Welcome to “The Grid,” our in-depth look at Chicago’s neighborhoods. First stop: Logan Square.
Part travel guide, part ode to unique people and places, “The Grid” focuses on sharing the best of each of our neighborhoods (and suburbs) from where to get the best coffee to unique shopping to the history of the community to its character.
This new Sun-Times video series is for visitors and locals alike with hopes that all will be inspired to explore our beautiful city – and maybe even move here.
Video by Brian Rich/For the Sun-Times
WATCH: Logan Square is bestowed with an embarrassment of choices and options when it comes to where to eat, what to do and where to shop. So much so, that it was impossible to cover it all, let alone even touch on all of Ji’s favorite places to eat and drink. Enjoy!
Meet your Logan Square guide
When I moved to Chicago 12 years ago, the first neighborhood I lived in was Logan Square. My best friend from law school, Jenny, had rented an apartment, the top floor of a three-flat, on Albany Avenue adjacent to Palmer Square. I had just gone through a cross country break-up and needed a fresh start in a new city. Luckily for me, she had an extra room to spare and the generosity of spirit to shepherd my transition into the city I’d call home.
In those first months, with time afforded me by unemployment and the correlated condition of being broke, I took a lot of walks around the neighborhood. It was free, providing a lot of comfort and solace for someone adjusting to a new city. I was amazed by how much green there was.
Sometimes, I’d walk Jenny’s dog, Fletcher, who would find plenty of shrubbery to sniff and squirrels to chase. Chicago is a dog city, and Logan Square with its tree lined streets, green stretches of grass and parks is perfect for man’s best friend – but just as soothing for any weary traveler or jaded city dweller.
Welcome to Logan Square
Logan Square is on Chicago’s Northwest Side. Along with the green space, there are family-friendly plazas, parks, playgrounds and community-run gardens. More than two miles of the historic Chicago boulevard system– the so-called Emerald Necklace- with its landscaped and manicured medians runs through the neighborhood. The Kedzie, Logan and North Humboldt boulevards are lined with stately mansions that have persevered, holding on to the details of their original grandeur, including beautiful stained-glass windows, hand-crafted woodwork and masonry.
Graphic by Tanveer Ali/Sun-Times
Connecting the boulevards are the parks of Logan Square, the neighborhood’s namesake, and Palmer Square, a pocket neighborhood. Additional, larger parks include Kosciusko Park and Hass Park, along with smaller parks and playgrounds like Lucy Flower Park and Unity Playlot Park.
Also, it’s bike-friendly with Milwaukee Avenue serving as the main bike artery to downtown. There are around a dozen bicycle shops that sell and repair in the neighborhood. My personal favorite is Boulevard Bikes, a 14-year staple formerly right on the square but now a little farther north on Milwaukee Avenue.
Owner, Kevin Womac, is the type of resident that epitomizes the Logan Square citizen in my mind. He not only breathes and lives his work, but is opinionated, informed and vocal about both the good and the bad. Kevin’s passion is reflected by many Logan Square residents – a thriving neighborhood pride based in a sense of ownership and community consciousness. (Another important voice in the community is the Logan Square Neighborhood Association with its focus on social justice, immigration and fair housing.) Many of the jewels of preservation and neighborhood points of interest resulted from this type of deep caring fueling grassroots activism and community organization.
When looking at a map, the neighborhood looks more like a rectangle than a square; its eastern border is Western Avenue and to the north, is Diversey Avenue. The western border is a bit more complicated. Overall, it seems to follow the Milwaukee District North (MD-N) Metra Line. If you want to say Pulaski Avenue to the west, so be it. (I am not including Bucktown, even though the city’s Community Area Designation border map includes it.)
Logan Square and “The 606”
The southern boundary of Logan Square follows the Bloomingdale Trail that is now part of the greater 606 park system. This elevated former train track has been converted into a beautiful path perfect for biking, running or a leisurely stroll. Logan Square shares eight access points to the trail with its neighbor to the south, Humboldt Park. The bonus of the 606 is that many of the access points also boast playgrounds and gardens, such as Julia de Burgos Park, each a mini-oasis from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Logan Square history
The people that live in Logan Square are as varied as the architecture. Historically, it’s been home to immigrant populations, from Germans and Scandinavians in the 1800s to Polish and Eastern Europeans in the 1900s, to most recently an influx of Hispanic and Latino populations. While the neighborhood remains primarily Latino, some have left the neighborhood in recent years because of gentrification and other issues. In the 1980s, a lot of artists moved to the neighborhood which helped shape the cool, artsy, hipster vibe it has now.
A must-stop on your visit to Logan Square is the historic Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church on Kedzie Boulevard. It’s also known as Minnekirken and it’s the last church in Chicago to do its services in Norwegian.
Logan Square trivia
- In 1889, the towns of Jefferson and Maplewood were annexed into the City of Chicago to become what is now Logan Square.
- One of the stately mansions on Palmer Square was home to Ignaz Schwinn, the founder of the Schwinn Bicycle Company.
- The Illinois Centennial Monument was designed by the famous architect Henry Bacon, who also created the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The sculpture, located in the center of Logan Square Park, was built in 1918 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Illinois statehood.
- In 1905, Chicago White Sox player Jim “Nixey” Callahan quit the team and bought an existing baseball field on the north side of Milwaukee Avenue from Sawyer to Diversey, built a fence and stands for viewing, creating the home of the semi-pro Logan Squares baseball team. After the Cubs and White Sox faced off in the 1906 World Series, the Squares played against the teams and defeated both!
About Logan Square today
There are plenty of hipsters in the neighborhood, but also families starting out, young professionals, singles and families that have been living in their bungalows or two flats for generations. It’s a lovely mix of young and old, modern and traditional.
The neighborhood has been bestowed with an embarrassment of choices and options when it comes to where to eat, what to do and where to shop. So much so, that it was impossible to cover it all, let alone even touch on all of my favorite places to eat and drink in my video story.
Things to do in Logan Square
So for the purposes of not releasing a two-hour movie on Logan Square, for my video, I stuck close to its namesake “square,” where the intersections of Kedzie and Logan Boulevards are met by Milwaukee Avenue in a traffic circle interchange. You can easily spot this heart of the square because of the 70-foot-tall marble column, the Illinois Centennial Monument, built to celebrate Illinois’ statehood.
Where to Eat in Logan Square
For me, Logan Square is a gold mine of incredible food – from Michelin-starred and recommended restaurants to cheap eats – and every price point in between. Plus, every type of cuisine imaginable. In addition, there are beverages galore – from gourmet coffee shops, dive bars, breweries and artisanal craft cocktail bars. There are music venues, video game arcades, bowling alleys and even a bar with bocce ball courts (Park & Field).
A long time anchor of the square is Lula Cafe. It’s a place I used to sit midday during my first few months people watching, reading, and sending out resumes. (But please don’t sit like that, if it’s busy.) It’s open all day except for Tuesdays. It offers a lovely all-day cafe menu but a more elaborate dinner menu, with changing seasonal and daily specials. Whether you order simply or decide on the prix fixe dinner, each meal is prepared with utmost care, and the ingredients are locally sourced, farm to table. Do be aware that if you go to weekend brunch, just know that you will be in for a wait for the special weekend brunch menu! Chef Jason Hamel is a chef admired by all the chefs in town and his restaurant has been a destination spot for many desiring a simple sandwich or an inventive entree using the finest seasonal ingredients.
I have too many favorite restaurants in Logan Square to list. At the top of the list is also, Fat Rice, serving a unique take on Macanese food. There was no big restaurant group behind this small restaurant opening back in 2012, just two very hard working people, Abe Conlon and Adrienne Lo, who looked to their heritage and backgrounds for inspiration and discovered it in Macau. Conlon just received a James Beard (Best Chef, Great Lakes) award in 2018.
Another award winner, is the restaurant Longman & Eagle. Each year, since its opening in 2010, it has received a Michelin star. Not only is it a restaurant with an incredible whiskey selection but also a place you can stay overnight, offering six rooms travelers can book.
Quiote is my favorite Mexican-inspired restaurant with a tequila bar downstairs. Quiote, along with Lula and Fat Rice are all on Michelin’s 2018 Bib Gourmand list. It’s not a star but it’s a great list to follow that highlights value and quality! Other Logan Square restaurants on the Bib Gourmand list in 2018 include Mi Tocaya Antojeria, Giant, Dos Urban Cantina, Jam (note its new location at 2853 N. Kedzie Avenue) and Table, Donkey and Stick.
Want something super simple to take to the park? Head to Same Day Cafe or Wyler Road for a sandwich-to-go. 90 Miles Cuban Cafe has my favorite empanada and a delicious chicken soup for those days you don’t feel great and they do a pig roast! Just check the website.
Craving a great burger? Head to Owen & Engine‘s on Tuesday night for a combo of a giant gourmet burger, pint of beer and a shot.
For pizza, head to Paulie Gee’s for a Logan Square slice, so popular and in demand, the pizza is no longer relegated to being served just on Sunday, but everyday! There’s also Boiler Room for a large foldable slice and great ambiance that reminds me of being in college. To round out your pizza options, there’s Reno for truly interesting pizza toppings (think Calvary County pie made with chopped clams, smoked corn, grana padano cheese, chili oil and fresh chives) and homemade bagels to boot.
Multi-cultural flavors abound. When in the mood for German, head to The Radler. If you’re wanting Malaysian, head to Serai. If you’re wanting Italian food in the spirit of the age-old traditions specific to the Piemonte region, don’t miss Osteria Langhe. Proprietor Aldo Zaninotto will charm you, along with Chef Cameron Grant’s delicious food. I could live on the plin, which are hand-pinched ravioli made with la tur cheese, thyme and butter.
Where to drink in Logan Square
For drinks, oh my, the choices abound!
First, I must mention mine and everyone’s favorite tiki bar, Lost Lake, which now also serves food! There’s Estereo for its coffee cocktail, Billy Sunday for a true mixologist’s haven, Heavy Feather, Scofflaw and The Whistler, which often features live music.
Hang out with the locals at The Owl, Remedy, Best Intentions, Cole’s Bar, Weegee’s Lounge and Bob Inn. And a dive bar I loved when I first moved here, the Whirlaway Lounge, a nostalgic watering hole. It feels like you’re in someone’s basement living room. My new favorite is Spilt Milk, now with a great patio. You can join all the hipsters at Burlington Bar and pretend to be one of the cool kids.
Breweries in Logan Square include newcomer Hopewell and mainstay Revolution. Middlebrow will have a tap room sometime in the fall of 2018, where you can try their wild, sours and experimental beers. Bixi Brewery will boast Logan Square’s first rooftop bar when it opens. This has been a highly anticipated project from Owen & Engine and Fat Willy’s chef Bo Fowler. It promises to be worth the wait!
Coffee shops in Logan Square
Coffee shops are key to the vibrancy of the community and some of my favorites include Gaslight, Buzz Coffee and Damn Fine Coffee Bar. Cafe Mustache isn’t worth just a visit for coffee and beer but for their various events in the evening, and it’s a thriving music venue. Owner Joshua Millman’s love for coffee and infectious smile will have you hooked at Passion House, plus they have cream coffee bars too.
Where to shop in Logan Square
Buying local is key in a neighborhood that boasts so much community pride. There are art galleries, co-ops, a farmers’ market in the summer and many boutiques that showcase one-of-a-kind craftsmanship and local goods. There seems to be a higher concentration of female-owned businesses in the neighborhood which is refreshing.
One of my favorites is Fleur. I’ve been going to Fleur for a long time. Initially on the square – now north on Milwaukee – it is still run with care and love by Kelly Marie Thompson. Also, there’s Wolfbait & B-Girls – a long-time anchor shop right on the square, run by designers Shirley Kienitz and Jenny Stadler.
Adornment + Theory is run by Art Institute grad and jewelry designer Vivianna Langhoff. Sisters Eleanor Smith and Jennifer run boutique Birdseye Rule and carry designs for both men and women. Next door is the upscale boutique Felt. Another trendy and contemporary boutique not to miss is Tusk.
Shop 1021 has beautiful stationary and gifts and is run by Ann Kienzle. Handmade prints including custom letterpress work can by found at Steel Petal Press operated by artist Shayna Norwood. Bookstores include Uncharted Books which serves as a writer’s haven and carries used books. There’s also City Lit Books which offers a book club and children’s story time hour.
Hopefully this is a good start to your introduction to Logan Square. This neighborhood will always hold a cherished spot in my heart because it welcomed me to Chicago with its wonderful people and its warm embrace. There’s so much more to be explored and be sure to drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let me know how it goes.
My Top Five Things To Do in Logan Square by Kate Hamilton of LoganSquarist
- Walk the 606 — the old elevated train tracks turned running path and city park.
- Swing by Miko’s Italian Ice — this neighborhood gem is off the beaten path but well worth a stop especially on a hot summer day.
- Eat authentic Latin food at any number of the long-standing family restaurants. You don’t have to go far to find really delicious, authentic food.
- Head to the Farmers Market near Logan and Milwaukee on a Sunday. It’s one of the best in the city and features good food, good music and good people.
- Check out the art — this neighborhood is rich in art and culture with art galleries to Comfort Station to graffiti murals on every other corner.
Kate Hamilton is the founder and publisher of LoganSquarist: an all-volunteer neighborhood organization that covers neighborhood news online, organizes community events, and connects the businesses, organizations and neighbors of Chicago’s Logan Square.
A great way to see the public art and other parts of Logan Square is on a walking tour. The Chicago Architecture Foundation leads tours with a focus on the design & history of Logan Boulevard. Logan Square Preservation also offers occasional walks.
Thanks for joining me and the Sun-Times team on this tour of Logan Square. I hope you’ll use all the information here for a do-it-yourself tour of this terrific, diverse neighborhood. Next up on The Grid: Andersonville.
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This new Sun-Times video series will showcase the best of Chicago’s neighborhoods (and suburbs!) by turning a spotlight on the people, places and things that make our city one-of-a-kind. Look for a new video episode each Wednesday on The Chicago Sun-Times website. #thegrid