I live close enough to Pilsen that it feels like I live just as much in that ‘hood as I do in my actual ‘hood, University Village. (Plz don’t stalk me, K?) And to be honest, Pilsen has a bit more personality (and, uh, hipness, I’m not going to pretend it’s not hot/trendy/hipster/up-and-coming). This is basically my confession that I don’t actually live in Pilsen, even though I like to pretend that I do. I’m 500 feet from the neighborhood border. And in my opinion, these are the best things to do in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago.
(Granted, I still have a lot of exploring to do! My Yelp bookmark list is quite long.)
Pilsen Yoga Tribe
The Pilsen Yoga Tribe meets every Sunday morning at 10:30am for 90 minutes of free community yoga at Thalia Hall. If you’re even remotely close to Pilsen and enjoy yoga, I highly encourage you to check it out! Bring your own mat, be prepared to introduce yourself to whoever is plopped down around you. Afterward, you can refuel with brunch downstairs at Dusek’s, or grab a juice from Belli’s.
Honky Tonk BBQ
The food and drinks at Honky Tonk BBQ are delicious. The decor … reminds me of my sister-in-law’s father’s house. He’s in his 70s and grew up in Texas. So … basically, it’s kind of hipster, but in that my-dad-was-an-original-hipster way. But who cares, the food is great, and there is free entertainment (mostly live music) Wednesday – Sunday nights.
Chocolate Uzma Sharif
Chocolat Uzma Sharif is the most amazing chocolate I have ever consumed in my life. It’s pricey but so worth it if you like quality chocolate. Makes great gifts, or just eat it yourself.
Dvorak Park Pool
It’s an outdoor pool, so obviously only open in the summer, but the Dvorak Park Pool is an Olympic-length pool that has a view of the Sears Tower. AND the pool is in a park named for a great composer, so I can feel slightly fancy. Who cares if the pool house hasn’t been updated since … well, let’s just say you shouldn’t expect much privacy if you need to change pre- or post-swim.
Before there were food trucks, there were street vendors. (And ice cream trucks, can’t forget the original food trucks.) If you see a lady in Pilsen selling tamales on the street, buy them, you won’t be disappointed. Likewise, if you go to the Pilsen Community Market, buy some tamales on the way out. When the market isn’t operating, head to her storefront near Halsted & 18th.
There are a lot of options for tacos in Pilsen. It is a predominately Mexican neighborhood, after all. I have yet to try them all, probably because I keep gravitating to my favorite two. Atotonilco is great for cheap tacos, they are open late (and cash only). I always get an Al Pastor taco (or 2 or 3) and go back and forth between pairing that with their fish, avocado or namesake Atotonilco tacos. La Vaca Margarita Bar is a sit-down restaurant with a full bar and great margaritas and some creative but still authentic tacos – my favorites are the Big Boss and the Lomito.
Second Fridays Open Art Galleries
On the second Friday of every month (even in winter), the many art galleries in Pilsen keep their doors open late for open houses. It’s a great chance to check out art made by local artists, maybe drink some wine, meet fellow art enthusiasts. Some galleries and local businesses plan special entertainment or events to coincide with Second Fridays.
I’m very biased on this one because I’m a burlesque performer, so not only am I friends with the producers of the show (and have worked the show), but some of the performers are also my friends. Undressed Burlesque is the third Thursday of every month at Simeon’s Bar, and not only do they book fantastic performers (like, award winners, international performers), but the cover is only $5 and the show runs from 9:30-11pm, so not too late for a school night.
I realize that there are some glaring omission on this list. Because like I said, I still have exploring to do.
Have you been to Pilsen? What’s your favorite restaurant/shop/thing to do?