Essential Ukrainian-Owned Businesses to Support in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village
Chitown’s Ukrainian Village is a must-visit destination for art, culture, bars, restaurants, and more.
While the current Ukraine crisis unfolds in Eastern Europe, our Midwestern metropolis is home to a large Ukrainian community of its own, with many members remaining deeply connected to the people and organizations currently under duress. And that means there are dozens of Ukrainian-owned businesses you can support locally.
According to the 2019 US Census, the Chicagoland area is home to a whopping 54,000 Ukrainian and Ukrainian-American residents, the second largest in the country, with an immigration history that dates back well over a century. The proud Eastern European people first began making their way to the region in the 1880s, followed by subsequent waves after the fall of the Austrian Empire in 1918 and later during World War II, when upwards of 8,000 refugees fled areas annexed to Soviet Ukraine in 1939. The fourth and final wave brought younger generations to Lake Michigan’s shores throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the former Soviet Ukraine. With each rising tide, these newly minted Chicagoans brought with them vital aspects of their culture, settling into ethnic enclaves like Ukrainian Village and lining the streets of Kyiv’s sister city with dazzlingly elaborate cathedral architecture, folk music and dance, and, of course, loads of delicious homestyle food.
Wondering how to show your support for the affected population in Ukraine? Just head over to Ukrainian Village and stop into one of these amazing Ukrainian-owned businesses, from innovative restaurants and mom-and-pop bakeries to cutting edge art museums, charming gift shops, and more. And if you’re still eager to help, consider throwing some funds to crucial nonprofits like Doctors Without Borders, the Ukrainian Red Cross Society, UNICEF, and the Ukraine Crisis Media Center, an independent news organization providing much-needed coverage on the ground.
You’d be hard pressed to find a Chicago restaurant more invested in educating diners about its culinary muse than this one, where multiple flatscreens showcase lavish Ukrainian music videos on loop, floor-to-ceiling murals depicting street scenes from the motherland grace the walls, and traditional handicrafts inform the colorful tilework adorning the small bar area. The menu, of course, is no exception when it comes to Ukrainian evangelizing, an enticing roster of owner Myron Lewyckyj’s age-old family recipes imbued with slight American twists meant to draw in customers of all backgrounds.
Creative cocktails kick things off—the Kharkiv Mule (infused honey vodka, kvas, lime juice) is a quirky and refreshing spin on the Russian refresher—followed by hearty highlights like Crispy Pork Schnitzel, pounded thin and marinated in Lewyckyj’s Aunt Nyska's secret sauce, Red Pierogi stuffed with tender beef and house-pickled tomatoes, belly-warming vegetarian Borscht, and Mama Gena’s Pork Burger topped with pickled red onions, tomatoes, bacon, mozzarella, and crunchy cabbage. When selecting said burger, you might wonder why it comes in at a curious $16.48—and no, it’s not a Chicago tax trick. As lines of text running along the menu’s border reveal, 1648 was the year Bohdan Khmelnytskyi led the Ukrainian War of Liberation. Finish up with a devilishly tart Sour Cherry Varenyky layered with sour cherry cream and dark chocolate sauce, a steal at $11.11 (when the Ukrainian empire defeated the Pechenegs, of course).
Looking for a one-of-a-kind gift that also supports the local Ukrainian community? Pop into this sunny Chicago Avenue outpost and leaf through the shop’s massive collection of imported items, from traditional embroidered clothing and textiles to books, artwork, souvenirs, accessories, religious paraphernalia, decorative home goods, and stunning hand-painted Easter eggs. It claims to be the largest of its kind, peddling a 100% Ukrainian bill since opening its welcoming doors in 1960.
Perched along Chicago Avenue near Western, it’s easy to miss this elegant, sparsely decorated low-slung building at first glance. But step inside the curving cement facade and you’re immediately confronted with an onslaught of vivid, striking art spanning all forms. Both permanent and traveling shows exemplify the best in contemporary Easter European and Ukrainian-American works, drawing attention to masters like Kandinsky, Andreenko, and Hurtig alongside emerging and undiscovered artists. Political engagement is also front and center, with curated shows touching on themes of war, independence, resilience, poverty, and liberation. Aside from dazzling the senses, the UIMA also spearheads outreach campaigns via lectures, workshops, film screenings, concerts, and other community events intended to preserve and promote Ukrainian cultural expression in Chicago.
The humble omelet might sound like a sleeper of a breakfast order, but—trust—the mother-daughter team behind this charming Ukie Village cafe has managed to crack the code when it comes to throwing beaten eggs into a frying pan. Good enough to eat without a single filling, the endlessly fluffy, perfectly seasoned plate-sized round is nothing short of a culinary feat. The crepes also shine, stuffed with savory odds and ends like spinach, mushrooms, feta, ham, and gruyere, as do any one of the nine pierogi options plus the elder owner’s legendary cakes like the particularly light and airy Napoleon with lemon pastry cream and apricot puree, available by the slice until it sells out (and it will).
Take a deep dive into Ukraine’s past and present inside this landmark institution, located just off Chicago Avenue’s main drag in the shadow of Saints Volodymyr & Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church’s ornate expanse. Permanent displays cover all aspects of Ukrainian and Ukrainian-American history and culture, room after boxy room giving way to gorgeous handicrafts and embroidery, finely painted faberge eggs, artifacts from World War I and the Chicago’s World's Fair, historic paintings and documents, and a moving tribute to the Holodomor Genocide of 1932-33, when Stalin’s forces spured a famine that claimed millions of lives. Modern exhibits are also on hand, covering current events like protests against the Russian invasion dating to 2013.
If you live anywhere near Ukrainian Village, you’re probably already familiar with the various cultural celebrations that routinely go down at the sprawling Chicago Avenue complex that houses both the Ukrainian Cultural Center and the towering Saints Volodymyr & Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church. Riveting folk music blasts from the outdoor speakers until late in the evening, propelling group after group as they take to the stage atop the church’s front steps and launch into dance. Many of those skilled performers are members of this celebrated dance school, where director Roxana Dykyj-Pylypczak and her daughter, assistant director Daniela Pylypczak-Wasylyszyn, lead the organization in its mission to both protect and redefine Ukrainian dance traditions via intensive training, inspired choreography, and choice musical accompaniment. And the illustrious ensemble isn’t confined to Chicago block parties—they’ve traveled the world, bringing their talents to cities across North America as well as Eastern Europe.
Tart rye breads and flaky pastries baked fresh daily crowd the shelves inside this lively neighborhood fixture, sharing space with imported grocery items and a full-scale deli churning out sandwiches, salads, tinned fish, and other prepared goods. Owner Walter Siryj’s commitment to the community runs deep, happily tracking down hard-to-find ingredients and Ukrainian specialty snacks for his loyal customer base and, according to a 2014 student interview, standing strong in his decision to boycott Russian-made products in response to the annexation of Crimea. The vibe inside is upbeat and bustling from open ‘till close, thanks in part to the case of Ukrainian novelties stashed near the checkout lane that tempts shoppers of all ages with frosty packaged ice cream cones that hit just right on a warm summer day.