Downers Grove

February 2019 View more

No apostrophe needed
A farmer named Pierce Downer founded the village in 1832. Though grammatically incorrect, the village is called Downers Grove rather than Downer’s Grove.

Sizing it up
The Village of Downers Grove is 14.31 square miles, according to the United States Census Bureau.

Quick trip
The shortest express train to Chicago’s Union Station from Downers Grove’s Main Street station via Metra’s Burlington-Northern Santa Fe line is 25 minutes.

Summer nights
Downers Grove’s annual summer festival is Rotary GroveFest, held in late June.


Considering Representative Sean Casten’s background as a scientist, it is no surprise that he took a methodical approach to selecting which Chicago suburb to reside in.

When relocating to Illinois in 2007—to cofound Recycled Energy Development in Westmont—Casten and his wife, Kara, wanted to raise their two daughters in a community that was as diverse as possible.

“This is where things get really nerdy,” Casten says. “I built a spreadsheet with every town that was in a 20-mile radius.” He logged data for myriad factors—income, ratio of renters to homeowners, racial and religious diversity—and found Oak Park ranked first.

“I talked to people out here and they said, ‘That’s great, but you don’t want to risk an Eisenhower commute every day.’ ”

No. 2 on the list was Downers Grove, which charmed the Castens with its downtown district dotted with restaurants, shops, and historic fixtures such as the Tivoli. Read on for few of Casten’s favorites.


Ballydoyle Irish Pub & Restaurant
“The single coolest thing that has happened in the Downers Grove community, that we did not remotely anticipate, was the Pierce Downers Parents’ Battle of the Bands,” Casten says. The annual fundraiser at this Irish pub has given Casten the opportunity to dust off his keyboard, and over the years the event has kickstarted the formation of a number of bands that play local venues. Ballydoyle is known for its Irish pub fare and plentiful beer taps and live music lineup. “It is an awesome place to play,” Casten says.
5157 Main St., 630.969.0600,

Emmett’s Brewing Co.
“The girls love Emmett’s,” says Casten of his daughters, Audrey and Gwen. “It’s our go-to.” The space is divided into three areas: a bustling bar, a cozy booth-lined dining room, and a private event space. House brews such as Cow Tipper milk stout and Peace Keeper American wheat ale are available anywhere you sit.
5200 Main St., 630.434.8500,

Guac N Tacos
The Casten family digs the tacos at this cute counter-service shop, where the friendly staff stuffs corn tortillas with fresh and tasty fillings ranging from pineapple-topped al pastor to chipotle mayo-drizzled fried fish. Housemade salsas, crispy tortilla chips, thirst-quenching aguas frescas, and the namesake guacamole round out the offerings.
4948 Main St., 630.395.9373,

Tivoli Theatre
“We certainly enjoy the Tivoli,” Casten says. When the movie theater first opened in 1928, it was the second in the country to show films with sound. In the basement of the same building you’ll find Tivoli Bowl, where Casten had his band have played.
5021 Highland Ave.,

Evolution Music
In addition to stocking a slew of musical instruments and equipment, Evolution hosts concerts and lessons and operates a recording studio. Casten has also played at this music shop and venue, housed in a building with a unique history. “It’s the old Freemasons’ hall,” Casten says of the brick Tudor-style building with picturesque arched doorways.
923 Curtiss St., 630.541.5022,


Maple and Main

I think Downers has done a nice job of being very Jane Jacobs in its construction,” says Casten, referring to the Canadian-American author who championed mixed-use developments in cities. “A lot of mixed-use areas means there are always people out in the downtown.”

Having places for people to live, work, and shop definitely contributes to making downtown Downers Grove a hub for residents and visitors. New bars and restaurants opened in the past year include rock-themed Cadence Kitchen & Co. (5101 Mochel Drive, 630.442.7631,, beer/burger/bourbon-centric Pierce Tavern (5135 Main St., 630.869.5333,, and Orange & Brew (1027 Burlington, 630.541.3880,, where you can sip craft beers at the bar or buy bottles to take home.

Three new residential developments in Downers Grove have opened in the past year as well. Marquis on Maple (940 Maple Ave., the has 55 condos just a half block off Main Street, while the 89 apartment rentals at Burlington Station (5100 Forest Ave., are steps from the Downers Grove Library and the Metra station.

The most recent to open is Maple & Main (1010 Maple Ave.,, a mixed-use six-story development with 115 apartments for rent and retail space on the first floor. The building features a lounge, pool, and sun deck with outdoor fireplaces and a picturesque wooden pergola visible from the sidewalk below.

Photo courtesy Sean Casten

Illustration by Maeve Norton