The Run Down

As we spend more time in our homes, the humble houseplant is something that doesn't go unnoticed. A little greenery can brighten up a room, it can purify the air, and it's been scientifically proven to reduce stress. With all that in mind, this guide has us taking a stroll down 18th Street in Pilsen. We're going to visit a few spots to help us turn our living rooms into a greenhouse. The day starts at a plant studio, and then finishes with a picnic and games in a community garden flanked by a massive street art mural.

1. Plants @ Semillas Plant Studio

2. Browse Books @ Pilsen Community Books

3. Grab Lunch @ Simone's

4. Picnic @ El Paseo Community Garden

1. Semillas Plant Studio

Our first stop is at Semillas Plant Studio. When you’re here, you’ll probably run across the owner, Angélica Valera. Her passion for plants and the emotional benefits they can bring into your life is contagious. You don’t need to know anything about plants to shop here, come in and ask as many questions as you need. She’s happy to share her knowledge with a smile you can feel through her mask.

A few tips and highlights before you go.

– Semillas opened up at the end of July, but has regularly been selling out each day so I recommend going early.

– Current hours are Wednesday thru Friday 11 am – 6pm, Saturday 10 am – 5pm, and Sunday 10 am – 6 pm.

– Masks are required and the store is limited to 6 people at a time. 

2. Pilsen Community Book Shop

Our next stop has us ll be taking a short 10-minute walk down 18th Street towards Halsted. There are a variety of other shops for you to browse and you can see the outdoor dining season is in full-swing, but we are heading to Pilsen Community Books.

Inside you will find a wide array of both new and used books. Their photobook selection in particular is always well-curated and I rarely find myself able to leave empty handed.

As of July the store is open for in-store browsing with a few new regulations including usage of masks and limiting the number of people in the store to 10 people. They also ask that customers use hand sanitizer provided at the entrance and to put all books they touch, but do not purchase in a special box to be sanitized before being reshelved.

In lieu of in-store community events they have some upcoming digital offerings including a zoom book club at the end of August. They haven’t updated the calendar for September yet, but the owners told me they have some exciting things planned and to keep an eye out on their website for more information.

3. Simone’s

A short walk down the block and you will find yourself at Simone’s. We’re getting takeout today, but make sure to take a look inside since the decor is a big highlight.

Many of the furnishings are made of reclaimed materials from a bartop that was an old bowling alley lane, graffitied science room tables, and a massive chandelier sculpted of various light fixtures. Pre-pandemic days, this was the spot for casual drinks, good times, and some late night dancing. Fingers crossed that we’ll get back to that soon enough. 

The food is typical bar fare with a few Mexican inspired offerings and yummy vegetarian/vegan options. We got their vegetarian burger made out of corn, sweet potato, celery, and carrots with a side of mixed fries along with a selection of their empanadas.

We took our food to the park, but if you’re wanting to relax here, Simone’s currently offers indoor (at 25% capacity) and outdoor dining options as well as takeout. Group dining is limited to parties of 6 or less.

4. El Paseo Community Garden Project

After getting food at Simone’s, go on a short walk and take it over to El Paseo Community Garden to have your meal.

This public green space has been maintained by volunteers and donations since it’s establishment in 2009. Residents can use one of the private or collective beds for gardening and several events are available throughout the week including a monthly pop-up market and weekly yoga classes.

We found a bench under the shade of a large tree to finish our lunch and play a few rounds of Millenial Lotería that we purchased from another Pilsen-based business, Comercio Popular. “Hecho en México. Hecho para todos,” (which translates to Made in Mexico. Made for everyone) is what’s transcribed on their Instagram bio. It’s a wonderful representation of  in their brand and the Mexican designed products they offer.

Millennial Lotería, by designer Mike Alfaro ,is an update on the classical Mexican game Lotería that plays similarly to bingo. Recently Comercio Popular decided to let go of their physical location and operate through various pop-up markets and their instagram ( where you can browse and order any of their wares from games like these to a whole line of clothes and accessories.