Over the delightfully, yet disconcertingly warm Presidents’ Day weekend, I took a homemade and not entirely extensive cultural tour of the windy city. It started off in Chinatown, wound around Pilsen (a colorful Hispanic neighborhood nearby), downed a few German brewed pints, and ended up smack dab in the middle of what most consider highly American–a monster truck rally. If you’re looking to add some spice while in Chicago, here are a few ideas for ya, starting in the south side and ending up pretty far north:
The glories of Chinatown:
- Take a stroll up and down the main drag on Wentworth Avenue. It’s a quick walk with a whole lot to take in. Maybe pick up a trinket or two in one of the many souvenir shops.
- Stop by Feida Bakery for a lotus paste cake or a pork bun.
- Check out the Chinatown mural. It’s an intricate ceramic wall, covered in reliefs depicting the history of Asian Americans. This is one of Nine Dragon Walls located around the world.
If you want to feel the Latin vibes:
- Make your way to Pilsen. This neighborhood is covered in art and bustling with energy. In the late 19th century, the area was home to a large Czech community. However, in the 1950s there was an influx of Latinos. Now it has quite the hispanic flare.
- Pop your head into Lacuna Artist Lofts. There is always something going on in this old macaroni warehouse. (I got married and had a studio space there a few years ago.)
- Grab a few tacos at Del Toro, a margarita at La Vaca, or the skewers at Canton Regio.
- Keep making your way north towards Lakeview, there’s a new Mexican restaurant with a great patio, Tuco and Blondie. Gotta get your guac in!
- Keep strolling along Southport and grab a few empanadas or a masala chai at Cafe Tola. Beware, the goods are so good, they sell out quick!
For German bites and brews:
- Make your way to Lincoln Square. This area is filled with German bars and restaurants. Make sure to hit up Gene’s Sausage Shop and Delicatessen. Buy some groceries to enjoy on their rooftop deck.
- Then grab a giant pretzel at Chicago Brauhaus and enjoy the live German music as you chow down.
- Save room for dinner and a few pints at Laschet’s Inn. This place is mouthwateringly similar to the eats you’ll find in Germany.
Top it all off with a heavy dose of Americana:
- Head on over to Dark Matter in Humboldt Park, the wackiest coffee shop you ever did see–covered in insane murals and beautiful artwork.
- Stop in for brunch at Mortar and Pestle in Lakeview. The English breakfast is so good!
- One of my favorite bits of American culture is the craft beer movement. Chicago won’t disappoint you on that front. Get a load of Moody Tongue (back in Pilsen) or try a beer at Corridor Brewery (right by Tuco and Blondie).
- As I mentioned before, we ended the night at Monster Jam. If you’ve never witnessed a monster truck rally before, this is your time. Don’t forget the earplugs!