NFT Chicago West

West

Essentials
Despite the turf between Humboldt and Columbus Park's lush greens, idyllic lagoons and historic buildings being some of Chicago's roughest, the city's west side is home to spirited folk. 26th Street is the commercial artery of Little Village's thriving Mexican population, and Puerto Rican pride prevails along Division Street and North Avenue through vibrant public art and a jubilant annual parade. Garfield Park Conservatory is a popular spot to tie the knot. Brighton Park and Archer Heights epitomize the classic Chicago blue collar ethic, where labor unions rule and the Old Style flows freely.

Sundries/Entertainment
Try Flying Saucer for healthy, hearty breakfasts tailored to vegans and meat eaters alike. Vinyl collectors scour See more.

>Out of the Past Records' mountainous collection of blues, soul, jazz, and gospel recordings. Down in McKinley Park, La Palapa's thatched umbrellas and mariscos will transport you to Mexico. (Just turn your chair away from Damen Avenue).




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
The Cheapskate's Guide to Chicago

By Dana Kaye
Dana Kaye sure said it straight when she declaimed: "You don’t have to be gay to enjoy all the drink specials on Halsted." But you do have to be on a budget. Chicago is no city for the thrifty, but Dana Kaye is not one for following the rules. Take heed as she stealthily discloses the secrets to getting by with no money.

Read More...
Chicago's Amazing Parks

By Kelly Pucci
Aren't public parks the darndest things? Open, available and lush with wildlife. To think there was a time when common laborers knew not such things... Please, allow Kelly Pucci to give you a guided, arboreal tour of the jungle, not the concrete, because this isn't a Bob Marley song. This is real life.

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Chicago 'L'

By Mark F. Armstrong
And you thought it was just a rapid transit system! Chicago's sometimes elevated tracking is as infamous as it is reliable. Find out why in this, Mark Armstrong's no-holds-barred expose on the popular Chicago transport alternative to driving and walking fast.

Read More...

On Our Radar:

Posted By:  David Donze
Photo:  David Donze

Moo & Oink
To the uninitiated Moo & Oink may seem like a mythical meat purveyor in a far-away land of cartoon pigs and cattle going happily from farm to store to grill. To anyone who's been to one of the four locations in Chicago, that myth is delicious (if somewhat less happy for the animals) reality. This is the place for someone planning a family reunion barbecue for 100, or a weekend get together of 10. The proprietary patties, chops, steaks, and encased meats have been locally made for nearly 150 years by this Chicago institution, so you know they bring a serious game to your grill. Everything in the store revolves around outdoor cooking, from the meats to the sides to all the peripherals. For the traditionalist, there is a wide offering of every smoked pork bit that you can turn into awesome barbecue fare--all of it smoked and butchered on site. Moo & Oink has a singular purpose that they pursue with an unvarnished pride in a no-nonsense shop: make your barbecue great.



Posted By:  Brendan Keating
Photo:  Brendan Keating

Garfield Park Conservatory
Let's face it: winters in Chicago are challenging. When you just can't stand it anymore, take a mini vacation to the Garfield Park Conservatory. Inside the comfy confines of this free garden under glass, conveniently located off the Green Line, the weather is always fine. A great place to take visiting relatives or kids, the conservatory is a destination everyone can agree on. In the Palm Room, the centerpiece of the conservatory, you can relax under 80 different varieties of palm tree. Walking through the Fern Room, with its waterfalls, moss-covered walls, and koi-filled pond, feels like wandering through a daydream. The other five rooms are also beautiful and interesting, if not quite as stunning as the first two. In the warm months, the gardens extend out from under the glass and into the large back and side yards, providing ample frolicking opportunities. But nothing beats sitting on a bench in a t-shirt under a swaying palm, breathing in air heavy with oxygen and soaking up the sun, while the wind howls against the glass outside--all for free. What a difference a pane makes.



Posted By:  Brendan Keating
Photo:  Brendan Keating

The California Clipper
The California Clipper went to sleep some time in the '50s. Thankfully for Chicago, it hasn't aged a day. Suitably for such a retro time capsule, there are things you will not find in the Clipper: televisions, microbrews on tap, any drinks that start with "flirt," bright lights, clean lines, or music your grandparents wouldn't understand. The things you will find at the Clipper: ample seating, classic cocktails, rockabilly, board games, PBR, faded-beyond-recognition art, and grape soda on the gun (only bar in Chicago). The Clipper knows the recipe for a great night out. It includes strange but weirdly inviting scarlet lighting, an eclectic crowd, and reasonable drink prices--wet your whistle with a Purple Martin, the house concoction made with that famous grape soda. The music is alt country and cover-free (but there's another room if you're not into the tunes). The booths are cozy. The vibe is friendly and relaxing. A mandatory entry on any short list of legendary Chicago bars, this Humbolt Park standby has been getting patrons happily plastered for over 70 years. What are you waiting for? At the Clipper, red lights definitely mean go.



Posted By:  Brendan Keating
Photo:  Brendan Keating

Feed
In the heart of Chicago's West Side sits a Southern-style chicken shack with atypical charm. Feed dishes out hearty plates of chicken, sandwiches, and sides that conjure up visions of muggy weather and Spanish moss. Try the fried okra, collard greens, and banana pudding--nothing served in a Styrofoam cup ever tasted so fine. The food is solid comfort fare, nothing fancy, but it fills your belly and soothes your soul. And the decor is just as cozy, with pictures of every kind of chicken imaginable plastered on the walls and old-timey cartoons on the TV. The jukebox is free and the bathroom is must-see. Feed is BYOB too, so you can get your drink on while you eat. Or, wash your chicken down with a classic cocktail from the venerable California Clipper, just up the street, to make your evening a real West Side romp.



Posted By:  Nina Williams
Photo:  Nina Williams

Coco
Finding tasty Puerto Rican food served in a beautiful setting used to be nonexistent in Chicago, but that all changed the minute Coco's opened its doors on Division Street in the Humbolt Park area. Ever since then, it's been all love. The old San Juan decor is what really makes Coco's stand out. It encapsulates the true essence of the island--beauty, passion, and life. And they have an excellent menu. They serve many traditional dishes just like mom used to make such as Mofungo, a stuffed plantain dish and Asopaos, a stew served with tostones. And if it's music you're looking for, a live salsa band plays on the weekends. It's a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered.



Posted By:  Kristen Orser
Photo:  Kristen Orser

Star Lounge Cafe
When I was finishing grad school, I spent most of my day doing work at the Star Lounge because they had free wi fi and regular jazz music. After I graduated, I spent most of my time hiding out at the Star Lounge from my students and responsibilities because the place isn't usually crowded and is out of the way enough that nobody looks for me there. This place has been there for my conscientious and not-so-conscientious times regarding work. It's really relaxed and, because their macchiatos are so good, it's easy to go here and lose track of time. Have I mentioned the bathroom? There are over a hundred color swatches glued to the wall to make a cityscape. Recently, Star Lounge started roasting its own coffee, which means the guys behind the counter are super psyched to talk about their product and you realize they're really trying to do something for the neighborhood and, because they are involved in the politics of the coffee trade, are making sure the products they're producing are leaving a positive impact. Oh, did I mention the coffee is bottomless? I don't know if I'm supposed to pay for a refill because they always just give me more.



Posted By:  Brian Lauvray
Photo:  Brian Lauvray

Flying Saucer
Baby, I'm sorry but we're done. Shh, it's okay, don't cry, you're great; it's not you, sweetheart. I swear, it's all my fault. It's just that we've grown apart and I don't really know you anymore. Sometimes I'll wait upwards of forty five minutes on a weekend for a table, only to be seated and then wait another fifteen minutes while the waitress seats herself at a table of friends and gabs on and on with them. Meanwhile, all I want is some coffee and a menu. Baby, I wish you the best of luck and maybe you're going through some personal issues. I mean, you used to really care about having vegetarian options and now there's some crass piece of bacon on top of your hashbrowns. Did you get a tramp-stamp tattoo, while you were at it? Sorry, that was mean-spirited. In any case, babe, I've gotta get going and don't bother calling.



Posted By:  Kristen Orser
Photo:  Kristen Orser

Feed
Sweet potato hash. That's it, that's the whole review. Get the sweet potato hash. Later, after you've devoured it and unbuttoned your jeans, look in your wallet book and see that it cost you next to nothing to have that awesome breakfast, which means you can afford more coffee or one of their fantastic, Southern desserts. Feed is hands down the most awesome weekend brunch. Especially in the summer when you can sit in the back patio that feels like someone's backyard. I haven't gone here for any other meal because the menu is pretty meat heavy, but I imagine anything they cook is fantastic. I mean, are there really other meals that matter besides brunch anyway? You get to sleep in late, roll out of bed, and eat an amazing meal before you roll back into bed again and wait until it's time to go out that night.



Posted By:  Kristen Orser
Photo:  Kristen Orser

Garfield Park Conservatory
Despite the sunburn and mosquito bites acquired on this day trip, I think I fell in love with the Garfield Park Conservatory. I thought this was going to be an allergy hell, but I didn't even need to take a sudafed and go to sleep after seeing a billion plants; maybe all those ferns cleaned the air or something. The Conservatory is separated into rooms based on climate and has some outside gardens and walking paths--even a super fancy Monet Garden. My favorite room was the Desert Room where everything looked really fake--somehow sticks were growing out of succulents and everything that looked dead was flowering. Crazy. There are waterfalls and fish ponds and, although you aren't supposed to touch everything, nobody stops you from touching the plants or letting the koi fish suck your fingers. I even touched the "sensitive plant" so much I don't think it will ever open again. The only disappointing part was seeing how great their vegetable and herb gardens were growing and then coming home to my short tomato and pepper plants. I imagine it changes seasonally so I'll probably have to go again--especially once that winter depression starts up again.



Posted By:  Brian Lauvray
Photo:  Brian Lauvray

Humboldt Pie
Located a block south of its titular park--Humbolt--on Chicago's near West Side; Humboldt Pie offers denizens of Ukrainian Village, Humbolt Park and Logan Square an affordable, walkable and pleasantly large space to grab an afternoon bite or late-night caffeine blitzkrieg. The spot is open 'til midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and 10 the rest of the week. Humboldt Pie offers a long list of foodstuff to quell the appetite of carnivore and vegetarian alike. I recommend the California Pepper or Humboldt Salad. Ditto the dazzling menu of thin crust pizzas and coffees. Hey, nothing like being the only coffee/pizza spot in town! Sure, you can find better pizza but only if you want to wait in line. And really, who even expects pizza at a self-proclaimed coffee and sandwich stop? Not bad, Humboldt Pie, not bad.



Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Cicero Stadium
A roller derby match might just be the world’s most perfect date. Women get to watch other women show amazing displays of athleticism, and men get to see chicks in fishnets. Top that off with outrageous personalities, jammin’ music, and the most unusual acts for half-time entertainment, and you’re in for a much better time than just dinner and a movie. The Windy City Rollers, fresh off an amazing 2007 when they kicked butt at the World Flat Track Derby Association national tournament, have moved their regular season up to allow their travel team to compete more during the summer. The monthly interleague bouts start Saturday, January 26, when the Double Crossers look to defend their title as winners of the Windy City Rollers Ivy League Cup. They face off against The Fury, while the Manic Attackers battle the Hell’s Belles. Check out windycityrollers.com for all the action.



Posted By:  Annie Anderson
Photo: 

Over the past year, Feed has emerged as one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago. The roadside chicken shack is perfectly out of place on the corner of Chicago and California in Humboldt Park, and the over-the-top décor screams Wall, South Dakota. This place is seriously charming. Name one other BYOB joint with stuffed jackalope heads, chalkboard menus, and framed portraits of chickens adorning the walls. While Feed does kitsch well, it does comfort food even better. When I took my sister there for the first time, she took a couple bites of the juicy rotisserie chicken, dropped her fork, and with a “Holy Crap!” exclaimed it the best she had ever tasted. I’ve paired the chicken—and pulled pork sandwich, chicken fried steak, or hamburger—with mac-n-cheese, fried green tomatoes, beet salad and fried okra. But my standard sides to go with my “usual” (1/4 white chicken, white meat) are the mashed potatoes and gravy and the collard greens. Sidle in, order at the counter, eat up and bus your own table. Welcome to your new favorite dining destination: a place where you drop less than 10 bucks on a full meal of down-home, finger-lickin’ southern comfort grub.



Posted By:  Laura Rotz
Photo:  Laura Rotz

Lalo's
Everywhere I go lately, all I hear about is Lalo’s. Softball teams’ post-game get-togethers, birthday festivities, tequila aficionados’ “meetings” (aka those wasted people in the corner booth); everyone wants a piece of this Mexican action, and with good cause. Although it is a chain restaurant, it’s not a chain in the same way Taco Bell is a chain, which is always a good thing. Lalo’s actually has twelve locations in the Chicago area, each striving to serve the most authentic Mexican food in town, with a menu ranging from staples like tacos and enchiladas to less popular fare, including sopes and the “Lalo’s Special,” a delightfully unhealthy combination of steak, eggs, and refried beans. Be forewarned that the portions are not fit for wimps; not one of the six people I went with finished their meal, and we had two six-foot tall, meat-eating champions at the table. Try one of the nine variations of margaritas Lalo’s is famous for, or all of them if you’re a real rockstar. For the wusses in-house, they also serve Negra Modelo and Modelo Especial. As an added bonus, el mariachis sing while you eat; don’t forget to tip.



Posted By:  Katie Murray
Photo:  Katie Murray

Garfield Park Conservatory
So you need to go shopping, but you don’t want to waste a nice day at the mall, Target, or god-forbid, Frank’s Nursery and Crafts. Don’t fear, child-desperately-seekingfresh- air, head to the Garfield Park Marketplace, now open for the season. Step inside the wrought iron gates and a new world opens up—one of colorful horticulture and little shops hidden in brick alcoves. This open-air bazaar was a little empty during a recent visit, but the festivities and vendors are sure to increase as the temps do. When the Market is in full swing during the summer months, you can enjoy a strolling lunch, pick up baskets of organic produce, or purchase quilts, soaps, lanterns, and masterpieces created by local artists. For now, the CityScape portion of the Marketplace (the area featuring garden-related items) is in full bloom. Just take a quick stroll through the heaps of hydrangeas, towers of tulips, and legions of lilacs and your thumb will turn all shades of green. And you can pick up some dirt, flowers, plants, flowerboxes, or gardening equipment to bring a little bit of Garfield Park home with you.



Posted By:  David Rosenstock
Photo:  Courtesy Garfield Park Conservatory

When you feel like the whole world’s been paved over, take a break from the asphalt jungle and head on over to four and a half acres of unadulterated nature. Stroll past leafy aroids and a lagoon ornamented with glass lily pads by artist Dale Chihuly. Take a seat on a bench overlooking a pond swarming with koi fish. In the children’s section, experience the germination process by peering into a giant fenestrated seed. Make sure to check out Chris Garofalo’s installation of “recripocally prickly” sculptures suspended over a bed of cacti in the desert house. During the warmer months, wander outside and spiral along a labyrinthine path. I’m particularly fond of the Monet garden, a loose re-creation of the garden at Giverney, France, as well as the brand new city garden, with wheat undulating in the wind and a bridge snaking along a pond.



Posted By:  David Rosenstock
Photo:  David Rosenstock

The California Clipper
Private banquettes, suffused red light, bingo night, an owner who buddies up to everyone, an amazing country singer who looks more like a dominatrix, what more would you want in a bar? The dilapidated street and the weathered storefront make you think of another era, a simpler time when the local watering hole was just that, somewhere to quench your thirst. The place is so real—once an hour a guy passes through selling homemade tamales. Subject to the forces of gentrification, the first wave of artists that hang out here may not be around much longer. Catch it while you can.




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Restaurants (26)
Nightlife (9)
Shopping (14)
Landmarks (21)