area wedged between Lincoln Square, Ravenswood, and Andersonville is
considered something of a suburban oasis in the city. It is a small
neighborhood that most Chicagoans probably wouldn't recognize by name, but
despite its size, Bowmanville offers
many of the advantages of larger neighborhoods without a lot of the headaches.
This tiny, north side Chicago community is located close to shopping and
nightlife, but offers a more tranquil locale with distinctive single-family
homes and private outdoor space. Trees and grass abound in Bowmanville,
providing plenty of green appeal right in your own front yard. Out on
Bowmanville's border Avenues are sufficient restaurants, coffee houses and
neighborhood pubs to entertainment without disturbing the peacefulness of this
lovely, little Chicago enclave.
Location: Approximately 5 miles north the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Andersonville, Ravenswood, Edgewater, Budlong Woods
Boundaries: Western Avenue and Bowmanville Avenue to the west, Bryn Mawr Avenue to the north, Ravenswood Avenue to the east and Foster Avenue to the south
Then and Now
Jesse Bowman, a local innkeeper, was a man who was passionate about getting things done fast-and not necessarily by the books. In the early 1850s he unofficially made the cart paths and forest near present-day Foster and RAve.nswood Ave.nues his own, and laid claim to many of the plots in the area without actually owning any of the property. He then sold the land-that wasn't his-to unwitting buyers, and skipped town. That's basically how Chicago's Bowmanville neighborhood got its start. But the growing communities surrounding Bowman's questionable real estate dealings had a great impact on the success of the small, budding district.
At this point, the area that had once primarily been known for its truck farming and the production of flowers, pickles and celery, was becoming increasingly attractive for its residential potential. Rosehill Cemetery, the northern boundary of Bowmanville neighborhood, opened in 1859 with a majestic front gate and vast wooded lawns that welcomed not only mourners, but families of picnickers and folks just out for a Sunday stroll. In the 1860s, the region south of the cemetery grounds, known as the RAve.nswood neighborhood, which was originally a large suburb, was becoming a popular place to live for commuters with downtown jobs due to the number of train stations in the vicinity. As more stops were added at different points in the neighborhood-culminating with the completion of the RAve.nswood elevated tracks in 1907-the population continued to increase.
The rising number of residents caught the attention of real estate speculators and investors who saw the potential for even more growth in the area. In Bowmanville and nearby RAve.nswood, where once there had been farms and forest, brick bungalows, two-flats and small apartment buildings began to sprout up. Although this northern region of Chicago was traditionally settled by people of German and Swedish heritage, by the 1920s there was an influx of Italians and Russian Jewish immigrants that changed the neighborhood's cultural make-up. Over the next 20 years, as Bowmanville adjusted to the new mix of residents, the population continued to swell and light industry also started to appear on some of the vacant land.
In the 1960s many Greeks relocated to the close by Lincoln Square and Bowmanville areas after being displaced by construction of the University of Illinois-Chicago and the Eisenhower Expressway west of the Loop. In the ensuing years Bowmanville saw its populace continue to increase and diversify, although there was a period in the 1970s when the population dipped somewhat. Since then, Bownmanville has rebounded and an increasing number of families hAve. discovered this hidden neighborhood-close to so much, yet just far enough away to provide quieter streets and ample parking.
Bowmanville Real Estate
Large maple trees shade the side streets of Bowmanville homes, composed of two-flats, townhouses, frame cottages and bungalows. All of the single-family homes in the area hAve. nice-sized lots with front and back yards, and some of the traditional bungalows hAve. been restored to their original beauty. Additionally, the neighborhood offers homebuyers a few vintage multi-unit residential buildings and mid-rise red brick condominiums for folks who don't need, or want, as much space and upkeep as an entire house presents.
What's on the Menu?
Bowmanville may not have quite as many restaurants as nearby Lincoln Square and Andersonville but there are several standouts that shouldn't be missed.
One of our favorite places to hang when the weather turns warm is the outdoor patio at Leadway Bar & Grill (5233 N Damen Ave., 773-728-2663). Is it a bar, a cafe or an artist's gallery? We'll let you decide. This neighborhood gem is a casual place to dig into reasonably priced salads, burgers and fries. The best part? You get free paper, paint and markers to let your inner doodler churn out a masterpiece as you wait for your meal. The fun-loving staff is eager for you to hAve. a good time, and sometimes local artists offer free art lessons.
For tacos, nachos and everything in between check out El Tipico Mexican Grill (1905 W Foster Ave.,
773-754-8962). Offering dine in, carry
out and catering, this is a great spot to get your Mexican food fix. They advertise the best margaritas in town-you'll
hAve. to let us know.
Over at Yes
Thai (5211 N Damen Ave., 773-878-3487) is another popular outdoor patio,
which makes up for the smallish dining room at one of Bowmanville's favorite restaurants. But any time of year, this is an excellent place to grab takeout on
the way home, or call in an order and hAve. them deliver. Another option for delivery or carry-out in the
Chinese food category is China Kitchen (1931
W Foster Ave., 773-334-4438). Known for
their large portions and reasonable prices, this is a fabulous spot to order up
Chinese classics like Sesame Chicken, Orange Chicken and Crab Rangoon. Another bonus, the delivery is fast.
A popular spot for brunch, Pauline's (1754 W Balmoral Ave., 773-561-8573) offers omelets of many varieties and some of the best pancakes around. This is the spot to order fresh squeezed orange juice and French toast, and if you're feeling adventurous, the menu boasts little experiments like Pumpkin pancakes or Eli's cheesecake stuffed waffle. A neighborhood institution with a great patio, the spot gets pretty busy on weekends, so be prepared for a little wait.
Best Shopping Stops
Bowmanville doesn't have a lot of shopping in its boundaries, but there are a few places worth a look. For a more serious shopping trip, Lincoln Square and Andersonville are close by.
In the Bowmanville neighborhood, there's only
one shopping spot to go for high-end accessories-step over to G V Jewelry (1926 W. Foster Ave., 773-275-6577) and consult with
one of their certified gemologists on exactly the kind of stone you are looking
for. They sell necklaces, rings, pendants and earrings in dozens of styles and
When winter rolls into town and those chilly
winds start blowing off the lake, it might be time for a trip to Keim Furs (1820 W. Foster Ave.,
773-561-8680). This legendary furrier hasn't been here since foxes and wolves
roamed Foster Avenue, but at 78 years and counting, they are easily one of the
longest-standing shops in Bowmanville. Still owned and operated by the
Keim family, this namesake fur shop prides themselves on quality skins and
workmanship that provides their patrons with the best in luxury outwear at
Morpho Gallery (5216 N Damen Ave., 773-878-4255) is an art gallery packed with work done by emerging artists, covering a variety of tastes and available for reasonable prices. The owner is very focused on incubating emerging artists, so there is always something new to see.
Night on the Town
Bowmanville is a great area for traditional pubs and little out-of-the-way bars that are just as rewarding as the popular watering holes in more congested areas of Chicago.
It's true that Bowmanville doesn't have a
Wrigley Field or an Arlington Park Race Track, but it does have a unique
sporting event found nowhere else in the city. Big Joe's 2 and 6 Pub (1818 W Foster Ave., 773-784-8755) hosts
turtle races every Friday night. You heard us right-this unpretentious pub is
filled with locals who enjoy a good laugh over a fine selection of on tap and
bottled brews as they root for their reptilian pick for the night.
The tavern's pool tables are covered over with
wood panels to create a mini-racing track for the little hard-shell crawlers.
Everyone gets a numbered ticket with drink purchase, and when the bar announces
your digits, it's time to cheer on your designated slow-moving racer. Whether
your turtle comes in first or dead last (six compete at a time), you still win
because the champions receive a super cool turtle t-shirt and the turtle
bringing up the rear earns their devoted supporter a free drink. Is it wrong
that we always want our turtle to lose?
If you like darts and the feel of a traditional
Irish pub, step into Claddagh Ring Pub
(2306 W Foster Ave., 773-271-5551). The steel-tip darts are polished up and
ready in the back room, and a fresh pint of Guinness awaits you over at the
bar. This is a popular place with the gang from the firehouse a few doors down
the street, and if you get hungry this Bowmanville neighborhood haunt has a
small menu of pub grub to satisfy your empty stomach.
Down on Damen Avenue a bit lies Bobbie's Runaway Inc, (5305 N Damen Ave.,
773-271-6488). This dive bar has a
friendly staff, a reasonably priced menu with a legendary corned beef sandwich
that makes it feel like St. Patrick's Day all year round. Friendly people and drinks that won't break
the bank complete the picture, making this a great place to stop for a drink
close to home.
K's Dugout (1930 W Foster Ave., 773-561-2227) is a neighborhood spot with a devoted batch of regulars. Boasting a pool table, well-maintained darts, and a Big Buck Hunter arcade game, there is plenty to keep you occupied while you enjoy the reasonably priced beer. The TVs scattered around the bar also make this a great spot to watch the Cubs lose.
Mark Your Calendar
When the usual neighborhood entertainment venues, shopping and hotspots are growing a bit old, Bowmanville residents can look to annual events to spark some fresh excitement and activities into the normal routine. An active and involved block organization helps ensure neighbors get out, get to know each other, and enjoy all there is in the neighborhood.
If the garage starts feeling a little cluttered
and the closet is about to implode, seek some relief at the Bowmanville
community-wide Annual Street Sale
(866-837-1006). Held the first Saturday of June, individuals who apply are
welcome to open their garages and yards to sell everything from old bicycles to
that shabby chic jacket that just doesn't fit anymore. This neighborhood
rummage sale has been the source of some of our favorite fashion finds-other
people's worn in stuff is surprisingly comfy-and it provides an ideal occasion
to meet the new neighbors or catch up with homeowners who have been here
In July another event that brings Bowmanville
residents together is the Annual Garden
Walk (866-837-1006). Neighborhood landscape and gardening enthusiasts open
their gardens to locals and visitors who can explore the diverse array of
botanicals that green-thumbed folks have planted at their Bowmanville
homes. If gardening is really your thing, you can volunteer to help weed,
water, transplant, and mulch Bowmanville's award-winning Community Garden at
the intersection of Leavitt Street and Balmoral and Bowmanville Avenues. On the
fourth Saturday of the month between June and October residents suit up in
garden gloves and knee-pads for a day of outdoor maintenance and
Bowmanville is easy to get to, and unlike many neighborhoods in Chicago, it is not difficult to park when you get there. Curbside parking is plentiful on the side streets, and there are metered spots on Foster and Damen Avenues, Bowmanville's busier thoroughfares. And for those of us with bicycles, the bike lanes are clearly marked in the northbound and southbound lanes of Damen Avenue to make riding a little less harried.
Although the neighborhood is not directly near any of the city's
major highways, they are still easily accessible. Folks with their own cars can
get onto I-90 (Kennedy Expressway) by heading south first and then using the
Montrose Avenue exit/entrance. From I-94 (Edens Expressway) you can reach
Bowmanville by taking the Cicero (to Foster) exit and heading east, and from
Lake Shore Drive, exit at Foster Avenue, then go west about a mile. From the
neighborhood, we usually choose to take Lake Shore to get downtown-it's a
scenic drive and unless there's rush hour traffic, the travel time is no more
than 25 minutes into the Loop.
If you want to leave the car at home, there are plenty of public transportation options in Bowmanville. The Ravenswood Metra
station (located at the intersection of Lawrence and Ravenswood Avenues) offers
a quick trip downtown or to the northern suburbs. In addition to the commuter
train, several bus lines serve the neighborhood, making it easy to get around the
neighborhood and to destinations within the city and outlying suburbs. Bus #92
will take you east or west on Foster Avenue. Take this bus east and get off at
Berwyn Avenue to catch the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Red Line train
downtown. Or take the #50 southbound on Damen Avenue and get off between Leland
and Wilson Avenues for a connection to the CTA Brown Line Damen stop.
School's in Session
In addition to the following list, you can find more information on Bowmanville and Chicago area schools at our Chicago Guide Schools page.
Rogers Park Montessori School - 1800 W Balmoral Ave. - (773) 271-1700
We've compiled a sampling of some of the places in Bowmanville where residents can pick up those everyday necessities.
San Soo Gab San - 5247 N Western Ave. - (773) 334-1589
Yes Thai - 5211 N Damen Ave. - (773) 878-3487
China Kitchen --1931 W Foster Ave. (773) 334-4438
Big Joe's 2 and 6 Pub 1818 W Foster Ave. - (773) 784-8755
Bobbie's Runaway Inc 5305 N Damen Ave. - (773) 271-6488
Claddagh Ring Pub 2306 W Foster Ave. - (773) 271-5551
K's Dugout 1930 W Foster Ave. - (773) 561-2227
Leadway Bar & Grill 5233 N Damen Ave. - (773) 728-2663
Le Cabana de Don Luis - 5157 N Lincoln Ave. -
Cosina Grill - 1706 W Foster Ave. - (773) 271-7103|
El Tipico Mexican Grill - 1905 W Foster Ave. - (773) 754-8962
Community Organization 866-837-1006
Annual Street Sale - (866) 837-1006
Annual Garden Walk - (866) 837-1006
Halloween Party - N Bell Ave. and N Bowmanville Ave. - (866) 837-1006
Diala Grocery & Liquor - 1935 W Foster Ave. - (773) 784-3199
Foster Food & Liquor, Inc - 1900 W Foster Ave. - (773) 506-1918
G V Jewelry - 1926 W. Foster Ave.. - (773) 275-6577
Keim Furs - 1820 W Foster Ave. - (773) 561-8680
Radford Design - North RAve.nswood Ave. - (312) 296-3182
Yera's Lake View Florist - 1909 W Foster Ave. - (773) 275-2232
Morpho Gallery - 5216 N Damen Ave. - (773) 878-4255
Chicago Transit Authority - (888) 968-7282
As one of the many diverse Chicago neighborhoods, Bowmanville offers homeowners a wide range of residential properties. Bowmanville homes include lofts, condos and townhomes, to name a few. In addition to Chicago real estate, you can get detailed neighborhood information from our comprehensive online Chicago neighborhoods guide. With features like dining, shopping, entertainment, and resources, we've done all the leg work already to make your home search that much easier. Now, when a listing in Bowmanville Chicago catches your eye, you can read all about the surrounding area and what it has to offer, all without setting foot in the neighborhood. Like a Yellow Pages, Metromix and MLS database all rolled into one, this site is your ultimate Chicago neighborhoods visitors' guidebook.