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Community and Culture

Community, art and creative concoctions in the Illinois Elgin Area.

By Kelsie Ozamiz

Each town that sidles the Fox River has its own niche—a uniqueness that sets it apart from the other points of flow. And while the river takes a calm, straight and narrow path along the edges of Elgin, Illinois,  it’s the town and the people therein that do the moving and shaking. The Elgin area flows with art—both visual and performance—and culture in a way that makes the river want to pause and stay awhile.

In Downtown Elgin, Chicago Street acts like a vein pumping culture and liveliness direct from the metropolis for which it’s named. Quirky little bookstores, coffee shops, and windows filled with obscure antiques line the sidewalks on Chicago Street and Highland Avenue as you head west toward the riverfront. Notably along this path is the Blue Box Cafe, a Doctor Who-themed coffee and sandwich shop that hosts the coolest or geekiest (depending on who you ask) weekend events. Some things you might walk into on a Friday or Saturday night include, but are not limited to, a live podcast recording, game playing, cosplaying and movie marathoning.

That’s just one example of the many cultured venues throughout town.

Class in a glass

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For some, it’s not a doctor that they need to see but a mixologist, and the downtown area has plenty of those who can prescribe you a drink. The Elgin Public House’s signature bourbon drink, The Boss’s Sour, will show you who’s boss with its ginger liqueur and Luxardo Sour Cherry Syrup.

Just a few doors down, the Martini Room has a martini for every taste imaginable. Under the menu heading ‘Hot & Sexy Martinis’ their  highly reviewed concoction, Smoking Gun, tings with flavors of blueberry and smoked rosemary. The lounge-style atmosphere is welcoming like a living room, and once a month the venue serves as an art gallery, so visitors can sip and peruse.

Taking art to the tap, the Elgin area rocks the craft beer scene with flair and quality. The Plank Road Tap Room is a little ways off the beaten path, and has a distinct log cabin exterior (complete with idyllic wraparound porch), and they’ve become the area’s pioneer in craft beer selections. Food trucks are consistently curbed along Plank Road for drinkers to grab a nosh. The concept is BYOF (bring your own food), and they’ll take care of the beer and atmosphere.

Feel like a local as you step into Emmett’s Brewing Co in West Dundee (about 20 minutes up the road from the heart of Elgin) where they treat guests like neighbors and the handcrafted beer pairs perfectly with the food menu. With rich hardwood floors and trimming, the interior exudes a dynamic of comfort and class. The staff is welcoming and eager to share the craft-beer experience. Taking the best hops, yeast strains and malts from all around the world, the team brews up award-winning small batch beers using sustainable practices. With essence of caramel, a balance of hops and malt and a fruity finish, the 1 A.M. Ale is a refreshing treat, and a nice complement is the cheddar ale soup with rich, creamy, savory flavors featuring cheese, ale and bacon.

Only in Elgin

Elginites know the value of pairing a good drink with a good time. And the definition of a good time is taking in artistic expressions with peers. The appreciation of art, music and theater is clear just by observing all the galleries cornering Downtown, posters hung in windows of local theater performances, the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, and (the telltale sign of an artistic community) the annual Fringe Festival. Fringe has become somewhat more mainstream and keeps expanding every year as more and more storefronts, event spaces and establishments offer up their spaces to hold performances in film, music, improv and storytelling. The collaboration of Side Street Studio Arts and Next Door Theater has created a free-flowing artistic community center for performers, musicians, artists and even yogis to come display their craft and learn from others.

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The Elgin area keeps creating a higher standard of creativity and culture. It seems possible that what inspires this community is each other—constantly pushing to find the next creative edge, constantly sharing in each other’s discoveries.

Explore more Elgin area arts & entertainment.