Best of the South Side: Chatham

Chatham is famous for being the stoutest stronghold of Chicago’s African-American middleclass. Peace and quiet dominate the neighborhood’s character as well as its history. Before the Great Migration of the 1950s, Chatham was variously populated by Hungarians, Irish, and Jews. By the 1960s, the townhouses and apartment buildings were occupied by African-Americans. The transition came without any of the discord arising in other neighborhoods throughout the city. Rumors of crime and widespread property neglect in the 1990s turned out to be unfounded. Peace and quiet reigned. Same as it ever was.

Best Soul Food
Army and Lou’s
For all your soul food lovin’ needs, the Chatham institution Army and Lou’s has been serving chitterling and sweet-potato pie from Martin Luther King to Muhammed Ali. With elegant starched white tablecloths and tasteful paintings adoring the walls, this isn’t your average soul food joint. One of the oldest black restaurants in the Midwest, this South Side fixture, started back in 1945, offers a warm, friendly ambiance as the waiters dressed in tuxedo shirts and bow ties serve you crunchy fried catfish and mustard greens. Make sure to top off your meal with a piece of apple, peach, or blackberry cobbler. The price for an average meal ranges from $8-25. 422 E. 75th St. Wednesday-Monday, 9am-10pm. (773)483-3100. (Justyna Nytko)

Best Ice Cream
Shawn Michelle’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream
Self-proclaimed “the best ice cream in the whole world,” Shawn Michelle’s features gourmet homemade ice cream from owner and chef Ya Ya Muhammad. The confections shop is home to creative all-natural flavors including Melanin Magic (a combination of chocolate, mint, and cookies-n-cream), Carribean Sunbeam Supreme (mango and other tropical fruits), and Jamaican Rum Raisin (self-explanatory). Having experimented with ice cream for the past fourteen years, Western Illinois University grad Muhammad professes that his secret lies in using the freshest ingredients to produce supreme bursts of flavor. Expect a wait: Crowds storm into the tiny shop regardless of the season. 332 E. 95th St. Monday-Friday 1pm-8pm, Sunday 12:30pm-4pm. (773)785-1232. (Justyna Nytko)

Best Hole in the Wall
New Apartment Lounge
If you don’t know about the legendary south side jazz scene, then chances are you don’t know too much about Chicago. Known as one of the last legendary jazz clubs, New Apartment Lounge can remedy this with the sounds of the howling sax. Alongside its music, the 1950s-style lounge can warm up any visit with its orange, blue and red rooms decorated with vinyl-padded mirrors on its ceilings. With a cover-free entrance, the curvy water-blue bar invites you to sip on a beer under the radiance of neon Christmas lights as the notes engulf your body. On any Tuesday, renowned musician and octogenarian Von Freeman, accompanied by a drummer and guitarist, plays multiple sets of mad sax to a crowd of keenly dressed regulars, North Siders, UofC students and professors. 504 E. 75th St. Monday-Friday, 1 pm-4 am; Saturday, 1pm-5am; Sunday, 12pm-4am. For more information, call (773)483-7728. (Justyna Nytko)

Best Vegan Alternative
Soul Vegetarian
The image that comes to mind with soul food is hot, crispy fried chicken (or catfish) thrown straight from the kitchen onto a plate next to a bed of secondary vegetables. Soul Vegetarian turns the tables around with its purely vegan soul food menu. How can soul food exist without meat, butter, or milk? Actually, astonishingly well. Managed by African Hebrew Israelites, this iconic Chatham institution decorated with vivid African art focuses on the “divine diet” consisting of nuts, fruits, and–naturally–vegetables. Soul Veg is perhaps most renowned for its textured mock meat derived from well-seasoned wheat gluten. Specialties include tofu lasagna, BBQ roast sandwich, and the Garvey Burger. The price for an average meal ranges from $5-10. 205 E 75th St. Monday-Thursday, 7am-10pm; Friday-Saturday, 8am-11pm; Sunday, 8am-9pm. (773)224-0104. (Justyna Nytko)

Best Dressed
Maxine’s Beauty Magic Boutique
It is perhaps unfortunately common sense that for distinct, well-made clothes, the North Side is the place to shop. Few would suspect a small, thriving boutique scene on the South Side, but nonetheless, it exists unbeknownst to the average shopper. Maxine’s Beauty Magic Boutique provides stylish apparel for a wedding or a girls’ night on the town. Abiding by their tagline “The Difference Between Dressed and Well Dressed,” Maxine’s carries a variety of unique dresses and skirts as well as beautifully crafted bags and shoes. As a Chatham mainstay for nearly the past forty years, Maxine’s has fostered a strong relationship with its young to middle-aged clientele. 1613-15 E. 87th St. Monday-Saturday, 10am-7pm. (773)221-8308. (Justyna Nytko)

Best Island Getaway
Café Trinidad
To excite your taste buds, go for a unique Caribbean flavor at Café Trinidad. Huddled in its small corner location, this restaurant hosts a laid-back, tropical atmosphere with Trinidadian flags hanging proudly alongside prints of palm trees. However, don’t expect any jerk chicken at this establishment. Trinidadian cuisine eclectically mixes together Indian, African, European, and Chinese staples as well as indigenous fare. Unlike other Caribbean cooking, the entrées have subtle tastes with spicy seasonings that eventually sneak up midway through the meal. The most common dish–roti sandwiches–are basically made of Indian bread wrapped around fillings like goat meat, shrimp or vegetables. Other notables on the menu include curried goat meat, red snapper, and homemade ginger beer. The average price of a meal ranges from $5-$15. 557 E 75th St. Monday-Thursday, 11am-8pm; Friday-Saturday, 11am-9pm; Sunday, 12:30pm-7pm. (773)846-8081. (Justyna Nytko)