Friday, May 3, 2013

Lincoln Square, Chicago

• Lincoln Square •

Just got back from a great day in Lincoln Square, a neighborhood and community area on the north side of Chicago.  My general impression of the area is that the residents are young - maybe in their thirties - and the neighborhood is hip, artsy, and middle class.  It felt safer than wandering around Hyde Park, but not quite as fancy as Lincoln Park.  Lincoln Avenue is full of art shops, used bookstores, and chic clothing boutiques.  In general, it seemed that the shops sold good quality merchandise at fair prices.  Some pieces were expensive, but the price always fit the quality - there weren't enormous markups.  Another cute aspect of this area is that the streets are lined with adorable coffee shops.  In the windows, you can see young people lined up with their macs sipping on coffee.  It's that kind of place.  Actually, I would probably enjoy living there if getting to The University of Chicago from there weren't a total pain in the butt (no swearing online...bad etiquette).

Our first stop of the day was lunch at Garcia's Restaurant, which sells Mexican cuisine.  It might just be that I was super hungry by the time I ate, but I thought the food was delicious.  I ordered the three taco dinner with steak tacos, and it was served with rice and beans.  Typically I don't like beans, but I mixed these with the rice and actually liked them a lot.  The tacos had a great flavor too.

Steak Tacos with Rice and Beans at Garcia's Restaurant
Sculpture of Abraham Lincoln
When we left lunch, we went to see the statue of Abraham Lincoln. Presumably, the naming of Lincoln Square had something to do with him.  There's a nice quote engraved in the base of his sculpture which reads, "Free society is not, and shall not be, a failure."  After photographing the sculpture, we backtracked slightly to Giddings Plaza, the main square.  Here, we found families relaxing, people our age on smart phones (probably chatting with Siri or something like that), and a guy playing the guitar.  Though it is supposedly Spring, it was still too chilly for me to sit outside and listen.  We continued on to The Book Cellar a bit farther down Lincoln Avenue.

The Book Cellar (4736 Lincoln Ave.) is this adorable used bookstore that has a wine cafe.  You can order wine by the glass and read their books.  Additionally, you can order food and other drinks.  One thing I really enjoyed about The Book Cellar is that customers write little recommendations about books they liked, and the store tapes these mini-recommendations to the shelf with the book.  This way, you can see what people thought of the book.

Recommendations at The Book Cellar
Another fantastic used bookstore we visited, Ravenswood Used Books (4626 Lincoln Ave.), is still farther down Lincoln Avenue.  The charm in this bookstore is that it is unbelievably crowded with books piled literally to the ceiling.  The walkways are tiny, and you have to squeeze around precariously piled books to get to other sections.  The walkways are barely wide enough for one person, so you have to cooperate with other shoppers.  Often, I found myself wondering if any books ever fell.  Nearly right away when I walked in, I began to wonder if this design could possibly meet the fire code standards or if the place was a fire hazard.  The charm of the shop is more in the unusual, unconventional layout than the actual books themselves.

Ravenswood Used Books
While walking, we passed the Louis Sullivan Building (4611 Lincoln Ave.), which is known for its decorated facade.  The building housed the Krause Music Store, and now houses Studio V Design.

Also while wandering, we noticed some large murals.  One in particular, at the Brown Line Western Ave. L stop of the CTA portrays a theme of German culture and heritage that is so important to Lincoln Square.  The mural shows daily life in a German town and references some German castles.

Mural at Western Ave.
On the way to Architectural Artifacts, we passed this really cool view under the L.  It's not necessarily a "thing to go see" that defines Lincoln Square, but it's a neat looking photo opp.  Check it out:

Our final stop before dinner was a complete surprise.  At Architectural Artifacts (4325 N. Ravenswood), visitors enter into an auction where bidders contest with each other to purchase pieces of demolished houses and buildings.  From the online description, we thought we were simply going into a store that sold floor tiles and bricks from historic buildings.  Not so.  We walked right into the middle of an auction where bidders bid on person and online for doors, stained glass windows, lamps, and other parts of the buildings.  The man announcing the bid shouted so enthusiastically and quickly that we wondered how the bidders could even understand him.  It was truly a spectacle to be seen, and we watched!  Everywhere we turned, we found pieces of broken chandeliers, letters from an old marquis, and odds and ends that came apart from their buildings.  This is a somewhat unknown place that you should definitely check out if you find yourself in Lincoln Square.
Pieces of demolished buildings at Architectural Artifacts

To finish the day, we walked back to Lincoln Avenue for dinner at Cafe Selmarie.  The cafe is actually known for its pastries, but we decided on dinner.  I ordered a quinoa salad with radishes, carrots, butter lettuce, and some kind of sauce.  To begin, I also ordered a delicious tomato bisque soup that was just perfect for how hungry I felt after a day of exploring.  One cool part of Cafe Selmarie is that the walls are lined with art from local artists that you can purchase.  Though I didn't buy anything, I did enjoy looking around at the different styles.

After dinner, we drove back to school and prepared ourselves for another Monday morning.  For me, the most memorable parts of Lincoln Square were the used bookstores and the auction house.  In the future, I would like to go back to see a performance at the Old Town School of Folk Music.  They have free performances outside over summer, so maybe I'll start with those.

¡Hasta la próxima!

1 comment:

  1. the book cellar is one of my favorite book stores. Love the comments - I've found some great authors that way. There is a classic German restaurant next door that was one of my dad's favorites. Lots of great little shops too. KCM