|Thank you to Walking Dot Photography for the great shot!|
The best way I can describe it is to say that Chicago is composed of a bunch of small, close-knit little towns that each has its own very distinct culture and "feel" and that are all squished up right next to each other. Little Italy is all Italian families, Wicker Park is hipsters, Lincoln Park is well-to-do yuppies, Hyde Park is artsy intellectuals, Bridgeport is a slice of old Chicago (think lots of Polish, Irish, German and Lithuanian families) that's slowly getting "gentrified" with hipsters, Wrigleyville is kids just out of college, etc. Of course those are very rough stereotypes and each neighborhood is a lot more diverse than that, but that gives you a general idea.
|The coolest apartments in McKinley Park ... inside what used to be a church!|
Even though McKinley Park is one of the smallest and least-known Chicago neighborhoods, we have come to really love it over the past two years … so much so that we convinced some of our friends to move here too!
Here are the top five reasons we love living in McKinley Park:
1. FREE STREET PARKING
Oh my goodness, I can't say enough how great this is. Everywhere else in Chicago (it seems like) parking is such. a. pain. Either you have to pay to park (and the sky-high rates in the downtown areas are practically extortion) or you have to have some special sticker that expires way too fast or you need an expensive permit… It's a complete hassle. But here in good ol' McKinley Park, our friends can come visit and be guaranteed ample, free parking right on our street. That is NOT the case when we visit a lot of other neighborhoods, let me assure you!
2. Awesome restaurants
We are completely spoiled with many fantastic restaurants within just a few miles of our home. Tio Luis has fantastic Mexican, Chiu Quon has delicious Chinese (and the best pork buns you'll ever eat), Huck Finn is the quintessential classic diner (you have to try their apple fritters!), and Frank is mildly obsessed with Lindy's for chili and Gertie's for milkshakes (they share a location).
If you include Bridgeport, which we do since it's so close, there's also these:
- Pancho Pistola's for Mexican food
- Husky Hog BBQ for some of the best BBQ you will ever eat (we have not found better BBQ in Chicago, and believe me, we've looked)
- Pleasant House for amaaaazing British meat pies, Scotch eggs, etc.
- Zaytune for Mediterranean
- Nana for local/organic and slightly more upscale dining
- Bridgeport Coffee for casual sandwiches and truly excellent coffee
- Jackalope Coffeehouse (which serves MAPLE BACON DONUTS, omg)
- Bridgeport Restaurant for another classic diner
- Ed's Potsticker House for lovely upscale Chinese (think white tablecloths and hushed voices) and the most authentic Northern Chinese cuisine in the city (according to a former co-worker from northern China)
- Scoops Ice Cream (voted one of the best in Chicago!)
Whew! That was quite the list. But seriously, we are spoiled with the amazing dining options around here. And now I kind of want to eat out tonight…
3. Walking distance to parks, playgrounds, the library and the grocery store
Ok, so I suppose that not every single home in McKinley Park is walking distance from all those things … but probably, since this neighborhood is so small.
The actual eponymous park is FAN-tastic. The park is huge and includes basketball courts, tennis courts, soccer fields, football fields, a playground, AND a big beautiful pond that you can fish in and that always has lots of ducks and geese. There are lots of walking trails and some big grassy fields where we like to take picnics.
|From a walk in McKinley Park over the weekend|
|Frankie was obsessed with the ducks and kept saying "Guck! Guck!"|
4. A wonderful church community
Again, I'm sure this doesn't apply to every person living in McKinley Park, but for us it's a huge selling point. The closest Catholic church to us is St. Mary of Perpetual Help. We had never even heard of this little parish until we moved here, but as luck would have it, it's a vibrant, dynamic, incredibly welcoming community led by two amazing priests. We switch off between the Tridentine Mass at 8:30am and the Novus Ordo Mass in English at 10:30am—either way, you can count on sound, sensible preaching and a beautiful service.
Over the past two years, Frank and I have thrown ourselves wholeheartedly into our church community. He serves on the finance committee and is the Deputy Grand Knight for the new Knights of Columbus council. I started the moms' group and together we are working to start a welcome committee (with our pastor's enthusiastic support). All this is possible because our pastors are such wise, energetic, and devout leaders. I truly cannot say enough good things about those two kind, saintly men and the wonderful things they are doing there.
Even in just the two years we have been going there, the parish has grown by leaps and bounds (in fact, recently Father shared that the number of parishioners has grown by 25% in the past two years!). You see dozens of babies and little kids at Mass every Sunday—helped along by the fact that our pastors make a point of welcoming young families and saying how good it is to see the little ones at Mass (can you see why I love them?!). We are lucky to count our pastors among our dear friends, and even luckier to have such an amazing parish so close to us.
One of my favorite things about living in McKinley Park is the diversity of this community. As people who look Caucasian, Frank and I are definitely the ethnic minority in both our neighborhood and our church … and I kind of love that. When I go to local Mexican restaurants or the nearest grocery store, the waiters and cashiers greet me in Spanish; when I go local Chinese restaurants, they greet me in Chinese; when I go to the park or playground, we are often the only family not speaking Spanish; and when I go to church, most of the pews are filled with Mexican families or older Polish people, and the signs around the Church are in Polish. I find the diversity of our neighborhood to be really refreshing and, in a way, more "real world." It's a great environment for our family and I love that my son is growing up surrounded by people from a wide range of races and ethnicities.
So, there you have it, my five favorite reasons for living where I do. Would you believe that when Frank first suggested moving here, I was totally opposed? I thought we had to live on the North Side where all the cool kids hang out. But now that we have been here two years, I couldn't imagine living anywhere else. South Side forever and ever.
What's your favorite thing about where you live? And if you're from near Chicago, be honest: had you ever heard of McKinley Park before this blog post?