Boystown

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By Emily Norfolk

Rainbow flags sway in the breeze, disco balls hang from the trees, and the massive rainbow pillar watches over North Halsted Street.  As I walked through Boystown, every corner coffee shop was populated with families, LGBTQ couples, and your average young professional gripping their briefcase as they head to work. I popped into a swanky coffee joint and sat down. A couple on a Grindr date sat to the left of me, and on the right, a family of four chatted over afternoon snacks. Even though Boystown is a historically gay neighborhood, people of all different walks of life inhabit this charming area. Because this neighborhood is so liberal and welcoming, there is an intersection between the LGBTQ community and young progressive families.

This neighborhood, which is located in the greater Lakeview East area, exudes gay pride and inclusivity. Boystown got its start in the 80s from their iconic gay bars, which have played a huge role in creating a safe haven for members of the LGBTQ community.

Although the neighborhood is quite small, it is worth visiting. Populated with famous gay bars and pubs like Sidetrack and Progress Bar, this is a great area to spend a night out and experience the Boystown culture. There are also amazing places to grab a cup of coffee, a bite to eat, window shop, and museums and galleries to explore.

Snacks and Such:

You will definitely not go hungry in Boystown. If you’re like me and always looking for a good cup of coffee and something sweet, Stan’s Donuts is a great place to start. Stan’s started in Los Angeles but was brought to Chicago through a collaboration between Rich Labriola, the president of Labriola Baking Company, and Stan Berman, the founder of Stan’s. This dynamic duo is spreading the donut love and bridging the baked-good gap from state to state. This colorful little shop serves tasty and whimsical donuts; my favorite is the nutella and banana donut. They also serve a mean cappuccino. If donuts aren’t your thing, checkout the fast food restaurant Crisp. They serve Korean-style fried chicken that is sweet, sour and spicy. Boystown is also home to Chicago Diner, which serves vegan and vegetarian comfort food. This neighborhood is home to all different types of cuisines and will definitely satisfy any of your cravings.

Stores and More:

Hipster storefronts line the streets of Boystown-- think thrift stores, comic book shops, and record stores. It’s easy to find a place to pop into for a couple minutes just to peruse. I stopped by a novelty comic book store called Graham Crackers Comics, which had everything from Archie comic books to LGBTQ comics. Another place that makes you feel like you’re transporting back in time is Reckless Records. Classic album covers like David Bowie’s Heroes and Nirvana’s Nevermind hang from the walls and the shelves are stuffed to the brim with records ranging from A-Z. All of the shops are meant for the creative artisan and anyone who has a tasted for seasoned novelties. Check out Foursided, a card and gift shop, for greeting cards and chatchkes galore. There is something for everyone, you just have to explore!

Attractions and Activism:

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The legacy walk is an enriching attraction in Boystown. In the mid 90s, Chicago installed the rainbow pillar on North Halsted Street and initiated the concept of the legacy walk.The outdoor walk was created to educate youth about sexuality and also promote anti-gay bullying, as well as celebrate the history of the LGBTQ movement. It has become a symbol for LGBTQ people’s contributions to finally be put on public display. The Hoover-Leppen Theater puts on LGBTQ events and also acts as a worship center to people of all different sexual orientations. Another fun place to stop by is the Laugh Factory, a comedy club that offers a weekly lineup of comedians and performers. There are so many places to visit in Boystown, whether you just want a bite to eat or if you want to explore the culture of inclusivity this community has to offer.  

Eish Sumra