The proletariat party alongside bohemians here on the Northwest Side, and everyone has a good time. Known as the neighborhood that built Chicago because of its industrial past—it was once home to brick factories and a boatyard—Avondale was originally a haven for the city’s large Polish and German communities. Later, the two-square-mile area (a suburb until the city annexed it in 1889) became a landing spot for other immigrants, including Irish, Filipino, and Italian. But you don’t need a sociology degree to appreciate all the great things happening in this no-longer-under-the-radar neighborhood, whose side streets teem with classic Chicago bungalows and two-flats. These days, its restaurant and bar scene is flourishing (see Parachute, one of Bon Appétit’s best new restaurants of 2015).
1. Avondale Mural
This colorful, 100-foot-long geometric work, led by Rafael Lopez, not only enlivened a dingy underpass wall but begot a community garden.
2. Avondale Park
This pocket-size green space alongside the Kennedy has a field house designed by Clarence Hatzfeld, the architect of several Masonic temples and about 20 Chicago Park District buildings.
3. St. Hyacinth Basilica
Built in 1921, the striking baroque-influenced church includes three imposing towers and an ornate interior with stained glass windows from Munich.
4. Concordia Lutheran Church
Though this 1892 edifice, one of the first Gothic-style churches in the area, lost its steeple after a 2013 storm, it remains a destination because of its elaborate stone carvings and rose-tinted windows.
5. Puerto Rican Arts Alliance
The organization that calls an elegantly rehabbed fire station home hosts events like the National Cuatro Festival and performances by iconic salsa singer Charlie Aponte.
6. Andy’s Music
Guitar? Pshaw. Pick up a Tibetan singing bowl, a sitar, or a gong at this gem with, uh, unpredictable hours. (It’s often open just three days a week.)
7. The Beer Temple
Brew nerds, behold your utopia. This new location boasts a large taproom, a private party area, and more than 1,000 beers (under suds-friendly warm-spectrum LED lights, natch).
8. Joong Boo Market
This chaotic Korean cornucopia sells everything from live crabs to soybeans by the pound and industrial-size rice cookers. The pillowy dumplings in the shed outside go for just $2.
9. Kurowski Sausage Shop
Skip those fancy organic delis and get the best Polish links in town where the smell of smoked meat is thick as the Eastern European languages.
10. Olde Chicago Antiques
Get lost for hours in this 12,000-square-foot shop featuring gorgeous pieces ranging from classic midcentury modern bookcases ($75) to a hand-carved Italian wine server ($8,000).
Eat & Drink
11. Honey Butter Fried Chicken
Is this the best poultry in town? The endless line of people (and the smashed potatoes with chicken-fat gravy) suggests a definite maybe. Bonus: The meat is already deboned.
12. Kuma’s Corner
Bring your earplugs (or don’t) to the original location of this adored burger mini-chain, where the world-class patties are named after tinnitus-causing heavy metal bands, such as Mastodon, Black Sabbath, Pantera, and—of course—Lair of the Minotaur.
You wouldn’t expect a Michelin-starred Korean-inspired restaurant on this semidesolate stretch of Elston Avenue, yet that’s exactly where former Top Chef competitor Beverly Kim and husband, Johnny Clark, set up shop. Don’t miss the bing bread, which is baked with scallions, cheddar, and bacon.
14. Revolution Brewing Taproom
Skip the crowds at the packed brewpub and tour the 90,000-square-foot brewery instead. Our fave: Fist City, a citrusy pale ale.
15. Small Bar
This teensy corner tavern with a massive wooden bar and pressed-tin ceiling features a rotating, wide-reaching collection of hard-to-find brews, such as a pistachio cream ale (yum) from Pullman’s Around the Bend Beer Co.
January 13:Fringe theater event Rhinofest opens at Prop Thtr with folk-rock band the Crooked Mouth and a performance by writer Ian Belknap.
January 18:The DJ collective Soulphonetics spins worldly tunes at Barra Ñ, the coolest Argentine bar and restaurant you’ve never heard of.
January 22:Learn to tell your hops from your malts at the Beer Temple’s Beer 101 class.
January 28:Fiddler Sean Cleland plays Irish music at the pub Chief O’Neill’s.
Did You Know?
Lonely Planet named Avondale one of the 10 hottest neighborhoods in the United States, citing its “scruffy, artsy, lived-in magic.”