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A Field Guide to

Irving Park

A patchwork of city microneighborhoods and home of the best barbecue in the state

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Above:Old Irving Brewing Co. Photo: Peter Ranvestel

Pop quiz: Does West Walker ring a bell? How about the Villa? Probably not, but they—and several other smaller hoods—are micronabes within the sprawling North Side community area of Irving Park. The three-plus-square-mile area started as a getaway for the moneyed crowd, who built mansions there in the mid-1800s, but the population swelled when downtown residents flooded the place after the fire of 1871. Though Irving Park doesn’t have a centralized business district, the scattered bars, restaurants, and unusual shops make for an enchanting afternoon ramble.

Irving Park map
Illustration: Michael A. Hill
Carl Schurz High School
Carl Schurz High School Photo: Eric Allix Rogers

1. Horner Park

Bring your toboggan to this riverside park: It boasts a playground, a Divvy stand, and a hill that’s perfect for sledding.

2. Independence Park Bungalow

The Chicago Park District’s former “women’s building” (what the ... ?), which now houses community events, recently underwent a $1 million eco-friendly rehab (for example, old roof tiles crushed for soil drainage).

3. Murals

Local artist Tony Passero brightened several viaducts and the area next to the Independence Park tennis courts with his fantastical murals. (Our fave: Jumbo Jet at the Pulaski overpass.)

4. Villa District

This spot on the National Register of Historic Places includes 126 bungalows in the Arts and Crafts and Prairie school styles. Bonus: Mike Royko called it “Polish Kenilworth.”

5. Carl Schurz High School

This 1910 Prairie-influenced building is on the American Institute of Architects’ list of 150 great places in Illinois.

6. Peoples Gas Neighborhood Store

Designed by Louis Sullivan’s chief draftsman, George Grant Elmslie, the structure features flourishes—such as limestone decorations along the top of the building—that typify Sullivan’s work.

Bob’s Blues & Jazz Mart
Bob’s Blues & Jazz Mart Photo: Alyssa Pointer/Chicago Tribune

7. Bob’s Blues & Jazz Mart

Music aficionados were heartbroken when Bob Koester closed his River North spot … but then he reopened it in Irving Park. Be sure to ask Koester for his story about Iggy Pop.

8. City Newsstand

Looking for the latest issue of Classic Scooterist? You’ll find it at this old-school newsstand, with papers and magazines from all over the world.

9. Lincoln Antique Mall

The 30-plus dealers create nirvana for collectible hunters, whether they’re looking for a Grand Funk Railroad eight-track or a $1,500 midcentury modern dining room set. Keep an eye out for frequent visitor Nate Berkus.

10. The Music Store

This dusty shop is the place to go if you’re looking for a broad inventory of used instruments sold by a knowledgeable, unpretentious staff.

11. The Pursuit Supply Company

When the revolution starts, you’ll be glad you learned how to make your own cheese, wine, and beer at this eccentric store.

Eat & Drink

12. Community Tavern

Chow down on Gold Coast–caliber steaks at Irving Park prices. Start with the 37 Chambers, a cocktail of Thai basil–infused gin and pear liqueur.

13. Old Irving Brewing Co.

Beer fans swarm to this 8,500-square-foot brewpub for the hoppy Scentinel IPA, but we’re just as psyched about noshing the salty, crunchy pork rinds.

A lamp from Lincoln Antique Mall
Lincoln Antique Mall Photo: Heather Briggs

14. Shokran

Moroccan cuisine is known for combining savory and sweet, such as lamb in a delicious stew of prunes, cinnamon, almonds, and honey. Shokran is BYOB, but hit the ATM first: It’s also cash only.

15. Smoque BBQ

You’ll know why Yahoo Travel named this the best barbecue in Illinois when you try the brisket, which is smoked for 14 hours. Pro tip: Phone in your order ahead of time, then try not to laugh at the suckers standing 15-deep in line.

16. Susie’s

You don’t come here for the service or ambiance—you come here for the 63 flavors of shakes. (Try the honey almond.)Then again, the skin-on fries are pretty solid, too. Just remember: You’ll be eating in your car.


Through April:Unfortunate title aside, Bootycandy at Windy City Playhouse poignantly details the life of a young black man growing up gay.

Sundays:Win a growler of beer (and bragging rights) at Old Irving Brewing Co.’s bags tournament, which happens weekly at 6 p.m.

February 17:Dónal Clancy and Rory Makem bring their traditional Emerald Isle music to the Irish American Heritage Center.

February 28:Lizard’s Liquid Lounge celebrates Mardi Gras the right way: complimentary jambalaya, king cake, $5 hurricanes, and a brass band.

Did You Know?

Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn is the only two-time winner of the egg toss held at Independence Park’s annual Fourth of July celebration.

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Tour Irving Park with Joel Reese

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If You Want to Live Here

Population Median houshold income Median sale price (house)
(47% Hispanic, 40% white, 8% Asian, 3% black)
$55,200 $371,000

Listing of the month

3903 N. Lawndale Ave.

3903 N. Lawndale Ave.
Photo: Courtesy of VHT

Asking price:$889,000

Specs:4,000 square feet, four bedrooms, four baths

So you’re paying a premium over most houses in the neighborhood. But that buys you a huge double corner lot, a finished basement, and original woodwork. Worth it.

NOTE: Real estate data are from October. SOURCES: Trulia, U.S. Census Bureau, Zillow
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