"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

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Logan Square/Palmer Square

The Breakdown
Colorful architecture lines the streets of Logan Square
An overview: Logan Square is definitely one of the neighborhoods that has attracted a ton of buzz in the past few years.  It seems as though it’s not the next hot Chicago neighborhood, but the most recent one.  Counting Bucktown (which is actually the eastern portion of the Logan Square community area), the boundaries contain three Michelin Star restaurants.  Only Lincoln Park and the Near North Side can make a bigger boast than that.

The predominant demographic out here is Hispanic, and their influence can be seen especially in the restaurants.  In addition to Mexican cuisine, Logan Square hosts a handful of Cuban joints, and one of the few Panamanian restaurants in the entire City.  It’s also probably no coincidence, partially due to its proximity to Wicker Park, that Logan Square has become quite the hipster haven.  Eccentric boutiques and taverns line the major corridors and simultaneously beautiful/grungy buildings house the artsy crowd as well.

The boundaries: The community area of Logan Square is bordered to the north by Diversey Avenue, the Chicago River to the east, Bloomingdale Avenue to the south, and the Milwaukee District North Line Metra tracks to the west.
An eagle sits atop the Illinois Centennial
Monument, overlooking Logan Square

There are two smaller neighborhoods located within the Logan Square community area.  Bucktown is the one we covered a few weeks ago.  The other is Palmer Square.  Although the boundaries of Palmer Square aren’t officially determined, they are generally Fullerton Avenue to the north, Armitage Avenue to the south, Milwaukee Avenue to the east, and Kedzie Boulevard to the west.

The focus of this entry will be Logan Square west of Western Avenue, incorporating Palmer Square, as well as the rest of the Logan Square community area.  The area east of Western Avenue is considered Bucktown.  You can read about our Bucktown entry here.

Population make-up: At the 2000 Census, Logan Square was the fifth largest community area at 82,715 residents.  With the 2010 Census results in, Logan Square has fallen to the seventh most populated community area, being passed by the Near North Side and Belmont Cragin.  Today its population is 72,791, a loss of nearly 10,000 residents, and a population decrease of 12%.

As for the area of Logan Square west of Western Avenue, the population as of the 2010 Census is 55,391.  This is a decrease of nearly 8,000 residents since 2000 when the population was 63,253, and represents a 12.43% decline.  The area’s racial make-up is 57.1% Hispanic, 33.4% white, 5.9% black, and 2.1% Asian.

A brief history: Logan Square was first settled by farmers in the 1850s, and shortly thereafter became home to numerous factories and immigrants (notably of German descent, especially within the modern day boundaries of Bucktown).  Eastern European immigrants began to rapidly move into the area post-World War I, helping Logan Square’s population to boom.  Some of the neighborhood’s character was lost with the construction of the Kennedy Expressway in the 1950s, following two decades of population decline.

Today, Logan Square is often seen as a) Chicago’s next hot neighborhood, or b) Chicago’s current hot neighborhood.  The community area, and especially the Bucktown neighborhood that makes up Logan Square’s eastern 1/3rd, is a haven for artists and is notable for its diversity among both its residents and its housing stock, where mansions and small apartments alike line the streets.

The beautiful, tree-laden Palmer Square.
Getting there: The blue line will get you to Logan Square easily.  There are three stops (listed from southeast to northwest): Western, California, and Logan Square.  Go just east of the Western stop and you’re in Bucktown, go just west and you’re in Logan Square.  The California stop will put you along the eastern border of Palmer Square.  The Logan Square stop drops you right off at the public square for which the community area is named.

Metra is also an option.  The Healy stop on the Milwaukee North District Line (from Union Station) will put you on the western end of Logan Square.  There are plenty of opportunities to get there via bus as well.  Going east-west: Diversey (76), Fullerton (74), and Armitage (73).  Going north-south: Pulaski (53), Kimball (82), California (52), and Western (49).  The Milwaukee bus (56) will also get you there via its northwest-southeast route.

Longman & Eagle (2657 N. Kedzie Avenue)
In the first-ever Michelin Guide for Chicago, 23 restaurants were fortunate enough to be awarded at least one Michelin Star, one of the greatest honors in the world that a dining establishment can receive.  Longman & Eagle was one such recipient.  If that doesn’t seem like a big deal, the following restaurants did NOT receive any Michelin Stars: Arun’s, Les Nomades, Moto.  So it’s obviously way too expensive for middle-class Johnny to eat at, right?  Well…

Longman & Eagle...soooo nondescript
Laura’s Take: Honestly I was not blown away by the burger and fries I ordered at L&E. Atmosphere was different, cool, and a little more upscale, but I’d have to come back to understand where that Michelin star came from.

Michael’s Take: In an effort to save a little dough/time, we came for brunch instead of dinner.  This hipster haven isn’t what one would expect for a restaurant that has received such accolades.  There are no “white table cloths”.  The waiters sport jeans and tattoos.  You’re much better off with a locally produced beer than a glass of Cotes du Rhone.  The place is terrific as advertised.  The duck confit and duck hash is filling without being overwhelming.  Yukon Gold potatoes and spring onions are an appropriate if unspectacular complement.  Service was upbeat without being silly and quite helpful.  We waited no more than five minutes for a table mid-afternoon on a Saturday, and the food came out in a reasonable amount of time.  I almost can’t help but feel like I need to go back once more just to do the place justice, but maybe it’s cuz I’m looking at the menu right now/wiping drool off the keyboard.

Anything Else We Missed: No, it’s not the cheapest restaurant in the world.  But if you’re willing to drop $20-$25 per person on brunch, counting tax and tip, then you can enjoy a really solid meal from what Esquire magazine called “one of the 10 best new restaurants in America for 2010".  And hey, this covers breakfast AND lunch, so that’s like, two meals for $10 apiece.  You’re going to drop more for dinner, but even that’s not ridiculously priced.  Oh yeah, and there’s only ONE way to get a reservation at the place…you’ve gotta stay at their bed & breakfast.  We’re not making this up, check out the website.  Admittedly we didn’t stay in one of the rooms, but if you’re visiting the “City that Works” from out of town and looking for a hip, reasonably-priced place to stay, you can score a room here for as low as $75.

The Rocking Horse (2535 N. Milwaukee Avenue)
It's the place with the horsey on it
The Rocking Horse – the foyer may be a little smelly, but the bar inside is nothing to sniff at.  Seemed like a pretty solid place.  We respectively ordered a mimosa and our first pumpkin ale of the season.  They claim (for themselves) one of the most impressive beer selections in the city.  They are going for an alternative hipstery vibe, for lack of a better term, and it would probably be better to check this out on a weekend night.

Anything Else We Missed: Quite a bit, actually.  We didn’t get to try the food or hear the jukebox being used.  The selection is described as “soul, punk, metal, and all indie points in between”.  You can check out their tunes online if you’re into it.

Lula Cafe (2537 N. Kedzie Boulevard)
On a 90-degree afternoon, you’d think the wait for outdoor seating in a Logan Square brunch spot wouldn’t be long.  But you’d be SO wrong.  We were seated after a 30-minute wait, just after 1:00pm.  Fortunately we were able to score an indoor seat, with the hostess kindly moving a table over so that we could squeeze into our seats.  Was it worth the wait?

When in doubt, always cover your old signage
with your new signage
Laura’s Take: Mmmmm… I would come back to Lula Café for sure. The menu was intriguing and different, which is a good feat for a brunch place.  Tofu even appeared on the menu in an appealing way, in a scramble with ginger miso sauce and homefries!  The menu features some organic ingredients and puts new spins on a lot of your favorite American style food.  You will notice the words “organic” and “soy” appearing throughout the menu but none of it hits you over the head, and it all sounds good. The décor was really different, kind of reminding me of a French bistro type idea, but minimally decorated with a modern twist.  I had pancakes with fruit and syrup – simple and good. The only complaint I have about the meal was that the raspberries had been frozen, and I wouldn’t have thought they’d use them in the first place if they weren’t fresh.  It seems we were lucky to have ordered pancakes and griddle cakes – a lady approached me at our next stop, Revolution, to say she had seen us at Lula’s…. and to ask if we felt okay.  Her and her husband had felt sick after eating egg dishes there.  She then proceeded to excitedly tell me how the place is expanding and how much they love it.  No big harm done, and hopefully an isolated incident. 

This is what it looks like when you
hit the flavor mother lode 
Delicious pancakes
Michael’s Take: Griddle cakes, you’re kind of like pancakes, just a little smaller and kind of chewier.  So yes, you are delicious.  Especially when topped with carmelized apples, oat crumbles, and powdered sugar.  In all seriousness, this was a wonderful, and filling dish.  It also comes with a thick, creamy maple sauce that somehow didn’t overwhelm the apples, but complemented it perfectly.  I ordered apple maple sage chicken sausages because I didn’t think the griddle cakes were going to be filling enough, but I could BARELY finish them.  The sausages were also great, slightly sweet, but tender and juicy.  You only get three small ones for $4, but they’re definitely worth trying, or (if you’re feeling saucy) sharing.

Anything Else We Missed:  Dinner.  Entrees range from $19-$23 each, and the menu sounds fresh, colorful, creative, and delicious.

Revolution Brewing (2323 N. Milwaukee Avenue)
Even better than the Taco Bell
Gordita Revolution of the 1990s?
GREAT beer.  Tours: Saturday, Noon, Free.  100+ year-old building.  Awesome.

Laura’s Take: Revolution has a new and modern yet comfortable feel to its bar and pub area.  It’s one huge room with some elevated seating on one side, and a huge walkaround bar in the middle.  You’ll get the kind of service you’d expect at a brewery showcasing its own beer.  Locals will come in and out filling growlers, and neighbors will pop in to pass a half hour or so.  If you can’t find a beer on the Revolution list that suits your fancy (unlikely, as they do a wide variety of styles), the menu contains many a gem from other renowned microbreweries.  The food looks excellent, and the options include weekend brunch.
Empty glass?  Somebody get on that!

Michael’s Take: Revolution makes some really good beer.  In my book, porters can be hit-or-miss, but a good porter tends to be a GREAT beer.  Eugene (a playful nod to Eugene Debs of Pullman Strike fame – and America’s favorite domestic Socialist) is a rich beverage with soft, chocolate undertones.  But if I have a new favorite personal discovery, it’s a saison.  A lightly sweet and ever-so-slightly dry ale, Revolution’s Coup d’ Etat is a very satisfying sippin’ bev.  Seeing the inner workings of Revolution was fun as it’s not always a pristine and comfortable environment.  Cramped rooms, short ceilings, and dusty tables (at least while the top floor was being renovated) make up much of the artisan landscape.  This is medium-scale brewing tapping into its workmanlike past.

Anything Else We Missed: Revolution is not actually a brewery, just a brewpub.  The only place you can get their beer is at the location on Milwaukee Avenue.  That’s going to change.  They’re in the midst of building a facility where they can manufacture exponentially greater quantities of their beer for purchase at other establishments in the near future.  In the meantime, GO to the brewpub, and enjoy their quality product.

Your trusty tour guide.  SWEET beard.

Logan Square/Palmer Square: The Final Tally
Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church
on Logan Square

It wasn’t that long ago that Logan Square had a pretty seedy reputation.  While the area isn’t without its problems, gentrification hasn’t stripped the area of its culture, and newer residents have injected a cool vibe that makes the neighborhood a lively destination at any time of the day.  Logan Square is a great alternative to those who are priced out of Wicker Park, or are searching for a comparable feel in a different location.  Meanwhile, beautiful public spaces such as the eponymous Logan Square and the tree-covered Palmer Square maintain a charming sense of calm and natural beauty in an otherwise fast-paced environment.  It is a very accessible neighborhood, with a nice central location within the City limits, and three Blue Line stops dropping you off in the middle of exciting commercial districts.  For dining, nightlife, or even a leisurely stroll, Logan Square is well worth a visit.

Here's where we went and what we saw.  The Palmer Square neighborhood is shaded in yellow.

Taps just WAITING to be pulled at the Rocking Horse

Drinking at Revolution can be your little way of sticking it to the Man!

Logan Square isn't too far from downtown.
Bucktown is in purple, Palmer Square in yellow, the rest of Logan Square in red, and the Loop in blue.


  1. Did you take that picture of the taps at Rocking Horse? I like.

  2. Yep, took it and then made it black and white. Thanks!