There’s always been something elemental and enigmatic about Division Street. This was true in Algren’s day, when it was known as the Polish Broadway; it was true when Studs Terkel named his book Division Street: America, though the title is metaphorical; and it’s true today, when wine bars have replaced winos and California rolls have pushed out pierogi on the most upscale street in Wicker Park, and for better or worse, one of the liveliest streets in the city.
Few thoroughfares have transformed as quickly or completely, so Yo spent a recent Friday night eating, drinking and carousing on Division to see what was new. Click on “More” below for our complete photo essay, including some pics that are Naked and Shameless.
We started the evening at Enoteca Roma, the wine bar that’s attached to Letizia’s Natural Bakery, at 2146 W Division St. Letizia, a real live Roman who has had a smash success with the bakery, said she “wanted a comfortable place where you can sip a great glass of wine with some simple yet incredible food, and relax. No velvet, no couches and no attitude.” She has succeeded admirably, with a long and fairly inexpensive wine list and a menu that’s heavy on cheeses, appetizers and small servings.
Only a couple of entrees are offered, but you can get a “flight” of bruschetta or cheeses along with your flight of wine to sample the variety. Our favorite was the brie with sliced green apples and a touch of honey. For dinner we had the pear ravioli and the delicious special – pasta with venison Bolognese. We sat at an outdoor table on Division, where wide sidewalks have created a haven for alfresco dining, but Enoteca has a spacious patio with additional seating out back too.
Business was slow at Jun Bar, 2050 W Division St (left), but the older Innjoy, 2051 W Division St (right), had a decent crowd.
The Small Bar, 2049 W Division St, is, as you would expect, a small bar.
Bravo Tapas and Lounge, 2047 W Division St (left), has three levels, a floor-to-ceiling waterfall inside and a full-service mojito bar outside. Caffe Gelato, 2034 W Division St (right) stays open late for those who want a more wholesome snack on Division St.
Vintage is a bad name for a comfortable little wine bar at 1942 W Division St.
Moonshine, 1824 W Division St, starts to feel like a dance club around midnight.
Barbecue and live music at Smoke Daddy, 1804 W Division St.
Unfortunately, there’s very little of the old grit left on Division Street, as you can see from the photos above. Phyllis’ Musical Inn, 1800 W Division St, is doing its best to make up for the general lack of grunge.
You can still see some of Chicago’s worst bands at Phyllis’ Musical Inn, including the highly entertaining “Naked & Shameless.” The punk-country duet consists of Buck Naked (the cowboy on the left) and Dave Shamelesss (the cowboy on the right). Their trademark eponymous number is a song called – you guessed it – “Naked and Shameless.” During the chorus (“Everyone wants to be Nake and Shameless”), the dude on the left sings, “I’m Naked,” followed by the dude on the right, who sings, “I’m Shameless.” In simplicity lies great beauty.