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The Grid: Old Irving Park’s best includes tacos, seafood, barbecue and brew

Old Irving Park — an enclave inside greater Irving Park — has easy access to public transportation, the expressway, the Chicago River’s 312 RiverRun, beautiful parks and historic homes with spacious yards. Here’s a list of my favorite places to dine while exploring the neighborhood:

Old Irving Brewery Co.

4419 W. Montrose

Brewmaster Trevor Rose-Hamblin of Old Irving Brewing Co. | Brian Rich for the Sun-Times
Brewmaster Trevor Rose-Hamblin of Old Irving Brewing Co. | Brian Rich for the Sun-Times

Brewmaster Trevor Rose-Hamblin has been dedicated to his neighborhood and brewpub with heartfelt zeal. His rotating list of craft brews pairs easily with menu items like the weekly specialty wood-fired burger and chicken wing specials. For dinner, elevated entrees like wood-fired Spanish octopus with crispy potatoes, piquillo peppers and green olive salsa are available.

Shokran Restaurant

4027 W. Irving Park

This cash-only, BYOB restaurant features authentic Moroccan cuisine. Try the house-made merguez sausage, kefta (Moroccan meatballs) tagine or couscous. An appetizer portion of chicken bastilla— a savory and sweet chicken pie with eggs and almond — is a house specialty.

ERIS Brewery and Cider House

4240 W. Irving Park

Named for the Greek goddess of mayhem, ERIS Brewery may have had a chaotic beginning with lengthy construction updates to its massive historic Masonic Temple home, but it was worth the wait. Owners Michelle Foik and Katy Pizza, along with brewmaster Hayley Shine, have created a one-of-a-kind experience in ambiance and ciders and beer selection. The only havoc being wreaked now is the disruption of a heavily male-dominated industry by this all-woman team.

A flight of ciders served at Eris Brewery and Cider House in Old Irving Park. | Brian Rich/For the Sun-Times
A flight of ciders served at Eris Brewery and Cider House in Old Irving Park. | Brian Rich/For the Sun-Times
Brewmaster Hayley Shine (left) and co-owners Katy Pizza (middle) and Michelle Foik of Eris Brewery in Old Irving Park. | Brian Rich/For the Sun-Times
Brewmaster Hayley Shine (left) and co-owners Katy Pizza (middle) and Michelle Foik of Eris Brewery in Old Irving Park. | Brian Rich/For the Sun-Times

La Villa Restaurant

3638 N. Pulaski

Since 1972, this Italian restaurant has been a favorite of the neighborhood for its old school charm, generous portions and friendly vibe. It’s an Italian-American menu with steaks, seafood, pasta, pizza and a full salad bar. Order the namesake “Chicken ala Villa”— lightly battered chicken cooked in wine sauce with mushrooms, onion and garlic and topped with mozzarella.

Finom Coffee

4200 W. Irving Park

Serving some of the tastiest and prettiest lattes in the city, this shop also has a small but mighty in flavor food menu inspired by Hungarian cuisine. Try the Turkish delight espresso latte with rose water, cardamom, powdered sugar and dried rose petals. The mushroom paprikás is an elevated take on the traditional Hungarian dish that is as beautiful to look at as it is delicious to eat.

Cuenca’s Bakery

4229 W. Montrose

Specializing in Ecuadorian groceries with a pastry case during the week, Cuenca’s is really known for its weekend takeout menu — mainly hornado, or whole roast pig. You can also get it fried (fritada). Also, the bakery offers a variety of soups on the weekend with goat, chicken or fish.

Sidekicks

4424 W. Montrose

Looking for a spot to sing your heart out during the week? Sidekicks has free karaoke every night starting at 8 p.m. until closing time at 4 a.m. If belting out tunes works up your appetite, the bar has late-night food including pizza, nachos, mini tacos and the namesake onion loaf.

Smoque BBQ

3800 N. Pulaski

This critically acclaimed barbecue restaurant is a favorite for its tender, 12-hour smoked brisket seasoned with Smoque’s proprietary rub, which gives it a beautiful caramelized crust or bark. You can get the brisket chopped or sliced on a platter or as a sandwich. There’s also pulled pork, three-hour smoked chicken and Memphis-style ribs. Don’t forget the restaurant is BYOB.

Pulled pork sandwich with sides of beans, mac and cheese, cornbread and coleslaw from Smoque BBQ. | Brian Rich/For the Sun-Times
Pulled pork sandwich with sides of beans, mac and cheese, cornbread and coleslaw from Smoque BBQ. | Brian Rich/For the Sun-Times

The FishGuy & Wellfleet

4423 N. Elston

Technically located in Mayfair, this is my pick for the freshest seafood in the area. Fishmonger Bill Dugan has over 40 years of experience sourcing the best seafood and shellfish from around the world. If you’re looking to buy fish directly from the source and advice on how to prepare it, head to Dugan’s shop. The FishGuy also serves lunch — salmon burger, lobster roll or shrimp stir fry, to name a few options.

Lobster roll served at The FishGuy & Wellfleet in Old Irving Park. | Ji Suk Yi/For the Sun-Times
Lobster roll served at The FishGuy & Wellfleet in Old Irving Park. | Ji Suk Yi/For the Sun-Times

Chicago Taco Authority

4219 W. Irving Park

Old Irving Park native and Marine Corps veteran Jose Bustos modeled the theme of his taqueria after the Chicago Transit Authority. The interior decor features CTA train memorabilia, and the menu takes inspiration found in different neighborhoods connected by the various train lines. Favorite tacos include the al pastor, shrimp and tinga chicken.

Tinga chicken, steak, and shrimp tacos, served at Chicago Taco Authority in Old Irving Park. | Brian Rich/For the Sun-Times
Tinga chicken, steak, and shrimp tacos, served at Chicago Taco Authority in Old Irving Park. | Brian Rich/For the Sun-Times
Owner of Chicago Taco Authority Jose Bustos (middle) with his mother Graciela Bustos and JI Suk Yi. | Brian Rich/For the Sun-Times
Owner of Chicago Taco Authority Jose Bustos (middle) with his mother Graciela Bustos and JI Suk Yi. | Brian Rich/For the Sun-Times