It’s November. You’ve been having a good time, hanging out with your friends that you made at ISO, running into your IPAs on campus and at parties, even attending a class or two. You like Northwestern, but the realization that you are miles and miles away from your comfy bed, your doting parents, and your slobbering dog Fluffy is starting to seep in. Instant cure? Food. None of this dorm sandwich, pasta, and salad routine that you’ve melted into, but some proper food that takes you back to China, India, Italy, or wherever else you’re from. Lucky for you, Chicago has plenty of cultural neighborhoods to explore! I’m listing a few, but rest assured that no matter what cuisine your taste buds crave, you should be able to find a satisfying restaurant option somewhere in the vast city that is Chicago.
All you South Asians out there will be pleased to know that Devon Ave is just a short bus ride away from campus. A large street peppered with restaurants serving hot chai, golgappas, biriyani, and chaat, Devon is pretty much a sanctuary. And the food is pretty damn good too. Hema’s Kitchen and Sukahdia’s Sweets are both solid options, but there are many to choose from. There are also numerous grocery stores brimming with masala and Maggi Noodles so if you ever have a need to spice up your life, just come to Devon. There are also stores selling Bollywood DVDs, hookah bars, and Indian clothes in this neighborhood so that you can recreate India in Chicago quite easily. And if you ever are looking for someone to go with, shoot an email on the ISA listserv – I guarantee there will be plenty of people eager to join you.
Dumplings! Xiaolongbao! Noodles! Bubble tea! Chinese New Year decorations! Martial Arts weapons! Although Chinatown is quite a long El ride away (it’s close to the Southside & UChicago, if that gives you any indication), it is well worth the trip. Here is where you can fill your tummies with piping hot Chinese food and then walk it off by visiting colorfully decorated stores for Chinese herbs and gifts. Chinatowns in America generally serve as hubs for the Chinese community, so if you need to brush up on your Mandarin or Cantonese, Chinatown’s the place to be.
Argyle is quite close to campus, off the red line on the El. A bit more Vietnamese than Chinese, Argyle is still home to lots of delicious ethnic restaurants. Try Sun Wah for some really delicious and relatively cheap Peking Duck or visit any other of the numerous Thai, Cambodian, and other Asian restaurants nearby.
You don’t have to have seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding to appreciate the greatness of Greek culture. Greektown is a short distance away from the Ogilvy Transportation Center downtown, accessible from Northwestern by a half hour Metra ride. Greektown is a hub of ethnicity, with restaurants dishing out gyros and saganaki and people milling about speaking Greek. Blossoming in the 60’s, Greektown is a really historic, culturally sound neighborhood in Chicago.
Pilsen embodies the Mexican American community in Chicago. Aesthetically beautiful, Pilsen has great architecture, street art, and churches in addition to its many yummy yummy restaurants. It’s quite arty and eclectic, so you want to leave time to walk around and really appreciate this cultural neighborhood.
The Italian neighborhood is located not far from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) campus. It’s not that big, but there are Italian influences everywhere, from the people that inhabit the homes there, to the sculptures that are positioned in various places, to the family-owned restaurants that serve delicious, filling Italian food. And who doesn’t like Italian food. From Italy? Check this place out!
Of course, this list neither covers all the cultural neighborhoods in Chicago nor does it even detail completely all the interesting parts of the ones that are listed. But it’s a good start, and exists to remind you incomers that there is a way to feel at home in Chicago, regardless of its distance from your city.
One of your many IPAs,