One of Chicago's most happening neighborhoods to the far north is Andersonville, with one of the best retail corridors in all of the city. You won't find any department stores along this stretch of Clark and Ashland, but you will discover charming boutiques among one of Chicago's best breweries, one of Chicago's best ice cream joints and a wide selection of the city's best gay bars. What it's all about though is its attractions. For such a small neighborhood, Andersonville is packed to the brim. If it's comedy or theater you're looking for, or even something more subdued like a trip to an art gallery or museum, this is one 'hood you won't want to miss.
RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Andersonville
At the end of a gangway between a Starbucks and a Potbelly on Clark Street, this small but popular shop has been meeting Andersonville's comics shop needs since 2011. AlleyCat offers the usual wall of new comics and a good selection of trades and graphic novels, along a smallish collection of back issues. Kid-friendly books are well stocked in the "AlleyKitten's Corner." The store doesn't offer much in the way of toys or figures, but the staff is approachable and highly knowledgeable, quick to offer solid recommendations. The shop also hosts weekly Magic: The Gathering tournaments, game nights and movie nights.
With three locations in Andersonville, Edgewater and Bucktown, these gyms feature an array of creative classes, like OldSkool (a cardio dance class set to old-school jams) and AlphaBootCamp (workout moves based on the letters of the alphabet), along with a wide range of equipment (the Bucktown location also offers CrossFit). Membership gets you community discounts at local businesses, and there’s complimentary coffee served daily until 10am.
This charming little barber shop offers a quick and simple menu of hair grooming services for men that has become a go-to for many in Andersonville and nearby. Walk-in service allows guys to drop in for a quick neck clean-up or beard trim and find themselves out the door in five minutes. Esquire also gives hot lather shaves with a straight razor, one of the most under-utilized services that not all barbershops are willing to give.
When family comes to town (or you just want a low-key staycation), the Guesthouse Hotel is a charming base for exploring Andersonville or the North Side. Each room is a two- or three-bedroom suite with a kitchen (stocked with cookware and glasses), a balcony with a grill and a washer and dryer. While the hotel is located within a few blocks of excellent restaurants and bars (and each room comes with a helpful guide to the neighborhood offerings), you can also have ingredients delivered if you want to cook in the kitchen. For a real vacation, order meals from local spots, including Baker & Nosh, River Valley Farmer's Table and Southport Grocery. The hotel has free Wi-Fi as well as a small gift shop with locally made products and a pantry stocked with local food and drink for late-night cravings. The lobby space is decked out during the holiday season, with cozy couches and fireplaces that encourage lingering.
Could anything be more fabulous than a gay hamburger chain? Yes. This gay hamburger chain combined with a sports bar brewpub and a performance space upstairs, for instance. The sandwiches at Hamburger Mary's verge on the gigantic. Andersonville Brewing has up to eight of their beers on tap as well as 40 other craft beers and ciders. Upstairs at Mary's Attic is a mixed karaoke lounge and theater space where trivia and movie screenings are regularly held.
The Las Manos Gallery's first start was in 1994 in Ravenswood, but the art gallery now operates as a storefront in Andersonville showcasing work by local and national artists. Special events and art openings are held in the courtyard when weather permits. Otherwise guests are welcome to amble in off the street, take a look around and take home a piece of art if they so wish.
Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, Chicago’s longest running piece of theater (two decades and counting), features an innovative ensemble of writer-performers, the Neo-Futurists, attempting to perform 30 mini-plays in 60 minutes. The resulting late-night hour is equal parts block party and populist performance art.
Though the Swede life is a little harder to uncover in Chicago these days, a small but dedicated bastion of Scandinavian history and culture is alive and well in the Andersonville neighborhood. In close proximity to the few remaining Swedish shops and restaurants, the museum houses artifacts dating back to the mass immigration of Swedes to Chicago 200 years ago and features rotating exhibitions of contemporary Swedish artists’ work, with a special focus on textile art.
Woolly Mammoth specializes in items that were, um, previously living? Or as they like to say, "resurrected from the past." You'll find vintage and antique taxidermy, plus lots of anatomy items, medical stuffs, skeletons, military and funerary items, art and so on. It's hard to say just what you'll find when you open the door, but one thing is for sure—it's always a ridiculously creepy-cool adventure.