A quiet, chic urban area with zero pretentiousness, Printers Row has seen new lofts, condos, bars, restaurants and shops pop up over the years, yet nothing seems to take away from the literary vibe that was and will always beat the heart of this historic Chicago neighborhood. As you might imagine, book dealers are abundant in this section of town. Rare works, university texts, literary classics and everything in between can be found at these long-established storefronts that epitomize the underlying foothold of Printers Row. Each year, shop owners and residents take it up a notch when the annual book fair closes off the neighborhood streets to welcome booksellers, small presses and literary organizations from across the country.
Printers Row Facts
Location: directly south of the Loop
Boundaries: Congress Parkway to the north, State Street to the east, Polk Street to the south and Clark Street to the west
Bordering Neighborhoods: The Loop, Dearborn Park
Then and Now
Chicago's Printers Row neighborhood has a long and storied history. As the old Dearborn Station is the most eye-catching of all the Chicago real estate in Printers Row, we'll start there. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Dearborn Station was the main departure spot for trains headed west, and it was not uncommon to see celebrities milling about the station as they waited for one of the daily departures to Los Angeles. But for many of the neighborhood's first inhabitants, Dearborn Station was much more than just a vantage point for star spotting. It's where many stories began for countless Chicago families, as the depot was also a primary arrival hub for scores of immigrants. The station was converted into a mixed-use commercial and retail space in the 1980s, but the outside looks exactly the same, bringing a dose of the past to present-day Printers Row neighborhood.
It's a little-known fact that Printers Row actually experienced a dismal period. Immediately following the Chicago Fire in 1871, this neighborhood became Chicago's own 'Red Light District,' branded by locals as the Custom House levee; it was home to crime and vice. The city cracked down, though, and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, developers jumped on the chance to turn the tiny enclave into something habitable and desirable.
The printers moved in soon thereafter. In the late 1800s, Chicago's rapid development and location-smack-dab in the middle of the country-were helping the city earn a reputation as one of the most affordable and practical places to print. A few major names began to pop up during this period, including John Calhoun, who started the Chicago Democrat, and Rand McNally, who began their cartography dominance by printing railroad tickets and timetables, which morphed into directories, railroad guides and even a newspaper publication.
As Calhoun and Rand McNally gave Chicago a huge shot of credibility, printers and presses began to set up shop in Printers Row. Three of the largest printers existed right next door to each other on the intersection of Clark and Polk streets. M. A. Donohue & Co, R.R. Donnelly & Sons, and the Franklin Printing Company handled the majority of Chicago's printing needs, churning out magazines, trade publications, textbooks, newspapers and every other printing need under the Chicago sun.
As the printing world advanced, the rest of the Printers Row neighborhood remained a step behind. Embedded in the larger South Loop area, the development outside of the printing stretch mirrored that of the surrounding area, and it took a few years before other businesses began to pop up in the area, leaving the surrounding blocks looking a few years older than the main drag of Printers Row. But the neighborhood did its best to keep up, and while the central stretch of Printers Row is at high levels of development, the surrounding blocks are still seeing new buildings go up and renovations taking place every day, bringing new amenities and housing options to the Printers Row neighborhood.
In the 1950s and 1960s, printers found they needed single-floor offices to accommodate the new, larger presses and so the flight began. Many Chicago printers moved with their massive presses in tow to suburban digs, or went south to Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. For several years the stretch of Printers Row matched the rest of the South Loop, with unoccupied buildings, a lack of community, and many nomadic occupants roaming the streets.
But in the 1980s,
developers began to notice the classic charm of the Printers Row neighborhood
and proceeded to convert the old publishers and presses into lofts,
condominiums and businesses. Thankfully, the developers recognized the
historical beauty of the old buildings. While completely renovating the
interiors, the exteriors have remained intact, making a stroll down Printers
Row a stroll through Chicago's architectural history.
Printers Row Real Estate
We have three words for you: urban, urban, and urban. That's the style of housing that is available throughout historic Printers Row real estate. You won't find any single-family homes, back yards, or kids riding up and down the street on big wheels. Instead, you'll discover a delightful neighborhood of high-rises, condos, rehabbed lofts, and any other housing styles that are conducive to a vertical building. In fact, many of the refurbished residences here occupy old printing plants and publishing houses that have been converted into multi-unit housing.
Though it's in the
middle of the city, Printers Row homes hang on to a little bit of a quaint
neighborhood feel, thanks to clean streets, large trees and the occasional
patch of flowers. It's quite self-contained, too, with a dry cleaner, flower
shop, coffee houses, restaurants, a wine shop, a spa and a convenience store.
There's even a small square smack-dab in the middle of the neighborhood with a
few benches and a fountain. You may see the occasional kid running around
Printers Row, but the neighbors are primarily young working adults and married
couples of all ages, who can't resist the allure of city living.
Check out our Printers Row home sales statistics to get an idea of the real estate market trends in this neighborhood.
What's on the Menu?
Printers Row restaurants are enjoyed by its residents as well as Chicagoans from the surrounding South Loop and Loop neighborhoods. The mix of upscale dining and good food on the go found along the few blocks make up this tiny near west side Chicago neighborhood.
One of the longtime mainstays in the neighborhood is Hackney's Printers' Row (733 s Dearborn St, 312-461-1116). Serving a wide range of comfort food from their world famous French fried onion loaf (named one of the top three onion rings in the US) to the delicious half pound Hackneyburger grilled and served on their home-baked dark rye, the menu at this beloved Printers Row restaurant will leave you full and satisfied time and time again. With a full line of beers on tap and an easy going atmosphere, it's no wonder this establishment has been a solid fixture in the neighborhood for decades.
Regardless of how small a neighborhood might be, there is never a good excuse not to have a quality pizzeria in the area. Luckily, Printers Row avoids this catastrophe thanks to Gino's East South Loop (521 S Dearborn St, 312-939-1818). Serving up gourmet deep dish pizzas, fresh salads and a wide assortment of beer (including many local brews), this pizzeria continues its tradition of being one of Chicago's go to spots for pies.
If you're in the mood for good, simple Mexican cuisine that is devoid of flash but heavy on flavor, Flaco's Tacos (725 S Dearborn St, 312-922-8226) has you covered. Whether your taste buds demand fish tacos, burritos or quesadillas, you won't be disappointed by the great selection of Mexican dishes served up at this favorite Printers Row restaurant. Don't forget to order their Red Velvet Cake. You'll thank us later.
Sushi and classic Japanese cuisine are well represented in Printers Row. Whether you crave tempura, maki, Japanese steak or sushi rolls, Umai (730 S Clark St, 312-986-8888) fuses classic Japanese with international flavors resulting in a tasty rollercoaster of culinary delights. You don't have to be a sushi snob to enjoy this Printers Row favorite. Their expanded menu caters to taste buds of all types.
But if you just can't lay off the Starbucks (555 S Dearborn St, 312-922-8910), never fear. The Printers Row location is small, but perfect for a quick coffee pick-up.
For Italian cuisine enthusiasts, Printers Row offers Tutto Italiano (501 W Wells St, 312-939-4824) is a cozy spot that specializes in soul-warming soups, fresh salads, unique sandwiches and, of course, lots of pasta dishes. Start with the Caprese Salad (fresh basil, aged balsamic and extra virgin olive oil), move on to the Rigatoni Paesano (Italian sausage, broccoli and mushrooms drenched in their signature tomato-basil sauce with mozzarella cheese), and enjoy their wide variety of beer and wine selections.
When Printers Row neighbors have a craving for Thai food, there's only one place to go-Amarit Thai Restaurant (600 S Dearborn St, 312-939-1179). At Amarit they stick to classics like Pad Thai, Crab Rangoon and green curry, all well-seasoned, fresh and tasty. Dine in and you'll enjoy your meal with other patrons in a clean and simple space with a bit of Eastern art scattered about and the aroma of curry filling the room. Of course, both take-out and delivery options are available, in case you're in a hurry, and we can even place orders online for ultimate convenience.
Though it began as a tiny little sandwich shop in Lincoln Park, there's now a Potbelly's (542 S Dearborn St, 312-212-1605) on nearly every corner in this city these days. And those who live in the Printers Row neighborhood are sure glad they're included on that list. Potbelly's epitomizes food that is fast without being fast food. They custom-make the sandwiches right in front of you, send them through an oven to melt the cheese and crisp the bread, season to your liking and voila! You have yourself a deluxe, delicious sub-sandwich, neatly packaged for on-the-go.
Even though the
hearty subs are filling enough on their own, we have a hard time passing on the
blended shakes, made-to-order from a delicious selection of hard scoop ice
cream flavors. Thick and creamy, and served with a little butter cookie around
the straw, Potbelly's shakes give this popular deli a delectable feature not
available in other Chicago sandwich shops.
Best Shopping Stops
The few cute little shops that line the blocks of Printers Row stay true to the neighborhood's charm. They are quaint, refined and quite intellectual. With a focus that is more on hobbies than high-fashion trends or basic necessities, Printers Row shopping allows residents to stock up on things to keep busy once a bit of leisure time comes their way.
Of course, this being Printers Row, naturally you're going to have a few bookstores. Books in the City (545 S State St, 312-291-1111) cater to the DePaul, Roosevelt and Columbia College students who live above the storefront in the massive University Center. Sure, at least half of their selection is textbooks, but just because you're not in school doesn't mean you can't score a book or two here.
They've got a great collection of fiction and nonfiction bestsellers, too. Books in the City also has a large stock of greeting cards, stationery and other gift-y items (many of them Chicago-themed) that attract the occasional window-shopper or passing tourist. Insider secret: There's one of those fun black-and-white photo booths tucked in the back in case you need some quick decor for that bare refrigerator.
If antique books are more your speed, then your favorite neighborhood store will surely be Printer's Row Fine & Rare Books (715 S Dearborn St, 312-583-1800). The ambiance mimics that of a Victorian bookshop, as books line the 19th century stained-glass shelves and the room is warmed by an old fireplace. This store stocks nearly 10,000 first editions and other antiquarian material (a 1780 version of Don Quixote, for example). We may not all be able to afford these priceless books, but even a stroll through the store is a bibliophile's dream.
Right across the street is the classic Sandmeyer's Bookstore (714 S Dearborn St, 312-922-2104). This family-owned and operated store has been a Printers Row staple since 1982, selling a range of books from poetry and fiction to design and business to children's titles. Perhaps one of the reasons Sandmeyer's has been around for so long is because they know how to treat their customers right. For only $10 a year, you can get a frequent buyers card, which gets you 10 percent off on every purchase. Now that's neighborly.
Whether you're hosting a dinner party for eight or just want a fine glass of wine while you read, veteran wine connoisseurs in the neighborhood know just where to pick up that perfect bottle. The shelves at the Printer's Row Wine Shop (719 S Dearborn St, 312-663-9314) are lined with handpicked vintages from around the world-many of them hard-to-find labels. Whether you're partial to Spanish Tempranillo, French Bordeaux, or Australian Shiraz, the friendly and knowledgeable staff can help you find it. They even have a 'try before you buy' policy to ensure we're leaving with just the right selection. And in case we want to mix it up, the Printer's Row Wine Shop also stocks beer, liquor and tobaccos.
In the market for a high quality custom made suit? Between the billions of bookstores in Printers Row stands Montopoli Custom Clothiers (714 S Dearborn St, 312-987-0987). This men's clothing showroom will help you look dapper and suave when enjoying the city life. Just be sure to make an appointment ahead of time as making you look GQ requires personalized service, which Montopoli provides each of their customers.
Night on the Town
Printers Row nightlife doesn't exactly involve a plethora of bars and clubs to choose from, but what they do have is a couple of cozy pubs, which are perfect to duck into for a drink and a chat with the neighbors.
Bar Louie (47 W Polk St, 312-347-0000) may be a Chicago chain, but the Printers Row bar gets kudos for its decidedly sports bar feel. Baseball, football and basketball blare from the televisions, and the main room is decorated with old-school sports memorabilia. Even with the focus on sports, this is a classy hangout with mahogany bar and tables, and black-and-white photos (of athletes, of course) decorating the walls. It's a good spot for game-watching or just having a laid-back drink with a pal.
Not the biggest sports fan? Not to worry, Printers Row nightlife offers other options for an evening out. Kasey's Tavern (710 S Dearborn St, 312-427-7992) is slightly more rambunctious than Bar Louie-the space is older, the music is louder, the crowd is less concerned with sports and more focused on drinking-but this neighborhood watering hole still manages to keep it fairly low-key. Pitchers of beer are the preferred method of consumption here but the long bar that runs the length of the room is well stocked with an assortment of spirits to fix your drink of choice.
Kasey's sponsors a
softball team or two, as well, so expect a post-game crowd in the summer. Just
because sports aren't the main attraction at Kasey's doesn't mean they ignore
the hometown teams. All the Chicago games are always on the HD TVs above the
bar, making Kasey's a Printers Row favorite for watching the local team if you
weren't lucky enough to score tickets, of course.
Mark Your Calendar
When it comes to festivals, Printers Row seems to live by the old adage, 'quality over quantity.' Though the neighborhood plays host to just two events, they are two of the best in the city.
Billed as 'the largest free literary event in the country,' the Printers Row Book Fair hits the two-block stretch of Dearborn Street (and a little bit of Polk, too) on the second weekend of June every year. Booksellers, small presses and other literary organizations line the blocks of Printers Row, handing out goodies and celebrating the general appeal of books. There are readings, giveaways, author signings, a kids' area and, of course, festival-y food like ice cream and hot dogs. Whether you're stopping by to score $2 books (really) or to hear your favorite author give a reading, this festival is one you won't want to miss.
There isn't a chain
grocer in the immediate vicinity of Printers Row, and during the summer, we
doubt that the neighbors care. That's because the Printers Row Farmer's
Market sets up shop every Saturday in the parking lot on the corner of
Dearborn and Polk streets, offering residents cheap and immediate access to
fresh produce, organic fruits and veggies, fresh-cut flowers and homemade pies
(our personal favorite). The market runs June through October. After that it's
back to the grocery store aisles for our daily food staples.
Printers Row is a rather small area and while that means it has a nice neighborhood feel, it also means that parking is very limited. Meter parking is available, and garage parking also exists (for about $30 a day), but many of the high-rises in the area thought ahead, and tenants often have the option to rent or buy a permanent parking space. If you choose to hang onto your car, that's probably going to be your best bet. But if you've decided to go car-less, you couldn't pick a better neighborhood. Your own two feet will be the best mode of transportation in Printers Row because the neighborhood is located between the bustle of downtown and the calmer South Loop, two areas with just about everything you need.
Public transportation in Printers Row is provided by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) are the lifeline
to other destinations within the city. Nearly every line on the 'El' train
system (named for its segments of elevated track) is a mere step away: The Red
Line Harrison stop is just east of the neighborhood, the Blue Line LaSalle stop
is just west, and to the immediate north the Brown, Pink, Orange, Green and
Purple lines converge at the Library/Van Buren stop. As for buses, the #22
Clark Street bus originates in the neighborhood right on Dearborn Street at
Polk. It transports passengers straight up to the northernmost edge of Chicago,
stopping in the heart of the Loop along the way.
School's in Session
Printers Row schools are rare since the neighborhood isn't exactly the most family-oriented area in the city. And with its small, quaint feel and lack of school-age residents, it's not surprising there's only one school in the area. In addition to the following, you can find more information on other Chicago area schools at our Chicago Guide Schools page.
College Prep High School 700 S State St - (773) 534-8600
One of the beauties of living in Printers Row is
that it's a particularly self-sufficient and self-contained area. Almost
everything you could possibly need is located within the confines of the
neighborhood, so revel in the ability to walk to all of your errands.
Chicago Transit Authority (888) 968-7282
Books in the City 545 S State St - (312) 291-1111
Montopoli Custom Clothiers 714 S Dearborn St - (312) 987-0987
Printer's Row Fine & Rare Books 715 S Dearborn St - (312) 583-1800
Printer's Row Wine Shop 719 S Dearborn St - (312) 663-9314
Sandymeyer's Bookstore 714 S Dearborn St - (312) 922-2104
Blackie's 755 S Clark St - (312)786-1161
Hackney's 733 S. Dearborn St. - (312) 461-1116
Potbelly Sandwich Works 542 S Dearborn St - (312) 212-1605
Sanding Room Only Chicago 610 S Dearborn St - (312) 360-1776
Starbucks 555 S Dearborn St - (312) 922-8910
Tutto Italiano 501 W Wells St - (312) 939-4824
Gino's East South Loop 521 S Dearborn St - (312) 939-1818
Amarit Thai Restaurant 600 S Dearborn St - (312) 939-1179
Bar Louie Tavern & Grill 47 W Polk St - (312) 347-0000
Kasey's Tavern 710 S Dearborn St - (312) 427-7992
There's a lot of mystery involved in searching for a new homeit starts with the property and expands outward to encompass the street, the block, the neighborhood, the entire city! Every little thing matters from the color of the walls to the attractions of the town. That's why a guide like this one on Printers Row is so helpful to potential homebuyers. Without leaving the comfort of your desktop computer or laptop, you've got an extensive pool of information on all of Chicago's neighborhoods that includes first-hand descriptions of dining, entertainment, shopping, bars, and events, in addition to lists of schools, hospitals, post offices, and gyms. We've done all the research to carefully craft this one-stop online spot, and create your hub for the real deal on Printers Row. So as soon as a Chicago loft, condo, townhome or house catches your eye, you know where to come for the low down on the digs around that prime piece of real estate.