On the Verge: Chicago’s Pilsen Area May Be The Windy City’s Next Big Thing

As soon as we found out one of our PARISIENNE stops would be in Chicago, we went straight to our local sources for tips (thanks Heji!). Funny enough while many of our female counterparts kept urging us to check out the up-and-coming neighborhood Pilsen, a few of the guys deemed it too rough around the edges. Naturally, we sided with the ladies, and we're definitely glad we did. Amid a mix of authentic Spanish and Mexican shops and eateries, a handful of off-beat boutiques and restaurants seem to fit right into this eclectic, far-flung landscape.
1. Golden Age, 1744 West 18th Street; www.shopgoldenage.com
Raw wood and white walls create a beautifully simple platform for the graphic limited-run prints adorning the walls here, but it's all the rare and unexpected zines, artist books, CDs, and periodicals that could have kept us here for hours. Look for titles like The Incredible Journey to Consciousness, Hamburger Eyes 12, and Greek Daddy. Basically, if you're in the market for some stunning works to make you think, this is your destination.
2. Knee Deep Vintage, 1425 West 18th Street; www.kneedeepvintage.com
Focusing on ridiculously cheap but good-quality vintage, Knee Deep is a great stop if you need a little retail fix without the buyer's remorse. Extra Credit: The shop-keeper's angelic pup Auggie, and the spectacular—but gone by the second—estate pieces like a vintage Anne Klein corset skirt.
3. Frei Designs, 818 West 18th Street; www.freidesigns.com
Thanks to owner-designer Annie Novotny for keeping her shop open late just for us. To our delight, her soothing boutique felt like an Adirondack oasis amid the big city outside with pretty tree-branch displays and cozy lighting. Of course, the real draw here is Novotny's sustainable designs (she spent time studying with designer Gary Graham and it shows). Dreamy sheer silk tights and the kind of organic cotton trousers we could wear until the end of time really impressed. In fact we have a pair of those cloudy gray tights on order!
4. Nightwood, 2119 South Halstead Street; www.nightwoodrestaurant.com
Given our home-city's concentration for memorable food, we tend to set the bar high at any new restaurant. But our expectations were more than exceeded at Nightwood, a newish spot that's sure to lure any Chicagoan to this burgeoning 'hood. Dark woods, clean lines, and huge windows gave the space an elegant Scandinavian feel, while homemade honey biscuits and an impressive lineup of cocktails got things off to a fine start. But the light Superior whitefish complemented by briny olives and crisp cabbage along with the heartiest (and freshest) escarole salad we've ever eaten confirmed the hype. Tip: If it's not too chilly, have your wine outside beside the enclosed fireplace.

More from Chicago

R29 Original Series