A prim grid of tree-lined streets provides good shade for an afternoon stroll through this quiet, residential north side Chicago neighborhood. And, quite contradictory to the size of its namesake trees, the actual land area of Big Oaks is rather small. Still there's room for a few local restaurants that provide all the favorites from pizza to pierogies. Other businesses are found along Big Oaks' major border roads, but the bulk of the community is simply rows of private homes and manicured yards that offer a nice place for families to settle down.
Big Oaks Facts
Location: About 14 miles northwest of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Union Ridge, Jefferson Park, Oriole Park, Norridge
Boundaries: Foster Avenue to the north, Nagle Avenue to the east, Gunnison Street to the south and Harlem Avenue to the west
Then and Now
Imagine long open stretches of fresh-cut grass, a pole with a flag in the distance flicks in the wind. From somewhere behind you hear the urgent cry 'Fore!' Immediately you search the sky for the incoming object, which lands inches from your plaid-pants clad foursome, only mildly disrupting the tranquil disposition of the scene but severely upsetting your drive which flanked to the edge of the fairway.
Walking about the straight avenues and rows of houses in the purely residential Chicago neighborhood of Big Oaks, you won’t have to worry about getting beaned with a small, white dimpled ball, but you might be surprised by what once existed where your feet now tread.
What is now blocks of housing was once the expansive, well-tended greens of Big Oaks Golf Course. Named after the area’s numerous oak trees, Big Oaks Golf Course was constructed as a public counterpart to nearby members-only Ridgemoor Country Club. In 1955, Big Oaks Golf Course sold its land to the city, which demolished the course, replacing it with hundreds of homes.
These days Big Oaks (the neighborhood took its name from the golf course it supplanted) is a pleasantly residential area, home to a number of Chicago’s police officers and cozy single-family dwellings.
Big Oaks Real Estate
The tall oak trees that edge the streets of Big Oaks neighborhood are its characteristic trait, providing nice shade for summertime walks and plenty of ammunition for leaf piles in the fall. Though pretty much entirely residential, Big Oaks is close to a lot of parks, stores, and restaurants in nearby neighborhoods. If you’re willing to step over Big Oaks’s southern border, you find yourself at Ridgemoor Country Club (6601 W. Gunnison St., 708-867-8400) a private country club and golf course. Although Ridgemoor is off limits to all but members, perhaps you could befriend someone on the inside and score an invite for eighteen holes. If nothing else, it would give you something to talk to your neighbors about.
Big Oaks neighborhood has some multi-unit living options, mainly along Harlem Avenue, however most of the housing is of the single-family detached style. Still, there are several older, low-rise brick condos and a few newer model options. On average the sales price for a one- or two-bedroom unit is a little under $200,000.
Lot size in Big Oaks is moderate with a bit of lawn to mow. It’s nothing a push mower couldn’t handle, so, just a tip, the riding tractor model might be overkill. As for the actual home in the yards, most were built in the 1960s and ‘70s, and have been kept in good condition. There’s a variety of one- and two-story places with architectural designs from brick ranch to split-level to stately, high-ceilinged new structures. Average price for a three-bedroom in Big Oaks is in the upper $300,000s. For a house with another bedroom or two, you’re looking at an average value of $484,000 with the random $825,000 property here and there.
What’s on the Menu?
Homes dominate space in Big Oaks, so there isn’t a whole lot of room for fine dining. That’s not to say we don’t have favorite Chicago neighborhood restaurants, but branching out into a nearby locales would yield an even greater selection of culinary delights.
If you’re in the mood for a classy sit-down dinner (or lunch) we’d point you in the direction of Vince’s Italian Cuisine (4747 N. Harlem Ave., 708-867-7354). This cozy little Italian restaurant boasts an astoundingly large variety of delicious pastas, seafood selections and pizzas. In addition to an impressive wine list, they also keep a number of beers and spirits in stock, as well as soft drinks. Complementing the warm atmosphere, the staff is extremely friendly, giving this small Italian eatery a five-star rating in our book. And Vince’s occasionally features live music and singers (many of the crooner variety, which may or may not be your thing), so stop in and check out the schedule. You could also pick up a menu for home because Vince’s offers delivery for their pizzas, or anything else you’d want off their menu.
We have the perfect place to go in Big Oaks if you’re really, really hungry. Old Warsaw Buffet Bar (4750 N. Harlem Ave., 708-867-4500) offers a serve-yourself feast featuring a huge assortment of traditional Polish fare. Within the brightly colored building (it’s a green and white structure with vibrantly red and yellow striped awnings) you can pile all sorts of delicacies from kapusta to pierogies on your plate. The buffet is a bit pricier than a standard entree, so make sure you come with a serious appetite to get your money’s worth.
Don’t feel like a fancy upscale meal or a casual buffet? You can get your fill of basic American diner food at Family Palace Restaurant (4751 N. Harlem Ave., 708-867-5521). Look for the incandescent and neon sign (up since the ‘50s) shining down on Harlem Avenue to show you the way to this Big Oaks culinary staple. Hypothetically, you could come here for breakfast, lunch and dinner as the menu has got each meal covered with everything from pancakes to sandwiches to hamburgers. Just take a seat at the counter for a morning munch, in a booth for some midday eats, and at a table for supper, then switch it up tomorrow. Prices at Family Palace are very reasonable, so even with the whole family in tow, your wallet won’t suffer a terrible hit by eating out here.
Best Shopping Stops
As we’ve duly noted before, Big Oaks is very residential. As a result, it really doesn’t feature too many keen boutiques or other trendy places to shop. It does, however, provide a handful of interesting businesses that will, for whatever reason, come in handy some day.
Established in 1990, Dom Itp (4747 N. Harlem Ave., 708-867-3802) opened after founder Jan Krynski was astounded by the quality of handmade products he saw during a trip to Poland. Then and there he decided to convert his hardware store into one specializing in the finest in European housewares. Ever since, Krynski’s shop has been the neighborhood spot to buy your handmade glassware, porcelain, ornaments, and even stuffed animals, which cover the well-stocked shelves providing Big Oaks residents with some real class act goods for their homes. For those of you hearing wedding bells in the future, Dom Itp also offers a bridal registry so you can let friends and relatives know precisely what you want from the store’s vast collection.
As far as your more typical chain stores go, Big Oaks also features (among other things) a Red Wing Shoe Store (4852 N. Harlem Ave., 708-867-5600) for the general well-being of your feet, and an Office Max (4747 N. Harlem Ave., 708-867-0123) for the general well-being of your computer, your printer, your scanner, your desk … just pretty much everything in the office.
Walking around Big Oaks neighborhood with Fido or the kids is downright enjoyable with the towering oak trees providing a nice shaded path along the sidewalks. Even on those sultry summer days, the branches protect pedestrians, joggers, stroller-pushers and bicyclist from the harsh rays of the sun.
Once you decide to step outside the sheltered sanctuary of Big Oaks neighborhood and venture into downtown or to other destinations throughout the city, you have your choice of transportation. For one, Chicago’s top-notch public transit system (the CTA) operates buses to every location imaginable and has a number of lines that stop in Big Oaks. We recommend picking up either bus #81W off Gunnison Street or bus #86 off Nagle, and riding to the Jefferson Park station. From here you can take a bus into Chicago’s downtown Loop or hop on the Blue Line elevated train (lovingly referred to by locals as the 'El'). The Blue Line is an important route for many Chicagoans because it services the O’Hare International Airport, in addition to swinging through the Loop, and heading out to suburban Forrest Park. Seeing as the Loop is the hub of city transit, you can transfer to a train that will take you virtually anywhere in Chicago.
If driving is more your speed, Big Oaks is near the Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94), which provides an easy way to get downtown. Keeping a car in Big Oaks is not too difficult, as a number of houses have garages off the crisscrossing alleys that run behind the buildings. Without a garage (or if you’re there visiting friends) you have to park on the street, not as daunting a task as you’d think. Typically, there’ll be open spaces on your road and, if not, you can usually find some just around the corner.
School’s in Session
In addition to the following list, you can find more information on Chicago area schools at our Chicago Guide Schools page.
Daniel C Beard Elementary School – 6445 W. Strong St. – (773) 534-1230
Saint Monica School – 5115 N. Mont Clare Ave. – (773) 631-7880
We’ve compiled a sampling of some of the places you can get your bare necessities in Big Oaks, from library books to greeting cards, postage stamps to prescriptions.
Family Palace Restaurant – 4751 N. Harlem Ave. – (708) 867-5521
Vince’s Italian Cuisine – 4747 N. Harlem Ave. – (708) 867-7354
Domino’s Pizza – 4707 N. Harlem Ave. – (708) 867-4900
Old Warsaw Buffet Bar – 4750 N. Harlem Ave. – (708) 867-4500
Resurrection Medical Center – 7435 W. Talcott Ave. – (773) 774-8000
Ridgemoor Country Club (Private) – 6601 W. Gunnison St. – (708) 867-8400
Nottoli Italian Foods – 5025 N. Harlem Ave. – (773) 631-0662
Oriole Park Branch – 7454 W. Balmoral Ave. – (312) 744-1965
Walgreens – 7155 W. Foster Pl. – (773) 631-3319
US Post Office – 7101 W. Gunnison St. – (708) 867-7090
Office Max – 4747 N. Harlem Ave. – (708) 867-0123
Dom Itp – 4747 N. Harlem Ave. – (708) 867-3802
Red Wing Shoe Store – 4852 N. Harlem Ave. – (708) 867-5600
Chicago Transit Authority – (888) 968-7282
Our neighborhoods guide is meant to give potential homebuyers a general overview of what every Chicago neighborhood has to offer and what makes it unique from the rest, and believe us, no two neighborhoods are the same! Searching for a new home isn’t just about finding that prefect condo or house, making sure the setting fits your style and needs is just as important. And whether Big Oaks neighborhood is your ideal locale to settle down, or you’ve found the scene here just isn’t your cup of tea, we’re here to help you find the right place to make sure your home purchase a is total success. From the type of restaurants to the outdoor venues to the local schools, every detail is an essential factor in what makes a property of dream home. By utilizing our comprehensive accounts of each community, such as this one for Big Oaks, we hope to provide a detailed picture of not only the residential real estate available in the area, but also the additional features of the neighborhood. A quick glance and you’ll know exactly what shopping, dining, entertainment and resources are in Big Oaks, all without ever having to go anywhere.