The Run Down

Get your walking shoes ready, because we're going on an old fashioned neighborhood walkabout. The plan for the day is a one mile jaunt through Lincoln Park that's got a bit of an international flare. It starts with Taiwanese bubble tea, then olive oil and lemon drenched Greek chicken and fries, and we end the day at a Chicago apartment building from 1920's that's been converted into an art gallery and cultural center. 

1. Boba @ Hello Jasmine

2. Relax @ Oz Park

3. Greek Chicken @ Athenian Room

4. Culture @ Wrigthwood 659

1. Hello Jasmine

For you boba tea fans out there, you’d usually have to go somewhere Uptown or Chinatown to get your fix. Well, that’s starting to change as some of those boba milk tea shops in those neighborhoods are expanding out. One example of that is our first stop, Hello Jasmine. This place started as a small bar in Chinatown that shared a space with a hotpot restaurant. They’ve outgrown their first location and recently set up shop in Lincoln Park.

We’ve got a bit a walk ahead of us so we’re starting here to pick up some boba teas drinks to accompany us on our stroll through the neighborhood. A couple of interesting factoids we picked up along the way and some notes to get you going.

– Lots of boba tea shops make their drinks using some mass manufactured powder mix. That’s a thing and you’re getting bamboozled when that happens.

– Hello Jasmine brews their own teas sourced from Taiwan.

– Depending on the time of day, this place can get busy. If you don’t want to hang around too long, you can order ahead.

Even if you don’t order ahead and you have to wait around a bit, it’s a nice spot to just take in the neighborhood. With the Brown line tracks overhead and the scores of brownstones, old apartments, and massive homes that line the block, it doesn’t get more “Lincoln Park” then this.

Within the boba tea phenomenon, there are sub trends within this world that ebb and flow. The latest trend is this variant — the brown sugar boba milk tea. It’s a blend of tea, fresh cold milk, brown sugar caramel and tapioca pearls. The brown sugar gives it a deep and rich flavor profile — the same sort of taste you get when you bite down on a really good piece of toffee candy.

2. Oz Park

Less than a five minute walk from Hello Jasmine is Oz Park. We’re stopping off here to take in the over 14 acres of open green space and community gardens that sit right in the middle of this bustling neighborhood.Take your time winding through the different trails in the park, but if you’re looking for an area that offers a bit more tranquility, then head to the Northeast end of the park. There’s a small section called Emerald City Gardens. This is a fenced off area that has a small community supported garden with little hidden paths between different rows of flowers and garden beds.

You’ll find people laying out on patches of grass between flowers, groups having picnics, and folks reading books under the massive trees that hang out on the perimeter of the garden. Find a spot for yourself and finish the rest of your drink, relax in the sun, and prepare yourself for our next spot.

3. Athenian Room

3. Athenian Room

Our next stop is right next door to Oz Park. We’re headed to the Athenian Room — a Greek restaurant that’s been a fixture in the neighborhood for nearly 50 years.

This placed opened up in 1972, and it’s got this old school American diner feel to it, but with Greek design influences scattered about. It’s a perfect mash up of these two different design aesthetics and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now to get to the real reason why we’re here. It’s their kalamata chicken. It’s a plate of roasted chicken that sits on top of a bed of fries, all swimming in a pool of this lemon, olive oil, and oregano sauce.  The meal is at it’s best when it comes hot off the stove and onto your table. The fries, still hot and cripsy, are soaking up the sauce and all the drippings from the roast chicken that’s still sizzling on the plate.

4. Wrightwood 659

With our stomachs full, we’re going to take in some culture for our last stop. We’re walking 15 minutes north to a Chicago apartment building from the 1920’s that’s been converted into an art gallery and cultural center.

Without the signage out in front, you’d most likely would walk by without even noticing this place. The entire block is entirely residential and this gallery blends right in. The inside is a whole different story. Before we go further, here are some logistics notes.

– Open Thursday – Saturday

– You need to reserve a time slot in advance on their website

– Tickets are $15 when you book any day prior to when you’re going, but if you can find a time slot on the actual day you’re going, it’s usually free (but you still need to book the reservation)

– When you walk to the front gate, there’s a call box you can use to contact the front desk to let you in

This place has four floors of exhibit space, with a new exhibition every few months. For the rest of 2020, they are dedicating the entire space to showcasing the works of Balkrishna Doshi, a pioneer of taking modern architecture concepts and adapting them to with local cultural traditions in India. This is from the top floor and looking down towards the lobby. The brick facade of the building is still in tact, but the interior takes on a modern look with concrete and glass shaping the main corridor. You’ll find educators on each floor who are available to answer questions and tell you more about any of the pieces on exhibition. On the very top floor there is an open area with floor to ceiling windows that look out into the neighborhood. It’s a quiet space where you can reflect on the works of art you just browsed.