A Guide to Pilsen: Where to Eat, Shop, and Play
INSIDER’S GUIDE: 18th and Halsted Streets play host to a new fusion of cafés, shops, and more
Clockwise from top left: Comet Vintage; a welcome sign; the corner of 19th Street; Nuevo Leon
Known for its countless taquerias, vibrant murals, and turn-of-the-century architecture, Pilsen has become a destination for its dining, drinking, and arts scene in the last few years. While spots like Nightwood and Honky Tonk BBQ are now local staples, a new wave of business owners have set up shop along the neighborhood’s two main avenues. “Pilsen is so inviting to small businesses,” says Jamie Roelofs, who lives a block away from the shop she opened last year with Jen Thomas. “They’re really loyal around here, too.”
CAFÉ MULATTE & GRILL
 Set to open in late August next door to an automotive shop, this breakfast, lunch, and dinner eatery and coffeehouse will have an art gallery upstairs and a patio that seats 25 out back. 2000 W. 18th St., cafemulatte.com
 Uzma Sharif spent two years perfecting her bite-size chocolate confections in a rented kitchven before she opened up in this Halsted Street storefront in June. She teaches chocolate-making classes and sells handmade truffles and bonbons—we recommend the Kashmiri chai truffle. 1823 S. Halsted St., 312-694-3471, chocolatuzma.com
 Sportswear, swimwear, and casual dresses from the 1920s to the 1970s—all selected from nearby estate sales by the shop’s owners, Jen Thomas and Jamie Roelofs—line the mintgreen walls of this energetic 16-month-old boutique. 1320 W. 18th St., 312-733-7327, cometvintagechicago.com
 At this nearly year-old tequila bar and small-plate restaurant, the specialty cocktail La Horchata contains spiced rum ($8), and the house margarita smacks of cucumber, jalepeno, and chili pequin powder. 2133 S. Halsted St., 312-733-7144, deltorochicago.com
THE JAM HOUSE
 Rene Lemus opened this smoothie, sandwich, and juice bar in late July to serve up his favorite treat from his hometown of Jalisco, Mexico: shaved ice topped with housemade strawberry, mango, and vanilla jams. 1854 W. 18th St.
LA CASA DEL PUEBLO
 This 52-year-old family-owned grocery store offers more than your basic deli and produce section. It stocks an impressive range of spices, seasonings, and hot sauces, plus surprising novelties such as organic soaps, artisanal sodas, and locally made piñatas. 1810 S. Blue Island Ave., 312-421-4640, lacasadelpueblo.com
 This five-month-old furniture store joins a slew of new shops along suddenly bustling 18th Street. Find 1950s sofas, 1960s credenzas, and midcentury Danish lounge chairs alongside repurposed coffee tables by the local design team Modified Originals and paintings on old windows by the Chicago artist Emmy Star Brown. Furniture ranges from $425 to $3,300, but retro glassware, coasters, and other entertainment essentials start at $15. 818 W. 18th St., 312-226-8525, moderncooperative.com
 With Mexican plates starting at $4 and the heartiest entrées—broiled skirt steak and red snapper—priced at $13.50, it’s no wonder the Gutiérrez family’s restaurant has been a neighborhood favorite for 50 years. 1515 W. 18th St., 312-421-1517, nuevoleonrestaurant.com
THREE DON’T-MISS EVENTS THIS FALL
Check out local eateries on the Buen Provecho restaurant tour, September 16 (312-733-2287, eighteenthstreet.org). . . . At the Chicago Fringe Festival, August 30 to September 9, catch one of nearly 40 independent theatre productions (773-428-9977, chicagofringe.org). . . . Slow and Low, the second annual lowrider car fest, took place on August 12, but the accompanying art exhibition is on display through the end of September at Chicago Urban Art Society (773-318-9407, chicagourbanartsociety.com).
ON THE HORIZON
More than 30 galleries open their doors for the Chicago Arts District’s Pilsen East Artists Open House, October 5 to 7 (1945 S. Halsted St., 312-738-8000, chicagoartsdistrict.org). . . . Find Day of the Dead–inspired handicrafts at the National Museum of Mexican Art’s during Folk Art Week, October 15 to 19 (1852 W. 19th St., 312-738-1503, nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org).
Photography: Travis Roozée