Chicago Relocation

Lincoln Square and Ravensood – My Old Hometown

September 29, 2014

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John D’Ambrogio

I love Ravenswood.  I just love it.  6 miles north of downtown and you’re in a real city neighborhood, a community….a place where you know your neighbors, you know the dogs (I think my old dog Boru sniffed each and every one), you’ve met the alderman and your precinct captain, you know the kids.  I lived in a condo in Ravenswood and a big SFH in Lincoln Square, and loved it.  Basically the set of ‘hoods north of Lakeview (I know, you’ve got North Center, Graceland, etc., but I’ll speak in generalities), this community runs roughly west of Clark to Western (OK, push it California, then push “Ravenswood Manor” – former home of our now incarcerated Governor Blago – even further west).  And run it at some point north of Berteau up a bit past Foster, before you get into the Bowmanville/Andersonville worlds.

More single family homes than condos, you’ve got a lot of sturdy brick buildings, and blocks that tend to have flats off the alley and on the major roads, while the middle is filled in with brick bungalows (and some frame houses as well).  The Chicago Bungalow, like the Chicago Hot Dog and the Chicago Pizza, is a beautiful creature, and somewhat unique in creation. Chicago has a bungalow belt that rings the entire city.  One of the most versatile housing styles around.  Sturdy brick, big basement, 1 ½ stories (meaning about ½ the people eventually put on dormers, lifted ceilings, or put on entire second floors), a decent sized lot….Man I miss my bungalow on Winona off Oakley!

In fact, the Chicago Bungalow Associations describes these beauties as such:

“Associated with the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts Movement in the United States, ‘bungalow’ has become a generic term to describe a house or cottage. In Chicago, however, the Historic Chicago Bungalow refers to a single-family home with the following features:

  • Built between 1910 – 1940

  • One and one half stories

  • Face brick with stone trim

  • Low-pitched roof with overhang

  • Rectangular shape: narrow at the front and rear ends, longer on the sides

  • Generous windows

  • Full basement

  • Offset front entrance, or side entrance”

Anyway, my point is you’re in an urban community, but so different from the downtown vibe, or even the younger, more mobile vibe of Lincoln Park and Lakeview.  It’s quiet on the sidestreets.  And the prices are very affordable compared to its lovely neighbors.

Now when I lived there back in the day it was not necessariliy known as a restaurant or pub destination, although classics like Barba Yianni’s and The Heutenbar are perennial favorites (of mine anyway.  A lot of gyros followed by underberg in my youth).  Originally a German/Bavarian neighborhood (hence Da Heutenbar, Carola’s Clipper….my German aunt used to watch movies in German at The Davis Theater on Lincoln), it has retained that heritage and embraced many others. Visit the old school bowling alley (upstairs) at Lincoln Lanes!  And speaking of old school, one of the loveliest churches on the northside is St. Matthias’ in Lincoln Square.  And I’m not saying that just because my daughter was baptized there…

RW/LS has an exceptionally fun Baron Von Steuben Festival right in the square (OK, the parking lots along the square).  People come from as far away as the suburbs AND LINCOLN PARK!  That’s pretty impressive.  Good times, lederhosen and oompa bands (one of the nights the streets are not quiet).

Lincoln Ave. in the last 10-12 years has really livened up on the strip around the square – Favorite Bocca Della Verita has some of the best gnocchi this side of the Atlantic.  Then there’s LM, Pizza DOC, the Grafton (you need an Irish Pub, don’t you?)….And Opart Thai, while it’s not fancy, is about the best BYO Thai in the city!  And don’t leave out Cafe Selmarie.  Oh my – the best pastries north of Little Italy!

So hop on the brown line and head up to Ravenswood/Lincoln Square.  You might even get a seat on the way back south!