Flavors of Albany Park, the annual restaurant crawl that celebrates the cuisine of one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods, returns this week after a pandemic hiatus. Visitors will have a chance to visit 43 restaurants along three separate routes and sample food, drinks, and sweets. The event was founded 12 years ago.
The festival begins at 5 p.m. on Thursday, August 26 at Iranian stalwart Noon-O-Kabab. The path then diverges with attendees having their choice of exploring restaurants on Kedzie, Montrose, or Lawrence and Kimball avenues. Located on the city’s Northwest Side, Albany Park features a diverse roster of restaurants from the kebobs of Kabobi and the baklava from Ward Bakery, to the griddle pupusas of Pupuseria El Cuscatleco, to the beers of Twisted Hippo and ciders of Eris.
Astrid Perez, co-owner of Machete’s Big Quesadillas, which recently opened in Albany Park after operating two locations in Archer Heights on the South Side, sees the festival as a way to introduce her restaurant to the neighborhood. She will be making her entire menu — a broad selection of quesadillas, with meat, vegetable, and vegan-friendly fillings — available to diners.
“Albany Park was always on our radar,” she says. “We loved the idea of a place where different cultures and cuisines were not only integrated but celebrated.”
The Twisted Hippo Taproom & Eatery at 2925 W. Montrose Avenue, on the other hand, is a longtime veteran of Flavors of Albany Park; it was part of the first event 12 years ago — even before Marilee Rutherford and her team opened their brewpub in 2019.
“We’re one of the few places in the area where you can come in and get a burger and fries, and that’s awesome,” Rutherford says. “It’s lovely to live in this little pocket of the universe and experience so much that comes from people’s homes and families. Because all these businesses are family-run.”
As of Monday, Rutherford still wasn’t sure what she was going to serve; high food costs and supply chain issues make inventory uncertain. But she did know that she would be serving something. “I do think that there are ways to enjoy each other within the confines of this mask mandate,” she says. “If we stay socially distanced, we stay social. And that’s a basic part of our joy of being humans together.”
Beyond those challenges, many restaurants are also struggling with staffing, which prevents them from participating in events like Flavors of Albany Park. The event will be primarily outdoors, but festival-goers should have masks handy in case they need to step inside a restaurant to grab their food. The event, organized by the North River Commission, wraps up with an afterparty in the parking lot of Surge Coffee Bar + Billiards (3241 W. Montrose Avenue).
Find the full roster of restaurants below.
Flavors of Albany Park, 5 p.m. on Thursday, August 26, starting at Noon-O-Kebob, 4701 N. Kedzie Avenue, tickets are $30 for adults, $12 for kids under 12, and $25 for students and seniors, and they can be purchased via Eventbrite.