Over the last few months I finally got to experience summer in Chicago without snow and dreary weather! And it was incredible! Since I’ve been working in Pilsen, a neighborhood on Chicago’s southwest side, I fell in love with it so here is my guide to the best of Pilsen.
From food to culture, Pilsen is one of the greatest neighborhoods Chicago has to offer. I’ve been working near the 18th street pink line stop, so most of these recommendations are within walking distance of it.
Gentrification in Pilsen
Over the last decade, Pilsen has experienced rising rents and increased development as neighborhoods like West Loop on its north side have rapidly undergone changes to their demographic and economic composition. Due to these changes, many families that have lived in Pilsen for decades find themselves unable to afford to live there. Working for a nonprofit, I’ve had the opportunity to see first hand the effects of rapid development to the community.
This summer, I’ve learned to make sure my lunchtime spending supports restaurants owned by community members or that make an effort to employ community members. These have been the best places I’ve found this summer.
Pilsen is a predominantly Mexican-American neighborhood, and as such has some of the best Mexican food in Chicago.
Some of the best tacos are at Taqueria el Milagro, but almost anywhere you go will have great tacos. This summer, Pilsen has Fiesta del Sol, Pilsen Fest, and even a Taco Fest, all of which had really great tacos.
Your best bet for cheap, delicious Mexican food are the loads of street vendors. Eloterias, paleterias, and panaderías can be found on most busy street corners. Blue Island and 18th usually has a couple. There are also wonderful fruit vendors with super cheap produce that is way better than a trip to Whole Foods for last minute greens.
Make sure you check out La Michoacana for incredible paletas (Mexican popsicles). Paletas are the perfect end to any Pilsen eating spree.
When You’re Already Had Tacos Twice Today
Its time to pay a visit to Cafe Jumping Bean. Honestly, I packed my lunch for the first month of the summer and then I went to the bean. I then proceeded to eat at the bean at least 3 days every week. Their sandwiches are incredible, and so is their coffee. (Also, their taste in music is fantastic).
The Jibarito Stop is perfect for when you’re in the mood for something greasy. Jibaritos are sandwiches with plantain “buns” that come with some of the best rice and beans I’ve ever had. For dessert, make sure you order a side of sweet plantains, which are incredibly delicious.
Working in Pilsen has been eye opening, and a wonderful way to get to know Chicago better. As a Latina, it was meaningful to me to be in a predominantly latino community for the summer. The food was fantastic, but it really speaks to the incredible culture and community thriving in the neighborhood.
What is your favorite Chicago neighborhood? What Pilsen restaurant did I miss?
Let me know on Instagram @xoxorosana.blog