The Run Down

Pilsen is a mecca for vintage shoppers and the plan for this guide is to bounce around to four different shops, each with a different era of fashion and merchandise in mind. But before the shopping spree begins, you'll start the day with chilaquiles and coffee at small countertop diner that's been run by a mother and son team for over 30 years.

1. Chilaquiles @ Park View Diner

2. 1960 - 70 @ Pilsen Vintage

3. 1980 - 90 @ Very Best Vintage

4. Records a@ Shady Rest Vintage & Vinyl

5. 1940 - 50 @ Knee Deep Vintage

1. Park View Diner

The first stop of is about three blocks north of the Damen Pink Line Station. We’re at Park View Diner, where owner Martha Solis and her son Nelson Perez have served breakfast and lunch in the Pilsen community for over 30 years.

As you navigate through the neighborhood, you’ll pass streets full of brick cottages and apartments, but at the corner of 19th and Damen, it seems like there’s an extra bright spotlight on Park View Diner.

It’s in this big building with bright white vinyl siding and a neon sign in the window. The sun bounces off the siding and gives off an ‘old school cool’ aura that has you wondering what’s going on inside. Hint: It looks even cooler from the inside.

You’ll see one long zig-zag counter with 24 barstools as you enter the diner. There are no tables, so find a seat at the bar.

Behind the counter, you’ll most likely see Perez tending the grill, but every week the 80-year-old Solis still pops in to cook her signature dishes.

It’s truly a family-run business in every sense, and it shines in their hospitality. As soon as you walk in, it feels like coming home to your family’s kitchen after not seeing them for a while. They’re so kind it’s almost therapeutic.

As far as food goes, they’ve got your standard American diner fare like bacon, eggs, and pancakes. We stopped by for their chilaquiles — fried tortillas mixed with steak, eggs, and a salsa poured over the top.

One last tip before we move on: It’s cash only.

2. Pilsen Vintage

After breakfast, you’ll head a few blocks down the main strip on 18th Street to start your vintage shopping bonanza.

We’re at Pilsen Vintage, which opened up in 2009 as part of a wave of vintage stores that sprang up in the neighborhood at the time.

Walking into the store feels like a time capsule from the 1960s and 70s. You’ve got oversized fur coats and racks of corduroy to dress from head to toe when the situation calls for it.

They’ve also got a collection of records, vintage home goods, and books that you can snag to style your home in the same aesthetic.

3. Very Best Vintage

On the next block is Very Best Vintage which has an entirely different style than where we just came from. This place is a mix of glam rock and 80/90s high femme fashion.

4. Shady Rest Vintage & Vinyl

Walk another block and find another vintage store. For this stop, however, you’re taking a break from sifting through clothes. Instead, you’ll be sifting through record bins and browsing their collection of hi-fi stereo equipment, modern furniture, and collectibles.

The store is like taking a stroll through the minds of owners Peter Kepha and Nuntida Sirisombatwattana.

Every single item on display was handpicked by the duo who, even before opening their store in 2018, had been buying and selling vinyl for years on the record fair circuit. They know their stuff inside and out. 

Aside from the records and cassettes, you can also find paperback book collectibles and hard-to-find comics from defunct publishers.

They also have a collection of photography gear too. If you’re in the market for a 1970 Nikon 35mm SLR, then you’re in luck.

5. Knee Deep Vintage

The last stop of the day is Knee Deep Vintage. Of all the vintage stores we visited, this is the oldest of the bunch getting its start in 2008.

In fact, you can give owner Carlos Lourenco credit for helping spawn the recent vintage movement in Pilsen. Before Paul Gazar opened Pilsen Vintage, he worked with Lourenco, who later encouraged him to open his own vintage shop right down the street.

Knee Deep’s store is one long narrow corridor filled with tightly packed racks of clothes organized in an OCD-pleasing, color-coordinated manner.

While they have clothes from the 1920s to the 90s, their collection of mid-century fashion is their biggest source of pride.