North Center: A Chicago Neighborhood

Sonia Figueroa
Sonia Figueroa
Published on December 6, 2018

In The Middle of It All


As its name would suggest, Chicago’s
Northcenter neighborhood is right in the middle of the city’s North Side. Let’s
get our terms straight first, though. “North Center” is the name of one of
Chicago’s 77 official “community areas.” It is a large swath of land that
encompasses numerous neighborhoods including Roscoe Village, St. Ben’s and Hamlin
Park. At the top of “North Center,” sandwiched between Roscoe Village to the south
and Lincoln Square to the north lies the neighborhood of “Northcenter.” If you’re
looking for a home, keep the distinction between the two areas in mind, as you could
be looking much farther and wider if you’re considering “North Center.”


Now that we’ve cleared up what we
mean when we say “Northcenter,” the neighborhood is bordered by Montrose Avenue
on the north, Addison Street on the south, Ravenswood Avenue on the east and
the Chicago River on its western side. The main artery bisecting Northcenter is
bustling Lincoln Avenue, running from the northwest to the southeast.
Northcenter is served by multiple stops on the CTA’s Brown Line as well as bus
routes traversing in all directions.

The area is anchored by the
six-corner Lincoln/Irving Park/Damen intersection, with a wide array of shops,
an eclectic mix of bars and restaurants, and businesses of all kinds extending
outward. While Wrigley Field is just a mile or so east of Northcenter, you don’t
need to leave the neighborhood to find baseball diamonds and wide open fields. Both
Horner Park on the neighborhood’s west side and sprawling Welles Park on Northcenter’s
northern border are always humming with activity from little league games to
yoga classes to an indoor ice rink to festivals to lazy summer afternoons on a blanket.
If you need a good book to read on that blanket, the huge Sultzer Regional Branch
of the Chicago Public Library is right across Lincoln Avenue from Welles Park.


For a long time, Northcenter wasn’t
in the center of anything. It was an isolated patch of land outside of the city
that was only accessible by the Chicago River or the tiny Little Fort Road, now
Lincoln Avenue. (and the namesake of the Tavern on Little Fort bar and
restaurant in Northcenter). Now, however, the community is vibrant, diverse,
growing, and proud. It attracts families and young professionals; those who
want to be near public transportation and those who want an eminently walkable
neighborhood where everything is steps away; those who want quiet tree-lined
streets and those who want to be in the middle of a thriving dining and
nightlife scene. Northcenter continues to be one of the city’s most attractive
neighborhoods, and its population continues to grow as savvy homebuyers realize
its advantages and charms.


Ask a resident of Northcenter what
makes their community unique and wonderful and you could wind up with any
number of answers. They may tell you about the neighborhood’s outstanding
schools. Bell Elementary and Coonley Elementary are two of the highest
performing public schools in the city of Chicago, with gifted programs, new and
renovated facilities, and dedicated educators who work closely with
highly-involved parents and neighbors.

They may mention the active sense of
community fostered by the Northcenter Neighborhood Association, sponsoring
neighborhood events, farmers’ markets, charitable fundraisers and a wide
variety of other activities that encourage a strong bond between residents and
businesses alike. The annual Ribfest staged by the Northcenter Chamber of
Commerce turns Lincoln Avenue into a blocks-long celebration full of sunshine,
crafts, family fun, music and, of course, award-winning ribs from pitmasters
around the corner and across the country. Additionally, the legendary Old Town
School of Folk Music puts on the epic Square Roots Festival every summer in and
around Welles Park, with global sounds, music workshops, food, and fun.


Northcenter residents are likely to
tell you about their favorite bars, restaurants, or shops in their bustling
neighborhood. Every kind of food in settings from casual to upscale line
Lincoln Ave. and other streets. Insanely good and creative barbeque at Big Bricks;
classy Irish fare at Mrs. Murphy’s & Sons Irish Bistro, and burgers that
will blow your mind at The Bad Apple – along with sushi, Thai, pub grub, and
more fill the bellies of Northcenter neighbors and visitors.

Also brewing in the neighborhood are
two anchors of Chicago’s booming craft beer scene. Half Acre Brewing Company
and Begyle Brewing make outstanding beer that you can purchase by the growler
or six-pack or can enjoy on site in their tap rooms, maybe after you’ve taken
one of their popular brewery tours.

You’ll also see Half Acre and Begyle
brews on tap at the eclectic mix of bars and taverns in Northcenter. Friendly
sports bars with tasty food like the Wild Goose, Gannon’s Pub, O’Donovan’s,
Brownstone, and many other watering holes quench the neighborhood’s thirst, and
you can get your cocktail on at The Tiny Lounge. Lincoln Avenue is dotted with
shops and businesses that allow residents to take care of their needs without
leaving the neighborhood.

From Trader Joe’s to Jewel and from funky
boutiques to dentists and lawyers, Northcenter lacks for nothing when it comes to


On the quiet side streets of
Northcenter, beautiful older homes with expansive porches sit side-by-side next
to luxurious new construction. Many lots in Northcenter are significantly
larger than standard city lots, offering more possibilities for those seeking greater
outdoor space or opportunities for creative building. Three-flats, newly- constructed
and converted condominium developments, and mixed-use residential/commercial properties
offer a multitude of options for multi-unit living as well.

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