Originally settled by German and Swedish farmers in the mid-19th century, North Park is a small, quiet community on the city's far northwest side. This Chicago neighborhood is home to two universities, Northeastern and North Park (from which the area takes its name), and is also the site of WTTW public television and radio studio. North Park is a great residential neighborhood, bound on its eastern side by the North Shore Channel and the North Branch of the Chicago River. Single-family houses and bungalows dominate the inventory of residential real estate here, but due to the population of college students in the area, low-rise apartments can also be found in much of the neighborhood. A patchwork of cultural backgrounds is represented in North Park, including Orthodox Jews, families from Middle Eastern countries and Latin-American ethnicities.
North Park is a collegiate enclave with two universities anchoring the neighborhood. Founded in 1867, Northeastern Illinois University sits on a 67-acre campus on the community's northwest side. The school offers degrees in over 70 fields of study to a student body of 10,000+ commuter students. Just blocks away, the Swedish Evangelical Mission Covenant of America (known today as Evangelical Covenant Church) was founded in 1891. It is a liberal arts college that also specializes in teaching the Christian faith. Roughly 3,100 students attend classes at this small parochial university.
North Park's natural beauty is enhanced by a large scenic park that runs along its eastern border. Legion Park, named in honor of World War I veterans in 1930, is a long stretch of leafy green vegetation and grass-covered open spaces that covers almost 50 acres of land on the banks of the North Shore Channel. Legion Park's miles of paved pathways are great for jogging or biking, and there are also tennis courts available as well as a baseball diamond.
The CTA makes it pretty easy to get around North Park and beyond. Here's a quick rundown of the neighborhood's public transportation options: The California/Dodge bus route loops around North Park University before heading back north towards the suburb of Evanston. The Kimball bus runs north and south through North Park and it can be used to access the CTA's Brown Line Kimball stop just south of the neighborhood. The Foster bus runs east/west through North Park along the community's southern border.
Now that you know the layout of North Park and are familiar with the major institutions and travel arteries, let's touch on some of the neighborhood's finer points - like food!
Once home to a much larger Korean population, there are still many fine Korean restaurants dotting the streets of North Park. The tofu soup at Sogongdong Tofu House is a favorite among North Park residents, although some prefer the mandoo rice cake stew in the cozy atmosphere of Mi Na Ri Oriental Restaurant. No matter where you go for dinner, head to New Outdoor Cafe for dessert (their selection of Korean sweets is too good to miss!) The funny thing about this cafe is that it's an outdoor cafe that happens to be indoors. Complete with patio furniture and a cobblestone walkway, this is one way to dine "al fresco" during the long Chicago winter. For delicious Ecuadorian fare, try the pork, beef or seafood dishes at Delicias Crucita. You can't go wrong with their great cheap eats and colorful Latin decor.
There's not much of a bar scene in North Park but neighborhood regulars like to unwind at the Hollywood Lounge. College kids have been known to frequent the place, joining North Park locals to drink a few pitchers and shoot a game of pool. North Park Hookah Lounge is a great alternative to traditional Chicago nightlife. People come here to relax and drink coffee and, of course, to sample the assortment of flavored tobaccos on hand. You can also get the hookah experience at Carthage Café (the only place in the city where you can get authentic Tunisian cuisine).
For fast food options and on-the-go meals, university students go for Charcoal Delights. This place delights in all that is fried and dipped in cholesterol (just the way students like it) and with affordable prices, what's not to like? Of course there's always McDonalds, but for grab and go sandwiches with a little more local flavor, North Park diners prefer Angie's Famous Subs. Let Angie make you a delicious footlong and a milkshake to fill the belly without breaking the bank.
The culinary tour of North Park's dining district continues with eclectic restaurants that offer all sorts of tasty entrées. Check out Loree's Restaurant where you're sure to find your typical American standbys, like club sandwiches and meatloaf, but you can also order yummy Southeast Asian cuisine, such as pad Thai and other specialties made by Loree's Thai owners. For buffet-style Chinese that's under ten dollars, Hunan Wok is your best bet. North Park University students often come here for brain food, so don't be surprised if you see a few with the books open while they're munching on all-you-can-eat egg rolls. Get a taste of Old Bavaria at Schlegl's Bakery and Cafe. This cafe uses old family recipes brought over from the Old World and handed down. Coffee and pastries is a great combination for starting out the school or workday. Tre Kronor has been in North Park for over 20 years and is a favorite among WTTW television studio employees, who frequent this premier Swedish restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
After satisfying a taste for Swedish cuisine, North Park residents can pop into Sweden Shop to buy a pair of clogs, Swedish-themed kitchen accessories, cookbooks or anything else with a decidedly Scandinavian twist to it. Situated close to the North Park University, Covenant Bookstore is on hand to provide students of Christian theology a variety of literary and music titles with contemporary Christian themes.
Find out more about what North Park has to offer by exploring this lovely northwest side Chicago neighborhood for yourself!