Photo by Lisa Wieczorek

Englewood is rising, piece by piece. Englewood is the home of the biggest drill rappers known in the country, while also being home to a community focused on changing the perception and the reality of what living in Englewood is and can be. We’ve challenged the idea of our community being a food desert, with Whole Foods leaving shortly, by offering free food out of community fridges and by creating our own grocery stores in the most needy areas with Dion’s Dream Fridge and the Go Green on Racine initiative. Being an Englewood native and realizing that all the pieces of improving our quality of life have already been conceptualized and realized by the people of the community has given me so much pride in being part of the fight against decades of structural violence and systemic oppression. I remember staring out the window of my apartment on 59th and Normal imagining what it would be like if the vacant lot across the street could be part of our own urban agricultural infrastructure, then walking to the red line and seeing a community garden managed by local school children just a couple blocks away. Englewood has been putting the pieces of a mosaic of community resilience that can be easily missed if you let the media dictate your perspective of the neighborhood.

When I got involved in the community effort to empower Englewood from within, I felt ashamed of how ignorant I was of the amount of stakeholders putting their blood, sweat, and tears into fighting for my community. The Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.) opened the door of enlightenment for me, unveiling a menagerie of grassroots organizations, businesses, and changemakers who had been doing the work since before I was even born. I met organizer Cora Butler before I even joined R.A.G.E. or started instructing a literacy program at Primo Center for Women and Children, and little did I know she had been championing civic engagement for Englewood since the 70’s. I didn’t even know what an alderman was when names like Anna Langford, David Moore, Stephanie D. Coleman, and Toni Foulkes started populating my Google search. When I met organizations like R.A.G.E., Teamwork Englewood, Imagine Englewood If, and One Health Englewood I had already settled upon the amount of humility I needed due to the fact that these organizations were already championing the fight needed to make Englewood great again. A community fragmented, piece by piece, ward by ward, had a comprehensive strategy and was led by individuals that could never be appropriately represented in the media or by word of mouth. I proudly did my part teaching literacy at an afterschool program and teaching social studies at one of the local high schools, collecting census data and informing residents on the local healthcare resources, or equipping my neighbors with information on community resources and providing mutual aid through a weekly resource fair. One of the first and most frequent ways I gave back to the community was by documenting the stories of Englewood, and I will continue that journey through this year’s Best of Englewood.

Englewood personifies Chicago in many ways, so when one calls us “the city of broad shoulders,” I can only think of the weight that these changemakers carry for my community. We have community activists that have been doing work for more than forty years either as individuals or through organizations. We have artists and developers that empower the community through creating equitable and creative spaces. We have businesses that showcase our Black Excellence through food and culture. But most of all Englewood has an army of community members who believe in Englewood and its future.

Cordell Longstreath is a veteran, writer, community advocate and activist, ex-teacher and soon to be teacher. He likes food, video games, books, politics, and trolling. You can find him volunteering throughout the city.

  • Best Community Development Program: The Re-Up

    “I just bought my whole block, I’m a chief like I’m from O-Block”: the opening line from the song “New Years Freestyle,” from ITSREAL85’s parody character, Bloody Freddy, resonates with me because it references Chief Keef, O-Block, and Chicago, but most importantly because of the thought of buying his whole block. Yes, the fact that Bloody Freddy is a reimagining of Freddy Krueger as gang leader who runs Elm Street is pertinent, but the fact that a fictional character references owning his community is too prevalent. When I first heard the line I had just became aware of the “buy the block” slogan circling in conversations about dealing with intergenerational wealth, gentrification, and inequity in homeownership. Rappers were some of the first people I heard talking about giving back to the community they came from, but I had heard the slogan in community meetings in Englewood. Asiaha Butler, president of R.A.G.E., used it in the Buy The Block initiative that she was spearheading by educating Englewood residents on how to approach homeownership and how homeowners could take advantage of the city’s Large Lot Program. Seeing this concept being brought to reality in my community really was inspirational, but little did I know that the Buy The Block initiative would be an essential component of economic development in Englewood.

    The Englewood Re-Up stands for “R.A.G.E.’s Economic Upliftment Program” and according to its website it “focuses on business ownership, job creation, real estate development, and homeownership in the Englewood Chicago Community.” This includes a range of initiatives including the Buy The Block program, a biannual job fair, a Black-owned business directory, a scholarship program for college bound HS graduates, a utility payments raffle, and my favorite, the land grant program. 

    According to the Re-Up’s manager, Ashley Johnson, the land grant program is a partnership with the Community Land Bank and it has gifted eight people a large lot on their block with one individual even getting two plots of land. This is thousands of dollars that build financial security for some and build intergenerational wealth for others.

    Cherice Price was one of the recipients. An Englewood resident, homeowner, and owner of Price Insurance and Workforce Development Solutions LLC; she has already been deeply invested in the economic and workforce development of her community. Jobs On The Block is a program she pioneered; it has been a staple of community job fairs since I moved back to Chicago in 2015. Asked if there was a catch to the land grant program, she said, “From what I heard, initially, we cannot sell it for the first five years, but since we are the homeowners we were given deeds for the lots,” adding, “if you can show you have the funds to rehab it, they are trying to make it so that you can get the property without putting up so much money upfront, because for a lot of those properties you would need at least $10,000.”

    Price plans on turning her property into a playground for kids on the block. Thinking of her granddaughter, she said, “I see the kids riding their bikes up and down the block and playing outside their home, so I was thinking about turning that into a kid’s playground.” She is only one of the grantees, but they all have plans that will generate a long-term impact. Before our chat ended she further advocated, “I just love the economics behind the Re-Up because it’s something we can hand down generationally, so for me that’s one of the biggest takeaways, not just from the vacant lot, but also from the Englewood Re-Up.”

    You can follow the Re-Up by following @rage_englewood or visiting

  • Best Mural to Let You Know Where You Are: 59th Street Overpass

    On Halsted, between 58 and 59th streets, a mural is painted on one of the bridges. On its south side, it reads “I am my community.” It also includes words chosen by the community like hope, community, home, and family, as well as images of children, men, and women who resemble the residents of Englewood. A brand new event space next to the mural hosts farmers’ markets, performances, and community events for everyone in the neighborhood.

    The sign used to just say “Englewood,” but it was repainted by the Englewood Arts Collective and members of the community in 2020. I personally like the new sign and feel that it makes the neighborhood more welcoming. The mural also makes me feel a sense of belonging, and that people actually care about Englewood, the arts, and the community. The overpass the mural is located on is part of the long-planned Englewood Trail, a 1.5 mile-long stretch of elevated hiking trails for Englewood and West Englewood. The nature trail will also provide a place where people can feel safe and walk and exercise without having to use the streets to bike. 

    Every day that I pass the sign, I am glad to know that there are people who care enough about our community to make it look better, feel better, and be safer.

  • Best New Restaurant to Learn Knife Skills: Haute Brats

    When I showed up early for my interview with Haute Brats owner Chef Darryl Fuery, his hands still had remnants of flour from the dough machine. He was already at work.

    Haute Brats, a takeout restaurant propelled by Fuery’s culinary training program, “Teaching N Training L3C,” soft-opened in late August of this year. The program was developed to coach and prepare unemployed young adults leaving the justice and foster care systems, as well as just generally disconnected young adults, for careers in the food service industry. Stressing the concept of “you are what you eat,” the program is modeled after balanced meals and the connection between food and body. In eight weeks, participants learn about basic knife skills, food storage and preparation, customer service, and much more. Whether a participant pursues a culinary career or leaves it as an interesting experience on their resume, they will have gained valuable skills and not depleted their time and money trying to figure out if it could be a good fit.

    “Young people often go into a cooking career naively,” Fuery said. “They think it’s just all cooking. They don’t think about sanitation or other things you need to do to be successful, let alone all the time you’re on your feet day in, day out.”

    The Haute Brats concept has slowly come together. Fuery applied for the City of Chicago Neighborhood Opportunity Fund in 2017 but was initially denied. In 2018, his application was accepted, though it took him a year and a half to find a location and secure funding for renovations. By then, the pandemic was in full force and the Fund put their projects on hold. Now, Haute Brats can finally move forward. Chef Fuery is looking for a corporate sponsor so that the training program can remain free. 

    Fuery is modest and uplifts his nonprofit and mission at every turn, but he admits cooking is in his blood. Though his dad was also a chef, he initially studied business and didn’t consider a culinary path until after his dad passed. 

    “I was kind of depressed, and I was thinking of him and my mom who were both great cooks, and I just wondered if I had any ability,” he said. 

    After taking an introductory cooking course in the early 1990s, his instructor encouraged him to attend the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago (CHIC), which was affiliated with Le Cordon Bleu. Post-graduation, he worked for Aramark, Sodexo, and the Field Museum, among other jobs. In 2003, Teamwork Englewood asked him to speak to a group of students about cooking as a viable career path, and there his passion for mentoring was born. 

    The core Haute Brats menu is simple, but fun. Hot dogs and brats are their flagship items, but sides include crispy fries, elote cups, and mini sugar-coated donuts made fresh each day. The plan is to expand the “Haute” brand outside of brats, such as “Haute Vegan” and “Haute Jerk,” to other locations. 

    I was lucky enough to have Chef Fuery make me his signature Reuben Dawg, the 847 Jerk Chicken Sausage, an order of fries, and a generous serving of mini donuts. I’m usually not a fan of onions on a dog but in this case, my taste was wrong—the 847 was perfection. The Reuben Dawg had the classic flavor you would expect. The fries were fresh, and I’m not ashamed to admit I ate them all in one sitting. I decided to leave the donuts for dessert later that day. Though, as I stood up to shake his hand goodbye, he gave me a wry smile and said, “Well you’re not going to leave here without trying a donut, right?” With no more room in my stomach but all the eagerness of a kid with a sugar addiction, I took a blissful bite, and subsequently dropped crumbs all over my clothes. 

    I can’t faithfully say the same won’t happen to you if you visit Haute Brats, but it would all be worth it.

    Haute Brats, 6239 S. Ashland Ave.  Monday-Saturday 11am-7pm. (773) 424-4310.

  • Best New Business Incubator: E.G. Woode

    Chicago’s 63rd Street is known throughout America. Two fallen greats of the Chicago Drill scene, FBG Duck and King Von, made two iconic songs, “I’m from 63rd” and “Crazy Story,” which gave 63rd its fame in recent years. The 63rd bus connects east to west and there are multiple stops for the Red Line and the Green Line. Kennedy-King College is right there, and businesses from banks to grocery stores line up the street. I used to go to college every day using 63rd, as well as buying groceries and attending community meetings on this street. When I first heard about E.G. Woode and its goal of being part of the change that would make 63rd ground zero for future entrepreneurs, I was ecstatic because it was already a focal point of how myself and many others oriented themselves to the neighborhood.

    According to a 2019 Block Club Chicago article titled “Can E. G. Woode transform Englewood?” architect Deon Lucas used former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Retail Thrive Zone grant to secure property on 63rd and May to develop a small-business incubator that opened on August 25. The collective includes Lucas’s architecture and engineering design collaborative Beehyyve, as well as Powell’s barbershop cooperative and college; a boutique consignment shop called Marie Wesley, a co-sharing workspace called Englewood Kitchen, a sports bar called Ellie’s Urban Grill, a coffee shop called Momentum, and a soul food restaurant called Pass The Peas. As someone who often leaves Englewood to spend my disposable income in other communities, often taking the 63rd Street bus or the train lines, I’ve been waiting for years to see this establishment open.

    I chatted with Antoine Butler, owner of Ellie’s Urban Grille, to get a sense of what to expect and the kind of impact the collective will make. One of the founders of R.A.G.E., a civil servant, and a dedicated father and community member, he has never shirked on the possibility of empowering Englewood. I chatted with him over a week before the grand opening.

    South Side Weekly: Can you explain what E.G. Woode is as a business incubator?

    Antoine Butler: It’s a co-op with start-up entrepreneurs, Black start-ups, that distinctly wants to work with non-established entrepreneurs, because those are the people who are going to create more jobs. Only two have had physical spaces and the other four are start-ups, so it’s going to be interesting. Momentum and Powell’s have had physical spaces, but this will be the first time for others.

    Will there be mentoring programs?

    I try to stay away from the word program, but there will be a lot of mentorship and opportunities, really trying to start other people because the bigger picture is for everybody to move on and open another space with other entrepreneurs. Like the guy who is gonna be my chef, I’ll be planning for him to take over the space or we build him a new space and he starts his own restaurant. Each one, teach one.

    What kind of ideas will your business be bringing to the table?

    I want to support the community (sports) teams. We have the Ogden Park Vikings, Lindblom Park team, and I want to encourage them to stay into sports. Lots of sponsorships. I know the center on 69th just formed a basketball team so I’m thinking about sponsoring them now, out of pocket, to see what we can get going.

    E.G. Woode speaks of being a place for entrepreneurs to utilize the space. Are there rates for the co-working spaces or ideas on how non-attached entrepreneurs can utilize E.G. Woode?

    No rates yet. Part of the second floor will be a shared kitchen where people can come in. Say someone sells cookies, we have a kitchen where they can come in and increase their volume and bake twice as many cookies then they can bake somewhere else. That’s bringing their business up and we will probably be selling a lot of the products from locals who come and use the kitchen. We will be selling their products in the restaurant. I’m positive of that!

    Speaking with Butler gets me more and more excited to know that not only can I go have an after-work brew in my community, but I will be helping my community with my disposable income. Englewood not only needs, but deserves, spaces where community members can enjoy themselves. Then more people will say, “I’m from 63rd.”

    E.G. Woode, 1122 W. 63rd St. (312) 877-6747.

  • Best Soul Food: Georgia’s Food Depot

    You can smell it a block away: located by 74th and Halsted, Georgia’s Food Depot is one of Chicago’s best soul food restaurants. In business for eight years, Georgia’s is owned by an Englewood resident who was born in Mississippi, but whose family moved her to Illinois when she was only three months old. Every time I have been to this restaurant it is always packed full of friendly patrons always complimenting the delicious aroma of beef short ribs, broasted chicken, smothered chicken, and pork chops with all the sides you can choose from.

    Georgia’s offers $6 meals that will have you full and ready to go back over and over again. Plus, living in Englewood you start to notice we do not have many breakfast spots but Georgia offers an a la carte breakfast with so many options, allowing all of us to have good and healthy choices. While writing this article, I rode my scooter to the restaurant and to talk to the owner, Georgia (who didn’t want to share her last name). She remembered me because I go there so often, and having that recognition really means a lot at a place you’re spending your money. The restaurant is also located next to a Black-owned hardware store, a convenience store, and a delicious seafood restaurant. Georgia’s best cooking advice is to learn to make food taste great without salt. Asking the owner her goals, she said she wants to get into catering and to service funeral homes, and that she is looking to hire more workers. So go down to Georgia’s and check out some of the best soul food in Englewood!

    Georgia’s Food Depot, 7352 S. Halsted St. Wednesday-Sunday, 11 am-6 pm; closed Monday-Tuesday. (773) 952-8017

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