Chicago is a city with a plethora of culturally diverse neighborhoods. These pockets of community have some of the best food and fun you’ll find in the City and tend to be off the traditional tourist beat. So for our next few blog posts, we’re going to spotlight some of these hidden gems, starting with Andersonville.
You know you’ve reached Andersonville when the Vietnamese signs advertising banh mi and bubble tea at Asia on Argyle are suddenly replaced by the blue and yellow flag of Sweden. Andersonville is a subsection of the Edgewater neighborhood on the north side of Chicago, and if you couldn’t tell, it is the historically Swedish section of town. At one point, more Swedes lived in Chicago than in any other city besides Stockholm! Andersonville has diversified a lot since the late 1800s, but its Swedish influence is undeniable, and there are quite a few places you’ll want to visit.
Women & Children First Bookstore (5233 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640)
Most of the stores and businesses in Andersonville are locally owned, and nothing exemplifies that more than the Women & Children First feminist bookstore. When co-founders Ann Christophersen and Linda Bubon decided to sell the store, they sold it directly to their staffers! Their 30,000+ stock focuses on marginalized voices, especially ones about gender, queerness, race, and the intersectionality of these identities. Before you head over, check out their events calendar because they always have quite the lineup of author visits and book discussions, with luminaries like Chelsea Clinton, Celeste Ng (of “Little Fires Everywhere”), and Eve Ensler (of “The Vagina Monologues”).
Swedish American Museum (5211 North Clark Street, Chicago IL 60640)
This is the land of blue and yellow, so we’d be remiss if we didn’t encourage you to visit the Swedish American Museum! Just one block away from the Women & Children First bookstore, this museum captures the history and culture of Swedish America through historical exhibits, art galleries, genealogy programs, and a children’s museum. With a very low admission price, this is the best way to gain a greater appreciation for the neighborhood.
Brown Elephant Resale Shop (5404 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640)
Somewhat recently, Andersonville has become one of the “gayborhoods” of Chicago. You’ll see a lot of fun, funky fashion because people are free to dress as they please, and there are tons of quirky vintage/thrift stores. If you view thrift shopping as a treasure hunt and not just a Macklemore song, stop by Brown Elephant! This location is one of the three resale shops in Chicago operated by Howard Brown Health, an organization that helps people access medical care, particularly those who are LGBTQ, low-income, and/or people of color (although all are welcome). Proceeds from Brown Elephant help Howard Brown Health fund care for the un/under-insured, so you can look fashionable while helping others out!
Bobby’s Bike Hike (540 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60611)
Bobby’s Bike Hike provides biking, walking, and food tours in various neighborhoods of Chicago. If you enjoy exploring neighborhoods to learn about a city’s culture, check out Bobby’s Lakefront Neighborhoods Bike Tour to discover other neat places. Or, you can rent all kinds of bikes from Bobby’s (tandem, road, electric, etc) to explore Andersonville, Edgewater, and other places on your own schedule!
First Slice Pie Cafe ( 5357 N Ashland Ave Chicago, IL 60640)
(Photo from http://firstslice.org/)
“More hot pies, bless my eyes” they sing in Sweeney Todd, and you too will be singing the praises of pie when you visit First Slice. A slice of First Slice makes for a wonderful afternoon pick-me-up or evening date, but there’s more to this place than just soups, sandwiches, salads, and its eponymous desserts. First Slice has a unique subscription program with which subscribers receive three meals for the weekend (choosing from a new menu each week), and the proceeds of this helps First Slice provide 750 meals a week to people experiencing hunger and homelessness!
The above recommendations are just some of the many highlights in Andersonville. There are also great martini bars like “Marty’s” at 1511 W Balmoral Ave (https://www.facebook.com/martysmartinibar/), sandwich shops like “Jerry’s” at 5419 N Clark St, (https://www.jerryssandwiches.com/), and ice cream shops like “George’s” at 5306 N Clark St (http://www.georgesicecreamandsweets.com/). There’s a reason so many establishments in Andersonville are called by first name monikers, and that’s because it is such a personable neighborhood. Andersonville is quirky and full of culture, a place where both the residents and the businesses are passionate about living together as a community. You should check this place out. They’ll welcome you with open arms.