Things really are opening up this week, thanks to vaccines, good weather and loosening restrictions. Now is the perfect time to get off your block and discover a new area. Laura and I are both fully vaxxed and in the same city for a change. To celebrate (and as this week’s challenge), we decided to check out a neighborhood that is known as the coolest in Chicago and one of the coolest in the world—Chicago’s Uptown.
We’ve both been to Uptown for concerts but, even though we live in the city, we didn’t know what else the area offered. Turns out, a lot. Too much, really, to soak up in a single afternoon. But we had so much fun scouting it out. Here are our favorite takeaways from our trip to Uptown.
Marjie: The Scene
According to exploreuptown.org, “Uptown is one of the most ethnically and economically diverse communities in Chicago.” Bordered by Lake Michigan and Ravenswood on the East and West, and Irving Park and Foster on the South and North, it contains beautiful parks, Graceland Cemetery, vibrant business districts, and an abundance of entertainment options. Uptown has a history of being home to social activists, immigrants and artists, all of whom were evident on our walk through the neighborhood. A single block on Broadway contains a famed jazz club, an Ethiopian restaurant and the grand Uptown Theatre (closed right now but plans to restore and reopen it are in the works). Despite the pandemic, or maybe because of it, the bustling neighborhood seemed to be evolving in front of our eyes.
One of the things I found most exciting about Uptown is its street art. It’s everywhere—from the Clifton Avenue Street Art Gallery to corner murals and colorful storefronts . My Streeterville neighborhood literally pales by comparison. The advocacy and ethnic diversity of the area is embedded in the art and well as a sense of history and celebration. And even though things are getting safer, what better way to take in art than al fresco?
Laura: Food & Fun
One of my favorite reasons to explore a new neighborhood is to explore the food and break out of my neighborhood’s bubble of French, Italian and steak restaurants. Uptown is famous for Argyle Street, also known as Asia on Argyle, and our visit is quite timely as May is Asian American and Pacific Island Heritage month.
We had lunch at Tank Noodle, which was delicious and it’s very approachable even if you don’t know the first thing about Vietnamese food. Here’s some hints for ordering: almost everything is served with Nuoc Cham, which is a dipping sauce that has sweet and sour elements (lime juice and sugar, balanced with a little funk from the fish sauce). Proteins tend to be grilled and served with vermicelli rice noodles, and everything comes with tons of fresh herbs. We didn’t order the hot soup Pho, because it was a hot day, but that’s a classic dish. Bahn Mi, which is pork and pate and delicious, comes in a few varieties if you’re not interested in pork (or so much pork). Argyle Street also has lots of French-influenced bakeries, which are found throughout Vietnam, and also some fun gift and food shops.
We visited Uptown for our walking tour on a Sunday afternoon, but we’re excited to go back for an evening of live music. Aragon Ballroom (dates starting in July), Green Mill (performances nightly) and Riviera Theatre (dates starting in Sept.) are all in the ‘hood and should soon be bumping again (I mean if Lollapalooza is back, why not the Aragon?) For more glitter and glam with your music, check out The Baton Show Lounge with drag shows nightly Thursday-Sunday. We’ve added that to our list, too!
More to Explore
Our short jaunt through to Uptown made us realize there’s so much in our city that we have yet to discover. The same is true wherever you live. The pandemic has kept us confined, but no more. Even straying a few miles from home feels like an adventure these days. If you explore a new area, please share. We’d love to hear about it.
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