Distinguished by a captivating past that lingers in the occasional brick alley, the thriving commercial district along Wells Street, and the faint toll of bells from St. Michael's Church, Old Town is a historic Chicago neighborhood, reborn into the 21st century with an ardor that has captured many people's interest as an enchanting place to live and a safe environment to raise a family. Old Town's beautiful residential blocks, lined with century-old grey- and brownstone walkups, are broken up by the flurry of activity along the neighborhood's central thoroughfare. Old Town boutiques are known for their specialty items, local designer wares and one-of-a-kind fashions for you and your home. Tucked in among the awning-covered storefronts are popular dining spots that are regular stops for in-town celebrities. In the summer, Old Town explodes with fun and excitement as folks come from all around to visit the neighborhood street festivals, which are among the most beloved in Chicago.
Then and Now
Old Town Triangle refers to the quaint wedge-shaped area north of North Avenue, west of Clark Street and roughly east of Mohawk Avenue, where Ogden Avenue used to be—like someone cut a slice out of Lincoln Park. It's such a historically significant zone that this section of Old Town neighborhood was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1977.
By the mid 19th century a substantial group of German-Catholic immigrants had settled in the vicinity north of Chicago's bustling central commercial port near the river, making the church the center of their community. St. Michael's Church began as a small structure on a plot of land donated by immigrant beer brewer Michael Diversey (also a prominent city leader who left his mark throughout the area—does Diversey Parkway or Avenue ring a bell?). In 1866, plans for a new and improved brick church with a massive 200-foot steeple were underway. Construction took three years, but at the time of its completion, St. Michael's was one of the city's tallest buildings and visible for miles.
Unfortunately, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed all but the exterior walls of the church, forcing another reconstruction, this time topping the first in stature with a 290-foot spire. Located at the southern edge of the Old Town Triangle, the bells of St. Michael's can still be heard throughout the neighborhood today and the steeple stills rises up above the surrounding buildings with the clock faces on each side a glowing beacon for Old Town residents. The church remains an important and involved part of the community, hosting festivals, weddings, organized social gatherings, and outreach programs, in addition to holding mass every day of the week.
While life in Old Town in the 1800s may have centered about a strong connection to the church and religious commitments, a viable business district was going up along Clark Street fueled by the large number of German immigrants who set up shop here. The region took on a distinctly Bavarian feel with several breweries (serving German ales, of course) making an appearance as well. Much of the neighborhood's population was working-class at this time and subsequently their homes were simple structures resembling one-story cottages. These small rectangular houses typically had front-facing gabled roofs with ornate window frames and wood siding. In fact, the Old Town Triangle is now unique for the wood worker's-style cottages that are tucked in among brick row-houses and walkups as the architectural character of these edifices predates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, after which a citywide ordinance was instated that prevented building with combustible material—like wood.
With such history, the name Old Town certainly fits, but it wasn't always called Old Town. It actually didn't get that name until the 1940s, when residents began hosting an annual art fair called the 'Old Town Holiday.' The name caught on and in 1948, the Old Town Triangle Association (OTTA) was formed as a community preservation initiative. In 1950, the association held its first official Old Town Art Fair that showcased artwork submissions from the general public. The fair brought so much attention to the area that before long a judging committee was needed to select which pieces would be exhibited each year.
As new people took an interest in Old Town, the OTTA continued to promote the renewal and revitalization of the neighborhood and continued to hold their annual art festival. The Old Town Art Fair is now considered the longest-running in American history, and it's a tradition you can still experience today. It also happens to be our favorite summertime event.
Park is the Place
The area included in Chicago's Old Town Triangle is relatively small in size, which leaves little room for large green spaces and recreation sites—not to mention residents have only to cross Clark Street and they'll find themselves in the 1,200-acre expanse of Lincoln Park, one of city's biggest parks.
Still, there are several community squares and playgrounds in the Old Town Triangle that provide local residents with peaceful spots for relaxing, walking the dog or playing with the kids. Bauler Playlot Park (501 W. Wisconsin St, (312) 742-8798) occupies half of a block on the neighborhood's western edge.
Established in 1970 by the Chicago Park District, the two-thirds-acre parcel of land has been redone with a raised woodchip-filled playground (offering slides, swings and jungle-gym) and also has a shaded grassy area with park benches and a walkway. The small park is often bustling with activity of parents and babysitters pushing tiny tots in the swings, watching their little ones going down the slide, playing catch, or enjoying the outdoors while their bundle of joy naps in the stroller.
About a block away where Hudson Street bends in front of the Midwest Buddhist Temple (435 Menomonee St, (312) 943-7801) there is a tiny fenced communal area with a fountain in the center and grass around the perimeter called Triangle Park by local folks.
Known as the neighborhood dog park, this spot is overrun with cute pups and lumbering labs in the evening hours (right around 5:30pm) when Old Town Triangle residents get home from work and take their pet pooches out for a walk. While their humans chat amongst themselves, the canine crew relish a few minutes of off-leash outdoor time, sniffing around, chewing the random stick and barking gleefully with their fellow mongrels. The mix of dogs that assemble here every day is amusing as pudgy pugs and tiny toy terriers follow around giant great danes and massive mastiffs. And trust us – these little meetings are just as welcomed for the owners as the pets because residents can catch up with their neighbors and get a bit of fresh air before heading home for the evening.
Old Town Triangle Real Estate
The Old Town Triangle is a family-oriented, relatively low-density neighborhood with an abundance of historic character. Because it was granted historic landmark status in the late 1970s, many of the buildings in the vicinity date back to the 19th century. Brick row house and stone townhomes dominate the residential avenues along with "workman's cottages" and three- and four-story condominium buildings, plus some high-rises along Clark Street. Due to the neighborhood's historic designation, most of the homes maintain a vintage aspect, but some new construction homes have added a fresh appeal in recent years.
With beautifully landscaped lots, winding tree-lined streets, gorgeous residential properties and an atmosphere that welcomes starter families, young working adults and long-established residents alike, Old Town Triangle is a desirable place to live, and as such, is in very high demand. The real estate here is split between detached single-family homes and multi-unit dwellings. Sharing similar prices as the surrounding Lincoln Park neighborhood, homebuyers will find a range of property values throughout the area that suit various budgets and living preferences.
Living in the Old Town Triangle holds a special pride that ties neighbors together and forms lasting bonds. You'll see people out on their patios or stoops chatting with passersby, parents pushing their children in the swings at the playlot with other parents, and dog owners convening at the dog park with both their two-legged and four-legged friends. And don't be surprised if your street is temporarily closed down for a day in lieu of a neighborhood block party, complete with picnic tables, games, live band and lots of home cooked dishes to pass.
Check out our Old Town home sales statistics here to get an idea of the real estate market trends in this neighborhood.
What's On The Menu?
Even though the Old Town Triangle is a predominantly residential locale, certain restaurants have been in the area longer than most homeowners, becoming community institutions that are as much a part of the neighborhood culture as the people who live here.
For a once in a lifetime dining experience head on over to Tabaq (1245 N Clybourn, (312) 944-1245) where you can taste authentic Pakistani cuisine served in huge portions. Be sure to give your taste buds reason to celebrate with their delicious chicken tikka, naan and tasty biryani.
In the mood for Italian? Then make your way to Topo Gigio Ristorante (1516 N Wells, (312) 266-9355) where the grilled calamari, conchiglie alla sarda and tortellini alla Panna keeps customers coming back in droves. The cozy atmosphere and high quality Italian cuisine is the reason Topo Gigio Ristortante has won the International Food Manufacturer's award for Culinary Excellence for the past 17 years.
When it comes to sushi in Old Town, you can do no wrong by visiting Café Sushi (1342 N Wells, (312) 337-0700). The upscale yet inviting environment provides the perfect ambience to enjoy top notch Japanese cuisine. Whether you're new to sushi or you're a longtime connoisseur, Café Sushi's master chefs create mouthwatering blends of simple and complex flavors that never fail to amaze. Try the Snow White roll featuring avocado and shrimp tempura topped with super white tuna and red tobike or the Honey Bee roll featuring white tuna, avocado and cucumber topped with tempura crunch and honey.
For breakfast, why would you settle for boring old cornflakes when you can indulge in red velvet French toast like the kind served up at Kanela Breakfast Club (1552 N Wells, (312) 255-1206). Even if you're not in a breakfast mood it would behoove you to feast on their tantalizing monkey bread and chocolate covered bacon. Yes, you read that right. Chocolate covered bacon. Nuff said. And don't forget to BYOB while you enjoy their spicy feta omelet and banana split crepes.
Have a taste for Mediterranean? Look no further than Old Jerusalem (1411 N Wells St, (312) 944-0459) where all the essential Arab cuisine staples like falafel, baba ghanoush and hummus are made to perfection. Be forewarned, newcomers to Old Jerusalem have been known to forego every other eating establishment for a week after discovering this Old Town culinary sensation.
If your taste buds are craving something south of the border then head over to Salpicon (1252 N Wells St, (312) 988-7811). Since 1995, Chef Priscila Satkoff has been creating culinary delights fused with the best of classic and contemporary Mexican flavors and dishes.
Start your meal off right with camarones al carbon featuring grilled tiger shrimp served with avocado-tomatillo and spicy roasted tomato sauce. Follow that delicious delight with an entrée of chiles dona queta or the pescado al carbon among the plethora of culinary delights offered here. Don't forget to pair your food with Salpicon's award-winning wine list and wide range of 100% agave tequilas.
American cuisine with rustic charisma, top notch cocktails and mind blowing desserts can be found at The Refinery (1209 N Wells St, (312) 854-2970). The culinary dynamic duo of executive chef Lawrence Letrero and pastry chef Hetty Arts have created a menu that goes beyond the norm in an atmosphere that combines rustic charm within a modern aesthetic. You simply can't go wrong with anything off the menu, but be sure to try the buttermilk chicken wings, Berkshire pork chop and The Refinery Burger featuring ground short rib, bacon, aged cheddar and tomato relish.
Best Shopping Shops
In the Old Town Triangle, Wells Street is home to the neighborhood's retail shops and boutiques. Found amidst the restaurants are a handful of storefronts that offer residents a variety of unique fashion items and other goods that are always handy to have close to home.
Whether you're looking for clothes, jewelry or handbags, all roads point to Sara Jane (1343 N Wells St, (312) 335-1962) where high fashion and affordable prices go hand in hand. Ideal yet eclectic, Sara Jane has something for every taste and style no matter the size of your pocketbook. Whether you're looking for edgy, chic, unique or all of the above, this Old Town boutique has plenty of flattering options.
In Chicago, biking is a way of life even in the harsh winters. We take our two-wheeled foot propelled modes of transportation seriously. There's no better place to pick up that new bike or fix up the one you own than Village Cycle Center (1337 N Wells St, (312) 751-2488). With over 10,000 bikes in stock, there's something for everyone from the novices to the pros.
If making jewelry is your passion, look no further than String A Strand On Wells (1361 N Wells St, (312) 335-1930). Whether you enjoy making bracelets and necklaces for profit or pleasure, String A Strand offers the tools and guidance to create unique expressions as well as ready-to-wear pieces that stand out above the norm. Tons of beads to choose from and a top notch helpful staff make this spot a definite go to on Wells Streets.
Night on the Town
The bar scene in Old Town is concentrated on Wells Street, but there are a few other establishments scattered about the residential blocks that are just as lively as the pubs on the main strip. So take your pick, or make the rounds and have yourself a ball in this quaint, yet happening near north side neighborhood.
The Glunz Tavern (1202 N Wells St, (312) 642-3001) has quite the history. Founded in 1888 by Louis Glunz I, this beloved tavern sat vacant for over 90 years following its closure prior to Prohibition. Re-established in 2012 by Glunz granddaughter and great grandson, the 48-seat bar provides an authentic old-time aesthetic while serving up great wine, beer and spirits in a low key, inviting atmosphere that warrants many return visits.
Called the "best bar in the world that I know about" by none other than Roger Ebert, The Old Town Ale House (219 W North Ave, (312) 944-7020) certainly lives up to the late, great movie reviewers statement. Established in 1958 by E.J. Vangelder, the beloved Old Town bar went through many changes (including a fire in the seventies) yet remains a staple of the neighborhood. The drinks are always flowing, the art work is unique and often hysterical and the atmosphere is full of character without being overwhelming.The Benchmark (1510 N Wells St, (312) 649-9640) offers great food and drink in a two-floor bar loaded with 46 TV's so you're sure not to miss a moment of your favorite Chicago sports team. Visitors rave about the fish tacos, sweet potato fries and of course the drink menu, which features 12 draft and 34 bottled beers as well as a 31 bottle wine selection. The coolest part? The Benchmark has a retractable roof to let the sun in while enjoying brews.
A recent addition—well, re-addition—to the Old Town Triangle's nightlife is Marge's Still (1758 N Sedgwick St, (312) 664-9775) which is finally back after a major renovation and a long-awaited renewal of its liquor license by the city after the original owner's death.
The revamped interior is fresh and clean, but maintains an old-time taproom feel with vintage decor and a large mirror behind the long wood bar. Serving up draft and bottled beers and a full-bar of spirits, this place fills up in the evenings and on weekends with a local crowd eager to get reacquainted with their reinvented neighborhood tavern.
We'd say Marge's went above and beyond with a menu leaning towards the gourmet side and an atmosphere that begs a revisit. Situated on a corner in the middle of a residential stretch, Marge's is a welcome retreat from the cold winter days when traveling more than a block from your house seem ludicrous. It might be just the place to hole up until the spring thaw.
Probably the best known comedy theater in Chicago, The Second City (1616 N Wells St, (312) 664-4032) has been one of the Old Town Triangle's biggest attractions for years. It's where many famous comedians got their start.
Ever heard of the Blues Brothers? Well before they were on Saturday Night Live both Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi were part of the Second City cast in the 1970s—in addition to John Candy, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray and Eugene Levy.
The theater houses two stages where resident comedy troupes perform hilarious original sketches to regularly sold-out audiences Thursday through Saturday. Second City also runs student productions out of its third stage located in Piper's Alley called Donny's Skybox Studio Theatre.
We laugh just as hard watching the comedians-in-training at the Skybox as seeing the stand-up pros on the main stage. But if you're set on seeing the experts in action, try to get tickets in advance because everyone else in town is thinking the same thing and getting a seat at this legendary venue is no joke.
As much as we adore blockbuster Hollywood pictures and butter-drizzled popcorn, there's nothing like live action entertainment with an unlimited Italian feast included. Fortunately for us, there's Tony n' Tina's Wedding (230 W North Ave, (312) 664-8844) at Piper's Alley, where guests are immersed into the craziness and fun of a traditional Italian-American wedding reception.
Be a part of Tony and Tina's wacky nuptials and witness the hysterical antics of holy matrimony gone awry. You and the other guests will celebrate the new bride and groom with a buffet dinner, champagne toast, dancing and lots of laughs. Not your typical night out, this theatrical performance strays from the norm to offer an unforgettable evening that is sure to have you in stitches.
Mark Your Calendar
Not that the Old Town Triangle doesn't have enough happening on a regular basis, but it's always fun to spice things up with an annual neighborhood street festival—especially when it's one of Chicago's most anticipated events!
Held during the second weekend in June the Old Town Art Fair (1763 N North Park Ave, (312) 337-1938) draws visitors from all over Chicagoland to the narrow streets of the Old Town Triangle every year. Nearly impossible to miss (and you wouldn't want to), this popular outdoor festival is an art explosion charged with musical entertainment, mouthwatering food and a creative kids' corner. It's a chance to see—and purchase—hundreds of juried art pieces by nationally renowned artists.
Weaving through the white tent-covered stalls, you'll encounter a diverse display of artwork that showcases everything from traditional oil paints to modern photography to mixed-media. But if you're like us and are just there to look and not to buy (the prices can be a bit expensive), you might discover some purchasable treats in the shaded food section set up with small high-top tables, cloaked in gingham tablecloths and single bloom centerpieces—a charming setting from which to enjoy the scene.
Local restaurants cart in loads of their signature dishes and the nearby Goose Island brewery has traditionally supplied the beer options, which are notably Chicago's best hometown brews. Come for the art, but stay for the live music that runs all day long, it's fun—and a great way to meet your neighbors, if you can pick them out of the crowd.
Given the small size of the neighborhood and its proximity to downtown and Lincoln Park, getting around is no problem for Old Town residents. A short walk will suffice most errands or destinations within the area. And for going any further, there's public transit, taxis or driving your own car.
Most folks in the neighborhood do have vehicles, and are lucky enough to also have access to private garages and alley parking behind their homes. But there are plenty of car-owners that have to park on the street, which requires both a city sticker and a neighborhood zone sticker—so make sure to check with the local alderman's office on how to purchase the required permits before leaving your ride on the street overnight—otherwise you'll be looking at a ticket in the morning.
While the residential roads are restricted at certain hours, it is generally okay to park there during the day, if you can find a spot that is. Plus, the busier thoroughfares in the Old Town Triangle often offer metered parking and some establishments even have their own lots where customers can pay to park.
Prefer to leave your wheels at home, or don't have wheels to begin with? Cabs are the next best way to go for speed and convenience. Taxis are everywhere in this near north side Chicago neighborhood, so just head to the nearest main street and flag one down. Depending on the time of day we've had to wait for an available cab, but never more than five minutes or so.
Besides driving, Old Town Triangle's location affords several public transportation options that get neighborhood residents from here to there. Probably the most popular is the 'El' train (so-named for its segments of elevated track). Operated by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), you can get on the Brown and Purple lines from a stop just across North Avenue on Sedgwick Street.
Both lines run downtown on the same elevated track (with the Purple being the limited schedule rush hour train) and will get you to the Loop in about 15 minutes. Both routes head north, too, but the Brown Line veers west to Ravenswood and the Purple Line runs express after Belmont, all the way to Howard Street in East Rogers Park.
The extensive bus system also provides a good number of Old Town Triangle commuters with fairly easy and quick travel around the city. The #72 is quite useful as it goes east/west along North Avenue and is a reliable route to hip neighborhoods like Wicker Park and Bucktown. We also hop on the #73 bus a lot, which operates along Armitage Avenue at the northern edge of the Old Town Triangle, as it takes passengers straight to the popular Armitage Avenue shopping district in Lincoln Park.
School's In Session
Due to its small size, the Old Town Triangle only offers neighborhood families a few schools in its midst. Of course, there are lots of nearby educational facilities in the surrounding communities where parents can send their children to class. In addition to the following, check out our Chicago Guide Schools page for more information on Chicago area schools.
- Catherine Cook School – 226 W Schiller St – (312) 266-3381
- Franklin Elementary Fine Arts Center – 225 W Evergreen Ave – (773) 534-8510
- Immaculate Conception St. Joseph School – 1431 N North Park Ave – (312) 944-0304
- Lincoln Park Preschool & Kindergarten – 108 W Germania Pl – (312) 482-9009
- Manierre Elementary School – 1420 N Hudson Ave – (773) 534-8456
No need to run all over the city to get those basic necessities, we've assembled a list of some of the places where you can get those everyday items and services just around the corner from home. From groceries to gyms, Old Town Triangle residents have everything they need right here in the neighborhood.
- Chicago Transit Authority (888) 968-7282
- Jewel-Osco – 1210 N Clark St – (312) 944-6950
- Walgreens – 1601 N Wells St – (312) 642-4008
- Treasure Island 1639 N Wells St – (312) 642-1106
- Equinox – 1750 N Clark St – (312) 587-0774
- XSport Fitness – 230 W North Ave – (312) 932-9100
- Japanese Cinema Midwest Buddhist Temple – 435 Menomonee St – (312) 943-7801
- Old Town Art Fair – 1763 N North Park Ave – (312) 337-1938
- The Second City Theatre – 1616 N Wells St – (312) 664-4032
- Tony & Tina's Wedding – 210 W North Ave, Pipers Alley – (312) 664-8844
- A New Leaf – 1645 N Wells St – (312) 642-1576
- Mercy Beaucoup – 1545 N Wells St – (312) 202-6794
- Sara Jane – 1343 N Wells St – (312) 335-1962
- Village Cycle Center – 1337 N Wells St – (312) 751-2488
- String A Strand On Wells – 1361 N Wells St – (312) 335-1930
- Marge's Still – 1758 N Sedgwick St – (312) 664-9775
- The Benchmark – 1510 N Wells St – (312) 649-9640
- The Glunz Tavern – 1202 N Wells St – (312) 642-3001
- The Old Town Ale House – 219 W North Ave – (312) 944-7020
- Suite Lounge – 1446 N Wells St – (312) 787-6103
- Old Town Social – 455 W North Ave – (312) 266-2277
- Salpicon – 1252 N Wells St – (312) 988-7811
- Mama Milano's Pizza Bar – 1419 N Wells St – (312) 787-3710
- Eva's Café – 1447 N Sedgwick – (312) 280-8900
- Starbucks – 1229 N Clybourne Ave – (312) 587-9063
- La Fournette – 1547 N Wells St – (312) 624-9430
- The Fudge Pot – 1532 N Wells St – (312) 943-1777
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 Old Town Triangle 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 Old Town Triangle, 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 Old Town Triangle, all without ever having to go anywhere.