“There were squatters upstairs, and you’d feel a little nervous walking across that park,” says Jason Hammel, who owns Lula with his wife, Amalea Tshilds. “I used to have a one-bedroom rental for $325 a month; it’s easily double that now.”
Today, Lula serves delicious, inventive brunches, lunches and dinners – most of which are sourced by local farms – that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. It’s got a vibe similar to that of Fat Rice, Chicago’s only Macanese restaurant, where a young couple has translated their travels from Macau and Portugal into a funky little oasis on the northern edge of the neighbourhood.
Did I mention Bang Bang Pie Shop, where they feature three flavours each day and make the best biscuits in the city? These buttery beauties – the size of a softball – have a sturdy crust with a rich interior. Smear on some homemade preserves, a flavoured butter or, better yet, pair them with some candied bacon and pour yourself a strong iced coffee. You’ll be ready to take on Congress with renewed vigour.
But Logan Square is about more than good eats. If the first lady and the kids are with you, be sure to take them to City Lit. It’s one of Chicago’s truly independent bookstores, just a few steps from Lula. Michelle will want to walk around the corner to check out Wolfbait & B-girls, a hip boutique that carries clothing and accessories by local artisans. Sasha and Malia will probably want to check out *play, a unique toy store and book shop not unlike something you’d find in D.C. neighbourhoods such as Adams Morgan or Georgetown.
That’s just the beginning, really. The Logan Theatre has been fully restored (showing first-run and cult films), the farmer’s market just kicked off what’s sure to be a lively season, and Reno is making what can best be described as Chicago-style artisan bagels, finished in their majestic wood-burning oven.
So next time you’re in town, give me a call. I’ll save a seat for you at Longman. Bourbon Summit, perhaps?
Logan Square is a 15 minute train ride from downtown (just $2.25 each way). From O’Hare International airport, ride in on the Blue Line train for 30 minutes and get off at the Logan Square stop. Arriving at Chicago Midway airport? Take the Orange Line downtown, then transfer to the Blue Line.
IF YOU GO
What to see:
Congress Theater DJ sets and touring musical acts make their way to this ancient auditorium on a regular basis. 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Logan Square Farmer’s Market It runs every Sunday until Oct. 27, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 3111 W. Logan Bl.
Logan Theatre This 100 year-old theatre recently went through a total renovation, and now shows mostly first-run movies, but also screen classics and cult favourites. Relax before or after a show in the quaint bar/lounge. 2646 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Minnekirken Memorial Church Built in 1912, this church is one of the only in the U.S. where they still hold services in Norwegian (audio translator devices available) twice a month. 2614 North Kedzie Blvd.
Where to eat:
Lula Café This farm-to-table restaurant is the area’s crown jewel. Weekday brunches and lunches are easier to get a table; lots of industry folks go on Mondays, when they offer a three-course farm dinner for $38. 2537 N. Kedzie Blvd.
Longman & Eagle This gastropub boasts inventive food and an extensive whisky list, featuring more than 150 bourbons. 2657 N. Kedzie Ave.
Fat Rice This one-of-a-kind restaurant fuses the pork, sausage and seafood of Portugal with the rice and seafood of Macau. 2957 W. Diversey.
Bang Bang Pie The pie offers change with the seasons, but the biscuits are always stellar. A half-dozen preserves and butters make for difficult choices. They have a huge backyard full of picnic tables to handle overflow in the summer. 2051 N. California Ave.
Billy Sunday Same owners as Yusho, but this time the emphasis is on hand-crafted cocktails (none more than $10) using hard-to-find spirits; a limited menu is also notable, if you’re in the mood for snacking. Open until 2 a.m. 3143 W. Logan Blvd.,