East Chicago boasts the beautiful Calumet Park on Lake Michigan and its very own forest preserve. A smattering of commercial development and a suburban-like residential atmosphere provides the groundwork for a solid neighborhood in the process of growing its economic base. In classic Chicago style, the East Chicago community embraces its vintage bungalows and small frame houses which afford good, sturdy homes and comfortable living space. A hearty restaurant corridor includes all the essentials with a concentration of Mexican taquerias, pizzerias and fast food favorites.
East Chicago Facts
Location: 17 miles south of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: South Chicago, South Deering, Irondale
Boundaries: 95th Street to the north, Lake Michigan to the east, 118th Street to the south and the Calumet River to the west
Then and Now
The East Chicago community first developed in the 1870s and was a center of industry and manufacturing because of its proximity to Lake Michigan, the Calumet River and railroad transportation. Today, industry is sparse, making this a quiet, almost suburban residential destination within the far reaches of Chicago city limits.
Ethnic diversity was a mainstay of East Chicago, merging immigrants from Germany, Sweden, Serbia, Croatia and Italy; all drawn to the employment opportunities created by the bustling steel industry on the south side. Neighboring South Chicago offered jobs at South Works, a huge steel factory, and in East Chicago, Republic Steel was a specialty plant that employed many residents of the area.
Steelworkers had a hard life; they plugged away 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Over the course of time, the frustrated laborers came together, despite ethnic differences, in order to better their plight. One of the most famous, and tragic, events connected with the steelworkers’ attempts to organize and form a union was the Memorial Day Massacre. In 1937, employees marched to Republic Steel and tried to form a picket line. Police waited at the gates and ordered them to stop. As people turned around, police shot at the strikers, killing 10 people and wounding many more. Even after that incident, it took several years for the steelworkers to form a union (United Steelworkers 1942) and achieve some of their goals. As for Republic Steel, it finally went bankrupt in 1986 but by then many laborers had already lost their jobs.
East Chicago neighborhood may not be the bastion of steel production that it was for most of the 20th century, but the residual effects of a prosperous industry has left the community with a sampling of commercial businesses sprinkled about a semi-suburban setting on Chicago’s far south side.
Once upon a time, traders smoked peace pipes with Native Americans along the Calumet River. "Calumet" is a variation of the French word for pipe: chamulet. And that’s the story of how the river got its name. Along the same origins, the area’s largest park came to be called Calumet Park (9801 S Avenue G, 312-747-6039). Of course, the kind of peace around these parts is not provided by a pipe, instead it comes from the tranquil beauty of the lakefront and landscaped greenery.
East Chicago neighborhood is lucky to have a hefty chunk of waterfront parkland to call its own. We like to head over there for an afternoon jog on the walking trails. There are two paths which are both over a mile long, providing just enough distance to get the heart rate up for a good cardio workout. And if we’re there at the right time of day, it’s entertaining to watch Little League baseball practice as we trot along the footpath. After working up a sweat, there’s no better way to cool off than a nice refreshing dunk in the lake. Just head on over to the beach and, if you’re feeling brave, take a dip in the invigorating waters of Lake Michigan.
Families, couples and individuals all find a way to play at Calumet Park, which offers everything from lawn bocce to boxing. And the classes at the park’s fieldhouse cover all those enjoyable hobbies in between. Dig out your thread and needle and join the sewing and quilting session to brush up on your skills, or take up upholstering or woodcraft with other East Chicago residents looking to expand their creative talents while making a few useful things for the house. As for the little ones in the family, you may have to limit the kids to choose between tumbling, gymnastics, cheerleading, baseball, or model railroad design. But isn’t it nice to have so many choices?
On a more educational note, at least once during the year we try to squeeze in a visit to the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum (9801 S Avenue G), which is only open once a week on Thursdays, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. It’s a great way to teach the kids about the industry that once dominated this south side Chicago neighborhood. The museum is located inside the Calumet Park Fieldhouse as is the Lakeshore Model Railroad which is beloved by kids and adults alike who get a kick out of watching the miniature trains crisscrossing through the tiny landscape on Wednesday and Friday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Bird watchers, grab your binoculars and head to Eggers Woods Forest Preserve (112th Street on Avenue E), where you can observe woodpeckers, chickadees and warblers. Rumor has it that Indiana residents cross the state line to see yellow-headed blackbirds. You bird-lovers will know what a coup that is! For an entirely different kind of tranquility, step inside the Serbian Orthodox Church (3737 E 114th St, 773-731-2925), which was built in 1969, but resembles a Serbian monastery from the 15th century. It’s certainly a unique way to get away from the routine of everyday life.
East Chicago Real Estate
Set away from the active lifestyle of Chicago’s busy downtown streets, the atmosphere in East Chicago neighborhood is more that of a suburban locale where folks slow down just enough to take in the scenery and enjoy a little peace and quiet.
A wide variety of housing styles line the residential blocks of this south side community, from vintage Chicago bungalows that are over 100 years old to Cape Cods built in the 1950s. Small frame houses are tightly packed into rows along the neighborhood’s long side streets with towering trees shading the rooftops from the harsh sunrays. While there are quite a few single-family homes in East Chicago listed in the low- to mid-$100,000s, there are a good number of properties valued between $225,000 and $335,000 that are brand new, or in quite nice shape and offer homeowners are bit more space. The average price for a two- or three-bedroom detached single-family home in East Chicago is $155,000, but a three-bedroom, two-bath place might cost closer to $200,000.
If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even have a forest in your backyard, as some homes are across the street from Eggers Woods Forest Preserve. Most East Chicago homes also have the added advantage of off-street or garage parking. With a good number of duplexes in this Chicago neighborhood, you can also try your hand at being a landlord: live in one unit and rent out the other. Not a bad way to pay for the mortgage.
What’s on the Menu?
The dining scene in the East Chicago neighborhood offers an international tour of cuisine that pleases the taste buds, whether you fancy pizza, ceviche, pasta or guacamole.
For the pizza-lovers—isn’t that all of us?—East Chicago has a handful of restaurants to accommodate those pizza cravings, whether it’s for thin crust or the super-stuffed kind. While we’re not that choosey about where we get our pie, there is one spot in the neighborhood that does it up just right. Waldo Cooney’s Pizza (3651 E 106th St, 773-374-4400) has all the traditional toppings and pizza made the way you want it. Waldo’s can also satisfy sudden urges for seafood and pasta, while Pucci’s (10063 S Ewing Ave, 773-375-7229) can whip up some veal parmesan, in case you’ve developed a taste for more upscale Italian-inspired fare.
Sure we all like our pizza, but when in East Chicago, Mexican food reigns supreme. So if you know what’s good for you, you’ll give these Latin-influenced eateries a try. Chapala Restaurant (3537 E 106th St, 773-978-3821) serves up the classic standbys like tacos and burritos, but you won’t want to pass up the shrimp prepared here in every shape and style—shrimp cocktail, shrimp salad and garlic shrimp in butter are all popular options that make this neighborhood restaurant a dining hotspot. Whenever we go to Chapala, it’s always a toss-up between the shrimp and the ceviche (red snapper marinated in lemon juice); they’re both so tasty it’s hard to choose. El Charro San Francisco (3655 E 106th St, 773-734-3584) is the place to go in East Chicago for a "combination plate" of steak, beans, salad and guacamole; healthy, filling and delicious.
Best Shopping Stops
This south side Chicago neighborhood may not have anything like Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile, but residents still find it easy enough to fill up a shopping bag from East Chicago’s selection of chain fashion stores and assortment of other retail outlets.
You can never have too many shoes, right? Thankfully, East Chicago houses a Payless Shoe Source (10536 S Ewing Ave, 773-734-0300) where we can stock up on inexpensive footwear for each new season. The selection here includes men’s, women’s and kids’ shoes and the collections follow the latest designer trends without coming close to those outrageous designer prices. Need a new ensemble to go with the new shoes? Of course you do! For that, East Chicagoans stop in to check out the fashion at AJ Wright (3562 E 118th St, 773-646-1603) and Fashion Bug (3518 E 118th St, 773-646-2228). Also offering great deals on the hottest styles and a mix of casual and evening wear, we like to shop the racks for those few special items to accent the wardrobe.
East Chicago homeowners are big fans of the shopping options in their neighborhood. Just a quick trip down the street and you can find just the touch you need to complete the living room or add a little flair to the home decor. D’Madera Furniture (3637 E 106th St, 773-221-1100) offers all those big ticket items such as sofas and dining tables which often become the focus of a room. Fortunately, with the high-quality items and great selection at D’Madera and Jalisco Furniture (10214 S Ewing Ave, 773-731-6420), another East Chicago furnishing store, you can rest assured your home will be tastefully decked out and provide a comfortable living space for the whole family.
East Chicago is about as far south in Chicago as you can get without hitting Indiana, but Chicago’s convenient public transit system (the CTA) gives you some great options to get downtown for work or play.
Buses from East Chicago may be the easiest way to get to the Loop. You can pick up the #26 South Shore express at Buffalo Avenue and 106th Street. Bring a good book, because at rush hour, it will be just over an hour to the Loop. Or connect to the Red Line train with a ride on the #30 South Chicago bus, which you can pick up at 114th Street and Avenue O. There’s also the #100 Jeffrey Manor Express bus that will take you to the Red Line/95th Street station in about 20 minutes.
We’ll cut you some slack if you decide to take your car and hop on the Chicago Skyway (I-90) which runs right through East Chicago neighborhood. The Skyway is accessible from Indianapolis Avenue, so it’s a cinch to get to. Just keep in mind that traffic running north and south gets congested during heavy commuter times, so it might not always be the fastest route to take. And you can’t read your book. Granted, you could get an audio book to keep you busy as you make your way to work. But don’t get so excited about listening to your story that you forget exact change, which you will need to whiz through the tolls—unless you spring for an I-PASS that allows you to electronically load up your account, which will automatically deduct when you pass through the booth.
School’s in Session
In East Chicago neighborhood, families have a choice between public school and private Christian school. Annunciata School provides a private Christian elementary education, while St. Francis De Sales has been providing a private Catholic high school education for more than 50 years. In addition to the following list, you can find out more information on East Chicago and other Chicago area schools at our Chicago Guide Schools page
Addams Elementary School - 10810 S Avenue H - (773) 535-6210
Annunciata School - 3750 E 112th St - (773) 375-5711
Gallistel Language Elementary School - 10347 S Ewing Ave - (773) 535-6540
St Francis de Sales High School - 10155 S Ewing Ave - (773) 731-7272
Taylor Elementary School - 9912 S Avenue H - (773) 535-6240
Washington Elementary School - 3611 E 114th St - (773) 535-5010
Washington High School - 3535 E 114th St - (773) 535-5725
When you aren’t learning to reupholster the sofa, or hanging out at Calumet Park with the kids, you may need to stock up on the basics. We’ve compiled a list of place in the neighborhood where you can find all the everyday essentials from potatoes to pajamas.
Vodak/East Side Public Library - 3710 E. 106th Street - 312-747-5500
US Post Offices - 10422 S Ewing Ave - (773) 221-0951
Chicago Transit Authority - (888) 968-7282
Osco Drug - 3940 E 106th St - (773) 731-2521
Walgreens - 3611 E 106th St - (773) 978-1820; 3514 E 118th St - (773) 646-0423
Jewel-Osco - 3940 East 106th St - (773) 768-2322
La Flor Grocery Store - 10500 S Avenue M - (773) 731-9390
Super Leon Grocery Store - 9800 S Avenue L - (773) 731-0576
AJ Wright - 3562 E 118th St - (773) 646-1603
D’Madera Furniture - 3637 E 106th St - (773) 221-1100
Payless Shoe Source - 10536 S Ewing Ave - (773) 734-0300
Discoteca Tepa - 3525 E 106th St - (773) 221-0343
Fashion Bug - 3518 E 118th St - (773) 646-2228
Jalisco Furniture - 10214 S Ewing Ave - (773) 731-6420
Spin Gear Fashion - 10554 S Ewing Ave - (773) 375-0971
Lion’s Den Restaurant - 10545 S Ewing Ave - (773) 731-8124
Kwan Chop Suey - 10611 S Ewing Ave - (773) 731-8213
Gerardo’s Bakery - 10125 S Ewing Ave - (773) 375-6099
Poopsie’s Pastry - 3646 E 112th St - (773) 374-4343
Chapala Restaurant - 3537 E 106th St - (773) 978-3821
El Charro San Francisco - 3655 E 106th St - (773) 734-3584
El Taconazo - 3335 E 106th St - (773) 933-9681 -
Roxanne Torres Restaurant - 3557 E 106th St - (773) 374-0490
Taqueria Jalisco - 3522 E 100th St - (773) 978-2380
Bob & Jack’s Pizza - 10244 S Ewing Ave - (773) 221-6111
Pucci’s - 10063 S Ewing Ave - (773) 375-7229
Waldo Cooney’s Pizza - 3651 E 106th St - (773) 374-4400
O’Hara’s Tavern - 3541 E 106th St - (773) 374-1967
Riverfront Saloon - 3301 E 106th St - (773) 221-8913
T’s Tap - 9801 S Ewing Ave - (773) 221-3111
Wilma’s Tavern - 10350 S Avenue M - (773) 374-8030
As one of the many diverse Chicago neighborhoods, East Chicago offers homeowners a wide range of residential properties. East Chicago 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 East 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.