a really good neighborhood place since 1993. The pitched roof, with broad timber beams and the exposed brick walls, create a warm cozy atmosphere. The dishes are always great. They also do a nice Sunday brunch as well.
Buzz Killer Espresso: A local coffee shop, that was just redone, is a good spot for a shopping break. 1644 N. Damen.
LOKaL Restaurant and Lounge, 1904 W. North Ave.: Always good comfort food with a Polish influence. The restaurant becomes a busy bar and cocktail lounge late in the evening. They also have a popular brunch. I have eaten great entrees here in the past two years.
Dixie: Recently open in the former Takashi restaurant at 1952 N. Damen, this is a hot new restaurant, opened by the chef/owner of Lillie’s Q and featuring a contemporary take on Southern cuisine. The menu consists primarily of small or shared plates. I really enjoyed the biscuits with pepper jelly; the shrimp with rice grits, corn and peas; the corn custard with crawfish and a tasty bay scallop dish. Their small cocktail lounge in the back, 1952 ½, features a number of Southern inspired cocktails and Kentucky bourbons.
Lillie’s Q is located at 1856 W. North Ave. It is a great spot for barbecue. I read it was a great spot for brunch where they feature shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, other egg dishes and more. I enjoyed my meal with a local friend.
A wonderful new addition to the city is in the Bucktown neighborhood at the corner of North, Damen and Milwaukee right at the Blue Line stop. Groupo Habita from Mexico City has opened two properties in two historic buildings. The first, The Hollander, is a 20 room, high-end hostel, featuring shared as well as private rooms. It is good for singles, families and small groups. They have a coffee shop in the lobby run by Metric Coffee with a grab-and-go menu. A bike repair and rental shop is planned in the future. Next to it is the 69 room The Robey Chicago which has 69 rooms. It is aimed at independent and global travelers who appreciate great style and design. The Robey features 400-thread count sheets, WiFi and a swimming pool. The second floor lounge offers coffee by day and cocktails by night. Cafe Robey, is a French American bistro on the ground floor and there is a 35-seat rooftop bar overlooking the neighborhood which is open to guests and their friends. I thought the meal and service were really outstanding. The salmon entree, grilled octopus appetizer, plus butternut squash and brussel sprouts sides were perfectly prepared. The view from the upstairs bar is amazing.