The city of Chicago is a tangled maze of neighborhoods, carved up along ethnic, cultural and geographic lines. There are the 77 official "community areas" of the city, but locals identify more than 200 sub-regions across Chicago, from Wildwood to The Island to Hegewisch.
To help visitors (and locals) sort out the confusion, and to highlight the best of the city's many neighborhoods, the Department of Tourism has released a new free eBook.
"Eat Play Love Our Neighborhoods" contains write-ups on 75 neighborhoods, describing their history, culture, and -- more often than not -- their food.
The book was written by Alan Solomon, an award-winning writer who worked for newspapers from 1968 to 2008. He served as travel writer for the Chicago Tribune for fourteen of those years.
A few examples of his prose, first from the beginning of the Little Village entry:
The terra cotta gateway at 26th Street, the one with the tiled roof, says "Bienvenidos"--and suddenly it's as if you're not in Chicago anymore.
This is Little Village, the kinder, gentler name given the community once known as (and still officially listed as) South Lawndale. Park the car and walk, and listen, and sniff, and taste... and enjoy.
Solomon effuses as much about Belmont-Cragin as Magnificent Mile -- it is, after all, a product of the Department of Tourism. The Englewood entry is entitled "Comeback," and after discussing the neighborhood's historical ups and downs, Solomon writes politely, "Let's move quickly to one of the 'ups.'"
Still, it's a useful guide, slickly produced and very capably written. For anyone, visitor or local, looking to explore some of Chicago's less well-trodden areas, "Eat Play Love" is worth a read.