The owners of Reed’s Local, Avondale’s dive bar near Elston and Belmont, have dove into the restaurant world as they opened B’el Bar + Kitchen over the weekend inside the former Dragon Lady Lounge. B’el (pronounced “bell”), 3188 N. Elston Ave., taps into Midwestern pride with dishes like the Juicy Lucy, the Horseshoe sandwich, and a fried pork tenderloin sandwich. It’s a casual spot for the neighborhood, as owner Joel Hill and business partner and beverage director Heron Rivera, along with Hill’s wife Melissa Genova Hill seek to find a niche in a neighborhood with great eats including Kuma’s Corner, DMen Tap, and Honey Butter Fried Chicken.
Former Kuma’s executive chef Michael Swing, a friend of Joel Hill’s, helped develop the menu. The concept gives Midwestern cult classics a home. The Horseshoe is an item that defines Springfield. The Juicy Lucy stuffed-burger is a Minnesota favorite. Fried pork tenderloin sandwiches hail from Indiana. B’el aims to make everything in house, including baking the bread for the burgers and sandwiches. The chef is Matt Bryks, formerly of Bread & Wine in Irving Park. He also worked at the recently-shuttered Dixie in Bucktown.
Using the same DIY-attitude they used in rehabbing their bar just up the street, the Hills have renovated the B’el space. They’ve resurfaced the floors, ceilings, and walls. It’s not a huge restaurant. There’s a few counter seats by the front window, and a lounge area with a couch. The tables are lined up next to each other down a narrow hallway. There’s also a TV that will be powered up on select occasions.
Heron has bartending experience at a few bars in the West Loop (Sawtooth, One SixtyBlue) and in River North (SPiN, Celeste). He’s made five signature cocktails with syrups also made on premises. There’s even a callback to the former tenants. The Dragon Lady is a drink made with Plantation OFTD rum, Ancho Reyes, orgeat, lemon & angostura bitters, and basil.
Check out the menu below. “B’el” is a reference to Belmont and Elston avenues. Avondale can see if the Reed’s team has rung up a winner tonight.
B’el Kitchen + Bar, 3188 N. Elston Ave., (872) 241-9032, open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Wednesday through Monday. Bar stays open until 11 p.m. Closed on Tuesday.