2900 W. Belmont Ave. (3200N, 2900W)
Chicago, IL 60618
After being spurned multiple times, my wife and I finally made it to the Pride of Avondale, also known as Kuma's Corner, for their enormously popular burgers, mac & cheese and death metal soundtrack. How popular you ask? Note the 1,000+ reviews on Yelp-from our experience, even the most popular restaurants & bars are lucky to receive 100 or more reviews... On this particular lunchtime attempt, we feared the dreaded line stretching out the door accompanied by an hour-long wait but, to our delight, we were seated immediately. (It didn't hurt that my wife was pregnant at the time as larger groups had to wait). Was it the best burger in Chicago? Best mac & cheese known to man? Read on to find out...
Kuma's Corner is located at the northwest corner of Belmont & Francisco Avenues, just past California and east of the Kennedy Expressway in the increasingly interesting neighborhood of Avondale. The old-fashioned three-flat with orange brick and beige accents is a Chicago classic by itself. Step up to a pair of French doors set between plate-glass windows with red drapes and you'll likely need to assertively nudge paste those waiting before you to get to the tiny maitre' d stand immediately to your right. A quick seat at the old wooden bar that runs halfway along the western wall is unlikely as everyone there is eating too, especially if you're with someone, so you'll have to wait with the rest of the cattle for one of about a dozen low-slung wooden tables. There's not much seating capacity hear at Kuma's, even in the summer when they open up their tiny backyard beer garden.
After perusing the intriguing and well-worn beer list, it was an Indica Pale Ale for me and water for the pregnant lady. Knowing that it was going to be a huge amount of food, we divided and conquered with the Plague Bringer for me (burger with roasted garlic mayo, tortilla strips, Chicago co-op hot sauce, fresh garlic, pepper jack, and sliced jalapenos) and the Build-Your-Own Mac & Cheese with andouille sausage, red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes for the wife. Was it the best burger in Chicago, as many before us have claimed? In a word: yes. Its thick, hand-packed patty, like what you get from Paulina Meat Market, combined with the soft pretzel roll, intriguing ingredients, thought-provoking name, and kitschy heavy metal music theme that had our unborn child grooving in the womb all make for an amazing experience—though I still love the Moody Bleu at Moody's Pub and miss the gorgonzola burger at the dear-departed JT Collins. All Kuma burgers are named for heavy metal bands from the known (Metallica, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest) to the obscure (Goblin Cock, Bongzilla, Land of the Minotaur), except for "Our Famous Kuma Burger" served with bacon, cheddar and fried egg.
"Some information for when you get here, to make your trip enjoyable for all. Including us:
1) We do not take reservations.
2) We will not "put on the game, bro."
3) No music requests.
4) No Minors after 10pm.
5) Our kitchen is only 16x16. Please be patient.
"And during patio season (summer):
1) Patio opens on May 10th.
2) To go service ends during patio season.
3) Patio is open when weather permits.
4) Patio closes at 10:30pm.
5) Kitchen is still only 16x16. Please be even more patient."
– such insolence can only gotten away with from a place as popular as Kuma's Corner
As a bonus, there is plenty of individual seating at the long wooden bar, and the decor consisting of S&M-like artwork, framed photos of rock bands, a refusal to play sports on TV, and the burgundy-painted, classic tin ceiling all add to the allure—as did the Blackthorn Cider and Left Hand Milk Stout that accompanied such a fine meal down the hatch. All of the above is served by a waitstaff adorned in their finest hard rock t-shirts (any color as long as it's black), rainbow hair color, impressive tattoos, and requisite piercings.
With their incredible burgers, top-notch mac & cheese, cool vibe, beer garden, and sheer originality, Kuma's Corner is one of the best bars in the city. Not bad for a bar named after a dog...
As the city's best burgers are to Kuma's, the city's best hot dogs are to Hot Doug's, which is also located nearby on California & Wellington. Their secret? Like the burgers at Kuma's corner, you'll find such inventive hot dog concoctions as The Salma Hayek (made with andouille sausage and "mighty, mighty, mighty hot," the "Dave Kingman" (chicken sausage served Italian- or Sante Fe-style), and a hot dog made with "game of the week." As such, you'll usually encounter Hot Doug's with a line stretching down the block to get in (even in sub-zero weather), so make sure you check that out for the finest encased meats in the Windy City at least during off-times and in-between visits to Kuma's Corner. With Kuma's Corner, Hot Doug's, n and a few other new places, the Chicago neighborhood of Avondale (just north of Logan Square) has really got it going on these days... For more information on the bar, check out the Kuma's Corner website and, if it's slow to load, please be even more patient...
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