September 15 thru October 15 is National Hispanic Month. One of the best ways to celebrate this festival is to head to one of Chicago’s prominent Mexican neighborhoods. Pilsen, located on the lower west side, is a community filled with abundant culture and authentic Mexican cuisine. The area is surrounded by beautiful bold murals that can be seen in different areas throughout Pilsen. Whether it is the front of a home, around train platforms or even along the railway overpasses, the murals are treasured by Pilsen residents. There is no shortage of transportation to and from Pilsen to the city or north to the suburbs. The CTA Blue and Pink lines run through the middle of Pilsen or the Dan Ryan Expressway can be accessed on the eastern side of the neighborhood.
According to Zillow.com, the median value of a home listed in Pilsen is $219,400. The home values have increased 1.7% over this past year and is predicted to rise another 1.7% over this next year.
Pilsen, known for having one of Chicago’s largest Mexican-American cultures, is surrounded by beautiful murals, vintage shops, grocery stores (bodegas) and authentic Mexican bakeries (panaderias) and restaurants.
Shopping and Dining
- Fogata Village Restaurant: If true Mexican flavoring is what you are craving, then Fogata, located at 1820 S. Ashland Ave, is the perfect place to dine. Whether you want their famous scrambled or over easy eggs with red or green sauce for breakfast, carne asada for lunch or enchiladas for dinner you will leave satisfied with whatever food choice you made. Specializing in meaty dishes with spicy flavors, Fogata is ideal for Mexican cuisine.
- Nuevo Leon Restaurant: Located at 1515 W. 18th St., this iconic restaurant has been in the Pilsen neighborhood for over 40 years and has become the local eating place. The menu is filled with seafood, chicken and steak dishes. A must try is their Filete Nuevo Leon, New York strip steak served with refried beans, fried potatoes, rice and guacamole.
- Café Jumping Bean: This one of a kind gallery and coffee house serves a variety of sandwiches, soups and coffee. Patrons can enjoy viewing art work from local artist too. The artwork is changed on a monthly basis. Café Jumping Bean is located at 1439 W. 18th St.
- Kristoffer’s Café & Bakery: With a 4 out 5 rating on Yelp, this family owned and operated café has some of the best Mexican bake goods The owners serve a variety of coffees from around Mexico and El Salvador along with Tres Leches (three milk cake) and ChocoFlan (chocolate cake topped with flan) just to name a few of their delicious baked goods. If you are looking for authentic Mexican baked goods be sure to stop in at Kristoffer’s at 1733 S. Halsted St.
- Honky Tonk BBQ: Located at 1800 S. Racine Ave., this neighborhood restaurant prides itself in serving championship BBQ. All of the meats are fresh and cooked over a wood burning fire. Some of the tasty menu items include; pulled pork, smoked brisket and candied bacon. Join them on the weekends for all night music as well.
- National Museum of Mexican Art: Opening its doors in 1982, the goal of this museum was to educate the public regarding the Mexican culture and arts. Over the years the National Museum of Mexican Art became so much more especially to the Pilsen community. The museum sponsors exhibits and events that show the many varieties of Mexican culture along with holding art education programs to expand the artistic ability of Mexican artists. Located at 1852 W. 19th St., the National Museum of Mexican Art has one of the United States’ largest Mexican art collections from the present dating back to ancient Mexico. Admission is free!
- Festival of the Sun (Fiesta del Sol): Celebrated in July, this family oriented block party attracts over one million people each year. Sponsored by the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council, this event helps to raise money for scholarships for the local youth. The festival gives residents of Pilsen the opportunity to showcase their community through food, entertainment and local artists.
- Day of the Dead: This well-known festival is celebrated for three days starting Oct 31 – Nov 2 and the best way Chicagoans can learn about this festival is to head down to Pilsen. Local business and homes are decorated with dancing skeletons, colored paper flags and windows have miniature skeletons sitting in them. In order to gain a further understanding of the festival, go to the National Museum of Mexican Art which features the largest display of paintings, artwork and sculptures depicting this special holiday. The exhibit runs from September 18 thru December 13, 2015.
- Sor Juana Festival: From September thru November, the National Museum of Mexican Art celebrates Sor Juana Festival. This festival is dedicated to one of Mexico’s La Decima Musa (the Tenth Muse). Juana Ines de la Cruz (1651-1695), was a great philosopher and poet and known for being one of the first American feminists. During the festival, the museum presents musicians, dancers, writers and performers from Mexico and the United States with an emphasis on women in the arts. Admission to the museum is free; however some of the performances for Sor Juana Festival require tickets to be purchased.
Pilsen is one of Chicago’s most authentic Mexican neighborhoods to explore. Visitors will be able to dine on authentic cuisine, explore the local businesses and learn about the Mexican culture by seeing how the residents take pride in their roots. If you have been to Pilsen, leave a comment below telling what your favorite part of the neighborhood was. To learn more about new homes in the Chicago area, click here.