Chicago Neighborhoods: Old Town

The streets of Old Town are charming and tree-lined; the homes lining the streets vary from townhomes to single-family homes, all of which have distinctive architecture and lovely brick construction. It is a pocket of residential calm among the high-rises of the Loop. Many of Chicago’s Victorian-era buildings are in Old Town; in fact, one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, St. Michael’s Church, is located here. Certainly, the area has historical appeal; this fact was formally recognized when the Old Town Triangle was designated a Chicago Landmark on September 28, 1977.

The inhabitants of Old Town are generally affluent; although properties are not as expensive as in the nearby Gold Coast neighborhood, they are certainly prime real estate and are mostly inhabited by professionals and families.

Although historical and largely residential, Old Town does have a lively center with several entertaining establishments. Second City’s performance group is based here, as is a branch of the famous Steppenwolf Theater and the Zanies comedy club.

Boutiques, restaurants, clubs and coffee shops keep locals and tourists entertained and fed as they wander through the streets of this Chicago treasure. Old Town is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods with its roots firmly planted in Chicago’s history, but it has so much to offer that it will surely be a well-loved part of the city’s future.


A Red Orchid Theatre

  • Theater & Dance

One of Chicago’s famous off-Loop theaters, A Red Orchid Theatre’s intimate yet cutting-edge productions are put on by a talented 16-person ensemble that includes Oscar-nominee Michael Shannon.

1531 N. Wells St. | 312.943.8722

Chicago Contemporary Art

  • Art & Architecture

Cityscapes, including of Chicago, and abstract paintings play a big part at this artist-owned studio-gallery. Abstract, figurative and cubist art are included, or you can request a custom piece. Accessibility limitations. Please contact site for more information.

Free Admission | 1500 N. Wells St. | 312.280.8019

Floating World Gallery

  • Art & Architecture

Japanese contemporary art is the focus at this 8,200-square-foot gallery, thought to be one of, if not the, largest Japanese art galleries in the U.S. Enjoy a changing array of works and special artist openings.

Free Admission | 1925 N. Halsted St. | 312.587.7800

Glazed Expressions

  • Art & Architecture

Choose from over 80 blank pottery pieces, paint it in your own style, then leave the firing to Glazed Expressions. A week later, your beautiful finished piece to keep or give is ready for shipping or pick up. Glazed Expressions is a fantastically fun place for any age.

717 W. Armitage Ave. | 312.867.1792

Henry Gerber House

  • Historical Landmarks

Today housing private offices, here’s where gay civil-rights pioneer Henry Gerber established America’s first such organization in the 1920s and published Friendship and Freedom, the country’s first documented gay civil-rights publication.

1710 N. Crilly Ct.

Noble Horse Theatre

  • Other Attractions,
  • Theater & Dance

Noble Horse Theatre, located in Old Town, performs live horse shows throughout the year.

1410 N. Orleans St. | 312.266.7878

Old Town Triangle District

  • Historical Landmarks

This area was settled in the 1850s by German immigrants, whose community life centered around St. Michael Church. The Fire of 1871, however, destroyed all of the houses and most of the church. Small frame Worker’s-style Cottages were built again, until a city ordinance was enacted that prohibited further wood construction. Brick and stone were then used to construct larger houses; the district’s eastern portion was developed with row houses and apartment buildings. In the 1940s, a renewal of community concern brought about one of the nation’s earliest neighborhood revitalization efforts, which helped preserve this area’s narrow tree-lined streets and distinctive architectural character.

Free Admission | W. North Ave. & N. Wells St.

Park West

  • Music

Park West has been the premier concert location for nationally recognized entertainers.

322 W. Armitage Ave. | 773.929.1322

Piper’s Alley

  • Popular Attractions

Piper’s Alley hosts The Second City, a historic mecca for comedy lovers and students like John Belushi and Tina Fey, plus a movie theater showing mostly independent and limited-release films, Fleet Feet Sports and Adobo Grill.

230 W. North Ave.

Roger Brown Study Collection of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

  • Museums & Zoos

Renowned American painter Roger Brown donated his art collection to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; it is preserved intact as a house museum, where his kaleidoscopic collection and archival materials can be studied and viewed. Accessibility limitations. Please contact site for more information.

1926 N. Halsted St. | 773.929.2452

St. Michael in Old Town

  • Religious locations

St. Michael was first completed and dedicated in 1869 to serve a mostly German parish. Though the 1871 Great Chicago Fire devastated the area, the church walls survived, as did the painting of the Mother of Perpetual Help. Accessibility limitations. Please contact site for more information.

Free Admission | 1633 N. Cleveland Ave. | 312.642.2498

Steppenwolf Theatre Company

  • Popular Attractions,
  • Theater & Dance

Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre is America’s premier ensemble theater, presenting a year-round collection of engaging works in 3 theatre spaces.

1650 N. Halsted St | 312.335.1650

The Royal George Theatre

  • Theater & Dance

Mix great sightlines in theater spaces, as diverse as a studio to a deep main stage, with new works, award-winning Broadway hits and long-running comedies like Late Nite Catechism, and you get the Royal George Theatre.

1641 N. Halsted St. | 312.988.9000

The Second City

  • Other Attractions,
  • Popular Attractions,
  • Theater & Dance

The Second City has established itself as a Chicago landmark and a national treasure offering the best in Chicago comedy every night of the week. The Second City has launched the careers of such comic greats as John Belushi, Mike Myers, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, and more. Catch the next generation of talent today at Chicago’s legendary comedy theater.

1616 N. Wells St | 312.337.3992

Thomas Masters Gallery

  • Art & Architecture

Showcasing works by local, national and international contemporary artists about 10 times a year, Thomas Masters also exhibits a well-edited collection of past showcase artists in the rear gallery.

Free Admission | 245 W. North Ave. | 312.440.2322


  • Popular Attractions

Jokes and belly laughs are Zanies’ stock-in-trade. As one of Chicago’s oldest stand-up comedy clubs, its nightly shows have presented almost every well-known stand-up comic in the last 30-odd years.

1548 N. Wells St. | 312.337.4027

Annual Art Fair

The Old Town Art Fair is held annually in June. It is one of America’s oldest art fairs, getting its start in 1950. During its first eight years, the general public was welcome to submit art, and thus the fair included amateur as well as professional pieces. In 1958 a committee was formed to regulate submissions, and a jury was given the task of choosing a balanced mix of art in all genres and mediums and to raise the standards by which art was accepted into the fair.

At the fair, the work of over 250 artists is on display, in all mediums including drawing, painting, photography and more. The art is chosen by a jury made up of artists, gallery owners and even museum curators. The Art Fair also includes live musical performances. Other highlights include a Garden Walk, a tour of the historic neighborhood and a children’s activity area.
The suggested donation is $5.00 and all proceeds benefit local youth groups, schools and neighborhood preservation projects. It is produced by the Old Town Triangle Association and involves the help of over 700 volunteers from the neighborhood. The Art Fair is held rain or shine.


Shopping in Old Town is a unique experience; the majority of shops in this neighborhood are boutiques rather than well-known chain stores. Therefore, each and every store is cozy, intimate and filled with one-of-a-kind goods.

For apparel, try Sara Jane, Etre, Occhiali and Vagabonds; all of these are boutique-style shops with beautiful clothing for women and men. Shoppers are given personal attention and the atmosphere in these shops is peaceful, giving a new dimension to the idea of retail therapy.

Old Town offers stores for house and home as well; in addition to a branch of the popular Pier 1 Imports, there are smaller shops such as Design Source, Inc., Calico Corners and Modern Home Furnishings.

There are several specialty shops as well in Old Town; for handmade paper and cards, try Pulp & Ink or Eco Fields. For music and books, try Barbara’s Bookstore. One of the local favorites is The Spice House. A world of heady aromas, this shop sells hand-selected and hand-prepared spices that range from everyday American, Cajun and barbecue spices to truly exotic seasonings from Greece, Turkey, Scandinavia and even Thailand.

A New Leaf

  • Florist

A New Leaf is like a magical world of flowers and plants on three floors. Even the most ardent plant enthusiasts will learn something from the unusual arrangements, plant presentations and range of exotics found here. Accessibility limitations. Please contact site for more information.

1645 N. Wells St. | 312.642.1576

Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters Ltd.

  • Hobby Shops

Fly-fishing fans find all that is needed for the sport here. With products from 140-plus vendors and staff expertise, its basic to specialized equipment readies you for a great catch in any body of water in the world.

1279 N. Clybourn Ave. | 312.944.FISH (3474)

City Blue

  • Fashion

This clothing boutique, with a rock ’n’ roll flare, focuses on men’s and women’s premium denim. After a little “Jean Therapy,” form-flattering perfection is not far behind.

1444 N. Wells St. | 312.664.2222

Dutch Bike Co.

  • Bikes

Exclusively selling bicycles made in the Netherlands, Dutch Bike Co. has bikes suitable for different lifestyles and as transportation for all occasions. It also offers accessories, and repairs and restores bikes. Accessibility limitations. Please contact site for more information.

651 W. Armitage Ave. | 312.265.0175


  • Arts & Crafts

Need beads? This bead boutique’s incredible selection includes semi-precious stones, pearls and crystals. Classes ranging from basic to advanced beading techniques, and certain repairs, are also available.

653 W. Armitage Ave. | 312.280.BEAD (2323)

Gifts & Accessories on North Wells Street

  • Gifts and Souvenirs

Find a one-of-a-kind gift at one of several unique shops on Wells Street. Look for jewelry, handbags, antiques and more at Jumbalia (1429 N. Wells St.); exquisite stationary, journals and cards atGreer (1657 N. Wells St.); and a thoughtfully chosen selection of women’s accessories and specialty products for bath, body, and home at Fabrice (1714 N. Wells St.).

1657 N. Wells St.


  • Men’s Clothing

This one-stop men’s shop has the perfect mix of quality and well-fitting clothing, shoes and accessories for modern weekend and workday style. A comfortable contemporary space and super customer service make shopping easy.

1350 N. Wells St. | 312.440.1300

Just Lamps

  • Shopping

Just Lamps is a “lamp gallery” selling one-of-a-kind, artist-made, lamps and lamp shades that double as art. Some are by Chicago designers, and lamp extras like glass-blown finials are available too. Accessibility limitations. Please contact site for more information.

707 W. Armitage Ave. | 312.266.7070

More Shopping

  • Various

1520 N. Wells St.

Nicole Miller

  • Women’s Clothing

Top women’s fashion designer, Nicole Miller, has one of her 13 stores in Old Town, Chicago. Her only Midwest location, it includes a complete bridal salon.

1419 N. Wells St. | 312.664.3532

Old Town Aquarium

  • Hobby Shops

This full-line aquarium’s 50-some tanks of fish and such hold a range, from gold fish to rare $3,000 fish. All kinds of accessories and items for the care and feeding of your aquatic friends are also featured.

1538 N. Wells St. | 312.642.8763

Old Town Oil

  • Personal Shopping

Old Town Oil specializes in unique and rare olive oils and balsamic vinegars from all over the world. All products are 100% authentic special blends. Bottle your own, right in the store. Accessibility limitations. Please contact site for more information.

1520 N. Wells St. | 312.787.9595

String A Strand (On Wells)

  • Arts & Crafts

String A Strand’s hundreds of beautiful beads, some of semiprecious stones, are sold by the strand. Striking handcrafted jewelry is available too, as are classes for adults on beads from around the world and jewelry making. Accessibility limitations. Please contact site for more information.

1361 N. Wells St. | 312.335.1930

Up Down Cigar

  • Tobacco Shops

Up Down Cigar has one of the most extensive collections of cigars and cigar-tobacco accessories around, and may be the only place in the city that’s open past 6 pm where one can smoke publicly.

1550 N. Wells St. | 312.337.8025

Village Cycle Center

  • Sporting Goods

Village Cycle Center, despite its hardware store appearance, may actually be the nation’s largest bike store. It has a large selection of bikes and accessories on display and around 10,000 more in stock.

1337 N. Wells St. | 312.751.2488

Women’s Fashion Boutiques on North Wells Street

  • Women’s Clothing

If designer and trendy women’s looks are what you’re after, Wells Street in Old Town is the place to go. Adelaide (1704 N. Wells St.) offers upscale and sophisticated fashion, plus seasonal collections of ready-to-wear designs and complimentary fashion forward handbags, jewelry and shoes. Visit Handle with Care (1706 N. Wells St.) for eclectic and upscale women’s clothing, accessories, perfume, candles, cards and more. For a unique twist on boutique shopping, stop in Sara Jane (1343 N. Wells St.), where you’ll find high fashion styles at affordable prices.

1704 N. Wells St.


When it’s time to eat, Old Town delivers. There are restaurants unique to Chicago, such as Sauce, which serves American Eclectic food, Bistrot Margot for French cuisine, Dinotto Ristorante for Italian cuisine and Salpicon for hearty Mexican fare.

Some well-known chains can be found here as well; try the Flat Top Grill for Asian-inspired stir-fry or the Adobo Grill for stir-fry of a more Mexican flavor.

Sushi is a favorite among Old Town locals; Kamehachi, Mizu and Café Sushi are slightly upscale sushi bars; head to any of these for sophisticated décor and a genuine sushi meal.

After hours, Old Town’s bars and clubs are plentiful. Wells on Wells, across the street from Second City, is a popular destination for those who want to meet the cast after a show. Hobo’s and the Old Town Ale House are laid-back and frequented by regulars, while Spoon is a classy, lively joint where people can lounge, dance and meet all kinds of people.


  • American (New)

Alinea, consistently rated—5-stars by Forbes Travel Guide and highest in North America by Restaurant Magazine’s World’s 50 Best—as one of the best restaurants in the country and the world, delivers a fine dining experience.

1723 N. Halsted St. | 312.867.0110


  • Pizza

Known for gourmet thin-crust pizza and salads, Bricks’ also offers a large selection of craft and imported beers. Accessibility limitations. Please contact site for more information.

1909 N. Lincoln Ave. | 312.255.0851

Gepperth’s Meat Market

  • Food Retail: Specialty Food

Gepperth’s has been a part of the neighborhood since 1906, serving up homemade sausage and some of the best steaks in the country according to food-wine newsletter, the Rosengarten Report. Accessibility limitations. Please contact site for more information.

1964 N. Halsted St. | 773.549.3883

Global Dining on North Wells Street

  • Dining

Taste a range of flavors from around the world on North Wells Street. Sample French specialties at the upscale Bistrot Margot (1437N. Wells St.); inexpensive Lebanese/Middle Eastern favorites at Old Jerusalem Restaurant (1411 N. Wells St.); or authentic and contemporary Mexican cuisine at Salpicon (1252 N. Wells St.). Accessibility limitations at some sites. Please contact site for more information.

1531 N. Wells St.

Italian Cuisine on North Wells Street

  • Italian

Fans of pastas, pizzas, and other Italian specialties may choose from a handful of excellent restaurants on or near North Wells Street, such as Dinotto Ristorante (215 W. North Ave.), Topo Gigio (1516 N. Wells St.), Trattoria Roma (1535 N. Wells St.), and Orso’s (1401 N. Wells St.).

215 W. North Ave.

Karyn’s Fresh Corner

  • Live / Raw Food

Karyn’s Fresh Corner features a raw-food fine dining restaurant, juice bar, prepared and packaged food market, and the Inner Beauty Center, which offers classes and other holistic health treatments.

1901 N. Halsted St. | 312.255.1590

More Dining

  • Dining

For more dining options, visit the Old Town Merchants & Residents Association (1520 N. Wells St.).

1520 N. Wells St.


  • Breakfast & Brunch

This is one of the area dining options that’s easy on the budget. Add delicious breakfast dishes plus legendary friendly service, and it’s clear why Nookies has been an Old Town favorite breakfast “nook” since 1973.

1746 N. Wells St. | 312.337.2454


  • American (Traditional)

This is the place to go to dine among politicians, whether they are there in person or just hanging in pictures on the walls.

1528 N. Wells St. | 312.787.3131

Old Town Ale House

  • Food Retail: Beer, Wine & Spirits

Old Town Ale House has been a neighborhood fixture for many years, and a popular hangout for many of The Second City alumni. Its walls are covered with the owner’s paintings of celebrities and regulars.

219 W. North Ave. | 312.944.7020

Old Town Social

  • American (New)

Nominated for the Time Out Chicago 2009 Eat Out Awards in the categories of Best New Bar and Best Charcuterie Program, Old Town Social is a glamorous bar specializing in cured meats and cheeses.

455 W. North Ave. | 312.266.2277

Old Town Sushi Bars

  • Sushi Bars

Get your sushi fix from one of the many sushi bars in Old Town. Kamehachi (1400 N. Wells St.) has been around since 1967, making it one of the first sushi places in Chicago. Mizu Yakitori (315 N. Ave.) specializes in yakitori (grilled bird), a staple of Japanese street food. Other great sushi options in the area include Café Sushi [1342 N. Wells St.) and Shiso (449 W. North Ave.).

315 W. North Ave.


  • American (New)

Since it opened in 2008, Perennial has received praise from around the country for its contemporary American cuisine, impeccable service, and pleasant atmosphere. Named one of the 50 Best New Restaurants in America by Travel and Leisure, their truffle gnocchi is especially popular.

1800 N. Lincoln Ave. | 312.981.7070

Pre or Post Theater Dining on North Halsted Street

  • Various

Before or after a show at the Steppenwolf or the Royal George Theatre, dine at any of the popular American and Italian restaurants nearby, including Trattoria Gianni (1711 N. Halsted St.), Landmark Grill & Lounge (1633 N. Halsted St.), Vinci (1732 N. Halsted St.), La Trattoria del Merlo (1967 N. Halsted St.), and Boka (1729 N. Halsted St.).

1729 N. Halsted St.

Sweets on North Wells Street

  • Food Retail: Desserts

Enjoy a sweet treat at one of several unique shops in Old Town. New to the neighborhood, Delightful Pastries (1710 N. Wells St.) serves baked goods that are low in sugar, along with hot drinks and a small lunch menu. If you’re in the mood for chocolate, try Catering Chocolate (1712 N. Wells St.), which offers a catering service in addition to their chocolate shop, which specializes in truffles, chocolate candies and cane caramel; or the Fudge Pot (1532 N. Wells St.), where for over 45 years the Datallo family has been molding chocolate into over 1000 different shapes and serving it up to its Old Town neighbors. Accessibility limitations at some sites. Please contact site for more information.

1710 N. Wells St.

The House of Glunz

  • Food Retail: Beer, Wine & Spirits

A Chicago institution for over 120 years, this fifth-generation wine and spirit shop is possibly the oldest in Chicago. It sells fine wine from around the world and has a cellar of rare wines.

1206 N. Wells St. | 312.642.3000

The Spice House

  • Food Retail: Specialty Food

Follow the aroma to this spice shop. Cooks, whether casual or expert, appreciate its variety of hand-selected and hand-prepared spices and herbs, both expected and exotic. Be sure to ask about the Chicago Neighborhood blends.

1512 N. Wells St. | 312.274.0378

Twin Anchors

  • Barbeque

A famous Chicago restaurant around since 1932, Twin Anchors’ slow-cooked ribs and long-term waitstaff have kept customers coming back year after year, including a long list of the famous, past and present.

1655 N. Sedgwick St. | 312.266.1616


Old Town is located north of downtown Chicago, nestled between the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park. This is a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood, but in addition to the historic residential qualities, Old Town also offers theaters, restaurants and clubs.

Old Town Chicago Neighborhood Map


Old Town is indeed old. Originally settled in the mid 19th century by German-Catholic immigrants, the neighborhood got its name and became closer knit during World War II, when Chicago’s Civil Defense Agency delineated a neighborhood defense unit. The unit was made up of a triangular area bounded by North Avenue, Clark Street and Ogden Avenue. This area was called North Town. North Town’s inhabitants felt a sense of continued connection even after the War ended and in the spirit of community, they began to sponsor annual fairs which they called the “Old Town Holiday.” In 1948 the Old Town Triangle Association was formed, and since then, the name “Old Town” has stuck; it is now the area’s official moniker.

Today’s Old Town is bordered on the north by Armitage Avenue, on the South by Division Street, on the east by Clark Street and on the west by Larrabee Street and Orleans Street. The neighborhood lies north of Chicago’s downtown and 40 years ago it was one of the city’s first areas to be gentrified.


Ginza Holiday Festival

  • Neighborhood Festivals,
  • Special Events & Festivals

Japanese cultural festival featuring master craftsmen from Tokyo; stage performances by taiko (drum) groups and Japanese dance troupes.

435 W. Menomonee St. | 312.943.7801