Fulton River District
Residential blends with commercial in the Fulton River District, one of Chicago's fastest growing neighborhoods. With side streets tucked away behind busy urban thoroughfares you couldn't be closer to the Loop unless you were in the river. High-rise and mid-rise studios, condos and loft spaces typify the housing stock in the Fulton River District, with a few “vertical mansions” dotting the neighborhood blocks. A small, yet exquisite selection of restaurants fill the area, prompting evening diners from all over Chicago to make reservations in this trendy near north side section of town. After dark the bar scene heats up as pool halls, Irish pubs, cocktail lounges and nightclubs come alive.
Fulton River District Facts
Location: Directly north of and adjacent to the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: The Loop, River North, River West, West Loop
Boundaries: Grand Avenue to the north, the Chicago River to the east, Lake Street to the south and the Kennedy Expressway to the west
Then and Now
The neighborhood of Fulton River District straddles two Chicago community areas, that of West Town on its northern half. Unlike many Chicago neighborhoods, this area was actually within the original city limits as established in 1837, so no annexation was required. The Chicago River was the draw to the area, and the neighborhood’s prime location on this important waterway led early settlers here. Industry soon followed, including the railroads.
With so many rail lines intersecting the area and the Chicago River on the eastern border, manufacturing and trade businesses thrived in this section of town, particularly in the Fulton River District, providing many employment opportunities for its residents. Further south, directly west of the Loop, the Near West Side’s close proximity to the business district made it attractive to Chicago’s wealthier residents. By 1870, however, the population shifted from affluence to that of a working class, divided along racial lines with African Americans and European immigrants from Germany, Ireland, France, Czechoslovakia and Bohemia all occupying their own separate sections of the neighborhood. By the end of the 19th century, European immigrants from Scandinavia had settled in the area as well, with Poles and Russian Jews close behind. Around the same time, many Italians started to inhabit the area along Grand Avenue, filling the small community with a sizeable number of different cultures.
Despite the residential buildup in the surrounding areas of West Town and Near West Side neighborhoods, the Fulton River District was mostly an industrial zone of factories and warehouses. Today, thanks largely to the Fulton River District Association, the neighborhood is experiencing a boom in residential building. This non-profit, community-based organization has worked hard to promote the neighborhood and encourage a balance between residential and commercial development. As a result, Fulton River District is one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the city. Crisscrossed by railway tracks and busy thoroughfares, residential real estate intermingles with commercial businesses along the blocks here. Not to mention some of the city’s best restaurants have gained a foothold in this trendy near north side Chicago neighborhood.
The streets of this Chicago neighborhood are tightly-packed with a mix of residences and business, bringing the best of urban living to one hotspot of Chicago city life. High- and mid-rise lofts, condominiums and studios dominate the housing stock in the Fulton River District. There are single-family townhomes, scattered throughout the neighborhood blocks, but many of these beautiful, four-story graystone structures are valued at over $3 million. These "vertical mansions" boast all the latest upgrades and luxury amenities you can dream of.
If you don’t have a few million to put towards your next home, no problem, there are plenty of other housing options in the Fulton River District that provide sufficient living space for singles, couples, and young families alike. You can get a one-bedroom condo or studio (most with a garage parking spot) starting in the low-$200,000s, although the higher-end for units of this size is in the upper-$200,000s. The average sales price for a two-bedroom condo in Fulton River District is around $412,000, and for a three-bedroom the average price jumps up to about $780,000. Many of these properties have been newly built or renovated, offering fine finishes, hardwood flooring throughout, granite kitchen counter tops, and top-of-the-line appliances.
In addition to refurbishing older buildings, the Fulton River District has seen a slew of new construction in the past ten years, appealing to many first-time buyers who crave the energy of living close to the city’s center. The neighborhood’s Fulton River District Association strives to maintain and promote the community, inviting more and more Chicagoans to discover the allure of this near north side enclave that affords an easy commute to the Loop and a wealth of restaurants and nightlife, just steps outside your doorstep.
What’s on the Menu?
As a part of Chicago’s delectable downtown dining scene, the Fulton River District has great restaurants, from traditional Italian to a tasty tour of South America. The western section of West Town was once a haven for Italian immigrants. Lucky for us, a sampling of that heritage has spilled over into Fulton River District’s culinary choices. Our top pick for marinara and pastas is La Scarola (721 W Grand Ave, 312-243-1740). Patrons enjoy the coziness of a small dining area next to the open kitchen where the comforting sounds of clinking pans and sizzling entrees can sometimes be heard above the hubbub of conversation. Eating at La Scarola is an intimate dining experience, but we like the quaint feel; it’s almost as though you’re having a meal at someone’s house. And once the risotto primavera or veal vesuvio makes an appearance at your table, it’s hard not to think somebody in that kitchen is pulling out all the stops to give you the best darn meal you’ve ever tasted. Any item on the menu here is fantastic and everything is served in generous portions that won’t break your budget. Entrees average about $20 with most pasta dishes under $15. Plus you can get appetizers, salads and soups such as the pasta and fagiole for less than five bucks. This Fulton River District restaurant is so popular, famous Chicagoans and other celebrities have been known to stop in when they’re in town. We won’t tell you who; you’ll have to find that out for yourself.
The Fulton River District restaurant originally called Thyme got a menu makeover and a new name: Timo (464 N Halsted St, 312-226-4300) is the new incarnation. After serving French-Mediterranean cuisine for eight years, chef/owner John Bubula had a change of heart and a change of menu. After visiting Italy the chef returned high on Italian cooking and reformed his restaurant’s fare by adding some northern Mediterranean dishes to his offerings, while still focusing on the theme of spit-roasted meat and Atlantic fish that was also present at Thyme. We like the three-course meal option here. You can start with parmesan shrimp and follow it with a variety of rotisserie dishes that would make PETA squirm: rabbit, lamb or veal, and end with risotto with grilled pears. The dining room is painted in warm, comforting earth tones, but for an even more natural atmosphere the outdoor patio is ideal for dining al fresco and comes complete with a view of the Willis Tower.
Visit Carnivale (702 W. Fulton Market, 312-850-3017) and you’ll be embarking on a culinary tour of Central and South America from the islands of Puerto Rico and Cuba, to the mountainous terrain of El Salvador all the way down to Brazil. It’s hard not to enjoy yourself in this bright and vibrant Latin-themed restaurant. The colorful decor features a bright mix of greens, reds and yellows, a motif represented in the giant paintings on display as well. Salsa music keeps things lively and dizzyingly high ceilings with seven foot light fixtures in the 35,000-square-foot dining area give the place a larger than life feel. Start off with an empanada and move on to Cuban braised beef or borrego (wood braised lamb). An assortment of margaritas, mojitos and sangria will only enhance your festive dining experience. Carnivale also offers a more condensed lunch menu featuring the classic Cuban sandwich (think of a really, really good grilled cheese sandwich with Swiss cheese and pork) and delicious fish tacos. Perfect for a quick break from work or a light bite in between errands.
Fulton River District also has its share of good old-fashioned American food. Tasty, fast, and made-to-order is the way they prepare the chow at Fast Track (629 W Lake St, 312-993-9300). Built into an antiquated gas station (with a railroad depot theme—go figure) this place serves hotdogs, traditional Polish, brats, hamburgers, and even breakfast. The Sandwicheria (455 N Milwaukee Ave, 312-243-0603) is a small, cozy shop that offers a variety of sandwiches (they’d better with a name like Sandwicheria). The menu here combines the best of the Italian panini and the flavors of Mexico, but turkey and roast beef classics are available as well. They also serve a variety of salads and wraps, which you can pair with an assortment of chips and drinks. A quick and much healthier choice than your average fast-food fare and still easy on the wallet.
Another neighborhood fixture for pub grub is the Lake & Union Restaurant (666 W Lake St, 312-559-0036). Although the decor is fairly nondescript and not very inviting, any initial hesitation will be snuffed-out once you enter. This is the place to get a bite and maybe a beer during your hectic work day (we won’t tell the boss). With a full bar and a variety of greasy American plates (think burgers and fries), this Fulton River District restaurant is a favorite among Chicagoans who spend their workweek in the Loop and like a casual and friendly atmosphere to take in lunch. Definitely not a late-night hangout by any means, the kitchen at Lake & Union stops serving at 6 pm and the bar closes at 9 pm. However, they open up at 5:30 am to wake you up with hot coffee, bacon and eggs. Jefferson Tap & Grill (325 N Jefferson St, 312-648-0100) is a great spot for better than average bar food. Appetizers like the jalapeno poppers and the Irish nachos (made with waffle fries and chicken strips) are a good way to set the stage for other menu favorites like the barbecue beef and cheeseburger burrito (made with tortillas instead of a bun). And you can wash it down with a variety of domestic or imported beer.
Night on the Town
Whether you are a fan of hip and loud or low-key and laidback, you’ve got options for nighttime fun in the Fulton River District neighborhood. The Funky Buddha Lounge (728 W Grand Ave, 312-666-1695) celebrates and promotes diversity and is decorated in an eclectic mix of cultural artwork from around the world. The worship of various god and goddesses is apparently encouraged as there are various busts of said deities displayed throughout the club. Asian dragon motifs and African masks cover the walls in the main room where DJs spin a mix of danceable hip hop and house music. A mixed drink here won’t break the bank and beer specials rotate on the weeknights. For a healthy (if you don’t drink too much) and funky night on the town in Fulton River District, this is the lounge you’re looking for.
Head next door to the Butterfly Social Club (722 W Grand Ave, 312-666-1695), which opened on Earth Day 2007 by the same owner who started up the Buddha Lounge. The interior was created by local natural builder and green activist, Miguel Elliot, who used a mixture of sand, clay and straw called cobb. The effect is a cozy underground lair with hand sculpted seats and a running water fountain. DJs spin beats out of speakers that look like tree trunks (made from recycled wood, of course) and customers can receive discounts on drinks by pedaling one of the bicycles that powers the DJ booth. This Fulton River District club features a variety of organic juices, teas and cocktails which can be enhanced with kava and yerba for natural energy. Our favorite is the Pirate’s Booty made with organic Steaz tea and sugar cane rum, but you’ll have to pay with a drink ticket you buy at the door. Money is dirty and it has no place in here. Yep, they just might have thought of everything.
City Pool Hall (640 W Hubbard Ave, 312-491-9690) has tables waiting for you, so come on in and rack ‘em up. Tucked into a side street behind the busy Milwaukee, Grand and Halsted intersection, this pool joint might even be considered trendy by Chicago urbanites. There are a dozen television screens throughout the bar to entertain in between turns at the table, and they do serve up traditional bar food fare like pizza, burgers, and a few salads all for under $10. This hip little neighborhood hall opens up at 11 am, so if you’re an amateur player and don’t want to draw a crowd to your less-than-skilled playing, this is the time to take to the felt. Otherwise the place gets jumping in the evening and all the pool sharks come out in force.
Emmit’s (495 N Milwaukee Ave, 312-563-9631) is a neighborhood pub with a storied past. Originally the home of Italian Trust & Savings in the 1930s (allegedly a haven for all manner of mob activity) Emmit’s has been the resident business since 1996. Ireland is the theme here with its green wood bar and menu serving Irish stew, shepherd’s pie, and pepper and egg sandwiches (perfect for Lent). Prior to Emmit’s owners taking over, the bar was called O’Sullivan’s and it still attracts some of the clientele from those days, mainly judges and firemen of Irish descent. Here’s a cool side note: When it was still O’Sullivan’s the bar was used to shoot scenes for the movies Backdraft and Uncle Buck. These days, business people from the Loop as well as the resident Fulton River District crowd have adopted Emmit’s as their own place to relax and down a microbrew or two.
When we just don’t want the dance party to end in Fulton River District we head to Rednofive (440 N Halsted St, 312-733-6699). This multi-level club has been getting people on the dance floor for almost a decade now. The club holds up to 1,000 guests in its 10,000-square-foot facility, and some nights it can feel like it. Packed in shoulder-to-shoulder; don’t be surprised when it takes ten minutes to work your way through the maze of trendy partiers to get a drink at the bar. The upstairs floor is where the hardcore dancers reign and the heavier beats get played with fast hip hop and house dominating the turntables. The downstairs has more of a loungey feel with a smaller dance floor and more seating available.
Best Shopping Stops
Chocoholics and bookworms take note: Fulton River District is your new utopia. This near north side Chicago neighborhood has the means to allow anyone who pleases to spend the day pigging out or reading up on the latest social anthropology theory. As soon as you cross the Grand Avenue bridge and head into the Fulton River District there is that unforgettable aroma. No, it’s not the Chicago River, fortunately. It’s chocolate, the kind of air pollution we can deal with. The divine chocolatey smell emanates from the Blommer Chocolate Co (600 W Kinzie St, 312-226-7700). Doing their part to put Chicago on the map as the chocolate capital of the United States, Blommer Chocolate Company has been in operation since 1939. Although it has branched out to California and Pennsylvania, Fulton River District is home base for these candy makers. And the best part of the chocolatiers having their headquarters right here in the neighborhood is the factory outlet, where true chocoholics can get the goods for as little as two bucks a pound for both the milk and dark chocolate favorites. Bakers also come here to stock up on cooking chocolate which they can buy in bulk in the form of untempered discs.
If anthropology is your bag, or maybe you’re more into zoology, N Fagin Books (459 N Milwaukee Ave, 312-829-5252) will be your new favorite bookstore. With over 20,000 titles to choose from students of geology and natural history can bone up on all aspects of these sciences in one trip. The shop features both new and used books at reasonable prices so stop in and browse through the racks for books on subjects you never knew existed.
Conveniently located near several main transportation arteries, the Fulton River District has many options for getting around the neighborhood and beyond. The CTA Blue Line stop at Grand Avenue train is on the northern edge of the Fulton River District, but it’s still within walking distance from anywhere in the neighborhood. Jump on and take it west to get out to O’Hare International Airport for that much deserved vacation, or head the other direction and in one stop you’ll be in the Loop. The Green and Pink line "El" trains share a station at Clinton Avenue on the neighborhood’s southern border. The trains earned their nickname "the El" because of the system’s segments of elevated track that run through the city. This makes for a quick (and more picturesque) way to get to and around the Loop. You can head west on the Green Line to see what’s in bloom at the Garfield Park Conservatory.
As for bus routes that service the Fulton River District, the #65 Grand Avenue whisks residents into River North, to the Magnificent Mile and on to Navy Pier for some amusement park fun. The #8 Halsted Street bus travels south to the UIC campus in University Village, or you can ride it north to Lincoln Park or Boystown in West Lakeview. If you’re not as apt to take public transportation because say, you have your own vehicle, that’s fine because the neighborhood is bordered to the west by the Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94), the city’s most traveled highway.
Fulton River District still has several areas of industrialization, so its side streets can seem a little chaotic at times, but parking isn’t impossible. Just make sure to check signs for restrictions, and if you live in the area you can get stickers for your car that allow you to park overnight on the street. Rush hour along Milwaukee and Grand avenues can be hectic, but if you’ve got a bicycle you can take the bike lanes along Milwaukee and slice right through traffic leaving all those automobiles in your dust.
Whether you need something to read or are a chocoholic suffering from withdrawal, we have compiled a list of neighborhood establishments where you can get your fix in Fulton River District.
Chicago Transit Authority (888) 968-7282
White Hen Pantry - 628 W Fulton St - (312) 648-4010
Blommer Chocolate Co - 600 W Kinzie St - (312) 226-7700
Delilah Jewelry - 550 W Fulton St - (312) 831-1241
Grandma Lill’s Pretzels - 218 N Jefferson St - (312) 377-1401
N Fagin Books - 459 N Milwaukee Ave - (312) 829-5252
Fast Track - 629 W Lake St - (312) 993-9300
Jefferson Tap & Grill - 325 N Jefferson St - (312) 648-0100
Lake & Union Restaurant - 666 W Lake St - (312) 559-0036
Sandwicheria - 455 N Milwaukee Ave - (312) 243-0603
La Scarola - 721 W Grand Ave - (312) 243-1740
Timo - 464 N Halsted St - (312) 226-4300
Latin American Cuisine
Carnivale - 702 W Fulton St - (312) 850-3017
City Pool Hall Food & Spirits - 640 W Hubbard St - (312) 491-9690
Emmit’s Irish Pub & Eatery - 495 N Milwaukee Ave - (312) 563-9631
Reserve - 858 W Lake St - 312-455-1111
Butterfly Social Club - 722 W Grand Ave - 312-666-1695
City Pool Hall - 640 W Hubbard Ave - 312-491-9690
Rednofive - 440 N Halsted St - 312-733-6699
The Fifth Floor - 440 N Halsted St - 312-226-4555
Funky Buddha Lounge - 728 W Grand Ave - 312-666-1695
There’s a lot of mystery involved in searching for a new home—it starts with the property and expands outward to encompass the street, the block, the neighborhood, the entire city! Every little thing matters from the color of the walls to the attractions of the town. That’s why a guide like this one on the Fulton River District is so helpful to potential homebuyers. Without leaving the comfort of your desktop computer or laptop, you’ve got an extensive pool of information on all of Chicago’s neighborhoods that includes first-hand descriptions of dining, entertainment, shopping, bars, and events, in addition to lists of schools, hospitals, post offices, and gyms. We’ve done all the research to carefully craft this one-stop online spot, and create your hub for the real deal on the Fulton River District . So as soon as a Chicago loft, condo, townhome or house catches your eye, you know where to come for the low down on the digs around that prime piece of real estate.