ENJOY MEXICAN HERITAGE, ART & FOOD IN PILSEN
By: Leentje De Leeuw
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a Mexican holiday, celebrated on November 1 and 2. In contrast to the Catholic All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, the Día de los Muertos is a celebration rather than a time of mourning. Looking for a fun way to learn more about this Mexican tradition? Watch the Pixar movie ‘Coco’! In Chicago, Pilsen is the best neighborhood to be part of this celebration.
1852 W 19th Street
The FREE National Museum of Mexican Art is always a good idea, but our favorite time to visit is during the annual Día de los Muertos exhibit that is open to the public from mid-September through mid-December. This year’s exhibit pays tribute to and remembers those who have died from COVID-19. The exhibit invites you to contemplate with new artistic expressions by local artists and site-specific installations created by artists from both sides of the US-Mexico border.
1454 W 18th Street
Frida Room is the perfect breakfast, brunch and lunch spot if you are looking for good, traditional Mexican food, a contemporary décor and affordable prices. As a young boy Angel came to Chicago from Mexico City. He runs Frida Room as a tribute to both his country and his family. The Lucha Libre art is a reminder of his grandfather who used to take him to the traditional Mexican wrestling games on Sundays and the food is based on family recipes. And then there’s Frida Kahlo of course, who probably needs no further introduction.
1923-27 S Blue Island Avenue
El Milagro (‘the miracle’) flour and corn tortillas are available in nearly every grocery store in the city. Founder Raul Lopez learned the tortilla-making business from his uncle back in Mexico. He came to Chicago in 1942 where his before and after work gig of tortilla baking became a full time job in 1950, when he opened his first business. At the Pilsen location you find a tortilla bakery and you can enjoy some of the best tacos in Pilsen at the restaurant next door.
1855 S Blue Island Avenue
If you like ice cream, you probably know the Mexican popsicles of La Michoacana, available in most grocery stores across the US. The Pilsen flagship store of this California-based brand is definitely worth the visit. Not only because of their paletas (popsicles) or unique ice cream flavors (how about cucumber or Twinkies), but also because of other specialties like the Dorilocos, a unique snack eaten out of a Dorito bag!
1634 W 18th Street
It doesn’t get any more traditional than this self-serve bakery in the heart of Pilsen. Serving customers from the neighborhood and beyond, this is where you buy freshly baked conchas, empanadas, a ridiculous amount of cookies and sweets, and -last but not least- homemade flour tortillas with unique flavors like mole, habanero, Chile morita, black beans, jalapeño and mucho mas!