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chicago recommendations?


You guys are the best when I’m looking for some suggestions. I’ll be heading to Chicago in a couple weekends from now to visit a dear friend and wondering if you windy city dwellers out have any tips on some home design shops & clothing shops you love? My main priority is to catch up with an old friend, but good food and good shopping are always a great way to spend a weekend with friends…

{ a HUGE thank you to everyone who posted suggestions…I am overwhelmed and thrilled. I’ve tried to email most everyone back, but a big thank you regardless if I have not gotten to you yet!}



  1. Hi Joy. I love Chicago. My husband travels there all the time for work so I have tagged along when I can. One of my favorite areas is Bucktown. There are some great boutiques and restaurants. My favorite local spot for a great brunch is Toast on Damen. There is an awesome shoe store called City Soles/Niche right at the L stop at Damen as well. An excellent restaurant we went a while back is Black Bird. Very modern, excellent meal.

  2. Joy,
    There’s so much to do with friends here in Chicago!
    Restaurants: Crust (Chicago’s first certified organic restaurant, delish flatbread pizza on Division, and a great outdoor patio), Sola (yummy American food, wonderful outdoor patio), Lula Cafe (great food, local artists, hip Logan Square neighborhood).
    Boutique/Housewares Shopping: Wicker Park (Division, east and west of Damen), Bucktown (Damen, North and Milwaukee Avenues), Southport Avenue (between Belmont and Irving Park), Lincoln Park (Armitage between Halsted and Racine).
    If you’re here the last weekend of the month, the Chicago Antiques Market on Randolph is great fun.
    Have a wonderful time. The weather here has been fantastic!

  3. I’ve never been but I’ve heard of some good places to go check out:
    GREER – paper goods- 1657 North Wells Street – Neighborhood:Old Town
    HABIT – indie clothes designers- 1951 West Division Street – Neighborhood: Whicker Park
    PENELOPE’S- clothing and things – 1913 West Division Street – Neighborhood: Whicker Park
    QUIMBY’S- alternative,indie,modern zines books etc-854 West North Avenue- worth a look you can find pearls here…
    SPROUT HOME-home/graden/accessories-745 North Damen Ave-Neighborhood: Ukrainian Village
    Have a nice trip! 😉

  4. Having just moved from Chicago after 7 years there, I’m happy to share with you what I am reaaallly missing:
    I think Spring in Bucktown is a must for dinner. I also second Cafe Lula in Logan Square for breakfast/brunch. It’s the best! And for lunch – the best Chicago pizza – Lou Malnati’s.
    As for shopping, Bucktown is also the best place for unique boutiques. My favorites being She-Bang for jewelery, Tangerine, P45, Language for clothes, Stitch for home goods, CitySoles for shoes. All really close to each other, if you get off the blue line at Damen.
    If you have time, Lakeview has some cute shops as well: Paper Boy, Krista K and RedHead are all great too.
    Have a great time!

  5. Hi Joy! Here are some of my favorites. Enjoy your trip!!!
    Restaurants: Avec, Lula Cafe, Spacca Napoli, Bistro Campagne
    Shops: Scout, Penelope’s, Robin Richman (interesting finds), P.O.S.H, Willow, Jasyon Home & Garden

  6. Ahh…good ones! I second Scout and Jayson Home & Garden. They are musts when looking for great housewares. Two of my favorites!

  7. You must…MUST, go to at least one of Rick Bayless’ restaurants: Frontera Grill (more casual) or Topolobampo (fine dining). The best mexican food you will ever ever have hands down. Nuf said.

  8. Dear Oh Joy!
    You don’t know me… but I have recently discovered your site through a friends blog site… if that makes any sense. My friend Sarah introduced me to the blogging world about a year ago. She keeps an ongoing journal that I am addicted to… I find that it keeps me close to a New York friend even though we are separated by many states. As a midwest Ohio girl I crave the creative energy of New York and she does a great job keeping updated on the newest new. Some how she found your site and linked it to her own. So there you go… the background.
    So if you are heading to Chicago I have a must for you – breakfast… the most important meal of the day. You have to go to the Bongo Room. I believe they have two locations but go to the one listed below.
    1470 North Milwaukee
    Chicago, Illinois 60622
    I will warn you…. there will be a 30 minute wait… because it is that great. Bide your time by walking into the 3 or 4 shops next door. I found these great glasses that have inspired me in my own home.
    Well this was fun… and uncharacteristic of me. Enjoy your trip!… and your breakfast.

  9. As an architect/designer living in Chicago for the past 6+ years, these are some of my favorite spots in the city.
    Home/Design Shops
    -Scout (Andersonville)
    -Jayson Home & Garden (Clybourn Corridor)
    -Mecox Gardens (River North)
    -I.D. (Boy’s Town)
    -Material Possessions (off Michigan Ave.)
    -Andrew Hollingsworth (River North)
    -Stitch (Bucktown/Wicker Park)
    -White Attic (Andersonville)
    -Sprout Home (Bucktown/Wicker Park)
    -Willow (Bucktown/Wicker Park)
    -George Lowell (Lakeview: Lincoln Ave.)
    Fashion Boutiques
    -Handle With Care (Old Town)
    Floral Studios
    -Green (Old Town)
    -A New Leaf (Old Town)
    Architectural Salvage
    -Salvage One (West Hubbard)
    -Architectural Artifacts (Ravenswood)
    Paper Goods
    -Greer (Old Town)
    -Pulp & Ink (Old Town)
    -Fly Paper (Lakeview: Southport)
    -Paper Boy (Lakeview: Belmont)
    -Tango Sur (Lakeview: Southport)
    -Sushi Wabi (Randolph)
    -Aigre Doux (River North)
    -Cafe 28 (Irving Park)
    -Coco Pazzo (River North)
    -Karyn’s Cooked (vegan, River North)
    -Nookies (brunch, Old Town)
    Not to miss:
    -Millennium Park (summer concert series)
    -Art Institute
    -Green Mill (famous music club)
    -Biking along Lake Michigan

  10. we always eat at earwax cafe when we’re in chicago. it’s in wicker park at 1561 n milwaukee ave. yummy veggie/vegan foods and cute waiters!

  11. Hey Joy!
    I am a big fan of your blog and lived in Wicker Park in Chicago for 3 years!I miss it!
    I would get off at the Damen stop on the blue line and walk up Damen Ave (check out P45 and Tangerine for sure and then head back and walk east on Milwaukee- I think Milwaukee between Damen and Division is the best shopping in the city- the Brown Elephant thrift shop is incredible too…and then head West on Division when you get to it- that is the perfect afternoon of shopping, and then you can just head up Damen again back to the L stop- a triangle of shopping and eating love!
    When you pass Pizza Metro on Division and Paulina tell Marco the owner Hi from Anna- We used to live upstairs!
    Have fun!

  12. I second Habit on Division for shopping.
    Milk and Honey just down the street from Habit is a great coffee/lunch/brunch place and they just opened a bake shop at the damen blue line stop. You cant go wrong with Wicker Park but I’ll have to also agree with the Rick Bayless restaurant recommendation.

  13. hi joy!
    first and foremost: i love your blog- it’s a daily read for me!
    if you happen to be hanging out in the north side of the city, try breakfast or lunch at M.Henry in the Andersonville neighborhood. it is simply delicious!
    have a great time!

  14. Hi, Joy!
    A few places you should hit are:
    Soutache on Damen Ave.- this is a cute shop filled with ribbons, appliques, etc. They offer classes on ribbons and stock a fabulous variety, from europe and Asia. The concept is that you can bring in anything that you want to spruce up.
    Rotofugi on W. Chicago Ave.- for Japanese and Japanese-inspired designer vinyl toys. An interesting and awesome gallery of anime art. They have a gleery adjacent to the store dedicated to prints and paintings of the same genre.
    Lille, A Shop on North Ave.- shop owner Lydia takes a lot of care in buying. She stocks a lot of Juliska and John Derian. Her shop is very thoughtfully designed and her products are beautiful.
    I have always loved Fresh on Halsted for fragrance and for the bath accessories. For paper products, any of the Paper Source stores are wonderful.
    For food, do not miss Vosges Haute Chocolat on Armitage Ave. (lincoln Park) for wonderful chocolate varieties. Katrina, the owner has explored many different flavors that you can purhcase as chocolate bars, the latest of which is a smoked bacon and milk chocolate bar. The store also has some exotic curiosities from her travels such as wayang kulit dolls from Indonesia.
    Head to Sweet Mandy B.’s for tried and tested cupcakes, banana cream pies and chocolate cake.
    Not to be missed are Alinea (by Chef Grant Achatz) and Moto for some sci-fi food. For these, make reservations.
    For eclectic, ethnic cuisine, head over to Arun’s in ALbany Park for Thai food and Noon-o-Kabab for Persian food.
    Finally, the Super H Mart in Niles is a wonderful place for Korean groceries and the Mitsuwa in Arlington Heights is the best mega Japanese supermakret in town. It also has a phenomenal bookstore. I so love the crafts section there.
    Have fun!

  15. Joy,
    So many of the suggestions above have been great. I will just add two favorite food spots – Southport Grocery at Addison/Southport – personally, I think they’re the city’s best cupcakery – and breakfast is fab, too, and Crust on Division for great organic pizza. And, you must visit Greer on Wells for stationery. One of my favorite shops. Hope you have a fun visit! And the weather has been spectacular this summer, so cross your fingers that it will continue. (For clothing, I love to look and sometimes buy at Barney’s.)

  16. oh, sweet home chicago 😉 lots of great recommendations already posted, but i’d add paper source (river north, so you can also check out the gallery district), great tapas at cafe iberico (but can be really loud) and joy yee’s in chinatown. enjoy!

  17. It sounds kind of strange, but one of the most amazing shops I was in was the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) gift shop. I found lots of items that I’ve been lusting after online, as well as lots of things I didn’t know I needed to have 😉

  18. White Elephant Shop
    2380 N Lincoln Ave
    Chicago, IL
    Phone: (773) 883-6184
    Fax: (773) 880-3304
    Cross Street:
    El: Brown Line to Fullerton; Bus: 74 to Fullterton/Halsted

  19. White Elephant Shop
    2380 N Lincoln Ave
    Chicago, IL
    Phone: (773) 883-6184
    Fax: (773) 880-3304
    Cross Street:
    El: Brown Line to Fullerton; Bus: 74 to Fullterton/Halsted

  20. If you like buttons -why wouldn’t you!- head down to Tender Buttons 946 N. Rush. You can’t miss the giant gold button while you’re approaching!

  21. Yes, all great selections so far. I, too am in Wicker Park so am partial to many of the shops and restaurants listed. For food, newly opened Crust is a must. For shopping I wouldn’t miss Sprout Home, Penelopes, and Paper Doll…all gorgeous shops worthy of carrying your line of paper products (which I’m dying to see in person). I’d also suggest Fly Bird in Oak Park ( but it might be a bit out of your way. Have a great trip!

  22. hello joy,
    most of the shops have all ready been listed, but i work at and love a shop that seems to get forgotten,,,asrai garden, a flower shop that has beautiful homewares like shine home lamps and laura zindel pottery and, and hard to find bath and beauty lines
    like patyka and santa maria novella. it’s in the heart of wicker park at 1935 w. north avenue. stop by on a saturday and say hello!
    have fun in chicago!

  23. the girls from renegade craft fair are opening their own store on division called Renegade Handmade featuring many of the independent designers that sell at their fairs. check it out:
    the store opens 7/28/07. enjoy chicago, i love it here!

  24. I was just there! Definitely Penelope’s on Division, and City Soles on Milwakee. I second that you should eat at Ear Wax cafe, my favorite.
    If you need a place to stay, try the Wicker Park Inn!

  25. Hubba Hubba is an awesome vintage clothing store. 4 corners is always a great area for shopping too. I would suggest checking out Millenium park while your here as well.

  26. Hey Joy! I know you’ll have a blast in this amazing city. I would definitely recommend visiting the Andersonville neighborhood. Start at M. Henry for brunch at 5707 N. Clark, and work your way south towards Foster Ave. There are tons of new design shops; Scout, White Attic & Cassona, as well as interesting antique stores & a branch of a Chicago thrift-store fave: The Brown Elephant. It’s not in Andersonville, but I also have to recommend Green Zebra, a fantastic restaurant with a mostly vegatarian menu. Have fun!!!

  27. Joy I lived in Chicago for 5 years before moving to NYC 2 years ago. There are so many fabulous suggestions already, I doubt you’ll have time to do them all.
    But go to a CUBS game! 🙂
    But here are a couple places I miss (and I don’t think they’ve been mentioned:
    Twist (it is a tapas restaurant) 3412 N Sheffield Ave, Chicago
    & I love the Pasta Bowl 2434 N Clark St great food at really fabulous prices
    Vongs Thai Kitchen 6 W. Hubbard St., Chicago(downtown)I love the Chili Shrimp
    I really like the boutique shopping on Southport near Lake View like Krista K, Red Head Boutique, etc & of course all the shops in Wickerpark & Bucktown Check out P45, Jake (, and Active Endeavors. (all of which have been mentioned.
    Don’t forget to stop by CB2 & Sprout Home (I just hit the new brooklyn location this weekend & it is fabulous!)!!!

  28. oh! have brunch at the bongo room. i don’t remember where it is but the menu is crazy chocolate concoction of a french toast dish is a must to share.

  29. joy,
    there are so many amazing chicago spots that i would recommend you checking out…some already mentioned; but i will mention again to emphasize the need to stop by.
    (1) penelope’s on division–not only do they have fun, hip clothes & accessories, but everyone who works there’s genuinely nice. and they have pacman.
    (2) crust on division–this opened recently. my boyfriend & i had watermelon margaritas on the rocks, which were out-of-control-delicious. pizzas were excellent too. but as you can see, the watermelon margarita made a more lasting impression.
    (3) bongo room on milwaukee ave–you must go here for brunch, preferably on a weekday. even if you’ve already eaten & are super stuffed, you & a friend or two can share just 1 pancake and you’ll leave with no regrets. their pancakes are so delicious, the thought of them is making me cry.
    (4) across from bongo room, is a consignment shop, lenny & me. i sell clothes there and always leave with more vintage finds. it’s packed full with things so you’re bound to find something sweet.
    enjoy! and safe travels.

  30. I used to live there. TRUST ME don’t miss these…totally your vibe (from what I can tell from your blog)
    TANGERINE in Bucktown
    (the best boutique (Nanette Lapore etc) in the city)
    Same neighborhood is City Souls. Again, best shoestore ever.
    Eat at Mod Restaurant in the same neighborhood. Interior design is amazing. They serve free candy floss at the end of your meal. Their crispy tempura green beans are to die for!

  31. a few stationery stores:
    Jewelry, Cards & Stationery, Home Decor
    908 N Damen Ave
    (between Iowa St & Walton St)
    Chicago, IL 60622
    Jewelry, Cards & Stationery
    1902 W Montrose Ave
    (between Winchester Ave & Wolcott Ave)
    Paper Trail
    Cards & Stationery
    5309 N Clark St
    (between Berwyn Ave & Summerdale Ave)
    2048 W Division St
    (between Damen Ave & Hoyne Ave)

  32. hello joy,
    like stephanie above, i just moved from chicago after 7 years, and can’t tell you how much i miss it!
    a few of my favorites:
    P.O.S.H. – independent shop, very well edited collection with a nod to the grand era of steamship travel… the owners are former international flight attendents who source europe and auction houses for gorgeous old hotel silver, vintage french china patterns, overstock diner dinner plates, cherry-patterned linens.. plus its in the old tree studios building on ohio street with a lovely garden and greenhouse in the back. i can’t say enough good things, its such a beautiful little shop!
    i also second lula’s and m. henry, both excel at creative, seasonal and local dishes.
    sai cafe for sushi on armitage and sheffield.
    spacca napoli on ravenswood and sunnyside for neapolitan pizza and prosecco.
    if you’re in andersonville, in fine spirits usually has free tastings on late saturday afternoons and is a short bus/bike ride from foster beach – a little stretch of the lakeshore with a pier and lots of room for kite flying.

  33. RR#1 Chicago in West Town )(at Chicago/Ashland) is a must! gifts and paper and candles and toys and baby and jewelry…
    i could go on and on. then, for a dinner splurge walk down the street to Green Zebra …and wear something fabulous
    if you’re downtown check out POSH at Ohio&State. great collection of tableware (mostly vintage) plus a WAY cool shop to be in.
    and a few doors down the block from POSH is Pops for Champagne…great cocktails and small plates.
    chicago is a BLAST in the summer.
    and its not all about shopping&eating-dont forget millennium park and the lakefront/.

  34. chicago is my home.. i love all of the great places and good food chicago has to offer. a few of my favorites? lula cafe (as mentioned) is a must..and in my quaint neighborhood of logan square. if popping in to Lula, walk around the corner to Fleur..a lovely flower, jewelry, home accessories and cute stationery shop. A must, if you don’t mind spurging on a great meal and don’t mind vegetarian {although, I must say this is vegetarian dining at its most devine}.. you should most definitely eat at Green Zebra. oh so delectible and delicious. My favorite clothing boutique is actually on Clark, called Presence. Cute tops and dresses for a great price. And not too far from Presence is the Hopleaf… excellent belgian brews and cuisine. I will always love Monks Cafe in philly, but The Hopleaf in chicago fills my void for good, tasty belgian yummines. hope this helps… enjoy your stay!

  35. Hi Joy! I live about 25 minutes outside of Chicago, and spend nearly every weekend there. Some of my absolute favorite stores in the city are Tangerine, Robin Richman, and Art Effect. I would have to say that Tangerine is probably the best clothing store in the city, their selection has been edited down to the best pieces from every line that they carry, and they also have some cute jewlery and really nice sales people. Robin Richman is a treasure trove of independent and lesser known designers pieces. Robin is there in her store almost every day and is excited about everything she sells, if you so much as pick up a piece of jewlery in the place she will jump in with where the designer is from, their life story, and how she found them. Most clothing there is high to very high end, and are exquisite in detail and design. Another store that is fabulous on the same street as the other two is Pagoda Red which is filled with all different asian antiques, and this month Marc by Marc Jacobs is opening next door which should be fantastic. So, Damen is definitely a street that you have to visit, and it is located in Bucktown. There are a few home stores that need to be mentioned, because they are pretty spectacular as well. The first of which is Jayson Home and Garden, which has a great selection of funky home and garden furniture and accessories, and the entire basement is filled with discounted items. There is also a store called, A New Leaf, which is known for their impressive selection of flowers, but also has unexpected odds and ends, tons of sophisticated candles, and antique ribbon. The last two places that you must visit are on Armitage, one of the most well known shopping streets in Chicago, the first of which is Art Effect which has the best selection of actually wearable jewlery I have ever seen. They also have some fun art, and gifts, and clothing. The final place that you should probably visit since you are in chicago, is CB2, which is an offshoot of crate and barrel, and only located in chicago. I hope you have an amazing time here!


  37. look at all these suggestions! is your head spinning yet? haha they are all great ones though so you can’t lose! ..wish you were going to be around for the renegade fair, but that isn’t until sept 15 and 16. someone suggested the shop they are opening and i’m excited for that as well..
    you’ll have a great time, i think! can’t wait to hear all about it 🙂 -Caitlin

  38. well, so many good things have been listed. but as a former chicago resident, i have to throw some recommendations in: [previously mentioned] is amazing.
    also, for non-food and shopping ideas:
    the art institute of chicago is a world-class museum
    the movies in the park are always really fun,0,3334611.story
    as well as concerts in the park
    and the theater on the lake
    and the architecture boat tours are super fun
    have fun!

  39. Hi Joy!
    Quite awhile ago I wrote up a couple posts about places to hit while in Chicago. Hope this helps!
    Shopping and stuff to do:
    Eating out:
    Wicker Park has boutiques galore and there’s a tone of stuff to do around there. I love Andersonville (cause I live right by there), which is on the north side of the city and closer to the lake.
    Also there is a great sounding exhibit at the MCA right now on Contemporary Mexican art. I’ve been meaning to check it out soon.
    Have a wonderful time!

  40. ARMITAGE AVE- hands down! And the best store is ART EFFECT. the website does it no justice, but the store is a wonderful mix of everything lovely!
    Plus there is a PAPER SOURCE down the street as well as my favorite new spot, Minnie’s- which serves mini burgers/sandwiches and the most delicious fries.
    Also, wherever you are in Chicago, you should try Potbelly! yummy sandwiches.
    I grew up in Chicago and now live in LA. have fun!

  41. If you’re interested in good home design shops, you have to hit up Andersonville. It’s been all of the media as of late (even a feature in the NYT) for being the new “hot” neighborhood with back-to-back design shops.
    Start with Four-Sided on the South side of Andersonville (at Clark and Carmen) and walk north to Roost (at Olive and Clark). You’ll pass around 20 design shops, and you won’t be disappointed!
    As for can’t miss restaurants, I’d try:
    For delicious and swanky gastropub fare: Gage, Purple Pig, Girl and Goat,
    steak tacos: El Asadero
    brunch: Cafe SelMarie, M Henry (also in Andersonville), North Pond
    Ethnic neighborhoods: Lao Sze Chuan in Chinatown, Tiffin on Devon (Indian), Tank Noodle on Argyle (Vietnamese)
    Have fun! This is a GREAT city!

  42. I was born and raised in Chicago, but now I reside in Los Angeles, where the shopping is much greater. You must not miss the Renegade Craft Fair if you are there in mid-September!

  43. Big city – Chicago. I would love to visit it one day, but for pleasure only. Visiting a place for a meeting or conference got nothing to do with touching the soul aof the city or local culture. I appreciate your post and I’m very grateful that I had the chance to read it. Thanks!


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