Laid back with an almost suburban feel, Ravenswood is at once a lovely residential area and a thriving creative hub.
From bottom to top, the neighborhood is lined with artist studios and creative businesses, including a group of independent breweries known as “Malt Row”. With tree-lined streets, spacious lots, and leafy public parks, residents love their cozy retreat from hectic city life. But, with three CTA Brown Line stops and the Metra, the commute to the Loop (and beyond) couldn’t be easier!
Before development, Ravenswood was a stretch of sparsely populated farmland and woods. With Chicago growing larger by the year, developers saw in Ravenswood an opportunity for a quiet commuter suburb. Established in 1868 and named for the local raven population, the neighborhood attracted affluent Chicagoans who began to build in the area. Not everything was rosy, the developers had neglected to install sewers and sidewalks. Chicago came to the rescue in 1889, when it annexed the neighborhood and installed the much-needed infrastructure.
The construction of the Ravenswood Elevated Line in 1907 (today the CTA Brown Line) spiked a massive growth in population. The area expanded and the original mansions were joined by smaller houses, two-flats, and courtyard apartment buildings. With the final farms being converted to homes after World War II, Ravenswood’s transition from a suburban area to a crucial piece of the Chicago landscape was complete.
Known for rehabbing, the area has preserved much of its historic charm. In recent years, the industrial area made an exciting transition into an artist and craftsman hotspot hosting everything from microbrewers and distillers to furniture makers, metalworkers, and performers. A neighborhood or neighborhoods, the area includes Ravenswood Gardens, Budlong Woods, Bowmanville, Ravenswood Manor and parts of Lincoln Square.
Never content as only a residential hamlet, Ravenswood supports a vibrant and creative commercial community. With businesses ranging from great restaurants and breweries to local boutiques, music stores, and theater companies, the area is buzzing. Ravenswood attracts from across Chicago with its excellent shopping including independent establishments like local bookstores, indie record shops, and clothing/home boutiques along with its national retailers and chains.
Ravenswood’s eclectic restaurant and bar scenes are a point of pride for the neighborhood. With establishments ranging from romantic French bistros and trendy sushi bars to casual lunch places, laid-back brunch spots, and Chicago dives– the neighborhood really has its bases covered. For breakfast, Over Easy Cafe has spent a decade in the neighborhood offering unique egg dishes, soft pancakes, and crackling bacon. Bien Me Sabe, is a great lunch spot, offering delicious Venezuelan food. Try the arepas and the namesake dessert! The area also enjoys some dynamite local coffee shops, giving the community plenty of places to meet up, get some work done, or just enjoy a well-made latte.
Like many North Side Chicago neighborhoods, Ravenswood has its fair share of friendly neighborhood bars. These include great places like the Fountainhead, offering a huge variety of draft beers, and O’Shaughnessy’s, an authentic Irish pub. Unique to Ravenswood is Malt Row, an assembly of eight local breweries and distilleries on the Ravenswood corridor. Featuring top local breweries like the Begyle and Dovetail, Malt Row has transformed Ravenswood into a top Chicago beer destination. Band of Bohemia, the only restaurant on Malt Row, was named the first ever Michelin-starred brewpub.
Anyone can tap into the area’s artistic spirit at the neighborhood’s art institutions and fun festivals. The Old Town School of Folk Music, founded in 1957, is a Chicago classic. The school offers music, dance, and theater classes (including family-favorite Wiggleworms) as well as in-house concerts in its 400-seat auditorium. The community comes together for local festivals including the Ravenswood Art Walk, Taste of Ravenswood, and The Square Roots Festival, which celebrates local music. On top of it all, the area is a theater destination, with several excellent local companies including Eclipse, Hypocrites, and Barrel of Monkeys.
In nicer weather, residents can take full advantage of the numerous parks, trails, and playgrounds that dot the neighborhood. Winnemac Park is a particular gem, with baseball fields, tennis courts, along with a lovely wildflower field. Welles Park, known as a meeting place of local musicians and artists, has amenities for kids and adults alike including a playground, a natural play area, fitness center, and an indoor pool. A bike friendly neighborhood, all of the major streets have safe bike lanes.
Ravenswood offers a broad variety of housing options, ranging from the original grand mansions and rehabbed single-family homes to modern condos, two- and three-flats, and cozy apartments. The different neighborhood areas have different stock, for instance, Ravenswood Gardens is characterized by brick bungalows and two- and three-flats and the Ravenswood Manor by early 20th century mansions. With creative shopping and dining, green parks, and easy access to the Loop on the CTA Brown Line, Ravenwood residents love this cozy urban retreat!