The town of Berwyn, its neighborhoods stamped with the footprints of many early 20th-century Chicago-style bungalows and its roadways dotted with historic and architecturally significant buildings, grew up in the shadow of its big-city neighbor to the east. In recent years, however, Berwyn has begun to establish its own distinctive and rejuvenated identity, with its own increasingly popular events and attractions. A series of colorful murals painted on buildings and other structures around Berwyn as part of a public art initiative exemplifies the increasingly vibrant character of this community of about 56,000, known for being active, inclusive and artistic.
Take a multicultural mural tour to see the artworks for yourself. You’ll see them on underpasses that have been transformed into concrete canvasses, as virtual landscapes on the sides of buildings, and as pieces set up gallery-style in the Depot District, near the two Metra train stations in town.
Drive or bike on your own . . . around town or wait until later in the year to take a bus tour as part of an official mural appreciation event offered by the All Berwyn Committee.
Applaud performances . . . at the 16th Street Theatre, which stages productions from a revolving group of playwrights-in-residence who are part of this North Berwyn Park District program. Upcoming shows include "Alabaster" by Audrey Cefaly from Jan. 31 to March 1, and "Lived through This" by Anne K. Ream, Marilyn Campbell-Lowe and Caity-Shea Violette.
Page through books and periodicals . . . or learn a new language at Berwyn Public Library. Bring the kids to story time or take a U.S. citizenship class. In time for Valentine’s Day, nosh on decadence at a "Chocolate Overdose" demo with a local chef on Feb. 8.
Close to the west suburban dining metropolis of Oak Park, Berwyn has plenty of fine dining and casual restaurants of its own to brag about.
Indulge in authentic Mexican fare . . . as you immerse your foods in delicious sauces and dips at locally-famous spots like Lalo’s Restaurant, Las Fuentes, Nuevo Poncitlan, Zacatacos, Tacos Y Salsa, Los Corrales Taqueria & Restaurant and others.
Take a culinary trip . . . to the Mediterranean at Autre Monde Café and Spirits along bustling Roosevelt Rd., known for its inventive menu and fusion of European flavors and locally-sourced ingredients. For a preview, read all about it on page 56.
You know you want it . . . so go ahead and satisfy your craving for pizza — including the real Chicago pizza of tavern squares and slices — at Paisan’s Pizzeria & Bar, Benny’s Pizza, Di Nicos Pizza, Nonno’s Pizza and Waldo Cooney’s Pizza, to name a few.
Say "Czech, please". . . with a dish of goulash or stuffed peppers in tomato gravy at Czech Plaza Restaurant, which reflects the town’s long-vibrant Czech community.
Do the diner thing . . . at another Berwyn institution, Connie’s Family Restaurant and Cocktails, which whips up a mean omelet and a hearty cup of chicken soup.
Savor above-freezing weather . . . for the next few months with a cool treat at Gina’s Italian Ice or at La Michoacana Premium. Go back again in summer!
Explore . . . all other food worlds in Berwyn’s thriving dining scene. Twirl pasta like a pro at Capri Ristorante on Roosevelt Road or at its newer sister location, Capri Due, in the Depot District. Or delve into something delectably different at Las Vegas Vietnamese Restaurant, rub up against some good barbecue and wings at Cigars and Stripes BBQ Lounge, or head outside to the patio in the warmer months to eat mural-side at Lavergne’s Tavern, which is locally famous for its Mexican scallops.
See how Berwyn has fashioned a reputation for fun, with an indie bar scene and charming coffee houses.
Practice your best James Bond . . . with a "shaken not stirred" order (yes, there is a James Bond 007 drink on the menu) or enjoy a martini or other cocktail just the way you like it at Olive or Twist.
Try a margarita . . . blended, salt-rimmed or any other way, at the many authentic Mexican eateries in Berwyn.
Take a mini self-guided pub crawl . . . in the Depot District, hitting spots like the James Joyce Irish Pub (heading into its St. Patrick’s Day busy season), Godson’s Bar and Lounge, Lavergne’s Tavern or the Perception Lounge.
Get your coffee fix . . . at one of the non-chain coffee houses and cafés in Berywn, including Avito Caffe (try the signature Nutella Latte), Friendly Coffee Lounge or Mission Café.
Order an extra shot of namaste . . . at Lunges and Lattes, a yoga studio that also serves up a menu of premium coffees.
The night life of Chicago does not stop at its western border, as Berwyn proves to be a hive of activity after dark.
Live it up . . . at one of the Chicago area’s most famous nightclubs, FitzGerald’s, famous for American roots music, where you can sip a Chicago Fizz while listening to the likes of the Church of Cash (a Johnny Cash Tribute Band) or The Mudmen, a Pink Floyd Experience. Check the calendar for special events through the year, like a Mardi Gras Bash with brass bands on Feb. 2 or be a regular at genre nights like Bluesday Tuesdays or Country Nights on Thursdays. In summer, the venue attracts thousands of visitors to its annual American Music Festival, now in its 39th year.
Catch one of the many eclectic shows . . . at Wire, a venue that spotlights artists ranging from young local School of Rock students to bands that have played together for decades on pro circuits. Throw it back to the late 1980s and early 90s with an upcoming Hairbangers Ball Show or throw it even farther back at a February performance by Bill O’Connell’s Chicago Skyliners Big Band. Get rocking if you’ve always wanted to and take a class at Wire’s on-site School of Music and Technology.
Make friends . . . or bring some friends at the irresistibly named Friendly Tap, a live music bar that’s part of a music community spanning music classes and the aforementioned coffee bar. Feeling brave? Step up for open mic night.
Busy, eclectic retail shops are part of the Berwyn street scape and are great for browsers and shoppers alike.
Have a big screen moment . . . during a visit to Reel Art, where you can find an assortment of movie posters, books, magazines and toys, among other movie-related collectibles. Say hi to MeTV’s Svengoolie (aka Rich Koz) who made the uttering of "Berrrwyn" famous, at his in-store signing on Feb. 2.
Focus on fun (and funnies) . . . at Top Cut Comics and make a local stop at Berwyn’s Toys and Trains, which has become a go-to spot for railroad hobbyists and enthusiasts of all ages.
Find something for Fido . . . at Urban Mutt, whether it’s everyday toys and treats or a pet birthday cake made to order.
Discover how there is no shortage of recreation time in this ‘burb, which offers programs for residents and non-residents through the City Recreation Department, North Berwyn Park District and South Berwyn Park District. (Fun fact: what is now Berwyn used to be different towns: LaVergne, Swedetown, South Oak Park and Berwyn.)
Compete in friendly rounds of games . . . from sand volleyball to flag football to a simple game of checkers on a game table, at one of the many parks run by the two park districts, including Berwyn Gardens, Freedom Park and the charmingly named Friendship Park and Sunshine Park, among others.
Leash up your pup . . . for a trip to the town’s first public recreation dog park, Karban Park.
Connect with nature . . . in the butterfly garden and ponds at Proksa Park or keep an eye out for the first spring buds on the trees at Karasek Park in the historic Depot District.
The iconic Berwyn Spindle, a sculpture of actual cars speared and stacked vertically, is no longer in the Cermak Plaza parking lot at the corner of Harlem and Cermak but lives on in infamy. Popularized by the "Wayne’s World" movie in the early 90s, the sculpture was removed more than a decade ago. But you can visit other intriguing only-in-Berwyn sites.
Behold the world’s largest laundromat . . . which is actually called World’s Largest Laundromat and spans 13,500 square feet lined with more than 300 machines. Don’t just sit there and stare as your clothes tumble — pass the time by watching TV, seeing the birds fly back and forth in the on-site aviary, playing an arcade game or two, relaxing in a massage chair, or even catching a live magic shows offered on various weekends.
Find out what a "collaboratorium" is . . . at Outta Space, a hip arts venue that offers live music, readings, workshops, art exhibits and more. Enjoy local and regional brews, wines and spirits while there after 4 p.m. Be the star at open mic, drop-in improv or creative open gym days.
Take a step back in time . . . even in this era of McMansions and mixed use developments by driving past some real Chicago architectural history — the many Chicago-style bungalow homes that are part of Berwyn’s history and neighborhood legacy.
See the sights, feast on foods or imbibe in drinks at one of the many special events held in Berwyn throughout the year.
Kick off golfing season . . . (who are we kidding? — Kick off spring eating and drinking season!) at the annual Depot District Mini-Golf Pub Crawl on April 18. Bring a putter and try your luck on a mini-golf greens set up at area dining establishments.
Hit cruise . . . on June 2 & 16 and July 7 & 21 for Berwyn Cruise Nights, a family friendly combination car show and social event.
Eat on down the road . . . at the Taste of Cermak Road all day and evening on July 23, with small plates and sweets from vendors along one of the town’s most notable thoroughfares.
Get your kicks . . . and scope out generations’ worth of vehicles at the WeatherTech Route 66 Car Show, slated for August 29. It’s one of the biggest and most well-known car shows along this historic roadway that stretched from Chicago to Los Angeles. The show also features live music and a food/vendor court.
Run with a song in your step . . . at the 5K Mariachi Run August 15, a race presented by the North Berwyn Park District that entertains participants with live Mariachi bands performing along the route.
Say it with pride . . . on the afternoon of June 28, at the 4th Annual Berwyn Pride Walk, a march through the Depot District to celebrate the growing LGBTQ community and the city’s thriving diversity.
Raise a stein . . . on Sept. 18 & 19 at the annual Berwyn Oktoberfest in the Depot District, where you can spend some quality time in the beer garden and enjoy authentic ethnic fare while listening to a roster of musical acts.