Known as the “Heart of the Northside”, North Center is one of Chicago’s most underrated neighborhoods.
But, with quiet tree-lined streets, grassy parks, and creative businesses, its residents wouldn’t change a thing. Spiraling out from its dramatic six-lane intersection at Damen, Irving Park, and Lincoln, buyers and renters are falling in love with North Center’s historic homes and neighborhoods.
Located 5 miles from the Loop, residents have easy access to downtown (and beyond!) with the CTA Brown Line.
North Center Neighborhood Guide
Unlike other Chicago neighborhoods, North Center doesn’t have a go-to cultural identity. Instead, residents enjoy an eclectic cultural scene with community festivals, creative restaurants, and cozy neighborhood cafes and bars. From whimsical to historic, North Center offers residents a little slice of everything.
You can find everything from fine dining to classic Chicago dives in North Center. With some of the city’s top restaurants, the area has even become something of a dining destination.
One of these great restaurants is Kitsune, opened by Liana Regan (of Michelin-starred Elizabeth). Winner of several “best restaurant” awards, Kitsune makes to-die-for Japanese food with fresh Midwestern ingredients. Other local favorites include Bad Apple, for when you need a delicious burger and on-tap beer, and Chu-Sun Ok, one of Chicago’s best Korean restaurants.
North Center Shopping
This creative streak extends into the area’s shops and businesses. Historic and innovative, the area features one of the city’s oldest stores, Cole’s Appliance and Furniture (since. 1946), and several brand-new boutiques. Favorites include Union Handmade, an artist collective specializing in handmade clothing and accessories, and Hawthorne, a dynamite furniture store. So, whether you’re looking for necessities or to browse away an afternoon, North Center has you covered.
Nightlife and Breweries
The Northside of Chicago is known for its great local bars. North Center, as the “Heart of the Northside”, is certainly no exception. One can find community and laughs (and beer!) at Village Tap Bar and Fountainhead. The area also features several incredible local breweries including Half Acre Brewery, Dovetail Brewery, and Begyle Brewing Company.
Culture and Entertainment
From jazz music at Katerina’s to stand-up at The Lincoln Lodge, the area is full of under-the-radar cultural gems. Martyrs’ is a classic Chicago music venue, featuring all genres of music. More surprising is the area’s great performing arts scene, including great improv (Bughouse, Corn Productions, Laugh Out Loud) and the American Theater, a thought-provoking theater company. If bowling is your thing, Timber Lanes is an old-school alley and Waveland Bowl is a family classic. In the summer, the community gets together for several great festivals. One of these, RibFest has been named the best food festival in the city.
Parks and Recreation
With the Chicago River and lovely parks, lovers of the outdoors have much to enjoy in North Center. Softball and volleyball leagues are hosted at Revere Park. Just to the north, Welles Park is a Chicago favorite. In the summer, musicians gather there for impromptu concerts, but the indoor pool is popular all year round. Just across the river, Horner Park is one of the largest and most amenities-rich parks in the city. Those interested in the area’s history should check out St. Benedict’s Church, a breathtaking architectural masterpiece built-in 1918.
North Center History
Settlement and “Bricktown” (1850-1920)
In the mid-1800s, North Center was settled by Central European farmers. Soon after, the neighborhood had transformed into a major brick manufacturer. A major supplier of bricks used to rebuild the city after the Chicago Fire of 1871, the area earned the nickname “Bricktown”. In these years, its European roots translated into an almost Old World atmosphere. The bustling community offered bakeries, butcher shops, delis, modest homes, and ornate churches.
Becoming a Modern Neighborhood (1920-1945)
The neighborhood’s name changed from “Bricktown” to “Northcenter” in the early 1920s. Coined by printer Henry Hoberg, the new name was undeniably accurate given the area’s location, if a bit uninspired. (Seriously, what was wrong with “Bricktown”?).
The construction of the Ravenswood Elevated (now the CTA Brown Line) led to a population boom. The new residents quickly tired of the horrid smells of the clay pits, leading to the end of the brick industry. North Center made the most of the now-open land. In 1923, the pits became Lane Tech High School, one of the best high schools in the state.
Post-War Years (1945-Present)
With many moving to the suburbs after World War II, the population steadily declined. In these years, the neighborhood became a landing spot for immigrants. Many of Hispanic, Korean, and Filipino descent settled in North Center. These industrious new residents helped the area avoid much of the decline that hit much of Chicago in the post-war years.
Today, the area is an under-the-radar Chicago gem, with tree-lined streets, picturesque parks, and gorgeous architecture. Longtime residents and new arrivals blend to form a welcoming, thriving community.
North Center Homes
North Center offers a wide variety of housing options. Each of North Center’s pocket neighborhoods has its own characteristic housing stock. For instance, St. Ben’s is known for its brick two-flats, frame homes, and historic Victorian homes. Roscoe Village features older homes and renovated two- and three-flats, newer townhomes and loft conversions. Those looking to rent or buy in Chicago’s northside should consider this underrated gem. Come check it out!