Wicker Park: The Circle Salon

The best way to get to know a neighborhood is to ask someone who spends a lot of time there, either because they live there or do business there.

Jamie of The Circle Salon in Wicker Park was kind enough to take a few minutes to tell me about why it’s great to live and work in Wicker.

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What is “West Bucktown”?

You may see ads for apartments in “West Bucktown” or “West Wicker Park.”

West Bucktown (and “West Wicker Park” for that matter) have been invented because Bucktown and Wicker Park have seen rent rates rise a lot in the past few years, and the demand has exceeded the supply.  If you see a Bucktown unit listed for less than other units you’ve seen in Bucktown, the most likely reason is because it’s not actually in Bucktown, but it’s close by.

This is Bucktown, West Bucktown, and Humboldt

Both Wicker Park and Bucktown are bound Western to the West and Ashland to the East.

West Bucktown is bound by Fullerton and Armitage to the north and south but it’s as far west as California and goes as far east as Bucktown.

Wicker Park is south of Bucktown, bound by the north and south by North Avenue and Augusta. West of Western below Armitage is Humboldt Park; “West Wicker Park” doesn’t exist. It’s code for Humboldt Park.

There are plenty of walkable areas and neighborhoods in Chicago. If you have questions, feel free to give us a call: (773) 697-5100.

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Lost in Chicago: California Blue Line Logan Square

Some call this area “West Bucktown” some call it “Logan Square.” Either way, here’s what to do:

Best Place for Ears: The Congress Theater is actually a music venue. Like may Chicago music venues, it’s very pretty-ugly inside. It used to be splendiferous, and now is looking a bit worn, a neighborhood staple with noise violations.

Best Place for Eyes: No art galleries around here (yet.) There’s a store front on the 2300 block of Milwaukee that has weird art-things in the windows, like enormous origami paper cranes.


Best Place for Noms: Taqueria Moran. The mouth waters thinking of this place. So good. Get the sope with the pollo desembrado. Because there’s mole sauce. This place also has beer! It’s cheap, no frills, delicious. I hope it stays here forever.

Noms Honorable Mention: The tie is between the Boiler Room and Revolution Brewery. Boiler Room wins because they manage to make pizza not boring, and even if they don’t make their own beer like Revolution, they win because they don’t have sports on TV. Be advised that it’s cash only.

Best Place after a Long Day: The Two Way at Fullerton and Milwaukee. There’s a great mix in this bar- everyone drinks here. Sometimes there’s a special: a pitcher and two shots for $8.

Long Day Honorable Mention: Cole’s Bar. Grungy, hoodie, feels familar even if it’s your first time there. Plus, pool tables.

Best Place for Brain: Go to the corner store and practice your Spanish reading skills. They’ve got interesting candy and food there, and exposing your brain to new things makes you smarter.

Brain Honorable Mention: Sorry, you’re out of luck. Vas Foremost Liquors has a great selection to help you kill it.

Best Place for Coffee: Cafe Mustache. Because it’s the only place for coffee (besides Cozy Pancakes and Taqueria Moran), and their website is very cute.

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What Are You Looking For in an Apartment?

These are the questions I ask my clients. These questions may seem obvious, but having something to point to is the best way to get over ambivalence. I find it helps clarify our goals, and is a great way to focus our search efforts. When you’re looking for a place, ask yourself these questions.

1. Number of bedrooms you need

2. What pets do you have?

3. Do you need parking or to be near public transit?

4. Price range

5. Where do you live now? (neighborhood)

6. Desired neighborhoods (your top two)

7. Move in date

8. Anything else that you think may be helpful

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Lost in Chicago: Western Blue Line Bucktown

This is the western border of Bucktown.

Best Place for Ears: The Mutiny. Crappy low ceiling, great place to see bands.

Best Place for Eyes: Ipsento Coffee has a rotating art display all the time. Prints, drawings, and photographs. Also, the decor and bold use of color will inspire you.

Best Place for Noms: Belly Shack blows everything else away. If things on the menu sound weird, try them. Nothing here could be improved upon, everything is excellent/amazing.

Noms Honorable Mention: Ipsento Coffee House. Delicious sandwiches named after authors. Try the Garrison Keilor.

Ipsento Coffee

Best Place after a Long Day: Green Eye right by the stop. Dark wood, dark lighting, snarky signage, a local feeling. It’s cash only.

Long Day Honorable Mention: Quenchers. The reason this place comes second and not first is because there’s a 10 minute walk north from the Western Stop. Sometimes there’s music. They probably have a beer that you’ll love, and if not, you can satisfy yourself with the free popcorn.

Best Place for Brain: Bucktown Music has music lessons that will help your brain work better.

Brain Honorable Mention: The Teacher Store has tons of art supplies, paints, stickers, maps, and ESL workbooks. Yes these things are for kids, but having fun making an art project will stimulate your creativity and make you think differently, helping your brain become more plastic.

Best Place for Coffee: Definitely Ipsento Coffee. Get the Ipsento with cayenne. Inside the Western Blue Line Stop, there’s a Dunkin’ Doughnuts, and across the street there’s a McDonald’s. But who cares. Go to Ipsento.

Luis and Jessica Solares on why Bucktown’s a great place to live and work.

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Featured Listing Friday: Logan Square 3BR Fresh Gut Rehab

Fresh Gut Rehab in Logan Square, Open Floor Plan

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At N Lawndale and N Milwaukee Avenue, you’re a 5 minute bike ride to the Logan Square Blue Line, the Logan Theater, Longman & Eagle, Telegraph Wine Bar, Boulangerie, Nothin’ Less Coffee House, I Am Logan Square, Uncharted Books, Sunrise Fresh Market… lots of stuff.

You can walk to the Belmont Blue Line (fewer than 10 minutes).

A pair of tandem spots is available for $50.

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Lost in Chicago: Damen Blue Line Wicker Park

This is “The Heart of Wicker Park,” the Six Points, the land of  boutiques, bars, restaurants, salons, and spas as far as the eye can see.

There’s a lot going on. Don’t worry! Start with these places.

Best Place for Ears: Double Door. It reminds me what I imagine Wicker Park used to be. There’s a downstairs bar as well. Eighty percent of the time there’ll be great music. But bring ear plugs.

Best Place for Eyes: For some reason, there’re a lot of eye exam/glasses dispenseries in Wicker Park. But I’ll say that the Flat Iron Arts building is the best place for eyes. First Fridays of the month studios open up and visiting artists hang their work in the hallways.

Best Place for Noms: There’re a ton of places to get bar food in Wicker Park.


Other options abound. Bin Wine Cafe offers a civilized alternative. You can get a flight of bloody Marys (which is almost the same as food) or mimosas if you don’t want to commit to just one drink. The food’s delicious.

Noms Honorable Mention: Sultan’s Market is wonderful for quick, cheap, and delicious. Get the lentil soup and falafel sandwich. There’s also a smoothie bar. And you can grab booze from across the street at W Grocer- Sultan’s Market is BYOB.

Best Place after a Long Day: This is really hard. There’re so many great places to grab a drink. Big Star and Violet Hour have a lot to offer, but I’m so tired of hearing how wonderful they are- those places belong more to the city now than Wicker Park. Salud Tequila Lounge has tasty as well as interesting drinks. If you don’t like tequila, you will when you leave.

Long Day Honorable Mention: Piece has good pizza and brews their own beer. Have a Golden Arm and get a white pizza with mashed potatoes, bacon, and spinage. Yes, seriously.

Best Place for Brain: Myopic Books is gloriously claustrophobia-inducing in some areas, luxuriously lofty and open in others. You can get coffee here and relax, as being surrounded by books will lull you in to a state of mmm. The check out desk makes you feel like you’re in kindergarden because it’s so high up the employees can look down on you. Hopefully, there will be a new cat there in the future. The old one was adopted by a regular to be taken care of in peace for its last few months of life.

Brain Honorable Mentions: I didn’t say Quimby’s first because you have to walk a little further, but it’s really hard to walk in and not buy something. There’s little zines, interesting books, and lots of flyers to let you know what’s going on in the area.

Best Place for Coffee: I have to give it to Wormhole. At Wormhole, old technology and dorky stuff are embraced like a fun, friendly robot pal. Super Nintendo detrius, Star Wars posters, and plastic figurines decorate the place, but it doesn’t feel like an ironic nod or fake nostalgia or  like kitchy Jimmy Johns décor. It’s an acknowledgement of the role old tech played in our lives and how it continues to be something we can connect with. Also, they have a Delorian!

Coffee Historical Mention: Filter. (I think they still use the same ratty furniture from the original store in the 90s-this is a homey coffee shop.) The coffee’s good, warm lighting, exposed brick, and the delicious, soft clattering of Mac keyboards provide a comforting atmosphere. Please ignore the chains, Starbucks and Caribou.

Jaime, owner of the Circle Salon (a 10 minute walk from the Damen Blue Line) talks about Wicker Park.

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How to Not Go Insane Looking for an Apartment

Yes, it’s real. BLOB MONSTER!! (at 400 N Noble- at Hubbard)

The reasons that people move can be spiritual or practical, but are usually both. They want to find the perfect apartment where they feel comfortable, yet also want a place that speaks to them and their dreams. They’re afraid to narrow it down to Andersonville when they fear their ideal apartment could be languishing in Lakeview.

 I get people looking all over the city for apartments. When I ask them to narrow down what they want by neighborhood, they name about half the neighborhoods in the city.

It’s absolutely insane to think that naming half the city counts as “narrowing it down.” But I totally get it because I’ve done it myself.

Home is an expression of self, and helping someone find a place can be personal. The reality is that location is the most important thing. If you’re looking all over the city, it means you’re still in the start of your search, and the idea of what you’re looking for hasn’t gelled yet. When you’re in this stage, you’re not ready to actually look at apartments in person.

I’ll just tell you now to save you the trouble: you’re probably in the right neighborhood where you live now. Visit other neighborhoods, don’t move there. Here’s a post about exceptions to this rule.

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If You’re From Out Of Town: Weirdness About Looking for an Apartment in Chicago

I get a lot of calls from people out of town. They don’t understand the rental market in Chicago- how could they? They’re from out of town.

Here are some scenarios I’ve come across a few times. Maybe they’ll be beneficial to you.

1. I had a client looking for a place in Wicker Park- two to three bedrooms, dining room, lots of space, close to the train, parking spot included. For $1100. I absolutely did not laugh. I tried to let her down gently. She didn’t know how expensive Wicker Park was compared to other neighborhoods, but she had heard good things about it. If you’re not familiar with Wicker Park, a rehabbed, nicer vintage 1 bedroom will be about $1450 in a prime spot (pictured below.) I told her if she wanted to stay at that price and still have space and amenities, she might be better off looking further north or west, as Wicker Park is a very popular (read: expensive) neighborhood. We worked together to find a place that could accommodate her budget and preferred amenities.

Click on the picture. It's available for a move in on 6/1/12.

2. I had someone looking for a place in “West Chicago.” Turns out that that’s actually a suburb north and west of Chicago. In the city where he was from, searching for the major city also included apartment options in the suburbs. Google searching for “apartments in Chicago” will not turn up suburban options. A suburb of Chicago is not Chicago. Be specific in your Google searches.

3. Dogs are harder to find an apartment for. This surprises people who are downsizing from a house and moving into the city. Some have even been surprised that an extra deposit and/or fee is required. Everyone who has a dog insists that they don’t bark, and that they’re well behaved and trained. Landlords have heard it all. It only takes one tenant to let a dog ruin a place for the landlord to say “never again,” unfortunately. And if your dog doesn’t bark when you’re home, it surely barks when you’re out. Other tenants will have a problem with that.

At the end of the day, you get to pick two out of three:

(a) cheap price

(b) upgraded loveliness and amenities

(c) prime location

Part of the fun of the hunt is seeing where you can get the most for your money. We can help you with that. Give us a call (773) 697-5100.

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Why an Ad for an Apartment Might Not Have Pictures

Pictures in the ad are your first look at an apartment that may be your home some day. They are the reason why you decide to make an appointment to see an apartment or not. They’re the key marketing tool for agent.

So why advertise a unit without pictures? That must mean the apartment is not photogenic, right? It is possible. But not likely.

Here are top three reasons for no photos:

1. The listing is new or has been rehabbed, and there aren’t pictures yet.

2. The listing is in the process of being rehabbed and there isn’t a finished product yet. Showing an apartment in the process of being rehabbed is not attractive.

3. The apartment is covered in clothes or pet toys or whatever because the current tenants are moving (or just really messy.) It’s impossible to get a picture of any part of the apartment like this. Showing a messy picture with someone else’s stuff all over the place does not help you imagine yourself living there.

Other reasons there might not be pictures:

4. The pictures were taken at night, and it makes the apartment look bad or creepy.

5. The apartment is ugly, and a sales person thinks they can talk you into it when they show it to you. This is the least likely of the options. Any picture is better than no pictures at all.

Also, I’ve rented some apartments that I personally thought weren’t that attractive, but my clients loved them. And you the client know if a place is right for you.

If you have questions about any of our units, with or without pictures, I’d be happy to answer them. Please give me a call: (773) 697-5100.

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