Often called the "Gateway to Chicago" because of
its historical importance to travelers and immigrant passage to the U.S., or a
city within a city because of its self-sufficient, small-town environment, Jefferson
Park is a neighborhood with rich cultural history and attractive
residential property. Homebuyers will find a good assortment of real estate in
Jefferson Park that covers every style of living, from contemporary
condominiums to early Victorian houses. The area is surrounded by suburban,
country club golf courses and thick forest preserves, so Jefferson Park
residents are not for want of open space and lush greenery. Many of the homes
in this neck of the woods have private yards and the small neighborhood parks provide
even more room to stretch the legs and get a breath of fresh air. Entertainment
in Jefferson Park comes in the form of community festivals, local theater, and
knocking the pins down at the bowling alley. After working up an appetite, set
out for any one of Jefferson Park's dozens of restaurants, cafes, bakeries,
delis, pizzerias and takeouts.
Jefferson Park Facts
Location: Approximately 10 miles northwest of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Union Ridge, Big Oaks, Forest Glen, Portage Park, Norwood Park
Boundaries: Cicero Avenue to the east, Montrose Avenue to the south, Narragansett Avenue and Austin Avenue to the west, and Forest Glen Woods to the north
Then and Now
The evolution of Chicago's Jefferson Park neighborhood began with the arrival of John Kinzie Clark. Known as the first white settler in Chicago, Clark also was one of the first pioneers of this northwest side neighborhood. In 1830, he arrived and constructed a log cabin hotel. The section of land where Clark built his inn was heavily traveled by merchants and traders journeying to and from Chicago. Subsequently, the Jefferson settlement became a convenient rest stop for these people and gained quickly gained popularity.
In 1850, the roads now known as Milwaukee Avenue and Elston Avenue were built to better connect people to Chicago. Jefferson Township, a separate entity from Chicago, was formed in that same year. A thriving village with several businesses emerged in the area where today Milwaukee Avenue and Higgins Road connect. Not long after, a rail line (Chicago & North Western) was extended and that, too, ran through this exact spot.
By 1889, Jefferson Township was annexed by Chicago. A system of streetcars was established along Lawrence, Milwaukee, and Elston avenues at the turn of the century. This furthered the accessibility of the area and many working class immigrants, mostly Polish and German, began to populate the area. But by the 1950s, what was once a major transportation hub fell increasingly still. With this slowdown in travel through the neighborhood, the population growth also dwindled.
Things started to turn around at the end of the decade; the Kennedy Expressway was constructed through the heart of Jefferson Park, offering residents a convenient passage in and out of the city. Ten years later, the CTA expanded Jefferson Park transportation by opening up a bus station, followed by a Greyhound station, and Blue Line train stop. The multiple means of transportation has helped the neighborhood return to its former glory as a central hub for the northwest side.
Today, remnants of the original residential architecture such as late 19th century Victorians still stand in the neighborhood, which is rapidly growing again with a new influx of families.
Tucked in among Jefferson Park's beautiful homes and residential streets are charming recreational parks that provide the neighborhood with a little extra open space and lush, green vegetation.
Named after Robert Dunham, the first president of the Chicago Park District, Dunham Park (4638 N. Melvina, 773-685-3257) has been around since the early 1950s. Dunham has many facilities for public use, including tennis and volleyball courts, an inline skating course, horseshoe pits, softball and baseball diamonds, a spray pool and a playground. Kids can get a head start on their education by entering preschool classes here. Dunham also offers a few unique programs such as the Major League Baseball Clinic, where professional players teach kids the fundamentals of the game; and Camp Chicago, where kids experience a night of camping in the park.
At one point in Jefferson Park's history, the fate of Wilson Park (4630 N. Milwaukee, 773-685-6454) was in limbo. Back in the 1920s, the beautiful nine-acre park area almost became a railroad car barn, had it not been for a determined group of residents. They fought to keep the space for use as a public park-and won. Today Wilson Park sits along Milwaukee Avenue with its original Georgian fieldhouse still intact. The land has baseball and football fields, a putting green, playground, sand volleyball court, and an interactive water area for children. Wilson Park also offers a range of programs from aerobics classes for age 60 and over to day camps for the young'uns.
Jefferson Park Real Estate
Residents from all walks of life like Jefferson Park because there is an incredible variety of housing available. As it is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, the generations of residential design and architecture are apparent in styles from early Victorian to 1950s ranch houses to sleek new condo development.
Many of Jefferson Park's earliest homes are still standing on lots of green grass, having been rejuvenated to their original splendor. The neighborhood's residential streets are edged with well-kept single-family Georgians, Victorians, and a multitude of Chicago bungalows. Lush lawns, back yards and attractive shrubs are in abundance-and it's no surprise to see rabbits racing through the properties.
But not all Jefferson Park real estate is detached single-family places. Older mid-rise and courtyard condos are also common, and new construction three-flats, modern condominiums and contemporary townhomes have made their mark in this northwest side Chicago neighborhood as well.
What's on the Menu?
Many Jefferson Park restaurants are family-owned and considered to be some stunning city treasures where Chicago culinary favorites mix perfectly with the neighborhood's quaint atmosphere.
The most well-known restaurant in Jefferson Park is arguably the Gale Street Inn (4914 N Milwaukee Ave, 773 725 1300). Gale Street has been around since 1963 and has won many awards for their barbecue ribs, which are indeed delicious, but we must stress that there's much more to the menu than that. Many other choices abound here, chicken, seafood, and excellent jambalaya-to name a few. The drink list features a strong selection of wine and an interesting assortment of unique martinis. There are two dining rooms in Gale Street, with booths and tables to suit patrons' preferences. Old photos highlighting the history and growth of the neighborhood hang on the walls, while live jazz is performed a few nights during the week. And a little bonus: The parking lot is free.
A true gem for when you're craving some Eastern-tinged flavor is Saigon Grill (5736 N Elston, 773-628-7156). A neighborhood favorite, this Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant serves up delicious Singapore noodles, spring rolls and orange chicken dishes that have made this nondescript joint a favorite for both locals and travelers looking for fresh and tasty Chinese cuisine on the Northwest side of the city.
Looking for a BYOB spot that serves tapas on the Northwest side? Then head over to Cafe Marbella ( 5527 N Milwaukee, 773-853-0128) where Chef Trujillo prepares serious taste bud favorites like Gazpacho Andaluz, patatas ali oli (garlic potato salad) and fan favorite stuffed chicken breast with spinach. The welcoming atmosphere and excellent tapas makes this a must visit Jefferson Park destination.
What would an authentic Chicago neighborhood be without a standout BBQ joint? We don't know because the city does BBQ proud from the North to South sides and Jefferson Park restaurants are no exception. Smokey's BBQ (5481 N Northwest Hwy, 773-763-2328) serves up pulled pork, ribs and brisket slow smoked for hours to perfection in their oak wood burners. It's a prerequisite that any BBQ joint worth its sauce must have, well, amazing sauce. Smokey's delivers on all fronts with their original BBQ sauce that mixes heat and sweet in a smooth concoction while their Hogwash sauce brings on a unique tangy mix herbs and spices reminiscent of a Carolina style sauce.
Mexican cuisine is well represented in Jeff Park thanks to Los 4 Hermanos (5239 N Central Ave, 773-545-2294). This family owned restaurant prepares authentic Mexican favorites that are big on taste like their steak tacos chimichangas and burritos served up in a no frills BYOB atmosphere.
On the southeastern edge of Jefferson Park lies Pizza by Alex (5044 W Montrose Ave, 773 427 8900). Here, the brick oven kicks out warmth and aroma into the small dining area, which looks out onto Montrose Avenue through floor-to-ceiling windows. When ordering, we have the traditional option of choosing what we want on our pizza, but the kitchen has about ten recipes of their own on the menu-that are worth straying from our routine topping choices. The house specialty is a tasty roast beef pizza with mushrooms and caramelized onions. Other neat pies worth a try are the Rach (chipotle sauce, beans and chorizo) and the Hawaiian (ham, pineapple, bacon and peppers). For those not in the mood for pizza, Alex serves an array of paninis, subs, and pasta.
For a pleasing taste of Italy, Jefferson Park offers Colletti's (5707 N Central Ave, 773-775-5144). The fine dining/ banquet hall provides both an intimate and casual environment perfect for a romantic night out or a family get together. The Colleti family has been serving up signature Italian dishes for over 60 years and three generations have made this one Jeff Park's go to fine dining experiences. We're fans of the pasta dishes and their cuts of meat are a real treat, prepared the way you like it with that special touch of Italian seasoning. Of course you can't go wrong with their famous thin crust pizza.
Best Shopping Stops
You probably won't find yourself on an all-out Jefferson Park shopping spree, but the neighborhood certainly has a couple of standout shops that are sure to grab your attention.
If you have a child trying to figure out what to do for that upcoming science project, take him or her to American Science & Surplus (5316 N Milwaukee, 773-763 -0313). This is quite the specialty store-and a dream for the science-minded individual. Test tubes, beakers, microscopes, motors, magnets, robot parts-the list goes on and on, and on. A ton of fascinating toys and captivating games lie here in wait, such as the flying and screeching monkey or a room-sized air hockey set. Prices are typically very low since the store builds its stock up with items that are no longer produced or over-bought by other shops. These guys even have the original Slinky, for hours of stair-descending fun. We can easily lose ourselves here for an hour or so, browsing the unique selection and reminiscing on our childhood days.
The Morgan Art Gallery (5350 N Milwaukee, 773-631-0680) provides Jefferson Park residents and local Chicagoans with a little creative culture and artistic flair. The gallery has been a neighborhood fixture since the 1970s. Originally exhibiting and selling only Polish artwork, it eventually expanded to include additional European works. Morgan frequently rotates its selection, which is a mix of widely recognized artists as well as local talent. Along with the fine art for sale, Morgan can restore and clean paintings. They also do framing and can be hired to do interior design for a home or office.
When it's time to shop for flowers in Jefferson Park, Wall's Flower Shop (5862 W Higgins, 773-286-5500) has you covered literally with wall to wall flowers perfect for prom, weddings or any occasion you need to make extra special. The friendly staff and great prices ensure that this floral shop will never welt away.
It doesn't have to be Halloween to get dressed up as your favorite zombie, superhero or TV character. Fantasy Costumes (4065 N Milwaukee Ave, 773-777-0222) has everything you need every day of the year from wigs, fake mustaches and makeup to hats, masks and even pet costumes. This is the perfect place to bring your dream of sitting on the couch dressed as Spiderman when you should be at work to fruition.
Night on the Town
This northwest side Chicago community boasts a handful of fun neighborhood establishments and watering holes that draw a solid crowd of Jefferson Park nightlife lovers.
Since 1957 Habetler Bowling Alley (5250 N Northwest Hwy, 773-774-0500) has attracted countless people to its lanes. Even after half a century of use, this place maintains modernity with frequent updates-both in style and technology-staying ahead of the times, and most other bowling alleys in the city. Whether you notice the newly finished lanes or not, there's no way you can miss the alley's lively decor-the walls are painted in bright orange, yellow and green. Habetler's is able to accommodate a large number of bowlers with 32 lanes and when we're looking for something to do on Tuesday nights we always stop by for $1 games after 9:30 pm.
The Irish Pub of choice in Jefferson Park, by show of hands, would most likely be Galvin's Public House (5901 W. Lawrence, 773-205-0570). This corner joint with brown and gold facade invites you in with open arms to a spacious room anchored with hardwood floors and enclosed by a bronze-toned ceiling. On the weekends Galvin's provides its pint-drinking visitors with live music, usually Irish folk. Food is served as early as 11 am, and diners can get Irish breakfast as long as the kitchen remains open. Other Irish favs such as corned beef and cabbage, and shepherd's pie are also deserving of attention.
Tom Cruise and Paul Newman, in the Martin Scorsese film The Color of Money. Yes, this is what Chris's Billiards (4637 N Milwaukee, 773-286-4714) is famous for. Scorsese picked Chris's after scoping out just about every other place in the city to film scenes for his 1986 film. This pool hall waits at the top of a long narrow staircase and can be a pretty serious venue to catch some expert players in action. Photos of billiards champions adorn the walls, surrounding over twenty tables. In the back is a set of bleachers for days when this Jefferson Park nightlife hotspot hosts professional tournaments. If you have the aspiration to improve your game-or want to hang with the big shots-Chris's offers lessons.
Craft beer connoisseurs find their safe haven at Fischman Liquors and Tavern (4780 N Milwaukee, 773-545-0123). More than just a neighborhood bar, Fischman's is attached to an actual liquor store where you can grab your favorite hard to find craft beers. In addition, there is often a fleet of food trucks located right outside offering a great variety of beer friendly foods.
Mark Your Calendar
Jefferson Park events include a couple of stellar neighborhood bashes: Jeff Fest and Taste of Polonia.
Jefferson Park keeps the summer kicking with a neighborhood-wide party called Jeff Fest (Higgins and Milwaukee, 773-868-3010). The festival is held every year at the very end of July. Jefferson Park residents and Chicagoans from surrounding neighborhoods flood the streets to enjoy a fun-filled weekend of food, beverages, live music, activities for kids and more. Like many outdoor neighborhood street festivals in Chicago, vendors set up arts and crafts tents to sell their wares-but unlike other community celebrations, Jeff Fest festivities close out on Sunday evening with an awesome fireworks display.
If you haven't been before, Taste of Polonia (5216 W. Lawrence, 773-777-8898) is a deliciously distinctive and pleasurable event that brings in the crowds and their appetites. This Jefferson Park festival celebrates Polish culture, as there is a huge contingent that lives in the area, but it is fun for all. Live music, that of course includes polka and other Polish folk tunes, entertains the masses while the menu of kielbasa, pierogi, potato pancakes, and more, satisfies their rumbling stomachs. Taste of Polonia only happens once a year over Labor Day weekend, so make sure to mark that calendar!
Jefferson Park transportation has historically been (and still is) a busy site. A convergence of roads and rails cut through the neighborhood's center giving residents and visitors plenty of options for easy and convenient travel.
The CTA Blue Line train, which goes to the Loop and to O'Hare International Airport, has a Jefferson Park stop (near Milwaukee and Lawrence avenues). And to make it simple, the Metra commuter rail has a stop right next door. This Union Pacific route runs between McHenry County and downtown Chicago.
Drivers have the option of using the Kennedy Expressway to get downtown or to the north and northwest suburbs. Alternate routes for drivers include Milwaukee Avenue, which takes a diagonal path straight into the city's near north side, or to the northwest suburbs in the other direction. Other popular thoroughfares include Higgins Road which begins in Jefferson Park and also goes to the northwest suburbs, and Northwest Highway, which does the same.
CTA Bus services through Jefferson Park are many and provide rides in just about every direction you could possible need to go. The Milwaukee Avenue #56 bus travels northwest to Devon or southeast to the West Loop; the Cicero Avenue #54 bus heads north to Skokie, Illinois and south to Midway Airport; the Montrose Avenue #78 bus goes east toward the lake and west to Harlem; but if we're heading out to the waterfront, we usually hop on the Foster Avenue #92, which starts in the heart of Jefferson Park, and takes you east to Lake Michigan in no time flat.
School's In Session
Jefferson Park school offer a bunch of options to choose from. Below is a helpful list to assist in exploring them further, and for additional info on these and other Chicago schools, go to Great Schools or Chicago Public Schools.
Farnsworth Elementary School - 5414 N Linder Ave - (773)
Hitch Elementary School - 5625 N McVicker Ave - (773) 534-1189
Kolbe School - 5841 W Strong St - (773) 283-3618
Northwestern Business College - 4829 N Lipps Ave - (773) 725-2731
Prussing Elementary School - 4650 N Menard Ave - (773) 534-3460
St Cornelius School - 5252 N Long Ave - (773) 283-2192
St Robert Bellarmine School - 6036 W Eastwood Ave - (773) 725-5133
St Tarcissus School - 6040 W Ardmore Ave - (773) 763-7080
Here is a handy contact list to help you track down those
everyday essentials and useful services offered throughout Jefferson Park
Chicago Transit Authority - (888) 968 7282
US Post Office - 5401 W Lawrence Ave - (773) 736-0759
Jefferson Park Public Library - 5363 W Lawrence Ave - (312) 744-1998
Dunham Park - 4638 N. Melvina - (312) 742-7603
Wilson Park - 4630 N. Milwaukee - (312) 742-7487
Ashmore Playlot Park - 4807 W. Gunnison - (773) 685-3316
Austin-Foster Playlot Park - 6020 W. Foster - (773) 685-3257
Jefferson (Thomas) Memorial Park - 4822 N. Long - (773) 685-3316
Gladstone Park - 5421 N. Menard - (773) 631-7859
CVS Pharmacy - 4777 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 205-3270
Jewel-Osco - 4729 Central - (773) 777-1142
Osco Drug - 6200 W Higgins Ave - (773) 775-9316
Walgreens - 5230 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 736-8920
Jewel Food Stores - 4729 Central Ave - (773) 777-1142
Kordian Fruit Market - 6332 W Higgins Ave - (773) 774-8831
Mariano's Fresh Market - 5353 N Elston Ave - (773) 481- 6731
Produce Center - 5820 N. Milwaukee - (773) 775 3200
Michael Amundsen Sports Center - 6125 W. Foster - (773) 775 4041
Chris's Billiards - 4637 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 286-4714
Habetler Bowling Alley - 5250 N Northwest Hwy - (773) 774-0500
Copernicus Center - 5216 W Lawrence Ave - (773) 777-9184
The Gift Theatre Company - 4802 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 283-7071
Jefferson Park Sunday Market - 5425 W Higgins Ave - (312) 744-9187
Jeff Fest - Higgins and Milwaukee - (773) 868-3010
Taste of Polonia - 5216 W. Lawrence - (773) 777-8898
American Science & Surplus - 5316 N Milwaukee Ave -
Baltika Inc. - 4754 N. Milwaukee - (773) 777-5800
Crafty Beaver Home Center - 4306 N Central Ave - (773) 725-4432
Fantasy Costumes - 4065 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 777-0222
Morgan Art Gallery - 5350 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 631-0680
Polonia Book Store - 4738 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 481-6968
True Value Hardware - 5329 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 631-5966
Gale Street Inn - 4914 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 725-1300
Kenny's Family Restaurant - 4801 N
Austin Ave - (773) 202-9505
Lucky Grill - 4454 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 282-2325
Smokey's BBQ - 5481 N Northwest
Hwy - (773) 763-2328
Moy Lee Chinese Restaurant - 5346 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 631-1290
Saigon Grill - 5736 N Elston Ave - (773) 628-7156
Cake by Colleen - 5814 W Higgins Ave - (773) 777-7535
Chicago Sweet Connection - 5569 N Northwest Hwy - (773) 283-4430
Delightful Pastries - 5927 W Lawrence Ave - (773) 545-7215
Ideal Bakeries - 4765 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 685-4622
Sweet World Pastry - 5450 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 792-5566
Andy's Deli - 5438 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 631-7304
Harrington Catering & Deli - 5685 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 283-8388
Yolanta's Deli - 5914 W Higgins Rd - (773) 685-8359
Duke's - 5659 N Central Ave - (773) 763-1866
King's No 2 Gyros - 5233 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 736-5406
Ron's Grill - 4859 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 427-8200
Los 4 Hermanos - 5239 N Central Ave - (773) 545-2294
Joe's Pizza - 5747 W Higgins Ave - (773) 685-2301
Mr. V's Pizza - 5285 N Elston Ave - (773) 736-9434
Paterno's Pizza - 5303 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 631-5522
Halina's Restaurant - 5914 W Lawrence Ave - (773) 205-0256
Smak-Tak Restaurant - 5961 N Elston Ave - (773) 763-1123
Babe's on Milwaukee - 4416 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 545-3137
Fischman Liquors and Tavern - 4780 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 545-0123
Ham Tree Inn - 5333 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 792-2072
Vaughan's Pub & Grill - 5485 Northwest Hwy - (773) 631-9206
Martini Club - 4933 N. Milwaukee - (773) 202 9444
Galvins Public House - 5901 W. Lawrence - (773) 205 0570
Our neighborhoods guide is meant to give potential homebuyers a general overview of what every Chicago neighborhood has to offer and what makes it unique from the restand believe us, no two neighborhoods are the same! Searching for a new home isn't just about finding that prefect condo or house, making sure the setting fits your style and needs is just as important. And whether Jefferson Park neighborhood is your ideal locale to settle down, or you've found the scene here just isn't your cup of tea, we're here to help you find the right place to make sure your home purchase a is total success. From the type of restaurants to the outdoor venues to the local schools, every detail is an essential factor in what makes a property of dream home. By utilizing our comprehensive accounts of each community, such as this one for Jefferson Park, we hope to provide a detailed picture of not only the residential real estate available in the area, but also the additional features of the neighborhood. A quick glance and you'll know exactly what shopping, dining, entertainment and resources are in Jefferson Park, all without ever having to go anywhere.