By Bob Glaze
The corridor along Ravenswood Ave. contains several buildings in the former historic industrial manufacturing district that have been turned into loft residential buildings, offices, microbreweries, distilleries, restaurants, artist’s studios, and a popular Art Center. There are also some excellent shops, cafes and restaurants along N. Damen, N. Lincoln, W. Montrose, and W. Wilson.
It is one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city. I have been there many times to eat, enjoy a distillery tour and tasting, take art classes and workshops and attend business meetings.
My top recommendations of what to do include:
Lill Street Art Center: A great arts education center with classes on everything from painting, digital photography, jewelry, textiles to print making. I have taken several classes in encaustic painting, photography, and collage in the past. There is a great store with items from students and well-known artists. 4401 N. Ravenswood Ave.
Every year in mid-September is the Ravenswood ArtWalk along Ravenswood Ave. from Lawrence to Irving Park. Here you can visit galleries and an outdoor arts market, hear live music, sample local craft beer, and enjoy several food trucks. I really liked the work of local artists, Katie Shaw, and Corey Postiglione at Studio 104 at 4201 N. Ravenswood Ave. and Ken Swallow at Studio 306, 4541 N. Ravenswood Ave. At Lill Street Make sure to visit studio #211, the studio and jewelry workshop of a friend, Edith Robertson.
In addition to the ArtWalk, there are several sculptures known as the Ravenswood Sculpture Garden, which is along Ravenswood Ave. between Lawrence and Irving Park.
Near Lill Street is the second location for the popular Margie’s Candies at 1813 W. Montrose Ave. Here you can enjoy ice cream, sundaes and homemade candies from hand-dipped chocolates, fudge, toffee, and mints. Margie’s has been in business since 1921.
To the west near the Montrose Brown Line stop is Spoken Café. They feature locally roasted organic coffee and espresso beverages along with bagels and breakfast sandwiches, local pastries, and lunch dishes from sandwiches to salads. 1812 W. Montrose Ave.
At 1969 W. Montrose Ave. is First Slice Pie Café Montrose. They have a menu of coffee, fruit and cream pies made onsite, soups, salads, quiches, and sandwiches. I went after my brunch and loved the key lime pie with a latte. I always enjoyed going to the café when they had a location at Lill Street Art Center. Now closed, they have this location along with two more on Manor Ave. and in Andersonville on N. Ashland Ave.
Nearby is Celtic Gifts at 1940 W. Montrose. This small Irish boutique carries food, clothing and accessories, books and journals, jewelry, crystal, and barware.
To the north is O’Shaughnessy’s Public House which currently occupies the historic Pickard Building, located at 4557 N Ravenswood at Wilson. This is a casual Irish tavern featuring pub food. They have a large outdoor patio as well. Here you can enjoy bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, and curry chips plus a long list of Scotch and Irish whiskey. I enjoyed a bourbon old fashioned and a fish sandwich. The sandwich was made with cod loin dipped and fried in their famous beer batter and served on marble rye bread with melted Swiss cheese, coleslaw, and tartar sauce.
On my list to try is Spacca Napoli Pizzeria at 1769 W Sunnyside Ave. They are known for their Neapolitan-style thin-crust pizzas. Local friends love it, and it was recently featured on Timeout.com as one of the best pizzerias in the US.
Malt Row: Located in the historic Ravenswood Industrial Corridor, this area is known as Malt Row and is home to a number of local breweries, a distillery, and a new winery.
Dovetail Brewing is located at 1800 W. Belle Plaine Ave. and is known for its German style beers including pilsners and lagers.
Nearby is Begyle Brewing at 1800 W. Cuyler Ave. This is a microbrewery, also a part of Malt Row, that features a taproom and beer garden. They make a number of ales, stouts, blondes, and IPAs.
Now at 4241 N. Ravenswood, is KOVAL Distillery. Established in 2008, KOVAL produces organic whiskey, liqueurs, and specialty spirits in Chicago’s first distillery since the mid-1800s. I would recommend taking a tour/tasting in this facility. Here you can learn about their history, attention to quality and try their gin, vodka, barrel aged gin, white whiskey, rye whiskey, bourbon and four grain whiskey. The bourbon and the four-grain whiskey were my favorites. All are excellent. They also teach cocktail classes, so make sure to check the website for dates and times. Their new tasting room opened in October 2021 and is very attractive.
Cultivate by Forbidden Root, the brewery’s third location, opened its doors on Malt Row in November of 2021. As Chicago’s first botanic brewery, they use herbs, spices, flowers, fruits, and roots in their brewing process. They also have a large dinner and weekend brunch food menu in addition to a large menu of their creative pilsners, ales, wheat beer and lagers. I was very impressed with the Peach Wit and the Hibiscus Walking Distance. The Peach Wit is a Belgian styled wheat beer, brewed with peaches and a selection of botanicals to enhance the peach aroma and flavor. The Hibiscus Walking Distance is a farmhouse ale with added hibiscus for an earthy sweetness.
They took over the former home of the Band of Bohemia brewpub, which I enjoyed in the past, at 4710 N. Ravenswood Ave.
On the north end of the neighborhood is Spiteful Brewing at 2024 W. Balmoral Ave. Started in 2012 by two childhood friends, in 2017, they relocated a couple of miles north and opened a new brewery complete with an expanded Tap Room. Here you can taste one of their 16 beers on tap including IPAs, Porters, and Classic European styles. I thought the Bleacher Bum Peach Blonde Ale was very light and refreshing. They have indoor seating as well as an outdoor patio.
Next door is Half Acre Beer Company. Started in 2007, in 2015 they transformed a bow truss factory building into their current home and brewery at 2050 W Balmoral Avenue. This property includes a taproom and seasonal beer garden with full-service dining and a retail shop. Here you can try one of their IPAs, ales, pilsners, and lagers. I recommend that you try the Green Torch Lime Lager, which is a crisp, refreshing beer. They age some of their beers in old bourbon and whiskey barrels which adds to the flavor.
Located in the same building as Cultivate by Forbidden Root is Vin312 Winery. This is a small winery and tasting room where you can taste their red, white, and rosé wines. Made with grapes sourced from California and Washington state, the wines are made at this location at 4710 N. Ravenswood Ave. The full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon was a good choice to try.
Take a detour to the east to see the All Saints Episcopal Church. Built in 1883, the structure was declared a Chicago Landmark in 1982. The building was designed in what is known as stick style and is Chicago’s oldest wood-frame church. 4550 N Hermitage Ave.
To the north of the church at 4505 N. Hermitage is the historic Abbott Mansion built in 1891 for the founder of Abbott Laboratories. He founded the drug company in Ravenswood in 1888. The Queen Anne-style mansion is considered a Chicago landmark.
I hope you enjoy Ravenswood as much as I do.