Wicker Park is the neighborhood just south of Bucktown with fun restaurants, galleries, boutique stores and bars. My recommendations include:
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.
After getting great press, I had to try Publican Anker at 1576 N. Milwaukee. It is the newest concept of One Off Hospitality which owns Blackbird, Avec, Big Star, The Violet Hour, The Publican, Nico Osteria and Dove’s Luncheonette. They are open for lunch, dinner and brunch on weekends. I loved the design and had a wonderful lunch of cauliflower soup and a turkey sandwich. I was impressed the the quality and freshness. According to them, “Publican Anker is an homage to the early 20th century saloons and breweries that once comprised Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Our mission is to capture the spirit of those timeless establishments and translate it to guests in a way that feels storied and modern all at once.” Mission accomplished! They are now accepting reservations online.
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.
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!