NFT Chicago Avondale / Old Irving

Avondale / Old Irving

That screeching sound you hear is Avondale development, which, like much of Chicago's westward expansion, has been riding the breaks since the recession fueled decline. Even real estate speculators are hard pressed to gild the dandelion of frame two-flats in foreclosure in this "park poor," mostly concrete area. The results: bleary-eyed hipsters wandering around in confusion, wondering how the hell they ended up here.

In spite of the lack halted real estate market, Avondale is still a destination dining hotspot. Foodies queue up for the heavy metal music and burgers at Kuma's (but prepare yourself for a potentially hours-long wait).


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Max M
Photo:  Max M

Urban Belly
There's this place you've got to try. It's in a strip mall right next to a Laundromat. That sounds like a joke but I'm serious. It's called Urban Belly. The interior is small but comfortable, a harmony of urban and rustic. Exposed duct work hangs over long Chinese Elmwood tables and wood block stools. The seating is communal so you won't have your own table but you might make new friends. The food, a modern take on Pan-Asian cuisine, is something too behold. Bill Kim is a master of flavors and every dish screams his praise. I want to write about everything but I'll stick to two dishes. I used to hate Kimchi until I had the seasonal Kimchi. It changed my whole outlook. A subtle spice and a punch of flavor make it perfect palette preparation. Main course: Bolognese. It's like a Mitsubishi with aftermarket Lamborghini doors--Asian styling and a healthy dose of Italian tradition. Everything is balanced masterfully. The delicate Soba noodles are bathed in a thick, rich, meaty sauce that's spiced perfectly. You can't go wrong no matter what you get. So call your friends and see if they want to go to the mall.

Posted By:  Tamara Matthews
Photo:  Tamara Matthews

There is nothing quite like a neighborhood bakery. And since homemade bread these days usually means a perfect rectangle that comes out of a machine, it’s time to go get you the real thing. Golden Rise prides itself in its naturally-made breads which come in all kinds of mouth-watering flavors, including sourdough, tomato basil, nine grain, banana, cranberry, apple cinnamon, and even sweet potato. Also on offer are pastries, cakes, vegan ice cream, organic coffee, sandwiches, and salads. If you try the apple and bacon stuffed Farmer’s Basket Grilled Cheese, there is no way you can go back to a standard cheese-and-bread grilled cheese again. Seriously, apples and bacon. Brilliant! Golden Rise was named 2007 New Business of the Year in Logan Square and it’s no surprise. This bakery is casting a bright yellow glow on the neighborhood—and on lots of satisfied tummies.

Posted By:  Tamara Matthews
Photo:  Tamara Matthews

MoJoe's Hot House
Walking into MoJoe’s is kinda like walking into Aunt Maud’s kitchen, if Aunt Maud also happened to love serving up Intelligentsia coffee at your request. Retro cream yellow cabinets cover the walls behind the counter and newspaper clippings, artwork, coffee related memorabilia, and old timey pin-up girl cut-outs cover everything else. During slow parts of the day the employees seem to blend into the scenery, rising up from their laptop at one of the tables to come take your order. This only enhances the neighborhood hangout feeling, and certainly it takes regulars to find a place like this in a not much foot-trafficked stretch of Belmont next to Ace Hardware. Quiche is their specialty and if you come in the evening you might catch some live blues, jazz, or folk music. Don’t expect a fancy leaf pattern in your latte foam though. Just shut up and drink it—Aunt Maud would agree.

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Hot Doug's
Here’s the perfect Friday afternoon: Escape from the NFT office, fly into O’Hare, jump in the rental car, and head straight for Hot Doug’s. I had heard so much about this place that it seemed unlikely—no make that impossible—to live up to the hype. And when we arrived with hunger pangs fully in tact and saw the long line, it wasn’t looking good. But guess what? The 30 minute wait flew by, and even more importantly, it was well worth it. These wieners will blow your mind. And your arteries. Here’s a run down of what we ordered: One elk-bacon sausage covered with cheddar jalapeno, one pork jerk sausage smothered in queso fresco, 2 char grilled Chicago-style dogs, and the ultimate treat—the famous duck fat fries (served only on Friday and Saturdays). Everything was absolutely delicious and cooked to perfection. Plus, Doug is a true gentleman who will take your order with a smile and offer friendly banter to his loyal customers. Only in Chicago folks, only in Chicago.

Posted By:  Josannah Birman
Photo:  Walter Terry

Break free from the barbecue/beer garden cycle and row away into the sunset. From moonlight dinner paddles to skyscraper canyon trips, Chicago River Canoe & Kayak isn’t just for the lone athletic guru of every clique. But, if you happen to be the type that prefers power bars to power naps, liven up the workout routine with cardio kayak. Yes, the river is wicked-witch green, but it is much cleaner than it used to be and even attracts urban wildlife. Scope deer, beavers, and birds galore while gliding along calm water. Canoes and single kayaks are $15 per hour, a small price to pay for your first summer memory that doesn‘t come with a hangover.

Posted By:  Jill Jaracz
Photo:  Jill Jaracz

Kuma's Corner
If you believe the hamburger is one of the finest sandwiches on the planet, you need to go to Kuma’s. The menu features 16 burgers (hamburger, chicken breast, veggie burger, or chicken tenders) all named after death metal bands. Each one is a different version of awesomeness served on a pretzel roll. Go for the original Kuma Burger, made with bacon, cheddar, and a fried egg; the Iron Maiden, topped with avacado, cherry peppers, pepper jack, and chipotle mayo; or the Mastodon, a colossus of barbeque sauce, cheddar, bacon, and frizzled onions. Although the delicious create-your-own mac and cheese or Pig Destroyer pulled pork sandwich may tempt you, the burgers will keep you coming back for more. Kuma’s also puts together a fine list of quality beers and whiskeys. Stop in on a Whiskey Saturday for half-price on some of their favorites. If you find yourself trying to pick from too many options, don’t worry—the friendly staff and lively atmosphere will keep you coming back for more.

Posted By:  Keidra Chaney
Photo:  Keidra Chaney

Chief O'Neill's
There is no shortage of schmancy brunch spots here in the city. But there are times when more high-concept brunch spots are a turnoff when I crave a good old-fashioned brunch buffet, and that’s where Chief O’Neill’s comes in. Named for a turn-of-the-century Chicago police chief, this authentic Irish pub is known primarily for its hearty homestyle Irish dinner fare (think Shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash) and as a popular venue for traditional Irish music. While I’ve heard good things about both the pub and the Chief’s dinner fare, I’m in it for the brunch: scrambled eggs, sausage, French toast, waffles and fresh fruit sharing space with short ribs, roast beef smoked fish, tons of peel-and-eat shrimp, and a lot more. In the summer, there’s the added attraction of the pub’s spacious beer garden (which seems to gets pretty crowded after about 11am for brunch) Despite the fact that the bar service is a little slow and someone at the pub seems to have a penchant for playing Styx–at least on Sunday mornings–to me it’s pretty much a can’t-lose brunch option, with a little something to make everyone happy.

Posted By:  David Rosenstock
Photo:  David Rosenstock

Hot Doug's
I still think the best hot dogs in the country can be found at The Wiener Factory in the San Fernando Valley circa 1991, but Hot Doug’s runs a close second. For a guy who doesn’t like pickles, I managed to inhale the “Chicago Dog,” a wiener dressed in celery salt, sautéed onions, chopped tomatoes, mustard, and a finger length pickle, before I reached my barstool. Maybe it’s all the lips and assholes, but for some reason hot dog people are real smart alecks. Around these parts a “Fire Dog: Mighty Hot!” is known as The Jennifer Garner (formerly the Britney Spears). There’s also the Don Rickles: “Beef, pork, and garlic—you’ll like it you hockey puck.” Oscar Mayer sexes up the walls with its signature solid red and yellow stripes. By the way, the guy in the Daniel Libeskind glasses taking your order is Doug. Come on by on either Fri. or Sat. for the signature duck fat fries.

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See Avondale / Old Irving...
Restaurants (13)
Nightlife (9)
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