We asked around — here are some of your favorite places near the ‘L’
Every Thursday night in the 14 East newsroom, we begin each meeting with an icebreaker — what were the highs and lows of your week? Can you name a song with your name in it? Where is your go-to place to cry in public?
In response to that last question, many members of our staff answered with bus routes or CTA train stops where they have shed their fair share of tears. This week, our staff talked about CTA routes where they have experienced growth, transformation or had other impactful, positive experiences
In addition to finding ourselves emotional on public transit, our staff also enjoys using the CTA to access our favorite restaurants, bars and venues that are in walking distance from train and bus stops. We circulated a survey asking residents in the Chicagoland area to share their favorite locations that are easily accessible by public transit that received 62 responses. Below are just a select few of the responses we received.
A stop away from DePaul’s Lincoln Park Campus is Zizi’s Cafe, a favorite restaurant of Kate Meulemans that lies less than two blocks from the Diversey Brown Line.
“Everything about this place feels like home to me. Zizi’s is a cozy, family-owned, Turkish restaurant tucked between Diversey & Wolfram on Sheffield. I have spent countless nights gossiping over wine and hummus here and always feel like I am a part of something special when I eat here. It helps that the food is incredible!” Meulemans said.
Tanuki Sushi & Grill
“This is hands down the best and most affordable sushi I have had in Chicago. First of all, the inside of this restaurant feels trendy and high end, but they have a BYOB policy and affordable yet gourmet rolls,” Meulemans said. “This place is great for a date night since it’s pretty small and intimate, my boyfriend and I went here for our two-year anniversary in January and both absolutely loved the atmosphere AND all the delicious food we ordered.”
“Dinkel’s opened in 1922. Its beautiful pink interior and hard to miss sign out front are a beacon of hope in a continuously modernizing/gentrifying Lakeview area. Living just down Lincoln Ave from Dinkel’s for 2 years at the end of my undergrad experience was nothing short of a joy,” DePaul alumna Amy Hildebrand said.
Hildebrand has a baker’s dozen of recommendations for those looking to try a sweet or savory treat from Dinkel’s. “Sour cream old fashioned donuts. The most melt in your mouth, scrumptiously buttery and moist donut you could ever dream of. Oh, and their ridiculous assortment of danish, bear claw, cookies and cakes is not to be forgotten about either. But those damn sour cream old fashions…stop my heart,” Hildebrand said.
Ritual Coffeehouse is a perfect location for students or people who work remotely. DePaul third-year student Natalie Dizon loves Ritual for its late hours, ample electric outlets, and homey vibe.
“This place has been a constant of mine since my freshman year at DePaul. I’m a third-year now, and I still find myself coming back here to study. The vibe is so homey, it’s open pretty late in comparison to other coffee shops (till 10pm!), and I always leave here feeling productive! The staff is always so welcoming and almost every seat has access to an outlet. Brownie points go to them for having an aesthetically pleasing design and use vinyl records for their music source,” Dizon said.
While the original Margie’s Candies is located down the street from the Western Blue Line, multiple people recommended the indulgent treats at the ice cream shop’s second location that is tucked under the Montrose Brown Line.
“Hands down, Margie’s has the best milkshakes and hot fudge sundaes in the city. It’s almost directly under the Montrose Brown Line stop. It is small, cozy and delicious,” DePaul student Kaitlyn Madden said.
“Margie’s is such an adorable place! It’s an old-timey ice cream parlor and candy shop located right under the Montrose Brown Line stop. The original is located over on Western, but this second location is near and dear to my heart. It’s super cozy and a great place to share a sundae with someone you love!” DePaul student Page Gilberg said.
Spyner’s Pub has karaoke every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night and is graduate student Rachel Fernandez’s go-to dive bar.
“My roommates and I like to go on Thursday nights when it’s usually the least crowded. Chances are you can find one of us there at least once a week. My phone automatically connects to their wifi when I step inside. Jimmy is the karaoke host who keeps the nights running smoothly and Brenda is the bartender who provides the crowds with beer and popcorn. There are other weekly regulars who have perfected their songs, and sometimes listening to their renditions feels more comforting than listening to the original. I like to bring my friends and family there because it might as well be part of my home. Spyner’s is a very special piece of me. Singing ‘Glamourous’ by Fergie and a range of angsty pop-punk songs every week has undoubtedly kept me from coming unhinged at certain points of my life,” said Fernandez, who will be moving out of her apartment that is just a block away from Spyner’s this summer.
“I’ll never forget how much that place and the people associated with it means to me,” Fernandez said.
Royal Indian Grill
For those with curious tastebuds who are unfamiliar with Indian cuisine, the bistro-style Royal Indian Grill made be the perfect place to start — it was for Amy Hildebrand.
“The hostess was the first person to explain an Indian restaurant menu to me and I have brought countless rookies there since — all of which fell immediately to the blissful spice of their cooking,” said Hildebrand. “The aloo channa, the basmati rice, the bhatura (fried bread)… everything is perfect. Dimly lit, extremely welcoming, reasonably priced. It’s all you want in an Indian food restaurant.”
Pick Me Up Cafe
Halle Wagner didn’t discover Pick Me Up Cafe like most Chicago residents or tourists do. She first learned about the late-night cafe because it was featured on the cover of Fall Out Boy’s Evening Out With Your Girlfriend EP.
“I love the food here! I’ve been coming here for several years and it feels like every single time is better than the last. They have a lot of great options for everyone (veggie/vegan options), so I know I can always take everyone there! Anytime a friend or a family member is in town, I have to take them here,” Wagner said. “Also, for my 21st birthday, I ended up coming here twice: once for breakfast and then I came back for dinner with friends.”
At the end of March, Pick Me Up will be leaving its longtime Lakeview location and head north to Uptown. The cafe’s last day at the Lakeview location will be March 22.
Green Mill Cocktail Lounge
DePaul student Jonathan Ballew recommended Uptown staple The Green Mill. This historic jazz club has been a Chicago landmark since 1907 when it was known as Pop Morse’s Roadhouse. From local jam sessions to nationally-known acts, you can always catch a fantastic jazz set at this old-timey tavern.
“When I’m there, I feel like I’ve traveled back in time,” Ballew said.
First Sip Cafe
“This place is not only a fantastic coffee shop to study at, but it also serves as a safe, communal space in the heart of the APIDA-dominant (Asian Pacific Islander Desi American) neighborhood of Argyle. I feel like the owners had the desire to bring people together with this coffee shop,” said Natalie Dizon, who lives in Lincoln Park. “Along with serving local coffee and baked goods, they’ve hosted different events that have brought more life and community into Argyle. I love their incorporation of unique and traditional flavors in their specialty drinks: some highlights include the rose latte, the “ubae” (with Filipino ube, pandan, and coconut flavoring), and the new Vietnamese iced coffee!”
Jubilee Juice & Grill
“I work nearby and after almost every shift I head over to Jubilee and get waffle fries. There’s always a fun mix of people post-work and others going out,” associate editor Patsy Newitt said.
The fluorescent lights of Jubilee Juice in the West Loop offer a haven for West Loop travellers not interested in well-established restaurant row on Randolph Street. The counter service spot offers an extensive, diverse and confusing menu of hamburgers, salads, smoothies, juice, sandwiches, quesadillas, baked potatoes, fresh hummus and spanakopita (to name a few). They also have a breakfast menu. They’re BYOB, open late (3 a.m. on the weekends) and deliver.
Looking for delicious food, enticing entertainment and unique drinks? Cobra Lounge is a one-stop establishment for a great night out. It’s a favorite venue of associate editor Nikki Roberts, who frequents Cobra Lounge for their killer metal shows, Reign in Blood cider and filling veggie burgers.
This South Side coffee shop hosts events ranging from workshops and small performances to game nights and private events, and is a favorite of Ellie Mejia because of the shop’s community engagement.
“Good coffee, very charming inside, friendly staff. Also, the owners have been extremely thoughtful about their engagement with the neighborhood and try to be a community space as much as possible,” said Mejia.
National Museum of Mexican Art
Located on the edge of Harrison Park, the National Museum of Mexican Art has been a cultural touchstone for Pilsen since it opened in 1982. Admission is free, and the exhibits range from historical overviews of Mexican art (“Nuestras Historias,” which opens with a discussion on the influence of colonization in Mexican culture) to special programming, like their annual exhibit and ofrenda for El Día de los Muertos.
“It’s such an enlightening experience to learn more about different aspects about my culture that weren’t taught to me in school or at home,” associate editor Cam Rodriguez said.
Pilsen venue Thalia Hall has been filled with music lovers since 1892, and is one of associate editor Cam Rodriguez’s favorite places to see a show.
“It’s a gorgeous concert venue that’s full of history, which is what makes it so great. It used to be a polka hall and community center and really highlights the different generations of immigrant culture in Pilsen,” Rodriguez said.
The last two stops on the Pink Line take riders just outside of the city limits to Cicero, Illinois. However, the gorditas at Taqueria Aguascalientes are worth the commute. Associate editor Nikki Roberts recommends the rajas con queso gorditas.
Village Inn Pizzeria
Skokie resident Maridsa Choute recommends Village Inn Pizzeria, approximately a half of a mile from the Oakton-Skokie yellow line.
“It has great pizza and always has a nice, casual environment. They also support fundraisers held at the two prominent Skokie high schools by donating food for their events,” said Choute.
The Flat Iron
“You can’t beat $5 beer/shot combos, plenty of pool tables, shuffleboard, darts, skeeball and a jukebox!” associate editor Nikki Roberts said.
This hip bar is covered from floor to ceiling in murals and is the perfect bar to grab a drink before catching a show at Subterranean, which is conveniently located on the other side of Milwaukee Avenue.
“It is a super cute book store that also has really well-made coffees and drinks,” associate editor Yusra Shah said. “They name their drinks after famous book characters. My favorite is the Ginny Weasley, a matcha latte with peppermint if I remember correctly.”
Jibaritos y mas
“The food is not only insanely delicious but super affordable,” associate editor Patsy Newitt said.
Jibaritos y mas is a counter-service Puerto Rican spot known best for their jibaritos, a sandwich with plantains instead of bread. They also have a delicious array of alcapurrias, pastelitos, tostones and maduros behind glass for quick access. They’re BYOB and just opened a dine-in location two-doors down.
Eleven City Diner
Located right off the Roosevelt Orange Line and down the street from Columbia College, Eleven City Diner is full of fresh takes on old classics.
“Eleven City Diner evokes 1940s and ‘50s nostalgia from the second you step in,” associate editor Cam Rodriguez said. “It’s a Jewish deli with actual soda jerks and the freshest lox and shakes I’ve ever had.”
One City Tap
Located across the street from the Ashland Orange Line, One City Tap is associate editor Nikki Roberts’s favorite neighborhood bar.
“It’s a great, lowkey dive bar that hosts a variety of events from punk shows to Latin dance nights to private events,” Roberts said. “Plus, I actually went on my first date with my partner here. We love to hang out and play darts on slow nights.”
Huck Finn Restaurant
One of two Huck Finn Restaurant locations in the city, this cheap, 24-hour diner is associate editor Nikki Roberts’s pick for a late-night breakfast, some of the best donuts in the city, or a study session paired with a rich chocolate brownie and a cup of black coffee.
Evanston resident Zoe, whose last name wasn’t included in the survey, grew up eating the Snoopy cupcakes at Bennison’s Bakery near the Davis Purple Line.
“The best cupcakes and macarons in the metro area in my opinion,” Zoe said.
“Unicorn Cafe is an adorable coffee shop with cute drinks and an ample food menu,” associate editor Nikki Roberts said. “However, my favorite part of this shop is the cute missed connections page on their website.”
Some of these suggestions are classic establishments in Chicago — others are hidden treasures we may have never discovered if it weren’t for the input from our community. We hope this list encourages you to ride an unfamiliar route, try a new cuisine or discover a new favorite spot to grab a beer.
Header image by Allegra Taylor, 14 East