Category Archives: Neighborhood Guides

Neighborhood Guide: Bienvenidos a Pilsen

Neighborhood Guide: Bienvenidos a Pilsen


Welcome to Pilsen!  This is your inside source to the cool, unique and artful neighborhood of Pilsen in Chicago. Pilsen was originally settled by Irish and German immigrants, who came to work at the factories and stockyards nearby. In the 1960s, the construction of the University of Illinois at Chicago displaced the Mexican community living in the West Side area, many of whom resettled in Pilsen.


Ok, enough with the history lesson. Let’s talk about the important stuff: what to expect when you visit Pilsen and where to go.  In recent years Pilsen has become the “Soho of Chicago,” a cool place where young artists live, work and exhibit their work.


Pilsen street art


Pilsen is a neighborhood full of history and inspiration. The walls of Pilsen are colorful as muralists have left their mark, and many of the murals tell the story of the people of Pilsen.  Take a break and enjoy the scenery.  The beauty of Pilsen is found in the streets on the outside walls of local business or houses, however many local artist have studios open to the public. Prospectus Art Gallery located off the 18th street Pink Line is one of the neighborhood’s best galleries. There you’ll find breathtaking Latin American traditional and contemporary art. If you plan on attending make sure to call in advance to RSVP.


Another must see is the National Museum of Mexican Art – after visiting this museum you’ll have a better understanding of the Mexican culture. This is the only museum in the county solely focused in the Mexican culture; entry is free.


Not into art? No problem, Pilsen has great food too! The neighborhood serves up not only Mexican food, which you’ll find the best of in Pilsen, but also great local cafés. When visiting Pilsen you must stop at Café Jumping Bean, located just few blocks off the 18th street Pink Line. This café lives up to its name as it always has a crowd. Don’t let that fool you, this café is one of the most inviting neighborhood coffee shops around. Try the Mexican Hot Chocolate with an espresso shot and you’ll experience the perfect balance of flavors.


Cafe Jumping Bean


Not in the mood for coffee? How about some cocktails? We have just the place. Simone’s, located near the Halsted Orange Line, offers good food and beer. Try the Pilsen Burger: jalapenos, guacamole and chihuahua cheese – absolutely mouthwatering. Simone’s is best known for their beer selection, they have a spectacular selection of craft beers.  Enjoy your favorite beer or try a new one while listening to your favorite tunes at Simone’s.


If you continue to walk west on 18th street, you’ll encounter Honky Tonk BBQ. You must try their pulled pork sandwiches, the meat is spiced to perfection. Honky Tonk BBQ provides excellent service to their guests, and the servers and bartenders are extremely friendly. This is type of place you go for the food and stay for the music and atmosphere. Next time you’re in Pilsen make sure to stop by one of these awesome places!


Honky Tonk BBQ


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Neighborhood Guide: Gems of the Gold Coast

Neighborhood Guide: Gems of the Gold Coast

Situated below Lincoln Park and above the entryway to the Magnificent Mile, the Gold Coast is a beautiful setting for dining, people-watching and touring some of the city’s most beautiful homes. Here are my top picks:



  • Chicago Q (1160 N. Dearborn): Barbecue so good you couldn’t tell you’re 500 miles from the south. Pulled pork is always my favorite, but the brisket and other smoked meats are just as delicious. My favorite side dish is the fried green tomatoes to round out the southern feast. If you come with a large group, call ahead to request seating in the cozy front atrium
  • Bistro Zinc (1131 N. State): The brightly-lit space offers white-tablecloth service reminiscent of the bistros along the Parisian boulevards. French onion soup and a frisee salad with lardons and a poached egg delight your European senses. Sit in the front for a view of the pedestrians walking by or sit in the back of the restaurant for a more intimate dining experience
  • Da Lobsta (12 E. Cedar): A tiny newcomer to the neighborhood, Da Lobsta features delicious lobster rolls reminiscent of coastal Maine. While the different flavors served offer alternatives to the traditional roll, the mainstay is still the best pick, featuring delicious lobster meat with tarragon mayo and garlic butter on a toasted roll. Supplement with the lobster and crab mac & cheese and spinach dip. Great for a quick sit-down on the sidewalk (they offer BYOB), and they even deliver!



  • Cedar Hotel (1112 N. State): I know, I know, this one is no surprise to the see-and-be-seen crowd of the Gold Coast’s youth. But the day I made my first Friday 5 p.m. happy hour perched at a high-top table, Lynchberg lemonade in hand, it was pure bliss. For dinner, order the fried cod bahn mi, it has just the right mix of flavors and textures
  • Oak and Rush Starbucks (1003 N. Rush): Two stories, wine and savories served, pure inspiration for your work at home/final exam paper/job search highlighted by Starbucks “I’m not trying too hard to be hip” décor. I am a sucker for the exposed brick wall showcasing a distressed Chicago design, and can’t wait to go out on the balcony in the warmer months



  • FFC Gold Coast (1030 N. Clark): My new sanctuary. When I joined they gave me an incentive to win back my $90 initiation fee if I came 36 out of the first 90 days. I have met this promise and will be booking my spa reward shortly! The gym features a rare city indoor track, a yoga studio, fabulous spin classes, and a system called ActiveTrax that spits out customized weights workouts. For an extra cost, take advantage of weekly boot camps, Pilates, the spa and the sunless spray tan studio
  • Asha Salon (1135 N. State): They offer everything you’d expect in a salon including a hair studio upstairs. Check their website for monthly deals – I took advantage of a three-part service including a back massage, foot massage and a facial. Scented candles and soothing spa music set the stage, while the friendly staff delivers top service. Upstairs, I got a haircut and style to my exact specifications, with many compliments to follow!
  • Spa Dabin (1212 N. Wells): An extra few blocks’ walk west gets me to the plush blue velvet pedicure throne at Spa Dabin. Manicures and pedicures are done to perfection and you’re even treated to a mini massage in the middle of your manicure. I’m racking up the loyalty points in anticipation of my free birthday manicure



  • Rush Triangle: Experience a little slice of Europe sitting in the triangle park at the State and Rush split, gelato in hand, watching the passers-by and the chic diners at the surrounding outdoor bistro seating
  • Oak Street Beach: Head a few blocks east for a slice of seaside vacation, and try not to get any sand in your fish tacos at the Oak Street Beach Bistro. Make sure you don’t get hit by the motivated bikers whizzing down the path in triathlon training season. The beach hosts the occasional volleyball game and serves as a day bed for the sun and sand worshipers who understand that Lake Michigan is just as good as having our very own ocean. Enjoy views of skyline skyscrapers such as the Hancock building



  • Kate Spade (56 E. Oak): Shout-out to my friend Emily who braved the tourist droves and emerged as a top salesperson. Who can resist the pink and green splurge? The champagne-themed accessories make me smile. And the rampant sequins don’t hurt either
  • Treasure Island (75 W. Elm): While I find this grocery store to be hit-or-miss, the hits have been oven-ready items such as marinated steak and chorizo-stuffed chicken. Cheese samples bide my after-work hunger and a helpful staff serves up pasta salads and grilled vegetables from the deli. The bakery will build you a box of mix-and-match cookies and mini desserts to take to your next dinner or friendly gathering


What are your favorite spots to visit in the Gold Coast?