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 a second location in Andersonville.
Davenport’s Piano Bar and Cabaret: For over 25 years, this is a well-known bar featuring the best in cabaret music, from such greats as Andrea Marcovicci. Seating is in the Piano Bar in front and in the larger club, The Cabaret, in the back. I recently went back after several years and enjoyed a salute to Frank Sinatra in The Cabaret. 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. For unscale Indian food I also recommend KAMA at 1560 N. Milwaukee. Opened in September, 2023 this is a attractive space with an “Indian-inspired Americana” menu. I enjoyed the garlic naan and the lamb in a coconut curry sauce.
At 1415 N. Wood, just east of N. Milwaukee, is Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods, a funky space featuring New Orleans cuisine. In 2019, Chef Brian Jupiter was named a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef Great Lakes. I recommend it for Saturday or Sunday brunch, when they have live music. I had the Louisiana Grand Slam, which included scrambled eggs, a choice of meat, a buttered biscuit, fruit of the day, breakfast potatoes and grits. It was all great! It was topped off with a yummy beignet! My friends loved the biscuit and gravy and the fried chicken and pancakes.
La Colombe Coffee Roasters is located at 1552 N. Damen near the Blue Line station. Grab a coffee and then head to Stan’s Donuts & Coffee at 1560 N. Damen for one of their decadent creations. They have 22 Chicago area locations. The Starbucks at the corner, 1588 N. Milwaukee, is actually one of the most attractive stores that I have seen in Chicago.
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.
Opened in March, 2019, Cebu is a new Wicker Park spot featuring authentic Filipino cuisine at 2211 W. North Ave. A longtime friend was born in the Philippines and wanted to have me experience the cuisine of his homeland for the first time. I was glad that I read about this new spot. The staff is great and it has a casual, contemporary design. Currently the menu has a small number of traditional dishes, but will be expanded soon. I was extremely impressed with the quality of the food. I loved the chicken adobo, the garlic rice and the atchara which is a salad made with pickled papaya and jicama. I loved tasting the turon (deep fried banana rolls) and the halo-halo with ube ice cream for dessert. I highly recommend the experience!
Before you head to Cebu, stop down the street for a cocktail at Handlebar at 2311 W. North Ave. This is a casual neighborhood bar and restaurant. Opened in 2003, it is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It also has a great patio in the rear during the warmer months.
The Delta at 1745 W. North Ave. is my most recent find. It is a fun, casual spot know for its craft cocktails and Southern cooking including catfish, fried chicken and other cuisine from the Mississippi Delta region.
The area along Division St. between Ashland and N. Damen Ave. is a thriving neighborhood of restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. Many have outdoor patios or seating.
I just went to a great new addition that opened in early 2019 is Machine: Engineered Dining & Drink at 1846 W. Division. It is a sleek, contemporary restaurant located inside a florist shop. The interior is really stunning and the food excellent. They feature lunch, dinner and brunch on weekend. I went for lunch and enjoyed a tasty grilled cheese sandwich and side salad. To enhance the experience you can request a flower cart at your table where you can created your own floral arrangement. They also have outdoor seating as well.
Across the street is the casual Parlor Pizza Bar at 1824 W. Division. It has a great outdoor patio.
Also good is Bangers and Lace at 1670 W. Division is a fun spot for craft beer, sandwiches and salads. They do have a brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
On the southeast side of the neighborhood is the casual Mixteco Mexican Grill. I went for dinner at the last minute on Mexican Independence Day with a local friend. They have a large menu of Mexican specialties from tacos, burritos, quesadillas, fajitas, quacamole and chips and tasty desserts. I enjoyed two shrimp tacos, a battered fried fish taco and a great tres leches cake. The staff could not have been friendlier.
After reading several articles, I made it a point to visit Beer Baron Row. This group of historic mansions stretches for about two blocks on Hoyne Avenue north from Pierce. Many of these homes were built by German immigrants who made a fortune in the brewing business, like John Raap. He was a beer merchant and wholesale liquor retailer who built a stately red brick home at 1407 North Hoyne Avenue.
Around the corner at 2137 W. Pierce is the Herman Weinhardt House. It was built in the 1880s for German businessman Hermann Weinhardt.