In the historic district of Fulton Market, Chicago's
old food processing factories stand together with artisanal pickle companies and tech newcomers in an exhilarating blend of the old and new. Trendy restaurants and galleries join in to create a rapidly changing neighborhood.
Located in the West Loop,
no one entirely agrees on the neighborhood's boundaries, but the Chicago Tribune roughly defines Fulton Market as the area from West Hubbard Street to West Washington Boulevard and from North Odgen Avenue to North Halsted Street, making the neighborhood essentially a small triangle just west of I-90. The area's close proximity to the Loop
and good transportation have further spurred growth, and newcomers continue to arrive, bringing a more residential flavor to this traditionally non-residential district. These fresh faces reflect the neighborhood's transforming identity, which is trending toward the younger and affluent.
Schools in Fulton Market
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Restaurants & Nightlife
Fulton Market packs an abundance of food choices within its small borders. From upscale American bistros and pubs to Brazilian, Japanese and Mediterranean eateries, as well as butchers, bakers and cafes, the neighborhood bursts with options, particularly along Fulton Street.
At Girl and the Goat, chef Stephanie Izard borrows tastes from every corner of the world to create her unique dishes, earning rave reviews from numerous publications, including Saveur Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times and Food and Wine Magazine. The destination eatery cultivates a lively atmosphere with soaring ceilings and a rustic-meets-modern look, while a wood-burning oven blazes in the kitchen behind. The constantly changing menu emphasizes small plates of artfully prepared dishes that play with flavor. Reviews call out the crispy chickpea fritters that reveal soft, pillowy interiors and Roasted Pig Face, a signature Izard dish that reinvents traditional head cheese with the addition of a fried egg, cilantro oil and a tamarind sauce.
Over at The Publican, diners join at communal tables or sit at the bar to feast on what chef Paul Kahan calls his "oysters, pork and beer" menu. The simple menu shows a deep exploration of these core ingredients, and quite a few others. The organic pig delivered here weekly becomes not just pork chops, but also pork belly with grits and spiced peanuts, porchetta with cannellini beans, and boudin noir, a blood sausage with herb jam and feta cheese. The Chicago Tribune praised the melt-in-your-mouth pork rinds and plump bouchot muscles, but also appreciated some of the lighter fare, including the flavorful roasted chicken. The communal ambiance gets noisy during mealtimes, but the energetic din and sharing of plates with your friends make The Publican unique. If you don't have time to join the throng, drop in next door to Publican Quality Meats, where the restaurant also runs a butcher, bakery and sandwich shop.
Though upscale restaurants dominate this foodie hood, there are plenty of affordable options. The favorite neighborhood Mexican restaurant, Cemitas Puebla, serves up steaming chalupas and tacos with a rainbow of spicy sauces to please every palate. The real standouts here are the cemitas, or Mexican sandwiches, served on homemade sesame rolls with housemade chipotle sauce and Oaxacan cheese. Try the chicken, a customer favorite, and grab a veggie for your vegetarian pals. Though the small restaurant has no wait service and few tables, the decor exudes a cool, modern vibe that's perfect for dinner with friends or a casual date.
At night, locals can go dancing at one of several clubs near Fulton Street or head out to the neighborhood bars. For a night of dancing and cocktails, locals suggest The Mid, a live music venue with a vast drink menu, bottle service and a wide variety of acts that range from local bands to renowned DJs. For a quieter evening, check out the many bars clustered around Randolph Street and North Halsted. The Lone Wolf shakes up craft cocktails alongside a carefully selected wine and beer list, including Three Floyds on tap. Locals in the know rave about The Office, the exclusive, invitation-only speakeasy located downstairs from the Aviary on West Fulton Market. Those lucky few get a crash course on world-class mixology from the talented bartenders, who blend unique creations for every customer from the choose-your-own menu.
History & Culture
The history of Fulton Market surrounds visitors with the neighborhood's turn-of-the-century red brick warehouses and factories, many of them still operating. The district has its roots as an open-air food market that began in the 1850s shortly after the city built a municipal market hall on Randolph Street. Farmers from the surrounding rural areas trucked in their wares, selling mostly wholesale produce. By the 1880s, Chicago's food manufacturers and processors thrived in the area, shipping out packaged meat to the rest of the country. Other industries joined later, including bakeries, ice plants and flour mills. In the late 60s, the district's significance began to decline, though the area remained vital to Chicago's meatpacking industry and today continues to supply many local hotels and restaurants.
The 1990s saw the first influx of young creative types looking for large industrial spaces on the cheap, and the neighborhood grew in popularity with a new generation of artisanal food manufacturers producing small batches of unique creations. The newcomers put down roots in the nonresidential neighborhood, and it has resulted in strong population growth. Though the converted loft spaces never housed Chicago's great artists or politicians, they share roots in the city's vital history as the Bread Basket of the Midwest.
The emerging artist community ushered in galleries, with Mars Gallery, Linda Warren Projects and Packer Schopf Gallery showing up-and-coming artists. Meanwhile, GenArt showcases young fashion designers and film screenings of emerging independent film makers. The area offers little in the way of museums, preferring to focus on fresh faces. The neighborhood also hosts the popular Taste of Randolph Street food festival every June, inviting visitors to sample from the city's best restaurants while listening to live music from bands such as Dumpstaphunk and The Revivalists. Past food line-ups have included Asian barbecue, handmade ice cream, lamb kabobs, fresh fruit margaritas and wine tastings.
Fulton Market boasts easy access to public transportation and major highways. Residents across the district can walk to the Morgan L station in about 10 minutes to take the pink or green line. The Clark station just two stops away connects to the brown, purple, blue and orange lines. The number 65, 56, 132 and 8 bus routes service the area, and just east of the district, the Ogilvie Transportation Center provides fast access to the Metra commuter trains.
For drivers, the close proximity of I-90 makes leaving the city easy, and major thoroughfare Ogden Avenue runs west all the way to Cicero and Stickney. The University of Chicago and the medical district are both easy commutes. Street parking is hit-or-miss, but parking garages on both Washington Boulevard and Madison Street provide a plan B. If you have trouble hailing a cab, Uber offers car service; its Chicago headquarters are actually located here on Carpenter Street. Local car services also stand at the ready.
The historic architecture and interesting shops make walking here a pleasure, and locals feel safe exploring on foot. Lake Michigan waits less than a mile away for cyclists to explore, though residents express a desire for dedicated bike paths closer to home. Cyclists consider Hubbard and Green Streets to be bike-friendly, but elsewhere, expect to share the road with the trucks and forklifts that come with increased development.
Though rapid growth has pushed up the cost of living in Fulton Market, rents still line up with the city's average. A one-bedroom
rents for around $1800, about on par with nearby Greektown and West Town
and slightly less than the Near East Side
across the river.
and apartments trend toward renovated lofts and modern high rises. Still, sampling dinner from Fulton Market's many upscale eateries can quickly empty your wallet, and the neighborhood caters to the professional and affluent cohort.
Exploring the boutiques and shops in Fulton Market takes you on a mini-tour of the neighborhood, with stores clustered near Randolph and Fulton Street. The district boasts a great selection of furniture, home goods and cooking equipment stores, along with a few independent clothing boutiques and flower shops. The offerings trend toward the modern, vintage and locally-made, though this high-brow selection doesn't come cheap.
At Green Home Chicago Design Center, modern furniture comes with an eco-friendly ethos. A 10-point classification system helps even the most informed consumers shop according to their preferences for sustainability and safety. The store works with you to design custom kitchen cabinetry and bathrooms right down to the flooring and tiles. At Morlen Sinoway Atelier, a curated mixture of modern furniture, home goods, jewelry and unique pieces by Morlen himself makes for captivating browsing. Customers often come here to find the gifts for friends, but Morlen's great taste carries a hefty price tag. The ever-popular Northwestern Cutlery holds a huge selection of kitchen knives alongside bakeware, cookware and even chef uniforms, all at reasonable prices, and they also sharpen your knives for you.
Locals take advantage of the many small, independent grocers and bodegas scattered throughout the neighborhood, such as Green Grocer Chicago (as close as this area gets to a farmers market), which stocks the shelves with organic brands and local products, along with fresh produce, artisanal bread and cheeses. For meat, old-school butcher shop Olympia Meats has delivered prime cuts since 1969, while the family-operated fish market Isaacson & Stein Fish Co. still weighs out perfect fillets after over 80 years in business.
Fulton Market's history as a market district has left it without any parks, but several welcoming public green spaces wait just a short walk away and are free for anyone to enjoy. To the southwest, the 13-acre Union Park lets visitors play all day with tennis and basketball courts, baseball fields, a large pool, a children's water spray play area, and a playground. For a small fee, kids can ride the carousel, and picnic tables and grills make it easy for families to spend the day. A floral garden and shade trees provide a nice rest after a workout or game, and leashed dogs get a welcome break from the urban landscape. Union Park also plays host to the annual North Coast Music Festival, where the diverse line-up of musical guests has included BassNectar, Kid Cudi and Snoop Dog.
Further east, the 1.5-acre Bartleme Park entertains both kids and dogs with a large playground on one side and a dog run on the other. The modern, rubberized playground offers children many ways to climb and swing, and many local residents consider Bartleme's play area the best in the area. At the sunken dog run, pups go free in a safely enclosed space with a double-fenced entrance to thwart escape artists. Dogs also get a circulating water fountain all to themselves and lots of concrete levels to leap and play. An open lawn stretches between the dog area and playground to let visitors relax. Bring your lawn chair on summer nights to catch the free film screenings.