While most of us won’t be able to fit an international trip to China in between midterms, 45 minutes on the L is worth the trip to Chinatown, a hidden cultural gem of the South Side. Chinatown is fairly close to the real thing and offers a nice change of pace from the more crowded hipster neighborhoods of Chicago like Logan Square or Wicker Park, offering authentic Chinese goods and unique shops all its own. Hop on the Red Line to Cermak-Chinatown and explore a new corner of the world.
Affectionately known as a Chinatown staple, this indoor bazaar is a must for anyone visiting the area. This store sells a wide variety of Chinese goods, toys and souvenirs, from the delectable Hong Yuan Guava Candy to 30 different types of incense. There are usually great sales going on (half the goods were marked 50% off when we visited) and the staff is eager to explain the different products. Step up your dorm deco with a paper lantern, samurai sword or mini Buddha statue, or sample some sweet, Chinese candy.
Just north of the main Wentworth Avenue District is Chinatown Square, a two-story outdoor mall offering plenty for the college student looking to be a little more in debt. Smoothie stands and bakeries like St. Anna Bakery give the air a sweet aroma. The twinkly lights and freshly painted architecture beckon you in to drop some cash at one of the many international tea emporiums or clothing shops that the mall offers. Try the chocolate mousse from St. Anna’s Bakery or a frosty cup of bubble tea from Ken Kee Restaurant for a delicious, bona fide taste of China. For those missing Evanston, the mall is also home to Joy Yee’s, a reliable Northwestern favorite.
One of many tempting restaurants offered at Chinatown Square, Lee Wing Wah sets itself apart from countless other Chinese menus with their extensive smoothie collection. Flavors ranging from the eccentric to everyday fruit can include tapioca balls, a candy-like substance frequently found in bubble tea. The Cantonese-focused menu is budget-friendly as well. For those 21 and over, a bar offers drinks until 10:00 p.m. every night. The food doesn’t disappoint, and customers are encouraged to enjoy a smoothie or other beverage during the wait.
Customers are greeted by tanks of massive goldfish upon entering this eccentric, hole-in-the-wall of a shop. The Fashion House offers many indoor plants, such as the trending bonsai trees, the perfect edition to a dorm room desk. Aisles of incense and piles of jewelry clutter the store and make for a fragrant, colorful atmosphere. Intricate glass figurines line the walls out of harm’s way and artwork decorates any potential open space, yet another perfect dorm room addition.