The storied history of a celebrated Chicago neighborhood

Lincoln Park is one of the most beloved neighborhoods in the city, known for its expansive parks, beautiful brownstones, and proximity to the Lake Michigan. This neighborhood north of downtown also boasts the eponymous Lincoln Park Zoo (which is free), the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and a plethora of family-friendly activities. Rich with history, the lush neighborhood wasn’t always what it is today.

According to historical archives from the Art Institute of Chicago, in 1837, part of Lincoln Park was home to a smallpox hospital and city cemetery. This was short-lived; in the 1860s, the graves and hospital were removed and the area’s became public land, forming a park called Lake Park, which was renamed Lincoln Park in 1865 after President Lincoln’s assassination. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed much of the area housing shortly thereafter, which was then replaced with a combination of low-quality wood framed houses built for the working class interspersed with luxurious, stately properties. The zoo was added in 1874, and has always remained a free Chicago institution.

Today, the neighborhood has great walkability and a stellar, diverse food scene. Really, you can find everything in Lincoln Park—from quick-serve spots that satisfy DePaul students and kid-friendly restaurants that attract young families to destination-worthy gastronomic experiences like those found at Grant Achatz’s Alinea.

If you want a true taste of the historic Lincoln Park neighborhood, here are a few iconic spots sure to satisfy.

R.J. Grunts {2056 North Lincoln Park West; 773.929.5363}

This all-American eatery slings burgers and mixes milkshakes, but also features a menu of vegetarian options, and is home to one of the country’s first salad bars. It is one of the oldest restaurants in Lincoln Park and was Owner Rich Melman’s first restaurant, now a part of his restaurant empire, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises.