Eight Reasons to Love Chicago’s Wicker Park
To walk along Milwaukee Avenue is to know the heart of Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, with its cluttered bookstores and retro cafes. Spend an afternoon exploring the area while taking in a new art installation, watching live music, sharing a plate of tacos, and much more. Here are some of the spots not to miss while you’re there.
The music of Tyrone Davis and other Chicago soul artists plays in the background as Dove Luncheonette’s customers share plates of suckling pig enchiladas, smoked brisket with ancho barbecue sauce, and the rather rich avocado toast with smoked turkey. You might call it all Mex-Southern. Whatever you call it, make sure and wash it down with one of their two-dozen tequilas.
Wicker Park (the actual park)
This well-composed right triangle of a park is part of the largesse bestowed on the neighborhood by wholesale grocers Charles and Joel Wicker in the 1870s. Bring a picnic and check out a music performance in the summer. Other highlights include the 10,000 square feet of gardens (seasonal, natch) and its centerpiece, the Gurgoyle Fountain.
Located in the heart of the Polish Triangle, this restored and reinvented former nickelodeon palace brings together Polish jazz combos, Tennessee Williams festivals, and live podcast shows. With several performance venues within its confines, it’s the place to take in a show in this corner of the neighborhood.
The Wormhole Coffee
Nostalgia for the ’80s goes full tilt here. The décor includes a DeLorean (yes, like in Back to the Future), a chunky Apple desktop computer, and a stuffed Gizmo. In lesser hands, this design concept would be a mess, but here it all seems to work. Sustainably grown, locally roasted coffees rotate through the menu, as does a healthy selection of vegan pastries.
Wander through the aisles of this three-story bookstore, paying special attention to their strong Chicago, science, and biography sections. On Mondays, the beloved shop hosts an experimental music series; poetry readings take place on Thursdays.
Reckless is that record store. The kind that’s all shades of High Fidelity. They have deep vinyl holdings in soul and house and they can direct you to Chance, Lupe, Wilco, and other Chicago icons. Spend some time digging around in the bargain area where you’ll find DVD box sets of TV shows galore.
The Den Theatre
Wicker Park has a robust set of storefront theaters and the Den is certainly one of the highlights. Their resident ensemble has recently staged works by Tennessee Williams as well as a world premiere of a piece that deals with a plot to steal President Lincoln’s body. If you can’t make a show, check out the Coffee Haven, their late Victorian–style coffeehouse.
Perfectly located between two El stops, this store has some of the best truly local gifts in Chicago. The iconic Chicago flag is available on just about everything (including super-soft t-shirts) and you’ll find magnets, towels, onesies, tanks tops, and more emblazoned with El-maps and your pick of stations. Best of all, many of the items are crafted on premises.