The edgier neighborhood just south of Bucktown with fun restaurants, galleries, boutique stores and bars:
Flatiron Arts Building: At the corner of North, Damen and Milwaukee, this is an 88,000 square foot structure located at the epicenter of the Wicker Park/Bucktown artist’s community. The building is chock full of galleries and artists studios on its three floors. Every first Friday of the Month, the studios are open for an art walk.
Bongo Room: 1470 N. Milwaukee Avenue. It has been a go-to spot for fresh and seasonal breakfast and brunch food since 1993. They also have restaurants in Andersonville and the South Loop.
Tocco: This N. Milwaukee Anenue Italian restaurant is housed in a sleek, contemporary, minimalist space that has an attractive patio for summer dining. The food is always excellent. Make sure to meet Bruno Abate, the charming owner! 1266 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Davenport’s Piano Bar: Well known bar featuring the best in cabaret music from such greats as Andrea Marcovicci. Seating is in The Bar in front and in the larger club, The Cabaret, in the back. 1383 N. Milwaukee.
A new neighborhood hot spot known for its tacos is Big Star at 1531 N. Damen. It has indoor seating as well as a huge outdoor patio. It is perfect for lunch on a beautiful Summer day. Their newer restaurant next door is Dove’s Luncheonette featuring Southern-inspired Mexican food. They also offer breakfast specials until 2pm. It has the feel of an old neighborhood diner where you sit at traditional counter seats. I really enjoyed it as did my guest. 1545 N. Damen.
Across the street, the owners of Big Star and Dove’s Luncheonette have The Violet Hour at 1520 N. Damen. This stylish and elegant cocktail lounge features craft cocktails and small bites. It is not marked except for the address on the building to the upper right of the door. It tends to get crowded with long lines, so I would go as early as possible.
Cumin is a good choice for Nepalese/Indian food at 1414 N. Milwaukee.
A great new find is Antique Taco, which has great tacos in a rustic setting with both indoor and outdoor seating. It is at 1360 N. Milwaukee. Also for Mexican and the latest in Rick Bayless’s restaurant empire is the new Fonda Frontera at 1471 N. Milwaukee. It is a sleek, upscale space that is a Mexico City-style neighborhood restaurant with an emphasis on cocktails, mezcals and tequilas.
Another hot new restaurant is Shin Thompson’s new ramen shop, Furious Spoon, at 1571 N. Milwaukee. He received a Michelin Star for his former Bonsoiree restaurant on Armitage. It is a casual spot with long communal tables and great ramen!