A Guide to Lincoln Square: Where to Eat, Shop, and Play

INSIDER’S GUIDE: A beloved music venue’s expansion is one reason to revisit this North Side neighborhood. We’ve got 13 more

Clockwise from top left: Goosefoot, Timeless Toys, Amy’s Candy Bar, and Laurie’s Planet of Sound. For more photos, launch the gallery »

The two biggest influences on Lincoln Square? Its German heritage and the 55-year-old Old Town School of Folk Music [1], which, since moving to the neighborhood in 1998, has helped make the area a hot spot for pre- and postconcert dining and nightlife. In January, the venue opened an $18 million 27,100-square-foot classroom and performance facility directly across Lincoln Avenue from its headquarters—providing a great excuse to spend a day soaking up the enclave’s charming vibe.

[2] The professional illusionist Mr. Ash estimates he has at least 15,000 tricks stashed in his cramped shop and warehouse. Nearby Magic Inc. [3], founded in 1926, offers instruction and a lecture series, plus thousands of supplies for would-be Houdinis. Ash’s: 4955 N. Western Ave.; 773-271-4030, ashs-magic.com. Magic Inc.: 5082 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-334-2855, magicinc.net

[4] When a Les Nomades vet gets a bee in his bonnet to open a contemporary American BYO, he can call it whatever he wants. At presstime, foodies citywide were drooling in anticipation of Chris Nugent’s December launch. 2656 W. Lawrence Ave.; 773-942-7547, goosefoot.net

Small Lincoln Square map
Click to view the full map.

[5] This 12-lane bowling alley located above a hardware store hasn’t modernized much since 1918—which is why we love it. Open bowling runs $3 to $5 per hour during the week and $40 on weekends, with frequent appearances by the Polkaholics, an oompah-rock band. 4874 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-561-8191

[6] A new façade reflects the ongoing revival of this German American cultural center, which offers language classes, film screenings, and an open house, or Stammtisch, every third Friday in the Skyline Lounge. For more German brews, head to the cozy Huettenbar [7] (4721 N. Lincoln Ave.). 4740 N. Western Ave.; 773-561-9181, dankhaus.com

[8] Two-year-old Gene’s carries on the tradition of the now-departed Delicatessen Meyer, with homemade pierogi and specialty meats, such as venison and boar. The rooftop beer garden will reopen after Memorial Day; call for updates. 4750 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-728-7243, genessausageshop.com

[9] For creative (and mostly nonelectronic) playthings, head to Timeless Toys. For a walk down memory lane, check out Quake’s vintage action figures and comics [10]. Timeless Toys: 4749 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-334-4445, timelesstoyschicago.com. Quake: 4628 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-878-4288, quakechicago.com

[11] Founded by a pharmacist in 1875, this gem stocks holistic remedies and bath products, including Vinolia soap (used on the Titanic) and Diptyque candles (which the shop ships to rock-star dressing rooms). 4716 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-989-0900, merzapothecary.com

A candle from Merz Apothecary
A candle from Merz Apothecary

[12] Revered among vinyl lovers, Laurie’s carries some 2,000 new releases (Wilco, the Black Keys, Adele), plus another 5,000 used records for sale. 4639 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-271-3569, lauriesplanetofsound.com

[13] The unofficial greenroom for Old Town School’s performers and teachers, this pub quenches thirsts with 75 beers and 60 whiskeys and hosts an Irish jam session on Sundays. 4530 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-271-9000, thegrafton.com

[14] Last summer, the French Pastry School grad Amy Hansen realized her dream of opening her own confectionary. Look for her caramels alongside sublime Dutch licorice. 4704 N. Damen Ave.; 773-942-6386, amyscandybar.com

Ladysmith Black Mambazo: the a cappella sounds of South Africa (Feb. 3) . . . Solas: a fresh take on traditional Celtic music (Feb. 17) . . . Laura Veirs: gossamer melodies in one show for kids and another for adults (Feb. 19) . . . Bettye LaVette: torrid vocals ranging from classic rock to soul (Feb. 24). 4544 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-728-6000, oldtownschool.org.


Photography: Travis Roozée

Photo gallery



2 years ago
Posted by Segelke43

An almost-great list, except that it's missing The Book Cellar, Provenance, and Fine Wine Brokers (and about a half-dozen other restaurants).

2 years ago
Posted by bluesmith84

Amy's Candy Bar is not in Lincoln Square. There are so many other great businesses actually IN the square, which have been around for years and done more for the community. Why on earth did you choose that one.

2 years ago
Posted by justjulie

Hanger 18 has the BEST gifts for babies, moms, hostesses, teachers and more! always something new, quirky and in your price range.

2 years ago
Posted by NeighborMelanie

Great to see our vibrant 'hood get some play time in Chicago Magazine. While I'll resist highlighting all the other gems we have, I wanted to share a project that is helping make it even cooler.

The League of Awesome Possibilities (funded by the Awesome Foundation... yes, that exists:http://www.wbez.org/story/changing-gears-how-1000-makes-place-awesome-90027) is an endeavor of public instigation and conversation. This project uses third places (cafés) and empty storefronts to spur conversation about what we love about our neighborhood and how we'd like to improve it.

These installations gather the input of neighbors to help inform and instigate new projects. This spring, we will be doing potlucks in empty storefronts to deepen this conversation with business owners, local leaders, and neighbors.

You should check it out:
www.awesomeleague.org (online platform coming soon)


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