Home to Wrigley field, beautiful skyscrapers, large parks, and public beaches along Lake Michigan, the North Side of Chicago is one of the most recognizable areas of the Windy City. The district is bordered by the Chicago River, the West Side districts, and the city’s central-downtown area, and is comprised of twenty-three distinct mini neighborhoods that boast their own attitudes and sensibilities. To take us on an electric scooter tour through the iconic enclaves and to her favorite hangouts, we’ve enlisted Unagi enthusiast and Chicago native, Kristen Ziolko.
Born in the suburbs of Chicago, Kristen is a lifelong dancer who, after pursuing jazz through her high school years, took up ballet at the advice of her instructor. A testament to her dedication and natural talent, Kristen soon joined the Chicago based Bryant Ballet and danced professionally alongside ballerinas-from-birth for fifteen years. After retiring from the stage, Kristen refocused her efforts to first teaching ballet, and then broadening her methodology to a composite fitness practice that draws on many of the tenets of ballet, “I noticed that all these different workouts – pilates, yoga, running on a treadmill – failed to give me the delicate, ‘good’ soreness that I got from ballet, so I began to create my own movements and technique.”
Kristen’s method, “Corps Technique” mimics the way a ballet dancer uses his or her entire body to execute small movements. Over time, and with consistency, this manner of thoughtful, low-impact exercise can produce dramatic results without aggressive strain on the body, “It’s engrained in us that you need to endure pain to see a result, and it’s not the case, you can get an amazing workout and feel good as you’re doing it without someone yelling and screaming at you to push yourself along the way.”
As exemplified not only by her dance career and fitness practice, but also by her nutritional choices, Kristen believes in balance, and sharing the benefits therein. To that end, she spent the day taking us around to her favorite, healthful hangouts around the North Side of Chicago.
Ravenswood, named for the ravens once found in its treetops, was originally founded in 1868 as a commuter suburb by a group of a real-estate investors. A bit over a hundred years later, in the 1990s, its property values skyrocketed and cemented its status as one of the city’s premier neighborhoods. It also happens to be home to Kristen’s favorite juice shop, City Press Juice. It’s not for “beginners” but Kristen – a daily green juice imbiber – recommends trying the “green gimlet,” an anything-but-sweet concoction made of cold pressed romaine, dandelion, collards, celery, and lemon. Get those nutrients up.
From Ravenswood, we rode to Kristen’s favorite flower shop, Bunches, in Lincoln Park. During the middle of the 20th century, Lincoln Park became home to Chicago’s first Puerto Rican immigrants. Famously, Lincoln Park’s Young Lords transitioned from its status as a criminal group to a full-fledged human rights organization that advocated on behalf of the area’s poor Latino community. In keeping with much of Chicago’s North Side, decades of gentrification turned the area into one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods. Kristen frequents Branches on her electric scooter for a specific, recurring purchase: eucalyptus, “For a couple bucks, you can turn your shower into a spa. Hang a few sprigs of Eucalyptus above your showerhead and let the hot water hit you.” Go and treat yourself; wellness is about both body and mind.
From Lincoln Park, we rode on to the Northside’s Bucktown. Named after the male goats (bucks) raised by the area’s Polish settlers, Bucktown witnessed an influx of artists in the early 2000s which led to its becoming one of Chicago’s trendiest districts. A Bucktown staple, Kristen’s favorite beauty supplier, Credo Beauty, reigns as the city’s only all-natural cosmetic purveyor, “Chicago is not California, we don’t embrace these movements as much. I basically live in donut world . . . so it’s a big deal to have a store like this here.” If you’re looking for an affordable luxury, pick up Kristen’s preferred item, the Whamifa hydrogel sheet mask. For eight bucks, you’ll be ready for your close-up.
Also located within Bucktown is Kristen’s boutique of choice, Oak + Fort. The brand, famous for its neutral tones and heavy use of grayscale, makes accessible, luxury fashion for both men and women. Funny enough, the designer’s palette is not dissimilar to Unagi’s colorways, prompting passersby to frequently ask Kristen whether she coordinates her outfits to match her Sea Salt electric scooter, or vice-versa.
Finally, Kristen lead us down to Irving Park’s Backlot Coffee. A historic area that remains home to a bevy of grand buildings and examples of irreplaceable residential architecture, Irving Park also counts Kristen’s favorite latte amongst its landmarks. Backlot’s oatmeal cookie latte, made of oatmilk, honey, cinnamon, and espresso, is a lean indulgence that, according to Kristen, is a must try. In addition to its latte, the café is well known for its use of all natural ingredients and homemade syrups in its construction of organic beverages and locally celebrated pastries.
If you’re looking to change up your workout routine, head to Kristen’s website corpstechnique.com for lessons in her ballet-inspired method and follow her @corpstechnique on Instagram. For those of us tied to laptops during the workday, you’d do well to practice a few key stretches designed to loosen up your shoulders, hips, and hamstrings. Try the simple, cross-legged stretch pictured above to limber-up while you’re still at your desk! Thank you for continuing to follow our neighborhood stories, if you’d like to contribute and be featured on our blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Ride safe everyone!