Little Village, like most of Chicago’s neighborhoods, is home to a specific and diverse culture. But what some don’t know is that Little Village is more than a neighborhood. To me, it ‘s even comparable to well-known visitor destinations like Millennium Park.
Located on the west side of Chicago, the area was settled by Eastern European and Irish immigrants, but is now predominantly inhabited by Mexican immigrants. On a self-directed tour of Chicago I visited the “Mexico of the Midwest” and found pride, warm welcomes and a plethora of Mexican food options.
I took the CTA pink line to get to Little Village but its location is easily accessible by car. An adventurist, I abandoned any Google recommendations and scanned the neighborhood looking for lunch. Faced with a restaurant on every corner I asked a group of young people where I could find a good burrito in town and they eagerly directed me to El Chisme.
If there is a daytime equivalent to nightlife, it exists in Little Village. The vendors waved to me with smiles as they sold corn, mango and colorful pinwheels while mothers and children casually strolled the block.
Bright pink, blue and yellow quinceañera dresses hung in display cases along the street and the smell of turnovers baking followed me all the way to the restaurant.
El Chisme (meaning “The Gossip” in Spanish) is no doubt a place to go to catch up with friends. The large sit down or to-go restaurant has parking, lively mariachi music playing and a wide selection of food under $10. The waitress was very friendly and asked us if it was our first time here before bringing out tortilla chips and delicious, spicy homemade salsa.
After lunch I walked toward the beginning of Little Village on 26th street and ran into the iconic “Bienvenidos A Little Village” archway stretching across the street. I excitedly ran under the arch to snap a quick photo and a family began clapping for me. When I later asked them why they applauded they replied, “you’re so excited about our culture and our neighborhood—we love that!”
That’s what really got me. It wasn’t the delicious five-dollar burrito and summertime cotton candy (although those things keep me coming back), but rather the ability to walk into a different world just by walking next door. Far less expensive than the Magnificent Mile—and more dynamic—there is always something new to explore every time I go to Little Village.