Welcome to Pilsen! What to See & Eat in the Neighborhood
Pilsen is a neighborhood that pulses with a youthful spirit and is ever evolving. For over 150 years, Pilsen has been a port of entry for immigrants. Early on it was waves of Eastern Europeans, which later shifted and became predominantly Latino. Now blended in the close knit Mexican-American community is creative types and students. Thanks to this diversity, you'll find offbeat vintage shops, independent coffee houses and quaint cafes alongside bodegas, panaderias and restaurants serving authentic Mexican cuisine.
Additionally, the real estate market has grown tremendously in Pilsen over the last 10 years. With its close proximity to the loop, Pilsen is becoming a go-to destination for young professionals along with an already-thriving young-artist community. Adding to the multicultural mosaic is the neighboring area Heart of Chicago, anchored by several old-school Italian restaurants. But whether you're on 18th Street or Oakley Avenue, it's the strong cultural heritage and rich working class legacy that are the backbone of Chicago's Lower West Side neighborhoods.
Read Below to learn about more 10 of notable places in this this gem of a neighborhood in Chicago’s Lower West Side.
10 Must-See Places Pilsen Pilsen is one of the most recognizable neighborhoods in Chicago. With a distinct mural or piece of public art adorning a facade in nearly every block, it's not hard to see the artistic culture that's present in this southwestern Chicago neighborhood. Some notable places in Pilsen include the National Museum of Mexican Art, some fantastic art galleries such as the Prospectus Art Gallery and a booming bar and restaurant scene to boot, Pilsen has everything a fun and culture-loving Chicagoan could desire. It's accessible by way of bus, Pink Line, Metra or a quick hop off of the Eisenhower, Dan Ryan or Stevenson Expressways.
Here are 10 must-see places when spending time in Pilsen: 1. National Museum of Mexican Art 1852 W. 19th Street The National Museum of Mexican Art stands out as one of the most prominent first-voice institutions for Mexican art and culture in the United States. The museum showcases 3,000 years of creativity from both sides of the border, connecting museum visitors to the diversity of Mexican culture. The permanent exhibit "Mexicanidad: Our Past is Present" explores the history of Mexico in five stages: Pre-Cuauhtémoc Mexico, Colonial Mexico, Mexico from Independence to Revolution, Post-Mexican Revolution to Present-day Mexico and The Mexican Experience in the US. If you’re looking for a great way to spend a day viewing various art pieces, the National Museum of Mexican Art is the place for you!
2. Prospectus Art Gallery 1210 W 18th Street As mentioned above, Pilsen is home to a thriving art community with galleries spread out over Pilsen’s famous 18th street. One notable art gallery on 18th street is the Prospectus Art Gallery. With more of a focus on local artists, this art gallery has been a Pilsen staple for 26 years and has remained in its original location while watching numerous changes develop in Pilsen during that time period.
3. Thalia Hall 1807 S. Allport Street Housed in a historic bohemian public hall that dates back to 1892, Thalia Hall reopened in 2014 as a music venue with the help of the team behind local rock club the Empty Bottle. Artists that have frequented the concert hall range from Americana to psych rock bands, all presented in a room that retains its character (chipping paint on the walls, original molding around the stage) and sounds excellent. Whether you’re standing on the floor or sitting in the balcony that wraps around the room, you’ll feel like you’re experiencing one of your favorite bands playing in a bygone era of Chicago’s history.
4. Honky Tonk Barbecue 1800 S. Racine Avenue This Memphis-style dry-rubbed barbecue joint has more than some of the best pulled pork around. Honky Tonk also serves up a hearty lineup of live music each week, so you can enjoy some of the city’s top musicians while digging into a delicious meal. Enjoy performances from local string bands, jazz trios, swing bands, blues and R&B artists who frequent Honky Tonk for a night of good eats and vibrant tunes.
5. Harrison Park 1824 S. Wood Street Located right next to the National Museum of Mexican Art, the park features a field house with a gymnastics center, indoor swimming pool, computer lab. The nearly 18 acres of space include tennis courts, basketball courts, baseball fields, athletic fields for football or soccer, a playground and a community garden. Envisioned by renowned landscape designer Jens Jensen and commissioned in 1912, the space aims to create an outdoor space and a breath of fresh air in a bustling community.
6. Knee Deep Vintage 1219 W. 18th Street Tired of traveling from Brighton Park to the North Side for cool, thrifty finds, Trent Marinelli and Carlos Lourenco took matters into their own hands by opening this vintage shop in nearby Pilsen in 2008. Just off the Pink Line, the store (in a former meeting space the duo renovated) specializes in fashion-forward vintage clothing and accessories, as well as those harder to find gems from the '20s-'50s. Stop in often to score the best deals.
7. The Barrel 2015 S. Damen Avenue Nestled just steps away from the Damen Pink Line stop, this cozy neighborhood spot serves up a rotating list of cheap craft brews along with a few signature cocktail options. The focus is on local at The Barrel, with samplings on tap from Chicago beer staples like Revolution, Off Color and Penrose. Want something a bit stronger? Grab a CBGB, a refreshing gin and cucumber cocktail.
8. Los Comales 1544 W. 18th Street The bustling sit-down Mexican spot serves excellent tacos on fresh tortillas piled with fillings like spicy chorizo and tender steak, topped with onions and cilantro. Dress them with salsa served from squeeze bottles and spicy pickled veggies, including carrots and jalapenos, which sit on the table.
9. DeColores 1626 S. Halsted Street This restaurant doubles as a gallery space, and there’s plenty of well-curated art on these walls to satisfy food and art lovers alike. There is an energy of community here, and artists often come to sit at the bar and talk shop. It makes sense if you think about it as it helps to foster artistic discussion with solid guacamole, well-seasoned skirt steaks and a nice chicken with housemade poblano mole.
10. Café Jumping Bean 1439 W. 18th Street This colorful Pilsen stalwart, open since 1994, is both a quick spot to grab coffee en route to the train and a neighborhood gathering place for low-key breakfasts or pounding away on laptops. The espresso bar serves the basics, as well as a terrific sweet Thai iced coffee, while the simple food menu includes bagels for breakfast and soups and sandwiches for lunch.