A clean and inviting neighborhood for people who just can't decide between the suburbs and the city, Montclare has a wealth of restaurants, shopping destinations, and beautiful homes. No need to move all the way out to the suburbs when you require more space or want to start a family, areas like Montclare are the perfect balance of urban existence and small town life. Get the house, the yard, the driveway and the dog (if you want to). The properties in Montclare have room for all. Many Chicagoans with young children are drawn to this neighborhood for the protective measures of speed bumps and traffic circles, common in several parts of the community. You may be protected, but you are certainly not secluded as the main border streets are bustling with major shopping centers and a selection of cafes and eateries.
Location: About 11 miles northwest of the Loop
Bordering Neighborhoods: Belmont Central, Schorsch Village, Galewood, Belmont Heights, Elmwood Park
Boundaries: Belmont Avenue to the north, Narragansett Avenue to the east, the Milwaukee District West Line to the south and Harlem Avenue to the west
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Then and Now
Today, Montclare is the perfect picture of a clean, middle-class suburban neighborhood, but it took more than 100 years, shifting immigrant communities, and a few transportation-related calamities to get to this point.
Although William Sayre threw down his flag to claim 90 acres in this area in 1836 'by right of possession,' he still had to fork over some dough for the land in 1838—a consequence of an inaccurate government survey—when he officially purchased it from the Jefferson Township land sales. Sayre’s marriage to Harriet Lovett the following year was the township’s first official union. With the help of his neighbors Sayre transformed the area into a thriving farming district, mostly turning over bumper crops of corn and oats, which they would then lug down Grand Avenue to sell at the Randolph Street Market in the nearby city of Chicago. The trek to and from the downtown markets was a dangerous one, as farmers worried about trains hitting their wagons or robbers stealing their day’s proceeds on the way back.
By 1872, Sayre gave into progress, allowing the Chicago & Pacific Railroad Company to build over his property. A station bearing his name was built on his farm, but only a year later, the rail line was taken over by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. As a result of this change, only one train a day ran in and out of the area, destroying any new interest for settlers and so, Sayre and his comrades just went right on farming.
In 1889, the city of Chicago voted to annex the township (by that time called Montclare after Montclaire, New Jersey.) Not much changed until 1912, when the Grand Avenue streetcar line began to run all the way into Montclare. The new, easily accessible neighborhood piqued the interest of people hoping to live further away from downtown, but a lack of utilities and paved streets tempered that enthusiasm. By 1920, improvements in the neighborhood’s infrastructure had been taken care of, and families started to move in and build homes.
From the results of the 1970 census, it was apparent that the neighborhood was a popular destination for Italian, Polish, and German immigrants—the contributions of these cultures are still very evident today. Over the next two decades, the population further diversified with an influx of Ukrainian, Greek, Lithuanian, and Lebanese settlers, along with a growing percentage of Latino immigrants. The mingling of so many distinct cultures in one neighborhood has made Montclare a very desirable place to start a family. Tolerance, community involvement and diversity are the strong pillars of this Chicago neighborhood—and the residents like it that way.
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One of the great advantages to living in Chicago is that on beautiful, sunny days, there are an abundance of gorgeous parks to spend the afternoon whiling away the hours.
Most Chicagoans have access to at least one neighborhood park where they live, but Montclare residents are a bit spoiled because Rutherford Sayre Park (6871 W Belden Ave, 312-746-5368) was formed from three separate parks giving these northwest siders a good-size piece of land to enjoy great outdoors. Flanking the Chicago, Milwaukee, and Saint Paul railroad tracks, this trio of city-sanctioned recreation areas has long been treated as one gigantic playground by northwestern Chicago residents. Built on land donated by the area’s founding families—the Sayres and Rutherfords—Rutherford Sayre park features baseball fields, a gym, and a walking trail perfect for jogging, biking, or brushing up on your inline skating skills.
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Montclare Real Estate
It’s a common dilemma for young city dwellers: You want to start a family, but you don’t want to leave the city. If only there was some way to have the safety, comfort, and wonderful schools of the suburbs without losing the glamour, convenience, and excitement of urban living. The neighborhood of Montclare saves you from having to choose.
The housing here mostly consists of single-family residences. An abundance of bungalows, ranch homes, and Tudor-style houses were built here in the 1930s, and they’ve all been impeccably maintained thanks to the pride and conscientiousness of Montclare residents. Most homes have front and back yards, and in true suburban fashion it is a point of pride to one-up your neighbor’s landscaping (nothing like a little friendly competition). Of course this means that in addition to the beautiful green trees lining the sidewalks, you get to admire your community’s gardening prowess while taking an evening stroll.
Though aesthetics and upkeep are big priorities here, nothing is more important in this Chicago neighborhood than the safety and well-being of the children. The community has added several speed bumps and traffic circles to the area—a project that might be a nuisance for drivers, but makes for a safe and family-friendly place to live.
Although the majority of Montclare residents live in single-family residences, there are a good number of condominiums and even some new-construction townhomes along the neighborhood’s main streets. These contemporary two-bedroom townhouses go for between $300,000 and $370,000, while many of the two-bedroom condos start in the mid $100,000s and go up to $300,000. As for the private homes in Montclare, you’re looking at a range of prices as well. The average sales price for a three-bedroom house is around $311,000 with several listed for under $300,000. If you need more space and want a house with four or five bedrooms, the average price only jumps up a bit to $342,000.
What’s on the Menu?
Because the Montclare neighborhood is one of the few areas in Chicago that has a true suburban feel, there are tons of all-American, family-friendly dining options to choose from.
If you just can’t shake those cravings for Applebee’s (6656 W. Grand Ave, 773-836-7696) or the Old Country Buffet (6560 W. Fullerton Ave, 773-745-7025) your dinner is within easy walking distance.
When visions of greasy burgers and relish-smothered hotdogs are dancing uncontrollably in your head, you’ll find plenty of nearby fast-food joints to satisfy your urges. But Colonel Sanders can’t hold a candle to the perfectly seasoned, lightly breaded chicken at Pollo Campero (2730 N Narragansett Ave, 773-622-6657). The food at this South American chain is so good that vacationers used to smuggle it into the country from Guatemala. Lucky for you, the owners finally took the hint and opened up some U.S. locations. And now, in addition to getting to choose between biscuits and tortillas, you also get to choose from an enormous list of sides to go with your cluckers—we are partial to the fried plantains.
When you’re in the mood for something a little more Chicago, Luke’s on Harlem (3130 N Harlem Avenue, 773-889-4000) fits the bill. This classic hot dog stand is exactly one Fonzie short of Happy Days. Not that you’ll need the Fonz to be satisfied here, whether you want an Italian beef sandwich, Polish sausage, garlic bread, or an order of perfectly smothered cheese fries, Luke’s is the way to go. Our favorite is the gyro burger—they actually grind up that juicy gyro meat and shape it into patties. This stand is a huge hang-out for local teenagers, as it’s open late and they serve up delicious Italian ice whenever the mercury soars.
While greasy comfort food is sometimes a necessary evil, we try to be healthy—at least part of the time—by heading over to Caputo’s Fresh Market (2560 N Harlem Ave, 708-453-0155). If you’ve ever wondered where all those little Italian grandmas buy their secret ingredients, look no further. The deli here hand-makes Italian sausages, and the bakery is well-stocked with enough carb-loaded goodness to make even the most devout of Atkins followers see the light. The produce section is pure heaven with seven types of eggplant, 20 kinds of olives, and lettuces so fresh you might be tempted to make a centerpiece out of them. The best part is that Caputo’s has shelves full of olive oils and pastas from the homeland, so you can get that authentic Italian experience in your own kitchen. We’re talking twice the quality of Whole Foods for a quarter of the price—who could argue with that? Still not convinced? Caputo’s has a trump card. The bakery here serves a perfected version of that most coveted pastry: the holy cannoli. So much for trying to eat healthy!
Caputo’s isn’t the only secret weapon in Montclare’s culinary arsenal. We firmly believe that every neighborhood should have an old-school bakery. The smell of rye wafting through the air, huge loaves of fresh bread piled high in baskets, a wide variety of pastries bigger than your face, and prices that never rise upwards of two bucks. We also believe that every neighborhood should have a classic deli—sausages made by hand on site, delicious homemade salads, and plenty of fresh cheeses. For all of that, there’s Kolatek Bakery and Deli (2445 N Harlem Avenue, 773-637-3772). Kolatek has somehow succeeded not only in combining the perfect deli and bakery in one store, but they take it another step further, by stocking organic eggs and milk, world chocolates, and shelves of Polish dry goods. You’ll always leave loaded up with bags with a huge grin on your face, and a wallet that barely felt a thing.
For a little Middle Eastern flair—Mr. D’s Shish Kabobs (6656 W Diversey Ave, 773-637-0042) has been filling the niche for more than 20 years. There are only five tables at this tiny hole-in-the-wall, but they are always filled with customers eager to gobble up the lip-smacking shish kabob and steak sandwiches. They only accept cash here, but the prices are so low you can probably find lunch money in your couch cushions.
For those of us that just can’t pull a Rachel Ray in the kitchen, but still want a sublime, home-cooked meal once in a while, there is always Agostino’s Ristorante (2817 N Harlem Ave, 773-745-6464). If you’re searching for genuine Italian—not a menu full of Americanized pasta dishes—then pull up a chair at this romantic little spot that specializes in seafood. The grilled seafood appetizer is incredible, all the tastiest treats that swim and wiggle in the sea seasoned simply with olive oil and garlic. Agostino’s usually has a fresh fish special that they’ll fillet right at your table, too—now that’s class. If you still have a hankering for pasta, they’ll toss together mountains of fresh clams, calamari, and shrimp and throw them on top of some handmade raviolis. Dig in.
Worried about where you’re going to get your next caffeine fix? In keeping with the European air of this northwest side Chicago neighborhood, we suggest Cafe Prague (6710 W Belmont Ave, 773-427-7587). This colorful Czech cafe serves up espresso drinks that’ll take you to the Old World. They’ll serve your bone-dry cappuccino with some biscuits from the Slovak Republic on the side. In the summertime, the cafe even sets up outdoor tables—ideal for a light panini lunch. As Cafe Prague is a meeting ground for Chicago’s Czech population, you can usually hear a lovely chorus of languages being spoken, and half of the store is occupied with shelves full of Czech books, music, and magazines. They also offer free Wi-Fi and rent computers by the hour, making this our favorite little neighborhood cafe.
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Best Shopping Stops
When we’re not busy sampling the neighborhood’s culinary creations, we like to use 'cardio endurance' as an excuse to get in some mall time.
The Brickyard Shopping Center (2800 N Narragansett Ave, 773-745-8838) is one of the last true malls left in the city of Chicago. Whether you’re looking for that perfect pair of shoes, a new summer wardrobe, or the accessories to pull it all together, it’s all here waiting for you. And our favorite part about the Brickyard’s outdoor/indoor set-up is that we get to hop from store to store without having to find a new place to park. Stop by Foot Locker (2650 N Narragansett Ave, 773-237-4173) before you get started to make sure you have comfy kicks for the marathon-shopping ahead of you. The great thing about this mall is that it has all those staple stores you’ll see in most suburban shopping centers, but are harder to find along downtown’s Magnificent Mile. For clothing for the whole family and home decor items, we always check the unbelievable low prices and designer selection at Marshall’s (2544 N Narragansett Ave, 773-804-0692). If you’d rather not dig for that perfect cocktail dress, there’s always the good old Dress Barn (2536 N Narragansett Ave, 773-804-1847). When it’s time to start putting together the back-to-school wardrobe with just the right accessories, any teenage girl is lost without Claire’s (2700 N Narragansett Ave, 773- 622-4112). When decorating your new home, there is nothing more convenient than having a Pier 1 Imports (2532 N Narragansett Ave, 773-622-2512) and a Lowe’s (2630 N Narragansett Ave, 773- 413-5120) located side-by-side.
If you’re anything like us, you drop a paycheck at Target (6525 W Diversey Ave, 773-804-3610) at least once every couple of months. When we’re let loose in this store everything suddenly becomes necessary. Appliances, clothing, home accessories, and now that they’ve added a grocery department it’s a wonder we leave at all. We’re not sure if it’s convenient or dangerous to have a Target so close by—all we do know is that we love it! We love the low prices, we love the selection, but the thing that justifies our epic-spending is that Target gives so much back to the community. Among its other philanthropic programs, Target sponsors free days at Chicago’s downtown Art Institute, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Chicago Children’s Museum. Pass that little tidbit on to your friends—then when the spouse sees the balance on the credit card (with Target factoring in heavily), we’ll all have a good rationalization for the frequent shopping sprees!
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Night on the Town
Wouldn’t it be great if there were a casual place where you could share a few pitchers with friends, get silly—and maybe even get some exercise in while you’re at it? No need to make a wish and blow out the candle on this one, Montclare neighborhood’s got it at Mont Clare Lanes (2957 N Harlem Ave, 773-237-5500), a local bowling alley that brings back those good old times. With games from $2 a pop, it’s easy and cheap to have a great night out (sans the overpriced cocktails and snooty door-guys of a downtown club). Plus, it has the requisite arcade room for when you’ve had enough of hugging the gutter. Instead of the new-fangled Disco Bowling, Mont Clare Lanes offers Cosmic bowling—which has all the bells and whistles of flashing lights and glow-in-the-dark balls, but with good old Rock and Roll to back it up. Some of our fondest bowling memories are associated with childhood bowling parties and—lucky for those little Montclare residents—they are made to order here. Everything from invitations to food to personalized bowling pins is included in the party package. For an evening among adults you can book their Candlelight bowl option which includes a full menu served family-style with your game—perfect for a couples’ night out. Speaking of sustenance, the restaurant here serves all of the bowling fare you remember from yesteryear: nachos, Buffalo wings, and chicken fingers, but the thing that always rolls a 300 with us is their homemade pizza. The full bar here will keep the pitchers coming, and for a truly memorable night they make a mean frozen mudslide.
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As with any Chicago neighborhood, there are many ways to get around Montclare. Because the streets are so beautiful, we love strolling the avenues or taking the bike out for a ride. Of course, since Montclare is set up like a suburb, having your own wheels is probably a good bet. There is ample parking here as most homes come with garages or driveways, and since this neighborhood doesn’t play host to too many bars, theatres, or tourist attractions, street parking is easy to come by. Montclare neighborhood is a fairly short drive away from to the Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94), but if you prefer, you can follow Grand Avenue all the way into the Loop.
If you’re looking for a cab, they are seldom seen on the streets here—you’ll probably have to call one. Of course, since the neighborhood is so close to O’Hare, you should never have a problem getting a cab to Montclare in a jiff.
For those that swear by Chicago’s stellar public transit, the CTA #77 Belmont bus is your best bet with a route that runs along the northern border of the neighborhood all the way to the lakefront. The #76 Diversey Avenue bus takes a similar route, from the Montclare neighborhood to Lake Michigan. The #86 bus connects to the Green Line at its southern end, and runs all the way into the northern suburbs, with the #90 Harlem Avenue bus operating along a similar route to all points north and south.
Another great option, especially when the whether is nice, is to take a bike to one of the stops along the Blue Line 'EL' (named for its sections of elevated track). The Logan Square stop is directly east, although it is a hike to get there. But hey, this way you can get in a little work-out, save some dough, and help out the environment all at once.
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School’s in Session
Of course, such a family-oriented community has exceptional schools. Families will find that the Montclare primary schools are unique and diverse learning environments, ideal for children from all walks of life. But for more information on other Chicago area schools visit our Chicago Guide Schools page.
From fresh-picked produce, to freshly baked scones, you’re going to need to know where to find all the bare necessities in your new Chicago neighborhood. That’s why we’ve compiled a starter list of Montclare staples for you.
Shriners Hospital 2211 N Oak Park Ave – (773) 622-5400
Galewood-Montclare Library 6969 W Grand Ave – (312) 746-5032
Chicago Transit Authority – (888) 968-7282
Jewel-Osco 6505 W Diversey Ave – (773) 622-4701
Target Pharmacy 6525 W Diversey Ave – (773) 804-3610
Walgreens 6816 W Grand Ave – (773) 637-4448; 6809 W Belmont Ave – (773) 237-6267
Caputo’s Fresh Markets 2560 N Harlem Ave (708) 453-0155
Jewel-Osco 6505 W Diversey Ave – (773) 622-4701
Xsport Fitness 6420 W Fullerton Ave – (773) 237-5730
B Fresh Clothing & Shoes 6451 W Diversey Ave – (773) 622-9722
Champs Sports 6451 W Diversey Ave – (773) 804-0205
Dots Fashion 6560 W Fullerton Ave – (773) 889-8600
Famous Footwear 6560 W Fullerton Ave – (773) 804-1100
Fit 2 B Tied 2720 N Harlem Ave (708) 583-1500
Hot for Shoes 6451 W Diversey Ave – (773) 237-3459
One Price & More 6560 W Fullerton Ave – (773) 804-1899
Rainbow 6560 W Fullerton Ave – (773) 385-9023
Target 6525 W Diversey Ave – (773) 804-3610
Brickyard Shopping Center – (773) 745-8838
Avenue 2700 N Narragansett Ave – (773) 622-4474
Claire’s 2700 N Narragansett Ave – (773) 622-4112
Dress Barn 2536 N Narragansett Ave – (773) 804-1847
Foot Locker 2650 N Narragansett Ave – (773) 237-4173 Footaction USA 2620 N Narragansett Ave – (773) 889-5368
Marshall’s 2544 N Narragansett Ave – (773) 804-0692
Motherhood Maternity 2620 N Narragansett Ave – (773) 622-1650 New Line Sports 2700 N Narragansett Ave – (773) 237-2227
Office Max 2554 N Narragansett Ave – (773) 804-1007
Payless Shoe Source 2700 N Narragansett Ave – (773) 385-9652
Pier 1 Imports 2532 N Narragansett Ave – (773) 622-2512
Lowe’s 2630 N Narragansett Ave – (773) 413-5120
Applebee’s 6656 W Grand Ave – (773) 836-7696
Old Country Buffet 6560 W Fullerton Ave – (773) 745-7025
Luke’s on Harlem 3130 N Harlem Ave – (773) 889-4000
Brickyard Super China Buffet 2650 N Narragansett Ave – (773) 637-1888
Kolatek Bakery and Deli 2445 N Harlem Ave – (773) 637-3772
Cafe Prague 6710 W Belmont Ave – (773) 427-7587
Chipotle Mexican Grill 2640 N Narragansett Ave – (773) 745-3912
Pollo Campero 2730 N Narragansett Ave – (773) 622-6657
Agostino’s Ristorante 2817 N Harlem Ave – (773) 745-6464
Middle Eastern Cuisine
Mr D’s Shish-Kabobs 6656 W Diversey Ave – (773) 637-0042
Taste of Jerusalem Restaurant 3144 N Narragansett Ave – (773) 804-0722
Papa John’s Pizza 2620 N Narragansett Ave – (773) 622-7272
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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 rest-and 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 Montclare 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 Montclare, 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 Montclare, all without ever having to go anywhere.
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