NOW IN ITS SEVENTH YEAR, OPEN HOUSE CHICAGO is one of the great public events of our city—opening the doors to over 200 buildings distinguished in some way by their architecture and history. It’s a fantastic opportunity to experience one of our city’s supreme arts in all its variety, from mock-medievalist to post-modernist and everything in between, and the list of neighborhoods and sites changes every year, so there’s always something new to explore. (See the full list of sites and other info here.)

But touring our city builds up an appetite. And what could better round out your appreciation of a neighborhood than by eating the food that the locals make and enjoy themselves? I’ve been offering suggestions for where to eat during Open House Chicago since year 2 (when I covered it for Grub Street Chicago). And I return now with an updated guide to each featured neighborhood on this year’s list, showcasing some of the architectural highlights—and then a few restaurant suggestions for each one that will help you get to know the neighborhood behind these architectural gems, and maybe shed a little light on history of their own. (I left out Downtown—which accounts for a quarter of the total sites—because there’s something to eat on every corner and you probably already know it, anyway. But just because this guide focuses on the neighborhoods, don’t overlook it too.)

And if you like getting my suggestions for where to eat all over the city, check out The Fooditor 99—though I will point out that the 2017 edition currently available at Amazon will be updated later this year (in time for holiday giving).


Bridgeport/Back of the Yards


Zap Props

What it is: Traditional power base of Irish Chicago (but home to Lithuanians and many other groups back in the day), now a fast-rising real estate market, but still with many early 20th century factories and food processing plants near the former Stockyards.

What to see: The funkiest site on the whole list has to be Zap Props, whose jumbled warehouse of old stuff supplies period detail to Hollywood and restaurants alike; go early as they only take a few at a time inside. Returning to the list this year is one of my favorites, Decorators Supply Corp., makers of plaster moldings and such, which also sells to Hollywood (as well as to old house restorers). Others include food businesses such as The Plant; new to the list is the Chicago Maritime Museum.

Where to eat:
• The Duck Inn, 2701 S. Eleanor. Retro-flavored gastropub and tavern with deep Bridgeport-Irish roots.
• Fabulous Freddie’s Italian Eatery, 701 W. 31st. From Italian beef to breaded steak to slices of deep dish, all your South Side blue collar food classics in a friendly, busy spot.
• A Place By Damao, 2621 S. Halsted. Chengdu street food—mostly dumplings and noodles, all served spicy. (Read more here.)


Bronzeville


What it is: The traditional center of African-American Chicago.

What to see: Historic black churches including the Streamline Moderne First Church of Deliverance, some IIT buildings including Carr Chapel (Mies’ “God Box”), Frank Lloyd Wright’s Abraham Lincoln Center (now the Jacob H. Caruthers Center of Northeastern Illinois University), and two new historic locations—the long-shuttered Schulze bakery and the newly restored Rosenwald Apartments.

Where to eat:
• Peach’s Place, 4652 S. King Drive. Soul food breakfast and lunch spot with good southern dishes.
• Yassa African Restaurant, 3511 S. Martin Luther King Dr. Enjoy yassa chicken and djolof rice at this Senegalese restaurant.
• Ms. Biscuit, 5431 S. Wabash. Soul food breakfast/brunch spot with, as you would expect, great biscuits.

Graziano prosciutto

Edgewater


Colvin House—last year, before restoration

What it is: In the 1920s, it was Chicago’s answer to Miami Beach—swanky hotels and apartments and the upscale businesses that served their residents.

What to see:  1920s Chicago comes alive at the Edgewater Beach apartments and a few vintage mansions, including Sacred Heart Schools’ Driehaus Center and the George Maher-designed Colvin House—which has been renovated as a co-working space since last year.

Where to eat:
• The Growling Rabbit, 5938 N. Broadway. Busy yet laid back breakfast/brunch spot with imaginative takes on classic items.
• Cookies & Carnitas, 5757 N. Broadway. Upscale take on meaty fast food, plus pizza.
• Little Saigon Baguette, 5251 N. Broadway. Very authentic Vietnamese banh mi (sandwich) shop.


Englewood


St. Benedict the African

What it is: Once the commercial center of African-American Chicago, Englewood will show a few surviving gems that are part of efforts to revitalize the neighborhood.

What to see: The 1890s atrium-courtyard building The Yale, now restored as a senior center; the modernist St. Benedict the African church; Growing Home’s Wood Street Farm.

Where to eat:
• Kusanya Cafe, 825 W. 69th. Coffeeshop and sandwich cafe with punny names (“Tuna Turner”).
• Currency Exchange Cafe, 305 E. Garfield Blvd. Snazzy cafe in a renovated building operated by artist Theaster Gates.
• Garifuna Flava, 2518 W. 63rd. Jerk chicken place representing the flavors of a little-known Caribbean subgroup.


Evanston


Dwarfs (or whatever they are) at the Levere Memorial Temple

What it is: Historic suburb home to Northwestern University, proper North Shorians like Vice President Charles G. Dawes, and famously a dry town for decades.

What to see:  O irony: tour both the home of the head of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and long-dry Evanston’s first distillery (FEW Spirits), as well as the new Sketchbook Brewing. There are also some Northwestern buildings including the Alice Millar Chapel with its spectacular stained glass, the Dearborn Observatory, and the psychedelic-Gothic Levere Memorial Temple, headquarters of the SAE fraternity—don’t miss the murals of dwarfs (the Snow White kind) engaged in all kinds of collegiate fun in the basement rathskeller.

Where to eat:
• Edzo’s Burger Shop, 1571 Sherman. Much-beloved burger joint.
• Cupitol, 812 Grove. Former site of the notorious Keg, where you couldn’t get in without a fake ID, now a chic coffee and sandwich place with excellent housemade croissants.
• 527 Cafe, 527 Davis. Sunny cafe serving Korean and a few Taiwanese specialties.


Garfield Park/North Lawndale


Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica & National Shrine

Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica & National Shrine

What it is: African American community has some spectacular vintage sites within a disadvantaged area with signs of redevelopment.

What to see:  Remnants of the old Sears & Roebuck complex are the main attraction, including the original Sears tower and the former power plant that’s now a tech high school. There’s also the enormous Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica (which is where Sean Connery first told Kevin Costner about the Chicago way), and the likewise enormous Lagunitas brewery.

Where to eat:
• Al’s Under the L, 2908 W. Lake. One of the city’s oldest and certainly lowest-frills hot dog and burger stands.
• Inspiration Kitchens, 3504 W. Lake. Soul food and Cajun-flavored west side outpost of the organization that trains the homeless to become cooks and servers.
• La Antigua Hacienda, 2249 S. Pulaski. Mexican seafood restaurant—think both ceviches and fried fish, plus Micheladas.


Gold Coast/Near North Side


What it is: Wealthy lake shore enclave, very ecumenical in its churches and in mansions turned into museums.

What to see: Vintage mansions from the late 19th and early 20th century, such as the one housing The Palette & Chisel Academy of Fine Art, where Lorado Taft taught society ladies, or the one that’s now the Polish consulate. Your chance to finally see inside the Moody Bible Institute after driving by it your whole life, as well as Holy Name Cathedral and St. James Episcopal Church.

Where to eat:
• 3 Arts Club Cafe, 1300 N. Dearborn. As spectacular as any building on the tour, this society women’s club turned Restoration Hardware outlet has a stunning cafe from restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff.
• The Glunz Tavern, 1202 N. Wells. German-American restaurant filled with memorabilia and furnishings from past German establishments and the Glunz family’s liquor business.
• Maple & Ash, 8 W. Maple. You don’t have to drop a wad at this steakhouse evoking midcentury Gold Coast glitz—stick to the bars (one as you walk in, another on the top floor) and you can savor the atmosphere while ordering more modestly.

Patreon

Hyde Park


What it is: The home base of the University of Chicago.

What to see: Exciting to see the Powhatan Building, an Art Deco apartment building straight out of a screwball comedy, back on the list after a few years, along with Wright’s Robie House, the U of C’s Quadrangle Club and others.

Where to eat:
• The Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Avenue West. Impressive bar, restaurant and music venue complex from the same group as Longman & Eagle and Dusek’s.
• Nella Pizza e Pasta, 1125 E. 55th. Authentic Neapolitan pizza from the woman who helped open Spacca Napoli.
• Cemitas Puebla, 1321 E. 57th. New location for the much-loved Mexican sandwich chain.


Lakeview


St. Alphonsus

What it is: Affluent housing area on the lake front, mostly dating to around the 1920s.

What to see: The soaring St. Alphonsus, the Salvation Army college at Broadway and Addison, an old Schlitz tied house in Schuba’s Tavern and a B&B with a secret bar underneath.

Where to eat: Lakeview has plenty of places to get a burger and beer, so I’ll focus on some of the lesser-known food cultures in the area:
• Crisp, 2940 N. Broadway. Korean chicken wings and other tasty Asian things.
• Tango Sur, 3763 N. Southport. Reasonably priced Argentine steakhouse which grew out of the market next door (and where, if you just want a light lunch, you can still grab a couple of empanadas to go).
• Zizi’s Cafe, 2825 N. Sheffield. Very friendly Turkish restaurant with fresh-baked bread.


Lincoln Park


What it is: Another affluent housing area on the lake front, a little older than Lakeview.

What to see: Lincoln Park’s short list includes two spectacular buildings hidden in plain sight, the grand marble halls of the Elks National Memorial and the shrine of Mother Cabrini, as well as the Romanesque Revival Brewster Building apartments from 1893, with its metal and glass catwalks.

Where to eat: Like Lakeview, Lincoln Park is full of fast food and sports bars, but here are a few more interesting choices:
• The Gundis, 2909 N. Clark. Kurdish cafe offering shawarma sandwiches and other central Asian specialties.
• Del Seoul, 2569 N. Clark. The L.A. Korean taco craze came to Chicago at this place, and they’re pretty good.
• RJ Grunt’s, 2056 N. Lincoln Park West. Okay, interesting isn’t exactly the word for the food at the original Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, by modern standards it’s standard fare, but it remains a perfect time capsule of early 70s dining, from the jokey menu and photos of the hippie-chick waitresses on the walls to Chicago’s first salad bar. Can we get a landmark designation already?

HP

Lincoln Square/Ravenswood


What it is: Repurposed factory buildings and a German heritage brought back to life in new businesses.

What to see: Koval Distillery and Half Acre Beer Co.’s new The Big North brewery and beer garden.

Where to eat:
• River Valley Farmer’s Table, 1820 W. Wilson. Farm to table sandwiches and salads from the people you see selling mushrooms and jarred goods at the farmers markets.
• Luella’s Southern Kitchen, 4609 N Lincoln. Upscale takes on southern comfort food.
• Taco in a Bag, 4603 N. Lincoln. Like the name says…


Logan Square/Avondale


What it is: One of the city’s hottest restaurant neighborhoods mixes survivors of old Norwegian and Polish Chicago with repurposed buildings.

What to see: The Aloft Circus Arts building in an old church, the long-controversial Congress Theater, and facilities for Revolution (beer) and Metropolis (coffee).

Where to eat:
• Revolution Brewing, 2323 N Milwaukee. Their new brewing facility is on the tour; relax with their popular beers and pub food in the original brewpub.
• Lula Cafe, 2537 N. Kedzie. Farm to table cafe has long been a hub of the neighborhood, located as it is in the towering Logan Square Auditorium building (which is on the tour).
• The Radler, 2375 N. Milwaukee. German sausages in a beer hall close to tour stop Chicago Distilling.


Near West Side


Ignite Glass Studio

What it is: Industrial and food market area that’s become a tech and startup center and a hot restaurant row.

What to see: Mostly factory buildings repurposed into hipster things like the toy-filled headquarters of Big Monster Toys (Saturday only), who concept new toys for kids and grownups; be sure to see glassblowing at Ignite Glass Studios.

Where to eat: A year ago I said this area shut down like a small town on Sunday; with chain food outlets moving into the area, that’s already not true any more. Here are things open both days:
• Publican Quality Meats, 825 W. Fulton Market. Sandwiches and a few other things (like the hearty ribollita soup) in this spinoff from the fancier spot next door.
• Bonci, 161 N. Dangamon. Exotic pizza by the slice, from a burgeoning chain whose only other location, the original, is in Rome.
• Greek Islands, 200 S. Halsted. The quintessential Greektown restaurant; Greek dishes are comfy and heavy, grilled fish is fresh, simple and perfect.


Oak Park


What it is: The closest suburb straight west has many fine churches and homes.

What to see: Obviously Frank Lloyd Wright is a focus here, with his studio, though there are actually more homes (two) by his fine Arts & Crafts-ish contemporary George Maher, Pleasant House and the Unity House (not to be confused with Wright’s Unity Temple), as well as the very attractive Oak Park Art League and the Queen Anne Pilgrim Congregational Church.

Where to eat:
• Delia’s Kitchen, 1034 W. Lake. Sunny breakfast and lunch cafe.
• Maya Del Sol, 144 S. Oak Park Ave. Nice upscale Mexican cafe.
• Obsessed Kitchen and Bar, 800 S. Oak Park Ave. Gastropub with an eclectic menu.


Pilsen


What it is: Mexican neighborhood with a Czech heritage, and lots of Mexican food to sample.

What to see: Just four locations, familiar from past years, including the Hector Duarte art studio with its mural exterior and the twin towers of St. Adalbert’s.

Where to eat:
• 5 Rabanitos, 1758 W. 18th. Excellent family-run Mexican restaurant (the dad had experience in Rick Bayless’ restaurants), serving top tamales, tacos and other dishes.
• Canton Regio, 1510 W. 18th. From the family behind now-burned Nuevo Leon, a place inspired by Mexican meat markets where grilled steak goes by the kilo.
• Pleasant House Pub, 2119 S. Halsted. Meat and vegetable pies and other British specialties in a sitdown atmosphere.


Portage Park


What it is: Quiet Northwest side neighborhood.

What to see: Churches, the Portage theater, Lake Effect brewery and the biggest recording studio in the country.

Where to eat:
• Beefbelly, 4800 N Central. Italian beef done with exotic toppings.
• Antojitos Colombianos, 4208 N. Milwaukee. Stop in for coffee and empanadas as a snack or a meal.
• Pueblo Nuevo, 4342 N. Central. Family Mexican restaurant serving all the standards, with a charming, energetic female owner.


South Loop/Prairie Avenue


What it is: The original getaway from downtown for the wealthy in Chicago, with some beautiful houses on Prairie Avenue (when they weren’t torn down long ago).

What to see: A feast for old house fans, including the city’s oldest house (the Clarke House Museum), the Romanesque Glessner house, and the Second Empire-style Wheeler Mansion.

Where to eat: You’re so close to Chinatown (and it’s most likely to be open on Sunday), so head there:
• Cai, 2100 S. Archer Ave., Suite 2F (upper level). Busy, popular dim sum place in the Chinatown mall on Archer.
• Slurp Slurp Noodles, 2247 S. Wentworth. How do you like your noodles, hand-pulled or handcut? Get them either way in soups or stir fries here.
• Richland Center, 2002 S. Wentworth. Downstairs food court with a variety of stands offering everything from dumplings to grilled skewers to takoyaki; see this Fooditor Guide.


South Shore


Johnson Publishing books at the Stony Island Arts Bank

What it is: African-American neighborhood long in the shadow of the steelworks.

What to see: The lavish New Regal Theater, closed for some years but still in excellent shape, is one highlight here; there’s also Theaster Gates’ Stony Island Arts Bank and WGN Flag & Decorating Co., maker of giant flags.

Where to eat:
• 5 Loaves Eatery, 405 E. 75th. Charming breakfast/soul food spot for things like chicken and waffles.
• Lem’s Bar-B-Q, 311 E. 75th. The city’s oldest barbecue spot, cooking up rib tips and hot links in a vinegary sauce. Take-out only.
• Soul Vegetarian East, 205 E. 75th. Tasty vegetarian choices covering a lot of different types of cuisines.


Ukrainian Village


St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church

St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church

What it is: Ukrainian enclave is gentrifying, but its immigrant character is still plainly visible.

What to see: The spectacular Ukrainian churches, including Louis Sullivan’s Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral (the smallest but most harmonious of the bunch).

Where to eat:
• MJ Ukrainian Restaurant, 912 N. Western. A rare new Ukrainian restaurant the neighborhood, serving the traditional classics like varenyky and potato pancakes.
• Ann’s Bakery & Deli, 2158 W. Chicago. Eastern European baked goods and prepared foods.
• Whisk, 2018 W. Chicago. Funky breakfast place with a decorating thing for Ron Swanson.


Uptown


Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad Society

Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad Society

What it is: An eclectic mix of big buildings reflecting onetime prosperity, reused industrial spaces along the Ravenswood tracks—and the city’s other “Chinatown.”

What to see: The newly restored Lawrence House with its vaulted-ceiling bar joins spots like the Preston Bradley Center/Peoples Church and the Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad club in the park fieldhouse.

Where to eat:
• It may not have any historic buildings, dating only to the 1970s, but the north side Asian district on and near Argyle street includes a number of outstanding restaurants, including Sun Wah (5041 N. Broadway) for Hong Kong style BBQ pork and duck, Ba Le (5014 N. Broadway) for banh mi sandwiches, Chiu Quon Bakery (1127 W. Argyle) for pastries and BBQ pork buns, Pho 777 (1065 W. Argyle) for Vietnamese soup, and Immm Rice and Beyond (4949 N. Broadway) for authentic Thai food (see this Fooditor guide).


West Town


What it is: A Polish neighborhood, an industrial neighborhood, a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.

What to see: A host of Polish Catholic churches, sculptor Jerzy Kenar’s studio and the headquarters of star architect Jeanne Gang (Aqua) in the reused Polish National Alliance building.

Where to eat:
• Boeufhaus, 1012 N. Western Ave. Neighborhood steakhouse has a hearty menu of well-crafted sandwiches at lunch, as well as outstanding French onion soup.
• Papa’s Cache Sabroso, 2517 W. Division. Puerto Rican restaurant specializing in roast chicken and pork, also does an excellent jibarito.
• Podhalanka, 1549 W. Division. The last full-fledged Polish restaurant in the area, Podhalanka serves hearty, homey Polish food—though the old style hospitality has been known to become upselling, so make sure you want what’s being ordered for you.

 


Michael Gebert is the adaptively reused editor of Fooditor. He adaptively reused some of last year’s text and pictures, too.

COVER IMAGE: The Yale Building (Englewood)


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  • Dida Brummel

    Thank you for the honorable mention in Ukrainian Village. Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral is very proud to be a part of Open House Chicago! We also have tours on Saturdays throughout the year: https://holytrinitycathedral.net/tours.html