The Grid

The Grid: Exploring the Edison Park neighborhood

Welcome to the “The Grid,” the Chicago Sun-Times’ in-depth look at Chicago neighborhoods.

Today’s stop: Edison Park

This neighborhood is 15 miles northwest of downtown Chicago.  It’s a quiet, family oriented place that feels like a suburb within a city.  Edison Park is rich in transportation resources with easy access to both Metra trains and the CTA blue line, plus O’Hare Airport and two of the city’s major expressways nearby.  It’s also known for its quirky “O” streets.  At least 20 of them begin with the letter “O.”  A rich variety of restaurants located along what’s known as “Restaurant Row” also add to the fun in Edison Park, as you’ll find in this episode of The Grid.

Our story includes:

  • The history of Edison Park
  • Restaurant Row
  • Things to do
  • And much more!
Edison Park is named after inventor Thomas Alva Edison. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Edison Park is named after inventor Thomas Alva Edison. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

This story on Edison Park is one in a series by the Sun-Times focused on the interesting people and places in Chicago’s many neighborhoods, intended for locals and visitors alike in hopes that all will be inspired to explore our city. We have engaging videos and a comprehensive story – all curated by the Sun-Times audience team to help provide you with the most current and meaningful information about the important and best things to do in this and each neighborhood we visit.

We’re proud to welcome Baird & Warner as presenting sponsor of “The Grid.” Leading our video adventure is Sun-Times program host, Ji Suk Yi.

Ji explores Edison Park

Ji Suk Yi explores "Restaurant Row" in Edison Park. | Brian Rich for the Sun-Times

Ji Suk Yi dines al fresco on “Restaurant Row” in Edison Park. | Brian Rich for the Sun-Times

Stepping off Edison Park’s Union Pacific NW Metra train platform, is like stepping into “Mayberry” or what I imagine Mayberry to be like. It’s quaint and charming.

Edison Park is full of tree-lined streets with neatly manicured lawns and well-kept homes. The main two strips that make up the commercial hub look like they’re from a movie set of an idyllic small town. It’s pretty quiet during the day until the kids get released from school and the commuters start unpacking the trains.

Edison Park’s borders include Howard Street to Devon Avenue (north to south), and Ozanam Avenue to Harlem Avenue (west to east). The farthest, northwest tip of Chicago’s neighborhoods, Edison Park draws comparisons to its suburban neighbor Park Ridge. Other bordering suburbs include Niles and Lincolnwood. Its most similar Chicago neighbor is next-door, Norwood Park.

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What makes Edison Park truly unique is its small town feel with big amenities – especially when it comes to restaurants. Steps from the Metra stop you have access to the main hub of dining, shopping and entertainment in the neighborhood. It’s literally a stone’s throw – even if you have a bad arm! You’ll surprisingly be greeted by a vibrant “Restaurant Row.”  But more on that later.

The history of Edison Park

Edison Park is in the far Northwest corner of Chicago. | Graphic by Tanveer Ali

Edison Park is in the far Northwest corner of Chicago. | Graphic by Tanveer Ali

The area’s first white settler was Reverend Christian Ebinger. In 1833, he was headed west with his family from Detroit.  The Chicago Park District’s website on the history of Edison Park says: “When their horse fell dead from a rattle snake bite 15 miles northwest of Chicago, the Ebingers decided to settle on the spot.” (In 1907, the Village of Edison Park built a public school, naming it for Christian Ebinger.)

Originally known as Canfield, you’ll notice there’s still a Canfield Avenue remaining in the area.

Why cans? Frank Suerth of the Northwest Chicago Historical Society explains the neighborhood, like much of Chicago (outside of downtown), was a farming community.

There would be empty dairy cans all around the train station “because the dairy farmers would take their milk to Chicago and they’d leave the empties by the train station,” said Suerth.

The train station helped develop the downtown area of Edison Park we know today. The Illinois and Wisconsin Railroad began stopping in the area beginning in 1853.

The Edison Park train station in the early 1900s. | Photo Courtesy of the Northwest Chicago Historical Society.

The Edison Park train station in the early 1900s. | Courtesy of the Northwest Chicago Historical Society

In 1890, the village was incorporated and its name was changed from Canfield to Edison Park. Named after the famed inventor Thomas Alva Edison, it’s still unclear whether Edison gave consent.

“I don’t know if that’s true or not. I don’t know if they really needed his O.K.,” said Suerth. “They were promoting the area as a place where electricity was available, as in early electric. Not too many places had electric that early.” (Most areas didn’t get access to electricity until the early 1900s.)

The city of Chicago annexed Edison Park in 1910. The decision was in large part due to Schurz High School which opened in 1910. “The high school kids could board the train and get off at the Grayland stop and walk a couple of blocks [to get to school]. When they weren’t a part of Chicago, they weren’t eligible,” said Suerth.

Carl Schurz High School in Edison Park. | Courtesy Northwest Chicago Historical Society

Carl Schurz High School in Edison Park | Courtesy Northwest Chicago Historical Society

Lots of Irish-Americans and some Italians historically make up the neighborhood. There are also many city workers, from police officers to firefighters to city department employees. In that sense, it reminds me a lot of neighboring Norwood Park.

Edison Park is situated with easy transportation downtown (Metra) or to O’Hare airport. This is one neighborhood you don’t have to wince when asking someone for a ride to the airport. O’Hare is only ten minutes away.

But what makes Edison Park truly unique is its great “Restaurant Row.” Around a dozen restaurants covering a two-block stretch of Northwest Highway and Olmstead Avenue, mostly independently-owned, make Edison Park a fantastic dining destination for the northwest side.

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One more quirky aspect is the concentration of streets that start with the letter “O” in the neighborhood. Some of my favorites include Oshkosh, Oliphant, Oketo, Onarga, Oconto and Oleander Avenues.

Suerth assures me that the “O streets are where they should be, in alphabetical order. The city at one time wanted to rename all the streets [to follow] the alphabet, just like with numbers on the South Side.”

There may appear to be extra “O” streets because “Edison Park has some crooked streets by downtown and it doesn’t line up with the O streets south of it, so they had to come up with a couple [extra] O Streets,” explains Suerth.

Restaurant Row

Nano Pino's Italian restaurant on "Restaurant Row" in Edison Park. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Nano Pino’s Italian restaurant on “Restaurant Row” in Edison Park. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

This very week is Edison Park’s Restaurant Week! Started in 2010, this is a great opportunity to experience all that Edison Park’s restaurants have to offer with a set 3-course prix-fixe meal. Check out which restaurants are participating, view menus and get details by checking out the webpage.

Moretti’s Ristorante and Pizzeria is directly across the street from the train platform. You can’t miss it. It serves thin and deep dish pizza. There are more than a dozen offerings in salads and appetizers each. Moretti’s has sandwiches, wraps and steak burgers. If you’re looking for something more substantial from the grill, you can also order bbq ribs or rosemary chicken.

Don Juan’s has been known for traditional and contemporary Mexican cuisine since 1983. A family-operated business, under the watchful eye of owner Maria Concannon, it’s still considered an essential, go-to for Mexican cuisine. There’s a seasonal menu, in addition to traditional taqueria offerings, happy hour and daily specials. There’s also an outdoor patio and a lounge.

Nonno Pino’s has been serving up pasta and thin crust pizza for the neighborhood for over twenty years. It’s a casual environment that’s great for the entire family. It has nightly specials and easy staples where you can choose your own pasta and homemade sauce.

Tony’s Italian Deli & Subs is a neighborhood favorite that celebrated 40 years this past August. It’s a family-owned business run by Vito and Maria Dalmazio and their daughters, Jennifer and Josie. Known for their famous homemade meatball subs and their Italians, it’s a full deli counter and grocery store. You can find all sorts of authentic Italian imported meats, cheeses, olives, pasta and coffee. You can also stock up on made-from-scratch lasagna and eggplant parmesan in the ready-to-go refrigerated case to heat up at home later.

Ji with Vito and Maria Dalmazio and their daughter, Jennifer, at Tony's Italian Deli in Edison Park. | Brian Rich for the Sun-Times.

Ji with Vito and Maria Dalmazio and their daughter, Jennifer, at Tony’s Italian Deli in Edison Park. | Brian Rich / For the Sun-Times

The family is tight-knit and beloved in the community. The day I visited, Maria was delivering a $40,000 check to the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation’s Bear Hug Program in honor of her son Freddie Dalmazio who lost his 2-year battle with leukemia in 2009. The money was raised at their benefit in celebration of their 40th anniversary. The Dalmazio’s credit their loyal and loving customers for helping them pull through that difficult time.

Zia’s Trattoria was one of the recommended restaurants during President (then State Senator) Barack Obama’s appearance on WTTW’s Check, Please! Since 1997, Zia’s has been an anchor of the restaurant scene in Edison Park. Zia means aunt in Italian and is a tribute to the chef/owner Joe Calabrese’s aunts and his family’s roots to Tuscany and Liguria regions of Italy.

Cafe Touché is a classic French bistro with some New Orleans influences on the menu as well. Joseph Calabrese of Zia’s is the chef/owner. There’s a great wine list, boullaibaise, steak frites, duck leg confit, escargot and etoufeé. Like Zia’s, Cafe Touché also has a great patio to enjoy your meal and people watch!

Cafe Touché in Edison Park. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Cafe Touché in Edison Park | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Elliott’s Seafood Grille and Chop House Supper Club comes from a family that’s been in the Chicago restaurant business since 1939, when the family owned Elliott’s Pine Log restaurant in Skokie. The Skokie restaurant closed in 1988 and the current Elliott’s in Edison Park opened in 2001. The ambiance is lovely with dark rich wood, and it’s the perfect spot to splurge on a steak and gin martini.

Mecca Supper Club has a rustic log cabin, hunting lodge type-of-feel. It’s a casual spot with TVs so you can watch the game. You’ll find Wisconsin cheese curds and walleye chips as appetizers. You can indulge in fried chicken or ribs for your main entree. It has inventive pizzas with toppings from mac’n’cheese to prime rib and giardiniera. Open until 2 a.m.. there’s karaoke and specials for every night of the week. For example, Tuesday’s are 50-cent wings and Fridays are $14.95 all-you-can-eat fish and chips.

Firewater Saloon is a country bar with live music serving up comfort, southern cuisine. There’s a large bar with TVs. Along with having country music acts from around the country perform, Firewater also has live band karaoke, line dancing and other events and specials.

Curragh Irish Pub boasts 30 drafts from craft brews to domestics. It does a good job of replicating an Irish bar with some cozy nooks and crannies. Curragh means “place of the running horse,” and you’ll find horses and equestrian decor throughout the bar. The pub serves some classic Irish fare along with your standard American bar food. They do pour a proper Guinness pint. This is one of four locations for the bar. In Illinois you can find Curragh in Glenview and Skokie as well as in Holland, Michigan.

Edison Park Inn has been a neighborhood icon since 1957. The menu has a little bit of everything including pizza, salads, burgers, tacos, burritos, and sandwiches. There’s a bunch of TVs where you can watch the game, and there are pool tables. Upstairs there are eight bowling lanes. It’s a classic spot where you keep your own score.

French pastries at le Flour Bake Shop in Edison Park.| Sun-Times Archives

French pastries at Le Flour Bake Shop in Edison Park | Sun-Times Archives

Le Flour Bake Shop is the perfect stop for commuters before they get on the train for work. With great coffee and pastries you can grab on the go, it’s the go-to pastry shop in Edison Park.

Soup and Scoops serves a variety of hot soups including detox and bone broth, along with traditional tomato and chicken noodle. Plus, there’s ice cream that you can get with an assortment of toppings. It’s a popular after-school spot.

Where to shop

The must-visit boutique is Co-op California Boutique at 6674 N. Northwest Highway. The boutique is owned by five women who all stock the shop with items that appeal to their individual tastes. What you end up with is an eclectic store with a variety of styles from edgy, cozy-casual, to boho-chic. There’s everything from shoes, bags, jewelry, and clothing to housewares. The price points vary from very affordable to splurge-worthy. They also specialize in custom styling. Feel free to take in wardrobe pieces you can’t figure out how to style, and they’ll help you figure out what missing accessory you need to complete your look!

Things to do in Edison Park

Kids practice flag football at Olympia Park in Edison Park. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Kids practice flag football at Olympia Park in Edison Park | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Living in Edison Park gives you access to four Chicago Park District parks. In addition to tree-lined streets and ample room for yards, you can head to one of the local parks with the kids.

Olympia Park includes ten acres of green space located west of Harlem Avenue. There are baseball fields, four basketball courts, three tennis courts, a playground and water feature where kids can play and splash in during the summer. There’s also art programming and adult basketball and volleyball leagues.

Monument Park is adjacent to the train station in Edison Park. There’s a playground and sandbox. This is a popular location for young children to play after school. With swings and a jungle gym, it’s a short walk after getting an ice cream at Soup and Scoops.

Brooks Park is located on Harlem Avenue, just south of Touhy Avenue on nine acres. There’s an annual boxing show each December in the park. There’s also basketball, volleyball, floor hockey and recreational tumbling.

A group of kids play organized Flag Football at Brooks Park in Edison Park | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A group of kids play organized Flag Football at Brooks Park in Edison Park | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Edison Park features an historic fieldhouse and an outdoor, soft-surface playground. There’s programming geared for pre-school age children to an active social club for seniors. On the second level of the fieldhouse, the Northwest Society of Model Railroaders has a display of an elaborate electric model train.

Edison Fest is the biggest event in Edison Park each year. The street fair is usually held in August. | Provided

Edison Fest is the biggest event in Edison Park each year. The street fair is usually held in August. | Provided

The Edison Park Chamber of Commerce puts on more than 20 free family events a year for the community. In addition to Edison Park Restaurant Week in September, there’s the Monster Mash movie night for kids, Monster Smashed Pub Crawl for adults, and Santa Express during the holidays. One of the most popular events is the Edison Park Fest every August which brings out 20,000 people throughout the weekend.

Ji’s take

Edison Park is a community that young families gravitate to. For many, it’s where they grew up and decided to return to raise their family. Overall, the folks I talked to said they were drawn to the neighborhood because of its affordability, safety and friendliness.

It’s a tight-knit, small neighborhood. Many of the residents have at least one firefighter or police officer as a relative. There’s a deep seeded respect for first responders in the community with many of the fundraisers benefiting paramedics, firefighters and police.

They love their sports here, especially the teams their kids play for – and also a strong affinity for the Chicago Blackhawks. President and CEO John McDonough hails from Edison Park and on his day with the Stanley Cup brought the championship trophy to his home neighborhood in 2015.

There’s a small town feel here without being far away from big city amenities. There’s a different restaurant to choose from each night of the week. It’s easily walkable with the bars and restaurants very close together on Restaurant Row. It’s family-friendly but there are also spots that serve as a retreat for adults. There are hardly any franchises –  and if you have to get to one, you can drive to a nearby suburb that has one.

There’s an extreme sense of pride and lot of family roots in Edison Park. It comes across in daily life and you’ll experience if, even if you’re only visiting for a day!

Edison Park is a charming, friendly neighborhood on Chicago's northwest side. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Edison Park is a charming, friendly neighborhood on Chicago’s northwest side. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Time

This new Sun-Times video series showcases the best of Chicago’s neighborhoods (and suburbs!) by turning a spotlight on the people, places and things that make our city one-of-a-kind. Look for a new video episode each Wednesday on the Chicago Sun-Times website. #thegrid.

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