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A Field Guide to

Jefferson Park

Yeah, you can find pierogi aplenty in this North Side neighborhood. But its cultural mark goes way beyond its Polish heritage.

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Above:Taste of Polonia Photo: Sebastian Czajka

Walk up Milwaukee Avenue to see the fascinating mélange that is Jefferson Park: A Polish-language bookstore resides near a hip art center, $5-haircut joints, and two large parks. Two mixed-use developments planned near the Jefferson Park Transit Center promise to bring an infusion of new residents—and, some say, overcrowding. But other things will never change: Several bona fide Irish bars and Polish restos keep things legit, and the always popular Taste of Polonia will draw thousands this month for music, funnel cake, and, of course, pierogi.

Jefferson Park map
Ed Paschke Art Center
Ed Paschke Art Center Photo: Barbara Kinney/Chicago Tribune

1. Chris’s Billiards

How authentic is this billiards spot? It was featured in the 1986 Tom Cruise version of The Color of Money. chrissbilliards.com

2. Copernicus Center

Once a grand moviepalace, this complex boasts the lovely Mitchell P. Kobelinski Theater, which brings in big names such as Elvis Costello to play beneath an old-school starry ceiling. copernicuscenter.org

3. Ed Paschke Art Center

A Chicago modernist icon gets his due: This minimalist 4,500-square-foot space features the world’s largest public exhibit of Paschke’s work. edpaschkeartcenter.org

4. The Gift Theatre

A recent, revolutionary production of Richard III featured the paralyzed actor Michael Patrick Thornton walking in a robotic exoskeleton. thegifttheatre.org

5. Jefferson Memorial Park

This seven-acre park has an awesome splash lot to go with its tennis courts and baseball diamonds. chicagoparkdistrict.com

6. Frank J. Wilson Park

Get a good workout at the sand volleyball, basketball, and tennis courts. Or just let the kiddies frolic on the sweet play set. chicagoparkdistrict.com

Chicago-made candles at Rep Chi
Chicago-made candles at Rep Chi Photo: Courtesy of vendor

7. American Science & Surplus

This roided-up Radio Shack–meets–Pee-wee’s Playhouse is nerd Valhalla. Buy all the parts to make your own transistor radio, purchase pens by the pound, and tote it all home in a canvas gas mask bag. sciplus.com

8. Cosmic Bikes

This shop can get you rolling on just about any type of cycle: vintage, fat tire, recumbent, or portable. cosmicbikes.com

9. Rep Chi

If you’re looking for some Chicago duds to replace that threadbare Jordan jersey, this is your place. Locally made T-shirts, hoodies, coasters, and jewelry, minus the touristy cheese. repchi.com

Eat & Drink
Gale Street Inn
Gale Street Inn Photo: David Ditzler

10. Beefbelly

Italian beef, craft beer, and a fiberglass cow. These are a few of our favorite things. (Plus: a build-your-own-sundae bar!) beefbellyrestaurant.com

11. Fannie’s

If the hippie vibe of this new café, bakery, and boutique filled with locally made goods doesn’t win you over, the pillowy, from-scratch blueberry scones will. fanniescafe.com

12. The Gale Street Inn

Ribs! Also prime burgers, killer jambalaya, and even a magician on Sunday nights. But mostly: ribs! galestreet.com

13. Galvin’s Public House

It doesn’t get more Irish than this family-run pub. Even the stones in the fireplace are from the Emerald Isle. galvinspublichouse.com

14. Smak-Tak

Find the best pierogi you’ll ever eat at this homey Polish spot. smaktak.com


Wednesdays:Natural Gas, the Gift Theatre’s house improv troupe, performs.

August 31 to September 11:Live acts of all stripes (comedy, music, drama, etc.) from across the globe descend on the Chicago Fringe Festival.

September 2 to 5:Taste of Polonia brings bands, carnival rides, a climbing wall, and, naturally, lots of Polish food.

September 13:Stary Olsa re-creates the lost music of old Lithuania using instruments including the gusli and the Belarusian bagpipes at the Copernicus Center.

September 24:Nineties nostalgia hits its Night at the Roxbury peak when Haddaway (“What Is Love”) joins LondonBeat and La Bouche at the Copernicus Center.

Did You Know?

It’s always been a transportation hub: In the 1800s, Native American trails converged there; now it’s where 13 bus routes terminate (and it has L and Metra stops, too!).

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Tour Jefferson Park with Joel Reese

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If You Want to Live Here

Population Median houshold income Median sale price (house)
(67% white, 20% Hispanic, 10% Asian)
$58,200 $282,000

Listing of the month

5230 N. Lieb Ave.

5230 N. Lieb Ave.
Photo: Courtesy of VHT

Asking price:$440,000

Specs:1,800 square feet, four bedrooms, three baths

Chicago bungalows don’t get more archetypal than this recently rehabbed classic, with hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, new plumbing, and zoned furnace and air conditioning.

NOTE: Real estate data are for May. SOURCES: Trulia, Zillow
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