Neighborhoods.com's Favorites From Chicago in 2017

2017 has come and gone and there are plenty of reasons we might have to bury it, pretend it didn’t happen, and never speak of it again. However, if you peel away the top layer and really look, there were actually some really great things about the year that was. Honest! We swear!

That’s especially true here in Chicago. Neighborhoods.com doesn’t just write about the Windy City, we also call it home.  We’re not just the real estate resource that helps people find the perfect home and the ideal neighborhood, we’re also a collection of Chicagoans who eat, drink, sleep, and breathe this city in order to enjoy and understand it as well as anyone. 

So we thought it might be fun to look back on all our favorites from 2017. We surveyed our team of local experts and combed through a year’s worth of stories to figure out our picks. From the neighborhoods we loved being in, to the CTA stations we didn’t mind standing in the cold at, to the best places to get our hot dog fix, here are Neighborhoods.com’s favorites from last year.

Favorite Neighborhood of 2017

Whether it was for a street festival, to check out a new restaurant or bar, or to hang out at the beach, we seemed to keep finding ourselves in Lincoln Park this year. Clearly, we weren’t alone as developers scrambled to grab every available space for a new condo or rowhouse project. There were cooler Chicago neighborhoods in 2017 (let he or she who thinks they’re better than ZooLights cast the first stone) but so much of life seemed to lead back to Lincoln Park last year. - Sean

The Neighborhood We Fell in Love With in 2017

With its explosion of cocktail bars, nationally acclaimed restaurants, an ill-advised “Stranger Things”-themed bar that popped in a barcade, and more development on the way, Logan Square was the place to be this year for millennials and the young at heart. Logan resident Dwayne Charp says, "Summers here are fun and it’s a very walkable neighborhood. Tons of food/bar options. [And there’s] a variety of grocery stores with ingredients that are hard to find elsewhere." - Lauren

The Neighborhood We'll Fall in Love With in 2018

For the year to come, keep an eye on Bridgeport. This South Side neighborhood is the home of the White Sox, whose games might be more fun than the Cubs’ (does Wrigley Field allow tailgating and serve delicious tacos? Don’t think so). It’s also known for some well-known bars and bakeries — notably Maria’s Packaged Goods and Bridgeport Bakery, the spot for all your Fat Tuesday paczki needs. There’s also plans to improve Bridgeport’s retail corridor. It looks like we’ll be hanging out there a lot in 2018. - Lauren

Favorite Suburb of 2017

It may be a suburb, but Evanston certainly isn’t sleepy. It has a cosmopolitan feel thanks to Northwestern University; some solid bars, shopping, restaurants and breweries; and a growing downtown area. It’s even accessible by the L and near beaches. It also helps that the neighborhood was ranked as one of the best places to raise children. - Lauren

Favorite Neighborhood Festival of 2017

Chicago was lousy with street festivals in 2017 but if there’s any that we remember most it’s Wicker Park Fest. This annual celebration of Wicker Park’s musical heritage, not to mention its many restaurants, bars, and small businesses, stands out for the nonstop rockin’ atmosphere and the many, many, many food and beer options that we sampled. The musical acts were a great mix of indie rock (Guided By Voices), hip-hop (Doomtree), and folks/roots (Pokey LaFarge), just to name a few. - Sean

Courtesy of Open House Chicago

Favorite Neighborhood Event of 2017

If there’s one thing Chicago isn’t short on, it’s unique neighborhood events. However, Open House Chicago rose above the rest for showcasing the wonderfully unique architecture and diversity of so many of Chicago’s neighborhoods. The annual event allows visitors to discover all types of buildings, from architecturally significant masterpieces to community built houses of worship, that are rarely, if ever, open to the public. Free of charge and coupled with plenty of online and in-person resources to guide explorers, this event encourages people of differing backgrounds to explore Chicago neighborhoods they might not otherwise. The noble goal of promoting cross-cultural interaction is indeed laudable as we move in 2018. - Karl

Favorite Neighborhood Development of 2017

With its origin at Ronan Park in the Albany Park neighborhood, the North Branch Trail is a beautiful pedestrian and cyclist thoroughfare along the main channel of the North Branch of the Chicago River. Though newly paved and smartly designed, anyone who uses it routinely will tell you the positively lousy underpass and 180-degree reroute at Devon (too complicated to explain without at least three diagrams, a powerpoint, and a Q&A session) was as inconvenient as it was dangerous. Along with a park expansion, a new bridge ensured pedestrians and cyclists will cross the river just to the north of Devon Avenue, allowing users to avoid a busy roadway while heading north to the Skokie Sculpture Gardens and beyond. - Karl 

Favorite Neighborhood Revitalization of 2017

The South Side neighborhood of Hyde Park holds a lot of Chicago history, but the emergence of new businesses and revitalization projects have us looking to its future with excitement. The biggest news was the eventual arrival of the Obama Presidential Center to the area. However, its other projects such as new hotels and breweries that signify a neighborhood moving forward. A high-rise expansion at the Polsky Center in Hyde Park’s Harper Court will help the University of Chicago stay at the forefront of innovation. - Sean

Photo by Eric Rojas / Winnemac Park Neighbors

Favorite Neighborhood Eco-Friendly Project

The Chicago Park District and Fire Department have been performing controlled burns in Winnemac Park since 2012 as part of a concerted effort to reintroduce native prairie grasses and flowers to this Ravenswood prairie walk. The periodic burning helps to keep invasive plant species at bay, releases much-needed nutrients into the soil, and germinates any indigenous seeds.  Among the shoulder-high flora thriving in the warm months there today are black-eyed Susans and pale blue asters, both a favorite of honey-bees, as well as a variety of prairie grasses and sedges.  Residents of Ravenswood love taking a Sunday stroll down the trails which wind through this beautiful section of Winnemac Park, where a brief respite from the hassles and pressures of city life awaits. - Neil

Courtesy of Zagat

Favorite Neighborhood Trend of 2017

Chicago loves to eat, so we’re a little bit surprised it took this long for food halls to become a trend around town. Forum 55 recently opened in The Loop with 10 stalls that include pizza, sushi, deli sandwiches, and breakfast items.  Wells St. Market, featuring new concepts from some of Chicago’s most exciting chefs, was originally supposed to join it but has been pushed back to sometime this year. The West Loop will be getting its first real food hall when the three-floor, 50,000-square-foot food hall when the Time Out Group opens it in 2019. There’s also Lakeview Market coming soon in Lakeview and Beacon St. Market opening in Uptown. Chicago will never want for lunch options again. - Sean

Courtesy of YouTube

Favorite Neighborhood Transit Station of 2017

Though this selection may surprise some, we expect knowing nods of approval from anyone who uses Armitage Station in Lincoln Park on a regular basis. The building itself, serving both the Brown and Purple lines, is a lovingly restored station built in 1900, with many of the historic design touches preserved. The real reason this station gets honors is CTA employee Janet Martin, also known as the Mayor of Armitage Station. Her sincerely friendly demeanor, often greeting daily riders by name and asking how they’re doing, coupled with a willingness to help newbies navigate the system, is truly impressive. When she does retire, justice dictates that a statue be erected in her honor at the station. - Karl 

Favorite Neighborhood for Restaurants in 2017

While much is made, and rightly so, of Chicago's adventurous and constantly changing restaurant scene, Chinatown remains an unexplored neighborhood for many. You may never have so much fun dining as you will just winging it (sans Yelp) around Chinatown. It’s hard to beat Triple Crown, but Lao Sze Chuan is pretty good as well. Or, you can just walk around the neighborhood until you find a place to load up on baiju and do some karaoke. - Karl

Courtesy of Emporium

Favorite Neighborhood for Nightlife in 2017

Whether you’re looking for a great dinner or just a place to have fun, Logan Square has too many options for us not to pick it. Irazu and 90 Miles Cuban Cafe are great sit-down dinner picks (and are BYOB). In the mood for tacos? The pastor gordita at Taqueria Moran is a must-try. After dinner with friends, the options are pretty much endless. Play games at Emporium, find a cheap dive bar, go bowling, play pool, or find one of the many music or comedy venues. No matter what you do, Logan Square will not disappoint. - Dwayne

Favorite Neighborhood Moment of 2017

It was a special year in Chicago as multiple, shall we say “events,” brought the city together in a way that’s rarely seen. In January, thousands packed The Loop during the Women’s March and thousands more descended on O’Hare to support arriving immigrants. If there was more of a Chicago-specific moment of the year that captured our attention, it had to be the going away parties that local bars held for Eric Barry, who said goodbye to the city in a blog post that went viral for all the wrong reasons. Many beers were raised and shots downed in his honor at R Public House in Rogers Park as well as other watering holes around town. - Sean

Courtesy of EM Curious

Favorite Neighborhood Street of 2017

Stretching across Wicker Park, Logan Square, West Town, and River West, Milwaukee Avenue is hands-down our favorite Chicago street of 2017 for the sheer amount of things to do and eat. Want to shop? You’ll find stores that sell clothing, shoes, food, and furniture. Hungry? Tacos, pizza, ramen, and burgers are just a small list of possibilities. During the summer, there seems to be a festival every month at some stretch of the road. You can walk, bike, bus, or take the Blue Line up and down for a easy commute. There are just too many fun things to list here, so make the trek to Milwaukee Avenue and explore it for yourself. - Dwayne

Courtesy of NuToys4Fun

Favorite Neighborhood Park of 2017

Logan Square isn’t just all about bars and restaurants. Kosciuszko Park, known to locals as “Koz,” is a quiet enclave in a bustling neighborhood. The park offers a fieldhouse with an indoor pool, plenty of recreational programs, and a Movies in the Park event during the summer. You can find the park at the northern boundary of Logan Square at Diversey Avenue. - Lauren

Courtesy of Black Main Street

Favorite Neighborhood Organization of 2017

Chicago is full of charities and neighborhood-centric organizations trying to make life easier and better for its residents. While they’re all worthy of acknowledgment, we’re giving our fave to Mothers Against Senseless Killings (M.A.S.K.). Working out of Englewood, Hyde Park, and Lawndale, this group is focused on preventing violence and crime while teaching children to grow up as friends. Ultimately M.A.S.K. wants to build stronger communities across the city and that’s a goal we can all get behind. - Sean

Favorite Neighborhood for First-Time Homebuyers

The housing market in Chicago is finally, maybe, hopefully starting to look more appealing to first-time buyers. If that’s the case, we suggest that they check out the two neighborhoods we liked best in 2017 for starter purchases. Ravenswood is often overlooked, sandwiched between higher-profile neighborhoods, but offers a great social scene for first-time buyers. Meanwhile, it’s a good idea to get in on Humboldt Park now before all those developments by The 606 bring up property values. - Sean

Photo by JeremyA / CC BY-SA

Favorite Neighborhood That is Entirely Made Up

In many cities, especially Chicago, neighborhood boundaries are open to a bit of interpretation, especially when there are no distinct landmarks or major streets to separate them. That said, we’re putting every listing agent that calls anything west of the North Branch of the Chicago River “West Lincoln Square” on blast. A river is the dividing line between Lincoln Square and Albany Park and, try as you might, you just can’t argue with a freakin’ river. Actually, try arguing about anything with the Chicago River. You will lose. A (dis)honorable mention goes to listings in Humboldt Park described as “West Wicker Park”. If you think that when you cross Western Avenue and pass under the beautiful and inspiring Puerto Rican Flag sculptures along Division Street that you’re still in Wicker Park, then we know someone who can offer you a once-in-a-lifetime deal on a bridge in Brooklyn. - Karl

Favorite Neighborhood to Get a Hot Dog

It had to be Wrigleyville. What could be better than eating an authentic Chicago hot dog in the glow of Wrigley Field? If you couldn’t make it to the game, Byron's Hot Dogs is a Chicago hot dog stand that’s been around since 1975. Just be sure to skip the ketchup, or risk invoking the wrath from Chicagoans around you. - Lauren

Favorite Neighborhood Saying Goodbye to a Chicago Institution

Wrigleyville is like your friend that got a little famous and is now all about fancy rooftop cocktail bars and can’t be bothered with fast food. Ever since the Cubs won the World Series, Wrigleyville has changed bigtime. The pocket neighborhood got a new plaza and several shiny new mixed-use developments, kicking out the older, grimier (read: cheaper) spots of Wrigleyville past. Fans were devastated to hear this year that the neighborhood’s 24-Taco Bell would close to make way for — you guessed it — a development with a rooftop bar. - Lauren

Photo by Kris from Seattle / CC BY

Hollywood's Favorite Chicago Neighborhood of 2017

Hollywood and TV networks are in love with Chicago these days and it's hard to keep track of all the productions that happened in 2017 and TV shows or movies that filmed in our fair city. If we’re looking to a specific neighborhood as the one that stood out, it has to be River North. Netflix’s Ozark put Jason Bateman’s new office right across the street from Marina City, a.k.a. The Corn Cobs. Meanwhile, the trailer for Dwayne Johnson’s upcoming movie Rampage drops a mutated gorilla and wolf on Wacker Drive and plunks a monster crocodile in the Chicago River. River North even shows up briefly in the trailer for the upcoming Bruce Willis film Death Wish. - Sean

Favorite Neighborhood That Amazon Will Soon Take Over

You can call it Lincoln Yards all you want, we know the Finkl Steel site when we see it. And while it remains unclear whether or not Amazon will actually choose Chicago for their second headquarters, if they do, they’re almost certainly going to end up here. If it does happen, just know that this dilapidated dust pile on the border of Lincoln Park and Bucktown will soon be home to the most unaffordable rents and prices in the city. Such is the Amazon Effect. At least we might also get a soccer stadium out of it. - Sean

Favorite Neighborhood That Millennials Killed

Millennials. Is there anything they can’t kill? In Chicago’s case, we’re calling it on behalf of Wicker Park. Back in 2014, it was rated the top spot in the city for 20- or early 30-somethings. Since then, as TimeOut puts it, this enclave has “gone from being the first Brooklyn of Chicago to being the new Lincoln Park.” You can still find some dive bars and cool boutiques, you just have to search for them between all the condos, gyms, and pet groomers. - Sean

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