The Walker Branch Library in Morgan Park (David Daruszka)

Beverly Hills (its proper full name, often shortened to Beverly) and Morgan Park are the Castor and Pollux of the South Side. Eternally joined as “The Village in the City,” they have earned a reputation as a place of good schools, gracious homes, and comfortable middle-class living—a bastion for city workers. An ancient glacial ridge runs along the length of the appropriately named Longwood Drive, topped by magnificent homes. Morgan Park, named after early estate holder Englishman Thomas Morgan, was a village in its own right until its annexation to the city in 1914. Beverly Hills, named not after the Los Angeles neighborhood but the town of Beverly in Massachusetts, became part of Chicago in 1890.

Both communities owe their growth to the Rock Island Railroad, and the branch line that is today part of Metra’s Rock Island District. Historic train stations, part of a Chicago landmark district, anchor the small business districts that developed around them. The most notable event is the annual South Side Irish Parade, which grew from a small community event to a celebration that draws crowds from around Chicago. While the Irish presence in the neighborhood is predominant, the African American population has grown since Black families started moving into the area around the 1960s. Local churches and organizations like the Beverly Area Planning Association have worked hard to combat challenges to integration and make the area welcoming to people of all races and faiths.

More than a century has passed since the Blue Island Land and Building Company platted the streets and envisioned a sylvan community removed from the bustle of the city. The city has caught up with us, but we still stubbornly cling to the belief that we are unique among Chicago’s neighborhoods.

David Daruszka is a writer, photographer, and former president of the Ridge Historical Society. He has lived in Morgan Park for over twenty years.

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Best Public Library in a Castle

Chicago Public Library Walker Branch

The Walker Branch was designed by architect Charles S. Frost in the Richardson Romanesque style and built in 1890. It is the oldest structure owned by the Chicago Public Library and was built and donated by George Clarke Walker, the founder and president of the Blue Island Land and Building Company. The building is a remnant of an attempt to bring the University of Chicago to the Village of Morgan Park, which lost out to Hyde Park (and, apparently, to an affinity for neo-Gothic architecture). The building has since been extensively restored and remodeled with a small addition and a bright new interior, made even brighter with artwork funded through the Percent for Art Ordinance by the Public Art Program, like imposing murals by Oscar Romero and a playful ceramic tile installation by David Russick. Nestled at the top of the Blue Island Ridge on 111th Street, it continues to serve the greater South Side and is a reminder of the aspirations of the early builders of the neighborhood. (David Daruszka)

Chicago Public Library Walker Branch, 11071 S. Hoyne Ave. (312) 747-1920. Mondays and Wednesday, 10am–6pm; Tuesday and Thursday, noon–8pm; Friday–Saturday, 9am–5pm.

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Best Mom & Pop Grocer

County Fair Foods

The barn and silo that graces the south entrance to County Fair leads to the abundant produce section of this local grocer. In a world of corporate supermarkets, County Fair stands out as a survivor of the once prolific neighborhood grocer. The store prides itself in personalized customer service, and has a top-notch butcher shop and deli.

Founder Bill Baffes bought his first store with his brother-in-law on 111th Street, eventually building a new store at 108th and Western Avenue. The store was expanded to its present configuration and is now under the stewardship of Bill’s son Tom and son-in-law Mike Winkler.

County Fair supports many neighborhood groups and causes, and that kindness is repaid by fierce customer loyalty from Beverly and Morgan Park residents. (David Daruszka)

County Fair Foods, 10800 S. Western Ave. Monday–Friday, 8am–9pm; Saturday–Sunday, 8am–8pm. (773) 238-5576.

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Best Place to Find Something Fishy

DiCola’s Seafood

DiCola’s Seafood started out as DiCola Centrella, just a regular grocery store established by Anthony DiCola Sr. in 1933. The store began its transition to seafood under his son, Anthony DiCola Jr., after World War II. In 1985, Anthony’s son Robert completed the transformation after taking over.

DiCola’s specialty is fresh and fried seafood, along with a selection of hot foods, salads, and sides. After eighty years of service, DiCola’s still remains a popular destination for fish-loving South Siders in the neighborhood and beyond its boundaries. (David Daruszka)

DiCola’s Seafood. 10754 S. Western Ave. Monday–Wednesday, 9am–8pm; Thursday and Saturdays 9am–9pm; Friday, 9am–9:30pm; Sunday, 11am–7pm. (773) 238-7071.

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Best Pizza Not From a Pizza Parlor

Open Outcry Brewing Company

Open Outcry is the latest addition to the string of taverns that runs along the west side of Western Avenue (a response to the longstanding dry status of the neighborhood east of that street). Owner John Brand, a former futures trader and home brewer, took over the space formerly occupied by O’Brien’s Pub. In it he has created a microbrewery that serves a mean oven-fired pizza created by Chef Cesar Lopez. The Neapolitan-style pies feature some unusual twists, like gouda cheese sauce, and even a vegan pizza. Food orders are placed at the window of a faux food truck; to keep up the motor theme, the eating area features large garage doors that can be opened in good weather.

Open Outcry joins a small community of microbrewers that has taken root in the neighborhood and Blue Island. The tanks Brand uses came from Horse Thief Hollow further north on Western, when they upgraded to larger tanks—now that’s community. (David Daruszka)

Open Outcry Brewing Company, 10934 S. Western Ave. Daily, 11am–11pm. (773) 629-6055.

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Best Anarchistic Arts Organization

The Beverly Area Arts Alliance

Four years ago a band of intrepid artists and volunteers led by Sal Campbell and Monica Wilczak said, “Let’s put on a show.” With that the Beverly Art Walk was born, its fourth iteration beginning on October 7. The Art Walk features works by over a hundred artists displayed in local businesses and organizations throughout the neighborhood. It also includes live music, artist demonstrations, home studio tours, family-oriented activities, and a crafts fair. This year, new walking sites of note include Boundary and a new public art installation at 99th and Walden called “Quantum Me.”

The Beverly Area Arts Alliance, which hosts the Walk, also organizes pop-up exhibitions in local businesses and vacant storefronts, the Uprising Craft Fair, and a popular quarterly reading series called “The Frunchroom” (The Frunchroom was also featured in the 2016 Best of the South Side issue).

The Alliance brings of bit of anarchistic fun to the sometimes sleepy, tree-lined streets of the neighborhood. The Walk has blossomed into other art- and music-related events that harken back to an earlier time, when the Beverly Art Center was first envisioned by a different generation of creative citizens who saw community renewal in the arts. (David Daruszka)

The Beverly Area Arts Alliance. Beverly Art Walk, between 95th St., 111th St., Western Ave., and Wood St. Saturday, October 7, noon–7pm.

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Best New Alternative Space


Artwork by John Dodge in the Boundary art space
Artwork by John Dodge in the Boundary art space/ Boundary

Boundary, a new art exhibition space, opened in June in the garage of a bungalow in Morgan Park. The co-directors are Susannah Papish, who resides there, and Larry Lee.

Papish and Lee are not new to Chicago’s art scene. Lee is associate director of undergraduate admissions for SAIC, and a lecturer in art history, theory, and criticism. Papish, an independent contractor for SAIC, worked as the photo imaging coordinator for the Art Institute and has taught at a number of colleges.

Lee is careful not to refer to Boundary as a “gallery,” because the concept is broader than a commercial enterprise for selling art. “Boundary is an art project space that allows artists to ‘incubate,’” he said. “We serve as an advocate for the individual artists who exhibit with us.”

The idea for Boundary grew out of Lee’s and Papish’s visits to alternative art spaces and pop-up galleries. These spaces have helped bring art into neighborhoods, making it more accessible and less intimidating to people—here, all it takes is heading to the garage next door. (Carol Flynn)

Boundary, 2334 W. 111th Pl. Current exhibition, “ANTI/body,” through Saturday, October 28. (773) 316-0562 or email boundarychicago.spaceA version of this piece was previously published in The Villager, the newspaper of the Beverly Area Planning Association.

Correction (1/13/2018): A previous version of this story included a photo of the Boundary art space credited to Carol Flynn. In fact, the photo should have been credited to Boundary.

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