This post was a Tide Spin post. Tide Spin has now merged with Pressbox to create Tide Cleaners.
Before the era of hipsters, Wicker Park was a center for various immigrant communities. The Irish first-comers were eventually replaced by the Germans and Norwegians, followed by Jewish, Polish, and Latino immigrants. Remnants of the ethnic communities remain as delis, bookstores, or museums.
While a lot of history can be seen in the neighborhood (like the century-old buildings), the recent popularity in the area has lead to a ton of new real estate--both commercial and residential.
Here's a mix of the new, the old, and the ethnic guides us through Wicker Park’s hotspots curated, as always, by Tide Spin’s local team -- the explorer's guide for all the time you've saved no longer doing laundry and dry cleaning.
Big Star / Photo Credit: The Odyssey
The community’s ethnic influences are apparent in the food options around the Chicago neighborhood, and the old, dilapidated mom-and-pop restaurants still stand their ground among the newbies backed by big chef names. There’s not an official count of restaurants, but our guess is it’s pretty high.
Podhalanka -- Located within the original “Polish Triangle” (Ashland, Division & Milwaukee), Podhalanka is the spot for traditional, homemade Polish grub. Look past the unassuming interior and enjoy plates of pierogi (stuffed dumplings), potato pancakes (served with applesauce or sour cream), cheese blintzes, goulash, or one of 10 different soups (zurek is a personal favorite for cold, wintry days).
Cumin -- The extensive Nepalese and Indian menu strikes a great balance of vegetable, meat, and seafood dishes. Veggies come deep fried (pakora) or garnished in Indian spices or rich sauces, as is the meat (goat, chicken, or lamb). Pair your mains with crispy samosas, basmati rice, or garlic naan, and finish with homemade pistachio ice cream.
Big Star -- It’s hard to miss this iconic patio just off the Damen el stop. The taqueria, housed in a 1940s gas station, serves up tacos with all the trimmings: chipotle mayo, queso fresco, cilantro, and marinated meats. While they don’t take reservations, you can order mezcal (15+ varieties), tequila (25+ varieties), whiskey, or house barrel bourbon while you wait for a spot.
A night out in Wicker Park usually starts at “Six Corners”, the intersection of Milwaukee, North and Damen Avenues, and any direction outwards will lead you down a rabbit hole of quirky bars and lounges.
Bordel / Photo Credit: Thrillist
Violet Hour -- The decor of this cocktail lounge is almost more noteworthy than the boozy creations. The facade (exterior) of the lounge is an ever-changing mural, and anyone can propose to create or collaborate on an upcoming painting. The interior is divided into three salons filled with blue leather chairs, chandeliers, a long marble bar, and dim candlelight. Opt for whatever seasonal cocktail is offered at the moment.
Bangers & Lace -- This place is all about the beer: the “lace” part of the name even comes from the “veil of beer foam that clings to the side of the glass.” The experts agree, with Thrillist listing it among the 33 Best Beer Bars in the Country and Draft Magazine’s top 100
Bordel -- The eclectic craft cocktail bar draws on inspiration from Paris and Chicago’s Prohibition era, as evident by the elaborate decor and quirky entertainment. The main stage at Bordel features a rotating cast of jazz musicians, burlesque and flamenco dancers, gypsy guitarists, and even magicians. Stay a while and order a cocktail served in a parron, a Spanish communal drinking vessel.
Wicker Park is synonymous with all things hipster: art, music, eccentricity, and fancy coffee. As such, there’s no shortage of these things throughout the community. While you’re walking around uncovering some gems of your own, be sure to note the various works of graffiti art dotting the sides of brick buildings.
Subterranean/ Photo Credit: Time Out
Subterranean -- The two-story live music venue is split by rock and hip hop upstairs and reggae and house music downstairs. Check out upcoming acts here, or just show up for a good night of raw Chi-town music.
Debonair Social Club -- This is not your typical nightclub. Housed in the historic Flat Iron Building, it features local live acts on the weekends, cabaret on Wednesdays, and Video Dance Parties on Saturdays. There’s truly enough entertainment to satisfy anyone’s definition of a “night out” here.
A cup of Joe -- La Colombe, The Wormhole, Caffe Streets, Bru...we could keep going, but you get the point. If you’re in the mood to do work or catch up with a friend alongside a strong, espresso-powered drink in a cozy atmosphere, look no further than Wicker Park’s stomping grounds.