Over the six years I spent living in Wicker Park, I split my time between Milwaukee/Honore and Division/Wood, migrating from the thick of the six-corners madness to the more grown-up, stroller-friendly side of town. While I originally settled in Wicker because I had to be close to 290 for work, I grew to love my “hipster ‘hood” and would endlessly wander the boutiques, restaurants, and hidden gems, doing my best to shop local and keep our economy afloat. Here is my local’s guide to Wicker Park – I can honestly say it’s one of the places I miss most in Chicago.
The Best Restaurants in Wicker Park
Bongo Room – The best brunch on the planet, Bongo Room is one of my essential Chicago restaurants. If you haven’t had their white chocolate caramel pretzel pancakes, you simply haven’t lived. There’s a secret to ordering though. You can actually just get one of their specialty ‘cakes on the side (an off-the-menu secret) because they’re way too filling to be an entire meal. My go-to dish is actually the BLT Benedict. Poached eggs, Applewood smoked bacon, spinach, tomato, and basil-pesto hollandaise, it’s the perfect savory breakfast to start the day with a sweet finish.
Takito Kitchen – While Big Star and Antique Taco have more notoriety for tacos in Wicker Park; Takito is the real hidden gem. Opened right around the time I was leaving, they’ve already expanded to a second location on the ultra-hot West Loop strip so you know they’re doing something right. With seasonal salsas and killer margs, you just gotta trust me on this one.
Piece Brewery – By far the best pizza in Wicker Park and the greater Chicagoland area in my opinion, if you’re not into deep dish, Piece’s woodfired crust is a thing of magic. You can order it New Haven style (sans mozz), red, white, or BBQ, but if you’re feeling extra crazy, try one of their mashups with local favorites Honey Butter Fried Chicken or Hot Doug’s atomic sausage.
Big Star – By far the best summer patio in Wicker Park, Big Star’s a casual hangout spot that just so happens to have bomb tacos and old-school country music from local celebrity chef Paul Kahan. It’s the place to grab a marg (or pitcher) and get to people watching.
Mindy’s Hot Chocolate – A neighborhood staple as long as I can remember, this James Beard award-winning pastry chef serves up more than just desserts and the richest hot chocolate around. Stop by for brunch, lunch, or dinner but I dare you to leave without a pastry of some sort.
Small Cheval – Au Cheval’s basic little sister, the menu is boiled down to just the essentials – burgers, fries, and beer. But what more do you need? It satisfies a craving, plain and simple.
Furious Spoon – Ramen with a cult following, Furious Spoon’s décor and ambiance matches its name – loud. Expect graffiti, hip-hop, and a lot of slurping. Looking for something unique to do in the hood? They also offer noodle making classes.
The Best Bars in Wicker Park
Bangers and Lace – My favorite local watering hole, Bangers and Lace is celebrated for their craft beers and homemade sausages. A neighborhood spot on Division with the feel of a Midwest ski lodge, there are 32 beers on tap so it’s not too hard to find a few new pours to try.
The Violet Hour – Arguably the godfather of speakeasies, Violet Hour is concealed behind a mural that’s changed monthly. They have a strict no asshole policy so leave your cell phone and your attitude at the door or they’ll have no problem keeping you behind the velvet rope. Don’t expect any bombs or Miller Lights either, drinks are pricey as it’s basically mixology haven. They say, “Don’t bring anyone you wouldn’t bring to your mom’s house for Sunday dinner,” which is a rule I can get behind.
Emporium Wicker Park – Your friendly neighborhood barcade, Emporium is a trip back in time with arcade, table, and pinball games from the early ‘80s and ‘90s. With a live DJ and photo booth, it can get rowdy.
Tapster – Chicago’s first pour your own place, Tapster has both beer and cocktails on tap. Want to hang but don’t feel like drinking? They also have plenty of non-alcoholic options like kombucha, beer, and soda.
The Best Places for Pampering in Wicker Park
Mojo Spa – This is my happy place. Whether you’ve been here once or a thousand times, George the manager will not only remember your name but your entire backstory, even if he hasn’t seen you in years. One of the best spas in Chicago, their super girly mani/pedi packages like the “Sugar Momma” and chocolate-flavored “Queen for the Day” are the ultimate girl’s day out. Bonus? They often have free champagne, brunch, or cake just to brighten your day. As if the pampering wasn’t enough.
Akira – Akira is a local brand that’s super cute yet with Forever 21 prices. It’s great for dresses, accessories, and everything in between, their style walks the line between trendy and classic so whatever the occasion, you can find something chic there. Oh yeah, and did I mention they have an entire store dedicated to shoes across the street?
Plan Your Trip: Where to Stay in Wicker Park
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