West of Halsted and River North, this is a fun area of Chicago to explore and find some really great food options!
West Town and Noble Square
You will first come to Flo, a fun spot for breakfast or brunch with New Mexican specialties. 1434 W. Chicago.
At 1444 W. Chicago is Beauty Bar Chicago. This is a hip and colorful nightclub featuring manicures and martinis, DJs and dancing in a retro-salon setting. Manicures are offered to the patrons throughout evening. They have five other US locations in addition to Chicago.
Nearby is Jeong for innovative Korean cuisine. It has received some great press since it opened in March, 2019. 1460 W. Chicago. It is on my list to try.
At the corner of Chicago and Ashland is Beatnik at 1604 W. Chicago. This is a colorful bar and restaurant. The menu melds the flavors and ingredients from Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Spain, France, Morocco, Mexico, Peru and Japan. The amazing interior design has accents of a Mediterranean farmhouse, the colorful opulence of Moorish architecture, and the tropical lushness of Bali with more than 400 living plants throughout the 6,000-square-foot space. They have a separate bar with an extensive wine and cocktail menu. I loved being in the colorful bar and people watching! They have a second location, Beatnik on the River, in downtown Chicago.
Nearby is the Hoosier Mama Pie Company at 1618 W. Chicago, Ave for sweet and savory pies.
For the best gelato, check out Black Dog Gelato at 859 N. Damen, just north of Chicago Ave. The goat cheese, cashew and caramel flavor is one of the best I have ever had anywhere! It is a must every time I am in the neighborhood.
Our most recent find is Homestead on the Roof. At 1924 W. Chicago Ave., this is a wonderful farm-to-table with a small indoor dining room. But the highlight is the 1,000 sq. ft. rooftop restaurant surrounded by its rooftop garden. It is the perfect spot on a Chicago summer night. The menu features farm-fresh seasonal fare in its dinner, desserts, and hand-crafted cocktails. They have a good selection small plates and large plates that can easily be shared. We loved gougeres and the smoked oxtail croquettes to start and equally enjoyed the scallops with the foie mousse, the duck entree and the walleye with the langoustine remoulade. The desserts were also excellent. We loved the nutella drumstick and the peach dessert.
Another recent find is Windy City Cafe at 1062 W. Chicago Ave., just east of Noble Sq. Open for breakfast and lunch they feature a large selection of breakfast items from omelettes, benedicts, skillets, frittatas, pancakes, egg specialties and sides. The smoked salmon benedict was excellent.
On the south end of the neighborhood is Ignite Glass Studio at 401 N. Armour St. It is a gallery featuring hand-blown glass art exhibits and offers classes and demonstrations. I was there for a special event and would love to take a class in glass blowing, which has been on my to-do list for several years.
Around the studio are a number of colorful murals that you can explore.
South of Noble Square and east of West Town is D’Amato’s Bakery at 1124 W. Grand Ave. It is a traditional Italian bakery, since 1970, in a corner location selling breads, cannoli, pizza and subs. I was recently in the area and enjoyed a prosciutto and mozzarella sub sandwich on their outside patio.
I also enjoyed finding Aya Pastry located down the street in West Town at 1332 W Grand Ave. It is known for it breads, cakes, tarts and pastries by pastry chef, Aya Fukai. She won Eater’s National Pastry Chef of the Year in 2016, was nominated in 2017 for James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef and won the Chicago Tribune’s Pastry Chef of the Year in 2018. I really enjoyed the almond and chocolate croissants that I purchased.
Just west 2524 W. Chicago is Shokolad Pastry & Cafe which a Ukrainian cafe offering pastries, cookies and a savory breakfast/lunch menu with sandwiches, crêpes and pierogi. The sandwiches were huge and very good. I was recently back and enjoyed several cookies and a latte.
Across the street at 2521 W. Chicago is Dark Matter Coffee’s Star Lounge. This is a fun cafe with great murals inside and outside on the rear patio. I went for the first time by chance on Mexican Independence Day and and particularly enjoyed the mariachi band on the back porch. They currently have eight locations in Chicago.
Dark Matter also has their Mothership location nearby at 738 N. Western Ave. It is a smaller cafe but contains their roasting facility.
I also enjoyed Tryzub at 2201 W. Chicago. They feature pierogies, crepes, potato pancakes and other Ukrainian specialties. They serve brunch on weekends. I loved a smoked salmon omelette and pierogies. The decor is attractive and somewhat formal.
Nearby, I recently tried A Tavola a small, cozy spot from 1995 that is known for its seasonal Italian menu from local ingredients. They have great gnocchi, pasta, fish, beef and more. There is also a patio for dining in the summer months. 2148 W Chicago Ave.
At 2700 W. Chicago Ave. is Heritage Restaurant & Caviar Bar. Opened in 2017, this is a small, casual neighborhood spot that features cuisine from Chicago’s immigrant roots. They feature a number of appetizers including oysters, plus entrees like port goulash, wood-roasted duck and scallops. They also feature caviar where you can sample roe from more than a dozen types of fish. They also specialize in a large wine list and cocktail menu. I highly recommend it and enjoyed it with friends.
Next door is the newly reopened The California Clipper 1002 N. California Ave. This is a classic bar from 1937 with a retro space and great cocktails. They also feature live music.
Across the street from Spinning J is a fun new find, Segnatore, at 1001 N. California, Ave. Thanks to the Infatuation.com, I read an article in May, 2022, about the best new brunches in Chicago. Segnatore, which opened in November, 2021, was on the list. I met a friend for Sunday brunch and we enjoyed the food and service at this neighborhood Italian rstaurant. I loved my omelette with salad and a latte. The ingredients were so fresh.
In the East Village neighborhood close to West Town, Noble Square and Ukrainian Village is Kasama at 1001 N. Winchester Ave. It is a casual spot offering wonderful pastries, coffee and Filipino specialties. I went on a Saturday for brunch and the line was out the door. So I recommend avoiding weekends if possible. I enjoyed the experience despite the crowds. They are open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday to Sunday from 9am until 2pm. The it is open for coffee and pastries only from 2pm to 4pm. They are then open for dinner with a tasting menu from Thursday through Sunday. In 2022, it was named a James Beard Foundation finalist for Best New Restaurant!
Humboldt Park is also home to Little Puerto Rico and the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture. According to the book Puerto Rican Chicago by Wilfredo Cruz, Puerto Rican immigration peaked in Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s as they came searching for jobs and a good economic future. In 1950 there were 255 Puerto Ricans in the city. By 1960 the number had jumped to over 32,000 and by 1990 it had tripled to 120,000. In 2000 it had reached over 155,000 and is second only to New York City as an immigrant population.
The neighborhood takes its name from Humboldt Park, a 207-acre park designed by William Le Baron Jenney and famed landscape designer Jens Jensen.
The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture is located in the park at 3015 W. Division. The building is located in the historic Humboldt Park Stables and Receptory from the late 1880s. In addition to art exhibitions NMPRAC offers hands-on arts and crafts workshops/classes in painting, drawing, sculpting, printmaking and photography. There are lectures on Puerto Rican culture plus the annual Barrio Arts Festival. This is a two-day community celebration featuring live performances by local musicians and poets, numerous art exhibits, workshops given by the exhibiting artists, and authentic Puerto Rican cuisine.
To the east is the heart of Little Puerto Rico or Paseo Boricua where you can see the east and west Puerto Rican flag sculptures. “These are the matching, abstract sculptural representations of the Puerto Rican flag that arch over the street, 59 feet tall and weighing approximately 45 tons, in vibrant blue and red steel.” In between are a number of local casual restaurants, cafes and shops. There are also colorful murals and street art along with Las Puertas del Paseo Boricua or the painted Doors of the Puerto Rican Promenade.
La Casita de Don Pedro at 2625 W. Division St. is a public art project and walled garden celebrating the Perto Rican nationalist leader Dr. Pedro Abizu Campos.
Make sure to stop in for a coffee and pastry at Café Colao. They also have a menu of sandwiches. Don’t miss the guava queso or guava and cheese pastries! 2638 W. Division.
Across the street the guys at Café Colao recommend La Plena Restaurant for its homestyle Puerto Rican cooking. They also have a thatched-roof patio. I can’t wait to try it. It looks like a fun spot with great painted murals. It is open from Thursday through Sunday. 2617 W Division
East Garfield Park
Approximately two miles southwest of Humboldt Park, is the Garfield Park Conservatory. “It is one of the largest and most stunning conservatories in the nation. Often referred to as “landscape art under glass,” the Garfield Park Conservatory occupies two acres of public greenhouse space and 10 acres of outdoor gardens. Constructed between 1906 and 1907, and opened to the public in 1908, the Garfield Park Conservatory was designed by Jensen in collaboration with Prairie School architects Schmidt, Garden and Martin and the New York engineering firm of Hitchings and Company. It represented a unique collaboration of a prominent landscape architect with architects and engineers.”
I first went several years ago to view the Dale Chihuly show, from the famed glass sculptor, that was held inside. In October, 2020 I was back for a special exhibition, The Flowers of Monet, in conjunction with the exhibition Monet in Chicago at the Art Institute of Chicago. It featured sunflowers, dahlias, wheat, water lilies, asters and tree roses that he loved to paint and that he planted at his home in Giverny, and other places, in France. 300 N. Central Park Ave. You can take the Green Line on the L from downtown Chicago.