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In Chicago, colorful Pilsen broadens its palate

In Chicago, colorful Pilsen broadens its palate

Outside Thalia Hall, the most happening new spot in Chicago's emerging Pilsen neighborhood, I do a double take. It's a freezing night, and there's a small woman with a guitar slung over her back standing in the recess of a doorway. "Come into my office," she beckons, so I do. She tells me that her name is Kez Ban, and would I like to hear her play?

"This is the song I used to audition for 'American Idol,' " she says, stepping out onto the sidewalk across from St. Procopius Church, the opulent brick heart of this Latino community. She begins strumming her guitar. I listen in disbelief as the husky melody spills out of her mouth. A South Asian man who says that his...