Cities

Standout City: Chicago’s Most Interesting Neighborhoods

With over 200 distinct neighborhoods divided among 77 official community areas and 2.7 million people, Chicago is a city rich with culture and history. Each district distinct from the last, the city is a vibrant regional and national hub known for its food, parks, and people. Here are some of the Windy City’s most interesting neighborhoods.

1. Edgewater

Edgewater, Chicago skyline off the shore of Lake Michigan.
The shore of Lake Michigan, featuring a glimpse of the Edgewater, Chicago, skyline. | Photographer: James Andrews1 | Source: Shutterstock

True to its name, Edgewater sits directly adjacent to Lake Michigan. Home to Loyola University Chicago, the neighborhood is known for its diversity, counting large numbers of immigrants from the former Yugoslavia and East Africa among its residents, as well as a significant LGBTQ+ population. Hillary Clinton is among Edgewater’s most famous former residents, having lived in the neighborhood during her early childhood.

What to Do

Edgewater features a plethora of destination restaurants, a bustling antiques scene, and plenty of family-friendly activities just a short walk away from the beach, making it a choice destination for Chicagoans and visitors in the warmer months.

When you’re done lounging on the beach, take a stroll through the Bryn Mawr and the Lakewood Balmoral historic districts for a peek into Chicago’s interwar period, when the neighborhood was booming and mansions dotted its shoreline.

Where to Eat

Among others, some favorite neighborhood eateries include The Waterfront Cafe with lakeside vistas and live music; Korean chicken wing maestro Dak; the group-friendly Ethiopian Diamond, which boasts homemade honey wine and Ethiopian coffee; and Mango Pickle, an Indian restaurant currently celebrating 21 days of Thali (March 19–April 11).

2. Ukrainian Village

Residences in the Ukrainian Village in Chicago.
Photographer: Ihor Pasternak | Source: Shutterstock

After the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, there was a massive wave of immigration to Chicago, including a large number Ukrainians, many of whom ultimately settled in the 160-acre region on the west side of Chicago that became known as the Ukrainian Village. Today, the Ukrainian Village is a cultural center full of historic sites, community spaces (including many churches), and restaurants—a mix of hip cafes and authentic Ukrainian eateries, among others.

What to Do

Growing rapidly, the neighborhood offers calming community gardens and a multitude of bike paths, as well as the Ukranian National Museum of Chicago for interested residents and visitors.

Where to Eat

For dining, snacking, and sipping, there are Ukrainian restaurants such as Old Lviv, bakeries and pastry shops such as Bjorn Cakes, pie stops like Hoosier Mama Pie Company, and many cozy cafes to spend mornings and afternoons in.

3. Roscoe Village

The construction of the Riverview Park amusement park in 1904 marked the inception of Roscoe Village—a laidback neighborhood found near the city’s center and brimming with boutique shops, local restaurants, charming brick homes, and cafes that spill into the street when the fierce Chicago winters lighten up. While the amusement park was closed in 1967, the lively nature of the community remains.

What to Do

With just under 11,000 residents, Roscoe Village is the smallest neighborhood on our list, but it isn’t lacking in amusing places to spend your day. Check out Constellation for nighttime live jazz and experimental music—streamed from your home during the pandemic. For outdoor fun, Hamlin Park is a great place to relax, spend time with friends, or exercise. It boasts a dog park, public tennis courts, a playground, pool, and baseball diamonds.

Where to Eat

Some local favorites include Le Sud—a French-influenced restaurant currently partaking in restaurant week (March 19 – April 4) and the comfort food and brunch spot Kitsch’n on Roscoe.

4. Hyde Park

The Garden of the Phoenix in Hyde Park, Chicago.
The Garden of the Phoenix, also known as the Osaka Garden, in Hyde Park, Chicago. | Photographer: Conchi Martinez | Source: Shutterstock

Nestled in the South Side of the city, Hyde Park stands out as a storied academic hub. With the University of Chicago on its west side, the neighborhood is associated with nearly 90 Nobel laureates. It was also home to former president Barack Obama and boasts the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere, with over 2,000 exhibits.

What to Do

After you’ve wiled away hours at the science museum, check out the tucked away, yet awe-inspiring Garden of the Phoenix, also known as the Japanese Garden or Osaka Garden, and Sky Landing—Yoko Ono’s public art installation in Jackson Park’s Wooded Island. Architecture fans can tour Robie House on the University of Chicago campus for a lesson on Frank Lloyd Wright and Prairie style.

Where to Eat

Let’s talk grubberies—cafeteria-style Valois Restaurant and the inventive and flavorful The Soul Shack are some of Hyde Park’s dearest.

5. West Loop

Patio seating in West Loop, Chicago.
Photographer: Antwon McMullen | Source: Shutterstock

Home of the Blommer Chocolate Factory, the continent’s largest supplier of chocolate ingredients, West Loop is, perhaps, the best smelling neighborhood on our list. Appropriately, it’s known for its dining options, but its food scene isn’t its only claim to fame. The neighborhood is also the birthplace of Harpo Studios, Oprah Winfrey’s media empire.

What to Do

West Loop offers a wide range of activities for locals and tourists alike. The House of Vans, located in a converted warehouse on Elizabeth Street, hosts live music performances, multimedia art installations, and artist-facilitated workshops.

Another enticing stop on a stroll through the neighborhood is the immersive WNDR Museum, whose mission is to provide visitors with a new way to experience art through unexpectedness and interactivity. Featuring installations from artists Keith Haring, Yayoi Kusama, Barbara Kruger, and more, WNDR has made its facility completely touchless to operate safely during the pandemic.

Where to Eat

Although the restaurant industry has taken a hit everywhere this past year, the West Loop is still the west side’s foodie haven, offering eats from traditional to trendy. A former industrial area, Randolph Street is where you can find Restaurant Row serving up a variety of spots, from delis and bakeries to five-star restaurants and hidden take-out joints. To name a few, Au Cheval, recognized for its standout burger; the recently re-opened Montverde; Cabra, which serves Peruvian-inspired small plates and ceviche; and the hip and loud ramen bar, High Five Ramen.

Don’t see your favorite Chicago neighborhoods, destinations, or restaurants listed here? Let us know! Tag us on Twitter @BlueprintFture.

Blueprint contributor Micah Golomb-Leavitt

Micah Golomb-Leavitt is a writer and digital publishing intern for Blueprint.

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