The Run Down
During the summer, Rogers Park can feel like a mini-beach town if you know the right spots to visit. For this guide, we've got an afternoon beach trip all planned out. You'll start at a beach side cafe for slushies and then walk 10 feet to find a spot on the sand. Once you've got enough sun and beach, you'll make your way through a quiet lakeside residential neighborhood until you come upon a small enclave of shops and cafes that give off strong small town beach vibes. You'll end the day there with a post-beach meal of ice cream, sandwiches, and coffee.
1. Ropa Cabana
Our beach trip has us hanging out Loyola Park Beach on the Far North Side. The beach extends for nearly a mile along Lake Michigan, and unlike the beaches closer to Downtown, you’ll have plenty of space to spread out.
We’ve found that a successful beach outing is often accompanied by close proximity to cold drinks and snacks. That’s why we’re going to be posting up near Ropa Cabana, a beach side cafe that opened up in July 2021 and run by longtime Rogers Park residents.
Ropa Cabana is literally on the beach and if you allow yourself to let go of reality for a second, you can kinda, maybe sorta, convince yourself that you’re on a California beach vacation staring out into the Pacific.
Let’s get to their menu. It consists of your standard Chicago Dog, but if you’re feeling a bit adventurous, they also have a bunch of other concoctions like the Seattle dog, which comes topped with caramelized onions, cream cheese, jalapenos, mustard, and ketchup (*gasps*).
Pictured below is our haul — it’s their Chicago Dog, Walking Taco (Doritos with taco chili meat, cheese, onions, jalapenos, salsa, and sour cream), and a slushy. They also have Italian Ice, coffee, smoothies, and pastries if that’s what the occasion calls for.
Here’s a preparation tip as you plan your day out on the beach.
If you’re looking to elevate your beach game, these beach tents are absolutely worth it. The past few times we’ve been to the beach we noticed a bunch of people with their own tents and finally decided to get in on it. It’s a lot more relaxing without worrying about your stuff flying away or sand in your eye. Plus it’s like the size of a foldable chair when you pack it up.
2. Charmers Cafe
After a few hours on the beach, the next stop is about a 15-minute walk from Ropa Cabana. You’ll make your way through quiet tree-lined residential streets until you eventually come upon a small commercial corridor known as Jarvis Square.
This whole area is a wonderful enigma. It feels like a place you’d find in some small beach town in Michigan, but the Red Line adjacent to it is a reminder that you’re still very much in the city.
At the center of all this is is Charmers, a corner cafe that serves as an anchor for Jarvis Square and the surrounding community.
In the mid-2000s, this whole area looked totally different. It consisted of a few liquor stores, a currency exchange, and not much else. But then came Charmers in 2006 and after several starts and stops, this block saw small waves of new businesses.
We’re stopping here for a post-beach meal. Here are a couple things to note about the place.
– There is an outdoor window where you’ll place your order. Indoor seating will open back up eventually.
– They have patio seating and the whole block in front of Charmers is closed off to traffic and used as an expanded outdoor seating for all the restaurants along this block.
Now let’s get down to the food. On the savory side, their menu consists of things like sandwiches, NY bagels, and egg bakes. On the sweet side they’ve got Homer’s ice cream, pastries from Bennison’s, and a killer root beer float.
All together it works out great for a post-beach visit. It’s casual enough where you won’t feel out of place on the patio in your beach gear, but you’re getting a bit of an elevated food experience with things like a Chicken Tinga sandwich topped with avocado, queso fresco, jicama, and pickled onion on the menu.