Sunday, December 7, 2014

Bucktown, Wicker Park, & Logan Square

Bucktown • Wicker Park • Logan Square

Bucktown, is that you?
I have always been confused about the boundaries of Bucktown, Wicker Park, and Logan Square.  As far as I'm aware, they are discrete areas, but they also overlap.  In fact, I'm not sure if anyone knows the exact locations of the borders.  As I wandered through these three hipster neighborhoods, I frequently asked people which section I was in.  Some people had no idea, and people frequently gave me different answers.  So, after a couple of highly enjoyable days in Bucktown/Wicker Park/Logan Square, it became very clear to me that I am not the only one who is confused.

The mesh of these three neighborhoods broadcasts a hipster vibe with lots of personality and a little bit of edge.  Everywhere you look, you can find vintage stores and thrift shops mixed in between coffee shops filled with young people wearing large plastic glasses and scarves.  They general style is hipster, but it's mainstream enough that even I could fit in here.  I'm not a hipster at all, even though I attempted to mimic their style for an afternoon in London one day.  It didn't work.  I tend to dress more Lincoln Park / northern suburbs (yoga attire, pea coats, trench coats, etc.).

Anyhow, I came to realize that this hipster town isn't all hipster when I was daintily rummaging through a vintage thrift shop and came upon a pair of nearly new, Ferragamo heels in a size 8 AAAA for only $30.  I nearly never find shoes that fit my extremely narrow feet, so this treasure was an unbelievably exciting find.  Pleasantly, these shoes were marked at about 95% off of their original price, maybe more.  Success!
Shopping at Reckless Records in Wicker Park
Renegade Craft Fair in Wicker Park
Renegade Craft Fair in Wicker Park
For the past two years, I have attended the Renegade Craft Fair in Wicker Park (according to the Internet, it's definitely in the Wicker Park section.).  This is a delightfully affordable craft fair where you can find everything from sketches that reference pop culture to wooden glasses frames to re-purposed books made into journals.  What you won't find, is an endless row of super expensive paintings.  Given that the neighborhoods are mostly composed of young semi-professionals and students, this is the perfect outlet for selling knit infinity scarves and funky watches.  One booth I particularly enjoyed visiting was the booth for the Chicago School of Shoemaking, where they let you make your own leather cuff bracelet for free.  One more thing - the very crowded streets of this craft fair are lined with pained pianos that the public is welcome to play.  How cool is that?

Painted Piano - Renegade Craft Fair in Wicker Park
Another fun event in Bucktown is the Bucktown 5k.  I'm reasonably sure this event stays within Bucktown becuase it's called the Bucktown 5k.  Over the past few years, my mom and I have become 5k buddies.  We have power-walked / run in the Hot Chocolate 5k, the Turkey Trot, and some other races.  We're not super speedy (mostly because we take pictures as we go), but we do maintain a pretty good pace.  We're done racing for the season since we're both winter wimps.  If anyone knows of a 5k in June, July, or August, please let us know.  This was our first year running this 5k (September 14, 2014), and it was a blast!  After the race, we decided to hang around Bucktown/Wicker Park/wherever we were, and explore the area.

Next time we race, we're going to wear cool goggles like these.

Strolling around, we came upon the most architecturally interesting Walgreens I've ever seen.  Most Walgreens stores look like a large boxes, but this one was certainly architectural art.  This store takes the shape of a flatiron building, and formerly housed the Noel State Bank.  Gardner C. Coughlen designed the neo-classical building 1919, or 1921 depending on your source article.  Historically, the structure was mostly occupied by banks until they moved out in 2005.  From that point on, the beautiful building was empty until Walgreens moved in during 2012.  Walgreens has worked to preserve the architecture of the building, including the enormous hexagonal stained glass skylight, the geometric ceiling with original paint, the original tile floor, and decorative pendant lighting.  The best place to view the building is from the balcony at the top of the escalators, where you can see the detailed ceiling up close and look out over the rest of the store.

Walgreens in Wicker Park
The weird thing about running a 5k is that you wake up really early in the morning, and by the time the race is over, you're ready for lunch.  However, the race usually ends around 9:30 am, which is not at all an appropriate time to eat lunch.
Meyer Lemon and Blackberry Hotcakes at the Bongo Room
We decided to shop a bit and dig through the vintage shops and record stores, and then go out for brunch at a restaurant called the Bongo Room.  There's a long wait to eat here, but the food is well worth it.  The Bongo Room features seasonal variations of pancakes and French toast.  I ordered the Citrus & Gingersnap Pancakes, which are served with fresh blueberries and honey-blueberry butter.  The portion was huge, so I got to eat these delicious pancakes for brunch and dinner.  I would love to eat here again and sample more items from this unusual menu.

My overall impression from visiting Bucktown, Wicker Park, and Logan Square is that it is a fantastic place to live for young people.  I could see myself living here if it wouldn't be such a pain to commute to Hyde Park daily.  There's a lot more to do and see in this conglomerate of three neighborhoods, but we were sort of tired post-5k, so we plopped down in Pete's Coffee & Tea to drink some chai lattes for the remainder of the afternoon.  I'm very much looking forward to visiting this area again when I have some free time.
No, we didn't take 1 hour and 18 minutes to run 5 kilometers.  We went back for a photo after the race.

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