A diverse, family-friendly area full of mom-and-pop shops, plenty of greenery and neighbors chatting on front stoops is the core of Humboldt Park living. But the real treat is that the neighborhood hustles and bustles around one of Chicago's largest parks which is the site of many summer music concerts and year round recreation. Also a big draw of this west side community is its unique tie to Puerto Rican culture. Humboldt Park's strong Puerto Rican heritage prompts a yearly festival and parade, held under the neighborhood's two large Puerto Rican flags that mark Paseo Boricua Humboldt Park's main drag. But the restaurants, shops and entertainment are hardly restricted to a single spot – there are great options for eating and amusement all over place in Humboldt Park.
Humboldt Park Facts
Location: About 6 miles northwest of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Logan Square, Bucktown, Wicker Park, Ukrainian Village, East Garfield Park
Boundaries: Armitage Avenue to the north, Western Avenue to the east, Chicago Avenue to the south and Pulaski Road to the west
Then and Now
Humboldt Park neighborhood centers around the actual Humboldt Park, a 207-acre area of green that is the heart of the neighborhood. It was named in 1869 for German naturalist Baron Freidrich Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt-who has the longest name ever-and was most famous for his five-volume compilation, Cosmos: Draft of a Physical Description of the World. Yeah, we haven't read it either. But after the designation of the park, there was a boom in real estate values, and folks (mostly Scandinavians who moved west after the legendary Chicago Fire of 1871) started to build and settle into the graystone homes immediately surrounding the park. Similar to other west side neighborhoods, Humboldt Park saw a burst in population following the installation of streetcars and elevated street railways in the late 1800s. The railways brought with them the continued settlement of Norwegian and Danish residents and at one point the Scandinavian-dominated area was as large as six blocks by eight blocks, with nearly two dozen Norwegian churches within that small area.
As time passed, the demographics changed. Germans came in during the early 1900s, and were followed by Poles, Italian Americans and Russian Jews in the '20s and '30s. The character of the area, specifically along Division Street between Western and California, was captured during the first half of the 20th century by such notable writers as Nelson Algren, Studs Terkel and Saul Bellow. Sadly, the neighborhood made the headlines for a tragedy in 1958, when a local Catholic school, Our Lady of the Angels, lost 92 students and three nuns in a fire. The incident has been the subject of many books and was the catalyst for many important changes in school safety and fire codes. As the 1960s approached, Chicago saw their first influx of Puerto Rican immigrants, many of who migrated to Humboldt Park. With so many different cultures vying for land and power, things got ugly for a while and came to a head with the Division Street Riots in 1966, when the shooting of a Puerto Rican man by a Chicago police officer sparked three days of rioting. The incident, though tragic, was the springboard for the start of many Puerto Rican rights organizations. As other ethnic groups in Humboldt Park began to move out of the area, the Puerto Rican community developed further. But in the 1970s and '80s, things looked rather grim. Gangs, crime and violence characterized the area, and Humboldt Park earned a reputation as a neighborhood not to hang around in after dark. The park itself was notoriously dangerous, and buildings were in poor condition and overcrowded. But even when the neighborhood was at its darkest, members of the Puerto Rican community continued to expand the area with improvements in housing and business, through many social and economic initiatives. Today, the stretch of Division Street that runs through Humboldt Park is known as 'Paseo Boricua,' and is designated by 59-foot steel Puerto Rican flags on Western and California avenues. Humboldt Park is cleaned up and on a major upswing now. The area is home to many small businesses, cafes and restaurants, and the park is once again a family-friendly place. While gentrification seems to be happening all around Humboldt Park, the west side neighborhood has fought off the big chains like Starbucks and Jewel. So far, anyway. The residents of all backgrounds are drawn to the relaxed neighborhood atmosphere with one of Chicago's biggest and most beautiful parks just a hop, skip and a jump away.
Ah, the park. A massive slab of lush green grass, shady green trees, and even a little river flowing through, it's simply an oasis amidst our concrete jungle. Connected to Garfield Park and Douglas Park through the beautiful boulevards system (bike riders take note: this makes for a beautiful long bike ride), the park has been the hub of activity for this neighborhood since its birth in 1869. At 207 acres, Humboldt Park is much more than just a patch of grass. It contains a lovely lagoon and small river, gardens, a music/theatre courtyard, a boat house, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, a swimming pool, a fitness center, running paths and dozens of activities and festivals that take place during the year. Whew!
There's enough going on here to pack an entire day. For the kids, there are summer day camps, swimming lessons, baseball clinics, dance classes, and lifeguard certification classes as well as many different clubs offered. And grownups? Sign up for Latin dance classes, aerobics, intramural basketball, or hop in the pool for open swim. The park is perfect for all ages and has a little something for all interests, so shut off that television, grab your swimsuit/sneakers/baseball/book/blanket and head over! And, as if that weren't enough, the park also plays host to a few of the Chicago Park District's citywide summer events. Movie buffs, listen up-Humboldt Park is one of the sites for the 'Movies in the Park' series which brings fun, family-oriented films to an outdoor setting for a little star-watching under the stars. For your comfort, we suggest bringing lawn chairs or a blanket, and perhaps a little pre-popped microwave popcorn.
So, Humboldt Park has beautiful landscapes, recreational activities, blockbuster Hollywood hits, well, guess what? It's got something else up its sleeve (figuratively speaking, since it doesn't have a sleeve), and that something is music. In addition to the 'Concerts in the Park' series, also sponsored by the Parks District, there's a Latin Jazz Festival that pops up sporadically several times during the summer. Switch off the radio, or Pandora, and head outside to enjoy the quick beats and danceable tunes provided by these festive neighborhood happenings.
Humboldt Park Real Estate
As the years passed, architecture in Humboldt Park neighborhood changed, giving it an eclectic residential stew with a diverse selection of housing styles. The area began with a cluster of gorgeous graystones. Then in the early 1900s, the focus was on two-flat houses, which was followed by brick bungalows, one- and two-story frame dwellings, and finally, small apartment buildings. You won't see many large apartment buildings or condos when it comes to Humboldt Park real estate. Most buildings here have only a few units. The Humboldt Park neighborhood is so green and residential, sometimes it feels like we aren't even in Chicago anymore (although we're thankful that the bustle of downtown is straight down Division Street just minutes away). The completely comfortable vibe comes from perks like mature leafy trees, real backyards-the kind you have to mow-and lovely streets perfect for an evening stroll. The Humboldt Park neighborhood is packed with families, plus a few artists and the occasional young professional, drawn in by the real estate steals Humboldt Park has to offer.
Check out our Humboldt Park home sales statistics [here] to get an idea of the real estate market trends in this neighborhood.
What's on the Menu?
Naturally you'll find the finest in Puerto Rican cuisine in this neighborhood, plus many other gems that are favorites among Humboldt Park residents and other hungry Chicago locals. Let's start with what Humboldt Park does best. Borinquen Restaurant (1720 N California Ave, 773-227-6038) is one of the most popular stops for Puerto Rican fare. The most talked-about item is easily the jibarito - a sandwich with the insides (choice of meat, lettuce, tomato, cheese, mayo and garlic) flanked, not by bread, but by smashed and fried plantains. This joint has been featured in Travel and Leisure magazine and on the Food Network, so you know it's living up to the hype. FYI-the jibarito is greasy and garlicky, so bring along some mints and a wet-nap. Another popular Puerto Rican favorite is Papa's Cache Sabroso (2517 W Division St, 773-862-8313). A true hole-in-the-wall, Papa's is known specifically for its lechon (pork) and pollo (chicken), as both slow-roasted meats are juicy, tender and delicious. No need to bring more than a stack of bills to eat here-a plate of rice, beans and chicken won't cost you more than a few bucks. La Palma (1340 N Homan Ave, 773-862-0886) is a cafeteria-style Puerto Rican restaurant with enormous portions, so you could probably stock up for lunch and dinner. We go for their jibaritos or their version of Puerto Rico's national dish, arroz con gandules (rice with peas). The staff makes you feel like you're one of the family, so we're sure you'll be stopping by again and again.
Sticking to Latin cuisine, Humboldt Park also has a slew of Mexican restaurants to choose from. We've gone back to La Encantada (3437 W North Ave, 773-489-5026) several times already for great food, but also for their micheladas, a refreshing drink consisting of beer and lime juice. Back to the food: There is no going wrong with anything off the menu here. From the mouthwatering Bistec Ala Mexicana to the delicious Fajitas De Asada, La Encantada delivers with high quality dishes that keep us coming back for more. Another great Mexican place in Humboldt Park is El Paisano Taco (2429 N Division St, 773-292-1002), located in the heart of Humboldt Park. They serve up breakfast, lunch and dinner with plenty of daily specials to choose from. Not only do they do take-out and delivery, too, but their website allows online ordering. Oh, the convenience!
Cemitas Puebla (3619 W North Ave, 773-772-8435) is named for the town that brought us that irresistible mole sauce. Needless to say, there are plenty of mole dishes to choose from on their menu. The mole poblano covers chicken legs in a chocolate-y sauce and sesame seeds, then pairs them with rice and tortillas. Non-mole dishes to try include cemitas, a sandwich that is common Pueblan street fare, and tacos de cecina, which are stuffed with a meat that can only be described as beef jerky-like. This west side Chicago neighborhood can impress with its non-Latin cuisine as well. West Town Pizza Shop (2525 W North Ave, 773-252-2299) is a Humboldt Park pizzeria favorite. Recently opened, this pizza spot does what every pizzeria should: Sell by the slice. Yet unlike so many others places that offer up sad, lonely slices of pizza cut off and missing the rest of its family, West Town's slices are like an overachieving child prodigy eager to make it on their own two feet.
Flying Saucer (1123 N California Ave, 773-342-9076) is a retro-inspired, laid-back diner with simply delicious food, and home to the Flying Breakfast Bowl. Vegans and non meat-eaters will love this joint, as it has tons of vegetarian options, as well as a range of soy meats to substitute in their sandwiches. Be sure to check out the chalkboard of specials behind the counter-they're often the best dishes in the house. Humboldt Park residents are incredibly lucky. Two of Chicago's best bakeries are right in their backyard. Roeser's Bakery (3216 W North Ave, 773-489-6900) absolutely can't be missed. It's been a staple of the Humboldt Park neighborhood since 1911, and they whip up cakes, cookies and tortes that you'll be thinking about for days after your visit. For that birthday cake that you've always dreamed up, definitely make the trip to Roeser's where you can custom-design your flavors, fillings and frostings, and maybe even channel that inner Julia Child. Cafe Colao (2638 W Division St, 773-276-1780) hasn't been around as long, but their sweets are just as divine. Whether you go with the flaky and delicious Pastelito de Guayaba con queso or fan favorite avena de coco (a coconut oatmeal) or the many other pastries and desserts offered, you will thank us for leading you to this authentic bakery and sandwich shop.
Best Shopping Stops
Though you'll probably have to venture out of the Humboldt Park neighborhood for your major shopping needs, the area won't disappoint when you need to run out for a quick shopping stop. In fact, the Humboldt Park shopping provides a bunch of catch-all shoe stores, so you'll never find yourself in the 'none of these shoes look good with my outfit' situation. There's a Foot Locker (3218 W Chicago Ave, 773-638-1155) for all of your running or basketball or tennis or fashionable sneaker needs. Shoetime (800 N Kedzie Ave, 773-722-6972) has a little something for everyone, stocking both fashionable and practical footwear.
If you're a Humboldt Park resident, you may get the urge to fancy up that patch of green around your house. Head over to Adam and Sons Garden (1057 N California Ave, 773-235-0991) for any and all gardening supplies. Trust us, this store is one of the best things about Humboldt Park. Stocking hundreds of different plant types, garden accessories and fresh cut flowers, the friendly and knowledgeable staff here will help you create a garden of Master Gardener proportions. And since you're going to have the outside looking spectacular, it's time for a trip to Menards (4501 W North Ave, 773-278-7534) to spruce up the inside with a few do-it-yourself home improvement projects. Pick up hammers, nails, saws, hoses, the list goes on and on. At Lily's Record Shop (2733 W Division St, 773-252-7008) you'll find Puerto Rican music ranging from merengue to salsa to Caribbean rhythms, and we can never resist picking up a few of the Puerto Rican souvenirs on our way out.
Night on the Town
We're going to be honest here? Humboldt Park is not Chicago's nightlife central. But when it comes to cultural activities, the neighborhood has plenty to offer. We recommend kicking off the night with a visit to one of the many cultural institutions. Then head over to one of Humboldt Park's no-frills bars to finish off the evening.
The Quilombo Cultural Center (1757 N Kimball Ave, 773-227-8879) specializes in capoeira, a form of Brazilian martial arts, but they also offer classes in hapkido, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and belly dance. In addition to classes, stop by the center to find out when and where the next Roda de Rua (an informal 'dance-off' of martial arts moves) will be. There's really no cooler way than starting off the night in Humboldt Park by watching a capoeira performance in the middle of a street. Between Rodas, check out the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (3015 W Division St, 773-486-8345). It's been a staple of the Humboldt Park neighborhood since 2001 and showcases the very best in Puerto Rican art and culture. The IPRAC hosts the Puerto Rican Film Series, Mural Restoration Projects, readings, lectures, art demonstrations, and performances, as well as displaying visual art by Puerto Rican artists. Classes are offered here, too, so check their website for opportunities to learn something new. At Cafe Teatro Batey Urbano (2647 W Division St, 773-394-5206) you can get a peek at the creative work of Humboldt Park youth. Started by a group of college students (in conjunction with the Puerto Rican Cultural Center), the space showcases art, poetry, performances and more, all from Humboldt Park college students. Sit in on a Hip Hop or poetry open mic, or check out the artwork on exhibit. Not only will you be impressed (and expand your mind a little bit), but you'll feel good knowing you are supporting aspiring hometown artists.
Whew! After all this culture, you're going to need a beverage. Known just as 'The Beetle' to Humboldt Parkers,The Beetle Bar and Grill (2532 W Chicago Ave, 773-384-0701) is the perfect place to grab a quick drink-or to hang out for most of the night. The 11 beers on tap will keep you occupied, as will the pool table (free on Sundays) and Golden Tee. Live DJs share time with a kickin' jukebox, and the menu includes such bar staples as burgers, pizza and sandwiches. Be sure to check their website, as The Beetle offers generous nightly specials. Also on our list of Humboldt Park faves is The California Clipper (1002 N California Ave, 773-384-2547). We feel right at home in the restored 1940s speakeasy. The Art Deco bar, red walls, dim lighting and classic cocktails such as the grasshopper, Tom Collins and Singapore sling have us convinced that Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin are going to walk through the door any minute. Aside from the unique decor, neighbors flock to the Clipper for live music on Friday and Saturday nights, and are treated to everything from jazz to country to rockabilly to blues. The Clipper also plays host to many spoken word events as well as their hugely popular Monday night B-I-N-G-O!
Mark Your Calendar
Humboldt Park thrives during the summer with constant celebrations of food, art and culture.
We can't mention Humboldt Park festivals without bringing up Puerto Rican Festival first. This is the biggest, the brightest and the most entertaining of all the Humboldt Park events. With such a large Puerto Rican population, you better believe the neighbors get into the spirit. Most of the celebration takes place in the park, which is transformed into a carnival-like atmosphere. Amusement park rides and games are shipped in, food stands line the sidewalks, and fresh squeezed juices are the drink of choice for the attendees, who pair it with fried plantains, corn on the cob and traditional Puerto Rican fare. Live music radiates through the park for the entire weekend, with many famous Latin music stars such as Trebol Clan and Frankie Negron. There are two parades-one downtown and one in Humboldt Park-to mark the occasion. The festival lasts for six days in mid-June, and with a turnout of nearly two million people, the Puerto Rican Festival is second only to the Taste of Chicago in the rankings of Chicago's largest festivals.
If you happen to miss the Puerto Rican Festival, never fear. There are a few other Humboldt Park events to satisfy your appetite for fun community celebrations. In October the neighborhood hosts the Humboldt Park Art Festival, where the park plays host to live music, local art, games and contests. The suggested donation goes to benefit Graffiti Zone, a local children's art program. Puerto Rican pride flourishes in late August when Fiesta Boricua rolls through Humboldt Park. The celebration, which pays tribute to Paseo Boricua-the neighborhood's main drag-is energetic and exciting, with a focus on Puerto Rican culture, including an enormous showcase of Puerto Rican music, art, food and dance. It's only a one-day event, but it's one of the largest one-day fests in the Midwest.
For those whose taste in music runs on the eclectic side be sure to check out the annual Riot Fest Chicago (W Division St and Humboldt Dr). This diverse September festival features an array of acts playing everything from punk to hip hop to indie pop and all points in between. Situated in beautiful Humboldt Park, Rio Fest has quickly earned a reputation as the alternative to the more mainstream Lollapalooza.
Humboldt Park also has plenty of live music events during the warm weather months. From Latin jazz concerts to salsa dancing classes, the park is a summer stop for all musical tastes. Schedules and events vary, so check out the Chicago Parks District website (chicagoparkdistrict.com) for more information.
Though people and places within the Humboldt Park neighborhood are mostly within walking distance, the area is still a few miles from the more bustling Wicker Park, Logan Square, Ukrainian Village and other west side neighborhoods. So public transportation is a useful thing to have in the area, and although buses crisscross the neighborhood from every direction, no 'El' lines (Chicago's elevated train and subway system) run through the vicinity. Nevertheless, we'd gladly trade an El stop for the lovely garden we have in our backyard. But we digress. For those who try to live a car-free life, Humboldt Park has you covered with a slew of CTA buses running right through your neighborhood. The #73 Armitage Avenue bus is a handy line that will take you way out west or all the way east into Lincoln Park. The #70 Division Street bus follows the same path only a few blocks south, and will transport you into the heart of Wicker Park and Old Town. The #66 Chicago Avenue bus also runs east/west, and is a great way to get downtown. The #49 Western Avenue bus has a north/south route. We're not done yet-Humboldt Park neighborhood is teeming with bus lines? Slightly further west, the #52 California/Kedzie Street bus line is another convenient north to south option, but study up on the route first. It shifts around between California and Kedzie, and we don't want you to get lost. While Humboldt Park has its fair share of public transit via CTA bus-there isn't an El train stop nearby. However, if the El is necessary for your trip, almost all of the bus lines can take you right to a station. The best idea is to visit the CTA website (transitchicago.com) for more info and maps of the area. For car owners Humboldt Park is easy, breezy and downright delightful. Permit parking is unheard of, parking is always available (with very few restrictions), and many homes in the area actually have garages. Gasp!
School's in Session
Rresidents can send their school-age children to class at any of the Humboldt Park schools, or to other educational facilities throughout the city. In addition to the following list, go to Chicago Public Schools or Great Schools for more info on these and other Chicago area schools.
- City Colleges of Chicago - 1645 N California Ave - (773) 481-8811
- Lowell Elementary School - 3320 W Hirsch St - (773) 534-4300
- Luis Munoz Primary School - 3320 W Evergreen Ave - (773) 534-4315
- Moos Elementary School - 1711 N California Ave - (773) 534-4340
- Rocha Branch Elementary School - 1437 N California Ave - (773) 534-4470
- Roque de Duprey School - 1405 N Washtenaw Ave - (773) 534-4230
- Von Humboldt Elementary School - 2620 W Hirsch St - (773) 534-4480
- Yates Elementary School - 1839 N Richmond St - (773) 534-4550
For your convenience, we've compiled a short list of some of the useful places in the Humboldt Park neighborhood that will help you cover those basic needs.
- Norwegian-American Hospital ER - 1044 N Francisco Ave - (773) 292-8200
- Humboldt Park Public Library - 1605 N Troy St - (312) 744-2244
- US Post Office - 3933 W North Ave - (773) 486-7218
- Chicago Transit Authority - (888) 968-7282
- Cermak Produce - 2701 W North Ave - (773) 278-4447
- Jimenez Foods & Carniceria - 4204 W North Ave - (773) 486-5805
- Tabb's Food & Liquor - 2600 W Chicago Ave - (773) 292-0735
- Aloft Aerial Dance - 2041 W Carroll Ave - (773) 782-6662
- Chicago Hot Glass - 1250 N Central Park Ave - (773) 394-3252
- Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture - 3015 W Division St - (773) 486-8345
- Puerto Rican Cultural Center - 2703 W Division St - (773) 278-6737
- Quilombo Cultural Center - 1757 N Kimball Ave - (773) 227-8879
- Reversible Eye Gallery - 1103 N California Ave - (773) 862-1232
- Adam & Son Gardens - 1057 N California Ave - (773) 235-0991
- Foot Locker - 3218 W Chicago Ave - (773) 638-1155
- Komoda - 2559 W Chicago Ave - (773) 276-8229
- Lily's Record Shop - 2733 W Division St - (773) 252-7008
- Shoetime - 800 N Kedzie Ave - (773) 722-6972
- Squasht by Les - 2556 W Chicago Ave - (773) 719-1444
- Wall Revolution - 1520 N Artesian Ave - (773) 489-3929
- West Town Bikes - 2459 W Division St - (773) 772-4870
- Feed - 2803 W Chicago Ave - (773) 489-4600
- Flying Saucer - 1123 N California Ave - (773) 342-9076
- Roeser's Bakery - 3216 W North Ave - (773) 489-6900
- Cafe Colao - 2638 W Division St - (773) 276-1780
- Cafe Zori - 912 N Western Ave - (773) 772-4281
- Grand-Division Gyros - 3649 W Division St - (773) 278-4155
- Guy's Pizza and Bistro Italiano - 4107 W North Ave - (773) 772-1535
- Joe Boston's Italian Beef - 2932 W Chicago Av - (773) 486-9536
- Cemitas Puebla - 3619 W North Ave - (773) 772-8435
- El Paisano Taco - 2429 W Division St - (773) 292-1002
- La Encanta Mexican Cuisine - 3437 W North Ave - (773) 489-5026
- La Plena - 2617 W Division St - (773) 276-5795
- Taco el Jalisciense - 2859 W Chicago Ave - (773) 235-2859
- Taqueria Super Burrito - 1502 N Western Ave - (773) 486-4195
- West Town Pizza Shop - 2525 W North Ave - (773) 252-2299
Puerto Rican Cuisine
- Birria Huentitan - 4019 W North Ave - (773) 276-0768
- Borinquen Restaurant - 1720 N California Ave - (773) 227-6038
- La Palma - 1340 N Homan Ave - (773) 862-0886
- Papa's Cache Sabroso - 2517 W Division St - (773) 862-8313
- Archie's Iowa & Rockwell Tavern - 2600 W Iowa St - (773) 486-2626
- The Beetle Bar and Grill - 2532 W Chicago Ave - (773) 384-0701
- The California Clipper - 1002 N California Ave - (773) 384-2547
- Division Street Bar & Grill - 2525 W Division St - (773) 252-2233
- Lockdown Bar & Grill - 1024 N Western Ave - (773) 687-8565
- Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar - 954 N California Ave - (773) 292-1616
As one of the many diverse Chicago neighborhoods, Humboldt Park offers homeowners a wide range of residential properties. Humboldt Park 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 Humboldt Park 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.