Chicago visitors are always drawn downtown, and for good reasons: the architecture is incredible, the energy is infectious and there's something unique around every corner. But there is more to the city than Millennium Park, Navy Pier and the Willis Tower. Chicago has numerous neighborhoods to explore, all featuring their own fantastic restaurants, great shopping and unique cultural experiences. One of the best neighborhoods to explore is Andersonville. When you visit, venture out and experience Chicago like a local.
Located about seven miles north of downtown, Andersonville is easily accessible via the CTA Red Line. Andersonville is a charming community that offers some of the best shopping, dining and entertainment options in all of Chicago. Andersonville is a culturally diverse neighborhood with strong ties to its Swedish heritage. Its businesses are warm, welcoming and many are locally owned.
A Little Neighborhood History
Andersonville residents are very proud of their heritage. The neighborhood began to take shape in the 1850's when immigrant Swedish farmers working in Chicago started settling there. The Swedish families and their businesses primarily dominated the developing neighborhood along Clark Street through the turn of the century. However, the Depression and the World Wars forced many Swedes to move away from the city.
The locals that remained did not want to lose their history, so the area officially rededicated itself to its Swedish roots with the name Andersonville Chamber of Commerce in 1964. The next year, the neighborhood began observing the annual Swedish celebration known as Midsommarfest, then the Swedish American Museum came a little over a decade later. Thanks to the residents' dedication to their heritage, Andersonville preserved its history. Midsommerfest has now grown into one of the most popular street festivals in Chicago and the neighborhood attracts locals as well as visitors to its unique businesses.
There are many hidden gems in Andersonville, but here are a few places you shouldn't miss.
Restaurants and Bars:
- Hopleaf: Tasty Belgian-inspired fare and one of the best beer lists in all of Chicago.
- Tanoshii: Amazing Japanese restaurant serving up super fresh sushi specialties. Sit at the sushi bar and chat with Chef Mike Ham, AKA Sushi Mike, let him know your likes/dislikes and he will craft a dish specially for you.
- Big Jones: One of the best weekend brunch destinations in the city, featuring mouthwatering Southern heirloom cooking and an extensive bourbon menu.
- Jameson Loves Danger: Adorable pet supply store offering everything under the sun for your furry babies.
- Marguerite Gardens: Whimsical floral shop and gift store.
- Brownstone Antiques: Hunt for hidden treasures at this storefront packed with antiques and collectibles.
- Alleycat Comics: Nifty neighborhood comic book store tucked away in an alley off Clark Street.
Entertainment and Attractions:
- Steep Theatre: Incredible storefront theatre currently playing Wastwater, a U.S. premiere by Tony Award winning playwright Simon Stephens (July 7-August 13).
- Neo-Futurists present Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind: The longest running show in Chicago where the actors attempt to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes.
- Koval Distillery: Chicago's first craft distillery. Join one of their tours or register for a cocktail making class.
- Hamburger Mary's and Mary's Attic: Choose your own adventure at one of Chicago's best gay bars. Grab a great burger downstairs or head up to Mary's Attic to check out MaryOke-karaoke or one of their fabulous cabaret performances.
Venture up to Andersonville using this mix-and-match itinerary above, or check out andersonville.org/events for hot happenings like sidewalk sales and dinner crawls. Looking to explore more? Browse other ready Chicago itineraries or visit choosechicago.com/neighborhoods for more area guides and interactive maps.
Additional Image Credits: Wastwater Production Photo. Photo by Lee Miller; Jameson Loves Danger. Photo by Michelle Lytle Photography; Hopleaf's Mussels & frites. Photo by Grant Kessler