Chicago Neighborhoods: Little Village

Chicago is home to a huge and vibrant Mexican-American community, but nowhere is that more readily and genuinely felt than the Little Village neighborhood on the city’s West Side. A tiled, terra cotta gateway emblazoned with ‘bienvenidos’ warmly welcomes visitors to experience the supermarkets, taquerias and countless carts and vendors hawking churros, tamales and other authentic Mexican street foods. As one might expect, the annual Mexican Independence Day and Cinco de Mayo fiestas in Little Village are among the biggest such celebrations in the city.

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.

It begins west of California Avenue at 26th Street. Within a couple of blocks, Mexican flags fly. Or droop, depending on the Chicago winds.

The mural on the wall of El Milagro Tortilleria, unlike many murals in these communities, doesn’t portray the myths and legends of pre-Columbian Mexico or popular post-revolutionary themes; this mural, with its contemporary faces, celebrates this Chicago neighborhood.

Adjacent to the tortilla factory is El Milagro’s taqueria. Here, locals and visitors — one family with roots in Nuevo Laredo and Tijuana makes a monthly pilgrimage from northwest Indiana just for this — take their places along the cafeteria line for made-to-order tacos (try the carne asada), for guisados (stews . . . sample the lengua), for any of seven different kinds of tamales (eight on Fridays, with the addition of tamales de camarones — shrimp tamales).

Stop at one the panaderías (bakeries) and try something. Anything. Or risk entering the shop at 26th and Spaulding Avenue called Dulcelandia (Candyland) and test your ability to resist the zillions of wrapped sweets ready for stuffing into any of the riot of colorful piñatas also on sale. (One favorite sweet: Glorias, a chewy candy from the state of Nuevo Leon made of goat milk and pecans and, certainly, other good things.)

Little Village is more than Little Mexico. Troha’s Fish and Shrimp House, a takeout joint on 26th near Keeler Avenue, has been doing brisk business out of the same compact storefront since 1920. Chicagoans argue pizza the way Texans debate barbecue — and the unique, medium-thick pies at Home Run Inn (31st Street at Kildare Avenue) have been celebrated since 1923, two decades before the invention of internationally promoted “Chicago-style” pizza.


Black Hole Arcade Pizzeria

  • Sports & Recreation

Black Hole Arcade, which includes 75 arcade machines, several pool tables and televisions, has been offering family entertainment for 16 years.

Free Admission | 3057 W. 26th St. | 773.254.9280

John G. Shedd House

  • Historical Landmarks

Located at 2316 S. Millard Avenue stands the former home of John G. Shedd, the second president and chairman of the board of Marshall Field & Company and a major contributor to the aquarium that would adopt his name. Today it is an unmarked private residence.

2316 S. Millard Ave.

Manuel Perez Jr. Memorial Plaza

  • Art & Architecture

This small park featuring murals and mosaics honors Manuel Perez Jr, who was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of Luzon, Philippine Islands in February 1945, a month before he was killed in action.

Free Admission | 26th St. & Kolin Ave.

Rudy Lozano Tribute Marker

  • Historical Landmarks

Rudy Lozano’s short life was characterized by passionate community activism. He strove to empower workers and forge coalitions among Latinos, African Americans, and other minorities. Selected as a Chicago Tribute Marker of Distinction.

Free Admission | 4035 W. 25th St.


Bombon Café

  • Food Retail: Desserts

Bombon sells cakes for all occasions, including single portions for those who don’t need an excuse to eat cake. Tres leches cake is their specialty, but they also carry a variety of other pastries.

3748 W. 26th St. | 773.277.8777

Catedral Café

  • Dining

This quaint European-style café adorned with religious paraphernalia features a large menu of Spanish, Italian and French dishes. The bakery scenes in the film Stranger Than Fiction were filmed there.

2500 S. Christiana Ave. | 773.277.CAFE (2233)

Chicago Live Poultry

  • Food Retail: Specialty Food

Patrons of this live poultry house can choose their bird (or rabbit), and within eight minutes it will be butchered and ready to go, sending customers home with some very fresh meat.

2601 S. Ridgeway Ave. | 773.542.9451


  • American (Traditional)

Although under new ownership the last two years, Chickie’s remains the same since opening in 1962. Its Italian beef is considered among the best and eaten standing, though there are stools outside seasonally.

2839 S. Pulaski Rd. | 773.277.2333


  • Food Retail: Specialty Food

Dulcelandia is the perfect place to get a taste of the sweeter side of Mexico. This bright, pinata-covered store sells a huge variety of Mexican candy (and a few American favorites).

3300 W. 26th St. | 773.522.3816

El Fandango Restaurant and Taqueria

  • Mexican

Owned by the same family as Mariano’s Western Wear, El Fandango is a cozy Mexican restaurant adorned with artifacts from Mexico.

3331 W. 26th St. | 773.762.1100

El Faro

  • Mexican

In addition to the traditional meat-filled Mexican menu, El Faro features many vegetarian options.

3936 W. 31st St. | 773.277.1155

El Milagro Tortillas and Taquerias

  • Mexican

A popular taqueria, El Milagro uses fresh tortillas made in the attached tortilla shop of the same name.

3050 W. 26th St. | 773.847.9407

El Nopal Bakery

  • Food Retail: Bakeries

Opened in 1954 using personal recipes, Nopal claims to have introduced traditional holiday breads Pan de Muertos and Rosca de Reyes to Chicago. Its specialty is the unique heart-shaped hojarasca cookie.

3648 W. 26th St. | 773.762.9204

Home Run Inn

  • Pizza

This is the original location of the famous pizza chain, owned and operated by the same family since 1923.

4254 W. 31st St. | 773.247.9696


  • Food Retail: Juice Bars & Smoothies

Open since 1965, Jacaranda is a family-owned, neighborhood bar known for its Latin jazz and its signature beer drink, the Michelada.

3608 W. 26th St. | 773.521.0095

La Justicia Restaurante Mexican Restaurant

  • Mexican

La Justicia is one of the most popular restaurants in Little Village, serving up quality Mexican dishes and many that originated with the owners.

3901 W. 26th St. | 773.522.0041

Lalo’s Mexican Restaurant

  • Mexican

The 26th Street Lalo’s Restaurant is the oldest of five locations. Its best seller is the Zamora Steak Plate, which has since been adopted at many other Mexican restaurants.

4126 W. 26th St. | 773.762.1505

Mi Tierra

  • Mexican

This bright pink restaurant is a great place to experience the Little Village community while eating delicious Mexican food and enjoying live music on weekends.

2528 S. Kedzie Ave. | 773.254.7722

Panaderia Coral

  • Food Retail: Bakeries

“La Casa de Pan Fino” is this very popular Little Village bakery’s slogan. Around for more than 20 years, it’s possibly the only Chicago bakery selling and specializing in a sweet shell-shaped bread called picones.

3807 W. 26th St. | 773.762.4132, 866.264.5413

Quima Juices

  • Food Retail: Juice Bars & Smoothies

Quima Juices serves juices and smoothies made from an assortment of 35 fruits and vegetables, designed by a nutritionist to aid good health and taste great.

3439 W. 26th St. | 312.533.9150

Taqueria Los Comales

  • Mexican

Los Comales is a very popular restaurant chain famed for its Mexico City–style tacos. This is the first of several Chicagoland locations.

3141 W. 26th St. | 773.247.0977

Troha’s Chicken & Shrimp House

  • Seafood

Open since 1920, Troha’s claims to be the first shrimp house in Chicago, as well as the first place with carry-out fried chicken. Great place to grab lunch or dinner to go.

4151 W. 26th St. | 773.521.7847


Mariano’s Western Wear

  • Fashion

Many western wear stores line 26th street, but Mariano’s is the oldest and one of the only places in the city to custom shape cowboy hats.

3259 W. 26th St. | 773.247.2300

Ritmo Latino

  • Shopping

Ritmo sells primarily music from Latin American artists, some American music and Spanish-language DVDs and books (some originals and some translations). Outside are the handprints of famous Latino musicians.

3649 W. 26th St. | 773.542.9007


Taste of Pilsen & Little Village

  • Bus,
  • Walking

It’s a fiesta for the senses in the heart of Chicago’s Mexican American community! Get a taste of the neighborhood with Chicago Neighborhood Tours before digging in to the most authentic Mexican cuisine to be had anywhere in Chicago.

77 E. Randolph St. | 312.742.1190 (TTY: 312.744.2947)


26th St. Mexican Independence Day Parade

  • Kid and Family Events,
  • Parades

Celebrate Mexican Independence at the 26th St. Mexican Independence Day Parade on Sept. 9th in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood.

Free Admission | 3100 W. 26th St. | 773.521.5387

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