A Chicago community spawned from a burst of manufacturing and industry, Cragin is transforming into a family-friendly residential neighborhood with modest homes, landscaped yards and tree-filled parks. On the dining front is a throng of different cuisines. Get your pizza and burrito fix on the same street, or pop in for a Polish sausage or Asian noodle dish a few doors down from each other. Cragin's nightlife is limited to a few neighborhood watering holes, but that seems to be enough to satisfy the local clientele. Regulars like to gather at the Polish bars which you can't miss with names like Rzeszowska Club and Stokrotka Lounge. Cragin's Polish heritage is seen throughout the community in the independent booksellers, video stores, bakeries and gift shops.
Location: About 10 miles northwest of the Loop
Boundaries: Roscoe Street to the north, Cicero Avenue to the east, Grand and Fullerton avenues to the south, and Central and Laramie avenues to the west
Then and Now
In the late 1830s, a man named George Merrill opened a saloon near the intersection of Grand and Armitage avenues. This intersection became known as Whiskey Point, for obvious reasons. It was the first business in the area and the saloon served as a stop for travelers on their way to and from the city. Hardly any residents came to inhabit the area and businesses were few until the 1880s when the Cragin Brothers & Company opened up their metalworking plant along the tracks of the Chicago/Milwaukee/St. Paul Railroad, which covered 11 acres of nearby territory. A train station was built nearby to aid in getting the company’s employees to the factory. Before long, housing was constructed within walking distance of the plant to accommodate more workers, who could skip the commute by rail and hoof it to work. A store, schools, and a church were soon to follow, giving birth to a viable community.
In 1889, Cragin officially became a Chicago neighborhood as the city expanded its borders and annexed the parts of the northwest suburbs. Over the years, the neighborhood added more industrial businesses to its ranks such as Washburn and Moen Manufacturing and Pitts Agricultural Works. The influx of industry called for additional home construction in Cragin and surrounding areas like Belmont Central to house laborers. Traditional brick bungalows (the kind you see all over outer Chicago neighborhoods), two-flats, and other simple architectural styles emerged on the scene as commercial businesses also sprung up to serve the new populace of Cragin residents.
These days, not too many of the plants are open anymore. Some are being converted into residential property, some into retail space, others remain abandoned. But, as recent decades show, the decrease in industry has not hurt the neighborhood’s popularity. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Hispanic population in Cragin quadrupled; meanwhile Polish immigrants also moved into the area and started up new businesses, rounding out a hard-working and firmly middle-class community. Today families that seek a comfortable and prosperous life are still moving to Cragin, because it’s close enough to Chicago’s city center, while still maintaining enough distance to provide some peace and quiet.
The Cragin neighborhood has a couple of pleasant recreational parks where residents can enjoy the outdoors and get a little breathing room.
The first, Blackhawk Park (2318 N Lavergne Ave, 312-746-5014), was established in 1916. The park’s name honors a World War I Army division that took its name from a midwestern Native American Indian chief who led a courageous, yet unsuccessful effort in 1832 to reclaim lands that his people had been forced out of by settlers. A well-respected landscape architect by the name of Jens Jensen worked on the original design. In the early 1900s, Jensen was involved in the creation of about 20 Chicago city parks as well as others throughout the Midwest. He was also sought after to landscape the homes of the wealthy at the time. Soon after Jensen’s work on Blackhawk Park was completed, a fieldhouse designed by Albert Schwartz (who already had six fieldhouses to his credit) was erected on the grounds. A couple of years later, Walter Alschager (designer of the InterContinental Chicago skyscraper) expanded on the park’s amenities, adding a pool house. These days, this neighborhood retreat offers excellent resources for recreation and activities to Cragin locals of all ages. Other popular park facilities include basketball and tennis courts, a playground, and a baseball field. And Blackhawk even makes its indoor pool available to residents year-round for swimming classes, lap training, or just as a place to splash around.
Named for the neighborhood itself, Cragin Park (2611 N Lockwood, 312-746-5065) was developed in the late 1920s. This space is understated in comparison to its counterpart, Blackhawk, but there is still plenty to do. Perhaps it’s a peaceful walking trail you seek, or maybe a few intense rounds of tennis with a friend: both may be found here. You could even call up all your buddies (guys and gals) for a lively game of softball. And for the youngsters? Cragin Park has a well-equipped playground and offers day camps during the summer.
Craigin Real Estate
Cragin’s housing styles are wide-ranging. We may find on one street, vintage bungalow after bungalow, while the next street is lined with cottages and two-flats. There are quite a few buildings that were converted years ago from shops and taverns into homes giving the structures a very unique style of their own.
Homes in Cragin are often accompanied by lush green side and backyards. Well-kept gardens and flourishing trees are plentiful along these northwest side neighborhood streets. Simple wrought iron fences surround many of the older brick low- and mid-rise residential buildings and vintage courtyard condominiums, which have their share of greenery as well, with pruned shrubs and leafy vegetation.
The average cost for multi-unit housing in Cragin is about $154,000, although some places sell for as much as $250,000, while others start under $100,000.
Alongside long-established residences, elegant two-story new construction homes are being built with nothing less than quality materials. Some are crafted with brick exteriors, allowing them to blend in nicely with the many surrounding brick bungalows.
In regards to cost, the average sales price for a single-family detached home in Cragin with three bedrooms is $314,000. Some three bedrooms are valued at closer to $400,000, while the low end comes in around $216,000. For a single-family dwelling with four to six bedrooms, expect to pay $342,000 on average. Still, there are several houses that go for $435,000, but if you shop around you can find some that start in the low $200,000s.
What’s on the Menu?
There are a number of small belly-filling, family-owned restaurants in neighborhood that serve the hungry Cragin population, providing all the favorites.
Starting with the first meal of the day, for breakfast or a Sunday brunch George’s Starlite Restaurant (5554 W Fullerton, 773-745-7007) comes highly recommended. Serving all the traditional early and late-riser standards, George’s is the number one neighborhood haunt to get fueled up for your day — no matter when you finally roll out of bed.
When Mexican flavors are what we crave, joints such as Neuvo Poncitlian (5011 W Fullerton Ave, 773-237-5638) and the seafood-savvy Zacatecas Restaurant (5037 W Diversey Ave, 773-804-1450) are superb choices and are only steps away from each other. We’ve always heard a little friendly competition produces the best performances, and we think that philosophy is well represented at these favorite Cragin neighborhood restaurants. Now the only question is, which do you try first?
Cragin pizza lovers have a few wonderful selections to choose from when picking out the perfect pie. These would include Abondanza Restaurant and Pizzeria (5054 W Fullerton Ave, 773-889-1660), Coluta’s Pizza (4946 W Diversey Ave, 773-725-0005), and Mama Luna’s (5109 W Fullerton Ave, 773-889-3020). Mama Luna’s has been a mainstay in this northwest side Chicago neighborhood since 1960. Their menu is Sicilian-influenced, offering numerous flavorful pastas and other entrees to go along with the pizza roster. The dining room is capable of seating well over a hundred guests and can be rented out by anyone looking to have their own private party, Italian-style.
Only a few stores are found within the Cragin neighborhood boundaries. But even with the limited selection of shops, we’ve discovered fabulous hidden gems that deserve a quick mention. Artesania Durango (5114 W Fullerton Ave, 773-637-7330) sells home and garden supplies as well as kitschy ceramics and pottery. While you never know what you’re going to find here, you’re bound to come across something that would be the perfect addition to your interior or exterior decor. Also for home improvement needs, Cragin Hardware & Industrial Supply (2021 N Laramie Ave, 773-237-4170) proudly serves the neighborhood with building materials and a helpful staff.
For other shopping needs, many Cragin residents head next door to the Belmont Central neighborhood where store after store can be found only a few blocks away.
Night on the Town
After a long week is done, or perhaps just a really, really long day, many Cragin residents like to unwind at one of the local watering holes. Around these parts you can venture out to Mike and John’s Sports Lounge (5456 W Fullerton Ave, 773-745-0695) to take in a game and relax with fellow Craginites. But for others, there’s nothing like the sights, sounds and smells of a down home Polish nightclub. Sound interesting? Well, lucky for you Resovia Lounge (5354 W Diversey Ave, 773-283-3397), Rzeszowska Club (2518 N Laramie Ave, 773-237-3899), and Stokrotka Lounge (5219 W Diversey Ave, 773-622-2420) are all located in the Cragin neighborhood. Take your pick, or visit all three, and join the slew of regulars that seem to be fixtures in this close-knit bar scene.
For those who look to be independent and drive whenever possible, Cragin is a good place to live. Parking is ample and pesky parking permit zones are few and far between. Trusty thoroughfares to take to and fro would be Cicero Avenue, a four-lane, north/south street and Grand Avenue, which is a quick way to get downtown.
Although it’s not necessarily near any major highway, access to the expressways can be reached by going almost any direction (except west). Heading east on Diversey Avenue is probably the quickest way to pick up I-94/90, the main arteries leading to the north and northwest suburbs. However, you can also get to the Kennedy Expressway (I-94/90) by traversing three or four miles north by way of Cicero Avenue. Or drivers can take Cicero in the other direction the same distance to I-290 (Eisenhower Expressway), which is the fastest route from Cragin to get downtown.
When our cars are in the shop and we need to use public transit, the Metra commuter rail has a train station nearby (Hanson Park) just steps south of Cragin. This convenient spot provides access to the Milwaukee District West Line that can zip residents downtown to Union Station or out west to the suburb of Elgin.
Sometimes taking the bus is the superior way to get around in Chicago. CTA buses are plentiful in the neighborhood and are used by many Cragin locals to get from Point A to Point B. The #65 Grand Avenue is the best bus to take if you want to get to the Chicago Loop to work, shop, or sightsee. Another available option to shimmy oneself downtown would be a bus/train combo. Hop on either the #54 Cicero, the #85 Central or the #57 Laramie bus, they all swing by the Green Line "El" stop where you can transfer to ride the rest of the way into the heart of the city.
On those hot summer days, it’s hard to resist the draw of Chicago’s beautiful lakefront beaches and parks. Fortunately, getting there is a cinch from Cragin. Just jump on the #77 Belmont, the #76 Diversey, or the #74 Fullerton bus, which all take passengers as close to the water as buses are allowed. Belmont and Diversey harbors are sensational places to relax during warmer weather, and now you know exactly how to get yourself there!
School’s in Session
Looking for a nearby school to send the kids to? Here is a list of the educational outposts of the Cragin neighborhood. Need more information on the city’s schools? Check out www.cps.k12.il.us and www.greatschools.net.
Dayspring Christian Academy – 5133 W Fullerton Ave – (773) 637 7442
Foreman High School – 3235 N Leclaire Ave – (773) 534 3400
Henry D Lloyd Elementary School – 2103 N Lamon Ave – (773) 534 3070
St Genevieve School – 4854 W Montana St – (773) 237 7131
St Ladislaus School – 3330 N Lockwood Ave – (773) 545 5600
We’ve compiled a list of information that should help in tracking down local Cragin establishments for all your basic needs from getting prescriptions filled to stocking the kitchen cupboards.
US Post Offices – 5100 W Grand Ave – (773) 237-0710
Cragin Park – 2611 N. Lockwood – (312) 746-5065
Blackhawk Park – 2318 N Lavergne Ave – (312) 746-5014
Portage-Cragin Library – 5108 W Belmont Ave – (312) 744-0152
Walgreens – 5600 W Fullerton Ave – (773) 745 1390;
Walgreens – 5140 W Diversey Ave – (773) 685-8759
Apple Supermarket – 5217 W Diversey Ave – (773) 836-7994
Supermarket Villa – 5020 W Fullerton Ave – (773) 637-7436
Supermercado San Marcos – 2842 N Laramie Ave – (773) 286-5045
Artesania Durango – 5114 W Fullerton Ave – (773) 637-7330
Cragin Hardware & Industrial Supply – 2021 N Laramie Ave – (773) 237-4170
Lopez’s Fashions – 4959 W Fullerton Ave – (773) 889 8955
George’s Starlite Restaurant – 5554 W Fullerton Ave – (773) 745-7007
Ben’s Wok – 5137 W Diversey Ave – (773) 745-7139
China House – 4901 W Diversey Ave – (773) 622-0750
Arturo’s Tacos – 5245 W Fullerton Ave – (773) 637-1923
Neuvo Poncitlian – 5011 W Fullerton Ave – (773) 237-5638
Super Pollo – 4614 W Diversey Ave – (773) 725-0700
Zacatecas Restaurant – 5037 W Diversey Ave – (773) 804-1450
Abondanza Restaurant and Pizzeria – 5054 W Fullerton Ave – (773) 889-1660
Coluta’s Pizza – 4946 W Diversey Ave – (773) 725-0005
Durango’s Pizza – 2718 N Laramie Ave – (773) 745-2044
Little Caesar’s Pizza – 4810 W Diversey Ave – (773) 725-2400
Mama Luna’s – 5109 W Fullerton Ave – (773) 889-3020
Anastazja Restaurant – 5223 W Diversey Ave – (773) 836-9636
Mike & John’s Sports Lounge – 5456 W Fullerton Ave – (773) 745-0695
Resovia Lounge – 5354 W Diversey Ave – (773) 283-3397
Rzeszowska Club – 2518 N Laramie Ave – (773) 237-3899
Stokrotka Lounge – 19 W Diversey Ave – (773) 622-2420
As one of the many diverse Chicago neighborhoods, Cragin offers homeowners a wide range of residential properties. Cragin 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 Cragin 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.