Ukrainian Village | East Village

In just the past few years the dynamics of this little neighborhood have changed dramatically. Its main arteries (Chicago Avenue and Division Street) have exploded with new restaurants, cafés, boutiques and other local establishments. The fresh infusion of business has turned this quiet community into a happening place to be.

Once the weather breaks from a long, cold winter chill, Chicagoans come out in force to dine al fresco. Luckily, the wide sidewalks of Division Street allow for lots of outdoor seating and practically every eatery along this stretch of Ukrainian Village’s restaurant row has a front patio. Take your pick of sushi, tapas, pizza, deli, tacos, cafés, bars and grills. Chicago Avenue also has a large concentration of dining spots and a number of places are sprinkled along the neighborhood’s eastern and western borders of Damen and Western avenues.

Music fanatics find themselves in Ukrainian Village on a regular basis for local band performances at Darkroom, The Empty Bottle and Rainbo Club. As its name suggests, Darkroom is dark inside. Photos hang on the walls and negatives are embedded in the glass-encased bar, which simulates a lightbox. It has a decent size stage and dance floor, surrounded by shadowy booths and dark corners. The Empty Bottle is a small bar with live music 7 days a week. They pack a lot of punch for such tiny quarters, squeezing bands, booze and bar food into a two-room dive. Believe it or not, Rainbo Club makes The Empty Bottle feel spacious. The stage is perched behind the bar and is no bigger than a grand piano. A single room that feels slightly like your grandparents’ basement is tight with a crowd, but somehow comfortable no matter how many people cram in.

While Ukrainian Village’s major thoroughfares are buzzing with activity, the residential side streets remain a peaceful place to live. Huge trees and old brick walk-ups line the sidewalks. The area’s heritage lingers in massive Cathedrals and original residents who can still be heard speaking their native language. Like something you’d see in Europe, Ukrainian Village churches are ornate structures with a commanding presence that’s hard to ignore. Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral boasts the illustrious craftsmanship of famous architect Louis Sullivan. It was built in 1903 and is now on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Fashioned after the Basilica of St. Sophia in Kiev, St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church is also a sight to behold with its Byzantine-style domes. Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Church is another place of worship that spilt from St. Nicholas in the late 1960s. The gilded domes and bright mural on the front façade are sure to catch the eye in passing and warrant at least a moment to take it all in.

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