NFT Chicago Bucktown

Bucktown

Essentials
Separated from Lincoln Park by the freeway, Bucktown is not quite as well-situated, but its (slightly) more affordable real estate has brought in the young professionals in droves. Gentrification is gaining pace, with an ongoing influx of polished boutiques and hip baby stores. Meanwhile, the thriving art scene that once characterized Bucktown is all but a memory.

Sundries/Entertainment
You need never be hungry, thirsty, or poorly clothed in Bucktown -- or have to walk more than a block or two. Budget and upscale still co-exist; take Margie's Candies and Goddess and the Grocer. Meanwhile, Mindy's Hot Chocolate is stroller-heaven by day, chic eatery by night. Find your niche, or better yet, do it all.




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Beer: English for Beer.

By Jill Jaracz
Beer: It may be the world's most popular alcoholic beverage but that doesn't mean you have to be democratic about it. From cask-conditioned to microbrewed, let Jill Jaracz show you a whole new world of fermented yeast.

Read More...
Drinking Guide to Chicago

By Jill Jaracz
Bottle Service? Old Style? But what does it all mean?! Wading through Chicago drinking lingo is a fate no novice NFTer should be subject to, right? Jill Jaracz cuts through the terminology, flies past the red tape and jumps headlong into a metaphorical tankard of beer. Come along!

Read More...

On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Joseph Hernandez
Photo:  Joseph Hernandez

Honey 1 BBQ
Savory, sweet BBQ sauce with a kick on the back end. Sweaty rib tips sharing a tight squeeze in a small basket with hot links. Stringy, peppery, soft pulled pork--topped with a tangy coleslaw--spilling from a pregnant bun. This, friends, is Honey 1. A small, blink-and-you'll-miss-it storefront BBQ joint in West Bucktown, Honey 1 makes one glad to be American. Ignore the swine-decorated red walls upon walking in; instead, take in a glorious whiff of hickory, courtesy of the in-house smoker. The Arkansas-style BBQ is the real-deal. You can't go wrong with the brisket lunch special (served w/ fries) at $6.99 or a full slap of baby back ribs at $15.99. God bless America, indeed.



Posted By:  Joseph Hernandez
Photo:  Joseph Hernandez

Buzz Killer Espresso
Coffee shops are not a rarity in Chicago, let alone the Bucktown/Wicker Park 'hoods. Buzz Killer Espresso, however, is not just any cafe. Open since February, Buzz is the coffee drinker's cafe. Stripped wood panels interact with modern furnishings, contributing to a relaxed, easy-going atmosphere, ideal for setting up camp with your laptop. The tables outside lend themselves to excellent people watching. But back to the coffee: it's damn tasty. All standard drip coffee is handmade upon order, the way it's meant to be. No instant or no large brewers containing God-knows-how-old-coffee. The grounds are fresh, and yes, it takes four minutes for a 12-oz cup of Madcap, but the nuance of flavor (depending on the roast) is how all cups of joe should be enjoyed. If lattes are more your speed, order a mocha: the chocolate perfectly balances the smooth, caramel-ly espresso. What more, the baristas behind the bar try their hand at latte art. No fake Italian words at Buzz; the largest offering is 12 oz. For those who can't live without super-sized caffeine kicks, know this: Buzz lives up to its name.



Posted By:  Joseph Hernandez
Photo:  Joseph Hernandez

Gallery Cabaret
So a dinosaur and a half-naked Uncle Sam walk into a bar... Yeah, it sounds like the beginning to an incredibly lame joke but it actually happened on a recent visit to Gallery Caberet, which is anything but lame (though it can be a joke). Gallery Cabaret is the quintessential neighborhood watering hole: live entertainment every night, amazing drink specials, and an interesting cast of regulars with whom to shoot the breeze keep locals coming back. On any given night, expect the type of banter heretofore experienced on Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm. "Colorful" doesn't even begin to describe the crowd, which ranges for young, greasy post-punk and hipster kids to the hippies who've frequented the bar since its opening in 1990. On the same trip with the dinosaur and Uncle Sam, there was a raucous soundtrack of a middle-aged punk band on stage and Pitchfork Music Festival attendees attempting to recover from sunstroke with the well-advertised Leinenkugel pitchers (a bank-breaking $6). For those looking to stretch a dollar, make it a point to come by on Sundays: there's a free weekly buffet for paying customers.



Posted By:  Joseph Hernandez
Photo:  Joseph Hernandez

Lazo's Tacos
Nothing beats a drunken night out like a drunken night out with burritos. And the Teotihuacan for such a night is here, Lazo's Tacos. Sure, it's west Bucktown, land of Latino plenty. And why choose Lazo's, especially with direct competitor Arturo's right next door? Dollar for dollar, they are both essentially 24-hour temples to gluttony. The choice, then, becomes a matter of aesthetic preference. Lazo's is a quieter, dimmer way to end the night, unlike it's rowdier, neon neighbor. There's relative peace in the dining room, as everyone wants to soak up the night's sins before they go home to pass out. On the weekends, expect a DJ and singer to entertain the families in the larger dining room. The food, of course, is as authentically Mexican as a trip to Cancun, but it's not a problem. A reasonable $6 will cover everything except the larger entrees. Individual tacos (from carne asada to ground beef) cost $1.75 each or try their pressed breakfast sandwiches ($4). Inevitably, though, you'll want their infant-sized burritos. Guacamole, cheese, and avocado are extra but with fillings like the sweet and savory al pastor, who needs them?



Posted By:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya
Photo:  Tatyana Zaprudskaya

Coast Sushi Bar
If its name references the Eastern oriental shore from which sushi is derived--I can readily agree that Coast stays true to its roots. The fish is fresh and rolls melt in your mouth. They have a selection of unique "special" rolls as well as many basics; escolar reigns over the menu. The Volcano Roll and Spicy Creamy are two favorites. The seafood soup is a must: a sweet light broth completely devoid of any fishy aftertaste. The service is fast and bustling. To top everything off, four magical letters: BYOB. However, this fun perk does not at all diminish Coast's elegance. The lighting is dim and romantic, the decor chic and tasteful. The wait can take a while on Friday and Saturday nights so come prepared with friends and booze and pop a cork until your table is ready. To debrief: fresh and delicious sushi, BYOB, and open late (until midnight)--three's a charm at Coast!



Posted By:  Nina Williams
Photo:  Nina Williams

Pura Belleza Coffee & Art
This a typical Chicago neighborhood diner with a pretty cool selection of Mexican inspired art like Day of the Dead hand-carved figurines, pottery, and jewelry. The menu is extensive offering everything you can think of from pancakes to paninis, and the food is perfectly fine. The real draw are the portions that are so humongous, it's best to come with an appetite and a few friends. This is a welcome addition to Western Avenue where there aren't many restaurants in the area serving up coffee and breakfast.



Posted By:  Nina Williams
Photo:  Nina Williams

Toast
Got eggs? Sure, they do and plenty of 'em to make your dream breakfast come true. The French Toast smothered in fresh seasonal berries is excellent. The decor is kitschy, but cute. This is a nice place to grab a cup of coffee and unload random conversation. It's unpretentious and the service is spot on. Apparently the word got out because even though there are two of these in Chicago, this one always has a line out of the door on the weekends. Go for brunch on a weekday and you won't have to wait in line. If you're looking for a good, clean American contemporary breakfast or brunch then Toast is the way to go.



Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Chinaski's
Imagine sitting in a bar on a Monday night. You're enjoying a beer with friends, and your waitress comes up to the table and asks, "Can I bring you some more bacon?" No, you're not dreaming of an alternative universe where bacon is considered one of the four food groups, you're in Chinaski's for All You Can Eat Bacon Night. Named for a Charles Bukowski character, Chinaski's is heavy on the lit theme: Sandwiches are named after famous authors and poets, and the bar features literary readings and open mike nights. Speaking of sandwiches, the list of burgers is not for the small appetite, with choices ranging from a burger with peanut butter to one topped with a corn dog, to one with chicken tacos. Be sure to get the tasty homemade chips topped with kosher salt and parmesan with your sandwich. Other specials include $10 bottles of wine on Fridays.



Posted By:  Alan Snider
Photo:  Alan Snider

Caoba Mexican Bar and Grill
Caoba, like most places north of North Avenue, seems to be courting the chest hair and gold chain set. But it's either not working or I've gotten extremely lucky the times I've been; I've managed to have several meals unmolested by the smell of sports deodorant body spray. The outdoor patio is an excellent spot to grab a lunch--the relaxed, yet upscale decor provides a nice nest from which to enjoy some of the finest people-watching in the city. I was pleasantly surprised with the food. While the ceviche was just average, the Queso Fundido and spicy Enchiladas Potosinas more than made up for it. The restaurant has a good selection of beer and tequilas, an adequate wine list, and their Paloma is refreshing and strong. Still, I'm not sure how this place will fare in the winter. If you can manage to slip in and out without getting a pound of glitter on your shirt because the girl at the next table bumped into you, you'll be delighted by the delicious and reasonably priced selections.



Posted By:  Alan Snider
Photo:  Alan Snider

Always Open
You stupid bastard. You forgot to pick up a quart of milk, huh? Spent all that time at Jewel, only to forget, and instead of driving back, you walked over here. We're convenient, and, like the sign says, we're always open. That'll be $8.50. Walking around with itchy ears and desperately need some Q-Tips? That'll be $7. You're right, I do think $7 is a ridiculous price to ask for Q-Tips. Make it eight. Actually, make it $12. You could buy a bottle of Cristal for what Always Open charges for a case of Old Style. And don't even think about buying batteries--the price tag says "Market Price."



Posted By:  Nina Williams
Photo:  Nina Williams

Spa Soak
When a haircut and manicure just isn't enough, it's time to head over to Spa Soak for the ultimate beauty treatment. If you need a deep tissue massage, facials that make you smell like grapefruit for days, or even a completely relaxing treatment like reflexology, then this is the place for you. Whatever your poison, Spa Soak is sure to please and it is beautifully hidden in a brick loft on Milwaukee Avenue. The staff--knowledgeable and wonderful--will do everything in their power to make you feel at ease. If you can handle sensory overload, check out the products they have for sale on the wall while you wait.



Posted By:  Elissa Pociask
Photo:  Elissa Pociask

WhirlyBall
If you grew up in Chicago, thoughts of WhirlyBall may bring you back to the golden age when birthday parties had goody bags, playgrounds had Skip-Its, and TVs were graced by Eagle Man commercials. But during that innocent time, little did you know the joy this bumper-car-lacrosse-hybrid sport would yield once you were old enough to buy drinks from the adjacent bar, and your motor skills advanced beyond the realm of Hungry Hungry Hippos. It is time now to revisit your childhood birthday hotspot with your new circle of friends or co-workers, which is sure to include someone to whom you’d enjoy inflicting mild spinal cord pain. But act in haste, before someone realizes that drunken competition in bumper cars with no brakes should be illegal.



Posted By:  Kristen Orser
Photo:  Kristen Orser

Todd's Wine
Finally, you can be a hedonist on a budget! Todd's Wine just opened in the Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood and everyone is drinking estate-produced wines without breaking the bank. The store is small, but you'll find a good selection of Napa Valley and Australian wines. There's also a collection of microbrews and some Belgian beers. The best part is that the owner is more than generous in letting you sample before you purchase. He is also eager to talk about his merchandise--this can become a pretty long conversation and will probably use "wine language" that you won't understand, but it seems to make him really happy to have an attentive ear. Todd's is a beautiful store and, in a neighborhood increasingly being bought by "major" companies like Bebe and Marc Jacobs, it's good to see a small business thriving. Sure, you can go to Dominick's or Jewel for a cheaper version of that Pinot, but if you buy it from Todd's you are more likely to know how to pair it and why it tastes so good.



Posted By:  Elissa Pociask
Photo:  Elissa Pociask

Margie's Candies
Every good Midwesterner has a soft spot for confection-pushing, packrat grandmas. If the smell of pie crust and mothballs gives you that warm fuzzy feeling, do pay a visit to Margie's, where the interior comes complete with jukeboxes, antique dolls, and teddies that look like they barely made it out of World War I. Established in the 1920s, Margie's looks as though it hasn't changed much over the years, a fact which is eerily reflected in some of the anachronistic wait staff. You can skip the soup and tuna sandwiches, and get straight to dessert. Banana splits made with homemade ice cream and turtle sundaes rank among crowd favorites, and for the hedonistic, Guiness Book-inspired 12-year-olds out there, they’ve even got a special with a half-gallon scoops. It's open late most nights, and best of all, in the ubiquitous Grandma fashion, Margie's doles out free cones to anyone who got an "A" on their current semester's report card.



Posted By:  Jamie Smith
Photo:  Courtesy of Lisa H

Margie's Candies
Now that we live in an age where you can easily get any food you like served to you in a portion larger than your head (burritos, burgers, and buckets of soda), it's easy to forget that Margie's Candies has been dishing out sundaes on this scale since 1921. Gargantuan amounts of ice cream are stuffed into vases, giant ceramic clamshells, and whatever other knick knacks they happen to have lying around and are then drenched with fudge, nuts, and homemade candies. Margie's doesn't mess around: they make their own ice cream with 20% butterfat, which seems to be stretching the limits of legality if not sanity. They do serve soups, sandwiches, and a charmingly retro Hawaiian plate, but the vast majority of the menu is dedicated to making sure that you leave with your face and fingers a sweet, sticky mess. Rumor has it that first-timers get 10% off--just be sure to look sufficiently shocked to see your fellow patrons in ice cream up to their elbows.



Posted By:  Elissa Pociask
Photo:  Elissa Pociask

Irazu
Is it irresponsible to dedicate an entire radar to a milkshake? Oh, but it simply is that good. I am guilty of making the 30-minute commute to Irazu just for a to-go Aveno shake--a blend of oatmeal, cinnamon and milk/soy/water reminiscent of horchata. And even though it's always the drink that lingers in my sensory memory, the main plates are notably delicious and cheap. Homemade Costa Rican basics and colorful salads characterize the menu. It's pretty rare to stumble upon a sit-down place with sandwiches for under five bucks these days, and as a bonus, Irazu is flexible with swapping out sides, and catering to vegetarian and vegan patrons. And if you have vegan friends, you know that one can only have so many sympathy veggie patties at Subway before madness strikes.



Posted By:  Brian Lauvray
Photo:  Brian Lauvray

Lemming's
Thanks to the continual sprouting up of boutiques, coffee shops and mediocre restaurants offering "American-style" cuisine (fried foods with extra cheese and sides of ranch), the boundaries between Bucktown and Lincoln Park continue to blur. Mercifully, the bar Lemmings hearkens back to the days when Bucktown was a fringe neighborhood full of uniquely architectured buildings with cheap rent and bars with cheap drinks. The tall boy cans of PBR are welcomingly priced at $2.75 a pop and the startlingly jovial atmosphere on a recent Friday night begs for you to stick around and cajole a few Irish Car Bombs out of the bartender who's more than happy to pour them since he's (apparently?) been jonesing for one since his shift started five hours ago. The clientele is more "Brah, check it: I just hung up my MBA over my middle-management desk! Yo, what's the Cubs' score?" than I would care for but one has to remember that Hey, you're in Bucktown aka Lincoln Park West. The spot does offer free wi-fi which led to the interesting scene of one of the aforementioned white-collar 20-somethings strutting into the bathroom with his laptop in one hand, beer in the other all the while yammering on his bluetooth.



Posted By:  Brian Lauvray
Photo:  Brian Lauvray

Mindy's Hot Chocolate
I was rapping with my cardiologist the other week. You know the deal; before tee time at some hoity toity country club: Doc Cardio: "Brian, you need more cholesterol in your diet. You're too damned healthy." Brian: [Disbelieving] "Doc? Really? What can I do?" Doc Cardio: "I know times are tough with gas prices what they are. Here, take this Benjamin, get your grub on at Hot Chocolate and call me in the morning." So with my cardiologist's blessing I went over to Hot Chocolate and ordered: Burger, standard order--I kid you not--aged cheddar and bacon, standard! Would I like a fried egg on that? Hell and Yes! Peanut Butter and Truffle Milkshake, if there's a better way to wash down a burger, I've not heard of it. The unsweetened whipped cream provides the perfect amount of fluff-melting thickness and the chunks of peanut butter provide ample amusement as you try to suck them out of the straw. And what service! The burger was, admittedly, awfully charred for an order of medium-rare, but they were terribly apologetic and brought forth a delicious if not cholesterol-dense dessert of warmed brioche doughnuts, gratis!



Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Map Room
The Map Room is where old copies of National Geographic go to die. This travel-themed bar is one of the best in the city if you're looking for fine beers from around the world. Owned and staffed by beer lovers, they have over 200 beers on their menu at any given time. Twenty-six of those are on tap. One is a cask-conditioned ale on a hand pump, and the rest are available in bottles. If you're bewildered by all the options, you can learn more during their monthly beer school, where a local brewer teaches different beer styles. Another monthly lecture series called Cafe Scientifique brings together scientists and those who are curious about science. Be warned: Each lecture is limited to only fifty people a session. Hell, take that advice for the average weekend too--this joint is usually packed, so it's wise to find your way there early.



Posted By:  Nina Williams
Photo:  Nina Williams

Think Café
A hidden gem located on the corner of Lyndale and Western Avenue, this BYOB serves a variety of fresh American contemporary cusisine. Upon entering, it seemed rather small, but oh, this is not the case. There are three separate dining rooms. One is located in the front, one in the back, and there is a whole floor upstairs, which can be rented out for special occasions. Opt for one of the daily specials, which are always very tasty. They also have excellent desserts. One in particular looks like an inside-out Cannoli covered in a variety of berries. All in all, a great place to have dinner with friends or family.




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