Logan Square is an expansive neighborhood with sweeping boulevards on the West Side of Chicago. It shares a wealth of dive bars and cheap rock venues with Bucktown, which becomes a high-fashion destination when close to Wicker Park.
Garage art in Logan Square
The area now known as Logan Square was born in the boomtown days of the 1830s, when schoolteacher Martin Kimbell rejected a plot in the obviously going-nowhere Loop in favor of good, solid farmland about five miles northwest. The area remained independent from the city until temptations like water and fire departments became too much to resist, and in 1889, Chicago took over. (The streets were upgraded, but they were also renamed — most cruelly, "Kimbell" became "Kimball".)
And if you were a goat farmer in the city around that time, Bucktown was the place to be. You knew that you were in a place that understood the importance of goats, and that any goats you owned would be in good company. As home to farms, factories, and immigrants who were employed by them, Bucktown never developed any major tourist attractions, but it did support plenty of bars for discussions of issues both goat-related and non-goat-related, and that preponderance of cheap bars is still intact.
Logan Square, on the other hand, was named for the Civil War hero Gen. John A. Logan, and its tree-lined boulevards — one of which bears his name — are what really set the neighborhood apart from its neighbors, offering wide-open spaces for leisurely trawls by cars, bikes, and pedestrians alike. (Fittingly, Ignaz Schwinn, founder of the Schwinn bicycle company, settled in Logan Square.) The neighborhood became a destination for immigrants who'd struck it rich in Chicago, and they helped build the beautiful housing stock that survives today, even after the business district collapsed in the 1950s.
It's those magnificent graystones and richly detailed brick classics that draw waves of new residents to Logan Square today. Right now, it's the best of both worlds: murals and community gardens decorate the streets, and new residents kick portions of their salaries to businesses run by older ones, enjoying authentic taquerias on wide, sunny boulevards that are (mostly) rich with gritty, urban character and (generally) safe.
Despite the critical shortage of goats at present, the chameleon-like Bucktown prospers from proximity to Wicker Park, with retail and restaurants that take their cues from the hipster paradise to its south, rough-and-tumble spots that resemble Logan on the other side, and new condos not dissimilar to Lincoln Park to the east. Bucktown is less notable than Logan Square in terms of looks, with a lot of same-y new construction hurried up to meet housing demand, but it also has some great bars and essential music venues with nightly bills of jazz, scuzz and genius.
The O'Hare branch of the CTA Blue Line has stops in Bucktown (Damen, Western) and Logan Square (California, Logan Square). It runs all night.
- 49 Western runs through Bucktown all night, connecting with the Blue Line at Western and Armitage.
- 52 Kedzie/California travels on California through both neighborhoods, connecting with the Blue Line at the California station, and on to the Far West Side.
- 56 Milwaukee is the key route, running from Wicker Park, through Bucktown and Logan, and on to the Far Northwest Side. It connects near the Blue Line at Damen and again at California.
Three buses connect Bucktown with Lincoln Park, Old Town, and the lakefront, not to mention the Red, Purple, and Brown Lines:
- 72 North runs a quick route between the Brown/Purple (Sedgwick) and Red (North/Clybourn) Lines and the Blue Line (Damen) at the center of the Wicker Park/Bucktown shopping district.
- 73 Armitage connects with the Blue Line at Western.
- 74 Fullerton connects with the Blue Line at California.
- 76 Diversey connects with the Blue Line at Logan Square.
I-90/94, also known as the Kennedy Expressway, runs close to Logan Square and Bucktown. Diversey Avenue is the main exit for the neighborhood. Street parking is usually not a problem in Logan Square, but check for permit-only parking on side streets — the posted hours are a bit weird, and cops go on ticket binges every once in a while. Logan Boulevard itself usually offers plentiful open parking, though.
Our Lady of the Underpass
Few drivers would consider the Kennedy Expressway sacred ground, but in 2005, what many believed to be an image of the Virgin Mary appeared on the wall of the Fullerton Avenue underpass. Divine revelation or water damage, the image attracted fervent devotion from local Catholics, who have diligently protected it from defacement attempts in the years since. If you'd like to decide for yourself, the spot is easy to find — look for the flowers, candles, and a few worshipers lost in prayer, especially in the morning.
One of Logan Square's most celebrated features is Logan Boulevard itself, which is lined with century-old, show-of-wealth mansions. For an easy walking tour, start west of the I-90/94 underpass, and walk west to the Illinois Centenary Memorial Column, veering off to walk south on Kedzie for a few more blocks of the same. They're enjoyable by sight alone on a sunny day, but community groups like Logan Square Preservation  hold occasional guided tours and garden walks.
- Illinois Centenary Memorial Column, Milwaukee Ave, Logan Blvd, and Kedzie Ave (Logan Square Blue Line). Not a sight to seek out, but it’s hard to miss — this column was erected in 1918 to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Illinois’ statehood, and topped with an eagle to show the committee members weren’t messing around. It’s out of step with the rest of the neighborhood now, but hey, only a few more years until it’s time for an update!
- John Rath House, 2703 W Logan Blvd, . Nestled among the mansions of Logan Boulevard, this 1907 Prairie School house by George Maher makes a nice contrast with its elegant lines and lack of Euro mish-mash.
- Palmer Square Park, 3100 W Palmer Blvd (Kedzie Ave, Humboldt Blvd, and Palmer St), ☎ +1 773 227-3535. Designed by William LeBaron Jenney, designer to the (Victorian) stars, and a lovely job at that — with plenty of trees, shade, and green space. The annual Palmer Square Boulevard Arts Festival is held here in the second weekend of August, featuring theater, music, food, and work from the local art community.
The Logan Square Skate Park isn't scheduled for completion until late 2008, but the chosen site on Logan Boulevard, under the I/90-94 overpass, will have 10 ramps and half-pipes, benches, an asphalt surface and a drinking fountain.
The best reason to visit Bucktown and Logan Square is the music scene, which includes several bars — see also the below.
- Congress Theater, 2135 N Milwaukee Ave (Western Blue Line), ☎ +1 312 458-9668, . Opened in 1926 and still adorned with gorgeous terra cotta, the Congress Theater is now home to the twin powers of Mexican wrestling and indie rock of an occasionally exceptional caliber. Most music events are general admission (standing room only). Shows $10-25.
- Diversey River Bowl, 2211 W Diversey Ave (76 Diversey bus from Logan Square Blue Line or Diversey Brown Line), ☎ +1 773 227-5800, . Su-F 12PM-2AM, Sa Sept-May 9AM-3AM, summer 12PM-3AM. Never mind the bollocks, it's the Rock 'n Bowl. 36 lanes ensure that you won't be crowded out by league play, although there can be a long wait on weekends. The music and staff are great, pitchers of beer (cheap and classy) and pizza (greasy and, uh, greasy) are available, and old-school arcade games and photo-booths help pass the wait, and it's smoke-free. M-Th $19/hr per lane, but only $1 per game 12-5PM; F-Sa $32/hr per lane, $39/hr 6PM-close.
- Fireside Bowl, 2648 W Fullerton Ave, ☎ +1 773 486-2700, . M-F 4PM-2AM, Sa 2PM-3AM, Su 2PM-midnight. Shows on Sunday nights.. There are better places to bowl and much better places to see live music, but this is hallowed ground for the teen punk of the '80s and '90s, when the Fireside was a cheap, all-ages venue punk, hardcore, emo, and more. It's definitely not that any more — not surprisingly, neighborhood residents were never fond of the noise and the youth, and the owner found it easier to survive as a straight bowling alley. Lanes $3.50 a game/$20 per hour.
- Gorilla Tango Theater, 1919 N Milwaukee Ave (Western Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 598-4549, . Not many places in Chicago can match Gorilla Tango for sheer quantity — even on cold, quiet Wednesday nights, you'll find two unknown theater companies doing low-budget comedies at this Bucktown storefront theater. The end results may be scattershot, but the energy is usually high and the titles alone will liven up any story about what you did on your trip. $10-18.
- Logan Square Auditorium, 2359 N Kedzie Ave (Logan Square Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 252-6179, . It's under-utilized on weeknights, but this ballroom-with-a-liquor-license hosts weekend rock shows and the occasional label showcase for mainstays of Chicago music like Thrill Jockey. Tickets $10-20.
- Logan Theatre, 2646 N Milwaukee Ave (Logan Square Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 252-0627. Opened in 1915 with 975 seats and still showing movies today, although it has since been carved up into four screens for second-run Hollywood fare. $3.
- Whirlyball, 1880 W Fullerton Ave (74 Fullerton bus), ☎ +1 773 486-7777 ([email protected], fax: +1 773 486-7978), . M-F 10AM-2AM, Sa noon-3AM, Su noon-2AM. An entertainment center with two fine ways to burn off steam: the title game, which adds the bumper cars that Native Americans always meant lacrosse to have, and laser tag. Packages are available with beer and bar food. Walk-ins $10 for 30 minutes (minimum four people) for whirlyball, $6 per person per 15 minutes for laser tag.
There are two main shopping areas in Bucktown. The first is near the intersection of Milwaukee, Ashland, and North Avenue, right at the border of Wicker Park, where you’ll find small, independent stores and boutiques. However, for the big-box experience, drive up to Damen and Elston, where a couple of strip malls offer major retailers and plenty of parking.
- The Red Balloon, 2060 N Damen Ave, ☎ +1 773 489-9800, . M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Th 10AM-7PM, Su 12-5PM. Fun, original clothes, furniture, and toys for kids — if you'd like to get your child's life started right, you'll know the value of a magnetized wooden pirate ship (complete with crew and monkey).
The six corners of Diversey, Milwaukee, and Kimball mark the center of the old retail district in Logan Square. It's an odd sight to see national chains like The Gap shoehorned into old art deco facades. The nearby Mega Mall (2500 N Milwaukee Ave) is gigantic, and when it's open, it's home to a dense jumble of stalls that has been compared to a third-world bazaar, chock full of cheap, shady merchandise. Health-code violations kept it closed for a while, and recently a fire brought commerce (as it was) to a halt.
- Disco City Records, 2630 N Milwaukee Ave, ☎ +1 773 486-1495. One of the premier Latin music stores in Chicago, with a long rack of new releases, DVDs, and Spanish musical instruments (mainly bongos).
- G-Mart, 2641 N Kedzie Ave, ☎ +1 773 384-0400, . M-F 12-7PM, Sa 12-6PM. If you need a comic book fix, G-Mart is the place. They carry titles from major and indie publishers alike, sold by a gonzo sales crew.
- Threads, Etc., 2327 N Milwaukee Ave (California Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 276-6411. M-Sa 11AM-7PM, Su 11AM-5PM. A nearly warehouse-sized resale store, covering two floors. There's more furniture than anything else, but there should be some good finds on any given day amid the intriguing clutter.
- Wolfbait & B-Girls, 3131 W Logan Blvd (Logan Square Blue Line), ☎ +1 312 698-8685, . Tu-Th 12-7PM, F-Sa 10AM-7PM, Su usually 10AM-5PM. Clothes and jewelry for women, with everything designed, handmade, and sold in Chicago.
Logan Square covers a lot of culinary ground — stray off the beaten path and you'll find places serving Argentinean, Colombian, Cuban, Ecuadorian, El Savadorian, and regional Mexican specialties.
Yum: Margie's Candies, Bucktown
- Arturo's Tacos, 2001 N Western Ave (Western Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 772-4944. 24 hours daily. The cheap late-night food of choice among trendy chefs and bar-goers alike in Bucktown, right outside the Blue Line. (Or is it Lazo's? See below.)
- El Charro, 2410 N Milwaukee Ave (California Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 278-2514. 24 hours daily. There is no reason to seek out El Charro during the day, but if you're drinking in Logan Square, you need to know where the all-night Mexican food can be found. The soothing aqua walls and the steadfast Ms. Pac-Man machine don't hurt, either.
- Lazo's Tacos, 2009 N Western Ave (Western Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 486-3303. 24 hours daily. If you're not one to stay neutral in a hotly-debated issue, you'll want to declare a loyalty between Lazo's and Arturo's for taco supremacy of this street. Both are cheap, but consider carefully: locals take this question very seriously.
- Margie's Candies, 1960 N Western Ave (Western Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 384-1035. Su-Th 9AM-midnight, F-Sa 9AM-1AM. There's an argument to be made for putting Margie's at the top of the list of things to do and see in this article; thankfully, the Blue Line and two bus lines converge at this holy ice cream shop, founded in 1921. There's diner food as well if you need "dinner" to justify the frenzy. $3-6.
- Buono Terra, 2535 N California Ave (California Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 289-3800, . Tu-Th 5-10PM, F-Sa 5-11PM, Su 4-9PM. Great Italian restaurant in Logan Square. $14-20; Thursday night prix fixe dinner for $20.
- Cafe Bolero, 2252 N Western Ave (Western Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 227-9000, . Su-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight. Cuban restaurant that excels in both food and style, with appetizers that complement the main dishes quite well. There's live Latin jazz a couple of nights each week, and an upstairs bar for mojitos. $12-20.
- El Cid, 2645 N Kedzie Ave (Logan Square Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 395-0505. Su-Th 9AM-midnight; F-Sa 9AM-2AM. Pretty good Mexican food in Logan Square. The outdoor seating is especially nice, well away from the street rather like sitting in someone's backyard.
- Fat Willy's Rib Shack, 2416 W Schubert Ave, ☎ +1 773 782-1800 (fax: +1 773 782-1818), . Sun-Thu 11:30am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-11pm. Pulled pork sandwiches and southern-style BBQ in Logan Square. Sandwiches about $10, half-orders of ribs about $16.
- Taqueria Moran, 2226 N California Ave (California Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 235-2663. 5AM-10PM daily. Easy to find, this taqueria is roomy and has a bit of old-style diner class, perfect for breakfast chilaquiles and solid for Mexican lunch and dinner standards. $9-17.
- Toast, 2046 N Damen Ave (Damen Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 772-5600. M-F 8AM-2:30PM, Sa-Su 8AM-3:30PM. Popular Bucktown brunch spot. There are some clever and unique creations on the menu alongside breakfast standards, best topped with a tall glass of their tasty orange juice. $12-16.
- Bonsoiree Cafe and Delicacies, 2728 W Armitage Ave, ☎ +1 773 486-7511, . Tu-Th 5-10PM, F 5-11PM, Su 5-9PM. A French inspired restaurant/cafe/deli hybrid in Logan Square prepares astounding gourmet food you would normally find at a five star restaurant. Deli case provides options for carryout and a fabulous brunch is served on weekends. $24 three-course prix fixe dinner.
- Le Bouchon, 1858 N Damen Ave, ☎ +1 773 862-6600, . M-Th 5:30-11PM, F-Sa 5PM-midnight. In Bucktown. Small, funky bistro with a limited but excellent menu of standard French fare. For peak dining hours you will need a reservation. Reasonably priced. Monday is 1/2-price wine night, and on Tuesday the entire menu is prix fixe – your choice of appetizer, main course, and dessert for $22.
- Lula Cafe, 2537 N Kedzie Ave (Logan Square Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 489-9554, . Su-M,W-Th 9AM-10PM, F-Sa 9AM-11PM. A very popular neighborhood restaurant, serving an eclectic mix of new inventions and creatively remixed standards. Because of its popularity, lines can be really long on Friday and Saturday nights. $16-30; Monday Night Farm Dinner $24 per person.
- Bob Inn, 2609 W Fullerton Ave, ☎ +1 773 342-2309. Su-F 11AM-2AM, Sa 11AM-3AM. Good place to watch a baseball game with a cheap beer...as long as you're a White Sox fan. Otherwise, it's a good place to relax and wish you were a regular.
- The Burlington, 3425 W Fullerton Ave, ☎ +1 773 384-3243, . 7PM-2AM daily. This, on the other hand, is definitely a Cubs bar, with plasma screens for the games and lovingly engineered old-man ambiance. When baseball isn't on, music becomes the foremost concern; it's too crowded for a dance floor, but DJs are usually on by 10PM.
- Green Eye Lounge, 2403 W Homer St (Western Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 227-8851, . M-F 3PM-2AM, Sa 12PM-3AM, Su 12PM-2AM. Just off Western and Milwaukee. The owners of the Green Eye Lounge are experts in the art of the neighborhood bar — see also Lemming's below and the Blind Robin in Ukrainian Village. There's no stress, the beer selection is good, and there are board games.
- Helen's Two-Way Lounge, 2988 W Fullerton Ave (California Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 227-5676. An exemplary dive bar in the fine tradition of such; cheap beer, wood-paneled walls, and regulars who are settled in for the night and have been for the last couple of decades. With the changing demographics of the area, it's possible that hipsters might outnumber the men with more tenured mustaches on any given night, but it's still a fine neighborhood dive.
- Lemming's, 1850 N Damen Ave (Damen Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 862-1688, . M-F 4PM-2AM, Sa noon-3AM, Su noon-2AM. Comfortable neighborhood bar with local art to be seen and games (board & video) to be played. Look for the "Lemming's" sign by day and the "Schlitz" by night.
- The Map Room, 1949 N Hoyne Ave, ☎ +1 773 252-7636, . M-F 6:30AM-2AM, Sa 7:30AM-3AM, Su 11AM-2AM. Their motto is "Don't be lost," but you may as well give in to their disorienting collection of exotic beers. Their tap selection is one of the more extensive in the city, with surprises for even the most jaded beer drinker: extensive draught and bottle menu, including a cask-conditioned selection, but occasionally unfriendly management.
- Whirlaway Lounge, 3224 W Fullerton Ave, ☎ +1 773 276-6809, . Su-F 4PM-2AM, Sa 4PM-3AM. Whirlaway is run by the much-adored Maria, with decor that makes you feel as though you're drinking in the basement of Logan Square's collective unconsciousness's dad's house. (In less abstract terms, that's cheap beer, free popcorn, close quarters, and rock on the jukebox.)
Bars with music
Not far away, although a little difficult to find, the The Hideout (just east of Wicker Park) is definitely worth seeking out for live music.
- Charleston, 2076 N Hoyne Ave, ☎ +1 773 489-4757, . M-F 3PM-2AM, Sa-Su 2PM-2AM. An old-time Bucktown joint with a big selection of reasonably priced beer and an impressive antique wood bar. There's a Jazz Jam every Tuesday night, and rock/folk/jazz shows most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
- Danny's Tavern, 1951 W Dickens Ave, ☎ +1 773 489-6457. Su-F 7PM-2AM, Sa 7PM-3AM. This is a good place to dance for most of the week, thanks to a talented group of DJs who spin pop, hip-hop, jazz and soul (including the occasional all-Smiths night). Wednesday nights (once a month, 7:30PM) go literary with Danny's Reading Series and the No Slander poetry and fiction nights .
- Green Dolphin Street, 2200 N Ashland Ave, ☎ +1 773 395-0066, . Tu-Th 9PM-2AM, F-Sa 8:30PM-3AM, Su 8PM-12AM. It's out of the way, but you have to earn a classy joint like this by finding it. Live jazz in a swanky atmosphere is the hook, with cocktails $9 and up; the jazz tends toward dance-friendly big-band, and sometimes salsa. Arrive any time after 5:30PM if you'd like dinner. Cover free or $10-20.
- Hotti Biscotti, 3545 W Fullerton Ave, ☎ +1 773 772-9970. Tu-Sa 10AM-2AM. You just want coffee, but your friend wants a $2 beer; there are some issues the two of you need to settle via Scrabble, but you'd like to hear some live music. Happily, there is a place in Logan Square for you. Rock, films, and performance art figure into the schedule; Tuesdays are jazz nights.
- The Mutiny, 2428 N Western Ave (Western Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 486-7774, . M 1PM-2AM, Tu-F,Su 11AM-2AM, Sa 9AM-3AM. A cavernous dive that hosts a lot of three/four band punk and rock shows, with occasional comedy nights as well. Check out the ceiling tiles painted by regulars. No cover, even for bands, and the frosty pitchers of beer are cheap.
- Quenchers Saloon, 2401 N Western Ave, ☎ +1 773 276-9730, . Su-F 11AM-2AM, Sa 11AM-3AM. 200 different beers from around the world, 60 different whiskeys, and a decent bar menu. Everyone drinks together at this comfortable neighborhood bar. There's live music every night except Sunday, mostly jazz with some rock and DJs on the weekends.
- Ronny's, 2101 N California Ave (California Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 278-7170, . In some ways, Ronny's is the heir to the Fireside's punk mantle — shows are dirt cheap, the management don't care, and two of the four bands will be asking around for a place to sleep after the show. It's not all-ages, though. Most shows $5.
- Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W Armitage Ave, ☎ +1 773 342-0452 ([email protected], fax: +1 773 342-0515), . Shows Tu-Sa 9:30PM. A rare blues outlet in this part of the city, Rosa's was reportedly founded by an Italian who met Junior Wells in Milan and was inspired to study the classic lounges of the South Side. It's considered the North Side's most authentic blues club (and also happened to be the Czech Republic's philosopher king Vaclav Havel's favorite). Today, Rosa's does modern and traditional blues almost as cheaply as the rest of the neighborhood does punk rock, but watch out for the absurd drink prices—order water and tell them what you think of $15 shots of whiskey. Watch for a chance to take the Midnight Blues Cruise. Most shows $5-15.
If you're only here for a show and the options in Wicker Park are too steep, you could commute from the hotel cluster by O'Hare Airport on the Blue Line.
- Milshire Hotel, 2525 N Milwaukee Ave (California Blue Line), ☎ +1 773 384-7611. Make no mistake — this is a dive. It's also a very cheap one, and deceptively well-located (a few minutes' walk from the Blue Line in Logan Square, right on the Milwaukee bus line). Don't hand over any money until you see the room, but if you're on a budget and up for a Lou Reed hotel experience, this could work for a night. Rooms with shared bath $30-$43, private bath $48, no children permitted.
The following libraries provide free internet access:
- Bucktown/Wicker Park Branch Library, 1701 N Milwaukee Ave (Damen Blue Line), ☎ +1 312 744-6022, . M-Th 9AM-9PM, F-Sa 9AM-5PM. Brand new library one block north of the North/Milwaukee/Damen intersection.
- Logan Square Branch Library, 3030 W Fullerton Ave (California Blue Line), ☎ +1 312 744-5295, . M-Th 9AM-9PM, F-Sa 9AM-5PM.
Both neighborhoods are reasonably safe, with standard precautions taken for an urban environment. Stay close to the bright lights after dark, and if you’ve had a lot to drink, use the money you saved on cheap beer for a taxi back to your hotel.
- As fashion follows the path of Polish migration, Avondale is often mentioned as the next place to receive the “hot neighborhood” treatment after Logan Square.
- Humboldt Park on the Far West Side has a major Puerto Rican community and a few cultural institutions that share an audience with Logan Square residents.