Lincoln Square

More than old-fashioned shops and cobblestone streets, Lincoln Square is an exciting neighborhood that boasts a wide range of restaurants, bars and boutiques. Music, arts and crafts are a focus here and for dining, there's an international flair- dig into authentic Mexican, feast on French fare or grab a slice of Neopolitan-goodness at the local pizzeria.

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Dig in at Los Nopales (4544 N. Western Ave.)

If you've ever had the pleasure of eating homemade Mexican food, run of the mill Mexican restaurants can disappoint, but not at Los Nopales. Husband and wife team, Adan and Mirella Moreno, opened Los Nopales in 2005, and the food will make you feel right at home. Maybe that's because the owners feel at home too, after all, they live above the restaurant. Tilapia may not be the first dish you would choose at a Mexican place, but it's bold grill marks and al dente asparagus will make you scrape your plate. The Morenos must be getting it right, because they have repeat customers from Mexico. Now that is a long way to go for an enchilada!

Stock Up on Chicago-Inspired Souvenirs at Sacred Art (4619 N. Lincoln Ave.)

"We are the key piece between an artist community that is underserved in terms of exposure," Sacred Art's Kate Merena says, "and people who are underserved in access to art." You can find everything from the state of Illinois made with license plates to paintings of El station signs. Sacred Art sells the work of more than 100 artists, including Carlos Hernandez. Hernandez's unique collection uses Day of The Dead imagery to immortalize rock star legends such as Jim Morrison.

Get a Boost at The Grind (4613 N. Lincoln Ave.)

Pastries beckon from beneath covered glass cake stands. Whether it's vegan snicker doodles or chocolate almond biscotti, The Grind has a pastry for every palette. The exposed brick wall and photography from far-flung places give this coffee shop major originality points. It's often so crowded with locals looking for a quality cortado or a creamy mango smoothie that snagging a table isn't always easy. If you are able to grab a space, make it worth your while by using the free Wi-Fi.

Save Room for Dessert at Due Lire (4520 N. Lincoln Ave.)

Due Lire's top-notch Italian food makes you feel as if you've splurged on a trip to Italy without leaving the Midwest. The hard part is not ordering everything on the menu. Spinach tortellini with almonds is earthy and addictive. Short rib ravioli will make you fork away the last bite. Homemade noodles and Bolognese will make you rethink opening a box of pasta or a jar of sauce ever again. The only downside is that the portions are on the smaller side by Chicago standards. The bright side is that you'll have room for dessert, so order a tiramisu or two.

Don't Miss the Music & Brews at the Square Roots Festival

World-class music meets craft beer at the Square Roots festival on July 12-14. The lineup includes an eclectic sampling from across the music spectrum. Not sure where to start? Try a couple of groups that are likely to make you see your Lagunitas glass half full. Sierre Leone's Refugee All Stars band shows that songs of hope and joy can begin in devastating circumstances. Bachaco's uplifting lyrics flow from Spanish to English. If you check out Bachaco, they promise in an upbeat tune that you won't shed a single tear or Ni Una Lagrima.

Written by Josannah Terry/ Arte y Vida Chicago http://www.arteyvidachicago.com 

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