Portage Park is a peaceful and spacious northwest side Chicago neighborhood with an active business district, a number of good schools and affordable property that is steadily growing in popularity and homebuyer interest. The Six Corners intersection is the area's main commercial hotspot, but the entire neighborhood is infused with a wealth of little shops and specialty stores. There is no better way to experience what Portage Park has to offer than to sample the vast roster of restaurants, bar & grills, pizzerias, bakeries and delis. And you don't want to discount the neighborhood's notable network of parkland, headed up by the spacious grounds and Olympic-size swimming pool of the community's coveted namesake Portage Park.
Portage Park Facts
Location: Approximately 8 miles northwest of the Loop
Boundaries: Montrose Avenue to the north, Narragansett Avenue to the west, Roscoe Street to the south and Cicero Avenue to the east
Bordering Neighborhoods: Jefferson Park, Dunning, Old Irving Park, Craigin, Belmont Central
Then and Now
Portage Park derives its name from the early history of Irving Park Road, which currently runs through the center of this northwest Chicago neighborhood. Into the early 19th century, the strip of land was a portage that Native Americans used to carry their canoes from the Des Plaines River to the Chicago River. In 1816, a treaty was signed that gave the U.S. government control over the entire area between the Chicago River and the Mississippi River. Staking his claim on the new U.S. territory, a man named E.B. Sutherland built a tavern on North West Plank Road (now Milwaukee Avenue). This location also doubled as the town hall for what was known as Jefferson Township in the mid-1800s, a municipality independent of Chicago until 1889.
Throughout the years developers transformed this once marshy landscape into habitable terrain, spurring an increase in residents and settlement. In 1913, the beautiful 36.5-acre park that bears the neighborhood's name was established. Roads were improved and drainage issues, which previously led to frequent flooding, were corrected by the 1950s. Around 1960, the Kennedy Expressway was extended to reach residents of Portage Park, giving them a quick route to downtown.
After some population fluctuation, this large Chicago neighborhood is again on the rise. A strong Polish community resides in the area, and its affordable and spacious housing is attracting many new families as well as a slew of young working singles and couples. The intersection of Irving Park Road, Cicero and Milwaukee avenues (at Portage Park's western edge) is known as 'Six Corners' and offers a rich commercial district. Plus, who can forget the neighborhood's huge namesake park that is always alive with activity and natural beauty.
Portage Park neighborhood covers quite a bit of area and houses a good-size population. All the more reason for the city to designate a significant portion of the neighborhood as public parkland where local residents can spend leisure time and enjoy the outdoors.
In 1913, the space aptly named Portage Park (4100 N. Long, 773 685 7235) was created along Irving Park Road. The park has seen numerous changes over the years, particularly to its swimming facilities. Originally the pool was a naturalistic lagoon. From there it was transformed into a more circular shape, built with concrete. In 1959 it became an official Olympic-sized facility which meant Portage Park was able to host to the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in 1972.
Today, the park occupies 36.5 acres of the Portage Park neighborhood. Nature walks and bike paths cut through and around the expansive landscape dotted with flowers, trees and lush greenery. A gymnasium, two football/soccer fields, and five baseball diamonds are available for league and recreational use. One of the park's original features is its prairie-style fieldhouse. Built in 1922, the fieldhouse is now used as an arts center. Portage Park also offers after school programs where kids can partake in music, sports and gymnastics-to name a few. There are also courses in which adults can enroll such as body conditioning and piano lessons.
Several blocks from the community's central parkland is another recreation spot, located on the western border of the neighborhood. Merrimac Park (6343 W. Irving Park, 312 742 7626) is a small wooded area belonging to a hotel owner named Henry Kolze-in fact, in the past the park was once known as Kolze's Electric Grove. This nine-acre space consisting of a beer garden and a dining hall was taken over by the Chicago Park District in 1950.
Following the change of hands, tennis and basketball courts, and a baseball diamond were put in. A playground was constructed and Kolze's dining hall was turned into a fieldhouse, which has since been modernized. These days, the park offers gymnastics classes and day camps to Portage Park children, but there is always the popular jungle-gym and swing set that attracts the attention of plenty local tots and kids who just want to play outside and have a bit of unstructured fun. When we don't have the little ones in tow, our favorite thing to do is to lean up against the wide trunk of one of Merrimac's old trees and spend a peaceful afternoon reading under its shady branches.
Even smaller in area than Merrimac Park but still inviting, is Chopin Park (3420 N. Long, 773 685 3247), named for the illustrious composer Frederic Francois Chopin. Here, Portage Park residents can take advantage of horseshoe pits, basketball and tennis courts, as well as baseball diamonds and a soccer and football field. Children like to cool off in the spray pool and hang out with other tiny Portage Parkers on the playground. And in the fieldhouse Chopin holds art, music and preschool classes. We'll tell you one thing-this eight-acre park certainly makes efficient use of its limited space!
Portage Park Real Estate
There are loads of single-family homes in Portage Park, a multitude of quaint brick bungalows-some with finished attics-are scattered throughout the neighborhood. Attractive one- and two-story frame houses with front yards and porches also represent a good portion of Portage Park real estate. In addition to the more typical Chicago housing, an architectural diversity exists here as home designs incorporate elements of Victorian, Georgian and English Tudor style-among others.
Attached housing options include beautifully landscaped vintage courtyard condominiums with charming touches such as exterior stone ornamentation and tiled roofs. While many older structures are rehabbed to maintain their original appeal, new condos, as well as newer model single- and multi-family homes are frequently found along the residential streets, providing a modern spin on Portage Park's traditional real estate style. There are even some contemporary townhomes with all the upscale amenities of downtown residences. Only here, unlike communities closer to Chicago's city center, residents find congestion is rare as the neighborhood lies a safe distance to the north and west of heavily trafficked areas and bustling intersections.
What's on the Menu?
The best way to experience all Portage Park has to offer on the culinary scene is to visit the restaurants personally. But just to give you a heads up, here are a few flavorful mainstays on the neighborhood's dining roster.
La Pena (4212 N. Milwaukee, 773-545-7022) is only a couple blocks northwest of the neighborhood's busy 'Six Corners' retail zone, so it makes for a good stop after you've worked up an appetite from all that shopping. The interior of this Portage Park restaurant has a tropical air to it, decorated in pastel colors and dotted with vibrant bird statues. On weekends live bands play Latin music, encouraging diners to hang out after their meal to take part in some salsa dancing while they have a few passion fruit martinis. The menu at La Pena is affordable, Ecuadorian-influenced and seafood heavy. We recommend the restaurant's specialty which is a citrus-y seafood salad called ceviche. Not everyone loves this dish-perhaps it's one of those acquired tastes-but if it does tantalize your tastes buds, beware because you can never get enough of the stuff! The steak and chicken entrees offered at La Pena are just as appetizing as any seafood option, with the churrasco (steak served with rice, fried-egg and avocado) at the top of our list.
Many Chicago neighborhoods would have trouble attracting residents if they didn't boast a really good pizza place. Thankfully for Portage Park, there's Bacci Pizzeria (4367 N Milwaukee Ave, 773-304-3000), which is part of a small family-owned Chicagoland chain that started in the Little Italy neighborhood. This pocketsize pizza joint is extremely popular for its inexpensive giant floppy slices, accompanied by a free soda. Windows surround two sides of the restaurant, allowing the sun to brighten the modest dining room. A couple of arcade games, a jukebox, and some televisions entertain patrons if they choose to stay and eat in. The menu also has lasagna, mostaccioli, and gnocchi for those not craving the pie.
While the name Leadbelly often conjures up thoughts of the great bluesman, the Leadbelly (5739 W Irving Park Rd, 773-283-7880) in Portage Park conjures up thoughts of tasty burgers, hand cut fries and shakes served with their "almost famous" butter cookie. With burger names like Easy Rider, Midnight Special and the Gallows Pole, it no surprise that this Portage Park restaurant holds an affinity with all things rock. If you are dealing with extreme hunger then you can't go wrong with The Titanic, a monster sandwich including two pounds of beef. Although we recommend you bring some friends to help because chances are you will sink like a doomed ship if trying to undertake this colossal burger alone.
If you're in the mood for something American yet a bit more inventive, The Portage (3920 N Central Ave, 773-853-0779) offers a menu that defies expectation with signature dishes like the roasted pork belly, fried Amish chicken and glazed beef shortribs blending classic cuisine with cutting edge flavor. The crab cake is to die for and their duck fat fries have quickly become a staple on many foodies bucket lists.
Chicago loves a comeback story and Portage Park's Las Tablas (4920 W Irving Park Rd, 773-202-0999) is the equivalent of Rocky in restaurant form. After losing their business and home to a fire, the Suarez family regrouped and reopened the Colombian-inspired Las Tablas much like a prize fighter who refuses to go down for the count. Serving up their delicious Bandeja Paisa, grilled skirts streaks and mouthwatering seafood dishes, Las Tablas offers a tasty menu and the walls adorned with paintings by Fernando Botero make for an inviting and unique culinary experience.
When your taste buds demand an Asian-fused assortment of flavors, look no further than Ruk Sushi and Thai (4431 N Milwaukee Ave, 773-286-1900). From the pad garlic and red curry to the assortment of contemporary maki and their awesome noodle bar, Ruk Sushi and Thai creates delicious dishes bursting with flavor and taste. We recommend the Dragon Maki and Chicken Satay, but you can't go wrong with anything on the menu at this Portage Park restaurant.
Best Shopping Stops
This northwest side Chicago neighborhood has a couple of extremely unique shops within its retail realm. Whether you need a Frankenstein mask or a watercraft to navigate the Chicago River, Portage Park has got your covered.
Usually, as soon as October hits and the leaves are beginning to fall from the trees, folks start to think about what they want to be for Halloween this year. Right about this same time (and especially towards the end of the month) it is a common sight to see people lined up outside and around the corner, trying to get into Fantasy Costume (4065 N. Milwaukee, 773 777 0222). It's hard to believe, but there are over a million items in this Portage Park store to help you create the ultimate Halloween outfit or get just the right look for the masquerade ball you find yourself invited to on occasion. The stuff here is geared mainly toward guises for adults, but plenty of children's costumes and accessories are available, too. As you browse through the aisles, you realize just about every kind of vestment conceived can be rented or bought here. And a gigantic section of wigs provides that finishing touch to complete your ensemble. Although late October is their busiest time, Fantasy is open year-round, so customers can drop by anytime to pick up something to wear to the random costume or theme party that happens every so often.
While many are bemoaning the demise of newspapers, one Portage Park spot has you covered for all your periodical needs and then some. City Newsstand (4018 N Cicero Ave, 773-545-7377) has over 200 linear feet of magazine racks covering every possible subject one may have even the faintest interest in. So whether you're into celebrity gossip, world economics or guitars, City Newsstand has something for everyone's own unique taste...literally.
When it's time to look for furniture take two steps into Twice (5450 W Belmont, 773-297-6396) where owner Kelly Rauch and her dedicated team of fabric fanatics resurrect old dusty furniture pieces into works of art. Whether you're in the market for something that screams vintage or have a family heirloom that needs to collect praise instead of dust, Twice can improve upon anything from custom wall finishes and cabinetry to fabrics and space planning.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a place to go that's all about hats? We're not talking about some department store's limited supply of head adornments that leave you looking like the village idiot, but a spot where you can find the perfect hat to instantly turn you into classy Chicagoan. Hats Plus (4076 Irving Park Rd, 773-286-5577) has the largest supply around for all your hat needs. Whether you need something to cover up that terrible haircut, desire the perfect fitted cap or want to give Indian Jones a serious run for his money in the style category, Hats Plus has you covered.
If cigars are your thing, head over to Utopia Cigars (6355 W Montrose Ave,
773-725-1810) where the wide assortment of high quality stogies and experience
of the great staff causes similar shops to go, well, up in smoke. Swing by, learn about the art of cigar smoking and etiquette and enjoy
the free WI-FI and popcorn while learning how to properly use that cigar
cutter at this great Portage Park shop.
Night on the Town
A mix of happening hotspots and relaxing neighborhood hangouts give Portage Park residents and locals from nearby communities their pick of fun-filled nightlife and evening diversions.
Residents regularly fill up Hops & Barley (4359 N. Milwaukee, 773 286 7415), a Portage Park neighborhood bar which occupies an historic building constructed in the 1920s. Dark wood and brick dominate the intimately lit main room where Portage Park residents and other Chicagoans chat and enjoy their beverage of choice-usually something of the hops and barley breed. Back in the kitchen, cooks serve up a roster of wraps and paninis. We recommend the quesadillas or the Hops Burger, which comes loaded with goodies like mushrooms and avocado. Throughout the week Hops hosts an open mic night, a karaoke night, and even features a corn hole (bean bag) tournament. And, in case you have an occasion to throw a large get-together that exceeds the space of your home or condo, a separate private party room is downstairs, complete with comfy couches and a pool table.
The MCM Pub & Eatery (3906 N. Cicero, 773 736 2644) is deceiving at first. When someone enters, it looks like a mere liquor store, but as you continue further inside it opens up into a comfortable, slightly upscale, and inviting tavern. This Portage Park bar can hold over 70 patrons and carries close to 100 types of beer. The bill of fare has the typical pub grub like sandwiches and burgers to go along with macaroni and cheese and spinach and artichoke dip.
Named after one of the founding fathers of Portage Park, Sutherland's Spirits and Food (5353 W Irving Park Rd, 773-930-4790) offers a great beer selection and delicious wings and patty melts to enjoy while watching the game. This is no hipster joint or faceless hole in the wall. Sutherland's is an authentic Chicago sports bar where egos are left at the door and only good times are allowed inside.
The vintage Portage Theatre (4050 N. Milwaukee, 773-736-4050) has stood in Portage Park since 1920 and is still providing some of the most unique shows in Chicago's northwest side. This beautiful venue was designed to resemble an opera house with its megaphone-shaped auditorium. The theater's architect, Henry Newhouse, also designed the Washington Park Court District-a block-long residential street on the city's south side now designated as a Chicago landmark (just a little cross-city connection, in case you care).
Anyway, in 1980 a wall was built through the center of the space, cutting the auditorium into two separate showrooms. The Portage Theater was closed for five years for renovations but has recently reopened and now plays host to the Silent Film Society of Chicago, an organization that aims to preserve and screen the gems of the silent movie era. The Portage Park theater also shows independent films and features live performances.
The Patio Theater (6008 W Irving Park Rd, 773-685-4291) is not just a movie theater; it's a living testament to the bygone glory days when you put on your best outfits to enjoy a night watching the talking pictures. Originally opened in 1927, the Portage Park theater was shuttered in 2001 before coming back to life in 2011 and is now run by the Northwest Chicago Film Society. Complete with overhead twinkling stars, pipe organ and moving clouds, the Patio Theater brings class back to the movie going experience.
Consider us your personal around town tour guide to Portage Park-we break down the ins and outs of getting from point A to point B. From taking the CTA to cruising in your car, after this brief section you'll know just how to get where you need to go.
Public transportation is never far away in Portage Park. A network of Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) buses connect residents to the rest of the neighborhood and destinations beyond. The bus lines around here can zip passengers to the lakefront and elsewhere, providing a fairly fast and easy commute to downtown or further out into the suburbs. Hop on the #78 Montrose Avenue and head east to the lake, the #86 Narragansett Avenue takes Portage Parkers south to the CTA Green Line 'El' train station, and the #85 Central Avenue bus line goes north to the suburb of Niles. We also use the #152 Addison Street, which runs east/west, and the #56 Milwaukee Avenue, which takes a northwest/southeast route into the West Loop. If you have to catch a plane, you can jump on a southbound #54 Cicero Avenue bus that will take you straight to Midway Airport, and we're always finding a need to hitch a ride on the #80 Irving Park Road bus to get over to the closest CTA Blue Line train stop, which head directly into the Chicago Loop.
The Blue Line, which goes southeast to downtown or west to O'Hare International Airport, does not run through Portage Park neighborhood, but there are stops nearby at Montrose Avenue and Irving Park Road. Just hop on one of the eastbound buses and you'll be there in mere minutes. Then, the ride into town shouldn't take more than a half hour.
If you have wheels of your own, entrances/exits to the Kennedy Expressway (I-90) are a few blocks west of Portage Park neighborhood at Montrose Avenue and Irving Park Road. This is one of the busiest highways in Chicago, so make sure to check the traffic report before tooling downtown. As you may have deduced by now, Montrose and Irving Park are the neighborhood's main thoroughfares, which also support much of the area's motor travel, however, we try to use Irving Park whenever possible because it has six lanes and doesn't get as congested as other surface streets. When in Portage Park, parking is easy in most places. There are very few permit parking areas since the neighborhood is not densely populated and many businesses have private lots for customers.
Riding a bicycle is fairly stress-free around here as well. Milwaukee Avenue is a popular route for cruising downtown or you can even head a bit north to some of the forest preserve bike trails in nearby neighborhoods. And the Portage Park (the park itself) is another pleasant place to ride.
School's in Session
There are many high-quality Portage Park schools, both private and public, in the neighborhood where families can send their little scholars to class. In addition to the following list, find more information on Chicago area schools at our Chicago Guide Schools page.
Gray Elementary School 3730 N Laramie Ave - (773) 534-3550
Luther North College Prep 5700 W Berteau Ave - (773) 286-3600
Portage Park Elementary School 5330 W Berteau Ave - (773) 534-3576
St Bartholomew School 4941 W Patterson Ave - (773) 282-9373
St Pascal School 6143 W Irving Park Rd - (773) 736-8806
Smyser Elementary School 4310 N Melvina Ave - (773) 534-3711
Thorp Scholastic Academy 6024 W Warwick Ave - (773) 534-3640
The Portage Park neighborhood covers a lot of ground on Chicago's northwest side, so this list of places will help you find the closest spot to home to pick up groceries or put time in at the gym.
Chicago Transit Authority (888) 968 7282
Austin-Irving Public Library 6100 W Irving Park Rd - (312) 744-6222
Portage Park 4100 N Long - (773) 685-7235
Merrimac Park 6343 W Irving Park - (773) 685- 3382
Chopin Park 3420 N Long - (773) 685-3247
Walgreens 4040 N Cicero - (773) 283 5313 and 4343 N Central
- (773) 427-9456
Addison Central Pharmacy 5600 W Addison - (773) 282-7434
Family Fruit Market INC 4118 N Cicero - (773) 481-2500
Jewel - 4660 W Irving Park Rd - (773) 202-0211
Tony's Finer Foods - 4608 W Belmont - (773) 202-1760
Our Lady of Resurrection Medical Center ER 5645 W Addison St - (773) 282-7000
LA Fitness - 3970 N Milwaukee Ave - (773)481-2400
XSport Fitness - 3212 N Central Ave - (773)205-7800
Portage Theatre 4050 N Milwaukee - (773) 202-8000
Patio Theatre 6008 W Irving Park - (773) 685-4291
City Newsstand - 4018 N Cicero Ave - (773) 545-7377
Crown Card & Gift Shop 4055 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 282-6771
Fantasy Costume 4065 N Milwaukee - (773) 777 0222
Hats Plus - 4706 W Irving Park Rd - (773) 286-5577
Midwest Buy & Sell 6019 W Irving Park Rd - (773) 545-2020
Raffe's Record Riot 4350 N Cicero Ave - (773) 725-1327
Rasenick Men's Wear 3940 N Cicero Ave - (773) 736-7705
Rudy's Schwinn Cycle & Fitness 5711 W Irving Park Rd - (773) 736-4395
Selenis Boutique 4310 N. Milwaukee - (773) 205-3950
Time Treasures Antiques 6021 W Irving Park Rd - (773) 545-1672
Time Tunnel 4258 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 875-7582
Twice - 5450 W Belmont Ave - (773) 297-6396
Utopia Cigars - 6355 W Montrose Ave - (773) 725-1810
We Are Music - 5709 W Irving Park Rd - (773) 545-2539
Di's Den - 5100 W. Irving Park - (773) 736-7170
Hagen's Fish Market - 5635 W Montrose Ave - (773) 283-1944
Hops & Barley - 4359 N. Milwaukee - (773) 286-7415
K & H Lounge - 3750 N. Central - (773) 545-6965
Las Tablas - 4920 W Irving Park Rd - (773) 202-0999
Leadbelly - 5739 W. Irving Park Rd - (773) 283-7880
Lucky Grill - 4454 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 282-2325
MCM Pub & Eatery - 3906 N. Cicero - (773) 736-2644
Roma's Italian Beef & Sausage - 4237 N Cicero Ave - (773) 725-5715
Sutherland's Food & Spirits - 5353 W Irving Park Rd - (773) 930-4790
Trattoria Porretta Ristorante - 3656 N Central Ave - (773) 736-1429
Delightful Pastries 5927 W Lawrence Ave - (773) 545-7215
Dough On The Go - 5512 W Lawrence Ave - (773) 283-1000
Ideal Bakery - 4765 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 685-4622
Sicilia Bakery 5937 W Lawrence Ave - (773) 545-4464
Bacci Pizzeria 4367 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 304-3000
Cochiaro's Pizza 3553 N. Central - (773) 481-5388
Giordano's 5927 W. Irving Park - (773) 736-5553
Margaret's - 5134 W Irving Park Rd - (773) 685-4493
Pete's #2 5847 W. Montrose - (773) 282-5434
Pizza By Alex - 5044 W Montrose Ave - (773) 427-8900
Supparossa 4256 N. Central - (773) 736-5828
Burgundy Family Restaurant 5939 W. Irving Park - (773) 283-4114
Broilers Flip 6009 W Montrose Ave - (773) 736-3920
Moulin Rouge Cafe 5749 W. Irving Park - (773) 282-3333
The Portage - 3938 N Central Ave - (773) 853-0779
Montrose Deli 5411 W Montrose Ave - (773) 725-6123
Szymanski Deli & Liquors 6016 W Irving Park Rd - (773) 202-0886
La Pena 4212 N. Milwaukee - (773) 545 7022
De Mucho Gusto Taqueria - 5606 W Irving Park Rd - (773) 777-5740
La Palapita 4263 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 427-4438
Pueblo Nuevo - 4342 N Central Ave- (773) 283-8058
Taqueria Pontitlan - 3400 N Cicero Ave - (773) 685-7409
E Wok Cafe - 5056 W Irving Park Rd - (773) 205-8335
Hong Kong Restaurant 3904 N. Cicero - (773) 777-6612
Leung's Chop Suey 5713 W. Irving Park - (773) 545-4188
Ruk Sushi and Thai - 4431 N Milwaukee Ave - (773) 286-1900
As one of the many diverse Chicago neighborhoods, Portage Park offers homeowners a wide range of residential properties. Portage Park homes include lofts, condos and townhomes, to name a few. In addition to Chicago real estate, you can get detailed neighborhood information from our comprehensive online Chicago neighborhoods guide. With features like dining, shopping, entertainment, and resources, we've done all the leg work already to make your home search that much easier. Now, when a listing in Portage Park catches your eye, you can read all about the surrounding area and what it has to offer, all without setting foot in the neighborhood. Like a Yellow Pages, Metromix and MLS database all rolled into one, this site is your ultimate Chicago neighborhoods visitors' guidebook.