Knees accustomed to pancake-flat Chicago terrain will be unprepared for Beverly’s glacial ridge, wedged between a string of five Metra stations and the main commercial artery of Western Avenue. It’s covered with princely manors that wouldn’t look out of place in the toniest suburb. Yet you won’t pay nearly the prices—or the property taxes—you would in a Hinsdale or a Winnetka. “There’s [also] no comparison with Hyde Park in terms of the size or quality of the home you can afford,” says Dana Levinson, assistant dean for medical education at the University of Chicago, who lives in Beverly with her husband and four kids.

You’ll find affordable cottages and split-levels on sizable lots in this historically Irish neighborhood—plus, on Western between 99th and 107th Streets, pubs, garden shops, pizza joints, and assorted strip malls. Despite the roar of traffic (residents apparently prefer driving to walking), the vibe here is sleepy. But people mobilize when it counts. After the cherished Beverly Arts Center hit financial difficulties last year, for example, locals lined up to bail it out.