Monday, August 4, 2008

Chicago Diner, or, Why Hipsters Shun Me

I wanted to write a post about my favorite restaurant in Chicago. That's a high title as Chicago boasts some very fine dining.

I went to Charlie Trotter's last weekend which is ranked number 38 in the world. Down the street there's a joint that has the best guacamole I've ever tasted. So why does Chicago Diner get my vote as favorite restaurant?

Because there, and only there, am I accepted by hipsters.

For those of you who don't know what a hipster is (or those of you who think you are not hipsters but totally are), my basic definition includes anyone that listens to music they discovered before the artist sold out. They wear clothes primarily from American Apparel - partly because the clothes are made from manufacturers with fair trade standards, partly because their ad campaigns are super provocative, and partly because all their friends work there.

Hipsters do not participate in main stream culture. They live outside the boundaries and they like hanging out in fields painting on Saturdays.

Is there anything wrong with any of this? Of course not! If you're doing your thing, more power to you. The problem with hipsters has its roots in the same problem that Avril Lavigne ran into after debuting the rocker-chic-eye-liner-tie-wearing-faux-school-girl look. It was original when she did it, but the next 45,000 people wearing a tie and telling people that life's just so complicated didn't inspire me.

Hipsters choose their lifestyle to escape convention and judgment from others. They want to be free to live their lives in unflattering spandex and date men that have ironic mustaches. Great! Enjoy!

Why, oh why, then do they judge and shun me when I attend their events?

I work for a very hipster friendly magazine and help manage their events and promotions. This past weekend I helped them host a successful shin-dig; during part of the party I worked the VIP list. During the other part of the party - I was systematically ignored by each hipster that walked through the door.

The answer to my aforementioned question: they judge me. Maybe they can tell there were hot rollers in my hair earlier that night. Maybe their grandma died in a horrible accident and my pearls remind them of her. They can sense that I watch "So You Think You Can Dance," and they can smell the stink of sorority on me. I'm too counter-culture for their now well-defined culture.

But at Chicago Diner, everyone accepts everyone else. This haven is located in Boystown - a part of the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. There, large rainbows adorn phallic symbols that line the streets showing the acceptance that comes along with multi-colors, penises, and many stores that sell vibrators.

Here I can wear a polo shirt and eat my vegan food. I can sit next to the boys with the semi-mullets, the woman who still breast feeds her 3 year old in public, and no one gives me a second look. I love that.

Especially as I get ready to move to the hipster capital of the world, aka Williamsburg, NY, I have to remember to still stay true to what I like. What I like doing, wearing, eating, watching, and being. I'll find the hipsters that would eat at The Chicago Diner - the true hipsters. The true people.

Plus, the food is absolutely, ridiculously incredible.


  1. Haha awesome! I have a story about the Chicago Diner. I was actually just there a few days ago. I was passing through Chicago and knew that I *had* to go there. Everyone talks it up so much. I was only going to be in town for a day so this was my only chance.

    I borrowed a bike and rode the 3 miles to get there. It was packed. It was like a Pitchfork show, hipsters everywhere. My kind of people. Good people. I gave my name to waiter he told me there was a 20 minute wait. I didn't care. I would have waited 2 hours. I walked around the neighborhood and checked out a costume shop across the street. I came outside to a torrential rain--a midwestern tsunami. I ran across the street, hid out in the vestibule at the Diner, and waited for my name to be called. That's when the lights went out. The same waiter came out and told me and my friend that the power would be out all night and they weren't seating anyone. We waited for the rain to let up, but it didn't so we rode our bikes the 3 miles through the storm, dodging fallen branches and speeding cars.

    Now I am not the giving up type. The next morning I packed my bags early. I was determined to get a vegan milkshake at the Chicago Diner before I had to catch my train that evening. So I borrowed the same bike and rode the same 3 miles again. I was out of breathe and covered in sweat when I got rolled up. I locked up my bike and approached the Diner. But before I made it up the steps there a man came over and told me they were closed. "Come back at 5," he told me, "power's out". I explained that I was leaving at 5, but would loved to have come back. He felt bad and brought me a cookie for the road. He locked up shop and I biked off.

    So that's my Chicago Diner saga. I guess Chicago doesn't want me to try their vegan diner. I'll have to go back to Chicago sometime to try again, but I don't think that will be for a long while.

    On the bright side I found an awesome Indian place with an $8 all-you-can-eat buffet that's only a couple blocks away. It's called Radhuni Indian Kitchen. Try the Channa Masala. :)

  2. Oh man - sorry you missed the CD!! While I do love the Indian Cuisine, nothing compares to the radical reuben or the polenta fiesta. Glad you at least got a cookie!!