Josh Rutherford was a pioneer on Division Street, opening Smoke Daddy, the barbecue hot spot he co-owns, in 1994, a time when the Latin Kings openly ruled the street. “It is a 100 percent turnaround from the gang violence that used to happen in broad daylight on the street to now moms with strollers and people walking dogs and this friendly neighborhood environment,” he says. Today, the stretch from Leavitt to Hermitage is lined with a mix of restaurants, specialty stores, and high-end clothing boutiques, packed together for easy window shopping. Parking can be a bear; so consider taking the Blue Line to the Division stop, just four blocks away from the action.


Photography: Chris Lake


From left: the imported-tea bar at Porte Rouge; the design-minded baby gear at Grow; messenger bags at Penelope’s


The merchants fear the rumors of a coming chain invasion, but for now the strip remains Gap-free. “We don’t want it to turn into Armitage,” says Julia Knier, owner of Public I, which carries men’s and women’s designer clothing and travel accessories. Penelope’s, a quirky boutique, specializes in comfortable hipster duds and cute tchotchkes. Habit stocks selected pieces from new and emerging designers, 70 percent of whom are locally based. Gamma Player has a European, almost space-age, sensibility, while Bonnie & Clyde’s is straight-up rock ‘n’ roll. Sole Babies has adorable ergonomic shoes for first walkers through young kids. Grow takes an eco-conscious approach to baby supplies in its selection of children’s clothing, strollers, cribs, and highchairs. Porte Rouge is a destination for French-inspired tableware and high-end cookware. Visit Paper Doll for better-than-average stationery and cards, and oddball gift items.

Photography: Chris Lake



Milk & Honey, a sunny casual food restaurant and café serving breakfast and lunch, has been drawing people to the neighborhood for years with its gourmet takes on comfort-food classics, including a Reuben made with smoked turkey. A few doors down, Jerry’s Sandwiches, the newly opened second location of the Loop stalwart, offers 100 sandwiches on its menu. Letizia’s Natural Bakery, around since 1998 and owned by Italian-born Letizia Zorano and her son, Fabio, is an Italian bakeshop that also offers a mean panini—all from natural ingredients and made fresh daily. Its sister store, Enoteca Roma, serves a Roman-style menu, including bruschetta and pizzas, and offers a nice selection of wines by the glass and a big outdoor patio. Newcomer Via Carducci La Sorella, related to the original in Lincoln Park, also serves Italian food, as does Crust, Chicago’s first certified organic restaurant, which makes flatbread pizzas, salads, and sandwiches. Mirai Sushi (which is listed in Chicago‘s restaurant guide) packs in diners on two stories—dinner downstairs, lounge upstairs. Smoke Daddy, in addition to its tangy, wood-smoked barbecue in big portions, offers live blues seven nights a week.


One variety of the luxury chocolates at Coco Rouge


Coco Rouge, an upscale chocolate shop with inventive flavors, opened about a year ago. Co-owner and pastry chef Erika Panther says one of the most popular treats is the “Carnassier,” a bar of bacon-flavored chocolate. Caffé Gelato makes its own old-school Italian gelato for $3.50 a scoop. Eat a cookie or pick up a loaf of bread at Alliance Bakery, which has been around since 1920.  For those who want to unwind, Nature Yoga offers classes in a range of styles including hatha, vinyasa, and ashtanga; five sessions go for $65 or you can pay $15 per class. Down the street, Ruby Room houses a retail boutique, salon, apothecary, yoga studio, and yoga boutique. The spot—small storefront, huge inside space—offers everything from massages, facials, and haircuts to the latest Sue Devitt makeup and yoga mats.

Photograph: Chris Lake



The bars here are casual—no dress codes, no fancy shoes, no covers—and most have impressive outdoor seating areas, ideal for people watching. Busy neighborhood bar Innjoy has specials every night, but the real winner is the Monday night deal: 25-cent wings and $2.50 Miller Lites. Next door, the trendier Smallbar, with an impressive 120 beers on the menu, has a wide outdoor patio. Low-lit and charming, Vintage Wine Bar and Restaurant has a large selection of by-the-glass wines, and serves appetizers and dessert.



All phone numbers are in the 773 area code

1. Alliance Bakery
1736 W. Division St.; 278-0366

2. Bonnie & Clyde’s
1751 W. Division; 235-2680

3. Caffé Gelato
2034 W. Division; 227-7333

4. Coco Rouge
1940 W. Division; 772-2626

5. Crust
2056 W. Division; 235-5511

6. Enoteca Roma
2146 W. Division; 342-1011

7. Gamma Player
2035 W. Division; 235-0755

8. Grow
1943 W. Division; 489-0009

9. Habit
1951 W. Division; 342-0093

10. Innjoy
2051 W. Division; 394-2066

11. Jerry’s Sandwiches
1938 W. Division; 235-1006

12. Letizia’s Natural Bakery
2144 W. Division; 342-1011

13. Milk & Honey
1920 W. Division; 395-9434

14. Mirai Sushi
2020 W. Division; 862-8500

15. Nature Yoga
2021 W. Division; 227-5720

16. Paper Doll
2048 W. Division; 227-6950

17. Penelope’s
1913 W. Division; 395-2351

18. Porte Rouge
1911 W. Division; 269-2800

19. Public I
1923 W. Division; 772-9088

20. Ruby Room
1743-45 Division; 235-2323

21. Smallbar
2049 W. Division; 772-2727

22. Smoke Daddy
1804 W. Division; 772-6656

23. Sole Babies
2033 W. Division; 342-7653

24. Via Carducci La Sorella
1928 W. Division; 252-2244

25. Vintage Wine Bar and Restaurant
1942 W. Division; 772-3400