Northwest of downtown Chicago, Bucktown and Wicker Park have been undergoing a fantastic revitalization. A former warehouse area turned artist haven, there is now more to do than ever before. Wander above the city in an elevated train track turned green space, eat at one of the many beloved burger joints (without trauma-inducing lines), or sleep in a converted ’20s office space with unparalleled views of the Windy City. Chicago’s most exciting neighborhoods are now more accessible than ever.
The Robey Hotel
Built just before the Great Depression, this former office building (named the Northwest Tower) sat empty for years before Grupo Habita transformed it into a hotel. Now with modern amenities, the flatiron-shaped icon has retained its ’20s Art Deco bones and boasts a view to book for. With just 89 rooms, The Robey Hotel cuts a striking figure into the area’s major intersection of Damen, Milwaukee, and North Avenues. Named for the original thoroughfare in the area that eventually became Damen Avenue, The Robey is one of the tallest buildings in the neighborhood, granting visitors to the hotel’s two outdoor levels, Cabana Club and The Up Room postcard views of the city below. The Robey’s rooms are categorized into two independent sections, the Tower rooms and the Annex Loft rooms, an effect of Grupo Habita joining two buildings together to create a singular hotel. Original fixtures still remain and the lobby in particular boasts beautifully restored elevator banks and flooring.
First opening its doors in 1997, Robin Richman’s boutique is a destination for architecturally inspired, one-of-a-kind pieces. From Guidi boots to Marc Le Bihan ballerina dresses, each piece in this store is carefully selected and feels utterly original. This is unsurprising, as the boutique itself resembles more of a showroom than a store. Stroll past the large showcase windows, located at the tip of Bucktown, for an ever-changing glimpse into Richman’s world of art, design and sartorial pleasure.
Though a number of bookshops line the streets of this area, Myopic Books is distinct in its style. Featuring mainly used books, the shelves here look more like a library than a modern-day bookshop. There are no tables lined with laptops and WiFi codes. There are no tchotchkes placed alongside the shelves. Instead, there are just rows and rows of books—classics and modern tales alike—lining the floor-to-ceiling shelves. It’s easy to while away several hours hunting down old favorites or discovering new ones. Whichever you prefer, one thing is certain: bibliophiles will delight.
Opened in the summer of 2018, chef Danny Grant’s Etta is a mix of homemade ingredients, unexpected flavors and convivial atmosphere. Order the bubbling shrimp and you’ll be mopping up the bowl with the house-made focaccia, unwilling to part with even a drop of the savory sauce. The youngest chef to win two Michelin stars, Grant has created an unpretentious, unfussy eatery where the food is great, the ambiance is lively, and the experience is consistent; the true marks of a local favorite.
There was an initial doubt as to whether this outpost—the little sister to the legendary Au Cheval—could stand up to the hype. With a pared-down burgers-only menu, this Bucktown venue has stripped out the main flaw in its sister shop (read: the queues) and offers the chance to get a burger fix without the wait. Located just below the entrance to the 606, it’s the perfect end to a wander through the neighborhood.
Chicago’s answer to NYC’s Highline, this former elevated metro-line is now a celebrated green space and walkway. While temporary art exhibits grace the line, its main use is currently as a green escape in otherwise concrete neighborhoods. On any given day you’ll find runners, cyclists and families taking a stroll along these 2.7 miles of former track-work that now connect Wicker Park, Bucktown, Logan Square and Humboldt Park. At the Ridgeway-West Trailway entrance sits the Exelon Observatory, where monthly astrology sessions are held free of charge—led by the 606’s resident astronomer through the end of the year.