Best Bus Route for Glimpsing a Palimpsest of the City

#81 Lawrence

Critics' Picks

Some might pick the #63 east from Midway, with its route through eastern European, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, and African-American enclaves. Others might consider the State Street bus heading south from Navy Pier through downtown and the barbecue joints of the old south side all the way into middle-class Chatham. But for my money, the best postcard of the city is through the window of the westbound Lawrence bus. Starting at Marine Drive, with the northern tip of Lincoln Park to the east, you bounce past recovery houses toward the live-music hub formed by the Aragon, the Riv, and the Green Mill. Continuing west, you begin to find more of a demographic mishmash: branch offices for social security alongside new housing developments, a Balkan grocery next to a strip mall 7-Eleven, Albany Park's taquerias, mercados, kebab joints, seasonal smelt purveyors, and Korean herb shops, bridal boutiques, auto repair "foreing and domestic." And aboard the bus there's a wild mix: on my last trip, a tiny Korean lady with a rose tattoo on her forearm sat next to an African-American AirServ worker in a deep blue uniform and kerchief, who was next to an ivory-bearded white man wearing a large crucifix and carrying a carved rosary that he announced was of his own making ("I have all different colors"). Turn around at the end of the line and you've got the Chicago-style ribs of Gale Street Inn to the south and, due east, the Admiral Theatre strip club, Aden Live Poultry, and just maybe a drunk on the seat behind you singing "Mustang Sally."


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