Paddle north on the Chicago River about five miles from the Loop (or just take the Kennedy Expressway) and you'll arrive at Avondale, a neighborhood rich with history that's in the midst of a transition.
In the mid-20th century, Avondale was where Chicagoans would go to play in the summer. Wealthy Chicagoans would venture to Grebe's Boatyard, just north of Belmont Avenue, to set sail on luxury yachts, and children would beg their parents to take them on the roller coaster at the Riverview Amusement Park. Neither business is still in operation today, but the neighborhood still buzzes with activity.
Avondale's present population of more than 43,000 residents is ethnically and economically diverse, and a growing number of Latin-American families call Avondale home. In recent years a younger set has moved into the southern portion of Avondale, drawn to the 'hood's affordable rents, cheap eats, and good transportation options.
Public Amenities, Services, Civic Organizations
Avondale is a historically Polish neighborhood, and today the neighborhood's Polish population is strongly represented on the stretch of Milwaukee Avenue between Belmont Avenue and Pulaski Road. The enclave, known as the Polish Village, features several Polish restaurants, shops and delicatessens.
The Greater Avondale Chamber of Commerce helps to promote Avondale's active business community, and in recent years the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance has announced plans to build a Puerto Rican / Latino cultural center in Avondale.
Homebuyers in Avondale enjoy more affordable housing stock than neighboring Roscoe Village, because the neighborhood still flies under the radar for many. Most of the homes in Avondale are valued between $300,000-500,000.
Although the lower-end homes are rising in price slightly, it is still possible to find a home for under $300,000. At the other end of the spectrum, homes valued at more than $500,000 are still quite rare.
Nearly 40 percent of the homes in Avondale are owner-occupied, and that number is likely to grow. Several large brick condominium and townhouse developments have been constructed along Belmont and Elston avenues in recent years.
The Kennedy Expressway cuts through Avondale, and during off-peak hours travel time to downtown Chicago is usually about 10 minutes. The neighborhood is very car-friendly, too (some would say you need a car to live in Avondale), as some 70 percent of neighborhood residents drive or carpool to work.
The O'Hare branch of the CTA Blue Line, which provides easy access to the Loop and O'Hare Airport from the Belmont subway station, also serves Avondale.
Shopping, Dining and Nightlife
In recent years, Avondale has quietly cultivated a reputation as a dining destination. Unlike nearby neighborhoods like Lincoln Square and Roscoe Village, where fine dining is all the rage, most of the Avondale standouts are authentic neighborhood joints where you can get a meal for less than $10.
The most famous of them all is Hot Doug's, an "encased meat emporium" that serves a classic Chicago dog (everything, no ketchup), a hot dog topped with foie gras, and everything in between. Next is Kuma's Corner, a pub on Belmont Avenue that has gotten a near-unanimous vote from the city's food critics for serving up the best burger in all of Chicago.
For music lovers, the Abbey Pub is the main draw. With a full bar and a large concert venue that hosts live music every night of the week, The Abbey is a good place to catch a rock show or just grab a beer.
Lane Technical College Preparatory High School (known to most as simply "Lane Tech") is located just across the Chicago River from Avondale. Lane Tech is the largest and one of the highest-rated magnet schools in Chicago. Some of the other nearby public schools include Avondale Elementary, Schurz High and Logandale Middle School.