|Beautiful architecture lines Armitage Avenue|
It’s impossible to truly experience Lincoln Park in one or two visits. There’s just TOO MUCH to do. We’ve tried to cover a fair amount of ground in this entry via only four stops, but this is a neighborhood that we’ll undoubtedly be revisiting (probably multiple times) down the road. One more thing worth noting, the neighborhood of Old Town covers the eastern part of Lincoln Park and a northern portion of the Near North Side. We are going to save Old Town for its own entry as there is plenty to do there as well. This entry will focus mainly on the western portion of Lincoln Park, along with a stop in the DePaul area.
|Dillinger's Last Stand|
Population make-up: The 2010 population of the Lincoln Park community area is about the same as it was in 2000. It decreased by 0.32%, down to 64,116. The white demographic is the largest at 82.8%, followed by Hispanic (5.7%), Asian (5.1%), and black (4.4%). Economic data isn't available for the 2010 census. However, at the 2000 census, Lincoln Park was the wealthiest of Chicago's 77 community areas with a median income of $68,613.
A brief history: Originally part of Lake View Township, Lincoln Park was on the northern border of Chicago (North Avenue) until it was annexed into the City in 1889. Although it may be the iconic neighborhood in terms of architectural beauty and amenities, Lincoln Park hasn’t always enjoyed a pristine history. The area was a victim of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Residents quickly rebuilt the neighborhood, however, many of the structures became dilapidated and dangerous during the Great Depression. Neighborhood associations were created to combat blight and poverty, often controversially, as many poorer minorities were displaced. The area became prime real estate due to its proximity to the Lake and downtown.
|We want to eat here, but we can't.|
It's just too expensive.
Getting there: Lincoln Park is extremely accessible by public transit. Via “L”, you can take the Red Line to Fullerton and North/Clybourn which will put you on the southern end of the neighborhood. Also, the Brown Line (and the Purple Line Express during rush hour) can be taken to Diversey, Fullerton, Armitage, and Sedgwick on the southern border.
By bus, going north-south: Clark (22, 36); Halsted (8); Ashland (9). Going east-west: Diversey (76); Fullerton (74); Armitage (73); North (9, 72). There’s also the Lincoln bus that runs northwest-southeast (11). There are express buses that run on Lake Shore Drive too (151, 156).
Lincoln Station Bar & Grill (2432 N. Lincoln Avenue)
|A bar so nice they named it twice|
Michael’s Take: Lincoln Station is a likeable bar. It definitely fits the college niche without being a pit. As a result, the prices are cheap for Chicago, but of course expensive for a college town. Still, a $5 Metropolitan lager from the tap is hard to complain about. The atmosphere is cozy and completely unpretentious. It’s a good place to go to watch some college football on a Saturday and have some space to lounge, and it definitely picks up in the evening as a younger crowd fills the joint. Overall, it’s worth a stop regardless of time or day if you’re in the vicinity and want a reasonably priced beverage and a comfortable atmosphere.
Laura’s Take: Lincoln Station is a nice stop off. It has a little atmosphere and a little bit of a 'tude, judging by the bartenders' decor. I don't doubt that it becomes more raucous at night as the Lincoln Parkers come out and get rowdy. I enjoy the mural on the back wall in the first room... quite atmospheric!
Anything Else We Missed: We didn’t try the food, but in the spirit of Chicago being a great brunch town, Lincoln Station currently offers $2 mimosas on Sundays. That’s a good deal.
|It's kinda like the wallpaper in your apartment, right?|
Cafe Ba Ba Reeba (2024 N. Halsted Street)
|Shhh, I think the tapas are in there...|
Michael’s Take: I guess the beauty of tapas is that you can spend as much, or as little, as you want. The downside, delicious bite-sized plates are interspersed with just average ones. I’ve had the good fortune of eating here three times now, and all three times I’ve been satisfied with my experience. Service is usually pretty quick considering how crowded the place gets, and considering the nature of tapas requires the waiters to keep a frequent eye on your table. Suggestions: fried calamari, goat cheese, stuffed mushrooms, and empanadas of any variety. The calamari is cooked perfectly and comes with a slightly spicy and creamy red sauce. Chicken and beef empanadas are beautifully flaky with flavorful meat fillings. Stuffed mushrooms and the goat cheese more-or-less speak for themselves, but they’re straight-up tasty, and that’s hard to argue with.
|Calamari. Like regular|
calamari, but better
|Did we forget to mention the tuna|
crostini? Cuz that was DELICIOUS
Anything Else We Missed: If small portions aren’t your thing, they also feature paella. We haven’t tried it ourselves, but they offer three different varieties a night from about $10-$13 a serving. Again, for the uninitiated, paella is a fluffy rice dish with an assortment of meats and/or vegetables. Oh and the sangria really hits the spot too.
Goose Island – Clybourn Brewpub (1800 N. Clybourn Avenue)
|The kettles let you know the story|
|You're supposed to go left to right, but it IS a free country|
Laura’s Take: Goose Island has a streamlined, practiced, and established routine. You will sense this if you come in for a tour. Afterwards, you are sent into a large room, lined up at wooden tables, and provided with a mini-beer tasting lesson along with 5 or 6 neatly poured brews. The beers are great, although you will quickly find some that you like much better than others. Don't expect the intimacy that you get on a small up-and-coming brewery tour, but do expect to find a tour guide who's done this before and knows his/her brew.
|Four friends just hangin' out|
Steppenwolf Theatre Company (1650 N. Halsted Street)
|Why don't you come with me, little girl|
On a magic carpet ride...
We've had the pleasure of seeing three shows here in the past couple years. Each time was a different, engaging experience. If there’s one consistent in Steppenwolf’s performances, there’s also a lingering element of dark humor that lingers along the show from beginning to end. The shows tend to last between 90 minutes and two hours, with an intermission. This makes it very palatable for even the most restless.
The acting is also tremendous. Don’t be surprised if you see a show involving an actor you’ve seen from TV or film (although the aforementioned Sinise, Malkovich, and Allen usually don’t come back to do shows here anymore). The shows tend to be full, and they offer snacks and alcohol before the show and during intermissions. It’s hard to explain the aura of seeing a show at Steppenwolf, but for quality live theater it is definitely worth your time and money.
|A scene from the outstanding "Middletown"|
(Photo courtesy of Steppenwolf Theatre Co.)
Anything Else We Missed: If you want the Steppenwolf experience, but don’t want to spend the money, there are two other options for you. First Look Repertory allows you to see first run productions at an affordable price (~$20). The most successful of these plays end up having runs either at Steppenwolf’s main stage, or elsewhere. Then there’s Garage Rep where Steppenwolf supports smaller theater companies who are trying to make a name for themselves and usually present shows aimed at an age 21-35 crowd. These shows are also very affordable (~$15).
Lincoln Park: The Final Tally
|Shopping is also an option in Lincoln Park|
If there's one complaint to be had (and that's literally just one), there is not a staggering amount of diversity. The great majority of Lincoln Park is very wealthy, and very white. The exception to this is Cabrini-Green which, although in the midst of substantial changes, is the complete opposite of this demographic (many don't realize that the infamous housing project is actually located within Lincoln Park). Today changes are being done to make it a diverse, mixed-income area. Otherwise, as a cultural, recreational, and residential mecca for the Midwest's biggest city, Lincoln Park defines its own brand in terms of standard of living.
|Where we went. Lincoln Park community area outlined in red. Old Town is the area in blue.|
|Looking down from the Armitage Brown Line Station. All is quiet in Lincoln Park tonight.|
|Everybody wants to know how Goose Island does it|
|Lincoln Park (red) is very close to the Loop (blue)|