Category Archives: neighborhoods

Strolling around Chinatown

Happy Chinese New Year, dear friends.

In honor of the occasion, let’s party like it’s 4710 and walk around Chicago’s Chinatown, shall we?

I’ll admit, I actually spent MLK Jr. Day wandering around Chinatown. I’m doing this wrong. It’s rather inexcusable, though, that I don’t make it there more often. It’s only a hop, skip and an El stop away.

So, welcome to Chinatown. If there’s any confusion about where you are, this gate clears it all up.

Admittedly, I’ve only eaten at two restaurants in Chinatown. Lao Sze Chuan and Lao Beijing. They’re owned by the same folks. I’m sure there are a million other delicious restaurants in the hood, but Lao Sze Chuan is so flipping amazing. I can’t force myself to go anywhere else.

The decor in Lao Sze Chuan is nothing to write home about, but the Ma Po Tofu and Mu Shu Pork are. Spicy and delicious.

Don’t forget to pick up dessert at one of the bakeries. I can’t remember from which bakery these came, but the flavors are a mix of sweet and savory. Mostly red bean.

The gift shops are fun to browse as well. I was tempted to buy a waving cat, which I just learned is called zhao cai mao (thanks, internet!). But I made out with a red dragon pouch I’m using to carry lipstick.

I just love the details everywhere.

Looks like quite a few fun events are planned for the Chinese New Year. Check them out, if you feel so inclined.

Well, hope you enjoyed the stroll. Where are your favorite places in Chinatown? I’m always down for a good reco.

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People live downtown?

It’s funny. When we first moved to Chicago, it seems like everyone we knew lived north, mostly within a 15-block radius in Lakeview.

Slowly, our friends began to migrate and/or populate west. Wicker Park ruled, and even we fell within its jurisdiction in nearby Ukrainian Village.

These days? It seems like everyone is moving to the Loop or South Loop.

Back when everyone lived in Lakeview, it would have been unfathomable to me as to why anyone would move downtown. It costs more for less space. Living close to work would make it dangerously convenient to stay late.

So, is the migration to the Loop and South Loop new? Or have I just reached the place in life where people my age have the means + desire to live downtown?

My guess is the latter. People have been living in the Loop and South Loop for years, much to my ignorance. With views like these in my pal’s new place, I can see the appeal:

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River North not quite Mayberry today

Here’s something that doesn’t happen everyday (Luckily, for most): There was a shooting a block from my office in River North this afternoon.

I didn’t witness it, but a few co-workers heard several shots, and then saw shots being fired into the back of a Crown Victoria.

Allegedly (I learned to say this in the college class I took about TV police dramas), the police picked up a “an aggressive panhandler” who opened fire on two police officers. The officers fired back, fatally wounding the person. The police officers were not seriously injured.

Co-workers who saw it go down were asked to provide police statements. They looked visibily shaken up. Streets near the incident were closed when I left work hours later.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen all the time in River North. It’s fairly safe. But sadly, there are sounds of gunshots in Chicago and places all over the world every day. People only seem to take notice when it happens in your own corner of the world, far from that Chicago Code TV show. That part is sobering.

That reminds me of our old apartment. There was an incident of bullet holes in the storefront next door, and a mysterious blood trail running up and down the street. It wasn’t then until we really noticed.

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Who is Weed Wolf?

There are a couple of burning questions that weigh heavily on my mind. Such as:

  • Did we really land on the moon in 1969?
  • How is it possible for anyone to remember all 50 state capitals or speak French fluently?
  • Is the world going to end in 2012?

Also: Who is Weed Wolf?

The latter is a question I’ve pondered since seeing this emblazoned on the side of a building at Milwaukee and Honore last summer:

(Photo via EMENFUKOS at Flickr)

Weed Wolf’s work has popped up all over Wicker Park and Logan Square. Some of the art includes a combination of a wolf, marijuana leaf and/or “2012.” But mostly it’s simply the name “Weed Wolf,” which reminds me a bit of the “Oh Shit!” graffiti around West Town.

Seen anything that looks like this?

Who are you, Weed Wolf? Are you this guy? Or this guy?

I’m guessing none of the above. Perhaps less like Teen Wolf. A friend of mine has actually met him. I guess he’s just some dude who happens to be into graffiti.

So, the mystery continues.

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Pink houses for you and me

One of my favorite things to do in any Chicago neighborhood is to wander down a tree-lined side street. I love the mix of residential architecture, especially the modern juxtaposed with vintage. Call me creepy, but I imagine how each apartment or house might be decorated and how that might reflect the people who live there.

Logan Square is particularly fun to get lost in because it’s delightfully urban, yet residential. Its buildings may not be as beautiful as Wicker Park’s or Lincoln Park’s, but the alternating row houses, new houses, apartment buildings and gorgeous mansions weave a story and inspire the renters of the world. I dream of owning one of the adorable single family homes. Daydreaming can get especially out of hand along Logan Boulevard, where the enormous mansions are taunting.

A short walking tour

This is the house that my ten-year-old self would have designed. I sincerely mean that as a compliment. There’s something whimsical and unpretentious about this house’s tall windows and playful colors. It says, Sure, I can afford an amazing single family home, but I’m not going to take my good fortune too seriously. I appreciate that.

Across the street, check this fascinating trio—a ranch house, modern house and vintage four-flat apartment building. I can only imagine an old Chicago family, artistic couple and a gaggle of hipster kids living on the same block in harmony.

I’m not sure that I’d like to live in a house that used to be a church. Lightning would strike (or another cliche) if I moved in. However, I’m curious about how this space is divided up. Hey owner, do you give tours?

If nothing else, moving to Logan Square has given me condo/house fever. I also blame Apartment Therapy. So until we save the money, I’ll dream (and wander) on.

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Enjoy the silence?

The hubs and I have spent the past three weeks packing, cleaning and unpacking.

*sigh*

Aside from two or three boxes, tiny piles of things I haven’t found a home for, and bare windows, we’re semi-settled into our new apartment in Logan Square. So, that explains the radio silence. In case you were worried.

Oh, the silence! I can’t believe how quiet it is in Logan Square—at least where we are, a few blocks away from the square.

Tree-lined streets can be such a drag.

The thing is, having lived at Damen and Augusta for two years, the lack of street noise, sirens, bus announcers, gas-station fights, crazy people and hip drunk kids is disorienting. It sounds weird, but the noise is partially what made our old place feel like home. It became part of the ambiance in the same way that the exposed brick or skylight did.  I didn’t notice the noise until guests pointed it out. It was just part of our own corner of the city.

So now, we live in a residential area. I know…I say that like it’s a bad thing. Most city folk would kill for more quiet and a couple trees. But aside from the faint hum of the Blue Line three blocks away and a very public custody dispute across the street, you can hear a pin drop. Which has made our presence quite known to our neighbors in the building. Yep, we received two noise complaints via the landlord within our first two days here. We’re party animals when we move. I have a theory it’s an owner vs. renter issue though. More on that later.

I’m sure I’ll really like Logan Square once we get settled and feel better acquainted with the hood. There’s a sense of community that I haven’t noticed in any other neighborhood I’ve lived in.Walking home from the train station this evening, some guys were playing guitars on their front stoop and two adorable girls riding Razor scooters stopped to say hello. Right then, I knew I was almost home.

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I have a new boyfriend

Ukrainian Village has been good to me. He’s been fun, loyal and loving.  Still, I’m moving on.

We’re moving to Logan Square next month.

Ukie, don’t cry. You’re great. It’s not you, it’s me. I feel like we’ve been growing apart the past few months. And it just sort of…happened with Logan Square. He charmed me with his bigger, less-expensive apartments, hip restaurants and tree-lined boulevards. Can we still be friends?

In all seriousness, the decision to move to Logan Square happened in an act of passion. I’m a little sad to move. While there are certainly issues motivating me to pack up and go, we adore Ukrainian Village and certain features of our current apartment.

Things I’ll miss about Ukrainian Village:

Being close, yet pleasantly removed, from the action of Wicker Park

My fave wine and flower shop, A. Vision

Lovely neighborhood joints. There are too many to name, but faves include Happy Village (for its lovely outdoor patio) and Kasia’s (for its ridiculously delicious Polish delights)

Being within walking distance of a grocery store

And of course, the view from the roofdeck of my current building

I could go on forever. I haven’t even mentioned my one-bus commute, Sunrise Cafe, Jam, Black Dog Gelato, Club Foot or Chick Pea. I will miss.

Moving is annoying, but a part of the urban experience. I wouldn’t have been opposed to staying in Ukrainian Village. We just kept our options open when looking for places and the winning apartment happened in Logan Square. But it’s fun discovering new restaurants, shops and bars. I’m excited.

I’ll still hang out with Ukrainian Village. After all, I’m still on friendly terms with my old boyfriend Lakeview. We meet up every so often for dinner, a movie or coffee. Since Ukie and I are parting on amicable terms, I have a feeling that we’ll do a better job staying in touch.

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