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A Field Guide to

Humboldt Park

Puerto Rican culture, historic bars, and retro bakeries collide in this bustling neighborhood.

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Above:Hanging out in Humboldt Park Photo: Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune

On the city’s West Side, you’ll find two Humboldt Parks: There’s the actual park, a 219-acre jewel with baseball and soccer fields, a boathouse, and even a beach (yes, a beach—you don’t have to go all the way to Lake Michigan to feel sand in your toes). Then there’s the neighborhood, a collection of quirky shops, storied bars, and restaurants serving everything from organic breakfasts to the Chicago-invented jibarito sandwich. When the area was founded in the late 19th century, it was popular with Scandinavians, but it became the city’s Puerto Rican enclave in the 1950s and hosts the boisterous Puerto Rican People’s Parade each June. Even as it gentrifies, Humboldt Park is one Chicago community that hasn’t lost its cultural identity.

Skokie map
Illustration: Michael A. Hill
See
National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture
National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture

1. Puerto Rican Flags

The arching 59-foot flags that bookend Paseo Boricua (Puerto Rican Promenade) are made of steel—each weighs 45 tons—as an homage to immigrants who worked in Chicago’s steel plants.

2. National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture

Located in a lavish Queen Anne–style building constructed in 1896, this is the country’s only standalone museum of its kind.

3. Humboldt Park Murals

Colorful folk art adorns walls across the neighborhood. Stroll the 2400 and 2500 blocks of Division to see a cluster of murals, including one that features the Humboldt Park coat of arms, designed by local artist John Vergara.

4. Humboldt Park Boathouse

Look out over the serene lagoon from the Jens Jensen–designed building, or cause some havoc by tossing in a line to pull out a largemouth bass.

5. Illinois National Guard Northwest Armory

This 1940 art deco stone monolith might seem foreboding, but take a closer look to check out its subtle artistic touches, like the metal reliefs featuring wartime figures with a definite WPA-era feel to them.

Shop

6. Richard’s Fabulous Finds

If Jay Gatsby came to Chicago, he’d hit up this eccentric shop filled with plaid blazers, mallard-print ties, and vintage cocktail sets.

7. Adams & Son Gardens

Sure, it’s got your standard flowers and seeds for the green-thumbed, but it’s also got hard-to-find plants, like the Rojo Congo, a philodendron native to South America.

Humboldt House pottery
Pottery from Humboldt House Photo: Courtesy of Humboldt House

8. Humboldt House

Part bohemian (incense), part rustic (Turkish rugs), part pragmatic (Chicago-made wallets). Our pick: the cheeky “Feminist as Fuck” necklaces.

9. Komoda

A former hardware store, this whimsical gift shop is stocked with eclectic jewelry, artistic cards, and fake mustaches.

10. Mosaicos Jalisco

Add some color to your home with gorgeous hand-painted Talavera tile from Mexico.

Eat & Drink
Spinning J Bakery and Soda Fountain
Spinning J Bakery and Soda Fountain Photo: Clayton Hauck

11. Roeser’s Bakery

Keep your schmancy doughnut places with their trendy organic sprinkles. This old-school bakeshop has been churning out cakes, eclairs, cookies, and even ice cream since 1911.

12. Papa’s Cache Sabroso

These folks may not have invented the jibarito, but they’ve certainly perfected it. For the unacquainted, it’s a sandwich with fried green plantains instead of bread, stuffed with meat and cheese. (Also: Go eat one.)

13. Boeufhaus

If there’s a better steak in Chicago than the 55-day dry-aged rib eye at this intimate German- and French-influenced brasserie, we don’t know what it is. Beef-fat fries: a must.

14. Flying Saucer

Much of the fare at this beloved breakfast and lunch spot is organic, but the pillowy homemade biscuits with pork sausage gravy probably aren’t. And we couldn’t care less.

15. The California Clipper

Settle into a red vinyl booth at this gin joint that dates back to Prohibition, order a Pago Pago with shaved ice, and watch for the resident ghost.

16. Spinning J Bakery and Soda Fountain

You’ll be charmed by this lovingly restored soda fountain and its unexpected treats: Thai tea egg cream, anyone?

Events

April 7:Groove to the soul-jazz-blues trumpet of Sam Trump (no relation) at the California Clipper.

April 14:For a taste of Honduran folk-rock, head back to the Clipper when Radio Free Honduras takes the stage.

April 22:Get outside for Earth Day and help spruce up Humboldt Park at the 28th annual Parks and Reserves Clean Up (tools, bags, and gloves provided).

June 15 to 18:The annual Fiestas Puertorriqueñas, or Puerto Rican Festival, brings four days of street food, carnival rides, and music.

June 17:Join the revelers at the Puerto Rican People’s Parade on Division.

June 23:UrbanTheater Company brings Los Angeles noir to Chicago in Richard Montoya’s Water & Power.

Did You Know?

Humboldt Park was named after German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Funny thing—he didn’t even set foot in Chicago the one time he visited the States.

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If You Want to Live Here

Population Median houshold income Median home value
56,300
(53% Hispanic, 41% black, 4% white)
$30,100 $206,000

Listing of the month

1555 N. Talman Ave.

1555 N. Talman Ave.
Photo: Courtesy of VHT

Asking price:$499,000

Specs:1,950 square feet, three beds, three baths

This modern penthouse condo has a killer open floor plan and bamboo floors. But the skyline view from the roof deck? Them’s the goods.

NOTE: Real estate data are from December 2016 SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau, Zillow
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