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Our Guide To The Best Of Little Village, Heart Of Chicago & West Pilsen

By Chicagoist_Guest in Food on Jun 8, 2017 6:27PM

There's a world of breweries, food, parks and specialty shops to be enjoyed in the neighborhoods west of Pilsen's Damen Avenue—that includes Little Village, Heart of Chicago, West Pilsen and Heart of Italy. Yes, East Pilsen is amazing too—you have the Mexican American Museum of Art, Thalia Hall, 18th street taquerias, dive bars and warehouses full of artists showcasing everything from Pollock-esque paintings to life-sized sculptures made out of salvaged scrap yard material. Is it any wonder why rent on 18th street skyrocketed this past year? But we can think of plenty of reasons to venture west of Pilsen for a night of food, drinks and debauchery, from North Lawndale's Lagunitas Brewery to Little Village's La Casa De Samuel.

By no means is this a complete list of West Side hang outs—we’re covering quite a bit of ground here—so please let us know if we missed any of your favorite spots.

By Calley Nelson

Photo via Alulu

West Pilsen—Alulu Brewhouse
Best drink: Champion Fluffy, Alulu’s Belgian Tripel
The craft beers are flavorful, the wait staff is friendly, and the moss-covered bar is gorgeous. What more could you really ask for from a neighborhood brewery? On warm days, Alulu opens up the garage door, making it the perfect spot for summer day drinking. If beer isn’t your thing, there’s a generous food menu and choice cocktails like the Astronos Beach (rum, sweet vermouth, Aztec Chocolate and bitters, garnished with burnt orange peel.)
2011 S. Laflin St.

West Pilsen—Taqueria Sabor y Sazon
Best on the menu: Assorted tacos with salsa verde
If you want a really satisfying and authentic Tex-Mex taco, look no further. The house made tortillas are warmed to perfection, and unlike in most of the neighborhood taquerias, vegan and vegetarians won’t go hungry. Regardless of its contents, we recommend drenching your taco in salsa verde.
2018 S. Blue Island Ave.

(Photo: Lagunitas Taproom's Facebook)

North Lawndale—Lagunitas Brewing

Best on the menu: $8 beer flights
The Chicago-California based brewery was bought out by Heineken this May, so it’s technically not craft beer anymore, but it still tastes like it. As far as the brewery is concerned, not much has changed—there’s live music in the evenings, beer tours all day and $8-14 beer flights.
2607 W. 17th St.

Heart of Chicago—Textile Discount Outlet
Best feature: 13 rooms of fabric
This massive fabric store is one of the greatest West Side secrets. Any Pilsen artist will tell you that this is the only place to go for cheap but high-end fabric, but you’ll have to do some digging and roll your favorites through a 75,000 square foot warehouse. It’s always packed, especially on the weekends, so try to get there early.
2121 W. 21st St.

West Pilsen—Pilsen B&G
Best on the menu: Molletes Con Huevo
This sunny breakfast and grill is under new management and for the better— ever since, the dining room has been packed. Pilsen B&G is family friendly, ideal for brunching and the portions are almost over generous. If your entrĂ©e comes with a side, definitely get the pancakes.
1454 W. 18th St.

Little Village— La Casa De Samuel
Best on the menu: Vibora De Cascabel (grilled rattlesnake)
Perhaps one of the happiest restaurants to visit in the area, this Little Village staple hosts live music every weekend over hearty helpings of fresh chips and salsa. Watch a chef prepare tortillas in the dining room while you debate treating yourself with rabbit, frog legs, snake or alligator for dinner.
2834 W. Cermak Rd.

Riot Fest. Photo by Tyler LaRiviere/Chicagoist

Little Village/North Lawndale—Douglas Park
Best feature: Flower Hall
Now home to Riot Fest, this city park includes the usual amenities (swimming pool, tennis courts, bike path, etc), movies in the park, summer camps and soccer games. It’s perfect for a jog or a picnic, and many families fire up a portable grill and barbeque when the weather permits.
1401 S. Sacramento Blvd.

Heart of Chicago—Working Bikes

Best feature: Bike repairs and hard-to-find parts
This non-profit revamps discarded bikes and donates them to impoverished communities local and abroad that lack access to transportation. Ditch your bike, get repairs and parts, or splurge on a new ride— all of the proceeds go directly back to all Working Bikes’ programs.
2434 S. Western Ave.

Photo via Xurro

Heart of Chicago—Xurro
Best dessert: classic churro with strawberry filling
The original “Churro Factory” makes churros to order by packing strands of freshly baked dough with your choice of donut filling. The neighborhood staple now has branches downtown Chicago and in neighboring suburbs. You can even grab a Xuuro churro at the 18th Pink Line stop.
2214 S. Wolcott Ave.

Heart of Italy—Bruna’s,
Best dish: Stuffed shells with extra sauce
Bruna’s is one of the oldest Italian restaurants in the city, and quite possibly the best. Their bread and olive oil melts in your mouth and the red sauce is simmered to perfection with just the right amount of salt. Make sure and save room for tiramisu.
2424 S. Oakley Ave.