"Chicago" by Carl Sandburg

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders

-excerpt from the poem "Chicago" by Carl Sandburg (1916)

Chicago Skyline

Chicago Skyline
The Chicago Skyline from a Near West Side highrise

Monday, February 14, 2011

Edgewater

The Breakdown
Looking Eastward at Bryn Mawr and Winthrop.




The boundaries: Edgewater was considered the northern half of Uptown until the 1980s when it was designated as the 77th Chicago community area.  It separates from Uptown at Foster Avenue to the south.  Edgewater's western border is Ravenswood Avenue, and to the north it is separated from Rogers Park by Devon Avenue.  Its eastern border is Lake Michigan.

Population make-up: Edgewater is a very diverse neighborhood.  As of the 2000 Census, the population is listed as 57% White, 18% Black, 20% Hispanic, and 12% Asian.  Edgewater and Uptown are the only two community areas to have a double-digit percentage for all four of these ethnicities.  At 22,800 people per square mile, it is the 8th most dense community area in Chicago.

A brief history: Edgewater was founded in the early 1880s as an upscale suburb of Chicago.  However, by 1889 it was annexed into the City along with much of the lakefront area south of it.  It is one of two community areas (along with O'Hare) not originally included in the 1920s city layout.  Edgewater and its beachfront was a popular vacation destination throughout the 1920s.  In the 1940s, the area began suffering from overcrowding and urban blight.  The Edgewater Community Council fought to renew the community beginning in the 1960s, and today the community boasts an eclectic mix of vintage architecture and modern lakefront high-rises.  It was considered the northern half of Uptown until 1980, when it was officially designated as Chicago's 77th community area.  It is a residence destination for college students (notably from Loyola University which sits partly in the neighborhood) and immigrants alike, due greatly to a large and affordable housing stock, as well as great access to public transportation.  Hollywood Beach sits along Edgewater's eastern shore, and Lake Shore Drive begins/ends at Hollywood Avenue as well.  Edgewater is composed of several smaller neighborhoods, notably the Lakewood-Balmoral Historic District, the Bryn Mawr Historic District, and Andersonville.  We've already covered Andersonville, so with this entry we're going to focus on two of Edgewater's other major commercial corridors: Broadway and 
the Bryn Mawr Historic District.
Bryn Mawr Historic District from the Bryn Mawr red line.

Getting there: The entire community area, but especially the eastern half, is very easy to access via public transit.  The red line has four stops: Granville, Thorndale, Bryn Mawr, and Berwyn.  There are also multiple bus lines.  Going east-west there is Devon Avenue (155), Peterson/Ridge/Bryn Mawr (84), and Foster Avenue (92).  Going north-south you can take Clark (22), Broadway (36), and Sheridan (151).  Furthermore, the Ashland bus (50) makes its northernmost commencement/terminus in western Edgewater, and there are two express buses to downtown, the 136 and 147.




The Little India (1109 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.)
The Little India nestled under the red line.
This place looks miniscule on the outside and has sort of a kitschy sign, which, for some reason, shows a noodle on a fork.  Located right on the Bryn Mawr red line, a steady stream of traffic flows by the windows. It's the only Indian restaurant in Edgewater, but that means you don't necessarily have to get up to Devon Avenue to get a great meal.


Laura's Take: This place fills a niche in the Edgewater neighborhood. I was blown away the first time we ate here; the hot spicy platter of Indian food put in front of me was basically from heaven. Simple enough dining room. I would definitely come back, but more likely I would order out again for some really delicious food to enjoy at home.

Michael's Take: It's possible to screw up Indian food.  When it's not done right it's bland, boring, completely the opposite of what Indian food is supposed to be.  We've had two experiences here, one via dine-in, the other via take-out.  In neither instance was there any lack of quality.  First of all, the boneless chicken (when done wrong is dry and tasteless) was juicy, plump, and loaded with spicy character.  The chicken madras is exactly what you'd hope for, plenty of bite, but falling just short of the need to wipe your forehead between bites.  Also, the naan is exquisite.  Light and fluffy, buttery, it practically dissolves in your mouth.  This is Indian cuisine done right, and after a few VERY positive experiences, this is definitely a place I'll be back to.

Anything Else We Missed: Service was polite and efficient when we dined in.  The dining room is very small, and probably doesn't seat more than about 20-25, so the fact that you can carry-out is a huge bonus.  The time we carried-out, it was ready at the announced pick-up time (only about 30 minutes after ordering).  The food was fresh and hot.  So don't fret if you can't get a seat, just order and take it on the fly.



Moody's Pub
 
(5910 N. Broadway)

The room is dimly lit. There's a fireplace crackling in the back. You sit down at your nicked wooden table. You're relaxing in your lodge tucked away in the mountains of western Canada. No wait, check that, you're in Edgewater Chicago. Yeah you climbed over a mountain of snow to get there, but where else was the city plow supposed to dump it? So grab that last table over by the fireplace and order yourself a cold one. Those Doc Martens are gonna be dry in no time.
Michael's Take:
You know you've got a good thing going when it caters to everyone. In an area as diverse as Edgewater (multi-racial, established families, college students, blue-collar homeowners, white-collar beachfront condo owners, etc.), the clientele of Moody's Pub is a microcosm of the neighborhood it serves. They also make a mean burger. Trust me, the Moody Bleu Burger, having one is like nights in white satin..........come on, work with me here. But when I think of this place, it's not the food, nor the setting. No, it's that they have five, yes FIVE, beers to choose from. But it's not just that they only have five, but that's it's arguably the most random assortment of beers you could possibly come up with: Bud Light, Anchor Steam, Beck's, Goose Island 312 and Berghoff Dark. I mean, I guess they have all their bases covered: domestic, domestic microbrew, import, something local, and another local brew (ok, so Berghoff is brewed in southern Wisconsin, but I'm pretty sure Wisconsin is just a big suburb of Chicago). Really though, this isn't a complaint. I'm happy with three of those options, and that's good enough for me. Plus a glass won't run you more than about $3.50. Moody's is a GREAT place for suds and sustenance.

The subdued energy of Moody's Pub on a Friday night.
Laura's Take: Moody's is apparently rated by Chicago magazine as one of the most "romantic" joints in the city. This may be due to the low-lit atmosphere and candlelight, but honestly, I don't see that many people using it as this type of venue. Instead it seems to be a diverse mix of friends who meet here to pass an evening with reliable short-order food and great value. An enormous basket of delicious hot fries costs $2.50. 
The decor reminded me of a classic old-world medieval pub, and so does the outside, actually.
They use real steins. The place gets quite full on weekend nights, but you can still carry on a conversation and easily flag down your server. If you're not in the mood for beer, legitimate steins of sangria (awesome!) are only $4.00 including fresh fruit. As a sick joke, I have included a photograph of the outdoor beer garden covered in snow in mid-February. However, during appropriate weather it is partially fenced off from the street and extends quite far back into a garden area with trees and tiers. I think it steals the show away from the indoor bar in the summer.
Moody's beer garden tends to be more popular in summer.
Anything Else We Missed: Yeah, you know how you vowed to only pay in plastic cuz otherwise you're missing out on all those points you could be scoring?  Well, they only take cash here.  So if you're planning on paying with something that doesn't have a former President on it (or Secretary of the Treasury or guy who invented bifocals), you're gonna be walking to the nearest ATM.  Oh yeah, if you're lucky, you'll get a table surrounding a 25-foot tree in the outdoor beer garden.  I am not making this up.

 
Redtwist Theatre 
(1044 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.)
You could walk right by it and not even know it's there.  It's a little storefront theater company in the Bryn Mawr Historic District between Winthrop and Kenmore and it's been open since Fall of 2003.  One of the beautiful things about smaller theaters is you're right up there in the action.  So much so, that to get to your seats, you actually walk through the set.  With so many cultural amenities, sometimes people forget what a great live theater scene exists in Chicago.  And while there are plenty of highly publicized options in the Loop and Near North Side, it's smaller venues like Redtwist that help provide their neighborhood with a unique amenity and an intimate atmosphere.

Michael's Take: Seeing a live production at Redtwist was a great experience.  You can get a ticket for about $25-$30, but if you check their schedule for when they have a preview for a new show, you can get one for about $15-$20.  Either way, my lone experience was well worth the money.  We were seated right in the front row, and to have the action unfold literally within a foot or two of you is pretty surreal.  

The show we saw was "Shining City", a modern drama set in Dublin.  I'm not much a theater critic, so I won't divulge on the plot much other than it's a drama of four people yearning for affection, but it was enjoyable, engaging and moves along in a brisk 90 minutes.  Like most of Redtwist's productions, this one caters to an adult-oriented audience.  The audience was a mix of young and old, couples, friends, and even a few theater-lovers going solo.  "Shining City" plays through February, and if you can get tickets in the next couple weeks, is well worth a look.

Do yourself a favor and see a show here!
Laura's Take: The energy of live performance is very raw in this tiny setting. It almost seems like a secret doorway leading into an exclusive performance when you enter the "box office" (a tiny waiting room) and through a doorway into the back, where you walk into the actual stage before you realize that it and seating area have switched positions on you. Since each show the company puts on is probably unique, it's probably more relevant to comment on the venue itself, which makes for a really memorable show. If you can, try to arrive early and sit in the front row. The drama of non-comedic theatre takes you to another world.
 
Anything Else We Missed: Get there EARLY.  Seats get taken quickly, and reserved seating is limited.  Also, GO TO THE BATHROOM BEFORE THE SHOW.  The only way to the bathroom from your seat is through the stage, and even though the size of the theater practically puts you into the action, I don't think you're going to want to actually be IN the action.  Staff was polite and even though we couldn't find two seats next to each other, they kindly helped us rearrange some seating so that we could.  Also, make sure to buy tickets on-line ahead of time.  With a seating capacity of about 40 or 50, weekend shows sell out quickly.



Bryn Mawr Deli (1101 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.)
A throwback to the days of the true local deli. Custom orders are welcome, food is home made and fresh, and the recipes are the classic deli food you crave plus a bit of a twist (à la habanero mango pork or curry chicken salads). You can be in and out or take a seat with your laptop. The dining room is modest but accommodating with high top stool, table, or window counter options.  The rather spicy people-watching location adds to your lunchtime experience.
Virtually unmarked, the Bryn Mawr Deli holds down the fort.
Laura's Take: This place is friendly. The (who I presume is) owner is attentive... almost too much so sometimes.  "Yes, I like the soup.  No really!  I like it."  I've had custom wraps made for me here when I couldn't decide what to get, and I've had comp'd sides due to regular visits.  I've also had some pretty intense conversations about running along the lake shore, and let me tell you, this guy is not afraid to get involved in a debate!  Aside from the personal customer care I have come to enjoy here, the food options keep me coming back as someone who really loves deli food.  Sandwiches, wraps, and paninis are available in pretty much any combination of available ingredients.  Expect your craving to be filled whether it's rye, whole grain, wheat, spinach or tomato wrap, ciabatta, or what have you.  Home made salads are there for you to choose from in the deli case, and usually include the basics and a few specialties. Lastly... don't come here if you are opposed to the possibility that gloves may not be used in the preparation of your sandwich. I figure it's just more real that way.

Michael's Take: You can get a pretty solid lunch at Bryn Mawr Deli.  For around $7, you can get a sandwich, fresh soup (you're in luck if they have creamy tomato), and a pop.  Plus you get to pick your bread, or if you're feeling spicy, tortilla.  There are the standard cold cut sandwiches that you can can get at any deli.  What makes this place rock is the salads.  For my money, you can't go wrong with a buffalo chicken salad wrap.  There is no skimping on the chicken, and the buffalo sauce has some serious kick, balanced with cool bleu cheese dressing.  Still though, the curry chicken salad is nothing to laugh at either.  Again, plenty of spice, but not to the point where it's offensive.  The mango habanero pork is another solid choice.
 
Anything Else We Missed: For the pop aficionados, they do have a selection of Boylan sodas in the fridge in the back.  Just a nice change-up from your standard Coke-Pepsi products.



St. Andrew's Inn (5938 N. Broadway) 
St. Andrew's slightly dated exterior sits on a stretch of Broadway that is kind of bare in the way of amenities. You can count on your favorite college sports game to be available on weekend days. The beer menu is basically a book.  The owner, Julius, is knowledgeable about craft beers and breweries local and abroad. 

Laura's Take: Service is relaxed and old-timey. Last time we were here, Julius chatted with us about his favorite oak-aged brews. If you're wondering about a particular beer he will often pull it out to give you a peek and pour you a sample if it's on tap. He seems to BE the menu, because while the laminated book-menu is a nice guide, he tends to steer you toward his recent acquisition or update you on what has become (un)available. We have not experienced the nightlife/jazz scene here, but the lunchtime vibe is neighborhoody with sort of a weird vintage feel. Come for a truly unique and LARGE selection of oddball imports and micro-domestics as well as unexpected treats. For example, I had a pear cider here for the first time. They have a full dinner menu including appetizers, pastas, sandwiches, soups, and meat. A veggie burger that sounded good was really just okay and the pickle didn't look very fresh. But that's ok; we weren't there for a gourmet meal.

The bottles lining the wall give you a hint of what to expect.
Michael's Take: Just a block north of Moody's Pub, St. Andrew's Inn couldn't be more different, and in terms of variety that can be a really good thing.  The interior is well-lit, the walls covered with Scottish memorabilia, pennants of Chicago sports teams, and beer advertisements.  At Moody's you can choose from five different beers, here your selection is 99 different varieties.  Even the most hardcore beer lover will find some surprises here.  The owner is polite and helpful, so if you have an idea of what you want to try, but aren't exactly sure what you're looking for, he'll undoubtedly have a handful of suggestions for you.  Whereas Moody's is all about atmosphere, St. Andrew's is all about the beer.  It all depends on your mood, but for my money, you can't go wrong with either one.

Anything Else We Missed: Yeah, something we DEFINITELY missed; live jazz Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in the evenings.  If you need your trivia fix, they have that on Thursday nights.  What separates this place from most other bars (besides the extensive beer selection) is a Tuesday board game night.  Even if it's not a Tuesday though, there's a couple stacks of games in the back, so even on a Saturday afternoon you can dominate your best friend or significant other.
St. Andrews Inn.  Grab a seat by the window.

Red line tracks cut through Edgewater; high rises dominate its Eastern portion.

Edgewater: The Final Tally
Edgewater is modest compared to its counterparts to the south (i.e. downtown, Lake View) and west (i.e., Roscoe Village). Overall, you will talk to people more and notice a slower pace. This can be a bonus in terms of local restaurants, bars, and businesses, but it sometimes leads to strange situations on the street.  Still it is an area of Chicago that doesn't always get its due. 


Edgewater is a beautiful neighborhood.  No, not beautiful as in the cosmopolitan chic of the Gold Coast or the upscale polish of Lincoln Park.  Rather, it is in the stunning diversity that each city block presents.  It's the luxury of towering skyscrapers and beaches along Lake Michigan, integrated with modest mid-rises, and aged yet preserved single-family dwellings.  It's not the White of Wrigleyville, the Black of Bronzeville, the Hispanic of Hermosa, or the Asian of Armour Square.  It's people of all races, ages, sexual orientations, and trades sharing each block of a neighborhood that has a bright future in mind, yet still plays the part of Chicago's rust belt history.  It is the Everyone of Edgewater sharing a piece of the Windy City, represented by the businesses that line Clark, Bryn Mawr, and Broadway.  Edgewater isn't the most pristine neighborhood, nor does it have the best night life.  Edgewater doesn't have a Grant Achatz, Charlie Trotter, or a Rick Bayless.  What it does have is the sparkling beaches along the Lake, the hipness of Andersonville, and affordable places to live.  It may not be the first neighborhood you think of, nor the first one you'd want to visit, but just maybe it's the neighborhood that best exemplifies Chicago.
The Edgewater community area (red outline).
 

10 comments:

  1. Great coverage of a great neighborhood! Thanks for sharing

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  2. I really liked your write-up. Thanks for sharing. I always thought Edgewater was one of the most densely populated neighborhoods. According to this 2000 data - http://www.demographia.com/db-chi-nhd2000.htm - it appears it's the 2nd most densely populated Chicago neighborhood, not the 8th as you indicated.

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  3. Well keep in mind that was 2000,they could be referring to 2010's census.

    Great job! I wasn't used to the neighborhood at first because I was longing for all the perks of Lincoln Park and the buzz of downtown but I have grown to love it a lot,the easy accessibility to beaches and transportation makes it very appealing.

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  4. I just moved from Edgewater after living there a year & I think your "Final Tally" sums it up beautifully. It was an affordable, convenient place to live & you can't beat the proximity to the lakefront & non-crowded beaches when it's warm!

    If you head back be sure not to miss Metropolis Cafe (amazing coffee, great service & comfy seating/atmosphere) and Berger Park (huge astroturf playground that my nephews loved w/stunning views of the city. Home of the Waterfront Cafe w/ a nice patio, wine/beer & live music over the summer. Also a theatre & movies in the park) on Sheridan & Granville. You should also try one of the many Ethiopian restaurants in the area.

    I look forward to reading more on your blog!

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  5. Oh, just a minute layout comment. The bright blue color you use on your links is slightly difficult to read against the black.

    Other than that I'm loving this blog :)

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  6. First of all, thank you everyone for your comments in our blog. Laura and I are floored (in a good way) by your interest. Just to get back to a couple of responses, in regards to density, it was strictly a calculating error on my part. I appreciate you posting the link to the data from the Census. One thing is that my calculations take the community area size to the hundredth decimal, whereas that one only takes it to the tenth. Therefore, our numbers will vary slightly. Still, going back and crunching the numbers I have Edgewater now as the MOST dense, even ahead of Near North. That being said, I can't verify which size for the Near North community area (1.5 sq mi) or mine (2.72 sq mi) is correct. Hopefully I can find this information so that I can stop making demographic errors.

    Secondly, thanks for the suggestion on the typeface for the headings. We'll make the change for the next go-round.

    We'll definitely do a follow-up write-up at some point, and Metropolis Café is on our list of places to go. Thanks again for everyone's support!

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  7. Great job!! I really like your write-ups and individual takes!

    You should your reviews on Yelp as well and connect the two to encourage more traffic to your site.

    It might also be easier to refer to individual establishment reviews if you put them each as a blog post - then have a "master" post for the neigborhood (Edgewater in this case) that links to each review? People might want to link to a specific place and it would make that a lot easier.

    Also found this the other day and thought you might get find it useful!

    http://collections.carli.illinois.edu/cdm4/index_uic_idot.php?CISOROOT=/uic_idot

    Keep up the great work!

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  8. Thanks, we really appreciate the support. Loved the pictures in the link you sent too!

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  9. Great run-down of the neighborhood. You nailed it right on the head! I love Edgewater for all the reasons you mentioned.

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  10. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

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    ReplyDelete