Day 97: Should I, could I, would I live in Pilsen?

July 18, 2009


DAY 97: Chicago, Illinois
Miles traveled: 13,625
States visited: 33
Weather: 78, sunny

If I do indeed move to Chicago, I have to decide which neighborhood to live in. One of my top choices for a while has been Pilsen. It’s a lot like Lawrenceville in Pittsburgh. It’s an artsy area, and while it’s not the safest in the city, it’s definitely on the rise. Rents are still low since it hasn’t been gentrified yet (but that’s in the process of happening.) The only difference is in the demographics – Pilsen is 90% Mexican and 10% young white hipster.

I’m couchsurfing in Pilsen and today I was walking around and trying to find places that I would hang out at if I lived here. Unfortunately there aren’t a whole lot. There’s a coffee shop called Cafe Mestizo that was fun. But there were only 3 customers, including me. There’s a hipster bar called Skylark on the edge of the neighborhood, but it’s not within walking distance. But when I get a bike, it will be doable.

I went to El Alamo for lunch. Here’s a good indication of how Mexican this neighborhood is: My waitress here didn’t speak English. She had a good chuckle when I asked for “diez y cuatro dolares” in change – I forgot that “catorce” is a word. But I’ve been hoping to move to an area with a large Latin population so I can brush up on my Spanish, and Pilsen would be perfect for that.

El Alamo was a steal – they give you a bowl of chicken noodle soup, then a basket of chips & salsa, and all of that comes free with whatever you order. So I got that plus the two tacos I ordered for only $3.31 total. I almost felt like I was ripping them off, getting all that food for so cheap. So I gave the waitress a fat tip.

The influx of young artsy types is changing Pilsen for the better. Whether I’d be comfortable living here remains to be seen.

Yesterday I traveled to a bunch of other neighborhoods in the city, including Hyde Park, Lakeview, Logan Square and Andersonville.


I went to the park and saw a couple playing badminton. The woman was embarrassingly bad but the guy kept letting her win. It was kind of a sad sight.


The Pitchfork Music Festival starts today. I’ll be out there all day today and tomorrow in the sun watching breathtaking indie rock bands. My report on that will come Monday.