Bryn Mawr, from Broadway to the lake

The gateway to this stretch of Edgewater is one of those dingy, impacted stations along the Red Line straightaway where trains are visible miles before they arrive and visitors feel like Spencer Tracy getting off at Black Rock. Flourish Bakery & Cafe, the local java joint just outside the station, looks like it used to be an old carbarn. Signs everywhere proclaim the “Bryn Mawr Historic District,” which—whatever that is—makes anything you encounter feel more momentous. Walking east, the storefront Redtwist Theatre seems to specialize in Tracy Letts psychodramas (Bug, Man From Nebraska), and across the street at 1021-31 W. Bryn Mawr there’s a stunning courtyard building that’s clearly historic—a plaque says it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. But it has no name and what’s with that? Proof of the difference a name can make is right across Sheridan (which for some reason has no street signs identifying it): the pink, grand, evocative Edgewater Beach Apartments, the surviving remnant of the Edgewater Beach Hotel complex and the bygone age when that hotel was the crown jewel of Chicago’s lakefront. Now the lakefront is hundreds of yards further east. Continuing east, the Tracy Van Duinen mosaic lining the Lake Shore Drive underpass is among the best public art in the city, and beyond the underpass you’ll discover the Kathy Osterman beach—cozy, friendly, reachable only by foot, an uncrowded haven for Chicago gays and neighborhood families. High culture has a foothold—you’ll spot signs announcing the “Edgewater Self Guided Art Walk”—but there’s nothing artsy about the neighborhood. Or trendy. You’re in a place that doesn’t feel like the city you know. It feels like a lost Chicago. —Michael Miner