Often overlooked in favor of its more hipster neighbor, Wicker Park, Bucktown is a Chicago neighborhood that shouldn’t be missed. Just hop on the Union Pacific/North Line at the Evanston station for a short ride to the quaint neighborhood northwest of downtown Chi-Town. Nestled amid a mix of charming brick homes and more modern condos lie many unique restaurants, bars and shops that appeal to families and adventurous college students alike.
2035 N. Western Ave.
You may think you’ve had your fill of coffee shops as a Northwestern student, but don’t be so hasty. Not only does Ipsento offer a variety of innovative food and drink, but it also feels just like the cozy, colorful attic of your own home. First, grab an Ipsento latte, their spicy, sweet signature concoction made of espresso, coconut milk, honey and cayenne pepper. Then, head upstairs to sink into a comfortable armchair and read, play a board game or share an intimate chat. Better yet, take a peanut-butter, banana and honey croissant sandwich with you (but get there early – they only serve breakfast and lunch food until 3 p.m.).
2212 W. Armitage Ave.
I know, I know, you think I’m crazy. But I’m a firm believer that games aren’t just for little kids. Don’t you ever want to feel young and carefree again? Have no fear – explore Cat and Mouse Games for a few hours and you’ll forget all about your midterms and your 200 pages of Russian Lit reading. Classics like chess and checkers? Check. Coloring books? You betcha. (They’re proven to reduce stress). Jigsaw puzzles titled “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”? Of course. Fun board games for lively nights in the dorm? Look no further. All in all, get to Cat and Mouse ASAP before you implode from stress.
2041 N. Western Ave.
Don’t try and deny it – you’re broke. You just can’t stand looking at the bills you’ve racked up at various Evanston eateries, so you’re always looking for a quality, inexpensive meal. Look no further than The Art of Chicken. This rustic, casual, counter-style restaurant with bonus outdoor seating makes two different types of tender, juicy, Spanish-style chicken. (Pro tip: try El Jefe first). Make sure to try the warm pita bread, tasty sides and Mexican bottled soda. Both the friendly, welcoming staff and the quirky décor give the place character. Think giant wall murals, colorful paintings of poultry and tasteful chicken wire. I know you’re intrigued. Enjoy!
2046 N. Damen Ave.
On the other hand, who would pass up a chic brunch spot? Toast, a clone of a popular place in Lincoln Park, is taking Bucktown by storm. Enjoy a french toast or pancake “orgy,” a Nutella pecan crêpe, or a pesto and prosciutto egg scramble in this light and bright BYOB decked out with vintage toasters and other bric-a-brac. Whether you’re splurging with friends, taking advantage of parent’s weekend or trying to impress a date, this restaurant is the perfect getaway for when you’ve exhausted all of your Sunday morning possibilities in Evanston.
Entry points at 1722 N. Ashland Ave, 1801 N. Wood St., 1943 W. Bloomingdale Ave., 1801 N. Milwaukee Ave. and 1801 N. Western Ave.
And if you’re a little guilty about all the delicious food you’ve enjoyed, take advantage of the lush, beautiful trail that runs through the neighborhood. The 606 trail offers 2.7 miles of flat terrain for running, biking, dog walking and more through four diverse neighborhoods, including Bucktown, Wicker Park, Humboldt Park and Logan Square. In the usual Chicago style, the trail provides a much-needed green oasis in an urban space. Built along the remains of the Bloomingdale Line, the 606 is set above city streets and dotted by eye-catching murals and sculptures. Don’t pass up this unique trail if you’re looking for a nice vacation from running on the Lakefill.