Best of the South Side 2008: Bronzeville

Historically known as Chicago’s “Black Belt,” “Black Metropolis,” or even “Black Ghetto,” Bronzeville has long been the center of Chicago’s African-American culture. Famous residents have included Ida B. Wells, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls, and Louis Armstrong. The ’50s and ’60s saw a disastrous urban renewal program replace the area’s theaters and tenements with squalid public housing high-rises and vacant lots, but recently the area has experienced a renewal, particularly along 47th Street by the Green Line and Red Line stops.

Most Unique Wings Joint
Wings Around the World
Bronzeville is full of places to get chicken wings. Some are good, some are bad, but only one lets you travel the world without leaving the South Side. Wings Around the World has fifty varieties of wings grouped by country of national origin. For example, under India you’ll find curry, masala, and “cosmic curry” flavored wings. Under Canada, you’ll find variations on maple syrup (of course). Other nationalities include Japanese, Chinese, Jamaican, Mexican, Italian, Greek, and American. Wings come in batches of five, but if you’re really hungry, they’re also available in quantities of 100, 500, and 1,000. 321 E 35th St. Monday-Friday, 10:30am-11:30pm; Saturday, 11am-12am; Sunday, 12pm-7pm. (312) 326-6930 (Sam Feldman)

Best Soul Food Restaurant that Looks Like a Starbucks
Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles
Opened last year under the name Rosscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles assumed its current name after the Hollywood-based Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles served it with a trademark suit. Still, Chicago’s brings the L.A. favorite to the Midwest, and its efforts are greatly appreciated. Fried chicken and waffles at the same time? Surprisingly, it works. With its waiters clad in all black, art decorating the walls, and smooth jazz piped over the sound system, Chicago’s is probably the fanciest fried chicken restaurant in the whole city. If you prefer your fried chicken with a sense of danger, stick to Harold’s. Chicago’s typically attracts a young, professional, and well-dressed crowd that comes for various combinations of chicken parts and waffles, in addition to soul food plates which come with standard, yet exceptionally well-executed, sides like mac and cheese and collard greens. Try the gravy-and-onion-smothered chicken with waffles, but go slowly your first time–this ultra-rich combination can have turbulent effects on an unprepared stomach. 3947 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Sunday-Thursday, 9am-9pm; Friday-Saturday, 9am-11pm. (773)536-3300 (Dave McQuown)

Best Place to Kick It Like a Superstar
Snyx Galleria
The corner of 47th Street and Prairie Avenue is about the last place you’d expect to find Chicago Bears Chris Harris, Tank Johnson and David Hester, or such well-known rappers as Twista and Young Jeezy. The area’s not exactly rolling in dough, and with salaries in the millions you’d think celebrities wouldn’t exactly need to go bargain hunting for cheap wares. But cheap wares is not what you’ll find at Snyx Galleria; even the curious naïve passerby should become aware of this awfully quickly, as you have to be buzzed in just to gain entry to the store. Inside, sneakers ranging from $50 to $250 to $2000 can be found lining the shelves in glass cases: Nikes, Pumas, Converse, Lacoste. But let’s face it, assembly line kicks are for chumps. Those with some serious chump change can head to the back and use the Nike Design Lab to design a custom pair of Nikes for a cool $200 starting price, or get a custom pair of whatever you want starting at $300-$350. Or, if you’re lazy but still want to show that you’re loaded, you can just pick up a $2000 pair of Nike Air Force Ones, complete with your choice of handcrafted crocodile or alligator skin. Kick it. 4700 S. Prairie Ave. Monday-Thursday, 10am-7pm; Friday-Saturday, 10am-8pm; Sunday, 10am-5pm. (773)548-4110 (Sean Redmond)

Best Place to Get Over the Hump
Bronzeville Coffee and Tea
“Where Coffee and Community Meet.” It seems an odd slogan as you approach the building–the area surrounding it is literally desolate, all abandoned buildings and empty lots. Inside, however, patrons congregate, discussing current events or reading quietly amongst the creamy browns and tans of the walls and hardwood floors, providing an atmosphere that will warm you as well as any cup of joe. 528 E. 43rd St. Monday-Friday 7am-6pm; Saturday 8am-6pm; Sunday 10am-4pm. (773)536-9699. www.bronzevillecoffeeandtea.com (Sean Redmond)