Chicago’s storied Uptown neighborhood has emerged from a decades-long slump with new restaurants and cultural centers.
For decades, Uptown, one of Chicago’s most storied neighborhoods, struggled to regain its early-to-mid-century luster when jazz and swing musicians dominated the music scene and ornate movie halls catered to robust crowds. Despite being well-served by the El, Chicago’s train system, and having a coveted Lake Michigan shoreline, the neighborhood slumped as crime rose and its aging housing stock fell into disrepair. Lately, though, Uptown’s new cultural centers and restaurants have fueled a creative spirit in this highly-diverse neighborhood. While debates over affordable housing and development remain huge issues in the area, Uptown is ready again for its close-up.
This cozy coffee shop is the centerpiece of Wilson Abbey, a neighborhood hub that hosts concerts, conferences and other special events. The menu ranges from specialties like the Vader, composed of Mexican Coke, vanilla and quantum espresso, to muffins and breakfast sandwiches made by Baker Miller, a local bakery. Only fair and direct trade coffee is served here.
935 West Wilson Avenue; everybodyscoffee.com
Loving Heart Vegan Cafe
Housed in a rather unassuming space, this efficient and friendly vegan cafe impresses with its fresh wraps, bowls, burgers and desserts. Roughly 80 percent of the cafe’s offerings are made with organic ingredients.
838 West Montrose Avenue; lovingheartvegan.com.
Since opening in 2012, this upbeat bar and restaurant serving American fare has become a neighborhood staple, with its array of craft beers and a popular weekend brunch featuring bottomless mimosas. The décor is decidedly upscale industrial, with exposed brick walls and a garage door. The restaurant features classics like fish and chips and hanger steak, with chimichurri and potatoes.
844 West Montrose Avenue; reservoirchicago.com.
Black Ensemble Theater and Cultural Center
Founded by the actress and playwright Jackie Taylor in 1976, this sleek, airy building includes a 299-seat main stage, a studio theater, rehearsal studios and music rooms. The theater recently had a well-received run of “Sammy: A Tribute to Sammy Davis Jr.” A play about the life of the singer Patti LaBelle will run in May and June. The production “Hip-Hop Revolution,” which will explore the substantial impact that hip-hop has had on the music industry, is planned for later this year.
4450 North Clark Street; blackensembletheater.org.
Sol’s on Sheridan
This year-old Korean barbecue restaurant may be the new kid on the block, but it’s a welcome presence and incredibly tasty. The Korean fried chicken, with pickled radish, is all the rave, along with the bibimbap, a mixed-rice dish. Cap off the visit with the bing-su, a Korean shaved ice, mixed with Oreos.
4715 North Sheridan Road; solsonsheridan.com.