Best of the South Side: Beverly

Beverly is a community that boasts a solid, middle-class society, Irish pride, and a haunted castle that has been in the area since 1886. The neighborhood is often referred to as Beverly Hills not for an eponymous area in California but for the glacial ridge that is a prominent feature and also the highest point in the otherwise generally flat expanse Chicago. Though WASPs swarmed to the area at its founding, Beverly has since attracted a large Irish Catholic population. The haunted castle is a replica from Ireland that now serves as a Unitarian church. Like Hyde Park, Beverly is now a racially-integrated community, with Black/African Americans making up 32% of the population in 2000, according to the Encyclopedia of Chicago. It is one of the southern-most communities within the bounds of Chicago, but it is well worth the trek away from the better-known Michigan Avenue to experience Beverly’s shops and restaurants and, of course, the castle.

Best Place to Catch Some Quality Culture
Beverly Arts Center
Right as you finally step off the Western stop of the 112 bus to Beverly, a large brick building with colored BAC flags is there to welcome you to the neighborhood–and remind you that, just because you’re more than one hundred streets south of the Loop, doesn’t mean that you have to give up the fine trappings of big city culture. Indeed, the Beverly Arts Center attracts professional theater groups like Second City all the way to its humble stages, as well as providing concerts, galleries to showcase artists’ works, and offering classes on art, theater, music and dance–including bellydance!–for both kids and adults. Poems by Judith Valente line the walls, accompanied by photographs by John Matt Dorn, and a new art exhibit with vibrant large-print photography by Cecil McDonald entitled Domestic Observations & Occurrences is on display through October 13. So if you ever find yourself among the hilly streetscapes of this south-south pseudo-suburb, fear not–you can still get all the quality culture you need, even if you are an hour and a half away from home. 2407 W. 111th St. Monday-Friday, 9am-9pm; Saturday, 8:30am-6pm; Sunday, 12pm-6pm. (773)445-3838. (Sean Redmond)

Best Place to Complete Your Vintage Vinyl Collection
Beverly Records
Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Beverly Rare Record Shop, or Beverly Records, is a haven for all your classic vinyl needs–and more. In fact, it hosts a variety of “classic” (i.e. nearly antiquated) goods of all kinds, as the big glass case at the entranceway immediately illustrates. From baseball cards to Wizard of Oz dolls, Buddy Holly posters and a brick from the original Comiskey ballpark, the door to Beverly Records is like a gateway into a lost–but not forgotten–era. VHS tapes go for a paltry dollar, and of course, there’s the variety of classic rock and other LPs from genres running the proverbial gamut, including contemporary releases from chart-topping mainstays like Amy Winehouse. Owner Jack Dreznes has been running the business since 1975; before that, his mom ran the show, and it really has the feel of a family-owned affair. Personable service and an extensive library of old and rare LPs (along with CDs, cassettes and even 8-tracks) make this one record shop that can hold its own with the best of the South Side–and beyond. 11612 S. Western. Monday-Friday, 10am-7pm; Saturday, 9:30am-6pm; Sunday, 11am-3pm. (773)779-0066. (Sean Redmond)

Best Steak and Onion Sandwich
Calabria Imports
Beverly may be a historically Irish neighborhood, but Calabria Imports is hands down one of the best Italian delis this side of the Loop (and, dare I may be more audacious, the Atlantic–or at least Lake Michigan). But seriously, coming from a predominantly Italian-American hometown with an Italian sub shop on every corner, I can say that the beef sandwiches at Calabria’s are some of the best this reporter has ever experienced. I don’t even like steak all that much, but the meat is moist, tender, and rich with flavor; add some onions and melted provolone on some crisp Italian bread with a big bag of fries (and to think, all this for only five bucks!)–hands down, it makes the trek allllll worthwhile. Calabria’s also boasts a variety of traditional Italian dinners, such as gnocchi and chicken parmesan, as well as many other sandwiches and subs. An extensive variety of pastas, sauces, breads and Italian cookies are also for sale, and they even stock a full range of Stewart’s sodas. And while the atmosphere isn’t exactly noteworthy, the maps of Italy and the community bulletin board that adorn the walls certainly work to keep you feeling at home (although non-Italians might not feel the warmth so much). But I’ll tell you this–if quality food at great prices doesn’t put a twinkle in your eye and a spring in your step, then hey, maybe Italian food’s just not your thing. I guess there’s always Chinatown. 1905 W. 103rd. Monday-Friday, 9am-7pm; Saturday, 8:30am-6pm; Sunday, 9:30am-3:30pm. (708)388-1500.