New York has Williamsburg. San Francisco has the Mission District. What about Chicago? The city has Wicker Park. In the 1990s, the neighborhood started drawing attention for its burgeoning music scene. Today, that arts-focused ethos still exists, as do the fixtures of any alternative-turned-super hip locale: tasty eats, cool bars, and well-dressed residents. (Case in point: A few years ago, Forbes named Wicker Park one of America’s top five “Hippest Hipster Neighborhoods” in the country, based on criteria like the number of coffee shops per capita.)
But with cool caché comes a plethora of well-reviewed restaurants, cafes, and shops. To help you sort through the options, we've highlighted a few that literally must-sees.. Below, scroll through the five Wicker Park spots guaranteed to live up to the hype.
1. Monique Meloche Gallery
For: A dose of culture
Curator Monique Meloche’s eponymous gallery is known for featuring up-and-coming artists working in all media types. Celebrated socio-political photographer Rashid Johnson has shown there, as has Cheryl Pope, a sculpture and installation artist who studied under Nick Cave. Currently, Amy Sherald’s A Wonderful Dream is on display—it’s a collection of compelling portraits of acquaintances or friends of the artist that explore race and identity.
2154 W. Division; 773-252-0299; moniquemeloche.com
2. Americano 2211
For: A caffeine kick
This list wouldn’t be complete without a coffee shop (read: the ultimate hipster hangout). Since its recent opening in April, Americano 2211 has been garnering rave reviews for its perfectly poured espresso drinks. The white-walled, wood-accented, European-inspired café—a joint project from Chicago culinary stars Nancy Silver and Chris Pappas—shouldn’t be overlooked for its food offerings, either. Their all-day menu includes pearled barley salad and burrata with eggplant jam; they also make their own ice cream, like caramelized banana chocolate chip and grapefruit prosecco sorbet.
2211 W. North Ave.; 773-360-8757; americano2211.com
For: Nostalgia-inducing vintage shopping
At Kokorokoko, you’ll instantly be transported back in time via troves of ‘80s and ‘90s clothing, accessories, and knick-knacks. This vintage shop is one of the top-rated in Chicago, mostly due to its careful selection of items from those two epic decades. You can expect to find perfectly bleached mom jeans and flower-print crop tops amongst niche scores like neon fanny packs, Fila pullovers, and pastel-colored velvet scrunchies.
1323 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-252-6996; kokorokokovintage.com
For: An unforgettable dinner
Schwa, a Michelin-starred restaurant, offers the best of both culinary worlds: a casual, lively atmosphere with seriously inventive eats. Hip hop blares as the kitchen churns out seasonal nine-course dinners—head chef Michael Carlson’s current menu includes items like octopus and watermelon and unagi ice cream. Diners are encouraged to bring their own booze, which is often shared with the group (and the chefs, who also act as servers). Be warned: Reservations can be difficult to snag, so prepare to be flexible.
1466 N. Ashland Ave.; 773-252-1466; schwarestaurant.com
5. The Violet Hour
For: A late-night cocktail
This speakeasy-style cocktail bar is basically a Chicago institution. Expect a sexy, intimate feel—the bar features chandeliers and high-backed chairs, plus a sign that asks patrons not to use their cellphones. The cocktails are no joke, either; the menu changes seasonally and incorporates house-made syrups and bitters. This summer, try The Moonchild, a lychee-like martini with notes of peach, or the June & Henry, made with fresh sugar cane, La Favorite Rhum, and ancho chiles.
1520 N. Damen; 773-252-1500; theviolethour.com