7 Things to Do in…Pilsen!

Pilsen is the newest neighborhood outpost for the popular Instagreeter tour program!

From a museum dedicated to Mexican Fine Art, to 30+ artist galleries, and colorful murals around every turn; to food options ranging from authentic tacquerias to upscale brunch and hipster cafes and bars, there’s so much to do in Pilsen!

- See Mexican art at the country’s largest Latino Cultural Center: The National Museum of Mexican Art (1852 W. 19th St.) was founded in 1982, and brings visual arts exhibitions, performing arts events, and educational programs which convey the depth and beauty of Mexican culture “sin fronteras” (without borders). Don’t miss their annual Día de los muertos exhibition, opening this year on September 9, which showcases the work of many artists who create elaborate altars in memory of the dead. Admission is free and the museum is open Tuesday-Sunday.

- Meet an artist or browse a cutting-edge art gallery: Pilsen is also home to over 30 artist studios, galleries and cafes that display contemporary and cutting-edge artwork. See the work of over 60 artists in locations from Western Avenue to Halsted Street between 16th St. and 24th St. during the neighborhood’s annual Pilsen Open Studios art walk, October 15-16, 2011 part of Chicago Artist Month.

- Looking for even more art? You don’t have to look very hard: The murals, mosaics and gardens of Pilsen are around every street corner, in alleys, and on the sides of public buildings including schools and CTA ‘L’ stations. On 19th Street west of Ashland Avenue, the murals of a master, Jeff Zimmerman, are huge, yet somehow intimate as they capture real-life moments. Another highlight is Juan Angel Chavez’s Vida Simple (2004), a multimedia mosaic installed on the west wall of a plaza next to the Damen (Douglas) Pink Line ‘L’ station, which is inspired by the heritage and cultural identity of the Pilsen community.

- Sample more than just tacos: While there are dozens of delicious taquerias in Pilsen, there are also birrierias and carnitas – restaurants that specialize in dishes with meats like goat and pork. Shredded goat tacos and “nose to tail” dishes are just some of the specialties at Birrieria Reyes de Ocotlan, (1322 W 18th St). Savor Mexican-style slow roasted pork with all the traditional accompaniments at Carnitas Don Pedro (1113 W. 18th St.) or Carnitas Uruapan (1725 W 18th St). For even more ideas, take a look at the Explore Chicago Taco Trek for SCVNGR, a free game for your mobile phone.

- See recycling at its best: Whether you call it recycled or “upcycled”, there’s always something interesting to sit on, beside, or under in Simone’s Bar (960 W. 18th St.), a popular hipster hangout in Pilsen. This bar and restaurant has rooms filled with reclaimed materials like pinball machines in booths, part of a bowling alley as a long wooden bar, and high school chemistry class table tops. All that, at they have a full kitchen and loads of televisions for watching a game or just hanging out. Skylark (2149 S. Halsted Street) brings hipsters in the door with craft brews, Old Style, and tater tots, served with three kinds of dipping sauces.

- Rise and Shine: Despite it’s noctural name, Nightwood (2119 S. Halsted) is maybe best known for its Sunday brunch. Run by the owners of popular Logan Square restaurant Lula Cafe, Nightwood also serves dinner with a daily handwritten menu made up of fresh, local ingredients.

- Eat award-winning barbeque: Honkey Tonk BBQ (1213 W. 18th St.) may be far from Tennessee, but it does very fine when pitted against other Southern barbeque greats. It took 3rd place in the pork shoulder category of the 2008 Memphis World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. On the weekends, diners can enjoy live country swing music while they chow down.

For more information on neighborhood, including detailed attractions, shopping, and dining listings, check out our printable neighborhood guide and interactive Google map. For even more self-guided neighborhood treks, click here.


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