10 Things We Love About Avondale
Home to the famous Kuma’s Corner, where heavy metal and burgers come together in perfect harmony, Avondale is a neighborhood that marches to the beat of its own drum. But there’s so much more to this area than just killer burgers. From a retro bowling alley that was lovingly restored to a thriving but still-affordable housing market, there are plenty of reasons to love Avondale. In this article, we’ll explore 10 things that make the neighborhood attractive to newcomers and long-time residents alike.
Although the Chicago River is one of the city’s most prominent landmarks, relatively few Chicago neighborhoods actually converge with it. Avondale is one that does. The River can be enjoyed from a number of neighborhood vantage points, and one of the most interesting is the WMS Boathouse at Clark Park, designed by world-famous Chicago architect Jeanne Gang. The facility is home to the Chicago Rowing Foundation (CRF), and is an impressive feat of architecture in an unexpected location.
The Chicago Electric Boat Company has an outpost at Rockwell on the River, offering guests the chance to rent their own zero-emission watercraft. You must be 21 with a valid driver’s license to operate a boat, but you can also leave the sailing to one of the company’s captains. Tour guides are also available. Feel free to BYOB and enjoy a scenic cruise while sipping on your favorite beverage.
For those who want to experience the river but prefer to stay on land, Rockwell on the River is a great spot. Once a manufacturing complex, the series of buildings includes a distillery, brewery, roastery and of course, a marina, which are all connected by Italian cobblestones designed to mimic the movement of the Chicago River.
Located on the second floor of an unassuming building, the retro-inspired Avondale Bowl was discovered by happy accident. The owner – who also happens to be an @properties agent – stumbled upon the 1950s bowling alley, frozen in time, while trying to acquire a nearby property. He took a chance on the shuttered space, and after a lengthy and careful renovation, Avondale Bowl opened in early 2020.
The alley mixes old school flair with modern amenities. The lanes, pin setters, and ball returns are all original, and scoring is done with paper and pencil. If you bowl a game worth sharing, the manual score sheets, designed by local artist Ryan Duggan, are highly Instagrammable.
Meanwhile, the horseshoe bar boasts a cocktail program curated by Tony Correale, former manager at Longman & Eagle. You can make your selection from an extensive list of rotating craft beer, cider, wine, and hard liquor, including the infamous Malört. Since Old Style is also a staple on the menu, Avondale Bowl is a great place to order a Chicago Handshake.
Image from Avondale Bowl
A Music Scene That Has It All
Avondale is a place for music lovers, and the local scene reflects that. From rock to electronic, indie to hip hop, and everything in between, you’ll find it here. The 350-capacity Avondale Music Hall hosts bands and artists from all over the country. Sleeping Village, located steps away from the Belmont Blue Line stop, offers so much more than a typical concert experience. In addition to the bi-level interior with a stage, Sleeping Village has a café and a beer garden, both of which are worth exploring before a show.
For those who aren’t content to just be a part of the audience, Alice’s Lounge karaoke bar is open until 4 a.m., allowing patrons to belt out their favorite tunes until the wee hours of the morning. The friendly staff and regulars make Alice’s a welcoming spot, whether you’re an experienced singer or just looking to let loose. And for those looking to add to their music collection, Record Breakers and Bucket O’ Blood are two choice destinations for new and used vinyl. Both shops offer an impressive selection and employ a knowledgeable staff to help you find what you’re looking for.
A Rising Tide
Avondale property owners have done quite well for themselves over the past few years, but the area still offers an accessible point of entry relative to nearby neighborhoods like Logan Square, North Center, Irving Park and Bucktown.
According to BrokerMetrics, the median price of homes sold was $450,000 in the first quarter of 2023, a 9.8% increase compared to Q1 of 2022 and almost 20% higher than Q1 ’20. Despite the recent jump in interest rates, new listings are getting snapped up quickly with many selling above asking price. This trend underscores the high desirability of the area.
Easy To Get Around
It’s incredibly easy to get around the city and beyond from Avondale. Multiple bus routes operate on major thoroughfares like Milwaukee, Elston, Kimball, and Belmont, and the neighborhood also has a Blue Line station with trains reaching the Loop in 17 minutes and O’Hare International Airport in 25 minutes.
If you prefer to drive, the Kennedy Expressway runs through Avondale, providing convenient access to surrounding neighborhoods and suburbs. Meanwhile, many bike lanes are available on the busier streets, most notably Milwaukee Avenue.
The heavy metal-themed Kuma’s Corner is not your average restaurant. It’s a burger joint with a personality. Since its inception in 2005, Kuma’s has expanded with locations in the West Loop, suburban Schaumburg, and even Indianapolis. However, it all began at the original Belmont location in Avondale, where there is almost always a line out the door. The burgers themselves are a work of art, made with delightfully creative combinations. Among the most popular is the Black Sabbath, which is topped with chili, pepperjack, red onion, and blackening spices. The name, of course, is a nod to the band that wrote the 1970 hit, “Iron Man.”
Apart from the food, Kuma’s Corner has an atmosphere that is hard to beat. The walls are adorned with posters of heavy metal bands, and the music that plays in the background is as loud as the décor. The restaurant has a welcoming feel, and the waitstaff will be more than happy to talk your ear off about music. In a city that’s known for its food and music scenes, Kuma’s hits on both.
Settled in the 19th century, Avondale has a rich history that can still be felt today. St. Hyacinth Basilica, on West Wolfram Street, is a great surviving example of Polish cathedral style churches. Construction started in 1917 and took four years to complete. The church’s architecture is a sight to behold, with a red brick edifice, stained-glass windows, and high-arching cupolas.
Milford Theatre, also constructed in 1917, was designed by Henry L. Newhouse. The 1,150-seat cinema was a communal hub that showed silent films. The theatre remained open until 1990, and although it was reduced to ash in a fire four years later, the memory of the storied movie house remains.
Mother’s Ruin is a relatively new establishment in Avondale, but it has already made a name for itself. The bar first opened in New York City in 2011, and later expanded to Nashville before finally setting up shop in Chicago in March 2022. The owners chose Avondale because they felt it was the perfect neighborhood to embrace the brand’s philosophy of community.
One thing that sets Mother’s Ruin apart from similar establishments is its “no door philosophy.” This means that anyone can walk in and feel welcome, no matter who they are or where they come from. The brunch menu is a standout, with dishes like chicken and waffles, smashed avocado toast, and the signature Mama’s Chilaquiles. And if you’re looking for a drink, Mother’s Ruin has an extensive selection of craft cocktails, beer, and wine. Just make sure you “Order At The Bar!” as the signs inside will tell you.
Revolution Brewing Taproom
Revolution Brewing is a name familiar to many Chicagoans, and it’s a must-visit for beer lovers. Nearly all of Revolution’s products are made at its Avondale brewery and taproom, where you can see the magic of the production process through a floor-to-ceiling glass window. There’s also plenty of seating to hang out and try a variety of beers on tap, from hoppy IPAs, rich stouts, and crisp lagers to seasonal selections.
Revolution’s warm, inviting atmosphere also sets the stage for private events. With over 6,000 square feet of space that can accommodate up to 250 guests, and stacks of beer barrels climbing nearly 30 feet, the taproom is a popular wedding venue for couples that appreciate a unique backdrop for their big day.
Avondale’s coolness factor is undeniable. Perhaps it’s the laid-back attitude of its residents or the edgy, artsy vibe that permeates through the neighborhood. Whatever it is (and it’s difficult to put your finger on without experiencing it firsthand), Avondale has a dynamic energy. And it’s not just trendy bars and restaurants that make Avondale cool; it’s the sense of community and pride that has existed here for decades.
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