La Grange 2019
A historic residential community with a vibrant downtown and a lively dining scene
Photo by Ed Ahern
For some towns, the first signs of warm weather season are robins and blooming tulips. In La Grange, there’s no surer signal of spring than the sight of alfresco tables and chairs set up along La Grange Road and a glimpse of posters for the annual Pet Parade in storefront windows. La Grange has become a destination for its lively dining scene over the last several years. But the village is also known for its rich history, quaint traditions and strong sense of community, which combine to give it its distinctive character.
The locals call it “DTLG.” Downtown La Grange is considered a cool place to hang out, not just among the teens and tweens that can be found in the local fro-yo and pizza spots, but for the more than 15,500 residents and the additional thousands of visitors that flock to La Grange to eat, drink and be merry.
Eat your way through town . . . at one of the more than dozens of eateries located in DTLG. Many of them are located on La Grange Rd. and some are next-door neighbors. These are the kind of neighbors, though, who ask one another for a cup of sugar or hang out at a block party, since most are members of the active La Grange Business Association are friends as well as friendly competitors.
Explore a world of flavors . . . by savoring a taste of India at Kama Bistro, where you can savor classics like vindaloo and tikka masala as well as creative takes on the regional cuisine. Tour Asia via your palate at one of the many Asia-inspired
spots, including WOOW Sushi, Thipi Thai, Forbidden Noodles, Aodake Ramen, Sushi Ukai and Yau’s Place. “Ciao” down on Italian fare at La Buona Vita, Lucca’s Pizzeria & Ristorante or Victory Tap featuring Armand’s Pizza. Feel the Latin beat at spots like Casa Margarita, Santiago’s Mexican Restaurant and, one of the newer Latin-inspired places in the village, Altiro Latin Fusion. Munch a veritable melting pot of items at Palmer Place, where you can order the signature corned beef at a
restaurant known for its annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration, spoon some homemade German potato salad, or sample any number of international brews on tap. Or stick closer to home with American and continental-style fare at hometown favorites like Al’s Char-House, Fireside Wood Fired Pizza & Café, Nicksons Eatery, Q-BBQ and Steak + Vine.
Look on the sunny side (up) of life . . . at breakfast places like Blueberry Hill Breakfast Café or Café Calbay. Brunching is a thing at Prasino, a farm-to-table, sustainability-minded restaurant that also has an extensive lunch and dinner menu.
See what the fuss about avocado toast and acai bowls is all about at Owl & Lark juice and coffee bar.
Get fresh fruit, veggies and more . . . at the weekly Farmer’s Market held in the parking lot just south of Village Hall on Thursdays from May to October. Fresh produce, baked goods, and flowers are available from local and area farmers.
Kick up the alfresco experience . . . by dining in a rooftop space complete with strands of white lights and a handy screen to keep out pesky bugs and winds. Two-level Fourteensixteen puts a high-level twist on favorite dishes, too. For a few days
in June, drink, dine and get an East Coast vibe in a dressed-up alley next to Nicksons Eatery as part of Nicksons’ annual Lobster Fest.
Get entertainment with your food . . . at Barrel House Social, which lives up to its name with regular events like trivia nights, the Queen of Hearts raffle and comedy shows by a local group, the Mother Cluckers. Test your trivia knowledge at Wild Monk, which offers special events, viewing parties, beer dinners and seasonal beer tappings, along with a Bloody Mary bar that’s a sight to behold on Sunday mornings.
Channel your inner chef or mixologist . . . with classes and tasting events at various downtown La Grange restaurants. Kama Bistro holds classes on Indian cuisine in a newly-added space, where you can learn how to make curries and mother
sauces. Fourteensixteen frequently offers mixology classes that fill up as fast as you can down a martini.
We all scream for ice cream . . . at local hotspot Tate’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Shop, popular not just after Little League games but all year long, thanks to the handcrafted ice cream made on the premises in small batches. Or get the scoop at Cold Stone Creamery. Frozen yogurt is also a big thing in La Grange, with froyo spots like Forever Yogurt, Red Mango and TrugurtFrozen Yogurt inside Di Nico’s Pizza.
SOS or speaking of snacks . . . nosh away your cravings at Aracely’s Bakery, known as much for its house-specialty tamales as its pastries. Indulge your sweet tooth at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Lilett Candies or We’re Nuts. Taste what a community kitchen is all about at United Kitchen, with goodies from local food crafters.
Satisfy late-night cravings . . . at Di Nico’s Pizza, which is open until 3 a.m. Di Nico’s is a gathering place for teens and young adults as well as families and is known for its giant $5 stadium pizza slices.
Browse, Buy and Be Entertained
Come for the dining, but stay for the day in La Grange for the abundance of shopping and browsing spots. This is a town where you can shop locally and chat with friendly proprietors, some of whom live in or near La Grange and are pursuing the American Dream of owning their own retail business. Beyond shopping, several outlets offer unique experiences like arts and crafts, or entertainment.
Shop in style . . . at one of many upscale boutiques offering seasonal fashions and accessories. Get a little something special to wear at Cleo Boutique, Alixandra Collections or Jayne, all of which pride themselves on selection and customer service. Locally owned Linnea Jewelers provides expertise in selecting gems and stones for every occasion, along with its dazzling displays of jewlery selections.
Discover something new or vintage . . . at Whisper Me Home, a home décor and gift enthusiast’s paradise. Get illuminated at Horton’s Home Lighting or talk to a friendly, knowledgeable hardware expert at the Ace Hardware inside Horton’s. Come for the books . . . stay for the gifts, greeting cards, toys and author events at Anderson’s Bookshop.
Stock up and sample . . . flavorful olive oils and vinegars at Oliveceto.
Grab some brushes . . . and listen to your instructors to create some impressive pieces at Bottle & Bottega (yes, it’s a BYOB place) or at Ceramic Art Café. If you’re serious about brushing up on your artistic skills, sign up for a class at the La Grange Art League.
Let the kids get their wiggles out . . . while you shop at Waterlemon, one of the newer stores in downtown a La Grange that features in indoor play space, a clothing/gift area, a café and a spot for private parties.
For four-legged friends . . . pick up grain-free treats, toys and an outfit for two at The Urban Mutt.
Catch a flick . . . at the historic La Grange Theatre, which offers discount prices and a hard-to-resist popcorn that often wafts out the iconic marquee onto La Grange Road. This is one of the grand movie places of yore, built in 1925 but still packing in crowds in 2019.
West Side Story and Greater La Grange
Go west, young woman or man, to the West End of La Grange. DTLG may be the big show, but this part of La Grange, within walking distance of La Grange Road, has made a name for itself as well.
Shop to your heart’s content . . . at Stockholm Objects, a Scandinavia-inspired lifestyle boutique. Beyond the upscale array of European and American fashion brands, there are accessories galore, unique home decor items like lighting and rugs and gifts for everyone on your list. Next, see how they put the charm in Vintage Charm, a boutique housed in a corner store flooded with light and filled with goods ranging from clothes to jewelry to gifts and home décor, some of them with disarming throwback appeal.
There’s art, too . . . The West End hosts an annual art festival in September featuring artwork from more than 150 artists and exhibitors as well as several food vendors.
Eat your fill . . . at West End restaurants like Now Serving Café & Catering for casual American fare, Antonino’s Ristorante for Italian pastas and pizzas and Moy Goy Inn for eat-in or take out Chinese.
Migrate south . . . along La Grange Rd.to extend your dining tour. On warm days, Tavern on La Grange, which fuses food,drinks and entertainment, throws open its doors for open-air eating.Outdoor diners can also discover the back patio at Café Salsa, sitting under a colorful umbrella as many locals do and imbibing a margarita (they’re on special on Wednesday nights). Those who can’t have too many margaritas or Mexican dishes can check out Restaurante Cocula or Brothers Mexican Grill, also along this stretch La Grange Rd. Bring your own adult beverages to Cida Thai, which specializes in Thai cuisine and has some great lunch deals.
Fun, Fun, Fun
Dress up Fido and Fifi or just bring a chair to enjoy the popular annual Pet Parade or one of the many special eventsin La Grange that bring the community into the streets — and attract thousands of visitors, too.
The 73nd Annual Pet Parade . . . will be held this year on June 1, the first Saturday after Memorial Day. The event draws thousands of residents, visitors and of course, their pets. Wave hello to the Grand Marshal — past Grand Marshals have included nearby or hometown media figures like Wendy Snyder and Steve Dahl and, back in the day, celebrities like Jack Palance, who led the parade in 1950 and onetime La Grange resident Chico Marx, who kicked it off in 1956. Pet Parade day is a big deal in La Grange. In fact, residents on La Grange Road or near it host pre-parties on their porches. After the parade, dozens of blocks hold their annual block parties.
Ride the Tilt-A-Whirl . . . or gulp down a lemonade shake-up at the annual carnival that coincides with the Pet Parade weekend.
Grab a blanket . . . or some lawn chairs and spread out for a patriotic picnic in Waiola Park or other spot in La Grange on July 3, when fireworks are shot off from the private La Grange Country Club, one of the oldest country clubs in the Chicago area.
Get crafty . . . at the 45th annual La Grange Craft Fair, July 12 - 14, where more than 200 artists from throughout the Midwest will sell one-of-a-kind,hand-crafted items ranging from original paintings and yard art, to clothing, jewelry, soaps, accessories and more. In conjunction with the fair, held downtown on La Grange Road and Harris Avenue, local stores and restaurants will feature special offers throughout the weekend.
Not ready to let summer go quite yet? Make a trek in August to Endless Summerfest in August, with performances by bands popular on the local circuit and a spectacular fireworks show on the closing evening.
Ring in the holidays . . . at the Hometown Holiday celebration and Holiday Walk in December. Even the coldest weather won’t keep away legions of revelers who sip hot cocoa and welcome Santa as he arrives by fire truck to light the holiday tree by Village Hall.
Clamber on playground equipment . . . or play some frisbee at any time of year at one of the many parks in town. Try Elm Park, Waiola Park or Sedgwick Park, which is where are lot of Little League games are played in spring and early summer.
Commune with History
Throw it back to the 1800s … when driving or strolling through the famed Historic District, a neighborhood of historic homes built in the early days of the village. Many of these homes date to the mid-19th century and have historically interesting features, like carriage houses that were originally used for horses.
Party like it’s 1899 . . . at the Derby Days Bourbon Tasting event on April 27 at the La Grange Area Historical Society, a fixture in town at the corner of La Grange Road and 47th Street. View displays, read through archives and delve a little deeper
into local history — there’s a file for almost every residence in town. Or combine history and fun at special events like the What’s Wright in La Grange walking tour May 19, the popular Tea with Your American Girl Doll, or the fundraising trivia night.