What I Ate: Wicker Park, Chicago

doves luncheonette chicago

Just south of Logan Square is the bustling neighborhood of Wicker Park, which has boomed in popularity over the last 10 years. Now characterized by young, affluent and bohemian-minded residents, Wicker Park is fully gentrified and filled to the brim with restaurants, shops and spots for live music just waiting for me to explore!

Smoke Daddy — 1804 W Division Street

A “Chicago style BBQ place”, Smoke Daddy dishes up tasty BBQ favorites inside a funky garage warehouse feeling building. I like sitting in their garden room with the glass ceiling roof because it feels so airy and you can get an upclose view of their smoking process. I went for an appetizer heavy meal when I was there. I tried the pimento cheese hush puppies, which were awesome especially with the green chile jam. Definitely would eat that again! I also tried the smoked chicken wings, which came out different than I was expecting with no sauce. But surprisingly, I liked them that way because the dry rub on them was so flavorful and the chicken stayed really moist without the grease of deep frying them.

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The Southern — 1840 W North Avenue

I came here with my aunt after my bike got stolen because I was craving the comfort of mac & cheese, and the Southern is regularly voted one of the best places for it in the city. Now mac & cheese is my death row, last night on Earth meal, so I’ve got lots of experience with its creamy goodness. And thankfully, the Southern’s did not disappoint. The sauce was well seasoned, very rich and the perfect consistency. The noodles were cooked just to al dente, and then tossed with the cheese sauce and baked for a nice brown topping. It hit the spot on a day when I needed the comfort of cheesy food.

Bangers & Lace — 1670 W Division Street

Sam & I went bordaining down Division Street a few weeks ago, and this place was the highlight of our stops. We were there on a perfect summer day, so the restaurant was totally open air as they slid open all their floor to ceiling windows. It has a quirky “grandparents basement meets warehouse district” sort of vibe with its decor that I absolutely adored. A solid drink list, including a sour ale on tap and classic cocktails with a modern edge, adds to their popularity with young folks. Their menu is meat heavy, so don’t bring along a vegetarian, but you can get some killer sausage sandwiches or fried snacks. This place felt a lot like Madison (to be honest), and I loved every minute!

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Chop Shop — 2033 W North Avenue

Half restaurant and bar, half butcher shop, the Chop Shop is conveniently located right by the Damen L stop. It is a great place to pick up a quick sandwich for lunch, or a cool hang out for an evening with friends. There is a secret roof top patio too! They specialize in house made deli meats and specialty cuts, so I would definitely recommend the chef’s choice charcuterie board. It’ll give you a great variety of their specialties (my board had gin & juice elk salami, duck breast pastrami and sopressata) as well as paired cheeses.

Pub Royale — 2049 W Division Street 

An India-inspired pub that offers a funky take on popular Indian cuisine in a cool bohemian space is one of the top-rated brunches in Chicago. It took me a while to get Sam on board with this place because Indian food is such an unusual brunch choice, but once we came, we fell in love with the food! We needed suggestions from the waiter, since we hardly recognized any of the items on the menu so don’t feel self-concious if you’re unfamiliar with the cuisine. We were big fans of the stuffed paratha (seen below) and the chai spiced french toast, as well as the gobi manchurian and tikka kati roll. The portions are sizable & generous, so this would be a great spot to bring a larger group making it easy to try lots of their delicious options!

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Taxim — 1558 N Milwaukee Street

A Byzantine style restaurant, Taxim features Greek & Turkish inspired dishes inside an Eastern Orthodox cathedral feeling restaurant. The space features high arched ceilings lined with long family style tables peppered with Turkish lanterns and embroidered chair pillows. The menu seems a little intimidating at first since all the dishes are named in Greek but the food that comes out makes it worth it. Sam & I split a bunch of small plates and one entree. We did the politiki eggplant dish (basically babaganoush) which was slightly smokey but intensely and delicious garlicy as well as the cretan pastry. The highlight though was definitely the braised lamb shank. It was so tender and flavorful, falling right off the bone. The accompanying orzo struck a great balance of creamy & salty with a slight creeper heat that was nicely cooled off by a seasoned yogurt on the side.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams — 1505 N Milwaukee Street

Started in Columbus Ohio, this is now the third location where I’ve eaten Jeni’s delicious frozen treats. It is regularly rated some of the best ice cream in the country and deservedly so! They use the best ingredients to guarantee their ice cream’s have a perfectly creamy consistency and potent yet creative flavors. Signature flavors include brown butter almond brittle or sun popped corn, but for my visit to the Wicker Park location, I opted for a simple scoop of vanilla and raspberry sorbet. The vanilla, albeit boring to some people, has a deep flavor of strong vanilla bean and is surprisingly fulfilling. The sorbet may not be one of their most well-known options, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook it. The flavor is tart and smooth offering a more refreshing and light option during warm summer months.

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Antique Taco — 1360 N Milwaukee Avenue 

Personally, I love Antique Taco! This is my go-to spot for tasty tacos in my area, both because they are delicious, but also because I dig their vibe. Antique does an amazing job with branding, and their Instagram feed alone gets me inspired and hungry at the same time! Their taco menu has quirky and creative flavor combinations, like their Indian-inspired sweet & spicy chicken or Ribeye with arugula, and I definitely recommend getting one of their drinks. Their agua frescas are sooo good and refreshing! They’ve got a few locations around the city now, but the one in Wicker Park is the original, and you can even get them to cater your next special event! My friends had Antique at their wedding shower and everyone loved it!

Stan’s Doughnuts — 1560 N Damen Avenue

If you ride the Blue Line El in the morning, I can just about guarantee that you have smelled the doughnuts from Stans before. Located just under the Damen stop, Stan’s Doughnuts offers delectable fried treats to make your morning more tolerable. They’ve got a mixed selection, including traditional sour cream varieties, cream filled, sprinkle topped and berry stuffed. I’m a huge fan of traditional glazed sour cream doughnuts, so the lemon pistachio or blueberry are my favorites.

stans donut chicago

Sultan’s Market — 2057 W North Avenue

Looking for a cheap, filling and delicious dinner? Then swing by Sultan’s market where you can dine in or take out with their fast order at the counter service. Right when you walk in, you’re going to be greeted by a huge and plentiful salad bar. If I worked near here, I’d probably eat it every day! I opted for a falafel sandwich and the babaganuj. I loved the falafel because it was totally crispy and fried with none of the greasy feeling. You can order the sandwich as spicy as you like and it’s topped with a generous portion of hummus & salad. The babaganuj was definitely good, but a little bland for my taste. Since I took it home, I threw in some herbs/spice and it hit the spot!

Big Star Taco — 1531 N Damen Avenue

One of my favorite hang out spots in Wicker Park, Big Star always has a lively vibe and dishes out some seriously good Mexican street food. Housed in a revamped gas station, the floor-to-ceiling sliding doors open up to a massive patio especially in the summer. It is a cool venue, and if you go on a weekend or when there is nice weather, expect a wait. Their margaritas and tacos are the most popular items, and I am a big fan of their Al Pastor and De Panza tacos. If you’re lucky enough to get a table, I would recommend spending a few hours hanging out (and people watching!) while ordering tacos and snacks as you go!

Dove’s Luncheonette — 1545 N Damen Avenue

Recommended to me by a coworker, I now crave this place’s brunch. I’ve been there 4 times already, for God’s sake. That’s more than I’ve been any restaurant in Chicago! I order the same thing every time — the fried chicken and gravy. Serious comfort food, the fried chicken is impeccable with a perfectly crunchy and flavorful dredge yet the center remains nice and moist. Topped with their house made sausage gravy, peas and sauteed capellini onions, you’ll no doubt have happy belly after eating this.

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Looking for more restaurant suggestions in Chicago? Check out my “What I Ate” list for Logan Square.

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Author: Megan Arz

I am a travel and food obsessed Midwesterner living in Chicago and dreaming of the world. I work as a full-time program manager for Greenheart Travel, but I am also committed to integrating the travel lifestyle into my every day routines. I am passionate about ethical travel, meeting new people, creating unique memories and eating local cuisine!

2 thoughts

  1. Good list. I live and work there, so I’m pretty familiar with the scene. Some good ones I would also add are the Mexican Lucha inspired Tamale Station, Small Cheval (burger joint spinoff of Au Cheval’s decadent cheeseburger), Piece Pizza, and brunch at Xoco, where they give you a French press for your coffee.

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