Worth The Trek — Portage Park
By Kara Spak Chicago Sun-Timesemail@example.com August 8, 2013 11:21AM
Updated: September 10, 2013 6:03AM
There’s a summer playground featuring history, greenery and a few different ways to keep cool where the No. 80 Irving Park bus and No. 85 Central Avenue bus converge.
At Irving Park and Central, take a dip into the heart of the Portage Park neighborhood, named after the grand 37-acre park with a fantastic free pool.
Portage Park Pool, 4100 N. Long
(773) 685-7235; www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks/Portage-Park/
It’s one of the crown jewels of the Chicago Park District — the Olympic-sized Portage Park pool, book ended by a diving well with diving boards at four different heights and a children’s splash park. Built in 1959 for the Pan American Games and the site of the 1972 U.S. Olympic trials (where Mark Spitz) set World Records, the Portage Park pool is clean, cool and so big there’s space for everyone. The price is right, too. The pool is free.
“I’ve been coming here since I was 6 or 7 — I love this place,” Suzanne Orlich, 57, an Independence Park resident, said while walking to a diving board. “The hours are great. There’s a lot of open swim. And at a lot of other places you have to pay.”
Sutherland’s Food & Spirits, 5353 W. Irving Park Road
(773) 930-4790; sutherlandschicago.com
Named after E.B. Sutherland, who in 1841 set up the neighborhood’s first tavern on what is now Milwaukee Avenue, Sutherland’s is directly across from Portage Park, making it the perfect spot for an apres swim bite and beer. In a neighborhood that is proudly home to a good number of corner bars, Nick Lukic, one of the owners and a lifelong Portage Park resident, said he and his partners were trying to give the neighborhood “a spot to chill” when they opened Sutherland’s in January 2012.
“People still like the old school taverns but they want a place to bring their girlfriend or their father,” Lukic said. “It’s just a cool neighborhood. Everyone’s just real.”