Chicago/Far Northwest Side

Polski deals, Jackovo

The Far Northwest Side of Chicago includes the neighborhoods of Avondale and the Polish Village (Jackowo and Wacławowo), with large Polish communities; Irving Park and Old Irving, quiet areas with historic homes; and Forest Glen, Jefferson Park, Norwood Park, Edison Park, Edgebrook, Dunning, and Portage Park, residential areas which have nice parks, old theaters, and some big annual festivals.

These are the neighborhoods closest to O'Hare International Airport.


The Far Northwest Side is, for many travelers, nothing more than a blur of drab buildings seen from the expressway or the Blue Line on their way to O'Hare. And only the most fervent of true believers could make an argument that it ought to be anywhere near the top of a first-time visitor's list. None of the city's most famous landmarks are located here; nothing in the best-known history or literature about Chicago happened here. In fact, most Chicagoans would find the Far Northwest Side as unfamiliar as someone right off a plane from the coast.

What is here, though, is a group of large, residential communities and a handful of treasures they've grown accustomed to keeping for themselves, unencumbered by style or pace. Sausage shops and old-style Italian restaurants carry on as if health food and celebrity chefs never happened. If you're serious about trying a Chicago-style hot dog at the peak of the form, you'll do well here. Two classic movie palaces awaken for special events, and there are strong contenders for the city's best music venue and original theater venue — the Abbey Pub and the Prop Thtr, respectively.

Plenty of tourists and locals have tried "going Chinese" for a night in Chinatown, but an even more immersive (and less-traveled) experience is "going Polish." English slides to second on the signs, the food makes sweet love to your waist, and the beer flows cheap at your choice of fab discos straight out of Eastern Europe or laid-back dives with you and the regulars. Famously, Chicago has the largest population of Polish people of any city in the world save Warsaw. If you never make it to Poland, at least you can say you've been to Avondale.

So once you're sick of the screaming brats in Lakeview and Lincoln Park, the scuzz in Uptown, the tourist traps on the Mag Mile, the crowds in the Loop, the hipsters in Wicker Park, the confusion in Rogers Park, the pretension in Hyde Park, the cranks in Bridgeport — and you're in the mood to experience Chicago all over again, for the first time — then the Far Northwest Side may have something for you.

Get in

By train

The CTA Blue Line has stops throughout the northwest side of Chicago in Avondale (Belmont, Addison), Irving Park (Irving Park, Montrose), Jefferson Park (Jefferson Park), and Norwood Park (Harlem), before passing into the orbit of O'Hare Airport (Cumberland, Rosemont, O'Hare). You may need to connect with a bus, though, as these stops are quite far west, and there is a lot of ground between them and the Brown Line to the east.

The end of the CTA Brown Line is within reach of Irving Park (Kedzie, Kimball).

The Metra Union Pacific Northwest Line has stops in Irving Park, Jefferson Park, Norwood Park, and Edison Park, while the Metra Milwaukee District North line stops at Mayfair, Forest Glen and Edgebrook. The former ends at Ogilvie/Northwestern Station and the latter at Union Station, both in the West Loop.

By bus

This is a fairly large area, covered by a ton of bus routes. Most connect to the CTA Blue Line or the Metra, and a few spread out into the suburbs.

Pace buses cover the regions that cross over into the suburbs:

By car

I-90/94 (aka "The Kennedy") runs through the center of Chicago and then to the western parts of the city, where it joins I-190. I-90/190 go to O'Hare Airport, while I-94 splits off to reach the northern and northwest suburbs. The most useful exits are off the Kennedy at Lawrence Avenue and Ill-19/Irving Park Road.



The historic Portage Theater


Polish Village

The battle for fashion, Polish Village


The elusive Mr. Steer, Portage Park

The Portage Park intersection of Cicero, Milwaukee, and Irving Park is known as Six Corners. In the 1950s, that was the commercial epicenter of the Northwest Side, and one of the busiest in the entire city. These days, it's a mix of a few chains and some intriguing, boarded-up old businesses.


Chicago's love affair with Polish sausages runs deep

As Hyde Park is to academics, as the Near North is to department stores, so Avondale is to Polish sausages. Cavernous delis line the streets here, particularly up Milwaukee and Belmont. They're a sight to see even if you're not after some czarnina (blood duck soup). A ride on the 56 Milwaukee bus makes for a pretty good off-the-beaten-path culinary tour.


Alas: the internationally renowned Hot Doug's closed in 2014, with the retirement of owner Doug Sohn. If this has caught you by surprise at lunch time, try Kuma's Corner or Honey Butter Fried Chicken, both a short walk away.


Red Apple and full stomach, Polish Village



If you're looking for swinging Polish nightlife, look no further.


The vast majority of hotels in the area are clustered around O'Hare International Airport, not the neighborhoods. Some of the Lincoln Avenue motels are within easy reach, and the Chicagoland suburb of Niles, further down Milwaukee Avenue, has a few places to stay as well.


Being heavily residential areas, the neighborhoods of the Far Northwest Side are dotted with small branch libraries that offer free public internet access.

Go next

Routes through Far Northwest Side

O'Hare International Airport Rosemont  NW  SE  Logan-Bucktown The Loop

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, January 21, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.