Little Village, or South Lawndale as it was formerly known, is an area ripe with culture. Today it is a predominantly Mexican-American neighborhood, but in years past it has been host to ethnic groups such as Italians, Czechs, Irish, Croatians and Slovenians. These days, Little Village is fast becoming a popular neighborhood for young families looking for quality housing at affordable prices. New condominiums and vintage flats are a big draw for first-time homebuyers, while detached homes and brick bungalows catch the eye of families and folks who like a little more space. The neighborhood's strong Hispanic heritage is apparent in the multitude of excellent Mexican restaurants, Spanish-named stores and specialty grocery items you can get here. And there is no doubt Little Village residents take pride in their roots when the Mexican Independence Day Parade comes through each year, serenaded by mariachi bands and a sea of spectators dressed in Mexico's colors - red, white and green.
Little Village Facts
Location: About 7 miles southwest of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Lawndale, Douglas Park, Pilsen, Brighton Park
Boundaries: Ogden Avenue and Cermak Road to the north, Western Avenue to the east, the Stevenson Expressway (I-55) to the south and Kilbourn Avenue to the west.
Crime Statistics: Go to CLEARMap for crime stats on specific Chicago neighborhood, intersection, address or police beat.
Then and Now
The history of this southwest neighborhood begins long before it was ever known as Little Village. In the late 19th century, the area was settled and developed by Eastern European and Slavic immigrants, many of whom were from Czechoslovakia and Poland. As a part of greater Lawndale, the region that would later be known as Little Village was considered a suburb of Chicago until the whole lot was incorporated into the city in the 1880s. After annexation the neighborhood’s residential sections continued to grow and the territory’s farmland was slowly engulfed into the expanding industrial development that centered about nearby railroad tracks. A number of new jobs emerged with the arrival of manufacturing giants such as Western Electric, McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. (later known as International Harvester) and Sears Roebuck & Company, which all moved into the area within the first few years of the 1900s.
In the first half of the 20th century, the population of Poles in greater Lawndale grew steadily, climbing rapidly following the German invasion of Poland in 1939. However, after the 1950s the concentration of Polish inhabitants was displaced by a large contingent of Mexican immigrants that moved to Chicago in search of work. Mexican families had originally settled in neighboring Pilsen, but many were forced to move west when the massive construction project to establish the University of Illinois Chicago’s campus took over much of the vicinity, causing many residents to relocate to Lawndale and surrounding areas.
Eventually, the significant group of residents with Mexican roots inspired a split from the rest of Lawndale, creating an independent and viable neighborhood all its own. Like a little Mexican village—La Villita or Little Village. Bisecting the community now known as Little Village, 26th Street has emerged as the main commercial district and the most important thoroughfare in the neighborhood. It has seen a considerable amount of growth in the past thirty years, which has given this southwest side site a strong and prosperous base for even more development in the decades to come.
These days, Little Village has the largest concentration of Mexican-Americans in the city and it remains a colorful neighborhood with a thoroughly Mexican population. Unlike Pilsen, which is beginning to see gentrification from the east with the ongoing expansion of UIC and the westward development of the South Loop, Little Village has been relatively unaffected by gentrification and holds on to its distinct cultural flavor.
There is no shortage of excellent outdoor opportunities in Little Village. Three parks with plentiful facilities make this neighborhood a fun place to walk, bike, swim, play baseball or tennis, or just relax on a bench under a shady tree with a good book.
If you happen to be a fan of America’s favorite pastime, you’re in luck because Washtenaw Park (2521 S Washtenaw Ave, 312-747-6992) has a baseball diamond that is ideal for pickup games or local league play. In the summer months, the park hosts a day camp and a bike camp for children aged 6-12. And even when the weather gets cooler, Little Village residents can sign up for indoor arts and crafts classes or seasonal sports clubs—there’s even a teen group that meets on Friday evenings from September through December. In addition, if you are looking for a quiet spot to host an association meeting or a community get-together, you can book one of the onsite assembly hall conference rooms.
Most people immediately recognize John G. Shedd’s most stunning contribution to the Chicago parks system: the Shedd Aquarium situated on the city’s lakefront Museum Campus in the South Loop neighborhood. But what many don’t know is that Shedd has ties to the west side as well through his work in developing the Millard and Decker subdivision in his adopted local community of South Lawndale and modern-day neighborhood of Little Village. Subsequently, a park was created on land that Shedd donated to the community in the late 19th century and was aptly named Shedd Park (3660 W. 23rd St.). The park features a fieldhouse with meeting rooms and an auditorium. Besides a gymnasium that was added many years later, the fieldhouse is the park’s only real structure—so a visit here is mainly of the old-fashioned outdoor enjoyment—which means open expanses of green grass, tree-provided shade and a little bit of fresh air.
After its establishment in 1946, Piotrowski Park (4247 W. 31st St.) has seen several improvements over the years to make this a true gem of a park. The grounds boasts baseball fields that are packed in the spring and summer with neighborhood kids eager to get out in the sun, while the gymnasium and fitness center are available to those looking to take a few pounds off their waistline or step-up the cardio workout. For Little Village residents with a passion for swimming, there is an outdoor pool for cooling off during the summer months and getting a few laps in before it gets too busy with the midday crowd. You can also take advantage of the jogging paths and tennis courts, while meeting rooms are available here for events. Several years ago the park district also added a new soft surface playground for little Little Villagers.
Little Village Real Estate
As in other parts of the city, Little Village has seen a recent increase in the number of old wood-framed homes that are being razed in favor of three-story, eight-unit brick condominium conversions. However, the pace has yet to equal that of hotter residential real estate neighborhoods such as Humboldt Park and Logan Square. For now, the housing in Little Village is predominately two-flats, condominium conversions, new-construction townhomes, and single-family frame houses and bungalows.
The side streets away from bustling 26th Street tend to be quiet, and many of the homes have well-tended lawns that are not only attractive, but inviting. There is an abundance of parks in the neighborhood, and California Boulevard has a beautiful expanse of maple and ash trees providing welcome shade in the summer and an intricate web of pristine snow-covered branches in the winter.
The average sales price for a condominium or multi-unit home with two- or three-bedrooms in Little Village is about $157,000. While there are a good number of condos and townhomes in the neighborhood, the streets are dominated by detached single-family dwellings. Generally speaking, the sales price for a three-bedroom house in Little Village is around $190,000, however many properties are available for less than $150,000 and quite a few sell for between $200,000 and $250,000.
What’s on the Menu?
Let’s face it, when a visit to Little Village is on your agenda, the cuisine to try is Mexican. The assortment of wonderful south-of-the-border fare, and a range of foods that are difficult to find in other areas of the city can be a little overwhelming, but we’ve gathered a compilation of some of our favorites to help walk you through.
Los Dos Laredos (3120 W 26th St, 773-376-3218) is the quintessential Mexican eatery in Little Village, and it’s got some of the best grub around. Platters are a big draw, as they give a sampling of the menu and are intended to share. Other than that, you can expect most of the Tex-Mex regular suspects (tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tortas), but prepared with a little bit more flavor and sophistication than most of the neighborhood taquerias in Chicago. For a quick and tasty taco, stop by Taquerias Atotonilco (3916 W. 26th St., 773-762-3380). The prices are affordable, the service is friendly, and the menu consists simply of tacos and tortas. The family-owned business has been operated by the Munoz family for more than 25 years, making it one of Little Village’s best-known spots for authentic Mexican cuisine. Let your mouth water over the assortment of meats used in the food preparation here: chorizo (spicy Mexican sausage), carne al pastor (Mexican gyro meat), birria (goat), lengua (beef tongue), carne asada (charcoal steak), milaneza (breaded steak), or just plain ham. If you’re indecisive, go for the house specialty: tacos atotonilco, which are charcoal steak tacos topped with tomato, onions and sour cream.
If you like a little rockin’ Espaņol with your spicy chorizo, La Justicia (3644 W 26th St., 773-522-0041) will do you justice. During the week, La Justicia is a better-than-average Mexican restaurant serving fajitas, enchiladas, tostadas and quesadillas, but on Friday nights the atmosphere transforms into a music venue. Several bands in succession take over the dining room and rip through a wide variety of tunes, covering everything from Spanish metal to ska. The bands’ energy matches the crowds’ full-tilt boogie, as everyone hits the dance floor, getting a little raucous and sweaty from the non-stop hip shaking and toe tapping.
After a great meal, don’t forget to check out some of the excellent dessert shops in Little Village—as if we’d have to remind you. One of our favorites is Luis Perea and Laura Cid-Perea’s Bombon (3748 W. 26th Street, 773-277-8777), which serves a Mexican eggnog that will knock you sideways. This classic Mexican-style bakery-slash-classy dining spot also carries personal-sized tres leches cake. Just the right amount if you’ve had one too many fajitas. For those with more European tastes, step into Catedral Cafe (2500 S. Christiana, 773-277-2233). The interior is warm and inviting, and you can even cozy up to the free Wi-Fi if you’re in the mood to surf the web.
Anyone in a hurry, or on a budget, should stop by Maxwell Street Original (3952 W 31st St, 773-277-0808) for a quick bite. If you don’t know, a Maxwell Street Polish is a grilled beef sausage, served in a bun with sauteed sweet onions and yellow mustard. It is said the sandwich was invented by Jimmy Stefanovic, a Macedonian immigrant who took over his uncle’s hot-dog stand at the old Maxwell Street Market in 1939. Today the restaurant thrives on three staples of the health food-resistant lifestyle: the burger, the Polish and the pork chop. The Polish here is really outstanding, piled high with onions on a nice warm bun. Little Villagers swear by this stuff, but if you aren’t convinced there’s only one thing to do—order up a Polish and try it out for yourself.
Night on the Town
Although it may not have the swinging club scene of some parts of the city, for those ready to get down and boogie, Little Village offers at least one good option for getting a groove happening.
If you didn’t get enough dancing over at La Justicia on Friday, swing by Club Volkan (2501 S Kedzie Ave., 773- 247-2400) to continue boogying to some beat-heavy hits and live music. This 18-and-over nightclub features Spanish rock bands on Thursdays, college night Fridays and Mexican bands on Sundays. Even though our fancy footwork may be clumsy at times, this Little Village hotspot is certainly the place go for a fun-filled evening of 'shaking it.'
Best Shopping Stops
You cannot go wrong with a visit to 26th Street if you are looking for a bargain in Little Village. This stretch of small shops and quaint storefronts are fun to browse through whether you’re up for a full-on shopping spree or just stepping out to pick up one item.
If a Stetson and a pair of rattlesnake boots are missing from your wardrobe, swing by Herrera Western Wear (3225 W 26th St., 773-640-5217) where they have an outstanding stock of reasonably priced Western wear, including shirts, pants, hats, boots and belts. The store is a little cramped but the staff is ready and willing to help you find just what you need. Even though you may consider one 10-gallon hat enough to accent your wardrobe, if you just can’t help yourself, head over to Mariano’s Western Wear (3259 W 26th St., 773-247-2300) and see if you can’t find a matching one for your partner.
If you’re like us, you’re always in need of a new pair of shoes. Thankfully the shops on 26th Street offer a mini-Mag Mile of shoe stores for everyone in the family. Delgado Shoe Store (3504 W 26th St., 773-521-5855) stocks a wide selection of men’s, women’s and children’s shoes in both casual and dress styles. Another great stop with a wide selection of footwear in Little Village neighborhood is Perez Shoes (3539 W 26th St., 773-762-9559). However, if you are looking for a new pair of tennis or running shoes to break in at Piotrowski Park, check out the deals at Linda’s Sport Shoes (3236 W 26th St., 773-523-5399), and if you don’t find just the right digs for your sport there, make a lap at Foot Locker (3955 W 26th St. 773-542-8484).
A great spot for traditional Mexican items is Atlantic Mall (3948 W 26th St, 773-542-1048). What child’s birthday party is complete without a brightly colored piņata—filled to the brim with candies and toys? The wide assortment of piņatas at Atlantic Mall has you covered with all different colors and sizes, some in the shape of funny cartoon characters. Atlantic also sells a number of gigantic sombreros, and for the kid in all of us, they have a huge variety of Mexican candy and treats. Be careful, though, some of the candy is loaded with spicy flavorings that may catch you off guard if you aren’t ready for it.
If you like thrift stores, check out Village Discount Outlet (4020 W. 26th St., 708-388-4772). Even though the stock can be hit or miss, it is possible to find some real gems on the cheap at this Little Village mainstay. They have oddball knickknacks and funky sweaters, also for larger men and women they have clothes in big and tall sizes. Look for clothing marked with the color-coded discounts of the day for extra savings.
Mark Your Calendar
In mid-September, Mexicans celebrate their independence, remembering September 16, 1810, when a priest named Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla started a revolt against the Spanish, who had ruled Mexico for more than 300 years. The Spanish were finally defeated in 1821 leading to the formation of modern Mexico. Now, every year on the third weekend of September, close to September 16th, the annual 26th Street Mexican Independence Day Parade travels west along 26th Street, from Albany Avenue to Kostner Avenue. Highlights include colorful floats, folkloric dancers, and mariachi bands. There is usually a man dressed as Father Miguel riding one of the floats who waves to the cheering crowds. Many attendees get into the act by dressing in red, white and green—the national colors of Mexico—or decorate their cars to match.
Getting around Little Village on foot is no problem, and probably the best way to explore the neighborhood. For bike-riders, there are bicycle lanes on 26th Street between Kostner Avenue and Pulaski Road, and on Central Park Avenue from 26th Street north to Garfield Park.
If you have your own automobile, Little Village has loads of metered street parking on 26th Street, but expect to hunt awhile on weekends when traffic can be exceptionally bad along this busy neighborhood thoroughfare. And if you can’t find a spot, just head down one of the side streets, most of these do not require a permit and they are not as congested as the main drag.
The neighborhood is accessible from I-55 (Stevenson Expressway) by taking the Cicero Avenue or Western Avenue exits, or from I-290 (Eisenhower Expressway) using the Cicero Avenue, Independence Boulevard or Western Avenue exits. In turn, it’s easy for residents of Little Village neighborhood to hop in their cars and hit the highway for quick travel to destinations within Chicago or outside the city limits.
If you are taking the bus, you won’t be disappointed by your options in Little Village as several CTA bus lines serve the area. On Cermak Avenue, take the #21 to travel westbound to Cicero or eastbound to State Street, and transfer to the #29 to go downtown. The #53 runs north and south along Pulaski Avenue, connecting with the Pulaski stop of the CTA Pink Line train at Cermak Road and Pulaski. The #52 runs north and south along Kedzie Avenue, connecting with the Kedzie stop of the CTA Pink Line at Cermak Road and Kedzie. And the #82 bus runs north and south on Lawndale, 25th Street and Central Park Avenue, also connecting with the Pink Line at Cermak Avenue and Central Park. Have we lost you yet? Don’t worry, there are maps of the CTA routes available to help you find your way on their website and at most bus and train stations.
Perhaps a little more simple, Little Villagers can take the new CTA Pink Line elevated train to downtown by traveling eastbound, or out to Cicero traveling westbound. The Pink Line is nice because there are several 'El' stops right in the neighborhood, all of them one block north of Cermak Road: Kostner Avenue, Pulaski Road, Central Park Avenue, Kedzie Avenue and California Avenue.
School’s in Session
Little Village has a public high school and several public and private elementary schools where families can send their children off to hit the books. In addition to the following list, you can find more information on Chicago area schools at our Chicago Guide Schools page.
Blessed St Agnes School 2647 S Central Park Ave – (773) 522-0143
Cardenas Modular School 2406 S Central Park Ave. – (773) 534-1475
Castellanos Middle School 2524 S Central Park Ave. – (773) 534-1620
Eli Whitney Public School 2815 S Komensky Ave. – (773) 534-1560
Farragut High School 2345 S. Christiana Ave. – (773) 534-1300
Francisco Medero Middle School 3202 W 28th St. – (773) 535-4466
Grace Lutheran School 4106 W 28th St. – (773) 762-1234
Joseph E Gary Public School 3740 W 31st St. – (773) 534-1455
Josez Ortiz de Dominguez School 3000 S Lawndale Ave. – (773) 534-1600
Lathrop Elementary School 2345 S Christiana Ave. – (773) 534-1812
Lazaro Cardenas 2345 S. Millard Ave. – (773) 534-1465
Little Village Elementary School 3202 W 28th St. – (773) 535-4466
Paul Simon Academy 3348 S. Kedzie Ave. – (773) 890-3114
Solar House Specialty School 3150 S. Kedzie Ave. – (773) 535-5810
So you don’t have to wonder where to go to get your groceries or get a good workout, we’ve provided a comprehensive list of places Little Village residents get their everyday essentials, from Tylenol to taco shells, poultry to a postcards.
Loman Branch Library 2708 S Pulaski Rd – (773) 745-1660
US Post Office 2302 S Pulaski Rd – (773) 277-3070
Chicago Transit Authority (888) 968-7282
CVS Pharmacy 2634 S Pulaski Rd – (773) 542-8765
Osco Drug 2634 S Pulaski Rd – (773) 522-2622
Sav-On 2526 W Cermak Rd – (773) 376-4751
Walgreens 4005 W 26th St – (773) 521-7700; 2634 S Pulaski Rd – (773) 522-2622
Chicago Fresh Poultry House 2601 S Ridgeway Ave – (773) 542-9451
Delray Farms 3311 W 26th St – (773) 762-2598
Jewel-Osco 2526 W Cermak Rd – (773) 376-4751
Las Chiquitas Supermarket 3555 W 26th St – (773) 522-0950
Hospital Emergency Room
Saint Anthony Hospital 2875 W 19th St. – (773) 484-1000
Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital 1401 S California Ave. – (773) 522-2010
Hip Hopercise 3333 W Arthington St. – (773) 826-8469
Below are a few of the dining, shopping and entertainment activities in Little Village. Be sure to discover the other available amenities as you explore the neighborhood on your own.
26th Street Mexican Independence Day Parade
Allende Hardware 3558 W 26th St – (773) 542-4626
Atlantic Mall 3948 W 26th St – (773) 542-1048
Delgado Shoe Store 3504 W 26th St – (773) 521-5855
Linda’s Sport Shoes 3236 W 26th St – (773) 523-5399
Foot Locker 3955 W 26th St – (773) 542-8484
Don’s Fashion 3101 W 26th St – (773) 254-6814
Herrera Western Wear 3225 W. 26th St. – (773) 640-5217
Mariano’s Western Wear 3259 W 26th St – (773) 247-2300
Moreno Sports 3716 W 26th St – (773) 542-2004
Pang’s Boutique 3101 W 26th St – (773) 254-0537
Rainbow 3910 W 26th St – (773) 521-8084
Perez Shoes 3539 W 26th St – (773) 762-9559
Sports & Fashion 3902 W 26th St – (773) 521-0177
Sports Land Inc 3407 W 26th St – (773) 277-3300
Village Discount Outlet 4020 W 26th St (708) 388-4772 Viva Fashion 3115 W 26th St – (773) 254-1874
China Fair 2881 W Cermak Rd – (773) 254-9988
Shanghai Restaurant 3552 W 26th St – (773) 277-0827
Bombon 3748 W 26th – (773) 277-8777
Catedral Cyber Cafe 2500 S Christiana Ave – (773) 277-2233
Maxwell Street Original 3952 W 31st St – (773) 277-0808
Taquerias Atotonilco 3916 W 26th St – (773) 762-3380
Cocula Restaurant 2801 W Cermak Rd – (773) 847-2780
Green House of Steak 2700 S Millard Ave – (773) 277-6684
La Casa de Samuel 2834 W Cermak Rd – (773) 376-7474
La Justicia Restaurant 3644 W 26th St – (773) 522-0041
Lalo’s 3515 W 26th St – (773) 522-0345
Los Dos Laredos Restaurante 3120 W. 26th St. – (773) 376-3218
Los Olivos 3400 W 31st St – (773) 247-1002
Mi Gente 3325 W Cermak Rd – (773) 542-4880
Mi Tierra Cocina Mexicana 2528 S Kedzie Ave – (773) 254-7722
Nuevo Leon Restaurant 3657 W 26th St – (773) 522-1515
Taqueria El Milagro 3050 W 26th St – (773) 847-9407
Taqueria Los Comales 3141 W 26th St – (773) 523-1689
Bambino’s Pizza 2024 S California Ave – (773) 254-7878
Domino’s Pizza 4039 W 26th St – (773) 277-3166
Naty’s Pizza 3849 W 26th St – (773) 277-8644
Piezano’s Pizza & Grinder Co 3704 W 26th St – (773) 762-0100
Pizza Nova 3704 W 26th St – (773) 762-0100
Club Volkan 2501 S Kedzie Ave – (773) 247-2400
Jacaranea Sports & Music Bar 3608 W 26th St – (773) 521-0095
Apollo’s 2000 2875 W. Cermak Road – (773) 247-0200
Little Village Chamber of Commerce
As one of the many diverse Chicago neighborhoods, Little Village offers homeowners a wide range of residential properties. Little Village 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 Little Village 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.