Nicknamed the “Gateway to Chicago,” Jefferson Park is a quaint neighborhood, nestled on the Northwest side of the city. Home to many police officers, sheriffs, fire fighters and teachers, the diverse community of Jefferson Park feels more like a suburb than the hustle and bustle of the city. Rows and rows of tree-lined streets feature mid-century single family homes – many Georgians, Cape Cods and Bungalows – with “Chicago sized” backyards that allow for urban gardens, small swing sets and blow up pools. The area is known for great public schools (many of which are rated 1 or 1+), big outdoor parks with recreational fieldhouses, and a variety of dining options, from quick service and chains to upscale.
Gale Street Inn
This charming eatery is known throughout Chicagoland for its fall-off-the-bone BBQ ribs, a reputation it has maintained for more than 40 years. Step into the restaurant, which is reminiscent of an old-fashioned supper club, and you’re greeted by family owners who know your name if you’re a regular. Also a must-try: steaks, chops, chicken and fresh seafood selections.
Dino’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant
Dino’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant is a Jefferson Park institution. Still family-owned and operated after 50 years, patrons come in for the signature thin and crispy pizza crust, where word of mouth FOR IT spreads like wildfire. Families will love nightly dining specials, including everyone’s favorite: all-you-can-eat spaghetti every Wednesday.
Eli’s Cheesecake Company
Be prepared to wear the stretchy pants when you visit. Eli’s serves up homemade soup, freshly prepared artisan sandwiches and gourmet salads. Of course, a visit wouldn’t be complete without a slice of the rich and famous Eli’s Cheesecake in a variety of flavors. Eli’s frequently hosts free cheesecake decorating events for families on the weekends; check the calendar of events.
While this former cinema house rarely shows movies, it is used an average of 48 weeks per year. From the famous Taste of Polonia Festival in the summer, to concerts featuring local, ethnic and national performers, bingo nights, farmer’s markets, health fairs and seminars and athletic competitions throughout the year, there’s rarely an empty seat in the house.
Jefferson’s Park claim to fame? Chris’s Billiards, where scenes from “The Color of Money” with Tom Cruise and Paul Newman were filmed. Chalk your cues on a date night or night out with friends in this traditional, laid-back BYOB, old-school style pool hall.
Still owned and operated by the Habetler family, Habetler Bowl has been serving the Jefferson Park neighborhood for over 50 years. The facility features 32 lanes with optional bumpers and light, 6-pound balls for kids, a handful or arcade games and a snack lounge. Kids will especially enjoy ever-so-often glow-in-the-dark bowling nights or weekends.
American Science & Surplus
Founded more than 80 years ago, shopping is a strange adventure at American Science & Surplus. Here, kids can roam aisles upon aisles of things they never know they needed or wanted: life-size skeletons, giant marbles, beakers, telescopes, duck feet finger puppets and more.
Morgan Art Gallery
Originally created in 1970 to provide works of arts to the Polish community, the Morgan Art Gallery has grown to feature nationally and internationally recognized artists in all forms of art (contemporary, traditional, modern, abstract, etc.). In addition to selling and restoring art, the Morgan Art Gallery offers art classes for children and adults.
Fantasy Costumes on Milwaukee is known for having the largest selection of costumes in Chicago and attracts costume seekers from all over the globe. Whether you’re looking to dress up for Mardi Gras, Halloween, Cosplay or just for fun, Fantasy Costumes is filled with masquerade masks, costume jewelry, makeup and more. Fantasy Costumes also boasts the largest Wig Showroom in the Midwest, with professional wig styling services.
Ed Paschke Art Center
The Ed Paschke Art Center is a place where art comes to life. The center provides public access to his large-scale, iconic, colorful work and serves as a platform for Chicago artists to showcase their work. The best part? It is free and open to the public.
The Gift Theater Company
The Gift Theater Company is a one-of-a-kind neighborhood venue that brings comedies and plays to the Northwest side of the city. With 45 total seats, the cozy theater provides an intimate connection with each performance. The company’s most recent shows, “Wolf Play” and “Kentucky,” earned stellar reviews.
Jefferson Memorial Park
Located at the corner of Long and Higgins, right in the center of the Jefferson Park community, Jefferson Memorial Park provides year-long activities for families. In the summer, kids will love playing on the baseball fields, tennis courts, playground with a spray feature and outdoor swimming pool. Inside the fieldhouse, the Chicago Park District hosts regular arts and crafts and music lessons.
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This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.