Tucked among the tree-lined streets of Chicago’s North Side, Andersonville is a smallish neighborhood that’s not in the least bit limited by its petite size. In fact, it is quite the go-to for yummy eats, trendy bars and artisan shops—not to mention the Midwest center for Swedish-American culture! At one time, the community was shaped by its Scandinavian population, which consisted of Swedish farmers who settled the area in the 1800s. While the farmland is long gone, traces of its former inhabitants still reside in the local food and heritage.
Probably the biggest homage to Andersonville’s roots is the Swedish American Center Museum. Visited by the King of Sweden himself for its opening, this cultural institution is an anchor of the community and was the first museum of its kind. Most Andersonville residents do not frequent the center, but it remains a pillar of tradition in a progressive neighborhood that has grown to be one of Chicago’s most diverse areas.
Aside from boasting some of the best Swedish pancakes in the city, Andersonville is known for its European-style bakeries, cafés and diners. The smell of cinnamon rolls, fresh-baked bread and other sweet treats practically follows you down the street. Old-fashioned ice cream parlors draw crowds year-round and the cozy confines of Ann Sather always serves up phenomenal brunches piled high with Swedish potato sausage. Of course, the dinner rush is well-received in this part of town, too, with a bustling line-up of restaurants along Andersonville’s main drag—Clark Street. This eight-block stretch is a dining destination for people from all over the city. From gourmet hamburgers with deep-fried pickles to Korean cuisine with a Westernized spin, foodies find a million reasons to make the trip up to Andersonville for a bite to eat.
Part of Andersonville’s charm is credited to its active community, which throws several themed festivals every year. Midsommarfest is a traditional Scandinavian holiday, held in June, to celebrate the summer solstice. This event features tons of regional vendors selling authentic wares and eats. Live bands and Swedish dance troupes provide entertainment for the affair, which draws tens of thousands of visitors to the neighborhood annually. In November, Andersonville gears up for St. Morten’s Gos Day. That’s when residents are joined by a motley crew of characters (Sven the Christmas Goose, Santa Claus, a Viking and the Red-nosed Reindog) who all go around to local businesses and wish the store owners and shoppers “Happy Holidays!”
Due to its small size, getting around Andersonville is pretty feasible on foot. Most of the action is on Clark Street, which cuts right through the center of the neighborhood and provides a popular thoroughfare for both pedestrian and automobile traffic. The #22 bus also runs down Clark Street and cruises downtown. Another north/south bus operates on Ashland and the #92 goes east/west along Foster Avenue on the southern border of Andersonville over to the lakefront. Just east of the neighborhood, between Broadway and Winthrop Avenue, are two Red Line EL stops at Bryn Mawr and Berwyn avenues. Hop on the train and shoot down to the Loop in minutes!