When you think of the heart of Wicker Park I’m guessing the “six corners” intersection of Milwaukee, Damen, and North Ave is what comes to mind? However, I’m here to vouch for Division Street as the newest and arguably the hottest restaurant strip in Wicker Park.
I remember a couple of years ago when the first thing that came to mind for me of Division St. were those late night tamales from Picante. Don’t get me wrong, I can still go for tamales ever now and then, but there are some new contenders that are pulling me to Division St. nowadays:
One of my favorite patios in Wicker Park is Pub Royales’. It’s a great view of Division St without the overwhelming background noise of central Wicker Park. Although, the patio isn’t the only draw that keeps me coming back. I love going to Pub Royale no matter what season it is.
Pub Royale is an Ango-Indian pub and restaurant, giving it a classy bohemian vibe. Their beer list is extensive and has some unique midwest brews that you can’t find anywhere else. A few of these unique beers come from my favorite breweries: Marz Community Brewing, Upland Brewing, and Half Acre.
A great beer means a lot to me, but don’t overlook their food menu. The small plate style of their food items can lead you wanting to order one of everything – bring some friends! I would recommend grabbing a few of their best bites for your Sunday afternoon snacking or late night munchies: Salt Cod Samosas, Mussels + Naan, and the India Hot Chicken Wings. All things considered, with so many wonderful restaurants on Division Street why not have a few bites at them all?.. 😉
If you live in Chicago, by now you have probably been to, or at least heard of Longman and Eagle right? It’s one of the best restaurants in Logan Square, but what does this have to do with Fifolet you might ask? The Executive Chef of Fifolet, Kevin Crouse, once was a chef at Longman and Eagle. He has brought his passion and culinary skills to Fifolet and I gotta say it’s pretty killer cajun food.
Honestly, I have had almost every dish on the Fifolet menu. Maybe one day I’ll be a VIP 🙂 After I first had their recommend favorites I had to go back and try all the other dishes that were picking at my food curiosity. Truly, I don’t have a favorite dish here. I love all things cajun-creole and all things from Fifolet.
On the other hand, I was able to decipher what I think are the true crowd pleasers: the Gumbo Fifolet & the Honey Custard Cornbread. The classic choices at Fifolet really are the best choices. The gumbo was amazingly flavorful, their dark roux can’t be beat. The cornbread was unique, yet balanced, with the addition of a cayenne streusel. Overall, when at Fifolet: keep it simple, keep it spicy.
Oh man, what can I say about 5411 other than how do you decide which empanada(s) to order?
To give you the low-down, all three of the owners grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina and have really put their heart and soul into the perfected empanada recipes. 5411 started as a food truck in 2012 and became so popular they now have 5 locations just in Chicago! One of their most popular locations is on the 1600 block of Division Street.
It’s almost impossible to decide on which empanadas to order. My recommendation is to bring a few friends and get one of everything. That means you’ll have 15 empanadas to share, as their menu is unique with diversity.
Luckily, the Chicago Food Planet office is just down the street from 5411’s North Ave location. My personal lunch usually consist of 3 different empanadas:
- Bacon, Dates & Goat Cheese: I hate dates, but I LOVE this empanada. Don’t be afraid to try it, all the ingredients together make empanada heaven.
- Ham & Cheese: This simple ham & cheese will surprise you with the amount of flavor it punches. I once asked one of the owners, Nico, which empanada was his favorite – Ham & Cheese!
- Spinach & Cheese: For all you vegetarians out there, this ones for one! For all you meat-eaters, get some spinach in your diet, you won’t regret it.
Furthermore, if you’re looking for a good drink to go down with all those empanadas try their Argentinian Mule. This is a specialty cocktail crafted exclusively for 5411 by Chicago Distilling Company’s Beverage Director, Noah Roberts. The cocktail is essentially a house-made Moscow Mule (yes, this means fresh crafted ginger beer!), with a splash of everybody’s favorite digestif, Fernet Branca.
Now you’ve read it all, so get out to Wicker Park and explore Division Street for your weekend binging! Once you’ve finished your food exploration, head up to North Ave in Wicker Park and eat with Chicago Food Planet on The World’s Fare Food and Beverage Experience (hint: we feature 5411’s empanadas). Our goal is to always keep you eating whether it’s on Division Street, or some other hidden gems of Wicker Park.
Gina’s Grub Guide by Gina Schammel
As the Sales & Private Events Director of Chicago Food Planet, Gina has been given the opportunity to explore, travel, and indulge in all things food! She’s always repping Chicago as an Ambassador for Choose Chicago and an Associate Board Member for Growing Home. When she’s not working on Chicago Food Planet’s next food event you can find her grocery shopping for her favorite meals to cook, eating pasta at Eatly, or grabbing a drink at Gold Star Bar.
Gina’s Grub Guide tells you where to eat, drink, and wander in Chicago. Whether you’re the Chicago Local, Grub Globetrotter, or a Event Planner for Company Creative Outings you will always have a killer food & drink spot to go. We publish one cocktail & one food centric blog a month focusing on a different neighborhood.