NFT Chicago East Pilsen / Chinatown

East Pilsen / Chinatown

Nestled between the University of Illinois at Chicago campus and the official South Side, East Pilsen gives artists, families and hipsters all a place to call home. The neighborhood's up and coming qualities haven't quite up and came, making rent more affordable than most of its northern counterparts. Celebrate the Chinese New Year just across the river with street sales reminiscent of Shanghai.

Would-be collectors make their rounds sipping wine and looking for the next Ed Paschke at the annual gallery crawl in East Pilsen; second Fridays of the month are a staple for staying current in the art scene and exploring renowned Podmajersky gardens. Find out-of-the-ordinary treasures at the Chinatown Bazaar before fueling your body with soy sauce, MSG and fortune cookies.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Kitchen of Dreams

By Jill Jaracz
The equipage of the kitchen: the stockpile of the heart. Do you have what it takes to furnish your cooking space? Join Jill Jaracz on a culinary voyage 'twixt Oriental crockery and mass-produced Swedish stuff, as Jill prepares to lavish you with the secret of her sparkling kitchen: the addresses of the stores she patronizes, and some suggestions. Get ready to cook something. I hope it's tasty and doesn't take til 3 am. I hate that.

Chicago's Amazing Parks

By Kelly Pucci
Aren't public parks the darndest things? Open, available and lush with wildlife. To think there was a time when common laborers knew not such things... Please, allow Kelly Pucci to give you a guided, arboreal tour of the jungle, not the concrete, because this isn't a Bob Marley song. This is real life.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Joy Yee's Noodles
When you're going to Joy Yee's, you really need to be prepared: Come with an empty stomach and be ready to read one of the longest menus aroundthe drink menu alone is longer than the full menu at other restaurants. This means that there's something here for everyone, which this pan-Asian restaurant really delivers. They serve up Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Thai dishes, all of which come in large portions meant to be shared. Another bonus is that the food's prepared really quickly, so if you're hungry, you'll be eating soon. Dishes also arrive at your table as they're ready, so don't worry if your whole order doesn't come out at once. This place is bright and festive, and after the dinner crowd leaves, Asian teenagers pour in to enjoy this hot spot. And those drinks? You'll find pretty much any kind of smoothie you can think of, all made with fresh fruit. On hot days, there's a line out the door of people waiting to buy them, but they're definitely worth the wait!

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Kawaii! For those of you who love the cute Japanese (and Chinese) cartoon characters, you can find all your cute gear here without having to endure a visit to the Sanrio store. Like most gift stores in Chinatown, you'll never quite know what you'll find here from day to day, but you're guaranteed to find a large section stuffed with Hello Kitty and friends supplies, from notebooks and pens to stuffed animals, pillows, and clocks. Another section of the store is devoted to anime characters, posters, and figurines. Another great find here is the selection of Asian gummy candies and sweets. Oh, and you can also find the traditional Chinese gift store items that are in most of the other Chinatown stores, like slippers, Asian-style silk shirts, and robes, but this is really a place where cuteness rules and where you can go to get your fix of Asian adorableness.

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Woks 'n' Things
The name of this store really gives it all away. They sell woks. And they sell things, things being mainly cookware, kitchen gadgets, and even some hardware. The woks are amazing though--and amazingly cheap. They cover one corner of the store, and there are so many different styles and sizes to choose from you'll be stupefied! You can find the perfect wok from a number of sizes and styles. They've got everything from pre-seasoned woks to jumbo 52-inch woks, and you can also get special wok brushes to properly care for your new pan. Woks 'n' Things also sells a lot of other items essential for Asian cooking: chopsticks, dumpling steamers, sushi-making supplies, knives, rice cookers, huge stockpots, and enormous ladles. Although the store is tiny, it's a lot of fun to poke around here and see what sort of dirt-cheap bargains you can find.

Posted By:  Molly Fergus
Photo:  Molly Fergus

What separates Feida from Chinatown’s bounty of cafeteria-style bakeries? Mostly the less-than-a-dollar offerings and a guaranteed sugar high. Just off of the Archer Avenue and Wentworth intersection, this cozy bakery’s offerings are much the same as Wentworth’s other stops: Almond cookies, prettier-than-they-taste pastries, barbecue beef buns and at least two shelves stocked with paste-filled puffs. As always with Chinatown, though, the prices are the main attraction: at $2.45 for a long roll of almond cookies and $.85 for a flaky croissant topped with powdered sugar and sweet cream, it’s hard to complain too much about quality.

Posted By:  Molly Fergus
Photo:  Molly Fergus

Saint's Alp Teahouse
Surrounded by fluorescent-lit, cafeteria-style bakeries and dim sum houses, the Saint’s Alp Teahouse shines like a beacon of hipness. Well, maybe not hip. Lukewarm trendiness maybe. This Hong Kong chain is brightly lit and plastic furniture-clad. When it comes to its namesake beverage though, this Chinatown spot is scalding. The Saint dishes out close to 70 beverages, including hot black brews, milky mixes and frothy tapioca teas; most ring up for less than a double-tall skim at Starbuck’s. Late-night hours and a booze-free menu attract an under-21 crowd, but don’t be put off: Nearly all of the drinks are available to go.

Posted By:  Paul Barile
Photo:  Michael Villareal

Meztli Gallery
Everyone has a story in the big city. That’s the beauty of living in a city so rich and vibrant and inhabited with such a diverse collection of people. Chicago native Michael Villareal has a story as well—in fact he has seven stories which he wrote under the title of A Blank Stare is Better than a Empty Chair. This collection of monologues examines different women’s issues as explored by a man who is also directing this evening of spoken word performances. Infused with music and textured with stories of love, loss, and liberty A Blank Stare is Better than a Empty Chair features seven talented Latina actresses from throughout Chicago. The women performing these monologues and songs range from veteran Chicago actors to relative newcomers breathing some fresh life into this non-traditional evening of theater. Hosted by the Meztli Gallery and Cultural Organization, the cast will perform the monologues along with songs by Marcia Klatt and Waldo Ocana. A Blank Stare is Better than a Empty Chair runs weekends through April 8.

Posted By:  Kelly Pucci
Photo:  Kelly Pucci

Chinese-American Museum of Chicago
Silk & Wood, the newest exhibition at the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago, brings together 19th- and 20th-century artifacts donated by prominent members of Chicago’s Chinatown community. In the silk collection, I spied a 50-year-old gold silk coat so elegant it could grace the narrow shoulders of an Oscar nominee next spring and a Mandarin-style black silk dress so slim that even Nicole Ritchie might have trouble slipping into it. Docents are always available to guide visitors through the small museum and most descriptive panels are written in English. Next door to the museum you may see archeologists sifting through rubble; an educational project funded by the Chinatown Museum Foundation to undercover the area’s ethnic origins prior to the arrival of Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century.

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