Before Europeans settled what is now Chicago, the indigenous Potawatomi whose language gave the city its name primarily lived in the area now called Beverly. The history of the community’s original inhabitants is still there, laid down as Vincennes Ave., which traces the route of what was once a Native trail that traversed modern-day Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana.
Beverly residents proudly and correctly remind anyone who asks that no, it’s not a suburb, it’s a neighborhood in the city—it is and it ain’t, though: the neighborhood, once a streetcar suburb before being annexed by Chicago in 1890, is still the last stop before you hit the city’s southwestern borders. But its residents, many of whom commute to the Loop for work, are also acutely aware of what the neighborhood may still be missing, and in conversations will often note recent openings of newer, hipper locales as a sign that Beverly is trending towards some version of cool.
They’re right—but it’s nuanced. The neighborhood is sometimes described as an “oasis” of integration in Chicago’s hyper-segregated South Side, but try to drive through North Beverly—a whiter, more affluent section of the community—when leaving Evergreen Plaza on 95th and Western, which Black South Siders patronized historically, and you’ll find yourself stymied by a maze of literal roadblocks designed to keep nonresidents out. And a pizza parlor on 95th Street has some of the best thin crust in Chicago, but last year it began flying a “thin blue line” American flag out front, acutely aware that the 19th Ward is home to one of the highest percentages of cops in the city.
That said, Beverly is where you can find some of the most unique spots in Chicago, let alone the South Side. Hip-hop artist Kanye West’s grammar school, Vanderpoel Elementary, still overlooks the north end of Longwood Drive atop a sloping ridge. That geographical formation, the Blue Island Ridge, is at its highest point the tallest spot in Chicago, one hundred feet above Lake Michigan. As Longwood winds southward up the ridge’s eastern slope, stately mansions—and even a 140-year-old castle, complete with towering battlements—gaze down what were prehistoric shores of an inland lake that was carved out by receding glaciers. These days, the ice and snow that will soon pile up on the ridge’s slope will mean only one thing: great sledding. (Jim Daley)
Neighborhood captain Jim Daley is the politics editor at the Weekly.
Best South Side-Themed Candles
Beverly Dry Goods
In 2019, Mary Bujwid and Jason Moss started selling handmade candles at farmers markets and community events in the neighborhood, as well as from their home and online. Last year, the pair opened a brick-and-mortar location at 99th and Walden Parkway—which has grown into a bustling collection of small businesses over the past couple of years—and expanded their inventory to include apparel, tote bags, and more.
The shop offers candles with unique South Side themes: there’s the Frunchroom, which is described as a “mom-approved blend of florals and cotton” and sells for $25; the Music Fest, which blends the smells of incense and cannabis and goes for $30; and the Record Store, which costs $25 and marries patchouli and LP jackets. There are also candles named for prominent Beverly streets such as Longwood, Western, and the shop’s own Walden Parkway.
Beverly Dry Goods also sells candle accessories such as snifters and wick trimmers so you can properly maintain your candles. As someone whose knowledge of candles extends to the occasional tea lights, I had never heard of wick-trimming. If you’re like me, don’t worry: the store’s website includes a helpful “education” page that explains how to take care of your candles and keep them burning bright. (Jim Daley)
9915 S. Walden Parkway. Tue-Fri 10-5; Saturday 10-3; closed Sunday. 773-701-6029.
Best Gourmet Popcorn
Let’s Get Popping
Let’s Get Popping sits in all its Betty-Boop glory on the corner of 118th and Western. The red, black, and white décor is sure to bring a smile, but the smell of buttery, cheesy, caramelly goodness that meets the nose is what makes opening the door the start of one of the best experiences the South Side has to offer.
James and Barbara Marsh have been in the popcorn business at this location for twenty-one years and further north on Western for five more. All that time, using a recipe perfected by Barbara and made fresh daily, they established themselves as a “better than” alternative to downtown popcorn folks. With fifteen varieties of flavored popcorn, assorted cake slices, fudges, and slushies, it is not a dieter’s destination. Every day except Sunday, from 10am to 7pm, you can buy bags filled with deliciousness from efficient, friendly ladies in yellow aprons. Prices start at $2.90 but you can buy by the pound. Should you need a gift order, or something sent out of town, call ahead. They also do fundraisers and catering, too. (L.D. Barnes)
Let’s Get Popping Gourmet Popcorn. 11758 S. Western Ave., Chicago, IL (773) 779-6132. Monday–Saturday 10am–7pm.
Best Freecycle Group
Beverly Free Box
What started as a small Facebook group in 2018, inspired by the North Side’s Rockwell Free Box and committed to the four Rs—reduce, reuse, recycle, and renovate—has grown to include more than 3,500 members. Residents created this hyper-local freecycle group not only to keep gently used household items out of landfills but also to build connections with their neighbors.
“It’s really become so much more than just a way to get free stuff,” said Sussan Navabi, who lives in Beverly. “I’ve lived here most of my life but I’ve honestly never felt more connected to my community than the past couple years because of Freebox.”
Free Box members are required to live in Beverly, and cannot be members of more than two different neighborhood boxes at a time. New members must share an item that they no longer need before they can claim another member’s offer. Cash transactions are prohibited, and if you claim an item, you have to pick it up.
So if you live in Beverly and you’ve got an attic full of old Star Wars toys or a shed with too many tools, or if you’re looking for gently used housewares to round out your kitchen makeover, check out the Beverly Free Box. You might find a new treasure…or a new neighbor! (Jim Daley)
Beverly Free Box Facebook group. bit.ly/BevFreeBox
Best Roaming Comedy Show
All That Good Stuff Comedy Show
South Siders Mary Kate Beck, Bridget McGuire, and Maggie Depalo debuted All That Good Stuff at neighborhood fixture Cork & Kerry, an Irish-themed bar on Western Ave., but when the city shuttered bars in response to COVID-19 last year, they took it on the road.
Since then, the show has held events at pizza parlors, bars, and retirement communities, and features a rotating lineup of local comedians performing their stuff, often outdoors when weather permits.
Upcoming shows will be at the Elm Lagrange on September 15; Cork & Kerry on October 5; and back at the Elm Lagrange on October 13. A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales typically go to a local good cause. (Jim Daley)
All That Good Stuff Comedy Show, bit.ly/ATGSBev