In January 2014, I liked Chicago…but I can honestly say that in January 2015, I love it. What a difference a year (and a one-mile move) can make! As strange as it sounds, hosting out-of-town guests and playing tourist with them has made me feel more at home here than ever. Every time a friend comes to spend a weekend in Chicago, I get to take them to my favorite places and show off my adopted city at its best. Each coffee shop, walking route, and neighborhood mural becomes even more special when I’ve shared it with someone I love.
I’ve been lucky in January to have spent two weekends with visiting friends, one who I met while studying abroad in Senegal and one who I met in college. Both weekends, we balanced going out with staying home and making our own fun, and both times I had an absolute blast. Today I’m going to write us through a mini-tour and a list of some of my favorite places, mostly in my neighborhood: Logan Square.
To me, Logan Square has the perfect combination of green space, quiet residential streets, and buzzing businesses. If you walk down Logan or Kedzie Boulevard, you’ll see that traffic is separated from beautiful, historic homes by wide, grassy medians and quieter frontage roads for residential parking. In the summer, you’ll see people slacklining, having picnics, doing yoga, reading, and having a grand time outside on these historic boulevards. In the winter…well, it’s still nice to have the space, even if it’s covered in snow! You can read more about this neighborhood’s history on the Logan Square Preservation website.
So, what is there to do in Logan Square when you come to visit? My friend Emily and I barely scratched the surface last weekend. Our time together was focused on hanging out and eating well, so you might notice that our destinations mostly revolved around food…
Food & Drink
- Coffee at Reno Chicago: Reno is a coffee shop/restaurant/bar hybrid that serves Stumptown Coffee (okay, so that’s not very Chicago, but we’ll let them slide), savory bread puddings, and a kale salad that’s actually crave-worthy. They also make wood-fired bagels and pizza as well as fun cocktails. Sit at the communal table to get some work done or cozy up in a booth with your bestie.
- Juice at Owen + Alchemy: This “beyond organic” juice and smoothie bar is a trip, with grass growing out of black walls and an extensive menu of cold-pressed juices as well as smoothies and bowls. It’s pretty small inside–I think there were seven seats–but you can pick up bottles to go, and the creative flavors are definitely worth trying. Emily and I split two: 33 (a spicy juice made of sweet potatoes, carrots, and ginger) and 54 (a sweetened hazelnut milk with warming spices). You can return each bottle for a $1 credit towards your next purchase…which is useful when your juice costs $10!
- Cocktails at Chicago Distilling Company: I am such a fan of this space. With its high ceilings and view of the distillery behind the bar, Chicago Distilling Co. almost feels like a garage–a garage with friendly bartenders and tasty drinks. They currently serve three types of spirits, all made in-house: gin, vodka, and white whisky.
- Dinner at Lula Cafe: While Lula has some incredible entrees, Emily and I had a blast splitting four of the appetizers. She’s mostly vegan and I’m mostly paleo (though I put it on major hold this weekend), so it was easier for us to find compromises among the small plates. We sat at the chef’s counter and watched dish after tantalizing dish come out of the kitchen. Our favorite by far was the beet bruschetta, and I’m still thinking about the warm, creamy chickpea tagine.
- Brunch at Fritz Pastry: Alright, this one is a cheat: Fritz is actually in Lincoln Park, not Logan Square, but it’s an old favorite with me and my roommate. We went with Emily to try their iconic square donuts and we all got a Miso Rito and delicious HalfWit coffee.
- Shopping at Logan Square Farmers Market: the farmer’s market is one of my favorite parts of this neighborhood, and it’s always been worth the walk! In the winter, local and regional farms sell at the market, and other producers and businesses sell hot food and treats. We purchased one giant golden beet to use in our hummus and got some watermelon radishes thrown in for free.
(A Little Bit of) Shopping
- Art at Galerie F: Walking around this neighborhood, it’s hard to miss the beautiful murals and street art that colors the streets. This gallery shows prints of street art, concert posters, and other cool prints with a distinctive style.
- Gifts at Wolfbait & B-girls: If you’re looking for Chicago-made goods, look no further. Wolfbait is a boutique with a wide selection of locally made products ranging from beard oil to baby onesies to jewelry. Their employees are all local artists, and they sell clothing, too–some of which is made in the store. When Emily and I walked in, they were holding a trunk show with complimentary mimosas and pastries. She picked up a gift for her neighbor and I got a Scratch Goods blondie shampoo bar to try out.
We actually spent a lot of the weekend in my apartment, swapping book recommendations and cooking together. We had told ourselves that we would work out together, but that really amounted to lighting a lavender candle and doing some bootleg yoga before dissolving into laughter. Bootleg yoga = Emily leading us in a series of whatever-she-feels-like poses while I offer critique and try not to fall over.
- Mushroom risotto: Emily taught me how to make risotto the last time she visited me in Illinois, so it was only fitting that I made some to welcome her to Chicago! At this post, I can mostly eyeball it, but I made a vegan version of this recipe with extra vegetable broth instead of wine.
- Golden beet hummus: We made a half-batch of this recipe with a golden beet and lots of extra lemon juice and garlic. I guess neither of us can leave a recipe alone!
- Pita bread: If you’ve never made yeast bread before, don’t be afraid! This pita recipe is so easy, and you’ll enjoy watching each pita puff up like a balloon as it cooks in the hot oven.
On Monday morning, Emily headed home and I went down to Rush Medical Center for a volunteer project where we made fleece blankets with March of Dimes–and where I took the top picture. Not a bad view of the Chicago skyline, especially considering it’s from the parking garage!
Have you ever visited Chicago, or is it on your list of places to see in 2015? What other sights can I share?