June 30th marks an end to Unicorn Living as I’ve known it thus far. That is the day I moved out of the apartment, neighborhood and city I’ve occupied for the better part of the past two + 1/2 years.
This change was brought about by a break-up, but I won’t dwell on that here, for it is ultimately a mutual decision between me and the person I was with. We had our time together, and now it is over. I loved them, will always care for them and wish them nothing but the best moving forward with their life. I know they want the same for me too!
Deciding to move out of Lakeview, no less proper Chicago was hard for me, but ultimately it is for the best as well. My biggest goal in my life right now is to graduate with my degree in Fashion Studies from Columbia College Chicago in Spring 2023. In order to best achieve this, I’ve decided to move back to the suburbs where I grew up with my family. I will be returning to Columbia this Fall to continue progress on my degree and will be commuting daily into Chicago via the Metra for work and school by September!
Despite many life changes, I will remain a Chicago Unicorn!
I loved living in Lakeview. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the area, Lakeview is one of the 77 community areas of Chicago. It’s bordered by West Diversey Parkway on the south, West Irving Park Road on the north, North Ravenswood Avenue on the west and the shore of Lake Michigan on the east. Lakeview is home to smaller areas like Wrigleyville; Home of the Chicago Cubs, Boystown; Home of the Chicago Queers, and Southport; my neighborhood and core community.
I moved to Lakeview a mere few weeks before the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016, and the Big Wrigleyville Starbucks (which no longer exists) is where I started my Starbucks journey two years ago. While living here I never attended a Cubs game!
However, I know all the best places to eat and shop, and this post is comprised of my Lakeview; Southport and Belmont neighborhood favorites! Whether you’re here for Pride, a Cub’s Game or just to experience this northern neighborhood, these are my Jessi Moonheart recommendations. I hope you enjoy reading about these set of favorites, a farewell kiss as I transition into my next chapter!
♡ Jessi Moonheart’s Leaving Lakeview Neighborhood Favorites ♡
Belmont Army Vintage
925 W Belmont Ave, Chicago Il 60657
My first experience shopping at Belmont Army Vintage was many years ago before I moved to the neighborhood. I will never forget climbing the stairs to the third-floor level of their original location on 855 W. Belmont Ave, breathing in the scent of musty garments and old objects, as well as hearing tunes from a time gone by. They made a great choice to move down the street when they closed their original location last year.
Belmont Army Vintage is a treasure trove of vintage garments and objects with warm and friendly staff to match the merchandise. I have found so many great garments at this shop- mostly pastel 80s blouses, but also the perfect pair of pastel purple suit pants, periwinkle overalls and a 1960s perfectly pastel pink chemise nightgown!
I look forward to sharing new finds from Belmont Army Vintage when I visit again in the future!
3244 N Clark St, Chicago Il 60657
This is the coolest comic shop I have experienced thus far in my lifetime. Chicago Comics considers themselves as “the Midwest’s most comprehensive comic shop, specializing in independent and small press titles, as well as carrying a full array of mainstream publishers”.
Chicago Comics was where I discovered the book ‘So Pretty/Very Rotten: Comics and Essays on Lolita Fashion and Cute Culture’ by Jane Mai and An Nguyen. It’s one of the most influential books I’ve read in the past few years! So Pretty/Very Rotten’s information was based on research they did with the community in Japan, and uses garment examples from brands like Angelic Pretty and Baby the Stars Shine Bright to explain the fashion. This book that I originally discovered at Chicago Comics provided deeper insights into why I psychologically and socially choose a kawaii lifestyle. It was influential enough for me to purchase copies for all my friends in the kawaud for the holidays. With their copies of the book, I also added some Sailor Moon and Steven Universe blind box figurine keychains from Chicago Comics. I highly recommend purchasing otaku gifts locally from Chicago Comics for the weeb or comic nerd in your life.
Hollywood Mirror (Honorable Mention)
812 W Belmont Ave, Chicago Il 60657
Hollywood Mirror was my favorite shop in the world for the year that it was a part of my life. I became aware of its existence in May 2018, and I instantly fell in love. Walking in was like entering a dream of weird 80s music and a rainbow variety of vintage garments. Friendly faces dressed in all types of alternative style manned the desk, and once my shopping bags were released into their care, I could explore to my heart’s content.
Hollywood Mirror’s company headquarters are located in Tokyo, Japan with offices in Osaka and Chicago. It was a hub for finding all sorts of weird weeb shit. They carried a variety of vintage garments and gifts, as well as lots of Japanese deadstock. It is where I found my current collection of FRUiTS magazines as well as an unopened Heart Catch Pretty Cure trading card sticker set. Vintage Barbies, My Little Ponies, Trollz Dolls were all discoverable here. And garments! I found the best garments at Hollywood Mirror. My pastel 80s windbreaker was a Hollywood Mirror find, my first vintage chemise nightgown, my 50s daisy wool cardigan…
Hollywood Mirror was my happy place. It was quirky, colorful and creative. It was part of the reason I was proud to call Lakeview home. This store was incredibly influential on my style as well as my consumer patterns and behaviors. When they announced their closing on April 1st, I thought it was an April Fool’s joke! But then I realized they were serious, with a serious 50% off sale that lasted a month.
I grieved Hollywood Mirror. As a budding influencer, I felt guilty and lamented that didn’t push myself more to promote its existence. I doubt that I could have changed the outcome of the brand’s retail business, but it taught me a lesson about what sort of experiences I need to consider sharing with my online community. I’m grateful for the memories I have of bringing my friends to Hollywood Mirror during the year it was a part of my life! ♡
Taboo Tabou (Now: The Alley)
843 W Belmont Ave, Chicago Il 60657
Before Taboo Tabou, there was The Alley; a megastore originally located at 3228 North Clark Street. It was considered a landmark location for counter-culture. The local coffee shop was nick-named “Punkin Donuts” for the alternative crowd that would loiter in its parking lot, waiting for The Alley to open. When I was in middle school, I began my alternative fashion journey with an interest in gothic fashion, and my family was so accepting of it. I had multiple relatives take me to The Alley, and it forever changed me.
I distinctly remember The Alley’s 40,000 square foot Belmont Location. I remember walking in and there was a designated salon area for body modification- whether it was piercings, tattoos or both has faded from my memory. There was lower level filled with leather shoes that shaped my future interests in footwear; a women’s clothing section with the most beautiful gothic dresses from TRIPP NYC; and a section with hippie lifestyle products (aka marijuana paraphernalia) that I was too young to even begin to understand. The original Alley was such a cool place to visit, and I’m lucky I got to experience it before it closed down three or four years ago.
Fortunately, when one door closes, another opens! When I moved to Lakeview, Taboo Tabou was already a neighborhood staple. Taboo Tabou launched in the Alley’s basement 25 years ago as a woman-owned store specializing in lingerie, BDSM, toys, and the sexy lifestyle! Its goal was to promote a body-positive environment that transformed the person beyond the bedroom. Taboo Tabou catered to everything sexy! It had the best lingerie, pin-up apparel, adult toys, and other lifestyle products, as well as high-quality bondage and fetish gear.
Taboo Tabou was one of my special stores on the Belmont shopping strip. The retail environment was absolutely beautiful. The interiors were perfectly pink with leopard print carpeting. It felt like stepping into a vintage dream boudoir. I spent many hours there playing dress-up, gazing at toys and reading sexual empowerment books. At a time where I was submerged in shame around my sexuality (after my abortion), Taboo Tabou was there.
Ultimately, this past April, Taboo Tabou announced their closure days after the news of Hollywood Mirror’s closing. Needless to say, I was devastated. But with their closing, The Alley has reopened once more. With the return of The Alley, there is a Taboo Tabou section inside.
Although the shops are in the same location, they are not the same experience. If you appreciate alternative fashion and counterculture, I would recommend checking out The Alley. It’s a been a part of Chicago’s alt scene for over three decades. However, this Taboo Tabou is no longer the same special sexual safe space that I experienced, but a lingerie and toy area inside an iconic counter-culture lifestyle shop.
With all my beloved Belmont stops out of the way, let’s move onto Southport shopping and dining, 1 train stop away via the Belmont Station from the Brown Line to Southport!
Starbucks– Southport + Roscoe
3400 N Southport Ave, Chicago Il 60657
Starbucks’ mission is “To inspire and nurture the human spirit- one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” This mission statement is alive and apparent at the corner of Southport + Roscoe. Last week I celebrated my two year anniversary as a partner with the company and a year as a partner on Southport + Roscoe.I chose to transfer to this location in June 2018 during a shift in my life – coming back to school part-time as a Fashion Student. This store has been truly been my third place between the Southport apartment and campus: Columbia College Chicago in the Loop. Yes, I work behind the counter, but just as often I could be found sitting at the bar; dressed head to toe in pink and typing away on my laptop. (Just as I am doing now on my first day back since moving).I developed my signature Starbucks beverage here: an Iced Peppermint White Mocha with Almond Milk! Order it like this: Tall Iced White Mocha, 1 Pump White Mocha, 2 Peppermint, Almond Milk No Whip.
Working at this Starbucks has been the best experience because of all the amazing relationships I built. Coming back into the city to work after four days of being off and away in the suburbs and seeing the faces of so many people I know and care for; managers and baristas and customers and dogs, nurtured my spirit. It has been an equal exchange of vulnerability and authenticity this past year. I felt inspired because of working on Southport. My identity as the friendly pink-haired barista on Southport allowed me many privileges and pleasures I doubt I would have experienced otherwise.
For now, I’m still on Southport but I have requested transfer to a new Starbucks. I look forward to announcing where and when soon! Soon I’ll be bringing my pink and purple positivity with me on another new green apron adventure with the siren.
3430 N Southport Ave, Chicago Il 60657
Since working on Southport this last year, I have grown intimately close with my favorite beauty brand: LUSH. Known for their fresh, handmade cosmetics that are sourced with ethically sustainable materials and marketed to globally fight animal cruelty; Lush is a brand I absolutely adore and admire! They are the sustainably innovative choice for cosmetics of the future. Many days after my early morning Starbucks shift, I would walk over to LUSH just because! I love conversing with everyone on staff and enjoyed every opportunity to research each recommendation with product demos and so many samples.
Lush has every product a unicorn could hope for: from shower gels to bath bombs; bubble bars to hand lotions; hair masks to fresh face masks and a full breadth skin-care line. I am absolutely addicted to this beauty brand and consider myself a #lushie. I even almost got hired with the company for the most recent Christmas season, but chose to walk away from the opportunity when it conflicted with my prioritized commitments; Starbucks + school. It did not deter my love for LUSH though, and I continue to consider myself addicted to Lush!
I look forward to exploring other Lush locations in and around Chicago, as well as writing more about this beauty brand here on the blog! Thank you to my Southport Lush Family; Lizzy and Chio and Kitty and Jorge and Natalie and Genesis and so many more; for every product demo and each heartfelt moment we’ve shared this past year. I am so grateful for how beautiful my bathroom will forever smell from samples!
3423 N Southport Ave, Chicago Il 60657
Athlete. Legend. Warrior. Renegade. Rockstar. SoulCycle is a cycling workout class with locations around the globe. It takes place in a candlelit studio where riders clip into their bikes for a 45-minute journey into the soul. Early into my time at Southport Starbucks, I noticed a trend of customers coming in wearing all sorts of garments that bore SoulCycle branding. I began asking about where my customers got their clothes, and with sweat gleaning and beaming faces, they began preaching about SoulCycle.
I did my own research into the brand as well as the local studio, conveniently located across the street. I downloaded the SoulCycle app and registered an account. I found out I could drop in on a class for free on Mondays because of my employment on Southport! What an absolute privilege that I used to my utmost advantage. A Chicago SoulCycle class pack costs $32 for one class! I was able to try it at no risk, but I could understand where others would hesitate.
I started my Soul Journey on November 26th when I garnered enough courage to climb the steps to Soul Cycle for the first time. I loved everything about the experience; checking in with the front desk and checking out the new garments in retail; using the showers that are stocked with all sorts of trendy beauty care products (not Lush), building community with other riders, and then the ride itself. My first ride was with Katie Lee. What a workout! I still remember how sore my legs were coming down the steps that chilly November Monday Morning, but my soul was sparkling! I could feel it in my smile and from the sweat dripping down my spine against my poorly cut pastel tank top made from an old t-shirt.
That first ride was a catalyst that partially inspired my first fashion design collection that I completed in December. I wanted to develop what I didn’t see in SoulCycle studios: a pastel-based sportswear line that any magical girl would feel empowered wearing to their cycling classes and beyond. Someday I’ll walk into a studio wearing these garments that carry my name on the label. (Manifest that shit! Speak it into existence!)
I knew I was a (Unicorn) Warrior as well a Rockstar but I didn’t consider myself an athlete or renegade, much less a legend until SoulCycle. Moving my body has changed my soul. I want to become more princess-like: strong, kind and beautiful. SoulCycle is part of my Princess Precure Process.
I am empowered to continue with SoulCycle in this next chapter. I love feeling my shape change with each class and it just feels so fucking good. I highly recommend riding with Devin! His beat-driven playlists and complex choreography are just to my tastes.
Tuco and Blondie
3358 N Southport Ave, Chicago Il 60657
All that tapping back at SoulCycle and beverage crafting at the ‘Bucks works up an appetite! To fulfill the hunger and thirst needs of a mighty unicorn, I like going to Tuco + Blondie. This contemporary Mexican restaurant brands itself as being full of ‘Mexifun’. It brightens up the neighborhood outside; an Instagram-worthy mural greets you right at the entrance, as well as in; with neon-lit murals of black cats lining the walls of the dining room.
Tuco + Blondie’s colorful cuisine and beverages are just as delightful as its bold design and decor choices. Where even do I start? Ah, appetizers. I love getting guacamole to as a shareable item for my table. Everything from Tuco + Blondie feels fresh from the first bite to the last. My favorite types of tacos to get are the chicken tinga and the fish. One can always guarantee to fill up on fajitas- I either go for shrimp or portabello. Split a side of elotes with your date. Get dessert to-go and enjoy the churros under the train tracks for a change of scenery.
Tuco + Blondie is the only restaurant where I’ve appreciated alcohol in this last chapter of my life. Their classic Black Cherry Margarita is muy deliciosa! I would walk 500 miles for that margarita.
3612 N Southport Ave, Chicago Il 60657
#bestempanadas. Need I say anymore?
Actually, yes. With five locations and counting, Cafe Tola is building an empire of empanadas in Chicago! Their locations are cute and colorful and clean. The Lavender Lemonade is lovely. My favorite empanadas include the spinach + cheese, pintos + cheese, guava + queso fresco, and best of the best: black bean, plantain + goat cheese!
I had the opportunity of getting to know G, the owner, from our interactions at Starbucks. He’s always wearing cool streetwear from the likes of Supreme and is quite kind. I appreciated supporting his small (but growing business) while I lived in the neighborhood. I loved walking down to Cafe Tola on my days off with manga in hand. I would walk through, ordering my lavender lemonade and empanadas then go out to their patio and work through whatever volume of Sailor Moon I was currently reading while I ate. Then I would walk back home and take a nap, dreaming of empanada-eating magical girls who fought for love in the name of the moon!
Also, the Southport location is pink. Need I say anymore?
Floyd’s 99 Barbershop
1401 W Irving Park Road, Chicago Il 60613
Last but not least is Floyd’s 99 Barbershop. Before moving to Southport, I had visited the Floyd’s in the Loop for cut and color in 2016. That experience left a sour taste in my mouth, mostly because of my self-consciousness telling cool alternative stylists what I wanted to do with my hair and having the guts to commit.
But after my transfer to Southport, I knew my locks needed to look good and I began looking for a stylist within the neighborhood. I searched through Wrigley Floyd’s directory of stylists and stumbled on Deanna. After looking through her Instagram, I knew I wanted to schedule a color consultation with her.
Deanna completely understands my vision for my hair, and for the past year, I’ve remained faithful returning to her chair. Other stylists from multiple different salons approached me to be their color model but I always declined. It’s rare to find a true connection in this world, especially when getting your hair styled and I found that real connection working with Deanna. She is a smart hair stylist and an authentic human being. She is an artist with scissors and dye. I’ve loved getting to see this magical girl transform into a magical mother as well.
I don’t know what my next hair transformation will look like in this next chapter, but I’m glad I gained Deanna from Floyd’s as an instafriend for life. ♡
That’s a wrap for my Lakeview Favorites. I was able to curate my ten favorite spaces, and I hope you have the opportunity to experience them yourself.
Blogging continues to be one of my favorite outlets for self-expression. I always look forward to the opportunity to curate and articulate my most authentic voice. Blogging is a challenge in this Instagram-led world, and this post was no exception. This was due to stepping outside my closet and onto the street, moving past the pain of my breakup and navigating through the nuances of a short-notice move.
Four years ago, my dream was to move to Chicago. I made that dream while living in Lakeview. Looking back, I can accept that it couldn’t last forever. My fairy-tale was unsustainable for long-term growth due to many reasons. This is for the best. However, I will miss the sense of community I was saturated in for the last two years. I intend on curating and growing a new community in my next chapter- both online as well as in real life. I’m especially grateful for my jessimoonheart.com community. Y’all are a heard of strong, magical and creative unicorns and I consistently inspired and motivated by you. Thank you so much for your support of Jessi Moonheart and being a part of the #UniFam!
My dream still is to move to Chicago. Eventually, I will make it come true. However, other goals are going to take priority for now. I will come back to Chicago, the City of Light.
Living in Lakeview is a chapter of my life that has drawn to a close and a new chapter is beginning. With a new chapter comes new unicorn living updates, new fashions, and new favorites. There are more adventures, opportunities and loves coming into my life.
I am manifesting my most magical life!
Unicorns- do you have favorite spaces in your local communities? How have you overcome tough transitions in your life? Do you have a favorite Chicago community beyond Lakeview? Do you have favorite spots in the Chicago suburbs? Share your thoughts and favorites with me in the comments below!
All the Best,
With Love & Sparkles,