I like to see Chicago by riding the city's 'L,' and I encourage visitors to do the same. Most folks might take a quick trip around the Loop, but if you have a little extra time, a ride on the Brown Line will afford you a bird's-eye view of the city as the train travels to the Northwest Side. Hop off at the Kedzie stop (second-to-last on the line) and you'll find yourself in the diverse Albany Park neighborhood.
It's a true polyglot community with sounds and tastes and people from around the world, Ecuador and Mexico, Lebanon, the Philippines, Korea and Somalia (to name a few), all coming together to make this piece of Chicago their own.
Head down Kedzie for a block and a half and continue along Lawrence Avenue and you'll experience a bit of this truly unique neighborhood for yourself with this Albany Park itinerary. Here’s just a few Albany Park gems for you to discover on a self-guided tour:
Slow Down and Look Around: Public Art at a Busy Stop
As you exit the Brown Line at Kedzie, pay close attention to the elaborate art glass panels on either side. Look closely and ask, “What is this?” Artist Anne Marie Karlsen's public art piece "Round and Round" honors the past, present and future of the area with her layers of graphic imagery and photomontage that depict train cars, the station, and buildings from the neighborhood. Don’t be afraid to get close and take plenty of photos.
A Trip to the Mediterranean Is Just a Few Steps Away
Cross Kedzie and stop by Semiramis for the finest Lebanese food this side of the Levant. Amid the warm and welcoming surroundings, visitors can enjoy a number of fine culinary offerings from Chef Joseph Abraham, including his falafel, voted best by Chicago magazine in 2009, as well as tabbouleh, fattoush, and a variety of kabobs. Before leaving, make sure and try the baklava with a bit of Arabic coffee with cardamom.
Not in the mood for Lebanese food? On Lawrence Avenue you'll find a variety of choices reflecting the diversity of the neighborhood, including Taqueria San Juanito, LD Pho and a little further along, Korean BBQ at Chicago Kalbi.
A Sweet Note to Cap Your Trip
Regardless of the season, you'll be charmed by a stop at La Michoacana, a Chicago outpost of a popular Mexican ice cream chain serving up paletas (popsicles), helados (ice cream) and other sweet treats. The store's colorful sign will draw you inside, where you'll find plenty of space to take a seat and look around at the bright posters on the walls offering a kaleidoscope of frozen treats, including fresh whole pineapples filled with your choice of ice cream in flavors both common (strawberry, coconut, coffee, chocolate) and less familiar (tamarind, cucumber). You can stop by morning, noon or night: they're open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. It’s a great, budget-friendly place for groups and families too.
"Round and Round" by Anna Marie Karlson
Kedzie Brown Line Station
4648 N. Kedzie Ave.
4639 N. Kedzie Ave.
3509 W. Lawrence Ave.
Photo credits: Albany Park mural and shopping center signs, © Adam Alexander Photography. "Round and Round" by Anna Marie Karlson, Chicago Transit Authority. Semiramis, Eric Allix Rogers.