Nestled between Wicker Park and West Town, the East Village offers an approachable respite from its competitively hip, farm-to-table obsessed neighbors, the lax atmosphere perfect for an afternoon trip. Installation galleries, cold-brew coffee and house-made gelato abound, all squeezed into the neighborhood’s cozy radius. With the makings of a hipster haven: boutiques with clothes sourced from Brooklyn vendors, community gardens and eco-friendly outdoor seating, but with a casual, easy, less-pretentious vibe, the East Village is a little neighborhood worth the trip.
908 North Ashland Ave.
On a less dense stretch of North Ashland, Maxwell Colette Gallery displays an urban, post-street contemporary selection of art, with new exhibits rotating every few months. Their upcoming exhibition, "Mint & Serf: Support, Therapy, and Instability," opens on Nov. 7 and is a raw, gritty collection from New York-based graffiti writers Mint & Serf. If you start a gallery-hopping adventure here, make sure to check out the permanent pieces on display from artists like Bansky, Keith Haring, Bast and more.
1957 West Chicago Ave.
The epitome of a slow-drip, naturally sourced, fair-trade cafe stereotype, Atomix Cafe is an easy spot for a cup of coffee or a study break. With the usual accoutrements of a hip coffee shop (vegan, organic and locally sourced food options, a minimalistic logo, an in-house podcast) and a great cappuccino, Atomix delivers in its genre of curated, hip cafes, a welcome break from the burnt coffee scene of Norbucks.
1948 West Chicago Ave.
A rotating gallery, event space and boutique, Ad Hoc is a new spot in the East Village – it opened just this year. What the space lacks in age it makes up for in merchandise, with a carefully curated selection of clothing, accessories and household objects from artists in New York, L.A. and more. Although a bit expensive, Ad Hoc is a spot where you can buy a glass cup with male or female stripper decals, artisan tobacco-scented candles and intimidatingly sleek leather jackets in one place, so what else can you ask for in life?
1736 West Division St.
If you find yourself walking past a window with a life-size Chucky cake staring at you (complete with bloodied knife), make sure to stop in. Alliance Bakery, located on the busiest street in the East Village, West Division St., is a necessary spot for any sweets – macarons, rows of cookies, enormous cupcakes and custom cakes filling the small shop. Before autumn wraps up and Polar Vortex part two kicks in, make sure to grab a Pumpkin Spice Macaron – ’tis the season?
Truthfully, getting to the East Village can be a bit of a doozy. By El in the morning, your best bet is to take the Purple Line to Clark & Lake and transfer to the O’Hare-bound Blue Line for 3 stops until you reach Division. Alternately, at night you can take the Purple Express Line to Chicago & Franklin, then board a 66 bus to Pulaski and get off at Chicago & Wood, or in non-rush hours you can board the 66 bus after taking the Red Line to the Chicago stop.
If you are willing to spend a couple bucks more and face a couple less transfers, the Metra is an easier option. Leaving less frequently from Davis in Evanston, the inward-bound Metra is only a 20-minute ride to Clybourn. From Clybourn you can grab a 9 bus down a few stops to Ashland & Thomas, or you can take a lengthy but manageable walk that winds you through a beautiful residential area.