In the 1990s, the Wicker Park / Bucktown neighborhoods helped cement Chicago’s reputation as the place to be for independent culture, and the area has been booming ever since. Its “six corners” intersection of Milwaukee, North, and Damen is home to concert venues like The Double Door, Subterranean, and creative spaces like Heaven, and of course, the Flat Iron Arts Building, and tons of boutiques, cafes, and assorted businesses that especially appeal to music lovers. Here are a few of our favorites:
Reckless has become an institution of independent record stores. You can count on a stellar variety of albums to choose from, and a staff that is super knowledgeable and passionate about music. If you ask them nicely, they may even suggest a record or seven that will blow your mind. The Wicker Park location has an extensive vinyl selection and is prone to free in- store concerts. 1532 N. Milwaukee Ave.
If you find yourself in Wicker Park pre- or post- concert, The Flat Iron is a solid bet for reasonably-priced drinks with friends or a game of pool. The bar has a decidedly rock ‘n’ roll vibe, with the staff DJing selections of punk and metal tunes until 4AM (5AM on Saturdays) and walls adorned with semi-creepy murals (eyeballs, anyone?) by local artists. Located on the street level of the Flat Iron Building in the space once occupied by concert venue / dance club, the Note, The Flat Iron rarely hosts shows anymore, but has become a neighborhood spot for semi-regular. 1565 N Milwaukee Ave.
One of Bucktown’s most beloved beer bars and gathering places, the Map Room’s name is a tribute to its extensive, world-spanning beer list. The cozy bar is open days and for those who prefer a caffeine buzz over a beer buzz (at least during daylight hours), they also serve Intelligentsia coffee. It’s a great spot to chat with regulars or even read a book. As the neighborhood has changed, the crowd has turned slightly more “yuppie,” especially on weekend nights, but that’s cool as long as they keep slinging amazing beers and stick to playing the Melvins and other fine music selections instead of going Bon Jovi. 1949 N Hoyne Ave.
This stylish Wicker Park boutique has one of the best selections of jewelry, watches, hats , and other accessories in the area. Over the years it’s become equally known for its DJ nights, lo-key artist receptions (many of its goods are made by local designers), and special events as it has for shopping. If you’re in the area, definitely stop by. 1442 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Along with Reckless, Quimby’s is the must-go-to shop for music lovers and independent thinkers in the Wicker Park / Bucktown area. The store has an unrivaled array of zines, periodicals, art, music, and pop culture books plus small press and outsider publications. It also hosts a plethora of in-store readings, lectures, and other kinds of awesome awesomeness. This is not hyperbole. Go and see for yourself. 1854 W. North Ave.
By Jamie Ludwig, Rock/Independent Editor, ChicagoMusic.org
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