Just 13 miles northwest of the Loop, Belmont Heights offers the convenience of the Big City without any of the overpopulation or congestion. Hundred-year-old trees line residential streets and ample parking exists throughout the neighborhood's commercial districts. Attracting young professionals who prefer to live away from where they work, families that need a good-sized yard, and folks in late-life who want to downsize and slow down a tad, Belmont Heights is the ideal home for all sorts of Chicagoans. Cozy cafes and coffee shops abound while traditional Polish and German eateries and a slew of pizzerias fill the air with the irresistible aroma of sauerkraut and oregano. A cluster of friendly bar and grills house the nightlife in Belmont Heights, and the usual suspects of handy hardware stores, furniture showrooms and specialty groceries anchor the rest of the community's needs.
Belmont Heights Facts
Location: About 13 miles northwest of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Irving Woods, Belmont Terrace, Dunning, Schorsch Village, Monteclare
Boundaries: Irving Park Road to the north, Harlem Avenue to the east, Belmont Avenue to the south and Pacific Avenue to the west
Then and Now
Since the late 1800s, Belmont Heights has been a solidly middle-class neighborhood. There is a level of pride in ownership that began with early Polish and German settlers which still exists among modern-day residents.
At the start of the 1900s, the communities of Dunning and Norridge (now a suburb of Chicago), which surround Belmont Heights, began to see tremendous growth in development and in population. Not to be outdone by their neighbors, a bunch of farmers bought up tracks of land within Belmont Heights, creating the spark of economic expansion the community needed to compete with the nearby settlements. Soon enough, early families found Belmont Heights a pleasant alternative to Dunning, after an insane asylum was built within town limits, and the area took off.
During the 1920s, economic and residential growth continued. Belmont Heights was a convenient yet distant 13 miles northwest of the city which made it particularly interesting to low-brow gangsters and moonshiners. As a result, some shady mob business went down around the area that has since cleared out.
By the end of the Jazz Age, the Irving Park Cemetery had been built within the neighborhood boundaries and was fairly well populated. The cemetery was built in 1917 to accommodate the poor souls laid to rest within city limits. Famous graves include three of the seven victims of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre where Al Capone sent a morbid message to Bugs Moran about getting too big for his gangster britches. Though not residents in life, these fellows can now enjoy Belmont Heights as their final resting place.
As the 20th century progressed, Belmont Heights continued to thrive as a working-class neighborhood. Slowly, the population switched from an Eastern European to a Hispanic majority. The Belmont Heights Chamber of Commerce was established in 1969 and continues to work hard, ensuring the economic revitalization of the area. Restaurants, the Harlem Irving Plaza Mall, home furnishing retailers, and general interest shops gradually popped up along the neighborhood’s main thoroughfares. Today, Belmont Heights boasts one of the lowest commercial vacancy rates in all of Chicago. But don’t worry, for those of you looking to buy a home in this northwest side neighborhood, there are still a good number of residential properties available that offer both affordable prices and good value for your buck.
There’s no need to leave Belmont Heights to find shady trees to walk under or a plush stretch of green to sunbathe on. There are plenty of parks where you can hide away, kick a ball around, or just stroll through on your way back home.
Hiawatha Park (8029 W Forest Preserve Dr, 312-746-5559) was created after World War II when developers realized the importance of establishing recreational space within a community of densely packed residential and commercial structures. Located on the western edge of the neighborhood, Hiawatha Park is a 12-acre commons named in honor of an Onandaga Indian chief who formed the League of Five Nations (a famed Iroquois Confederation). Providing Belmont Heights residents with some much needed outdoor breathing room, the park was, and still is, a welcome addition to the tightly-packed rows of housing and businesses.
Throughout the year the park hosts seasonal sports for all ages and athletic skill levels; from tennis to softball to basketball to hockey, Hiawatha Park offers a team for every interest. In addition to the team sports, adults can pick up a few how-to sessions at the onsite fitness center to tone-up the muscles or keep up on the cardio. And be sure to check out the summer freebies. Round up the kids and bring them over to the park for storytelling, or gather the whole family and head on down to enjoy an evening of 'Movies in the Park', sponsored by the Chicago Parks District.
How about a walk on the eccentric side? Take a stroll through the lush greenery and weathered headstones that is Irving Park Cemetery (7777 W Irving Park Rd, 773-625-3500). There is nothing more peaceful and thought-provoking than the dead silence of a graveyard. Irving Park Cemetery offers up a large stretch of green in the middle of the northwest corner of Belmont Heights, perfect for a serene walk, the contemplation of the meaning of life, or a visit with past loved ones. In addition, if done respectfully, there are several famous graves to visit, most notably three of the gangsters killed in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre on February 14, 1929. Frank and Peter Gusenburg, along with Albert Kachellek, were not residents of Belmont Heights, but Irving Park Cemetery was far enough from downtown that it was thought their graves would be safe from rival gangster vandalism.
Belmont Heights Real Estate
Once people experience the charm of Belmont Heights, they don’t let go. There is a very low turnover rate of homeowners because residents are fiercely proud of ownership and extremely attached to their familiar surroundings. Folks keep their property looking top-notch, while commercial districts have one of the lowest vacancy rates in Chicago. Belmont Heights is also relatively close to O’Hare International Airport, making any kind of destination travel a quick hop, skip and jump away from home.
The residential areas have a mix of condominiums, townhomes, low-rise flats, and two- and three-story walk-ups. A variety of small single-family houses and larger, new-construction homes are also available in Belmont Heights that include traditional Queen Anne-style homes and quaint brick bungalows. Belmont Heights has many tree-lined streets, which help keep it cooler in summer and provide a beautiful canopy of snow-covered limbs in the winter.
The average sales price for a one- or two-bedroom condo is $207,000 but you can easily find one in the mid-$100,000s. Three-bedroom condos or townhomes average around $267,000 in Belmont Heights. Detached single-family homes start at $200,000 but can reach into the upper $700,000s. A three-bedroom place costs about $350,000 on average, and a house with a couple more bedrooms in this northwest side Chicago neighborhood typically sells for closer to $400,000.
What’s on the Menu?
On every other corner in Belmont Heights there is a cozy eatery. It doesn’t matter what cuisine you’re in the mood for, this neighborhood has everything from Polish fare to tacos and pizza, and all within walking distance of your front door.
The beginning of any good day in Belmont Heights starts with a good cup of coffee at J Bean Coffee and Cafe (7221 W Forest Preserve Dr, 708-583-2245). For seven years, J Bean has been serving up the best lattes around, not to mention homemade pastries like doughnuts, banana bread, lemon cake, and crescent rolls. The menu is extended to include sandwiches and salads that you can enjoy with live music (on Thursdays) or pick-up for carryout. And J Bean’s freshly made gelato is tops too, especially the raspberry caramel. Does the mention of gelato perk up those taste buds? If so, you may want to head over to Cafe Europa (7401 W Irving Park Rd, 773-625-0033). Occupying a busy street corner, Cafe Europa is not much to look at, but once you venture past its plain brick exterior there are more flavors of freshly-made gelato than you can count on two hands. At this European-inspired gelateria there’s never a rush, so patrons can leisurely sit and enjoy strawberry, banana, tiramisu, and many more flavors of this icy Italian dessert.
While coffee and gelato could be a main food group for many Chicagoans, sometimes we need a more substantial meal. For that there’s Edelweiss Restaurant (7650 W Irving Park Rd, 708-452-6040), serving up the best German food in Belmont Heights. The dark wood interior is adorned with Bavarian memorabilia, without being too cluttered or kitschy. Try the sauerbraten; it’s so tender that you can cut it with a fork, that is if you still have room after the thick homemade potato pancake appetizer. Edelweiss is as much a restaurant as it is beer garden and entertainment venue. The bar offers several domestic brews, over 20 import beers in bottle and on tap, and plenty of wine, which you can get by the glass or full bottle. After you’ve eaten your fill, get another drink and sit back to enjoy the authentic German band which plays Thursday through Sunday while decked out in traditional German garb.
In the mood for something totally different? Try Hortex 2 (7419 W Irving Park Rd, 773-625-1200). On pleasant summer evenings, we like to join the Belmont Heights regulars out on the spacious and well-lit patio to eat a home-cooked Polish meal under the stars. Around here it’s not uncommon for meals to last for hours, with friends and family enjoying several courses, dessert and coffee without feeling any pressure to eat and leave. The borscht soup, given its radiant crimson color from the beets it’s flavored by, is a red-hot menu item and beyond delicious. The perfect main entree is the sauerkraut and mushroom croquettes, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll follow it up with Hortex’s signature ice cream creation overflowing with fresh fruit. It’s always nice to have a somewhat healthy dessert (it’s got fruit, right?) that won’t bring on the guilty feelings the second the last bite is gone.
No Chicago neighborhood is complete without a couple of pizza joints. Armando’s Pizza (7405 W Irving Park Rd, 773-625-4242) is a family run pizzeria with no liquor license, which means soda only folks. No problem though, their pizza makes up for the lack of 'adult beverages'. It’ll be about 10 minutes wait if you are picking-up or sitting down to a pizza, but it’ll be a little bit longer if you want to splurge and get the garlic pasta or the thick-cut, cheesy-delicious, homemade lasagna. At Caponies Cafe & Pizzeria (3350 N Harlem Ave, 773-804-9024) you’ll get the same cozy, family-owned vibe, but with specialty brick oven pizza creations. The margherita pizza is all about fresh mozzarella cheese, plenty of basil, and a robust amount of garlic. This one is sure to become a fast family favorite. While you’re waiting for the pizza, have some soft Italian bread with a bit of olive oil and Romano cheese or maybe some fried ravioli with marinara sauce. Then, if you have room left after all of that, the gelato will help cut back on your newly acquired garlic breath! If you’re in a hurry or have a family to feed waiting at home, Domino’s Pizza (3336 N Harlem Ave, 773-622-9600) is the quick stop to satisfy everyone. Their personal-size pizza is perfect for dining alone, or create any size pizza, deep-dish or thin crust, for the whole family. It’s not a sit-down joint, but Domino’s is definitely a quick, tasty place that will satisfy your craving for a pie.
Best Shopping Stops
Belmont Heights has an excellent shopping district for the sole fact that there is a major mall on the corner of Irving Park Road and Harlem Avenue. In addition to this shopping center called the Harlem Irving Plaza, little shops and boutiques line the main neighborhood thoroughfares of Irving Park Road and Belmont Avenue.
Searching for the peculiar? Beyond the Limit (7316 W Irving Park Rd, 708-452-5552) sells everything from James Brown bobbleheads to obscure punk rock T-shirts. The shop is easy to miss and a little hard to park at, due to its location on the main stretch of Irving Park Road, but it is well worth the stop. Summed up, Beyond the Limit is an independently-owned-record-store-novelty-hippie-rock-shop. You’ll find any oddball object you could ever want from KISS dioramas to hippie jewelry to CDs by local bands. Just around the corner from Beyond the Limit, which presents a less difficult parking situation, is Rolling Stone’s Music (7300 W Irving Park Rd, 708-456-0861). Don’t worry, you can’t miss it, the sign out front is huge and glitters in both the sun and traffic lights. Rolling Stone’s is a certifiable Rock and Roll mecca. The rectangular store takes up the entire corner of Harlem Avenue, Irving Park Road and Forest Preserve Drive. The shop is full of pop rock, R & B, punk rock, ska, classic rock, metal, rockabilly, blues…well, let’s just say it is pretty much full of any music you could ever want, including imported CDs, DVDs and books. Even better is the price. You’ll be hard up to find a CD for more than $9.99, instead of the usual $12.99 plus price you would find at any other larger retail location.
Night on the Town
Belmont Heights is a hard-working neighborhood that knows how to make the weekend count. There is a laid-back lounge and grill feel to hot nightspots in Belmont Heights, rather than the hyperactive club hopping you’ll find in other downtown and north side Chicago neighborhoods. Most bars are half-restaurant, half-lounge with a family-oriented ambiance that suits the locals just fine.
During the weekdays Pavone Restaurant and Lounge (7547 W Irving Park Rd, 773-589-1116) is a family-friendly Italian eatery; on the weekends it stays open till 2am serving up drink specials to a good-size lounge that fills up quickly. The full service bar specializes in delicate and fierce wines, in addition to a good number of domestic and imported beers. The quiet elegance of the restaurant transforms into a chatting, respectful bar crowd that relishes in the joy of eating gelato or tiramisu while tipping back a strong drink. After a bit at Pavone, hop down the street to Martini’s (7620 W Irving Park Rd, 708-456-4898). This Belmont Heights neighborhood watering hole usually serves to a mixed crowd of thirty-something professionals and working-class folks. Weekends bring a little bit of karaoke and some dynamite drink specials (mixed drinks can be found for $4, usually less). There is plenty of room to put your elbows on the bar and stay for a while, but those coveted bar spots are taken up early in the evening. For everyone else, there are plenty of small tables and standing room to enjoy good music and an affordable night out on the town.
Serving it up the younger crowd, the family crowd, and everyone in between, Bije’s Grill & Bar (7455 W Irving Park Rd, 773-625-9700) is the Belmont Heights karaoke king on Thursday nights. Wednesdays are 'Customer Appreciation Night' where domestic bottles are only $1.50. Bije’s has a split personality of sorts: popular bar complete with mounted moose heads, arcade games, and plenty of drink specials, but it’s also a family restaurant with the best garlic bread on Irving Park Road, and the thin crust pizza is to die for.
If the bar scene isn’t your style, take in a flick at AMC Loews (4520 N Harlem Ave, 708-452-6677). Here’s a heck of a deal: all shows before noon on Saturdays and Sundays are only $5. The rest of the time movies are about $9 plus whatever damage you do at the concession stand. It’s hard to resist buttery flavored popcorn and those chocolate covered peanuts. If there are any students in the group, they get a buck off with an I.D. card and senior citizens get $2 off, regardless of what show or the show time. Sometimes seniority really does pay off!
Belmont Heights is about 13 miles northwest of the Loop, which is far enough away from the city’s center that traffic and parking aren’t too bothersome. There are several local routes into downtown from Belmont Heights. Irving Park Road runs all the way from the northwest suburbs to Wrigleyville and beyond, but if you pick up Milwaukee or Elston avenues, you can take those directly southeast to the Loop. Traffic can be a bit of a crunch during morning rush hours, so some folks take Irving Park Road to the Dan Ryan Expressway (I 90-94) instead. But no guarantees that will be any less congested than surface roads.
Many residents have cars, which they use to get around the neighborhood, to work and for errands. But, as with any Chicago neighborhood, no vehicles are necessary to travel quickly and easily about the city. The Chicago Transit Authority has us covered. There are CTA bus routes along Irving Park Road (#80) and Belmont Avenue (#77) that lead into the thick of Chicago. If you’d rather skip the traffic and take a leisurely train ride into downtown, the Metra Milwaukee District West Line passes by Belmont Heights with a stop at Elmwood Park (7600 W Grand Ave, 708-452-3900).
School’s in Session
Whether you are an adult learner looking for continuing education courses or have a youngster going off to school for the first day of kindergarten, Belmont Heights has a school for you.
At Ombudsman (3326 N Harlem Ave, 773-237-9329) students from middle school to high school are treated to small classroom sizes with an emphasis on college prep and technology skills. Since 1975, Ombudsman has expanded from one Chicagoland site to over 60 locations nationwide. If your family is looking for a faith-based school, Guerin Preparatory High School (8001 Belmont Ave, 708-453-6296) is an excellent option. Founded in 1962 as an all-girls academy, Guerin Prep began as a co-ed high school in 2004. With a focus on Catholic faith and college preparation, Guerin works to instill students with strong values and a global awareness.
In addition to the following list, you can find out more information about Belmont Heights and other Chicago area schools on our Chicago Schools page.
Auto Metro Driving School – 7464 W Belmont Ave (773) – 622-0966
Canty Elementary School – 3740 N Panama Ave – (773) 534-1238
Denver Public School – 3436 N Osceola Ave – (773) 534-3090
JFH Educational Academy – 7642 West Irving Park Road (708) 456-5512
Jolly Funhouse Playschool – 7559 W Addison St – (773) 637-6115
Ombudsman Educational Services – 3326 N Harlem Ave – (773) 237-9329
St. Francis Borgia School – 3535 N Panama Ave – (773) 589-1000
It takes time and exploration to fully know a new neighborhood, lucky for you, we’ve already done a lot of the leg work. Here are some basic details about Belmont Heights, from where to borrow books to the nearest grocery store.
Arby’s – 3931 N Harlem Ave – (773) 736-5788
Bakers Square 3649 N Harlem Ave – (773) 777-2994
Franksville – 3550 N Harlem Ave – (773) 237-5848
Mr. Beef – 3917 N Harlem Ave – (773) 283-7444
Happy Garden Chinese Garden – 7710 W Belmont Ave – (773) 625-1852
Kowloon Chop Suey – 7403 W Irving Park Rd – (773) 625-3605
Taste of China – 7534 W Addison St – (773) 589-2323
La Baguette Bakery – 3445 N Harlem Ave – (773) 202-0698
Palermo Bakery – 3317 N Harlem Ave – (773) 777-5957
Bar San Francisco – 3815 N Harlem Ave – (773) 283-1117
Bije’s Bar & Grill – 7455 W Irving Park Rd – (773) 625-9700
Boomtown Saloon – 7607 W Addison St – (773) 625-4116
The Brewery – 3848 N Harlem Ave – (773) 625-7818
City Lights Bar and Grill – 3809 N Harlem Ave – (773) 777-9500
Club Belmont – 7844 W Belmont Ave – (773) 589-2808
Mugshots – 7718 W Addison St – (773) 625-8466
Nick’s Cocktail Lounge – 7429 W Addison St – (773) 889-7365
Pavone Restaurant and Lounge – 7547 W Irving Park Rd – (773) 589-1116
Cafe Europa – 7401 W Irving Park Rd – (773) 625-0033
Dunkin Donuts – 3359 N Harlem Ave – (773) 481-0385
Dunkin Donuts – 7171 W Irving Park Rd – (773) 794-1050
J Bean Coffee and Cafe – 7221 W Forest Preserve Dr – (708) 583-2245
La Capannina Coffee – 7547 West Addison St – (773) 745-6755
Milan Coffee Shop – 7406 W Addison St – (773) 625-1389
Edelweiss Restaurant – 7650 W Irving Park Rd – (708) 452-6040
Taco Bell – 3509 N Harlem Ave – (773) 685-7066
Taco Burrito King – 3216 N Harlem Ave (773) 637-3200
Pizza and Italian Cuisine
Armando’s Pizza – 7405 W Irving Park Rd – (773) 625-4242
Caponies Cafe & Pizzeria – 3350 N Harlem Ave – (773) 804-9024
Domino’s Pizza – 3336 N Harlem Ave – (773) 622-9600
Leona’s Restaurant – 7443 W Irving Park Rd – (773) 625-3636
Hortex 2 – 7419 W Irving Park Rd – (773) 625-1200
Bob Food Mart – 7725 W Addison St – (773) 625-2990
Joseph’s Food Mart – 8235 W Irving Park Rd – (773) 625-0118
Riviera Italian Imported Foods – 3220 N Harlem Ave (773) 637-4252
Santa-Fara – 7524 W Addison St – (773) 589-1544
S.P. Convenience – 7319 W Irving Park Rd – (773) 589-2958
West Addison Public Library – 7536 W Addison St – (312) 746-4704
Rich’s Pharmacy – 7460 W Addison St – (773) 625-3244
Anabella’s Fashions – 3320 N Harlem Ave – (773) 889-5513
Jackie’s Bridal Shop – 3401 N Harlem Ave – (773) 286-1124
K & I Boutique – 3838 N Harlem Ave – (773) 589-0602
La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries – 3232 N Harlem Ave – (773) 237-6116
Modern Context – 3721 N Osceola Ave – (312) 622-3466
Polish-American Bookstore – 3400 N Harlem Ave – (773) 622-1271
There’s a lot of mystery involved in searching for a new home—it starts with the property and expands outward to encompass the street, the block, the neighborhood, the entire city! Every little thing matters from the color of the walls to the attractions of the town. That’s why a guide like this one on Belmont Heights is so helpful to potential homebuyers. Without leaving the comfort of your desktop computer or laptop, you’ve got an extensive pool of information on all of Chicago’s neighborhoods that includes first-hand descriptions of dining, entertainment, shopping, bars, and events, in addition to lists of schools, hospitals, post offices, and gyms. We’ve done all the research to carefully craft this one-stop online spot, and create your hub for the real deal on Belmont Heights. So as soon as a Chicago loft, condo, townhome or house catches your eye, you know where to come for the low down on the digs around that prime piece of real estate.