Around the World in Five Square Miles

I’ve lived my entire life in Rogers Park, if you don’t count the four years of college. After returning, I decided to get to know my own city again, starting with my old neighborhood. Rogers Park is located on the north side of the city of Chicago, sandwiched between Devon Avenue and Howard Street, the lakefront and Kedzie Avenue.

There have always been rumors that Rogers Park is the most diverse neighborhood in America and memories of the different restaurants and stores I had passed in my childhood seemed to support this.  But after crisscrossing my neighborhood with camera in hand, I’d say we have a convincing argument.

Rogers Park is roughly five square miles and with every turn I felt as if I had boarded a plane and gotten off somewhere new. Taking a right from Clark Street to Devon Avenue transports you from Mexico to India; take another right, on Touhy Avenue, and you’re in Israel.  You’d think that from living here all my life, I’d know what I’ll find around each corner — but I don’t.

Tamales Lo Mejor De Guerrero.

Tamales Lo Mejor De Guerrero on Clark Street

Spicy Chicken and Spicy Pork Tamales from Tamales Lo Mejor De Guerrero.

Spicy Chicken and Spicy Pork Tamales from Tamales Lo Mejor De Guerrero.

Panaderia Ayutla on Clark Street.

Panaderia Ayutla on Clark Street.

My family and I had a go-to Indian restaurant, the place we just always went. But a few years back, we decided to give one of the numerous other restaurants on Devon Avenue a try. We ventured just a few storefronts further and discovered Sabri Nihari, an Indian and Pakistani restaurant, and now it’s the restaurant we always go to, bringing friends and family because the food is just that good.

Middle Eastern cultures mix along Devon Avenue in Rogers Park.

Middle Eastern cultures mix along Devon Avenue in Rogers Park.

My neighborhood is home to the Midwest’s largest Hasidic Jewish community, the result of a post-World War II surge of European immigrants. Almost a dozen kosher bakeries, restaurants, and the last kosher butcher in Chicago — Romanian Kosher Sausage Co. — call Rogers Park home. On Devon Avenue, Indian, Pakistani, Russian and Jewish stores and restaurants rub shoulders. Clark Street offers a more south of the border mix of places — Mexican restaurants and bakeries, authentic Peruvian food and dishes from the Caribbean.

Romanian Kosher Sausage Co.

Romanian Kosher Sausage Co. on Clark Street

A row of kosher stores on Touhy Avenue in Rogers Park.

A row of kosher stores on Touhy Avenue in Rogers Park.

North Shore Kosher Bakery on Touhy Avenue.

North Shore Kosher Bakery on Touhy Avenue.

Is Rogers Park “the most diverse neighborhood in America?” I don’t know. But what I do know is that thanks to the wonderful variety of people who have chosen to call Rogers Park home… my home has got an awful lot of options for lunch and dinner.

Consider this photo essay just a taste of the restaurants, offerings and life of Rogers Park and the community.

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Article can also be found here.

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