One agent describes recent sales as including everything from a 2008 two-story brick home that netted $400,000 to a 1950s teardown candidate that sold "as is" for $45,000. Burbank's residential streets are a mishmash of 1950s tri-levels, ranches and Cape Cods. (Marina Makropoulos/ Photo for the Chicago Tribune / October 21, 2011)

So regular are the regulars at Georgious Family Restaurant in Burbank that owner George Pappas can name the time of month by scanning the faces in his booths.

If the Crazy Ladies are here, it's the third Tuesday of the month. If the Square Posters are around, it must be the second Wednesday. If it's the Lions Club, it's the second Tuesday.

The Counter Rats, though, sidle up to the counter daily to discuss "sports, politics and a lot of BS," said Pappas.

"We came here to beautify the area," "Rat" John Talty, who emigrated from Ireland in 1958, before Burbank incorporated, said with a laugh. "It was just Stickney Township then." He works as a bricklayer with his son and fellow Rat, Kevin.

Twelve miles southwest of the Loop, Burbank is witnessing a second generation of homeowners. Many, like Kevin, are children of the first arrivals, who were Irish or German, while newcomers include Hispanics and Muslim immigrants. Most of Burbank's families are Catholic, so it's no wonder the Taltys' church, St. Albert the Great, is the hub of activity.

"Blue-collar and hard-working" is how Mayor Harry Klein defines this Cook County city of about 29,000 people.

"The old German in me says we must keep it financially strong," he said. "We can't cut vital services, and we can't spend money we don't have."

In the 20 years he has been mayor, his greatest accomplishment has been maintaining the city's infrastructure, which in turn helps maintain property values, he said.

Burbank offers South Siders a "suburban but urbanized" city, said Klein. Homeowners enjoy quiet, tidy neighborhoods without venturing too far into suburbia. Maintaining a strong police presence at the high schools and community events is a priority, said Klein.

Although Burbank lacks an old-fashioned downtown, it has a collection of chain stores at the Burbank Town Center and mom and pop restaurants and taverns on its main drags.

Instead of heading into Chicago to eat out, many residents stay close to home for favorites like the Voodoo Margaritas at Chuck's Southern Comforts Cafe, Big Baby hamburgers at Kojak's and pizza at Little Frank's Pizzeria.

Georgious stays open until 9 p.m., "but if you're still here at 9, we're not leaving," said Pappas.


Burbank is one of Chicago's youngest suburbs. It was part of unincorporated Stickney Township until it incorporated in 1970 to avoid annexation by Chicago.

"Instead of being a small fish in a big pond, we wanted to be our own city," said Klein.

Before that, it suffered a series of false starts, with housing developments that didn't materialize because of the city's flooding problems. The creation of the South Stickney Sanitary District in 1952, though, enabled the area to experience a surge of development.

Burbank's name honors the city's namesake, American botanist Luther Burbank. The name has nothing to do with its better-known cousin in California, said Klein, "but we did have the mayor of Burbank, Calif., in our 25th anniversary parade."

Things to do

Chicago is next door, but residents who want to stick around on weekends can choose from a variety of family-oriented activities.