Pilsen is the heart of Chicago’s Mexican-American community and is home to numerous restaurants, shops and bakeries that are not only authentic, but that enable patrons to delve into in the Mexican culture that thrives in Chicago. There are many things to do in this Lower West Side neighborhood that appeal to both tourists and locals alike. It is also an artistic hotbed in the city and provides an amazing cultural experience that is ideal for those on a budget.
6 Places to Go in Pilsen
Nuevo Leon: Located at 1515 W. 18th St. this restaurant is the heart of Pilsen. Since 1962, Nuevo Leon has been serving quality, authentic Mexican food and offers home-style service that has made it a favorite for locals. Choose from a variety of genuine dishes like Chille Rellenos de Queso o Picadillo, which is stuffed peppers with cheese, beef, - Carne Asada, or charbroiled skirt steak served with rice and beans. Each entrée is served with hot, home-made tortillas. The only downfall is that they only accept cash, and the restaurant doesn’t have a liquor license. That doesn’t stop anyone though, because even though they don’t serve alcohol, you can definitely BYOB!
National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA): This isn’t just for the artists, this is for everyone. Showcasing the beauty and richness of Mexican art, this museum continues to amplify itself by hosting events and providing new exhibitions for the community and for visitors. Today, the National Museum of Mexican Art has been identified as one of the most prominent first-voice institutions for Mexican art and culture in the United States. What does this mean? This means that the NMMA has had numerous exhibitions travel the United States and Mexico. So head to the museum, where you’ll establish a creative mindset on Latino culture and develop an appreciation for unique and positive artwork. It’s free to enter and is located at 1852 W. 19th St.
BomBon: Stop by this bakery on 18th street for a quick bite of a scrumptious cupcake or slice of cake. The BomBon cake, which is a traditional three milk cake prepared with vanilla sponge cake that has been soaked in leches (evaporated, condensed and regular milk) with a hint of rum, sweet vanilla cream and a touch of Mexican cinnamon - it is to die for! Or just stop by and pick up one of their mouthwatering tarts, like the Tutti-Frutti Tart, made with Bavarian crème and seasonal fruit on top of a cookie-like crust. And if Pilsen is out of the way for some Mexican pastries, no worries, there are three more locations, including one in downtown on Madison Street.
Café Jumping Bean: No matter if you’re on the go, or just want to sit down in a vibrant, artistic, cozy café and gallery space try Café Jumping Bean! Another great spot on 18th Street, Jumping Bean can lay claim to being the best café in the neighborhood. They serve Mexican coffee or their Choco-espresso (hot chocolate infused with espresso), American sandwiches with a Latin twist, soups, and pastries that you can have on the go for low prices. Enjoy the art gallery while sipping on a hot or cold drink. Random fact, but Barack Obama has been there, too!
Del Toro Chicago: Located on Halsted Street, this traditional Latin-inspired tequila bar just went to a whole new level: modern and chic. Fine tequila of all kinds and Latin American and Mexican imported beers are exclusive there, meaning every drink will have quality for a smooth taste down your throat. Their small plates and sliders are phenomenal--like their spicy guacamole or their fish tacos. These plates are appetizing, inexpensive bites that are sharable and are authentic--just like you’ll have in the old country. Enjoy a relaxing, cool Latin night out with awesome drink specials, superlative service and delectable food. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Simone’s: This venue offers full restaurant and bar service, so you can head there during lunchtime. With their undeniably unique atmosphere complete with old pinball machines and a bowling alley lane bar top. Their décor isn’t the only thing will amaze you as they boast mouthwatering beer and yummy grilled food options. The Pilsen burger, inspired by the vibrant neighborhood, is a traditional burger that includes a vortex of Hispanic flavor like jalapenos, guacamole, and Chihuahua cheese. Their cocktails and draughts are solely irresistible that you’ll surely want to go back for some more. Enjoy live DJs here or their fun-filled karaoke night hosted every Sunday evening.
Written by Erika Medina+