Jefferson Park is a hidden gem on the Northwest side of Chicago. Filled with families of city workers — police, firefighters, and teachers (as well as a large Polish population) — you’ll find beautiful tree-lined streets of single-family homes with an old Chicago charm.
With easy access to the Kennedy and Edens Expressways, Blue Line, and Metra, Jefferson Park is true to its nickname of “The Gateway to Chicago.” The area is also known for its great public schools, parks, and restaurants.
If you find yourself in Jefferson Park, here are my favorites stops for a full day of fun.
Dining in Jefferson Park
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or already know how a Chicago-style hot dog is dressed (no ketchup!), a trip to Superdawg is a must. This 72-year-old, family-owned hot dog stand serves pure beer hot dogs via a carhop service for a unique and nostalgic experience.
Love ribs? Gale Street Inn is another family operation, known for its meaty, fall-off-the-bone ribs. Conveniently located across from the Jefferson Park Blue Line stop, Gale Street Inn is also a great place for a happy hour get-together.
Walking into Dino’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant is like stepping into Cheers. This old-school spot recently celebrated 50 years in the neighborhood. Dino’s specializes in no-frills thin-crust pies and my personal favorite, chicken breast ala Dino.
Polish culture and beyond
Catch an original play or comedy performance at the cozy, 45-seat Gift Theater Company, a staple in the community. The company’s current show Mothers earned rave reviews.
If you’re looking to take in a concert or cultural event, the Copernicus Center is a go-to in Jefferson Park. The historic venue hosts the Taste of Polonia Festival every Labor Day weekend. The largest Polish festival in the United States, the four-day event features live music, dance performances, authentic Polish food and beer, exhibitions, and local merchants.
Locals are looking forward to the anticipated reopening and remodeling of the Ed Paschke Art Center in 2024. This free center provides public access to Ed Paschke’s large-scale, colorful works as well as a place for Chicago artists to showcase their work.
More things to do
Jefferson Memorial Park provides year-round activities for families. The park comes alive in the summer, where the baseball fields, tennis courts, playground, and outdoor pool are packed with locals. Every August, Jeff Fest (aka Jefferson Park Arts & Music Festival) is hosted on the grounds of Jefferson Park.
The Morgan Art Gallery features 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.
If you’re looking for unique gifts, The Made Shop boasts one-of-a-kind handmade works (candles, earrings, t-shirts, hats) from more than 45 Chicago-area artists.