‘’’Logan Square is an expansive Chicago neighborhood with sweeping boulevards on the West Side of Chicago. It shares a wealth of dive bars and cheap rock venues with the adjacent neighborhood of ’’’Bucktown’’’.
The area now known as Logan Square was born in the boomtown days of the 1830s, when school-teacher Martin Kimbell rejected a plot in the obviously prospect-less 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'.)
If you were a goat farmer in the city around that same 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 sets the neighborhood apart 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 affluent new residents kick portions of their salaries to businesses run by older residents, enjoying authentic taquerias on sunny boulevards that are (mostly) rich with gritty urban character and (generally) safe.
Despite the critical shortage of goats at present, Bucktown prospers from proximity to Wicker Park, with retail, restaurants, and condos that take their cues from the hipster paradise to its south, and set of grizzled old-timers who are content to collect the rents. It’s less notable in terms of looks, with a lot of same-y new construction hurried up to meet demand, it also has some essential music venues with nightly bills of scuzz and undiscovered brilliance.
The O'Hare branch of the CTA Blue Line has stops in Bucktown (Damen, Western) and Logan Square (California, Logan Square).
- ‘’’52 California’’’
- 56 Milwaukee runs through Bucktown and Logan Square, heading to the Far Northwest Side.
- ‘’’73 Armitage’’’
- ‘’’74 Fullerton’’’
90/94 runs close to Logan Square.
- Illinois Centenary Memorial Column, Milwaukee, Logan, and Kedzie. Not a sight to seek out, per se, 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., . The mansions of Logan Boulevard are sight enough, but this Prairie School classic by George Maher makes a nice contrast with its elegant lines and lack of neo-European mish-mash.
If you’re walking down North Avenue in Bucktown and see a certain name, don’t get your hopes up — although the building and sign are still there, the North Avenue Russian Baths are no more. You’ll have to settle for their counterparts in Ukrainian Village instead.
- Congress Theatre, 2135 N. Milwaukee. Opened in 1926, now home to the twin powers of Mexican wrestling and indie rock.
- Diversey River Bowl, 2211 W. Diversey (76 Diversey bus from Logan Square Blue Line or Diversey Brown Line), ☎ 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, 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, ☎ 773-486-2700, . 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 1980s and 1990s, 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, with only Sunday nights at 9PM to recall the nights of yore. Lanes $3.50 a game/$20 per hour.
- Logan Theatre, 2646 N. Milwaukee, ☎ 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.
- Palmer Square Park, Kedzie, Humboldt, and Palmer. Designed by William LeBaron Jenney.
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. As with its neighbor, you’ll find smaller, independent stores and boutiques there. 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 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 shoehorned into old art deco facades, and you'll find a few fine examples of that here. The Mega Mall at 2500 N. Milwaukee is a major center of controversy. The building 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.
- The Gap, 2778 N. Milwaukee, ☎ 773-252-0594. M-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 11AM-6PM. A factory outlet in the shell of a Goldblatt's, one of the disappeared Chicago department stores.
- Threads, Etc., 2327 N. Milwaukee (California Blue Line), ☎ 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.
- Arturo's Tacos, 2001 N. Western Ave (Western Blue Line), ☎ 773-772-4944. 24 hours. The cheap late-night food of choice among trendy chefs and bar-goers alike in Bucktown.
- El Charro, 2410 N. Milwaukee (California Blue Line), ☎ 773-278-2514. 24 hours. 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.
- Paul Zakopene Harnas, 2943 N Milwaukee, ☎ 773-342-1464, . 7AM-10PM. Hearty Polish breakfast, lunch, dinner, and booze, with pierogies in-between. $4-$8.
- Buono Terra, 2535 N. California Ave (California Blue Line), ☎ 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.
- El Cid, 2645 N. Kedzie Ave (Logan Square Blue Line), ☎ 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, ☎ 773-782-1800 (fax: 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.
- Toast, 2046 N. Damen, ☎ 773-772-5600. Popular Bucktown brunch spot. There are some clever and unique creations on the menu, although you're not likely to leave stuffed.
- Bonsoiree Cafe and Delicacies, 2728 W. Armitage, ☎ ''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, ☎ 773-862-6600, . M-Th 5:30-11PM, F-Sa 5PM-midnight, Su closed. 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. $22.
- Lula Cafe, 2537 N. Kedzie (Logan Square Blue Line), ☎ ''773'' 489-9554, . M,W,Th,Su 9AM-10PM, F-Sa 9AM-11PM, closed Tu. A true "neighborhood restaurant" serving an eclectic mix of global cuisines...which can sound daunting, but everyone — vegetarians included — will find something to love on the menu. $16-$30; Monday Night Farm Dinner $24 per person.
- Helen's Two-Way Lounge, 2988 W. Fullerton (California Blue Line), ☎ 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 sincere mustaches on any given night, but it's still a fine neighborhood dive.
- The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia (Just east of Elston, just north of North Avenue), ☎ ''+1 773'' 227-4433, . One of the finest drinking and hollering establishments in the US, the Hideout hosts the best in alt-folk, bluegrass, Americana and just plain hillbilly music. The place is a bit hard to find, hidden as it is next to the city's main north-side refueling station for garbage trucks, but more than worth the trouble. Of special interest to old-timey fans is the regular Tuesday night appearance of Devil in a Woodpile.
- The Mutiny, 2428 N Western Ave (Western Blue Line), ☎ 773-486-7774, . M 1PM-2AM, Tu-F,Su 11AM-2AM, Sa 9AM-3AM. A cavernous dive that hosts a lot of punk and rock bands. 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, ☎ 773-276-9730, . Chicago's premier beer bar, with 200 different beers from around the world, 60 different whiskeys, and a decent bar menu. Everyone drinks together at this comfortable neighborhood bar.
- Ronny's, 2101 N California Ave (California Blue Line), ☎ 773-278-7170, .
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), ☎ 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), ☎ 312-744-6022, . M-Th 9AM-9PM, F-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su closed. Brand new library one block north of the North/Milwaukee/Damen intersection.
- Logan Square Branch, 3030 W. Fullerton (California Blue Line/74 Fullerton bus), ☎ 312-744-5295, . M-Th 9AM-9PM, F-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su closed.
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 Polish migration, Avondale is often mentioned as the next place to receive the “hot neighborhood” treatment after Logan Square.