Home again, home again... sort of.
October 4, 2006 10:50 AM   Subscribe

I want to fall in love... with my new Chicago neighborhood.

Until very recently I'd been working on relocating to San Francisco. I finally heeded the signs that kept coming and called off that plan. Instead, I'll be returning to my home town of Chicago.

As a Chicago native I'm familiar with the general area, but none of the specifics. I spent all 30 of my Chicago years in and around Andersonville, but I've just signed a sublease in the West Bucktown area near Armitage & Western starting November 1. All I know of the area I'll be living in is Margie's and it's proximity to Wicker Park.

Help me fall in love with my new neighborhood the way I love Andersonville. I'll be working from home, so I'll spend the majority of my time in the area. What should I be sure to check out to give me a good feel for the place?

Are there any decent gyms for a woman to work out in?

Good loungey/cocktaily bars to grab a pint/cosmo from that aren't too smokey?

Good places for breakfast? What about grocery stores near Armitage & Western?

Any places I should flat out avoid as nasty, dangerous or just lacking in some basic way?

Details to help: Mid/late 30s, queer, woman, into photography, works too much for an Internet company, living alone. May keep my car, but am likely to sell it either before or shortly after moving.
posted by FlamingBore to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Green Eye is a great bar right under the El stop there...
also up the street on Western is Quenchers.

Arturo's tacos, across the street on Western has really good burritos...

Further down Western Ave around Augusta is a place called "Bite" that is a good breakfast option.

You'll be kind of hurting for a big grocery store, other than the Cub Foods up on Clybourn.

There's plenty more of good stuff near Armitage and Western that I am sure others can cover off on.
posted by cusack at 11:40 AM on October 4, 2006

A good not-too-smoky bar is the Charleston at Hoyne (just west of Damen) and Charleston (a couple blocks north of Armitage). Not really loungey, but a nice place to chill out without the frat-boy element that you'll find at most other bars in the neighborhood.

Handlebar, on North Avenue at Oakley (a block east of Western) has good brunch on the weekends. They also have a fantastic beer selection and a good dinner menu too.

There aren't really any grocery stores right around there, unfortunately. The closest is probably Dominick's on Fullerton and Wood.
posted by smich at 11:54 AM on October 4, 2006

The Cub Foods up on Clybourn is closing, alas.
posted by gsh at 1:35 PM on October 4, 2006

That's my hood.
Rodan on Milwaukee south of North ave. is good for cocktails.

Danny's on Dickens and Damen is good for a beer. Sometimes it's smokey though.

Irazu on Milwaukee just south of Armitage is amazing Costa Rican food.

Toast is pretty good for breakfast.

Try Stanley's on North and Elston for some fantastic and cheap produce.

I'd second the Charleston as one of the all-time greatest neighborhood bars.

Those are my spots.
posted by mike_bling at 1:44 PM on October 4, 2006

Response by poster: The grocery thing was the only dark spot on this deal. Thanks for that info.

I don't know why I didn't think to ask this above - but what about good/reasonably priced sushi?
posted by FlamingBore at 1:52 PM on October 4, 2006

Oh yeah, seconding Irazu. The seating area is small, and you'll often have to wait for a table, but it's so worth it. It's BYOB.
posted by smich at 2:06 PM on October 4, 2006

Youre not in a bad spot. You can walk to damen and north and stroll down damen to places like Reckless Records, Myopic books, The Godess and the Grocer (deli + small grocery store), various little boutiques and stores. Just explore. You can walk south down western to Division and swing a left and can explore similiar businesses including the unique card shop the Paper Doll (make sure to pet the pug), great breakfast/brunch place Milk & Honey, and all around kick ass bakery and cafe Leitizias Bakery.

Hell, theres even a gelato place on Division that's open until the end of the month. There are two Sushi places right across the street from each other on Division and Damen but I dont think either is moderately priced. A little east on Division you'll find quasi-dives like Phylis's and the Gold Star. Right around there there's an great BBQ place called the Smoke Daddy.

You can buy a little cart and shop at Rich's European Grocery store on Western and Augusta. You're within distance of one of those large supermercados on western. Just go a little north. There's one across the street from the low-price but good mexican joint Arturos. I dont think youre close to a typical american grocery store. Keep the car if you can. Youre a short drive from the Jewel on Milwaukee or the Cub on diversey.

Other places worth mentioning: the blue line bar on damen, estelles on north, cloud nine bar and grill, penny's noodles, and Bella's by the slice stuffed pizza on Chicago and Damen.

I'd avoid going west of Western from where you're at. That's pretty much the humboldt park barrio.

You've got a lot of options, enjoy your new neighborhood! If you need any more info dont be afraid to email me.

/excuse the caps/grammar im tired.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:57 PM on October 4, 2006

West of Western at Armitage isn't that bad (although I suppose I have a higher tolerance than many people). There's just not a whole lot there aside from some thrift stores on Milwaukee , some "galleries" that throw hipster parties, and Mexican food (El Cid is pretty good).

I would suggest Gallery Cabaret as a cute dive bar, although I only went once for a show and I'm not sure how the regular crowd is. Arturo's is classic, but Lazo's next door is about a dollar cheaper on everything and has the same food, plus salsa dancing.

There's Odd Obsession for video rental, across the street from Irazu. You can also get food and videos delivered from Earwax, and other Wicker Park food places will deliver, too (Penny's and Sultan's Market are the ones that usually get my money).

Toward Fullerton on Western, there's Danny's liquor store (not the Wicker Park bar) that has a good selection of liquor and cheap prices. There's also Vas Foremost Liquors on Milwakee and California. In case you want to make your fancy cocktails at home. Just down the street from Danny's liquors is Cafe Bolero, which has passable Cuban food and good cocktails, cheap prices, and isn't smoky since it's a restaurant.

There's probably more that I can't think of at the moment. I spend a lot of time in that neighborhood.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 4:57 PM on October 4, 2006

Oh, and for breakfast there's the Cozy Corner for diner food, at California and Milwaukee. It's often crowded on weekends. A friend of mine swears by one of the (Eastern) European cafes at Western and Augusta (I'm blanking on the name) for free wifi.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 5:00 PM on October 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

>>(Eastern) European cafes at Western and Augusta

Probably Ballou.
posted by damn dirty ape at 5:24 PM on October 4, 2006

Coast on Damen isn't that reasonably priced but it's insanely good sushi. You can deal with yupsters right? If not you're in the wrong neighborhood anyway.
posted by mike_bling at 5:55 PM on October 4, 2006

One more grocery store - can be hit or miss, but Aldi (down on Milwaukee a little, by Wabansia) is fine for the staples and generally has a some of everything. A brand new public library just opened a block or so south of that, and has free Wifi and a decent collection. The movie theater on Western & Logan has $5 tuesdays - includes small popcorn, free parking, and a movie.

Restaurants - Irazu, Cafe Laguardia on Armitage west of Damen, Coast is decent for Sushi and I believe BYOB. Cozy Corner for a pancake breakfast.

Bars - The Map Room , Green Eye (mentioned), Art Gallery Caberet on Oakley north of Armitage for live music and cheap beer.

I wouldn't say any place is exactly dangerous, but Western late at night between Fullerton and Armitage is pretty barren.
posted by true at 8:42 PM on October 4, 2006

While the farther West you go, the more dangerous it gets, don't sleep on Humboldt Park. It's great for softball-playing, people-watching, and ice cream-eating.
posted by cusack at 7:24 AM on October 5, 2006

Re Earwax, mentioned above, they stopped their delivery service late in the spring. It may start up again in the winter, but they're not sure. Still, it's a good place to rent videos, and the food is good.
posted by smich at 7:41 AM on October 5, 2006

Yes, damn dirty ape, probably Ballou. That sounds right.

I can't believe Earwax isn't delivering! They brought me through many a cold, lazy winter. I moved to Pilsen a few months ago, though, which would explain my lack of up-to-the-minute information.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 1:13 PM on October 5, 2006

Get to know your neighbourhood at different times of the day. Get up really early one morning and see what it's like. Check it out at midnight too!
posted by xpermanentx at 11:09 AM on October 6, 2006

hey that's my neighborhood! I shop at two small grocery places(the only real lack in the neighborhood) one is Rich's Deli at umm Western and Augusta? It's bigger inside than it looks! And the other is that Fruit and Produce joint on Chicago and Western. And you are still close to the warm embrace of the Hideout on Elston and Wabansia for good music and drinks (www.hideoutchicago.com), sushi at Coast is pretty good, that Blue Fin place is a bit pricey but nice, and there is a place on Division called Bob San (I think) that I loved! Tons of good brunch options too. It's a bit tiring at times but there's still plenty once you get your bearings.

But damnit all, the best Chicago neighborhood is Albany Park! Yes it is!
posted by mrs.pants at 1:16 PM on November 17, 2006

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