Wicker Park sheds industrial vibe for family-friendly mecca

When Liliana Salamanca was growing up in the Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago, a factory sat across the street from her family’s home. Another factory stood just down the street. It was a neighborhood filled with hard-working middle-class families.

Wicker Park hot spots


2100 W. Division St.

Cafe con Leche
2714 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Silver Cloud
1700 N. Damen

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Fast forward a couple of decades. Liliana still lives in the home she grew up in, this time with her husband and two sons. The factory across the street is now condos; the one down the street was converted to lofts. The mom-and-pop stores have given way to trendy, upscale boutiques.

“It’s brought in nicer restaurants, a lot of nicer stores. … But not all the stores are these expensive stores; you still have others that you can shop at that are economical. And there’s a lot of resale shops, which are great. So it’s not all Marc Jacobs,” she says.

Liliana shared a few highlights of the area:

What do you like to do in Wicker Park? There are a lot of great stores. One of my favorites is Psychobaby (1630 N. Damen Ave.). … They have a play area for the children while you shop, so the kids can be entertained. And one of my personal favorites, since I’m a stay-at-home mom, is going out and staying out with them all day. There are a lot of wonderful parks in the neighborhood. We go to four different kinds.

The parks you’re talking about aren’t just regular parks? No, the parks we go to, in my opinion, are different. The one a block away is part of Drummond Elementary School (1845 W. Cortland St.). They have a garden that the children from school are growing. … The younger kids can walk through that; it’s like a little maze.

Walsh Park (1722 N. Ashland Ave.) is more toddler oriented. … It has the foam padding throughout the park. It has a large field where you see a lot of parents picnicking with their children.

Wicker Park (1425 N. Damen Ave.) has this large fountain and you see a mixture of people. Senior citizens playing checkers, you see high-schoolers and adults playing basketball. They have a little sprinkler system.

Do you and your husband have date nights? Where do you go? We rarely get to go out, but when we do, there are a lot of places we like in the neighborhood.

There’s a new Argentine restaurant called Folklore (2100 W. Division St.). It’s a nice romantic restaurant and affordable.

We’ve gone with the kids to Cafe con Leche (2714 N. Milwaukee Ave.), a Latin-American restaurant that’s very family oriented. We’ve gone on a date night there in the summer, and they have a flamenco guitarist. We go there and have tapas, listen to live, free music and then come home.

What’s a can’t-miss? I would say movies in the park. They show movies once a month, starting in June until August at Churchill Field Park (1825 N. Damen Ave.), which is across the street from us. We can sit on our steps and watch a movie. It’s really nice.

And don’t miss Silver Cloud (1700 N. Damen). It’s actually a bar restaurant. They have a good menu and it’s like southern food. We like going there with the boys.

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