Best of the South Side: Woodlawn

Woodlawn was a battleground. It’s been claimed by Hyde Park Township and annexed by the City of Chicago. It’s been defended by immigrants and refugees, the University of Chicago and street gangs. Though battles still happen here–most notably between the University of Chicago and neighborhood residents–the physical cost has been reduced. Woodlawn is remaking itself in its own image, becoming one of many success stories among Chicago neighborhoods.

Best Window into the Future
Experimental Station
Taking its name from a speech given by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Experimental Station seeks to fulfill Wright’s long-held dream to marry art and technology under the same roof. Reborn from the ashes of a devastating fire at its headquarters on Blackstone Avenue, the newest incarnation of the Station is a testament to perseverance and creativity. It is now housed in a facility even more eco-friendly than the one before, incorporating two live trees as support beams. The only thing more impressive than the Station’s massive performance space, organic food kitchen, studios, and wood-fired bread oven is the breadth of its initiatives. From urban gardening and farmers markets to independent publishing and artist talks to social justice projects, the Experimental Station has made contemporary art communal and socially relevant again, a fresh look into the future of an historic neighborhood. 6100 S Blackstone Ave. Event dates and times vary. (John Thompson)

Best Bike Shop
Blackstone Bicycle Works
Aside from Blackstone Bikes’ obvious perk–that they sell some of the least expensive reliable bikes in the city–the bike shop is also a working cooperative that provides educational and recreational opportunities for kids. Local schoolchildren can attend classes to learn about bike mechanics, bike culture, and bicycle retail in the context of a real store. In the back of an old warehouse that also houses the Experimental Station, Blackstone Bicycle Works provides some of the cheapest parts and friendliest service in the wide world of Chicagoland bicycling. Beyond that, there are bicycle mechanics classes for adults. The perfect resource in a region with high demand. 6100 S Blackstone Ave. Tuesday-Friday, 1pm-5pm; Saturday, 12pm-5pm. Closed Sunday-Monday. (773)241-5458. (John Thompson)

Best Comfort Food
Around since immigrant laborers needed lunch in 1930s, Daley’s has weathered the massive changes to Woodlawn it has seen pass. Not only does its lengthy history give it a perspective few institutions on the South Side can match, it also gives Daley’s solid recipes for everything from pancakes to hamburgers. The history is as thick as the grease; it’s also as thick as the ties that bind Woodlawn together. 6307 S. Cottage Grove Ave. Monday-Sunday, 7am-10pm. (773)643-6670. (John Thompson)