2015 is the year of the Avondale restaurant. Don’t believe us? Consider the news: 3 new restaurants have or will open this year, increasing the neighborhood offerings by about 75%. That growth means more exploration of the neighborhood’s food identity, which made us set about trying to define it.
But those definitions are impossible without considering the broader neighborhood. Avondale’s southern section is heavy on bungalows and built around a lovely park, so the overwhelmingly homey vibe is no surprise. And it makes its way into the restaurant scene. Between the park and the brewery, Avondale is the perfect spot to kick back. This is not a “scene.” It’s more of a friendly way station for folks from all over the metro area.
Still, it’s a destination nonetheless. So here are the 5 reasons we love eating out in Avondale:
- It embraces history: Avondale brewing has always tapped local lore for its brew names, but Avondale restaurants have their own references. Rowe’s Service Station was Rowe’s Auto Service in a past life, and the new owners saw no need to erase that history. “In keeping with the most recent history of the neighborhood, I didn’t want to steamroll the character of the space or turn it into something it wasn’t, and instead, take advantage of the history that’s already built into it,” co-owner Cliff Atkins, Jr. told AL.com. Then, of course, there’s Chef John Hall of Post Office Pies who grew up in the neighborhood, honed his culinary chops in New York City, and came back to offer delicious pizzas and salads in–you guessed it–a former post office.
- It’s continuously casual: The dining vibe tends toward picnic casual and is super to-go-friendly. Disposable plates and utensils abound, making it that much easier to tote your food to the brewery backyard in mild summer weather. In fact, AL.com’s Eric Velasco recommends that very trick as the best way to enjoy the “food truck without wheels” experience of Wasabi Juan’s.
- It’s deliciously healthy (sort of): Veggies aren’t just a health-minded afterthought. They’re part of the culinary draw, and they tend toward the seasonal. We have an abiding love for Post Office Pie’s salads, but Rowe’s is offering an unexpected seasonal asparagus side, and Saw’s Soul Kitchen has been known to serve pink eyed peas. Even a place wholly dedicated to the cheese arts like Melt offers a surprising array of non-iceberg salads.
- It’s a combo special: Comfort food with a chef’s touch and food truck fusion are Avondale’s two complimentary food trends. There’s a homestyle-but-better feel to Avondale eating at Melt and Saw’s Soul Kitchen, which we chalk up to its culinary vision. Like the trajectory of Maurizio Papapietro or the Somershield/Lockert partnership downtown, we think it’s a case of folks with big name experience looking to offer accessible food. Meanwhile, Wasabi Juan’s and the upcoming Hotbox spin-off Wooden Goat are exploring the potential of what Velasco calls “cross-cultural mashups,” and that’s exciting too.
- It’s established a neighborhood DNA: Cross-pollination is absolutely a thing in Avondale, with owners of one institution partnering up with new blood to bring something else to the neighborhood entirely. Proof: Saw’s Soul Kitchen’s Mike Wilson and Brandon Cain are partners in Post Office Pies, and the Atkins duo behind 41st Street Pub & Aircraft Sales is bringing us Rowe’s. Like Somershield and Lockert downtown, Avondale’s food heavyweights are continuing to invest in the neighborhood. We think that’s a good sign for both food and real estate.