Beverly

Ethan Tate

Located 12 miles from the Loop, Beverly is situated on the utmost southern point of the city. However, if you mistakenly call Beverly a suburb, be wary of the inhabitants’ retort. “People are always saying, ‘You live in Beverly, that’s not part of the city!’ but I show them my license and I’m like ‘You wanna see this!? Chicago, Illinois!’” cries Mark Wlodarski (aka “Swing Master M”), a Beverly resident and a member of the Beverly-based band Chi-Town Kids. After a 25-year battle for inclusion into the city, the people of Beverly hold on to the title of “city-dweller” with a strong, South Side grip. As riders hop off the Metra stops, they are met with 19th century historical railroads and the anticlimactic view of a glacial ridge, the highest point in Chicago by 50-80 feet.  Early Anglo Saxon Protestant settlers referred to Beverly as “Blue Island” due to the blue mist that often covered the hill, however current Beverly children refer to the hill as a mediocre sledding spot.

“Beverly’s the best of both worlds: it’s not super congested and north side-y with the traffic and all that, but it’s still the city,” reflects Mark. The Beverly Area Planning Association has proclaimed Beverly a “Village in the City,” a moniker that truly embodies Beverly’s tight-knit community spirit, pride, and self-sufficiency. Neighbors come together at block parties, local restaurants and pubs, and the annual South Side Saint Patrick’s Day Parade on Western Avenue. “Here everyone knows each other, and everywhere you go you’re like, ‘That’s so-and-so’s parents.’ You know everyone and you can say hi to people wherever you go,” Mark animatedly explains. Amidst the tree-lined streets and historic architecture local hotspots prove Beverly has its own unique character and flair, making it a distinct–yet often overlooked– district within the city of Chicago. Mark attests, “I’ll probably just live here forever, I never wanna leave. If I’m away from the South Side for too long I start getting antsy, I gotta get back, I gotta see what’s goin’ on.”

Best Greasy Spoon
Top Notch Beefburgers
It’s hard to miss Top Notch Beefburgers, as a retro light-up sign rises to at least twice the height of the actual structure. Customers are beckoned off of Beverly’s main drag of 95th Street, welcomed to seat themselves in maroon vinyl booths amidst yellowed wood paneling. A sign above the clock reads, “This clock will never get stolen because the employees are always watching it.” The atmosphere is casual, friendly and familiar. Customers of all ages and backgrounds head to Top Notch for simple yet solid beefburgers, French fries that satisfy that universal craving for salt and grease, and their famous milkshakes. Experienced patrons always order the large shake, the only question being “Spoon or straw?” when enjoying this thick and creamy treat, served sans toppings in a giant metal glass. While trendy gourmet burger joints pop up along the Sorth Side, Beverly residents are more than content with their cheap (average price for an entrée being $3.50) burger joint that’s a South Side classic. 2116 W. 95th St. Monday-Thursday, 8am-8pm; Friday-Saturday, 8am-8:30pm. (773)445-7218 (Maura Connors)

Best Sustainable Gift Shop
The Blossom Boys
The Blossom Boys is not your average florist. While they boast a multitude of unique floral designs and hordes of happy customers–from blushing brides to mothers ordering nosegays for their teenage sons’ homecoming dates–the Blossom Boys owners Steve and Ryan have an equally impressive history of community involvement and service. Their shop strives to create a breath-taking arrangement of baby’s breath in a stylish new way, while raising awareness of bullying and advocacy for children with special needs. The Boys show their passion for social justice with their merchandise as well, selling a wide variety of Fair Trade certified goods– products that are sustainably made in developing countries and whose proceeds go back to the communities that produced them. The walls and shelves of this feel-good store are covered in handmade necklaces made of recycled paper, purses made of recycled tires, colorful silk scarves, and whimsical home décor items are among the Fair Trade products for sale in this store. Whether you’re picking up a floral arrangement for your beloved, or just looking for a environmentally and politically-conscious gift for a friend, look no further than the Blossom Boys shop in the downtown Beverly district. 9911 S. Walden Pkwy. Tuesday-Friday, 10am-6pm; Saturday 10am-4pm. (773)749-4400. www.theblossomboys.com (Maura Connors)

Best Rhymed Triplet
Chi-Town Kids
Mark Wlodarski replied to an email requesting an interview with his stage name “Swing” and referred to his Chi-Town Kids band mates, Chris Walsh and Ryan O’Malley, with their stage names, “Soul Daddy C” and “HoneyWell R.” Originally, the trio of life-long friends began a band while in high school, but eventually that broke up. A few years ago, on a whim while at Mark’s house, the friends created a rap song about growing up on the Souths Side, which soon led to a full CD that they recorded and left at various hot spots around Beverly. Almost instantly they found a fan base from their home neighborhood. The songs are based on random topics (“We got a song about ponytails,” Mark laughs) and inside jokes about Beverly. Mark explains, “A lot of the stuff you hear on the radio is New York shout outs, but I don’t even know what they’re talking about and I’m just waiting for someone to be like ‘Mr. Sub [a Beverly eatery]!’” The group occasionally performs at the Beverly Art Center, however all of their albums can be found on their website. If you’re looking for an authentic view of Beverly, look no further than the Chi-Town Kids music, littered with rhyming neighborhood references and childhood memories of growing up on the South Side.  (773)879-3467. www.chitownkids.com  (Maura Connors)

Best French Amongst Irish
Koda
Many Chicagoans feel the need to trek to Restaurant Row to experience a five-star dining experience, but in Beverly, residents simply jaunt over to Koda Bistro at 104th and Western. With trendy low-hanging light bulb lighting fixtures, bar backdrop illuminated by colored lights, and dark curtains hiding diners from the lively Western Avenue, Koda is uniquely situated among a multi-block-long stretch of Irish taverns. Praised for its innovative and consistent palate-pleasing Nouveau-French fare, Koda specializes in a selection of tarte flambées–the pear, walnut, and brie cheese combination on a flatbread-like base creates a flavor blend of fresh, sweet, and salty. The sautéed skate offers a light, buttery tasting fish that is a gastronomic delight. A myriad of classic cocktails and an extensive wine list makes Koda popular around happy hour. 10352 S. Western Ave. Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30am-9pm; Friday, 11:30am-10pm; Saturday, 5-10pm; Sunday, 4-7:30pm. (773)445-5632.  www.kodabistro.com (Maura Connors)