best food neighborhood in chicago?
OK, this is a bit of an experiment, but.. I am a Philadelphia and NYC hound moving to Chicago later this year. Based on food alone, where should I live in Chicago? Don't worry about housing costs, nice real estate, etc - other sites will help me with that (though I am not really interested in the burbs). I'm mainly talking about a local concentration of cheap, interesting food - ethnic diversity is a plus, as are non-chain coffee shops, restaurants, etc. Fine dining is less of an issue since I can always travel for a special occasion.
- In both NY and Philly, I have lived in neighborhoods with great food choices, with a particular emphasis on great local food markets/specialty shops, as going out is less of a top priority than everyday stuff.
- For those who are familiar with those places, in NY I lived near Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, giving me access to amazing Middle Eastern grocers, Smith St/Cobble hill restaurants and Italian specialty shops (I moved away before Trader Joe's arrived in that area). In Philly I live near the Italian Market, with great Italian and Mexican groceries, a plethora of Vietnamese grocers and restaurants, cool bars/small independent BYOBs, etc.
- Farmer's markets are a plus too.
1. Lincoln Park / Lakeview area: great diversity of non-chain restaurants, pastry shops. Good number of ethnic restaurants (Japanese, Thai, etc), Italian restaurants, and contemporary American. I know you care less about special occasion places, but it just so that Lincoln Park has several of the city's best destination restaurants. The crowd is a bit younger / yuppy.
2. Wicker Park: this neighborhood is quickly transforming. Many exciting contemporary American restaurants, ethnic restaurants, and pastry. It's smaller, but it's dense and diverse. I don't know if you care, but both this neighborhood and the Lincoln Park / Lakeview area afford some of the most exciting night life in Chicago. The crowd here is decidedly young and hip.
3. Old Town: There is a number of good ethnic restaurants here. But for me the real plus of this place is that it is affordable but still very close to all the places in Gold Coast, River North, and Streeterville (in which are quite expensive to live but fun to eat).
4. Argyle/Berwyn/Edgewater area: this is a stretch of several neighborhoods farther from the city, but still convenient with the red line. The residents are older and/or ethnic (because of the cheaper real estate), although it is getting younger. It has the city's old Swedish neighborhood (there are some Swedish eateries still), Southeast Asian neighborhood, Middle Eastern neighborhood. Needless to say, ethnic food is ubiquitous and authentic (the best area for Middle Eastern and Vietnamese in Chicago).