Brighton Park has always been influenced by Chicago's transportation industry. It originally developed in the early 1900s when the railroad business was booming, which prompted the neighborhood to became a major hub in the railroad network. Today, with the renewal of nearby Midway International Airport and an influx of Hispanic American residents, Brighton Park is once again transforming itself. Building an identity as an enclave for Latin culture, cuisine and art, this section of Chicago is home to a selection of Mexican restaurants and grocery stores, and even celebrates traditional Mexican folkloric dance. Still flanked on all sides by railroad tracks and major travel routes (namely the Orange Line "El" and the Stevenson Highway), Brighton Park is just a short hop, skip and train ride away from the downtown Loop.
Brighton Park Facts
Location: Approximately 7 miles southwest of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Little Village, McKinley Park, Gage Park, Archer Heights, Back-of-the-Yards
Boundaries: I-55 (Stevenson Expressway) to the north, the train tracks to the east, 48th Street to the south and Western Avenue to the west.
Then and Now
Brighton Park was incorporated in the 1850s, borrowing its name from Brighton, Mass., which was the principal slaughtering center of 19th century New England. The town was located at the crossroads of a portage trail between the Des Plaines and Chicago rivers and Blue Island Road, which was the major trade route for the area southwest of Chicago, paved with wooden planks (it has since been renamed Western Avenue). The construction of the nearby Michigan & Illinois Canal which functioned as Chicago’s sanitary and shipping channel drew many early settlers to Brighton Park.
The area continued to grow as developers such as Henry Seymour started subdividing land north of Pershing Road in the 1830s and 1855 saw the opening of the Brighton Race Track. The name not only coincided with the village’s, but opportunely hinted at a connection with the more well-known Brighton Race course in Great Britain—an association that we suspect did not exist. The race track’s heyday was fairly short-lived as it closed in 1870, but during that period the gaming hub attracted thousands of people to the area who stayed on, even when the empty track lay permanently dormant.
Several small competing stockyards were opened throughout the southwest side in the mid 19th century, but when Union Stock Yard was completed in 1865, its size and the sheer volume of livestock it slaughtered forced the closing of most all of Brighton Park’s other yards and it became the major meat provider for the area, and later the country. Since Union Stock Yard had the corner on that market, Brighton Park started to attract other industries, bringing thousands of manufacturing jobs to the area to run the refining and silver smelting plants and operate the cotton mills that popped up in the vicinity.
The railroad industry also had a hand in bringing growth to the region southwest of the city. In 1887, the Santa Fe Railroad built Corwith Yards, which at the time was the world’s largest railroad yard. A mix of European immigrants, attracted to the many manufacturing and industrial jobs, steadily poured into Brighton Park. German, Irish, French, Italians, Lithuanians and Polish workers flooded the market. Advances in public transportation—particularly the electric streetcars—eased the transition and increased the attractiveness of the neighborhood and, in 1889, the ever-expanding town was annexed by Chicago.
In the following decades employment opportunities in the manufacturing field continued to rise, led by the Crane Company which produced plumbing and hardware equipment. The city also opened a 265-acre planned manufacturing district—a massive industrial complex that was the first of its type in the country. By 1930, Brighton Park peaked at more than 45,000 people, more than 35 percent of which were Polish. But the good times didn’t last. Crane closed its doors in 1977 and this led to a general population decline that swiftly damaged the area’s economy.
Remnants of its manufacturing days are long gone and the community remains largely residential now. However, there is a growing commercial section in Brighton Park, and recent improvements at nearby Midway International Airport have greatly advanced the reputation of Chicago’s southern air travel hub, which has also influenced economic growth in the area. According to the 2000 Census, Brighton Park’s population had grown back to within a couple thousand of its peak in 1930—proof that this southwest side neighborhood is once again on the rise.
With a name like Brighton Park, it’s no surprise that parks are plentiful in this Chicago neighborhood, and we’ll tell you just where to find a few good options for escaping the summer heat under the shade of a tree, or relaxing while watching your children play.
Speaking of kids—if they are bugging you to get out and have some fun, bring them over to Brighton Park Playlot (3501 S. Richmond St., 312-747-6197). Here they can swing around on the jungle gyms and slide summer away to their heart’s content. And with the number of other little Brighton Parkers hanging out at this playground, your tiny tots are sure to make a friend or two while making the most of their outdoor playtime.
The Chicago Park District and the Board of Education combined forces after World War II to provide urban green space and recreational programs to booming post-war neighborhoods, and the land near Kelly High School in Brighton Park was eyed as a potential place for a public park. Kelly Park (2725 W. 41st St., 312-747-6197) was established in the early 1950s as one of these cooperative efforts. Nowadays, the park has loads of baseball fields if you just want to bat around, and a gymnasium for those who want to shed a few pounds while playing basketball or working out on some of the fitness equipment. If you’re looking for a good spot to host a community event or a neighborhood meeting, inquire about booking one of the meeting rooms that are offered up for public use. This multi-use park is an asset to Brighton Park residents, as it gives the community a center for recreation, which includes year-round athletic programs and classes for all ages, and also provides much needed outdoor breathing room to enjoy nature.
Brighton Park Real Estate
Most of the residential buildings in Brighton Park were built in the early part of the 20th century, between 1905 and 1925, after electric streetcar lines on Western and Kedzie avenues and 35th and 47th streets had been extended into the neighborhood, and subsequently more people were attracted to the area.
This stable Chicago neighborhood, where residents tend to stay for decades, has a mix of brick bungalows have small yards in front and back, and some also include garages. Brighton Park, like many areas of the city, has seen values increase in recent years and there are currently plenty of properties on the market to find just the right home for your needs.
Homebuyers will find that generally one- or two-bedroom dwellings in Brighton Park start in the low $100,000s with the average sales price around $175,000. The average price for a detached single-family home with three bedrooms in this neighborhood is about $220,000, although some sell for closer to $350,000.
What’s on the Menu?
Brighton Park has a good selection of restaurants from seafood to barbecue, but it has a particularly rich stock of Latin American restaurants. Many of them have a specialty that you may not be able to find at other similar restaurants around town.
One such spot is El Salvador Restaurante (4125 S Archer Ave., 773-579-0405) where we go for the pupusa, a thick handmade corn tortilla stuffed with cheese, fried pork rind, chicken, refried beans or a combination of these items. We love them, golden brown and flavorful. Also try the empanadas. Just brush up on your Spanish (or at least the cuisine of El Salvador) before you go, as the waitresses do not usually have a great command of English. It’s easy to drive right past Tio Luis (3856 S. Archer Ave., 773-843-0098), but once you find it, you won’t forget it. From the outside this small, decade-old restaurant doesn’t look particularly inviting. But once inside, it’s a different story. Walls are adorned with movie stills of classic Hollywood flicks and the countertops are festooned with mosaic tiling. And a large mural of the Mexican countryside provides a calming setting in the restaurant’s main dining room. The nachos are made in-house, and they’re served with a fresh pico de gallo salsa that’s some of the best around. Tacos, though, are the main attraction at Tio Luis—just one sniff and they’ll have you drooling. Don’t take our word for it though; the Chicago Tribune ranked their tacos the best in the city in 2005. The specialty of the house at El Campestre (4226 S. Archer Ave., 773-927-1333) is the chicarron, which is pork skin after it has been seasoned and deep-fried. People who know say that it’s difficult to find this dish in Chicago, and this place knows what they’re doing. Also good is the chicken, marinated in a beautiful saffron-colored glaze and grilled to perfection. We usually bet on the combination meal, which includes chicken, rice and beans. Don’t bother asking about what’s in the marinade on the chicken, the contents are a family secret.
Beyond Latin American cuisine, there are a lot of eclectic choices for grabbing a bite to eat in Brighton Park. If you love seafood, particularly fried seafood, don’t miss Frank’s Chicago Shrimp House (4459 S. Archer Ave., 773-523-4624), serving up delicious deep-fried shrimp and chicken strips. We recommend the Chicago shrimp, with a coating that nicely combines crispiness and spiciness. Over at Leon’s Barbecue No. 4 (4550 S. Archer Ave., 773-247-4171), the delicious rib tips are the thing. Also try their spicy hot wings and links—another favorite among Brighton Park regulars.
When you’re in the mood for pizza—and really, when are we ever not in the mood for pizza?—check out Falco’s Pizza (2806 W 40th Place, 773-523-7996). This neighborhood joint is generous with its toppings, and the crust is nice and buttery. With $3.75 domestic pitchers on the weekend, it’s the perfect place to have some beer and food with friends. The music can get a little loud, though, so if you’re looking for a nice quiet spot to dine, skip Falco’s and consider getting a pizza delivered or pick one up and have dinner at home.
Best Shopping Stops
Brighton Park has a higher percentage of Latin American supermarkets than any neighborhood in the city, and if you like to cook any foods native to Mexico, Central or South America, this is a great neighborhood to explore.
One of the best spots to hit is El Guero 10 (4023 S Archer Ave, 773-847-1600) where they have an extensive selection of produce and fresh meats. There’s no doubt, El Guero is a bustling spot that has the attention of many of the neighborhood shoppers, and these guys don’t mess around. The butchers and cashiers work hard to keep the lines moving. Here’s an insider tip to remember: Purchases from the butcher counter have to be paid for at separate cashiers and marked as paid before approaching the general registers with your additional items for purchase. If you’re looking for a good, quick meal to have for dinner tonight, try one of the rotisserie-roasted chickens. The whole roasted chicken is seasoned and wrapped up with a package of fresh tortillas and two little tubs of house-made salsa, all for only $5.95. For the freshest meat, and especially for hard-to-find specialty cuts, we go to Carniceria Gerados (3116 W. 43rd St., 773-254 3626). They have a wide variety, including every part of the animal, and we do mean every part. If you’re looking for cow’s brains, pig’s feet or knuckles, or boring old flank steak, this is one place that won’t have a beef with you.
Brighton Park shopping isn’t all about grocery gems and meats—there is one spot that catches our eye when we’re interested in buying something to add a little flavor to the wardrobe. For hot buys on girls’ and women’s clothing, we head over to Fashion Bug (4750 S. Kedzie Ave., 773-247 1430). They have a large selection of clothing from casual tank tops and shirts to stylish office suits and button-down dress blouses. Whether you are looking for shoes and accessories, or bathing suits and intimate apparel, this Brighton Park neighborhood fashion fixture has got you covered.
Mark Your Calendar
One of the driving goals behind the Mexican Folkloric Dance Company of Chicago (MFDC) (4145 S. Kedzie Ave., 773-254-7521) is to develop and sustain a diverse repertoire of Mexican folkloric dance works with corresponding musical accompaniment and dress. This thriving company performs at venues across the city throughout the year. And believe us, it’s worth it to track the MFDC down and figure out when they’ll be playing again because their enchanting moves and colorful costumes are an incredible display of Mexican culture and tradition.
If it’s dusk and it’s summer, and you feel like taking in a free movie—sounds good already, right? Well, it gets better because Brighton Parkers can take advantage of the Chicago Park District’s 'Movies in the Park' series which allows local neighbors to enjoy time-honored films underneath the stars without having to spend a dime. On certain nights from June through August we like to go down to Kelly Park (2725 W. 41st St., 312-747-6197) for some evening entertainment with friends and family. The snacks and the seating are up to you, but as long as you can remember to microwave your popcorn before you leave the house, you’re set to go. This is a fantastic place to unwind under city sky while taking in a motion-picture length animated cartoon, light-hearted comedy or American movie classic.
Brighton Park is fun on foot, but it’s certainly handy to have a car to get around.
If you’re driving, Brighton Park has plenty of street parking on Archer Avenue and 47th Street (the main drags), and generally it’s not too difficult to find a spot, although be careful to read any nearby posted signs about restrictions. The neighborhood is accessible from I-55 (Stevenson Expressway) using the Kedzie Avenue exit (if traveling from the east) or the California Avenue exit (if traveling from the west). It can also be reached from I-90/94 (Dan Ryan Expressway) using any number of exits—just remember to head west once off the highway—and you’ll have to weave your way through a couple of other neighborhoods first before getting to Brighton Park.
There is no shortage of Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus lines serving Brighton Park. One of our favorites to use is the #62. Hop on at a stop on Archer Avenue and travel eastbound to connect with the #29 northbound at State Street to get to the Loop. Or if we’re jetting out of town, we head westbound on the #62 and connect with the #47 southbound at Cicero Avenue for Midway Airport. On California Avenue, the #94 bus runs northbound up to Chicago Avenue and southbound to Merrionette Park.
On Western Avenue, the #49 and #X49 (express) run northbound to Foster Avenue and southbound to 79th Street (#49) and Evergreen Park (#X49). On Kedzie Avenue, the #52 runs northbound to Roscoe Avenue and southbound to Marquette Park. Get off around 48th Place for the CTA Orange Line stop, which is located between 48th Place and 49th Place on Kedzie Avenue. Northbound the Orange Line travels to the Loop, southbound to Midway Airport. Confused yet? Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it and before you know it you’ll be giving other travelers directions!
School’s in Session
Brighton Park has a good selection of public and private schools within its neighborhood boundaries. In addition to the following list, you can find more information on Chicago area schools on our Chicago Guide schools page.
Brighton Park Elementary School – 3825 S. Washtenaw Ave., 773-535-7237
Burroughs Elementary School – 3542 S. Washtenaw Ave., 773-535-7226
Davis/Shields Elementary School – 4520 S. Kedzie Ave., 773-535-4050
Gunsaulus Elementary Scholastic Academy – 4420 S. Sacramento Ave., 773-535-7215
Nightingale Elementary School – 5250 S. Rockwell St., 773-535-9270
Shields Elementary School – 4250 S. Rockwell St., 773-535-7285
Talman Elementary School – 5450 S. Talman Ave., 773-535-7850
Kelly High School – 4136 S. California Ave., 773-535-4900
Just to make life easier, we’ve compiled a sampling of some of the places Brighton Park residents can get the bare necessities, from handmade taco shells to tartar control mouthwash, weighed postage to weights for working out.
New Happy Chop Suey – 3901 California Ave S – (773) 927-9228
Chop Suey Loh – 3825 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 523-3951
Leon’s Barbecue No. 4 – 4550 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 247-4171
Wyman’s – 3932 S. California Ave. – (773) 523-5485
Syrena Baltyk Lounge – 4276 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 927-0606
Turek’s Tavern – 3018 W. 47th St – (773) 847-8737
Kijak’s Tavern – 4001 S. Kedzie Ave. – (773) 847-9639
Rendezvous Bar and Grill – 3500 W. 47th St. – (773) 523-5480
Fountain Blue Inn – 4158 S. Campbell Ave. – (773) 927-0701
Bacik’s Delicatessen – 4249 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 247-2253
Anna’s Home Cooking – 4100 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 927-7181
Golden Heart Restaurant – 4210 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 254-5591
Subway Sandwiches & Salads – 3207 W. 47th Place – (773) 247-6096
John’s Redhots – 2658 W. 47th St. – (773) 927-1514
Kevin’s Hamburger Heaven – 4056 S. Western Ave. – (773) 847-4947
Tastee Freez – 4400 S. California Ave. – (773) 843 1181
Frank’s Chicago Shrimp House – 4459 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 523-4624
Nicky’s Hot Dogs – 3140 W. 47th St.- (773) 523-4555
Falco’s Pizzeria – 2806 W. 40th Place (708) 652-2027
Lugano’s Pizza – 4460 S. Kedzie Ave. – (773) 847-7170
El Campestre – 4226 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 927-1333
Tierra Caliente – 4070 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 847-9755
Taqueria Los 7 Hermanos – 3755 S. Kedzie Ave. – (773) 523-8847
La Poblanita – 4171 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 523-8800
La Casita – 4453 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 348-9983
Jalapeno Hut – 4231 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 927-7551
El Chino Tacos – 4228 S. California Ave.- (773) 650-1905
El Salvador Restaurante – 4125 S Archer Ave – (773) 579-0405
Tio Luis – 3856 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 843-0098
Mexican Folkloric Dance Company of Chicago (MFDC) – 4145 S. Kedzie Ave. – (773) 254-7521
Movies in the Park (June – August) Kelly Park – 2725 W. 41st St. – (312) 747-6197
El Guero 10 – 4023 S Archer Ave – (773) 847-1600
Supermercado Perez – 4129 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 890-1981
Super Carniceria El Pollo – 2458 W 47th St – (773) 254-1740
Supermercado El Ranchito – 2416 W. 47th St – (773) 927-5252
Super Avenida – 2557 W. 43rd St. – (773) 843-3478
Carniceria Gerados – 3116 W. 43rd St. – (773) 254-3626
La Palma Supermercado – 4173 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 254-8092
Handle Bars Gym II – 4881 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 847-0499
Women’s Workout World – 4938 S. Kedzie Ave. – (773) 434-8900
Public Library Branch (Brighton Park) – 4314 S. Archer Avenue – (312) 747-0666
Ksiazelks’ Pharmacy – 2600 47th St W – (773) 523-1118
Walgreens – 4385 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 247-6252
Zemsky’s Family Fashion Stores – 4187 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 247-1422
Blockbuster Video – 4812 S. Kedzie Ave. – (773) 847-8353
Omar Discount Center – 3247 W. 47th St. – (773) 579-0022
Fashion Bug – 4750 S. Kedzie Ave. – (773) 247-1430
Ray Dollar Plus – 4167 S. Archer Ave. – (773) 847-0496
Chicago Transit Authority – (888) 968-7282
Sometimes it makes more sense to view the city of Chicago as a bunch of separate neighborhoods, especially when it comes to real estate. Whether you are in the market for a loft, condo, townhome, or house, it is just as important to inspect the surrounding area as it is to inspect the home’s foundation. Brighton Park neighborhood is just one Chicago community with an abundance of residential properties, and a life all its own. From where you send your kids to school to where you dine at night, the information we provide is an essential piece of the puzzle when you’re trying to decide whether or not to buy that beautiful loft or adorable house in Brighton Park.