Located on the near northwest side of Chicago, conveniently along the Blue Line, Wicker Park has developed a renown as a hub of culture, hipster obsessions, artistry, shopping, and of course, eating and drinking. Here's a handy guide to can't-miss haunts in Wicker Park's restaurant scene.
In lieu of the unassuming exterior, Taxim presents an exciting, novel interpretation of Greek cuisine. Inside you'll find yourself in a transportive setting on par with Mediterranean dreams, complete with stunning rugs and drapery, both of which you half expect to come to life and fly you around in the air. From duck gyros to whole roasted Aegean sea bass and Cypriot-style pork sausage, the menu runs the gamut of regional, polished Greek cuisine.
Beer-lovers, take heed. Bangers & Lace is one of the best beer bars in the city, resided over by an adept cicerone (beer sommelier) and stocked with an impressive list of local and international craft beers. The lineup changes steadily and seasonally, keeping things fresh and dynamic, consistently attuned to the comforting menu of sausages, deviled eggs, and some of the best pretzels in Chicago.
Wicker Park has become one of the quintessential neighborhoods for contemporary tacos. While other ‘hoods in Chicago are chock full of authentic taqueria fare, Wicker Park proudly boasts spots such as Antique Taco, a unique hybrid of neo-taqueria and antique shop. While the walls are adorned with nifty artifacts sourced from throughout the Midwest, the menu peddles masterful tacos more like composed entrees that just so happen to be wrapped in tortillas. Rosemary-infused margaritas, killer salads, and other invigorating options round out the polished menu at this popular Milwaukee Avenue.
Speaking of popularity and tacos, Big Star excels at both. The perpetually packed hot spot has the feel of a boisterous garage party, featuring a lengthy bar, ample booths, and one of the best patios in the city. The taco menu is simple, but flavors are spot-on and luscious, featuring everything from al pastor pork to fish and chicken. Come for the tacos, stay because you're sufficiently buzzed off bourbon and tequila thanks to Big Star's biblical booze list.
Right across the street from Big Star, one of Wicker Park's most clamorous destinations, lies one of the neighborhood's most clandestine, coolest nooks. The signage-free spot is marked only by an exuberant street mural, accessed through a somewhat secretive door and a hallway ensconced in dark drapery. Once inside, the sleek cocktail den feels like a secretive Alice in Wonderland-style tea party, only instead of tea and debauchery, it's some of the most refined cocktails in the city.
For a dose of Southern charm in the heart of Wicker Park, get thee to Carriage House, a Mecca of low country comfort on Division Street. Helmed by Charleston, South Carolina native Mark Steuer, Carriage House features a thoughtful medley of classic and contemporary Southern staples, from shrimp and grits to cornbread with foie gras butter. Be it brunch, dinner, drinks, or a combo of all of the above, Carriage House is a cozy respite from the hustle and bustle surrounding it.
Photos: Taxim, Bangers & Lace, Antique Taco, Big Star, Eden Laurin (The Violet Hour), Carriage House