Discovering the hidden gems of Berwyn
Adventure off the beaten path to Chicagoland’s oft-overlooked Berwyn. To see all the town has to offer, we bring you seven excursions, all within walking distance of one another.
Berwyn, IL, has always been an eclectic city. Since the town’s incorporation in 1908, its centralized location within Chicago’s near western suburbs has allowed it to cull diverse elements from its immediate surroundings to become a unique, decidedly middle class hub of Chicago culture.
The hallmark landscape of nearly identical brick bungalows—the result of a severely stringent building code forged decades ago—might betray to some the appearance of an entirely homogenized populace, but don’t be fooled. Within those well-built, two-story lookalikes, a vibrant cornucopia is bubbling underneath the surface, providing the community with an irresistibly tantalizing flavor well-known to its longtime denizens, one that synthesizes all walks of life and every demographic and influence of the area.
That very vibe, now unmistakably fully realized within the town’s new nightlife scene, has become a shining beacon for Chicagoland over the past two years, as the city's restaurants, bars, theatre, and nightclubs are now racking up accolades as award-winning establishments with reputations that stretch from Evanston to Evergreen Park. Berwyn is now a nightlife destination...no matter what side of Chicago you hail from.
Let's explore Berwyn, IL, is the focus of our newest feature…Neighborhood Night Out.
6625 W. Roosevelt
This gem is already known by area denizens as one of Chicagoland’s best new restaurants, featuring an impressive, seasonally changing menu of savory continental European cuisine. The high ceilings and open room provide the hotspot bustle of a date night, with high wooden tables typically packed to the gills on Fridays and Saturdays. Small and large plate options offer the flexibility to keep things priced moderately and the portion sizes manageable, but don’t be surprised when the vivacious atmosphere, premier drink menu, and uniquely delicious fare get you romantically swept up into a singularly impulsive evening!
6420 16th St.
Artistic Director Ann Filmer and her dedicated team of collaborators are doing award-winning work in one of Chicagoland’s very best emerging theatres, fittingly situated in the heart of the Berwyn Cultural Center. The 49 seat 16th Street Theater brings vibrant, topical, interesting works to life, often penned by local playwrights and often set in Chicago. In just seven seasons, the room has already cultivated a reputation for powerful acting, excellent direction, and moving stories, with just enough design to create an intimate atmosphere. Although disenfranchisement and the impact of racism, sexism, and classism in the community are at the forefront thematically, there’s enough humor, sarcasm, and acerbic Chicago wit in dealing with serious issues to keep each evening thoroughly entertaining and often full of surprises! Perhaps most importantly, a special emphasis is placed on issues surrounding the Latino community, reflecting the changing demographics of Berwyn itself.
6733 Roosevelt Rd
Everyone needs that trusty neighborhood bar, where the old wood simply overflows with the vibe of the surrounding community. The Friendly Tap is that quirkiest of haunts, with stools crowding an odd-shaped, oversized bar in the center of a main room where walls are filled with oddities and curios. There’s the occasional flyer about a rock show next month, a charity banner for an upcoming cancer drive, a well-worn sticker of someone’s favorite band, and an erasable chalkboard with this week’s events. A door leads to an adjacent side room, opening up to a modest stage decidedly geared towards community music, while colorful paintings and mounted album covers depict all eras of music on the surrounding walls. On nights where tunes aren’t spilling out of that band room, you’re likely to find the regulars taking on a pickup shufflepuck game or the multicade arcade cabinet, while host Rob Pierce meets and greets his regulars with a bottle of his favorite beer. The Friendly Tap is just the kind of place you plan to stop for exactly one drink, but find yourself spending the entire evening in, slowly transfixed by the affordable prices and unassumingly comfortable vibe, and perhaps the locals dancing to good old fashioned sweaty pub rock.
6615 Roosevelt Rd
This renowned west side institution owned by Bill and Kate FitzGerald will be celebrating its 34th year of music this 4th of July during their annual American Music Festival. When they’re not playing host to a long list of hand-picked, distinctive national touring acts, you’ll find them cultivating local talent through their acclaimed Exposure series, or featuring community artists and emerging performers in their cozy Sidebar open mic and songwriter series. Don’t be surprised on a random night to find Bobby Keys (Rolling Stones), Ian McLagan (Faces), The Red Elvises or NRBQ gracing the mainstage, while Oak Park natives Fiery Furnaces might simultaneously be rocking the Sidebar next door.
7021 Roosevelt Rd
Late night eats with a gourmet twist! Who knew the end of the evening could be so delectable? While masquerading as just another plain old counter-service hotdog stand (complete with fluorescent lighting, zero seating, and rhombus shaped building), the menu runs a bit deeper than the usual fare. Mainstay Chicago delicacies such as Homemade Italian Sausage, Polish Sausage, and Red Hots certainly grace this menu, but in digging deeper you might unearth a Buffalo Chicken Sausage, a Pot Roast Sandwich, a Shrimp Po’ Boy, and weekly specials such as the Crawfish Sausage tickling your fancy just underneath the surface. Service is typically a bit slower than the drive thru, but everything is certainly worth the wait!
6815 Roosevelt Rd
Wire’s philosophy is as bold, innovative, and impressive as their beautiful new facility. Part concert hall, part rehearsal space, part music university, part recording studio… Wire was built by musicians, for musicians, in order for the community to foster a continuing relationship with itself through all aspects of this wonderful medium. Owned by veteran Chicago musicians Tracey Dear (Waco Brothers), Chris Neville (Tributosaurus) and Paul Bulger (Mr. Blotto) as well as recording engineer Jon Smith (who has worked with Ministry and The Police), their concert series has unsurprisingly already hosted impressive, well known acts from all over the country in the few short months it has been open. However, it's their daring focus in synthesizing cooperative elements of the field that is certain to make them a city-wide standout in the industry.
6737 Roosevelt Rd
Who can resist a delicious Italian Ice to top off the entire affair? Thirty-seven years in the making, Gina’s approach is simple—to offer her customers a great treat at a fair price. A tiny menu and a rotating board of just ten different flavors makes deciding on the item relatively easy…if not the flavor! Only open from May through September (weather permitting)