North Lincoln is a collection of neighborhoods on the north side of Chicago through which Lincoln Avenue wanders, remembering treasures and curiosities of the last century in Chicago life, moving along, and forgetting them all over again.
Lincoln Square, Albany Park, and North Park are much better known to residents than tourists, but anyone will feel welcome here. To paraphrase Lionel Richie, this is where Chicago is easy like a Sunday morning, all week long.
The best reasons to come here are the shopping — unquestionably cool, and completely unpretentious — and the restaurants, which serious Chicago food lovers consider some of the best in the city.
North Lincoln in a nutshell
Lincoln Square was settled by German farmers in the 1860s, when the area (along with portions of the neighboring Uptown) was known as Ravenswood. With the arrival of what is today known as the Brown Line elevated train in 1906, population surged, and a thriving small business community developed under the L tracks and around the network of streetcar lines. By the 1920s, the relatively affluent community had a movie palace, now known as the Davis Theater, and rows of attractive commercial buildings — most notably the Krause Music Store, whose façade was the last commission of master architect Louis Sullivan. Although the neighborhood is now culturally diverse, a few vintage businesses like the Chicago Brauhaus and The Huettenbar celebrate its German heritage through, well, celebration.
Today, Lincoln Square has some of the city's best shopping (even for people who don't like shopping), and some terrific restaurants and bars; more than anything else, though, Chicago doesn't get any more pleasant than Lincoln Square for brunch on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
The Greater Lincoln Square area includes the smaller, residential neighborhoods of Budlong Woods, Ravenswood Gardens, and Ravenswood Manor, which is crossed by the pretty North Branch of the Chicago River — unrecognizable from the more famous sludge in the Loop.
Also listed in this article are Albany Park and North Park, two diverse residential neighborhoods to the northwest of Lincoln Square. There’s no better place in Chicago to find late-night Guatemalan dinner or Filipino dessert. Kedzie Avenue has an amazing run of authentic Middle Eastern restaurants, and a major Korean population lives and works on the stretch of Lawrence Avenue known as "Seoul Drive." The Brown Line makes it easy to skip the over-priced tourist restaurants downtown and enjoy a quick culinary tour at a fraction of the price you’ll find by your hotel — unless you’re staying on the Sin Strip (see Sleep).
Welcome to the neighborhood
When Chicago was offered a piece of the Berlin Wall, Lincoln Square was the natural choice for a location, considering its German roots. It's now in the lobby of the Western Brown Line CTA station. Anyone can have a look, but tearing down the wall is strictly prohibited.
The CTA Brown Line runs from the Loop, and makes stops in Ravenswood (Montrose, Damen), Lincoln Square (Western), Ravenswood Manor (Rockwell, Francisco), and terminates in Albany Park (Kedzie, Kimball). The stations from Rockwell to Kedzie are street-level, and most have a second entrance on the other end of the platform. All stations are wheelchair accessible.
The Metra Union Pacific North Line stops at Ravenswood (Lawrence Avenue) before moving on to Rogers Park and Evanston.
- 11 Lincoln runs on Lincoln Ave, connecting West Ridge with the brown line.
- 49 Western runs all night through most of the city, connecting to the Brown Line at the Western station in the heart of Lincoln Square.
- 49B North Western starts at the Western Brown Line station in Lincoln Square and heads north to the Indian restaurants on Devon ending at the Howard Street, the city limits.
- 50 Damen connects with the Brown Line at the Damen station.
- 78 Montrose runs along the border with Irving Park on the Far Northwest Side, connecting with the Brown Line in North Center.
- 81 Lawrence is ideal for travel on "Seoul Drive". It connects to the Red Line in Uptown.
- 82 Kimball/Homan connects with the Brown Line at Kimball serving Albany & North Park heading up to Devon.
- 92 Foster connects with the Red Line at Berwyn and is the best way to reach Andersonville from the train. It also ends up west at the Jefferson Park Blue Line station.
Lincoln Ave is the main thoroughfare for Lincoln Square. While few roads in Chicago can match Lincoln for unique shops and restaurants, it's perpetually under construction, and traffic rarely moves fast. Take Western if you are in a hurry. Accordingly, if you are coming up the Kennedy Expressway, take the Western Ave exit, although if you are coming from the north on the Edens Expressway, the Peterson Ave exit is probably the fastest way into the district.
Free parking is generally available on side streets, but keep an eye out for permit-parking zones.
The heart of Lincoln Square is Giddings Plaza, a fountain square located on a one-way stretch of Lincoln Avenue. It's a popular gathering spot, and on summer evenings, impromptu concerts from the Old Town School of Folk Music often spill out into the square. Nearby, there are a few flourishes in honor of the neighborhood's German heritage and namesake: while out and around, look for the Maypole, a few German murals, the decidedly Teutonic Thomas Jefferson Pumping Station, and the Beardless Action Lincoln statue.
The only notable sight in the neighborhood is the home of disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, but an aimless stroll on a sunny day in Ravenswood Manor is one of the best afternoons Chicago has to offer. Exit the Francisco Brown Line stop and you're right in the midst of several blocks of classic Chicago bungalows and brick mansions.
Forms from nature, Louis Sullivan
- Cambodian Association of Illinois, 2831 W Lawrence Ave (Francisco Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 878-7090, . Community Center M-F 9AM-5PM, Museum & Memorial M-F 10AM-4PM, Sa-Su by appointment. In addition to their work with Cambodian immigrants and refugees, the CAI also runs a small but highly effective Heritage Museum and Killing Fields Memorial at their building near Albany Park. edit
- DANK-HAUS German Cultural Center, 4740 N Western Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 275-1100, . Sa 11AM-3PM, and for special events such as '''German Cinema Now''', showing contemporary German films with English sub-titles, on the third Monday of every month at 7PM. D.A.N.K. is an acronym for German American National Congress, which is also on-site, a cultural and social hub for the German-American community throughout Chicago and the Midwest. The Cultural Center hosts art exhibitions in two gallery spaces. Usually free. edit
- Krause Music Store, 4611 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line). Built in 1922, this was the last commission of legendary architect Louis Sullivan. The beautiful terra-cotta facade was restored in 2006. It currently houses a design studio. edit
- Rosehill Cemetery, 5800 N Ravenswood Ave, ☎ +1 773 561-5940. Rosehill doesn't have as famous a burial list as Graceland nearby in Uptown, but the mix of Chicago historical figures, Civil War soldiers, and Bohemian statuary makes it worth a look. The Gothic cemetery gate was built in 1864, one of the few remaining structures from before the Great Chicago Fire. edit
This is a laid-back area, with plenty of opportunities to relax or pick up a new hobby.
- Albany Park Theater Project, 5100 N Ridgeway Ave, ☎ +1 773 866-0875, . A community gem: experienced theater veterans guide a multi-ethnic ensemble of teenagers in creating original plays about the immigrant stories in their neighborhood. edit
- The Chopping Block Cooking School, 4747 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 472-6700, . M-F 10AM-9PM, Sa-Su 10AM-6PM. Even if you're only going to be in town for one day, you can drop in for a class (no experience necessary) on a wide variety of culinary subjects, with plenty of hands-on experience included. Check the calendar on their website to see if anything strikes your fancy. Kids classes $20, adults $40-75. edit
- Davis Theater, 4614 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 784-0893, . In the neighborhood for more than 80 years. They mostly show current Hollywood movies, but there are special features every once in a while, including Bollywood musicals for the Indian community on Devon. Tickets $8, $5.50 before 6pm. edit
- Gompers Park, 4222 W Foster Ave (Foster & Pulaski), ☎ +1 773 685-3270, . A big, lovely park (39 acres) with the full range of outdoor sports activities, including a lagoon for fishing. A new statue in honor of the park's namesake, labor hero Samuel Gompers, was unveiled in 2007. edit
- Lincoln Square Lanes, 4874 N Lincoln Ave, ☎ +1 773 561-8191. Su-F 12PM-2AM, Sa 12PM-3AM. A second-floor bowling alley, right above a hardware store, with hand-scoring and an old Midwestern lodge feel. $4 per game; cheap beer, too. edit
- Marie's Golden Cue, 3241 W Montrose Ave (Kedzie Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 478-2555. M-F 12PM-2AM, Sa-Su 11AM-2AM. A classic pool hall with eighteen well-kept tables. It's seedy enough that you can enjoy hustlers working the room, but not so rough-and-tumble that Marie can't announce her new grand-kids on the vintage marquee outside. Hot dogs and a couple of arcade machines are available. $5-9 per hour. edit
- The Old-Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 728-6000, . If you're interested in folk music from America or anywhere else in the world you should definitely plan to spend some time at the Old-Town School. There are classes ranging from beginners' clawhammer banjo to advanced Flamenco dance. Even if you are just passing through town, consider stopping by to see a concert or just to check out the store, which features a fabulous array of banjos, fiddles, guitars, and rare folk instruments from around the world, as well as recordings of just about every sort of folk music (and early jazz) you can imagine. edit
- Welles Park, Between Western, Lincoln, Montrose, & Sunnyside Ave (Sunrise to sunset), ☎ +1 312 742-7511, . One of the best neighborhood parks in the city. Welles Park is a perfect match for Lincoln Square: 15 acres of great facilities (tennis, softball, an indoor pool) that never feels remotely crowded, except when the Old Town School of Folk Music holds the free summer Folk & Roots Festival  here. edit
Blowup map of the central Lincoln Square area
If you've come to Chicago to shop, give the designer jumble on the Magnificent Mile its due and then come to Lincoln Square, where they have stuff you can't buy at the mall back home. There are several labor-of-love shops here, and they're a lot of fun to browse.
- Architectural Artifacts, 4325 N Ravenswood Ave, ☎ +1 773 348-0622, . 10AM-5PM daily. Chicago has built many of the world's greatest buildings, and Chicago has also destroyed many of the world's greatest buildings. This is where a lot of the pieces wind up — an enormous warehouse full of tiles, furnishings, and exterior ornament from classic skyscrapers and bungalows. (Find the interior courtyard for the biggest pieces.) The prices befit the awe the items inspire, but it's absolutely worth a browse whether or not you plan to buy anything. edit
- Book Cellar, 4736 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 293-2665, . M,W-Sa 10AM-10PM, Tu,Su 10AM-6PM. Splendid, comfortable book store with author events, a wide selection of Chicago books, and wine by the glass. edit
- Eclecticity, 4718 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 275-3080, . M-Sa 11AM-9PM, Su 11AM-5:30PM. Proudly described as a "purely self-indulgent venture," Eclecticity is shopping for shopping's sake, with collectibles old and new from around the world, and a wide selection of candles. edit
- European Import Center, 4752 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 561-8281. Address the embarrassing lack of garden gnomes and authentic Black Forest cuckoo clocks in your life. edit
- Gallimaufry Gallery, 4712 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 728-3600, . M-Sa 10AM-6PM (Th to 8PM), Su 1-6PM. A little bit of everything, and a wonderful selection thereof; jewelry, secret boxes, imported scarves, and several varieties of kaleidoscopes are among the delights you'll find here. edit
- Hangar 18, 4726 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 275-3349, . M 11AM-6PM, Tu-F 11AM-7PM, Sa 11AM-6PM, Su 11AM-5PM. From handbags to baby slings, from toys to journals, this is where cool stuff is found; nothing you urgently need, and lots of things you'll realize you want. Closed as of August 2012. edit
- IWW Literature Department, 2036 W Montrose Ave (Montrose Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 857-1090 (email@example.com), . M-F noon-5PM. Bookstore for the radical union, the IWW. edit
- Laurie's Planet of Sound, 4639 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 271-3569, . M-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 11AM-7PM. Excellent neighborhood LP, CD, & DVD store with staff who care about music — not infrequently is this called the best record store in the city. edit
- Merz Apothecary, 4716 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 989-0900, . M-Sa 9AM-6PM. Established in 1875 as a typical corner drug store, Merz Apothecary sold herbal medicines and traditional remedies from the Old World under several generations of the Merz family. In 1972, Abdul Quaiyum bought the store and expanded sales to include international health, body, and beauty products, and today, the thriving business doubles as a tourist destination for its classic atmosphere. edit
- Quake Collectibles, 4628 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 878-4288. If you have long yearned to re-assemble the squad of Dinobots that your mother so heartlessly sold at a garage sale, this would be a good place to start. Prices for in-original-package items vary, but the real danger lies in the several bins of loose action figures at $3 apiece or 4 for $10. edit
- Rock N Roll Vintage Guitar Shop, 4740 N Lincoln Ave, 2nd floor (Above Salamander Shoes, Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 878-8616, . M,W,F noon-6PM, Tu,Th noon-7PM, Sa noon-5PM. If you've been looking for that special guitar you had as a kid or you want to step up to a more serious guitar you might want to visit Rock N Roll Vintage. They have loads of vintage and used guitars, amps and even some new gear packed into every corner of their shop. edit
- Salamander Shoes, 4740 N Lincoln (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 784-7463, . M-W 9:30AM-6PM, Th 9:30AM-8PM, F-Sa 9:30AM-6PM, Su noon-4PM. Imported walking shoes on stylish display, with a few bigger-than-usual sizes. edit
- Sweden Shop, 3304 W Foster Ave, ☎ +1 773 478-0327, . M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 10AM-3PM. Scandinavian import store in North Park, owned by the couple that runs the Tre Kronor restaurant (see Eat). edit
- Timeless Toys, 4749 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 334-4445, . M-W, Sa 10AM-6PM, Thu,F 10AM-7PM, Su 11AM-5PM. Classic toy store — as in, no Disney characters or cheap movie tie-ins — with plenty to buy and plenty more to play with in the store. edit
Put simply, there's food in this area that's found nowhere else in Chicago, and it's good. Middle Eastern and Korean are the headliners, but there are also Thai, German, and Japanese places that are consistently mentioned among the city's best. With most restaurants easily accessible from the Brown Line, it's worth a trip for dinner even if you're staying elsewhere.
- Apart Pizza, 2205 W. Montrose Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 588-1550, . M-Tu 5-11PM, W-Su 11AM-11PM. One of the best locations for Neapolitan-style pizza in Chicago, and unlike the well-known main competitor Spacca Napoli, here you won't have to wait an hour to get in the door. Makes an amazing $5 personal pizza, and features free delivery. $5-18. edit
- Costello Sandwich & Sides, 4647 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 989-7788, . Su-Th 11AM-9PM, F-Sa 11AM-10PM. Sandwich joint with more than enough options to make Subway's head spin. $6-8. edit
- Garcia's Restaurant, 4749 N Western Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 769-5600. M-Th 10AM-1AM, F 10AM-3AM, Sa 10AM-4AM, Su 10AM-12AM. Cheap Mexican restaurant that earns loyalty for plentiful, tasty food and late-night hours. $4-12. edit
- Korean Noodle Restaurant, 3236 W Bryn Mawr Ave, ☎ +1 773 588-0305. M-Sa 10AM-10PM. Korean noodle soup is generally similar to other East Asian noodle cuisine, but is often fiery hot, full of Korean hot sauce. $3-6. edit
- Nazareth Sweets, 4638 N Kedzie Ave, ☎ +1 773 463-2457. M-Sa 10AM-10PM, Su 10AM-9PM. If you've had dinner on Kedzie, skip dessert there and savor this on the train back to the hotel. Nazareth has the cheap, fresh baklava and semolina cakes you so richly deserve. $2-5. edit
- Rosded Restaurant, 2308 W Leland Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 334-9055. Tu-Sa 11:30AM-9PM, Su noon-8:30PM. Hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant with traditional recipes and big, flavorful portions. $10-20. edit
- Salam, 4636 N Kedzie Ave (Kedzie Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 583-0776. 9:30AM-9:30PM. Falafel comes no cheaper in Chicago than at this mostly Palestinian restaurant. It's a neighborhood hang-out and has nothing in the way of decor, but anyone is welcome, and the menu changes throughout the week to keep the regulars satisfied. $3-10. edit
- Semiramis, 4639 N Kedzie Ave (Kedzie Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 279-8900. M-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM. BYOB Lebanese food that excels even in staples like hummus. Semiramis is smack outside the Kedzie station, and its comfortable, casual dining room is a great place to pass some time. $6-13. edit
- Shelly's Freez, 5119 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 271-2783. 9AM-9:45PM daily. A giant hot dog and a giant soft-serve ice cream cone on the walls outside advertise a simple, timeless culinary truth. $2-4. edit
- Taco Chino, 4712 N Kimball Ave (Kimball Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 866-1530, . 10:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.. Korean-style tacos. Need we say more? under $10. edit
One of the true pleasures of Chicago dining is a weekend brunch in Lincoln Square. Cafe Selmarie is the best-known spot, but a few of the bars serve a worthy brunch as well — see Drink for more options.
- Al-Khaymeih, 4748 N Kedzie Ave (Kedzie Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 583-0999. 10AM-10PM. Lebanese cuisine in Albany Park. Try a mezza, a set selection of twelve appetizers for your dipping pleasure. $10-22. edit
- Cafe Selmarie, 4729 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 989-5595, . M 11AM-3PM, Tu-Th 8AM-10PM, F-Sa 8AM-11PM, Su 10AM-10PM. A favorite spot for brunch since 1983, with outdoor sitting right in the fountain square. $8-17. edit
- Chicago Kalbi, 3752 W Lawrence Ave, ☎ +1 773 604-8183, . W-M 5PM-midnight. Korean/Japanese BBQ. Reportedly has a shrine to Japanese baseball players, making it worth the trip for pro yakyu fans. $14-30. edit
- Cho Sun Ok, 4200 North Lincoln Avenue (Irving Park or Montrose Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 549 5555, . 10:30 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.. First, and arguably best, Korean restaurant in Chicago. $11-30. edit
- Great Sea Chinese Restaurant, 3254 W Lawrence Ave, ☎ +1 773 478-9129. Su-Th 11AM-9:30PM, F-Sa 11AM-10:30PM. A nice attractive restaurant serving a wide range of Chinese and Korean foods. $8-14. edit
- Il Song Jung, 3315 W Bryn Mawr Ave, ☎ +1 773 463-2121. 5PM-2AM daily. A Korean BBQ restaurant with an interior you would only find on "Seoul Drive." Patrons cook their own food on the table as they eat. $10-15. edit
- Los Nopales, 4544 N Western Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 334-3149, . Tu-Su 10AM-10PM. BYOB Mexican restaurant; the name means "cactus paddle," and that's one of their signature dishes. (And there's a liquor store around the corner on Leland.) $7-18. edit
- Midori Japanese Restaurant, 3310 W Bryn Mawr Ave, ☎ +1 773 267-9733. W-M lunch: 11:30AM-2:30PM, dinner: 5PM-11PM, karaoke: 7PM-1:30AM. This Japanese restaurant is an excellent value, offering all sorts of hard-to-find Japanese dishes and private dining rooms for up to 6 people. $10-15. edit
- Noon O Kabab, 4661 N Kedzie Ave (Kedzie Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 279-8899, . M-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su 11AM-9PM. Persian food that deservedly earns rave reviews, particularly the polo (seasoned rice) dishes. Meals come with some tasty complimentary appetizers. It's a great take-out option, too. $7-17. edit
- So Gong Dong Tofu House, 3307 W Bryn Mawr Ave, ☎ +1 773 539-8377. 10AM-10PM, closed W. Serves up sizzling portions of Korean tofu stew with beef, seafood, or vegetables, and dan jang chi gae, memorably described by the Chicago Reader as "an aggressive bean paste stew." $10-15. edit
- Spoon Thai, 4608 N Western Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 769-1173, . 11AM-10PM. Authentic Thai food, with bits and pieces from other Asian cuisines. Rumor has it that a secret Thai-only menu exists for a wider range of options. Weekday lunch specials are only $4.95. edit
- Ssyal Ginseng House, 4201 W Lawrence Ave, ☎ +1 773 427-5296. M-Sa 10:30AM-9:30PM, Su 1-9PM. Ginseng-infused Korean soups (chicken, fish, and miso). Check out the bizarre (and perfectly natural) twisted jars of ginseng in the window. $11. edit
- Tre Kronor, 3258 W Foster Ave, ☎ +1 773 267-9888, . Tu-Sa 7AM-10PM, Su 9AM-3PM. Along with Andersonville, North Park has a pocket of Swedish Chicago. Good for breakfast, brunch, or a quick fika. $5-15. edit
An invitation to the Brauhaus, Lincoln Square
- Chicago Brauhaus, 4732 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 784-4444, . 11AM-12AM, closed Tuesdays. Whenever you walk into the Brauhaus, you're right on time for Oktoberfest, which has carried on for more than forty years at this authentic, family-run German restaurant. If schnitzel, brats, beer, and the Austrian Elvis sounds appealing, mach schnell! $16-22. edit
- Joy Ribs, 6230 N Lincoln Ave, ☎ +1 773 509-0211. Korean BBQ, starring duck, beef, and pork, with a house specialty of pheasant. $44 for two people. edit
- La Bocca della Verita, 4618 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 784-6222, . Su-Th 5-10PM, F-Sa 5-11PM. The Mouth of Truth is a slow-food favorite, as the owners take their sweet time in preparing these faithful Italian-from-Italy recipes. Dogs are welcome to accompany their owners on the outdoor patio, with bowls of water available for hot days. $16-22. edit
The Huettenbar, Lincoln Square
- The Grind, 4613 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 241-4482, . M-F 7AM-10PM, Sa 8AM-10PM, Su 8AM-7PM. Wi-fi and plenty of outdoor seating. [hours have changed as of summer 2012. Need to be confirmed, but the new closing time seems to be 6PM daily.] edit
- Lutz Cafe & Pastry Shop, 2458 W Montrose Ave, ☎ +1 773 478-7785, . Su-Th 7AM-7PM, F-Sa 7AM-8PM. Enjoy coffee and something sweet from this legendary bakery (est. 1948), or just stop by to gaze in awe at the amazing display case. The cafe has a nice outdoor garden (weather permitting). edit
- The Perfect Cup, 4700 N Damen Ave (Damen Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 989-4177. M-F 6:30AM-9PM, Sa 7:30AM-9PM, Su 7:30AM-8PM. A quiet coffee shop near the CTA with a take-a-book leave-a-book policy. edit
Not accidentally, you'll find more than a few karaoke joints on Lincoln, Western, and Lawrence, near the Korean BBQ restaurants. The rest listed here are upscale restaurant/bar combos and a few affable dives.
Sin Strip slipping away
In the early days of the inter-state motorways, US-41 was the route of choice between Chicago and Milwaukee. Twelve motels sprang up on Lincoln Avenue between Peterson/Devon and Foster to accommodate road-weary travelers, with giant neon signs bearing names like Stars, Tip-Top, and Rio.
However, with the opening of the Edens Expressway (I-94), traffic dried up on US-41. The full extent of what happened next depends on who you ask; pretty much everyone will admit that, yes, some hookers did take advantage of the hourly rates offered by some motels, the name of the O Mi Motel did take on a certain irony, and the Lincoln Avenue motels did come to be known as Sin Strip. It's not a question of whether there was a cesspool; merely a debate over whether the cesspool was all-encompassing.
Over the last ten years, the city government has been using every legal maneuver in its considerable repertoire to get the Lincoln Avenue motels closed, as part of the effort to remove centers for crime and vice, and to prime a few more areas to join in Chicago's real estate boom. Several have been condemned or sold to condo developers. A handful do remain, however, and are run by owners who insist that they run respectable businesses and are fighting to stay open.
While perhaps not a place to bring a family keen on standard Chicago tourist fare, there are a few things to be said for saying on Sin Strip: the area has gentrified considerably, and it's no longer particularly dangerous in the area. (Just a bit seedy.) The CTA Brown Line is only a short bus ride or walk away, taking you into the center of the city. The rates are a lot cheaper than what you'll see downtown, especially for long-term stays. And, of course, there are those impossibly cool signs...
Apache Motel, Albany Park
- Bad Dog Tavern, 4535 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 334-4040, . M 5PM-2AM, Tu-Th,F 12PM-2AM, Sa 11:30AM-3AM, Su 11AM-2AM. A great pub with a menu worthy of an upscale restaurant. Live music on Monday and Tuesday nights. edit
- Cafe Orange, 5639 N Lincoln Ave, ☎ +1 773 275-5040. 5:30PM-2AM daily. Lively Korean bar with flavored soju, ice cream, bi bim bop and a dance floor. edit
- The Daily Bar & Grill, 4560 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 561-6198, . Su-F 12PM-2AM, Sa 12PM-3AM. The perfect distillation of a stylish 50's diner and a full bar with enough screens to keep a sports fan satisfied, along with a food menu of staples done well like mac 'n cheese, pot pies, and cheesy tater tots. edit
- The Grafton, 4530 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 271-9000, . M-F 5PM-2AM, Sa 11AM-3AM, Su 11AM-2AM. Cozy Irish pub with better-than-average food (and even better desserts). Live music on Wednesdays/Sundays (Irish) and Tuesdays (folk). edit
- The Huettenbar, 4721 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 561-2507. Su-F 11AM-2AM, Sa 11AM-3AM. A good neighborhood tavern with a top selection of German beers. edit
- Lincoln Karaoke, 5526 N Lincoln Ave, ☎ +1 773 895-2299. M-Th,Su 7PM-3AM, F-Sa 7PM-5AM. Korean, Chinese, Japanese and English karaoke heaven, with private rooms, free parking, and very friendly staff. Rooms $25/hour, beer $3. edit
- Montrose Saloon, 2933 W Montrose Ave (Kedzie Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 463-7663, . A truly beautiful dive bar with games, cheap beer, and a schedule of events that includes a bluegrass jam on the second Wednesday of every month. edit
- Niedersachsen Club Chicago, 4548 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 878-1020, . A German-American social club, open to the public on the first Saturday of every month. There's authentic German food and drink on offer, and the Kappen Abend — literally, "hat night" — is a showcase for "the craziest of crazy hats," not to mention the occasional outbreak of a schunkling circle. edit
- Rockwell's Neighborhood Grill, 4632 N Rockwell (Rockwell Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 509-1871, . M-Th 4-10PM, F 4-11PM, Sa 10AM-11PM, Su 10AM-10PM. A neighborhood favorite at the center of a small commercial district around the Rockwell CTA station, not far from the river. The outdoor seating is especially nice and will slip pleasant hours from your pocket. edit
The #11 Lincoln bus runs past all of the Sin Strip motels (see infobox), and stops at the Western Brown Line station in Lincoln Square. Though the Stars Motel has been demolished, its classic sign is still standing at the corner of Lincoln and Jersey, near the River Park Motel.
- Apache Motel, 5535 N Lincoln Ave, ☎ +1 773 728-9400, . Run by a friendly, eager family of Indian descent (as in India, not the yellow Native American Indian head that sits atop their sign). The fact that they have a website should give you a sense of how the owners are trying to set their motel apart. Close to a public library. $59 per night. edit
- Diplomat Motel, 5230 N Lincoln Ave, ☎ +1 773 271-5400. The southernmost of the surviving motels, within a reasonable walk of Lincoln Square. Color TV proudly offered. $52 per night weekdays, $62 weekends. edit
- O Mi Motel, 5611 N Lincoln Ave, ☎ +1 773 561-6488. Other than the candy-stripe turquoise/white wall near the office, the O Mi is restrained in decor, but the name practically demands enthusiastic delivery. It's across the street from the Budlong Woods public library. $45 per night. edit
- Patio, 6250 N Lincoln Ave, ☎ +1 773 588-8400. Famed for the blue cursive in their neon sign: "Adventures in Living!" $55 per night. edit
- Rio Motel, 6155 N Jersey Ave, ☎ +1 773 463-2733. Just off Lincoln, a reasonable walk from the Indian food on Devon. Television, but no cable. $62 weekdays, $67 weekends. edit
- River Park Motel & Suites, 6060 N Lincoln Ave, ☎ +1 773 539-4800, . This more recent member of the club lacks the neon glory of its fellows, but is rather a lot cleaner and has modern amenities like free cable and Wi-Fi Internet. $49 per night. edit
- Summit Motel, 5308 N Lincoln Ave, ☎ +1 773 561-3762. Also within a reasonable walk of Lincoln Square. $50 per night. edit
- Albany Park Library, 5150 N Kimball Ave (Kimball Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 744-1933. M,W 10AM-6PM, Tu-Th noon-8PM, F-Sa 9AM-5PM. Free public internet access. Befitting its location, this library has a strong collection of Korean-language materials. edit
- Budlong Woods Library, 5630 N Lincoln Ave (11 Lincoln bus), ☎ +1 312 742-9590. M,W noon-8PM, Tu,Th 10AM-6PM, F-Sa 9AM-5PM. Free public internet access, walking distance from most of the motels. edit
- Mayfair Library, 4400 W Lawrence Ave (81 Lawrence bus), ☎ +1 312 744-1254. M,W noon-8PM, Tu,Th 10AM-6PM, F-Sa 9AM-5PM. Free public internet access. edit
- Sulzer Regional Library, 4455 N Lincoln Ave (Western Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 744-7616, . M-Th 9AM-9PM, F-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su 1-5PM. The regional library for the north side of Chicago, with a huge collection and free public internet access. edit
- A short walk south down Lincoln Avenue, in North Center, the colorful spectre of Honest Abe's giant head (at the Lincoln Restaurant) beckons all who enjoyed themselves in his Square.
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