Thursday, March 23, 2017

Hecho en Pilsen

Earlier this week, a friend and I spent a frosty, sunny afternoon in the Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen. We had lunch at Dusek's, a Michelin-starred restaurant named for the owner of the adjacent 100-year-old concert venue, Thalia Hall, the locus of what had predominantly been a Czech enclave about three miles southwest of Chicago's Loop. Over time, the area has become inhabited by Latino residents, mainly from Mexico. The cuisine at Dusek's reflected this reality and the chilaquiles was delicious. The restaurant has blended into the area, but not without controversy; its management was at the center of a firestorm recently (since resolved) for firing a Mexican-American dishwasher who had walked out as part of last months' A Day Without Immigrants restaurant workers' boycott.

Up and down 18th and 19th Streets, which form the core of Pilsen, you can find many traditional, long-term Mexican bakeries, restaurants, and stores. But newcomers in recent years have upset some long-term residents who have expressed their anger in the form of anti-gentrification graffiti. Bow Truss Coffee Roasters bore the brunt twice in 2015 and earlier this year, it closed all its locations for other business reasons. It is unclear if one thing led to the other.

Other relative newcomers, though, like the charming Modern Cooperative, Verdant Matter, The Spoke and Bird Bakehouse and Pilsen Community Books have not drawn the ire of the denizens; perhaps it's because many of these business were established by people living in the community?

Anchoring the western end of Pilsen, don't miss the always-free National Museum of Mexican Art, whose permanent collection is worth a visit on its own. Several current exhibitions are of interest - my favorite was Francisco Toledo's Hecho en CaSa, a tribute to the artist's Zapotec heritage and a marvel of copper, woven materials, and...large insects. Also worth seeing is Time to Get Ready: Fotografia Social, Chicago native Maria Varela's evocative 1960s black-and-white photographs taken while she actively participated in the Civil Rights movement in the South. Memoria Presente: An Artistic Journey opened March 24th.

It was fun to spot the Trump Loteria-style El Maligno decals placed strategically throughout Pilsen. I think that all residents agree on this designation.

No comments:

Post a Comment