What To See & Do Along Chicago's Brown Line Train

Café Ba-Ba-Reeba, courtesy of Flickr: squidish
Café Ba-Ba-Reeba, courtesy of Flickr: squidish
Photo of Elizabeth Newhart
9 February 2017

The Brown Line circles the Loop on elevated tracks and then heads to the northwest side of Chicago. This gives it the best of both worlds, with its origins in the center of the city and the slightly off-the-beaten-path route through neighborhoods like Lincoln Square and Kimball. Take a break from the marathon that is the Red Line and grab a seat on its friendlier – and often cleaner – cousin.

Things to do and see

Chicago’s Loop

Stops: State/Lake, Randolph/Wabash, Adams/Wabash, HWL State/Van Buren, LaSalle/Van Buren, Quincy, Washington/Wells

You’re unlikely to need a detailed guide when looking for things to do in the Loop. This gridlocked business and tourist mecca is packed full of culture, dining, and entertainment, and the central Brown Line stops get you to it all. For culture, check out the Art Institute, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Civic Opera House, or the Broadway in Chicago venues. For shopping visit Macy’s on State or Block 37 and dine at Remington’s Restaurant, Nando’s, or Randolph Tavern.

Civic Opera House | © Zesmeralda/Wikipedia

Lakeview Shopping

Stop: Southport

West Lakeview on Southport Avenue has everything the savvy North Sider needs. It’s become an upscale area for young adults and families, and it truly has it all: shop at Lululemon, Anthropologie, Krista K Boutique, or Benefit; drink at Lange’s, Schoolyard, or Southport Lanes; and eat at Crosby’s Kitchen, Coda di Volpe, or Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Also be sure to schedule in a visit to the historic Music Box Theatre for unparalleled performance entertainment, and be on the lookout for Amazon’s newest brick-and-mortar bookstore, opening in the neighborhood next summer.

Lincoln Square

Stop: Western

Stop off at Western to visit the charming and underrated neighborhood of Lincoln Square (often confused with the better known Lincoln Park and Logan Square). It’s fairly self-contained and more reminiscent of a close-knit suburb than an urban neighborhood. You’ll find top-notch dining, nightlife, and plenty of family-friendly community events happening year round. It’s the perfect place to while away an afternoon and get lost in an old bookshop or quaint café: try The Book Cellar, The Grind Café, or Flirty Cupcakes.

The Book Cellar | © Amy Guth/Flickr

Places to eat

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!

Stop: Armitage

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! is pretty much the closest you can get to an authentic Spanish tapas experience in Chicago. The traditional small-plate samplers offer guests the chance to taste several different menu options, making it a great place to come with a group. They serve more than 40 types of tapas, featuring seafood, vegetables, chicken, beef, and pork. Also try the main course paellas, and don’t forget about their brunch, dessert, kids, and gluten-free menus.

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! | © squidish/Flickr

Kedzie Avenue

Stop: Kedzie

If you’re in the mood for hidden gem culinary wonders, Kedzie is the stop for you. The neighborhood is packed full of Asian fusion restaurants that cover the culinary spectrum. Get casual Vietnamese at LD Pho, Persian kebabs at Noon-O-Kabab, homey Lebanese at Semiramis Lebanese Cuisine, Middle Eastern fare at Salam Restaurant, or budget-friendly Thai at Thai Valley. All these options are more than worth the long train trek.

Places to drink

Headquarters Beercade

Stops: Diversey, Chicago

All you need to know about Headquarters Beercade is that they’re modeled after an old-school arcade with dozens of vintage video games that are completely free for you to play while you enjoy your favorite adult beverages. What more could you want? Their two Chicago outposts are massive, welcoming, and every gamer kid’s fantasy come true. Round up all your friends and expect to bring your competitive A-game.

CTA Brown Line, Irving Park station | © User:JeremyA/Wikimedia Commons

The Globe Pub

Stop: Irving Park

The Globe Pub is often recognized as Chicago’s premier soccer bar, serving tasty eats and drinks daily. Though it has European roots, it’s certainly not without some American flair: check out their How I Met Your Mother trivia nights or Halloween costume contest, for example. But you just can’t visit without trying their fish and chips (i.e., fries) or sampling from their crazy-long beer and cider list. One thing that’s guaranteed is their round-the-clock TV coverage of worldwide soccer matches. So whether you’re a hardcore USWNT fan, a casual Word Cup watcher, or just someone looking for a cozy nightcap, it’s the perfect pub for everyone.