The Student’s Guide to Chicago’s Neighborhoods

If you attend Loyola or any other university in Chicago, you’ve more than likely found yourself miles from campus in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Being a student in the city means exploring Chicago and its culture, but it’s best to seek guidance before you trek out to Humboldt Park at 3 am because you read some underground food blog that raves about a late night taco stand there. Lucky for you, this Chicago student has done most of the legwork already. Consider this your one stop shop for praises and disclaimers about a few of the neighborhoods you’re likely to find yourself in before you graduate.

 

Andersonville: If you go to Loyola, you’ve probably heard of the fabled four-ish blocks of Clark Street about a mile and a half south of campus that constitutes the mecca of brunch cafes and antique stores. This neighborhood is also home to Chicago’s first medical marijuana dispensary as well as a lively bar scene.

 

Avondale: A working class neighborhood mostly free of hipsters, yuppies, yupsters, and other groups who simultaneously self-categorize and claim to defy categorization. Visit Kuma’s Corner for a deliciously abusive environment in which you can enjoy heavy metal themed hamburgers.

 

Boystown: Gay bars, boutique shopping, and comedy clubs. No, you don’t have to be LGBT to enjoy this neighborhood, but the name itself drives away most of the fratboy clientele you’d otherwise be dealing with at near-campus hangouts, and that’s always a plus. The annual pride parade is LIT.

 

Chinatown: Once you get past the tchotchke gift shops, take your pick of the many authentic ethnic restaurants, bakeries, and shops. Walking into a restaurant in Chinatown is usually a toss up between the sensation of entering a government building or crashing an awkward asian birthday party.

 

Gold Coast: Any commercial item you could ever want can be found priced at twice of what it’s worth on the mag mile. There is also a Bentley dealership, the legendary Rush Street strip, and lots and lots and lots of rich white people.

 

Humboldt Park: A tough working class neighborhood on the west side with a slightly dingy public park situated in the middle. Not the best place to end up at night, but hey, good Puerto Rican food.

 

Hyde Park: One of two neighborhoods on the south side that white people aren’t terrified to go to. University of Chicago is located here along with the spectacular Museum of Science and Industry.

 

Lincoln Park: Lively bar and restaurant scene combined with standard college antics. Head to Kelly’s Pub and watch the bouncer pretend to thoughtfully peruse innumerable painfully fake IDs on Thursday night. Seriously, you could get into this bar if your ID was written in crayon.

 

Little Italy: Essentially a tchotchke remnant of what was once a vibrant ethnic neighborhood. There is still an Italian American cultural center, but all the immigrants are gone. Most of the Italians moved to Melrose Park after the University of Illinois at Chicago ate their neighborhood.  

 

Logan Square: Less gentrified than Wicker Park but with more handlebar mustaches. Artisanal coffee shops and dusty yet friendly cocktail bars abound. This is also the stop on the blue line where the L goes back underground to a subway station that looks like a massive changing room at a public pool but with a stronger stench of urine.

 

Pilsen: Delicious and cheap tacos literally everywhere. A little rough in spots, but this is the bottom line in an authentic yet hip Latino neighborhood. See a show at Thalia Hall and enjoy the eye rolls from locals when you mispronounce the venue’s name.

 

Rogers Park: Jesuit-approved college antics, dusty dive bars, and awesome beaches. Wednesday night open mics at the Heartland Cafe are home to some of the best local underground acts anywhere. Go ‘Blers.

 

Uptown: This neighborhood goes from ritsy as hell to working class to an open air insane asylum real quick. To the west, walk down Wilson Avenue and admire the old school urban mansions. To the east, check out Montrose Harbor for one of the best skyline views in the city. In the center, along Broadway, try not to get spit on by a half naked man holding a bottle of canola oil while you’re walking to Target at two in the afternoon. I’m not kidding.

 

Wicker Park: A hip neighborhood with everything from nightclubs to headshops to pottery stores. Check out the annual craft fair for overpriced (yet cool as heck) trinkets and stationary. Residents think they are not hipsters. They are wrong.

 

Wrigleyville: Drunk.