Trendy restaurants and independent shops mingle with classic neighborhood spots and unique artists' galleries in one of Chicago's most established and eclectic west side neighborhoods. Bucktown is a mecca of popular dining establishments that attract people from all over the city to enjoy a nice dinner out, or just grab a bite before heading off to catch a live music show. The menu choices in Bucktown are endless, covering all the culinary cravings, and the nightlife here is just as satisfying with block after block of hip lounges, packed pubs and casual bars that all host live bands and DJs to keep the party going until close. On top of being one of Chicago's most sought-after weekend hangouts, the neighborhood is also home to a thriving art and theater scene. Poetry readings and one-man comedy acts share the stage with traveling musicians and local painters.
Location: 3.5 miles northwest of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, Logan Square, Humboldt Park
Boundaries: Kennedy Expressway to the east and north, Western Avenue to the west and North Avenue to the south
Then and Now
Bucktown's history is uniquely tied to how the Chicago neighborhood got its name. Established in the early 1800s by Polish immigrants seeking refuge from a war-ravaged country, Bucktown's name is believed to have originated from the large number of goats many of its early Polish settlers raised in their own backyards (the male goat is a buck). The Polish weren't the only group assembling in these former marshlands though; Germans, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans also settled here later that same century. By the 1840s, Bucktown had grown large enough to have its own post office and hotel.
In 1910 Bucktown, still largely populated with Polish-speaking immigrants, was referred to as Little Poland or Polish Downtown despite the wide range of cultures represented there. However half a century later, the community experienced another wave of immigration, this time bringing a large number of Latinos into the region and creating an even more ethnically diverse neighborhood, which put to bed the Polish monikers.
Fast forward to the 1990s. A growing group of artists emerged in Bucktown and the community's identity followed suit. Real estate developers started converting old buildings into loft spaces and constructing new low-rise condominiums, leading to widespread gentrification and an increasing population of young working singles.
With a renewed interest in residential property came a rebirth in businesses as stylish stores, restaurants and bars popped up along Bucktown's urban blocks. Its reincarnation as a hip, trendy and artistic neighborhood continues to this day and remains one of Chicago's most fashionable places to live.
Sometimes you just need to be one with nature and wriggle grass in between your toes. We don't blame you. So when you want to take a break from the concrete jungle, Bucktown is full of green parks where you can catch some rays, shoot some hoops, go for a swim, and even spend quality time with the special four-legged friend in your life.
After putting Fido on a leash we like to make tracks to the dog-friendly zones at Churchill Field Playlot Park (1825 N. Damen Ave) or Walsh Playground Park (1722 N. Ashland Ave). Walsh Park has amenities for your two-legged pals boasting playground equipment and a sandbox for budding architects while Churchill Field also sports a baseball diamond, great for pick-up games.
If we're still craving green (and let's face it, we are) Erhler Playlot Park (2230 W. Cortland St) has a soft surface playground surrounded by lawn and trees. When we need more than a leisurely afternoon spent reading under the foliage, we head to Holstein Park (2200 N. Oakley Ave) where the perks include not only a playground but a baseball fied, gym, and an outdoor pool.
The older crowd hangs out at Senior Citizens Memorial Park (2238 N. Oakley Ave) where there are shuffleboard courts and permanent gaming tables-all activities geared toward Bucktown neighborhood's elderly residents.
Bucktown Real Estate
Bucktown's historic past can also be seen through its real estate, which includes one hundred-year-old buildings, cobblestone paths and remarkable churches-remnants of the early Polish immigrants.
While the neighborhood's past is evident, so is its future. Ordinary cottages have been replaced by refurbished condominiums decked out with skylights, sophisticated interiors and innovative floor plans-ideal homes for the young adults flocking to Bucktown in droves.
Contemporary architectural designs are found next to vintage buildings that line the urban blocks of this near northwest side Chicago neighborhood. Because of its status as a hotspot to live, a good portion of the properties in Bucktown offer home buyers sexy and sleek features like granite kitchen countertops, stainless steel appliances, hardwood flooring and remodeled bathrooms-not to mention private balconies and rooftop patios.
Even families are falling for Bucktown's charm. Developers have been at it in trying to meet their demands with single-family homes in the neighborhood.
Check out our Bucktown home sales statistics [here] to get an idea of the real estate market trends in this neighborhood.
What's on the Menu?
Bucktown is home to a variety of restaurants, from traditional neighborhood eateries to hotspots that prescribe to the latest dining trends. But you won't find many of the typical chain restaurants here - most of Bucktown's restaurants are as independent and eclectic as the neighborhood's residents.
What do you get when you cross New American cuisine with New French dishes that are Japanese inspired? Well, you get Takashi (1952 N. Damen Ave, (773) 772-6170), a cozy nook with some impressive and beautifully presented meals. Don't let the casual atmosphere fool you - these deliciously experimental dishes come with a hefty price tag. But we think the duck fat fried chicken and soba gnocchi are totally worth it.
For an amazing dinner that won't dig a hole into your wallet, try The Bento Box (2246 W. Armitage Ave, (773) 278-3932) for, you guessed it, bento boxes filled with delicious stuff. The chef always comes up with new things to try so you'll never get bored eating here. Fans rave about the sweet potato curry and carnivores say this is where you'll find the best Bulgogi ever.
If you're craving just comforting American food, stop in to Bristol (2152 N. Damen Ave, (773) 862-5555) for some fresh farm-to-table dishes. Zagat calls the ravioli "life-changing" and the duck-fat fries "freaking awesome." If you're feeling adventurous, try some of the unusual meats on the menu (like monkfish and porgy). Just a heads up, the tables are communal - meaning that you may get cozy with strangers while eating your meal. But we're all up for meeting new friends.
After you're full, take a walk to make more room for dessert. At Damen and Willow, enter Mindy's Hot Chocolate (1747 N. Damen, (773) 489-1747) where you'll find amazing desserts that are made with high quality chocolate. To cool off, go for a scoop of the salted caramel ice cream and to warm up you have to try their hot chocolate with house-made marshmallow.
This is just a sample of the culinary adventure that awaits you in Bucktown restaurants. Make sure to check our list below for more places worth trying.
Best Shopping Stops
Keeping with the unique spirit of the neighborhood and its residents, Bucktown features some of the most distinctive shopping in the city.
Stop in to Uprise (1820 N Milwaukee Ave, (773) 342-7763) to check out a unique sporting goods store with walls of colorful skate decks and all the goodies that you need to look superb when riding. From shirts to shoes and hats, this is your one-stop-shop for skating gear.
Ladies have a few great boutiques to choose from. Robin Richman (2108 N Damen Ave, (773) 278-6150) offers the latest work by many emerging designers from across the globe. We hear the store is absolutely beautiful, which always serves well for inspiration.
Ms Catwalk (2042 N Damen Ave, (773) 235-2750) also has a great selection of stylish and trendy clothing. You can check out their selection on fashions and accessories online before you head to the store. Make sure to dig deep in those sale bins because you're sure to find a great deal.
One more that we'll mention here is Michelle Tan (1920 N Damen Ave, (773) 525-1888). Here you can get unique finds by the local designer. You can shop her online store but it's worth paying a visit to the physical location for helpful advice on what to wear.
Men also have a reason to come out shopping with Bucktown's Apartment Number 9 (1804 N Damen Ave, (773) 395-2999), which has a great collection of brands for the fashion conscious. Dress up with some classy Paul Smith shoes or dress down in the perfect pair of Simon Miller jeans. Again, you can shop online here, but visiting the store is recommended if you're not sure where to start. As a bonus, the boutique has small but impressive collection of Warby Parker frames.
Even the little ones are not forgotten in this neighborhood. Inside The Red Balloon (1940 N Damen, (773) 489-9800), you'll get overwhelmed by the cuteness of the colorful little people clothes. If you don't have offspring, this is a great place to go to for gifts as they offer a variety of toys and books.
We suggest you walk down Damen and discover for yourself all the great shopping in Bucktown.
Night on the Town
If you like the nightlife, Bucktown is packed with neighborhood bars, trendy hotspots, entertainment venues and other nighttime activities that will keep you busy until the wee hours of the morning.
What would an eccentric neighborhood be without its list of dive bars? Stop in to The Corner (2224 N Leavitt St, (773) 697-9934) for cheap drinks and a fun jukebox. It's small but you can get cozy with strangers because everyone's super friendly here. Bring your buddies to watch the latest Bears game while you sip on $1.50 pints of PBR.
If you'd like some music with that beer, come by The Gallery Cabaret (2020 N Oakley Ave, (773) 489-5471). Perform during one of the open mic nights or stop in for live entertainment any other night. You can see comedy shows as well as live bands.
For a more active night, try a game or two at WhirlyBall (1880 W Fullerton Ave, (773) 486-7777). Yes, you can play whirly ball but you can also get a package for laser tag or hit up the arcades. Or play a game of billiards or foosball. The possibilities are endless!
If you just want to chill out, Bucktown Pub (1658 W Cortland St, (773) 394-9898) is your place to be. With a beer garden outdoors in the summers and drink specials every day, you can't go wrong. Plus, the tamale guy will stop in every so often for a quick and delicious snack. If he's not around, there's always the free popcorn.
Another great place to hang out is Lemmings (1850 N Damen Ave, (773) 862-1688). Play a round of pool or sit down for an engaging board game. Enjoy a brew from the long list of choices and sit back and relax to your favorite tunes on the juke box.
When we're looking for some entertainment to go along with our drinks, Gallery Cabaret (2020 N. Oakley Ave, (773) 489-5471) offers Bucktown locals free entertainment seven nights a week-from bands and comedy acts to poetry readings and slams. As if that weren't enough, there's also cable TV, darts, Golden Tee and a jukebox to keep restless bodies occupied.
Fans of music (and a bargain-priced buzz) gather at Subterranean (2011 W. North Ave, (773) 278-6799). This late night lounge and music venue features eclectic acts from almost every genre. The lower level lounge has low couches perfect for relaxing and taking in the DJ that's sure to be spinning your favorite tunes. Upstairs the Cabaret room, which used to be a brothel, hosts local and national bands. Late-night munchers can take their hunger out on Subterranean's selection of chicken wings, burgers and other bar fare.
You'll find all the drama you can handle at Gorilla Tango Theatre (1919 N. Milwaukee Ave, (773) 598-4549). The live theatrical venue produces a wide variety of performances, including children's shows and comedy, each put on by a different group of artists. We especially like its cabaret-style setting with seating at round tables where we can drink wine or beer during the performance.
Trap Door Theatre (1655 W. Cortland Ave, (773) 384-0494) also has the acting bug. Here you can view any of the 12 challenging yet obscure works per year that the company has been bringing to the 45-seat theatre since its inception in 1994.
Mark Your Calendar
These not-to-be-missed events only happen once a year, so seriously, mark your calendar.
As a hub of artistic culture in Chicago, the neighborhood hosts the Bucktown Arts Fest every August. Art is the sole focus of this yearly outdoor event that's been running since 1985. As one of the city's-not to mention the country's-premiere art festivals, the Bucktown Arts Fest gathers painters, sculptors, photographers, craftspeople as well as musicians, actors, poets and dancers to sell their wares, perform and explore individual expression in Senior Citizens Memorial Park (2238 N. Oakley Ave).
If you like to pound the pavement, participate in the Bucktown 5K where you can join 3,000 running enthusiasts in a race to the finish line. The route takes you along mostly residential streets and the finish line will put you right back where you started. Even if you don't place first you can still score great food and listen to live music in the race's after-party tent.
For a real treat, attend - or even better compete at - the annual Bucktown Apple Pie Contest. Strict rules are outlined on the event's website and winners receive ribbons and prizes. But most of all, you can take pride in knowing that you're the best apple pie baker in the hood.
Walking and bicycling are easy modes of transportation when looking to get from one place to another in Bucktown. But if you're heading outside the neighborhood limits, grab a taxi (but be prepared to shell out more than $10 to get to downtown) or opt for public transportation.
For $2.25 you can take the CTA, Chicago's public transportation system. CTA buses have several transportation routes through Bucktown and stop at many of the neighborhood's well-traveled streets. The city's subways and elevated train system (referred to as the "El") also have a couple of stations in the neighborhood along the CTA Blue Line: one at Armitage & Western and another at Damen.
If you're driving, Bucktown has easy access to the Kennedy Expressway at Fullerton, Armitage and North avenues. Beware of the parking situation: Most of the available spaces are on the street, although finding a spot that is actually available can be a bit tricky. Taxis are plentiful, especially at major intersections like Damen and Armitage avenues and North and Milwaukee avenues.
School's in Session
Bucktown has many charter, magnet and neighborhood schools that families can choose from. In addition to the following list, you can find more information on Chicago area schools at our Chicago Guide Schools page.
- Burr Elementary School - 1621 W Wabansia Ave - (773) 534-4090
- Pulaski International School of Chicago - 2230 W McLean Ave - (773) 534-4391
- St. Mary of the Angels - 1810 N Hermitage Ave - (773) 486-0199
- Thomas Drummond Elementary - 1845 W Cortland St - (773) 534-4120
We've compiled a sampling of some of the places you can get your bare necessities in Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood, from Band-Aids to Bisquick.
- The Bristol, 2152 N Damen Ave - (773) 862-5555
- Goose & Fox, 1525 W Homer St - (708) 256-6898
- Ada Street, 1664 N Ada St - (773) 697-7069
- The Bluebird, 1749 N Damen Ave - (773) 486-2473
- Feast Restaurant + Bar, 1616 N Damen Ave - (773) 772-7100
- Jane's, 1655 W Cortland St - (773) 862-5263
- Grass Fed, 1721 N Damen Ave - (773) 342-6000
- Starland, 1619 N Damen Ave - (773) 342-8799
- Fast Food
- The Art of Chicken, 2041 N Western Ave - (773) 697-9266
- George's Hot Dogs, 1876 N Damen Ave - (773) 227-4034
- Nick's Pit Stop, 2011 Damen Ave - (773) 342-9736
- Arturo's Tacos, 2001 N Western Ave - (773) 772-4944
- Niko's Gyros, 2775 N Elston Ave - (773) 772-8100
- The Bento Box, 2246 W Armitage Ave - (773) 278-3932
- Pei Wei Asian Diner, 2709 N Elston Ave - (773) 687-0290
- En Hakkore, 1840 N Damen Ave - (773) 772-9880
- Takashi, 1952 N Damen Ave - (773) 772-6170
- Tokyo Sub, 2009 N Damen Ave - (773) 772-8744
- Chicago Cupcake, 2409 N Western Ave - (312) 300-4797
- Strack & Van Til, 2627 N Elston Ave - (773) 252-6400
- Celestial Kitchens, 2409 N Western Ave - (312) 320-2604
- Luscious Layers Bakery, 2315 N Damen Ave - (773) 661-1335
- Cafe/Coffee Shop
- Ipsento, 2035 N Western Ave - (773) 904-8177
- Red June, 2020 N Leavitt St - (773) 227-2600
- Little Beans Cafe, 1809 W Webster Ave - (773) 251-1025
- Paladar, 2252 N Western Ave - (773) 252-4747
- Siboney Cuban Cuisine, 2165 N Western Ave - (773) 276-8776
- Cafe Laguardia, 2111 W Armitage Ave - (773) 862-5996
- Li'l Guys, 2010 N Damen Ave - (773) 394-6900
- Le Buchoun - 1958 N Damen Ave - (773) 862-6600
- Antico, 1946 N Leavitt St - (773) 489-4895
- Latin American
- La Concina Boricua de la Familia Galarza, 2420 W Fullerton Ave - (773) 235-7377
- Irazu, 1865 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 252-5687
- Chilapan, 2459 W Armitage Ave - (773) 697-4597
- Estrella Negra, 2346 W Fullerton Ave - (773) 227-5993
- Rio's D'Sudamerica, 2010 W Armitage Ave - (773) 276-0170
- Middle Eastern
- Babylon Eatery, 2023 N Damen Ave- (773) 342-7482
- The Corner, 2224 N Leavitt St - (773) 697-9934
- The Gallery Cabaret, 2020 N Oakley Ave - (773) 489-5471
- The Map Room, 1949 N Hoyne Ave - (773) 252-7636
- The Munity Corp, 2428 N Western Ave - (773) 486-7774
- WhirlyBall, 1880 W Fullerton Ave - (773) 486-7777
- Bucktown Pub, 1658 W Cortland St - (773) 394-9898
- Ed's and Jean's Bar, 2032 W Armitage Ave - (773) 489-6509
- Lemmings, 1850 N Damen Ave - (773) 862-1688
- Cortland's Garage, 1645 W Cortland St - (773) 862-7877
- Floyd's Pub, 1944 N Oakley Ave - (773) 276-6060
- My Pie Pizzeria, 2010 N Damen Ave - (773) 394-69003
- Pizza House 1647, 1647 W Cortland St - (773) 252-3500
- Jack & Ginger's, 2048 W Armitage Ave - (773) 227-6700
- Plazzio's Pizza, 1901 N Western Ave - (773) 227-8500
- John's Pizzeria Ristorante, 2104 N Western Ave - (773) 394-1755
- Verona Pizzeria and Sandwiches, 2009 N Damen Ave - (773) 227-9944
- DRB's Pizzeria, 2211 W Diversey - (773) 227-5800
- Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 598-4549
- WhirlyBall, 1880 W Fullerton Ave - (773) 486-7777
- Bollywood Groove Dance & Fitness, 1890 N Milwaukee Ave - (312) 772-6559
- The Trap Door Theare, 1655 W Cortland St - (773) 384-0494
- Charleston, 2076 N Hoyne Ave - (773) 489-4757
- Rory Lake's Karaoke Dreams, 1824 W Cortland St - (773) 278-0093
- Stracj & Van Til, 2627 N Elston Ave - (773) 252-6400
- European Imports, 2475 N Elston Ave - (773) 227-0603
- Polonia Food Mart, 1956 W Armitage Ave - (773) 278-1808
- Chicago Elite Fitness, 1918 N Mendell St - (312) 834-7487
- Midtown Athletic Club, 2020 W Fullerton Ave - (773) 235-2300
- HERO Fitness, 1941 N Elston Ave - (773) 278-8840
- My Time Fitness, 2117 N Damen Ave - (312) 878-8686
- Bucktown/Wicker Park Branch Public Library - 1701 N Milwaukee Ave - (312) 744-6022
- Walgreens - 2001 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 772-2370
- Uprise, 1820 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 342-7763
- G Boutique, 2131 N Damen Ave - (773) 235-1234
- Soutache, 2130 N Damen Ave - (773) 292-9110
- Ms Catwalk, 2042 N Damen Ave - (773) 235-2750
- The Red Balloon, 1940 N Damen Ave - (773) 489-9800
- Roslyn, 2035 N Damen Ave - (773) 489-1311
- Michelle Tan, 1920 N Damen Ave - (773) 252-1888
- Robin Richman, 2108 N Damen Ave - (773) 278-6150
- Village Discount Outlet, 2032 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 486-7603
- Apartment Number 9, 1804 N Damen Ave - (773) 395-2999
- Dress Up, 1937 N Damen Ave - (773) 235-7780
- Clever Alice, 1920 N Damen Ave - (773) 276-2444
- 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. Chicago's Bucktown 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 Bucktown.