NFT Chicago Logan Square

Logan Square

The natural redoubt for creative professionals fleeing higher rent and stroller gridlock in Wicker Park, Logan Square's leafy boulevards seem to sprout new bars and restaurants every month. Milwaukee forms the spread-out strip of commercial activity, where artsy bars mingle with auto shops and tasty 24-hour taquerias.

Even with a (mostly ignored) Starbucks lurking nearby, the businesses clustered around the actual square preserve the 'hood's indie status. Pick up Chicago-designed duds at Wolfbait & B-Girls, brave the lines at Lula for innovative, seasonally focused brunch, or secure a bottomless coffee and a controller for the original Nintendo at New Wave Coffee.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Brendan Keating
Photo:  Brendan Keating

Revolution Brewing
Revolution Brewing is the newest entry in Chicago's increasingly crowded local brew market. Unlike Metropolitan and Half Acre, the other new kids on Chicago's beer block, Revolution is primarily a brewpub. Their beers are brewed to be had in-house--not in your house. That's something of a shame, because the beers are fresh and tasty enough that you'll wish you could take them home with you. Try the refreshing Cross of Gold or the flavorful Coup D'Etat. The menu is subversive, if not quite revolutionary. Bacon fat popcorn, duck confit pizza, and an arsenal of vegetarian options undermine the bar-food norm. The masses have embraced Revolution, and on weekends they assemble in large numbers in its copious space, so expect a wait. Revolution Brewing may represent an outpost of the bourgeoisie in the heart of proletarian Logan Square, but if there’s one thing that workers of every color collar can agree on, it’s the universal appeal of delicious beer. Viva la Revolution!

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

The Whistler
Although I love living in Lakeview, bars like The Whistler make me sigh and wish I lived in Logan Square so I could go to them all the time. The Whistler's a tiny little gathering spot that's easy to walk by without noticing it. Once inside, however, you'll find a homey spot painted in soft blue colors, with old church pew seating in some areas. The cocktail list is small, but the drinks are divine, and even better, they're cheaper than at other fancy "classic cocktail" joints (I'm not necessarily sayin' Violet Hour, but I'm just sayin'...). They also feature live music and DJ's they've even got their own record label, for cryin' out loud! And they wrap their whole package in a little art gallery bow, all without being pretentious. This is a dangerously good spot to hang out, enjoy a good drink, and groove all your cares away.

Posted By:  Brian Lauvray
Photo:  Brian Lauvray

Logan Bar and Grill
From the people who brought you Streetside Cafe comes the Logan Bar & Grill, a sports bar with a sit-down restaurant located (conveniently!) right inside. Located due north of the California Blue Line stop, Logan provides an opportune arena for the 9-5 commuter who is hungry for a quick bite or just needs to wet their whistle. Outside, the Logan offers two substantial patios for diners who love the hum and stench of city buses droning by mere feet from their plates. Inside, the restaurant offers a substantial space to catch the game, either in the bar or in the dining area as the place has an embarrassing number of HD flat-screens plastered everywhere. The food is run-of-the-mill bar food and nothing really stands out above anything else. The turkey burger is accompanied with a nondescript black bean salsa; and the "Bleu Burger" is slopped with sauteed onions and bacon, so, you know, you've got that going if you like your burger gussied up. One thing strongly going in the food's favor is the option for steak fries! Such things are needlessly, strangely difficult to find at many Chi area bars/pubs these days...

Posted By:  Brian Lauvray
Photo:  Brian Lauvray

Street Side
A bizarrely misplaced restaurant/bar with too much open space and fire places? At first glance this place screams charmless and reeks of trying-too-hard. However, Streetside Cafe is one of the more pleasant lunch or early dinner and drink spots in the Logan Square hood. Not least among the reasons behind its hidden charm would have to be the fantastic staff. Never one to get too saccharine when reviewing a spot, I must give credit where it's due and this staff of part-time artists, musicians and full-time nice people crushes you with love. Beyond the far too awesome staff, an impeccable beer selection (on tap and bottled) helps to fuel one's growing fondness for this bar. The beers run a gauntlet of tastes: IPAs for the hop-minded to white ales for the more delicate palettes to tall-boys of Pabst for the, well, drunk-minded. The food at Streetside can be a bit inconsistent and it's important to bear that in mind when ordering. However, in my experience I've never misfired with the turkey burger (seriously, a good turkey burger in the beef-loving Midwest!) and the 25-cent wing special all-day every Monday is a boon for the thrifty, yet hungry!

Posted By:  Brian Lauvray
Photo:  Brian Lauvray

Philly's Best
65 million years ago the last of the Tyrannosaurs died at the hands of what many experts claim was a tremendous meteor slamming into the Earth. Whatever. If T-Rex were alive today I'm certain that greedy son-of-a-bitch would be all over one of Philly's Best's amazing steak sandwiches and let's not even speculate on the potential havoc he'd wreak in Logan Square. What I'm trying to say is that diving into one of these sandwich behemoths is probably the closest I'll ever get to knowing what the Terrible Lizard King felt when he felled a mighty Apatosaur, roared triumphantly and then plunged his brutish snout into the-presumably-tender and delicious haunches of a sauropod. Granted, I've never roaring with triumph; tipping generously is more my speed and, well, I'm okay with that as long I can keep ordering awesome subs, watching football and drinking beer. Situated inside of a car wash, don't ask me how they got around those zoning permits or even what those permits are, Philly's Best offers a plethora of sandwich, pizza and snacking options in portions apt for a T-Rex. The steak sandwiches are the standouts but not to be overlooked is the meatball grinder.

Posted By:  Brian Lauvray
Photo:  Brian Lauvray

The Hot Spot
Hangovers happen to all of us. A few too many tequila shots, far too many bottles of beer, and voila! Welcome to Hangover City, population: you (and your demons). Yet hangovers need not be the crippling destroyers of entire mornings. Nay, Hot Spot provides adequate artillery to combat that most heinous after-effect of "too much fun" the night before. Nestled in a small store with a motif reminiscent of an Easter basket, this small, contemporary diner serves up traditional American-style breakfasts and lunches, i.e. omelettes, reubens, salads, you get the idea. Without question the stand-outs are the steak and eggs and eggs benedict. The portions are beyond epic and one may need a pause to allow one's heart to catch up from all of the gravy, cholesterol and trans-fat goodness that's, ahem, "assimilating with your heart." The variants on the theme that is eggs benedict are traditional (uh, ham?), with skirt steak or with salmon. With a warm cup of coffee and excellent hash browns, it can almost magically quiet the most upset of stomachs, calm the most besotted of nerves and soothe the most gnawing of libation-induced headaches.

Posted By:  Brian Lauvray
Photo:  Brian Lauvray

Miko's Italian Ice
Chicago in the middle of summer can be a torturous hive of humidity and heat that squeezes the sweat out of your every pore while frying your brain with a harsh sunlight that laughs at your feeble attempts to "beat the heat." For many Chicagoans, creative means are a must in conquering the heat: drunkenly breaking into any number of the city pools at night comes readily to mind. For the more law-abiding ChiTowners there is a solution in the form of one wonderful window vendor in Logan Square. It's name? Miko's. If you crave a vicious brainfreeze to counteract your sweat-soaked tee shirt, Miko's can do that. Purveying exceptional Italian ice from a shellacked screen window between the months of May until the first or second week of October, this place is all about fresh ingredients; there's a rotating lineup of flavors to choose from, including blueberry, cantaloupe, lemon, coconut and mango. With only a smallish park bench for seating it's recommended that you mosey two scant blocks south and venture into the understated Palmer Park to people-watch and enjoy your temporary (but so delicious) relief from the heat of summer.

Posted By:  Elissa Pociask
Photo:  Elissa Pociask

Treat is just as endearing as a little dog with one of those cones around its neck. It's the kind of place you want to survive because it's just that charming. There's no gimmick, no celebrity investor--just great creative food for a great value. The blue and yellow building brightens up the gray streets of Humboldt Park, amid houses and auto repair shops, and the chef is just as gregarious. Local artwork adorns the walls, and the sweet spicy smell of Indian-inspired cuisine is oh so inviting. Pluses include the juicy lamb burger, the BYOB policy, and the ever-changing menu options. It's cheery, unpretentious, and definitely worth a trip off the main drag.

Posted By:  Brian Lauvray
Photo:  Brian Lauvray

El Nandu
This Logan Square restaurant has gotten by as the de facto "date spot" for too long. Yes, it has exceptional sangria but to say that El Nandu offers an exceptional dining experience is simply not the case. E.N. does some things remarkably well: sangria, empanadas (a steal at 2 bucks a pop). Sadly, this sweet and savory combo cannot make up for the ultimately disappointing entrees that El Nandu is so "famed" for. The much ballyhooed steak cuts are occasionally fatty and usually erratically cooked with streaks of well-done thrown in right next to chunks of rare, all, bafflingly, on the same cut of meat. The sides are adequate. I recommend the mashed potatoes alongside the lackluster entrees. Depending on how you look at it, the fact that El Nandu has no shame in serving portions that will leave even the most ardent eater wondering if they shouldn't get a doggie bag can be a blessing or a curse. On the one hand, "Hey, I'm going home with leftover steak and mashed potatoes, score!" Conversely, you're stuck with extra, mediocre food that you really wish you hadn't shelled out (around) 16 dollars for.

Posted By:  Molly Fergus
Photo:  Molly Fergus

Save for a few deliriously sunny April days, spring in Chicago is pure fantasy. Sort of like unicorns or a strong dollar, Chicagoans wish spring were real, but instead we surrender to a March and April (and May, and possibly June) full of down parkas and mismatched gloves. That's what Fleur is for. This cheery Logan Square flower boutique outfits itself with a well-chosen selection of freshly cut flowers and quirky gifts. One whiff of the store's intoxicating mix of carnations and lilies will let you fantasize, for at least ten seconds, that global warming has created a fourth season in Chicago (even if you're buried in seven layers of wool).

Posted By:  Annie Anderson
Photo:  Annie Anderson

Wolfbait & B-Girls
Want to think globally, act locally, and look good doin’ it? Wolfbait & B-girls will hook you up with Chicago-made designer duds, jewelry, wallets, greeting cards and all sorts of hip gifts. They’ve even got Che Guevara-emblazoned onesies for your politically minded, fashion-conscious tot. Designers/crafters in stock at Wolfbait include Tanya Gross Millinery; Loaded Blanks; Love, Chicago; and I’m Smitten. Owners Jenny Stadler and Shirley Novak are friendly but not over-bearing, allowing you to browse freely and come and go as you please. “Wolfbait” is an old-timey term for young women who moved to the city looking for success; “B-girls” is what they became, presumably after a brush or two with the city’s underbelly. The name suits the place and their wide-eyed, edgy apparel.

Posted By:  Tamara Matthews
Photo:  Tamara Matthews

Shopping in Logan Square, what to do? If you come in by L it’s hard to miss the Discount Megamall, large and beckoning. For a true Logan Square experience (as it was and probably won’t be for much longer) by-pass Fleur and Wolfbait and head to the D to the M to satiate all your shopping needs. If you don’t speak Spanish, I’m sorry to have led you here. I will admit that even a Spanish-speaking white girl feels out of place, so just peruse the goods and roll with it. I mean, where else can you find Nike (“Nike”) shoes under cellophane wrap? Don’t let the mall part deceive you, this here is an indoor flea market, complete with tiled flooring about as flat and even as the Rocky foothills. And by flea market, I mean flea market, not a flea market that’s like a mini-mall. (Hey hey!) With $300 cell phones, I’m a little wary of the discount title, but any time I need some gold chains, a booming speaker system, a fútbol jersey, a Shakira DVD, or a dancing Topo Gigio mouse, I know where to go.

*UPDATE: Unfortunately there was a small fire last week that collapsed a portion of the building, and so alas this discount heaven will be closed for an indefinte amount of time.

Posted By:  Tamara Matthews
Photo:  Tamara Matthews

Pierre's Bakery
Holy strawberries Batman! If this bakery has one theme, it’s red, juicy, and speckled with tiny seeds. Just about every cake and pastry has a piece of fruit on it and who can argue with dessert that is both tasty and holds some nutritional value? The cakes are a nice variation on the sugary sheet cakes offered at grocery store bakeries. Seriously, if you like your friends, get their birthday cakes here. The “atomic” cake comes with one layer of yellow cake, one layer of chocolate cake, and cheesecake and strawberry filling—definitely worth the $40. Also, if you’ve never tried a traditional Mexican Tres Leches cake, this is the place to try it. If you’re not up for baked goods, soothe your summer heat blues with some homemade gelato. The most popular flavor appears to be (fittingly) strawberry.

Posted By:  Tamara Matthews
Photo:  Tamara Matthews

Imagine all that you want in a Mexican restaurant. Just authentic enough that the menu items are in Spanish but more flavorful and less greasy than your corner taqueria. Out of a neighborhood full of Mexican food options, El Cid is the place you want to take your family and friends. They will not be disappointed. Exhibit A: The mango margarita. It’s hotter than a polar bear in hell out there but all you need is a sweet dash of mango margarita on your tongue to make you smile. The staff knows this and they will happily bring you another, little pushers that they are. Exhibit B: The patio out back, a must during the summer. They even have a cantina for that not-quite-at-the-beach feeling. Exhibit C: The food, of course. It won’t exactly knock your socks off but it shouldn’t be hard to find what you want. Tacos come with various fillings including carne asada, fish, potatoes, or guacamole. The burrito de arrachera (that’s skirt steak) will fill your belly with all kinds of yumminess. There are seafood dishes too, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Posted By:  Eric Kroh
Photo:  Eric Kroh

Upon first arriving at Ronny’s, I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. The bar was nearly empty on a Saturday night and the bartender, sensing my confusion, pointed her thumb towards the side room, where a friend of a friend’s band was rehearsing for their performance later that evening and eating Chinese takeout. The space proved ideal for a garage rock show, as it seemed to be literally in a garage, although I’m not sure why there were quite so many garage doors. The bar to which it is adjoined slowly filled, and free pool with cheap drinks helped the night move along nicely.

Posted By:  Paul Barile
Photo:  Paul Barile

Borinquen Restaurant
There is a subtle taste of irony with every bite of food eaten inside of Borinquen. It begins with the fact that this deliciously prepared and generously served Puerto Rican food is cooked in what was once a Taco Bell. They have repainted and revitalized the little building. Then there’s the help. To look at some of these young guys cooking and serving your food can be a bit unnerving as you get an eyeful of the baggy jeans and backward ball caps. Perish any negative Phat Farm stereotypes—these guys are nicer than a lot of upscale restaurant staffs. There are no T.G.I.Friday-corporate smiles behind the counter. There are just some people who are proud of what they are serving and seem genuinely glad that you are there. In Boriquen the smiles (and the service) are well above average as is the variety of food that is so good to eat—it can’t be good for you. If you are not initiated into the ways of Puerto Rican cuisine, don’t worry, the counter girl will take her time and explain everything.

Posted By:  Paul Barile
Photo:  Paul Barile

Logan Theatre
They just don’t make movies like they use to. The suspense, the intrigue, the soft-focus ingénue have been replaced with the slick, the fast, and the gory. They don’t make movie houses like they used to either. Lush red carpets and muted gold lights have been replaced by glaring neon bulbs over a dull checkerboard tile floor. This is why the people in the Logan Square neighborhood enjoy the old-school vibe at the Logan Theater. (This marvelous old place even has that cozy little lounge outside the ladies room so the fairer sex can puff on a ciggy behind closed doors.) This second-run theater is anything but second rate and at $3 a ticket, it is often a first choice for movies that have recently dropped off of the public’s radar. The interior is brightly painted and festive in a way that the years and the traffic could not dull. Also, unlike the overbearing shopping mall concession stands of today’s multiplex movie houses, the Logan Theater has a small and efficient snack bar which serves Diana’s Bananas. Diana claims hers to be the world’s best chocolate-dipped frozen banana. Go find out for yourself.

Posted By:  Lisa Shames
Photo:  Lisa Shames

Provenance Food and Wine
When Tracy Kellner got fed up with the lack of interesting markets and wine shops in her Logan Square neighborhood, she did what any self-respecting foodie would do. She opened her own. And in the process, gave new meaning to the phrase “good neighbor policy.” Opened since last February, Provenance Food and Wine is filled with ready-made sauces, pastas, artisanal cheeses, seasonal fresh produce, crackers, gourmet ice cream, and top-quality meats and fish. In addition, the store offers a large selection of affordable Old and New World wines as well as small-batch beers. Kellner brings nine years of restaurant experience to the store, so her cred is good. There are regular wine tastings, cooking classes, and product sampling if you need convincing. Don’t see something you’re looking for? Let Kellner know and she can try and add it to her ever-changing inventory. Now that’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Posted By:  Dana Kaye
Photo:  Dana Kaye

Logan Square locals flock to this hipster hole in the wall that prides itself on organic, healthy eats with lots of vegetarian options. It’s mostly known for breakfast, but its dinner menu has numerous appetizing choices such as Moroccan chickpea sweet potato tagine and chilled peanut satay sesame noodles. The funky dining room showcases work by local artists and the décor is just as eclectic as the food. Prices are reasonable and the portions are hearty, and although some claim that the service is slow, it wasn’t my experience. Lula is definitely a shining diamond in the rough, worth the trip if you’re not a Logan local.

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