Adventures in Bizarre Bucktown

Being a recent transplant to Chicago, I still can’t believe the amount of neighborhoods, each with their own style and flavor, all belong to one glorious city. I moved to Chicago about a year ago from sunny California with nothing but a deep love for pizza and a curiosity for snowflakes. I eventually found myself an Assistant Manager at Ray’s Bucktown Bed and Breakfast (drawn in, of course, by the breakfast) and learned that the Manager, Sam, was also from California! Turns out we lived about 6 blocks away from each other before we moved to Chicago. Bizarre, huh?

Any transplant will tell you that moving to Chicago requires extensive research on each neighborhood. Bucktown is always at the top of any list we’d seen, notable for it’s walkability, nightlife and overall “cool” factor. Sam and I both live in different neighborhoods now and decided it was time for us to learn more about Bucktown.

After some research, we found Bizarre Bucktown Walking Tours. Perfect! Something we can do together after work, get some exercise (ya know, because of the breakfasts) and learn more about the lovely neighborhood that houses our lovely B&B! The tour was created entirely by Gordon Meyer, a Bucktown resident of over twelve years. He’s exactly what you’d want a walking tour guide to be – charismatic, funny and defiantly tall (no need to worry about losing the group!). We met Gordon and other walking tourists at Walsh Park. Gordon didn’t skip a beat and launched into the history of Walsh park, it’s namesake and the mysterious fire that left the area barren for so long. 

Chicago as a whole has a rich history of immigrants, mobsters and artists – Bucktown is no different! We definitely recommend taking the time to look at St. Mary of Angels Church. The church is rooted deeply in the hearts of Chicago’s Polish community and it’s architecture is absolutely beautiful!

If you’re thirsty, walk over to Lottie’s Pub. Lottie’s has been a Bucktown treasure since 1934 is said to be the favored watering hole to some of Chicago’s toughest crime bosses and is haunted to this day. Gordon’s got a great story about Lottie herself! 

If the ghost’s of mobsters isn’t your thing, head over to Bucktown Pub for a cold one (and yes, a new  ghost). 

If you want to meet the different ghosts of Bucktown or simply learn why the neighborhood is called “Bucktown” – we definitely recommend Bizarre Bucktown Walking Tours with Gordon. He also offers private tours and Bizarre Wicker Park walking tour as well.  Gordon generously offers a 10% discount to any of our Guest’s here at Ray’s. 

Bucktown Neighbors: Gordon and Kelly
Feel free to ask us about other things to do during your stay at Ray’s!

Spring is here!

Here at Ray’s we have been doing quite a bit of research in anticipation of our new organic permaculture rooftop garden.  

Ray and some of the staff recently attended the Moses Organic Conference in La Crosse, WI. Some of the highlights were the bee and mushroom workshops, the talks on added

value, lean farming, and learning about companion planting* (which we are planning on using in our new rooftop garden). 

Some of the staff also attended the Good Food Festival right here in Chicago. It was wonderful to see various urban farms in action, and to connect with urban agriculture folks from all around. Leah particularly enjoyed walking around Metropolitan Farm, a large aquaponics greenhouse.

Fun Fact
*Native American planting method of x3 sisters = Corn, bean and squash.
Corn grows tall, beans use as a trellis and also provide nitrogen for soil. Squash covers the ground area to eliminate weeds and provide natural mulch.

That’s all for now,


All things GREEN!

It’s St. Patrick’s Day! Well, in 8 more days…but Chicago is ready to kick off the celebration this weekend with events happening from Bucktown to downtown, and plenty of activity right here at the B&B! With a little luck you’ll find that same green shirt from last year, or go glamrocks and buy a new one just for the occasion. 

Saturday, March 11th, marks the 62nd anniversary of Chicago’s downtown St. Patrick’s Day Parade. One of the largest in the country! There are designated viewing areas, some with option to pay for prime seating, or classic option to arrive early and cozy up along the parade route. It’s undetermined if donning a kilt and bare legs will grant you more or less standing room, but we suggest you give it a try! We also suggest getting there early. 

Parade starts at noon, but at 9am the Chicago River turns GREEN! Don’t ask us how this works. Just watch one boat dump vegetable dye and another mix it into the water and be mesmerized by all those emerald hues. For more event info, check out the links below:
If downtown isn’t your destination, try our Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood! Filled with great bars and restaurants, many hosting their own St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. 
For some local spots to start your weekend: 

For us here at Ray’s, we’re celebrating GREEN of a different kind. Work has officially begun on our new 2-car garage with rooftop deck! And as sad as it is to see our garden up-rooted, we’re busy mapping that rooftop with fruit trees and veggies and standing on large piles of dirt! Excited to bring more parking and a little permaculture to the B&B! Follow our Facebook for updates

Inauguration Weekend Suggestions Near Ray’s

This Saturday just a short train ride away from Ray’s, 50,000 people are expected to show up between 8:30am and 2pm at the Women’s March. Starting at Grant Park in downtown Chicago, speakers will address reproductive rights, racial justice, immigration, gun violence and issues involving LGBTQ. (*A special edition of SlutTalk diaries will be happening after the Women’s March. The free event will have group discussions and writing exercises January 21 7-9pm at Volumes Bookcafe 1474 N. Milwaukee Ave. )

For all those Jazz lovers, 88 year old Sheila Jordan will be making an appearance at the acclaimed Green Mill Jazz Club. She will be accompanied by pianist Alan Broadbent and bassist Dennis Carroll  9pm Friday or 8pm Saturday at 4802 N. Broadway.
Try over 10 varieties of comforting ramen at Kizuki Ramen & Izakya, the “Best Ramen in Chicago”. Open 11:30am to midnight, and located at 1482 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Check Out Plant Life in Chicago!

Some people like pet shops, and I do too,
but mostly when I have the urge to take a long look at something I frequent one of the many plant shops near Ray’s.
Family owned Adams and Son Gardens (1057 N. California Ave) is a wonderful place to check out in nearby Humboldt Park. They are open all week, and even in winter offer a large assortmant of succulents, cacti, houseplants and more. The staff are super friendly and helpful.

Sprout Home (745 N. Damen Ave.) in nearby Ukrainian Village is open all week as well, and specializes in contemporary indoor and outdoor garden design. The shop is visually rewarding with beautiful displays and a large variety of plants.
They offer terrarium workshops that you can find by clicking –> here.

Finally, the Garfield Park Conservatory is a warm and serene sanctuary. A huge plant house showcasing all walks of plant life in beautifuly arranged rooms, the Conservatory is truly a Chicago gem. It can be enjoyed alone, with family, friends or a date. No one leaves unhappy, unless it is because they are leaving.

Free Public Outdoor Skating in Wicker Park

The Wicker Park ice rink is a community funded and maintained, non-refrigerated rink that opened for the first time last year. It is located at 1425 N. Damen Ave, right near the Wicker Fountain.

The rink will be installed this year on December 3, and it will open as soon as the ice freezes naturally. The Chicago Park District’s field house will be open as well, with a space to warm those cold toes. 

We dare you to take our very own ice challenge! First drink some free hot coffee or hot chocolate at Ray’s. Then run to the rink and take a picture of you laying on it. Print out the picture using the guest computer at Ray’s. Finally, post the picture on the skate wall of fame (fridge). Each contestant will get a special prize!

All Ages Skate:
Mon-Thurs 9am – 7pm
Sat-Sun 10am – 8pm
closed on December 24, 25 and 31
closed also on New Years

Where to Buy Your Winter Gear in Bucktown / Wicker Park

If you are considering a visit to Ray’s Bucktown Bed and Breakfast in the next 6 months or so, chances are you’ll have to prepare for the elements, mostly just that one element, cold. If you forgot to pack your parka, here are a few places in the neighborhood where you can pick up some gear.

Arc’Teryx: New to the hood, this place is not kidding around. You know it’s legit because practically everyone in Alaska is dressed head to toe in this brand (if they can afford it). It’s definitely $$$ but well made and lasts close to forever. 1630 N Damen Ave.

Fjallraven: (Full disclosure, NO idea how to pronounce that)
This place popped up a while before Arc’Teryx and falls into the same genre of high-quality-high-pricetag goods that will keep you nice and toasty dry during the long winter months. Check it out at 1708 N Damen Ave.

This is Patagonia the place, not the brand, but it’s awesome so I’ll leave it here

Patagonia: A little further west in Lincoln Park, this store would make a great stop on your way to the Lincoln Park Zoo. A little more affordable, still totally respectable and rugged, Patagonia is also supposed to be great about having a fair and honest supply chain, so it’s definitely better than throwing your money at Walmart (Chicago actually doesn’t have any Walmarts within city limits but you get the idea…). 1800 N Clybourn Ave

Moosejaw Mountaineering: They’ve got you covered from coats to ice climbing equipment, but unless you’re gonna try and scale the outside of Trump Tower in protest during the winter you probably won’t be needing the ice picks. Well, maybe for your car door handle when it freezes over… 1901 N Clybourn Ave

Title Nine: If you EVER played sports as a young lass you probably started getting their catalogs in the mail. Lots of bright colors and “fun” prints, if you used to shop at Limited Too when you were younger, this is the outdoor store for you. (Women’s clothes only) 1024 W Armitage Ave.

Breakfast/Brunch Double Header Options In Bucktown / Wicker Park

I don’t like baseball. I find it exhausting and frustrating to spend $11/beer while watching an insanely long “sporting” event where being an athlete doesn’t seem like a prerequisite. However, I know this is not a majority opinion in Chicago and have more than a few cohorts who not only appreciate a live game, but train like marathoners to fully enjoy the elusive double-header opportunity.

If you’re staying with us at Ray’s, chances are you plan on catching a game, but I want to go ahead and challenge you to the double header of breakfast/brunch in the neighborhood. For repeat guests, you know that we do not mess around with breakfast, we will feed you straight into a mid-morning food coma, so what better challenge than to follow that up with one of the great brunch places in the neighborhood? (Extra points if you can pull it off on Sunday, after starting off with our Eggs Benedict) Here are a few within walking distance

Dos Urban Cantina: Sundays 10am-2pm there is a $24 Bruch BUFFET. And it’s one of the best Mexican Restaurants in the area (being staunchly Arturo’s loyal this is tough to admit). 2829 W Armitage Ave.

Saved by the Max (via NBC)
Saved by the Max: We love theme-bars/restaurants. If you were allowed to watch Saved by the Bell as a kid (I wasn’t) you’ll especially appreciate this spot-on (so I’ve been told) homage to their local hangout on the show. Originally planned to be a short-lived popup, Saved by the Max has stuck around a thrived for months now. This place is normally packed with people who think ahead and make reservations, (sorry, book tickets for their “experience”) but they are allowing a limited number of people in for brunch walk-ins on the weekend. 1941 W North Ave

Harvest Moon: Looking for less of a epilepsy-inducing atmosphere and more of a sleek warm farm-to table existence for your gluttony? Try Harvest Moon. They’re new, and based loosely off of an Eastern-European mentality. And they have sweet potato waffles. Enough Said. 1805 W Division St.

Dove’s via DNAinfo
Dove’s Luncheonette: This is a big favorite of locals, and offers the benefit of being just about as close to the Blue Line as possible, so if you are planning on going downtown or (heaven forbid) back to the airport after brunch you only have to put forth the effort of like 65 steps to be sitting down again and whisked to your destination.  Fun atmosphere, delicious food, solid choice. 1545 N Damen.

Or just linger in the kitchen long enough to gain a second wind and order more Ray’s breakfast!

Seafood in Bucktown / Wicker Park Chicago

For a City known for it’s food (or at least the quantity of food it’s residents can eat) we’ve done pretty well considering our “coastline” is a lake full of questionable fare. If you’re visiting from somewhere you can hear the waves crashing and crabs mating, chances are you’re bound to crave some seafood every once in a while. Here are some options close to Ray’s Bucktown Bed and Breakfast:

The Angry Crab: These folks have a location up north of Lincoln Square as well as a new joint in Wicker Park, plenty walkable from Ray’s. They opened to huge crowds at the Wicker Park spot; Angry Crab had a cult following even when it was tucked way up beyond where the Damen bus stops running, and now that it’s in the center of the neighborhood, they are shelling seafood like nobody’s business. Check it out at 1308 N Milwaukee Ave.

Sink/Swim: This place is nestled in a row of bars frequented by industry folk (Scofflaw, Best Intentions, Go Tavern and liquors) and as such, remains pretty steady throughout the week, especially during $1 oyster happy hour ( everyday from 9-11pm). And in their own words “although our main focus is fishes, we offer a wide range of dishes”. Something for everyone. It’s got sleek decor and professional staff, but I’ve gone there in sweatpants and not been kicked out. 

Honorable Mention: Parson’s Chicken and Fish, but we’ve written about this place so many times that it just feels redundant to mention it for seafood as well as fried chicken, outdoor bars, winter bars, bars with games, bars with sports, hipster bars, and whatever else we’ve included it in.

Some popular places that require a bit more of a hike (aka public transit or an UBER/Taxi). Our local options are more laid back and casual, but these guys below could benefit from clean pants, a reservation, and a credit card.
The Publican: They just have the best EVERYTHING. Bread/cocktails/meat/seafood. You can’t go wrong. ever.  Unless you’re stuck with the check.

Hugos Frog Bar and Fish House: Always busy, but for good reason. (They have a location on the Near North Side, as well as Naperville, if seafood and suburban strip malls strike you as a good combo)

Shaw’s Crab House: Again, one location downtown, and one in the burbs, who knew this was a thing? They offer both a traditional white tablecloth seafood restaurant experience, and a more casual bar atmosphere. So maybe just wait until your date shows up and decide which direction to go. Be SPONTANEOUS. but also, make a reservation.

There are plenty more places to get your fish on, but we aren’t huge fans of pointing people towards something inside of a mall downtown, or within sight of a Cheesecake Factory, so some Magnificent Mile staples have been left out of the list.

Happy Crabbing. 


Locally Focused Events this Weekend

There’s always something to do in the neighborhood, here are a couple recomendations from us here at Ray’s Bucktown Bed and Breakfast for the next few days:

Backyard Dinner: Bang Bang Pie is a neighborhood staple, just about a 15 minute walk west from Ray’s, and they’re throwing a benefit for a great cause this Sunday September 18th from 6-8pm. Local eats, cocktails, beer, and music will all combine to provide a great evening supporting Growing Home – an agricultural nonprofit. Check out more details at (Tickets are $75 so make your significant other pay for it if you got in a fight this week and they lost)

Andersonville City Made Fest: Sticking with the local theme this weekend, Andersonville is highlighting beer, goods, and music that all hail Chicago as their home. Breweries include Half Acre, Revolution, Empirical, and Right Bee Cider, so come thirsty – the weather is supposed to be lovely. Saturday and Sunday Noon-9pm on Clark st between Argyle and Berwyn

Bucktown 5K: Feel like having a more active weekend? The Bucktown 5K is this Sunday at 830am and runs right through the neighborhood.  Work off all that beer you had on Saturday.

And as always, keep Ray’s in mind for next time your family is in town, or a staycation/vacation depending on where you call home. We serve local Ham & Bacon from Jake’s Country Meats, and harvest our own herbs for our breakfasts right outside the back door!