Renaissance Park (J. Michael Eugenio)

Best of Ashburn & Auburn Gresham 2018

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Best Pile of Rocks

Renaissance Park Sculpture

From far away, the stack of gleaming granite boulders is a curiosity, a striking sculpture distinguishing square-shaped Renaissance Park on 79th Street from other urban parks. Close up, you’ll find the boulders are inscribed with names of Black historical figures who excelled in arts, sports, or activism, including local greats Gwendolyn Brooks, Muddy Waters, Jean Baptiste du Sable, and Harold Washington. The boulders are one part of a larger sculptural fountain: water flows down a granite column and weaves through rivulets set into the pavement to the stack of boulders feet away. The Chicago Park District commissioned local sculptor Jerzy Kenar to design the fountain when it created the park in early 2001. The park district’s website says the fountain “symbolizes the strength and energy of the residents of the surrounding neighborhood as well as the African American community in general” and the water represents “a spring of positive change.” The park also includes a small garden, and benches around the park make serene spots for weekend relaxing. (Mari Cohen)

Renaissance Park, 1300 W. 79th St. Daily, 6am—11pm. (312) 747-6562.

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Best Homemade Salsa

Antojitos Durango

While the food sampled on a recent visit (the cook-recommended steak taco) was delicious, the main attraction is the delectable salsa verde—a thick, homemade, jalapeño-based sauce that can only serve to improve any food it’s added to. I look forward to multiple returns to Antojitos Durango (literally, “little cravings” from the Mexican state of Durango) to sample the rest of the menu and smother it in as much of the salsa verde as is acceptable. (Sam Stecklow)

Antojitos Durango. 3412 W. 79th St. Monday–Friday, 9am-8pm; Saturday and Sunday, 8am–7pm. (773) 306-1366. antojitosdurango.com

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Best Batter

Eat and Run

It is not certain that Eat and Run is the best name for Auburn Gresham’s only nonprofit chicken joint. After all, a large fan stands in the doorway between its snug, scripture-filled waiting area and the more expansive seating area in back, sending out a welcome breeze but also blocking access to the back room. What is certain is that, all mixed seating messages besides, Eat and Run has very good fried chicken.

Eat and Run is a ministry of Gilgal, an international organization with offices in South Africa, North Carolina and Evergreen Park which has opened several nonprofit chicken joints, all by the same name, on the South Side. Beyond fried chicken, this Eat and Run sells soul food, pasta, jerk wings, and other dishes beyond the usual purview of a house of chicken. But these offerings are merely distractions from the chicken—or so said a customer who came in while I was awaiting my order of catfish nuggets and fried cauliflower. He upped the ante and said that Eat and Run has the best chicken in all of Chicago. I apologized for my rookie mistake, and, the next day, I went back and ordered chicken.

He was right. At least, the fried catfish was good, and so was the fried cauliflower, but the half-dark special was outstanding, the batter crisp and thick, very clearly fried in a fresh batch of oil (although, like a wayward cousin of Harold’s, Eat and Run served it up with a slice of whole wheat bread). I did not negotiate the back room, and instead of eating and running, I ran to nearby Foster Park and ate, licking my greasy fingers in the shade of a tree. (Emeline Posner)

Eat and Run, 1733 W. 87th St. Tuesday–Thursday, 11am–9pm; Friday and Saturday, 10:30am–10pm; Sunday, 11am–7pm; Monday, noon–8pm. $4–$12. (773) 429-1812. eatandrunchicken.com

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Best Punch with a Side of Brunch

Snake’s Brunch at Cookie’s Cocktail Lounge

J. Michael Eugenio
J. Michael Eugenio

Cookie’s cocktails would be “best”-worthy enough on their own. I ordered a pear cocktail after being enticed by its glittering image on a poster above the bar; the mix of pear Grey Goose, St-Germain, sour flavoring, and apple juice was smooth and refreshing. But the swanky bar has something else to offer, too: free brunch, every Saturday starting at 11am, so long as you order two (very affordable) cocktails. The menu varies, but this past Saturday it included rice, eggs, potatoes, jerk chicken, and sausage, cooked by Chef Shon. Every seat in the bar was taken by laughing, talking, brunching groups as eighties hits like “Freaks Come Out at Night” lit up the speakers. If day drinking isn’t your style, Cookie’s regularly hosts other events, like Wednesday game nights. (Mari Cohen)

Cookie’s Cocktail Lounge, 1024 W. 79th St. Saturdays, starting at 11am. Brunch cocktails start at $5; food is free if you buy two drinks. $20 credit card minimum. (773) 783-6700. facebook.com/CookiesCocktailLounge

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1 Comment

  1. It’s nice to read positive stories about positive things taking place in the black community, especially on the South Side of Chicago. People don’t understand, the South Side of Chicago has several affluent black neighborhoods such as Chatham, Bronzeville, West Hyde Park, South Shore, Kenwood, Jackson Park Highlands, Pill Hill, Marynook, and even parts of Woodlawn and Auburn Gresham are full of affluent blacks. There are people, black people there who are going to work every day, graduating from high school, going to college, getting degrees, going into careers, working hard every day, getting married, having kids, building families, and still reside in the community where they’ve lived all their lives. You can live in the HOOD and not be a criminal, not commit crimes, not break the law, not go to jail, not be on drugs, not be on welfare, not having multiple babies out of wedlock that you don’t care for, and actually live like a decent human being. Yes, you can live in the “HOOD” and lead a normal healthy productive life, because many people in the “HOOD” are doing exactly that in spades. You ain’t got to be no savage, your neighborhood is not a war zone. You can a get a job if you want it bad enough, ain’t no such thing as you can’t get a job, it’s just not everyone wants a job. There are brothers and sisters in these neighborhoods who’ve been on their jobs for years and will help you find work right away. But it’s all about whatcha do in life, that simple and that plain.

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