Located on Chicago’s lower west side, Pilsen is a neighborhood proudly rooted in Mexican culture that’s echoed through its restaurants,public art, and community programming. The businesses on 18th street are symbolic of the hard work of entrepreneurial immigrants. They came to Chicago and opened restaurants, cafes, and bakeries that transformed shaped the community. The next generation of Pilsen has helped pave the way for its neighborhood to become one of Chicago’s most important hubs for art of all disciplines. Today people flock to Pilsen for authentic Latinx cuisine, unique vintage shops and boutiques, vibrant entertainment venues, and the beautiful murals lining the walls.
Where to Eat
- Carnitas Uruapan 1725 W 18th St– Look no further for authentic carnitas in Chicago. Founder, “El Geuro” Carbajal has become an icon for his specialty taqueria that makes fresh carnitas straight from his family’s original recipe. This spot has been a favorite for decades but its recent feature on Netflix’s, “Taco Chronicles” has grown its fan base tenfold and brought Carnitas Uruapan into the international spotlight.
- DeColores 1626 S Halsted St — Venture into this cozy storefront for authentic Mexican dishes, moles made from scratch, crisp margaritas, and more. Enjoy your meal surrounded by walls filled with colorful art from the vibrant local art scene. Vegetarian friendly.
- 5 Rabanitos 1758 W 18th St — Chef Alfronso Sotelo’s family farmed radishes where he grew up in Guerra, Mexico hence the restaurant’s name that translates to “5 Radishes”. After cooking alongside the legendary Rick Bayless for nearly two decades, Sotelo opened his own spot and quickly garnered his own fanbase. The food is simple and classic, but I guarantee that you will have trouble deciding what to order– everything sounds delicious. BYOB.
- Alulu Brewpub 2011 S Laflin St — Microbrewery featuring an ever rotating selection of beer and food. The garage door facade retracts when the weather is nice, making it the perfect retreat to try out a new flight of beer paired with charred chicken wings, cheesy delights, and flatbreads. An equally delicious beer brunch is offered on the weekends.
Where to Drink
- Skylark 2149 S Halsted St — Old fashioned yet lively dive with great bar food options. Vinyl is always spinning, just remember to bring cash.
- Punch House 1227 W 18th St — If you haven’t checked out the basement bar below Thalia Hall you’re missing out on a vintage dive experience. As the name suggests, they’re known for their deceptively strong (and delicious) punch cocktails. Stick around till midnight to join in for a toast and fish feeding (of course they have a fish tank).
- Simone’s 960 W 18th St — A longstanding neighborhood bar that offers a bit of everything. Tasty food, consistent drinks, karaoke, live DJ sets, storytelling events, trivia nights, etc. Great for groups!
- Del Toro 2133 S Halsted St — Don’t let this small storefront pass you by, inside you’ll find some of the best Mexican drinks paired with delicious tacos. Family owned & operated by Pilsen locals.
- Lo Rez Brewing and Taproom 2101 S Carpenter St — This brewery was started by two tech industry veterans (you’ll notice their tech-themed beer names) who turned their beer-making hobby into a full fledged brewing operation.
- Cafe Jumping Bean 1439 W 18th St — This cafe, located at the heart of Pilsen, represents the neighborhood’s strength in community, art, and culture. The brightly painted space is frequently inhabited by workers, students, families, artists, and friends. You have to move fast to find a spot to sit in this buzzing coffee shop, but the inspiring surroundings are worth it.
- Kristoffer’s Cafe & Bakery 1733 S Halsted St — Quite possibly the best Tres Leches in town brought to you by a family owned cafe. Make sure to grab a slice of cake and mug of Mayan hot chocolate, your tastebuds will thank you.
- Step Down cafe 2023 S Racine — A favorite place among locals to grab a fix of caffeine, bite to eat, and enjoy the peaceful ambiance. Excellent spot for work and study.
- Intersect Coffee 1727 W 18th St– There’s a unique creative atmosphere brewing at this coffee shop with regular programming like open mic nights and weaving workshops. Meet friends or settle down to work while enjoying Dark Matter coffee and Chilaquiles.
- Ca Phe Da 1800 S Carpenter St- Created by HaiSous founders, Chef Thai and Danielle Dang, Ca Phe Da brings flavorful Vietnamese coffee and cocktails to Pilsen. Coconut pastries, coffee with egg custard, Vietnamese comfort foods– you can’t order wrong.
Things To Do in Pilsen
National Museum of Mexican Art 1852 W 19th St — One of the most significant first-voice institutions for Mexican art and culture in the U.S. Explore cultural, educational, and masterful works in this small but impactful museum. Free admission.
- Thalia Hall 1807 S Allport St — Thalia Hall is a historic landmark founded by John Dusek who envisioned the hall a community gathering place. The structure was modeled after the opera house in Prague and housed theatre performances for decades. Experience some of the best musical acts in one of the most historical venues in Chicago.
- 2nd Fridays Gallery Nights S Halsted St — The galleries in Pilsen host monthly receptions for the community and art lovers alike. These nights are the perfect time to experience the art + food + culture of the neighborhood.
- Mana Contemporary 2233 S Throop St — Expansive visual and performing art center with rotating exhibitions, performances, and workshops. One of the most activated art incubation programs in the city.
- Fiesta del Sol 1400 W Cermak Rd — Four-day free summer festival celebrating all aspects of Mexican culture, heritage, and language that’s been a Pilsen tradition since 1973.
Shops in Pilsen
- Pinwheel Records 1722 W 18th St — A stand-out record shop not just for selection and fair pricing, but for the community atmosphere. The staff is more than happy to help with any questions you have and they frequently host events for music and comedy. Owned by Pilsen locals!
- Pilsen Vintage 1430 W 18th St — Curated selection of clothing, furniture, homewares, and more. Been looking for something unique for your wardrobe or home? This is your place.
- The Shudio 1152 W 18th St — Shop + Studio. Serene boutique for vintage, plants, and locally made goods. They offer regular workshops and programming like macrame brunches and embroidery 101’s.
- Working Bikes 2434 S Western Ave — Community oriented shop that specializes in refurbishing rescued bikes to distribute to those who need them most all across the world. You’ll find top bike brands along with other accessories and gear. Staff is friendly and down to earth.
- Open Books Pilsen 905 W 19th St — Supporting Open Books means supporting a nonprofit that provides literacy access and training for readers across the Chicago area. Their donated used books are in excellent condition and staff is on hand to provide stellar recommendations for every reader. If you can’t make it to a brick-and-mortar location Open Books has many books available to purchase online.
Working Out & Wellness
- The Otis 1435 W 15th St — Everything you need to work up a sweat is right at your fingertips from cardio to strength training.
- Pilsen’s Fitness Center 1822 S Bishop St Unit 100 — This centrally located 16,000 square foot loft is armed with top-of-the-line equipment suited for beginners and gurus alike. Programming like yoga, zumba, and kickboxing ensures your workout routine will never get stale.
- P.R.O Fitness and Sports Academy 1862 S Blue Island Ave — Trainers work with you to develop a plan of action for whatever fitness goals you want to achieve. They have flexible programs and challenging classes with glowing testimonials from clients. They also have experience and specialization in programs for athletes + former athletes.
Co-Working in Pilsen
- OFFIX Pilsen 917 W 18th St — Brick and timber loft space located conveniently for both commuters and Pilsen residents alike. Customizable options for solo workers and teams up to eight.
- Lobi Space and Studio 1655 S Blue Island Ave — Collaborative spaces designed for entrepreneurs. Both desk spaces and production studios are affordably available. A great option for small business owners and freelancers to get their start.
- La Casa Del Pueblo Inc.1810 s Blue Island Ave — Long-standing neighborhood market with a large selection of Mexican products at fair prices.
- Mariano’s 1615 S Clark St — Supermarket stocked with groceries, household items, as well as many prepared meal options.
- Aldi 1739 W Cermak Rd — Fresh groceries at an affordable price point.
Parks + Recreation
- Dvorak (Anton) Park 1119 W Cullerton St — This 5.6 Acre park has plenty of activities to offer the community including family programming. Visitors remember the childhood memories they made, especially spending summers by the pool, at Dvorak.
- Throop Park 1811 S Throop St — Developed post WWII, Throop was established as a much needed playground for the neighborhood.
- Adams/Medill Park 1301 W 14ths St — Expansive open field perfect for walking your dog or setting up a picnic with friends. The park is also home to several music festivals during summertime where people from across the country gather to enjoy world-class entertainment.
- El Paseo Community Garden 944 W 21st St — Both private and collective plots are available for planting. The garden, powered by dedicated volunteers, also hosts pop-up markets, potlucks, yoga, meditation, and many more events benefiting the community. Stop by to enjoy the beauty of nature as well as colorful murals.