Rainbow Cone, stately old homes, Top Notch Beefburgers, and the South Side Irish Parade. The highest natural point in all of Chicago.
This is a short list of Beverly bites and sites you could easily scrape together with a few quick Yelp searches and a little Google sleuthing. Especially for an outsider, the neighborhood conjures a nostalgia for small-town life, whether real or imagined. There is an old school drive-in, a few small diners, and plenty of tree-lined streets. What distinguishes it from small-town America is that you can get there by hopping off the Dan Ryan Expressway around 99th Street. After you’ve seen the ice cream parlors and the important architectural drags in the area, it seems easy enough to cross Beverly off your list.
However, you’d be missing out. The local description for Beverly is “the village in the city,” but that label can be misleading. It fails to mention that Beverly is integrally connected to the rest of the city, as a home to many city employees (teachers, firefighters, and police officers) required by their position to live within city limits, but who desire that spacious yard and an idyllic place to raise their kids. Beverly is also one of the most racially integrated neighborhoods in Chicago, with a breakdown around sixty-five percent white, thirty-two percent black, and three percent Hispanic residents, a figure more representative of the metropolis’s overall distribution than most other individual neighborhood areas.
This fact is a direct result of the Beverly Area Planning Association’s (BAPA) concerted effort for planned integration in the mid-twentieth century, a testament to the community’s strong neighborhood organizing.
Perhaps most importantly, it is that sense of community structure, from organizations like BAPA and the Beverly Arts Center, that makes Beverly unique, and more like a small town. The strong community ties are what make Beverly feel like a village, not the statistics about its size or its quaint eateries. That the streets are quiet, the parks beautiful, and the local restaurants plentiful is just gravy. Stopping in for a drink at the Horse Thief Hollow on South Western Avenue, you get the sense that this is a village with deep roots, or at least a place where you can go out for a beer at your neighborhood bar and find that everybody knows your name (maybe).
BEST PLACE TO SPEND THE MORNING
Beverly Bakery and Cafe
A morning spent at Beverly Bakery and Cafe is a very efficient way to meet three fundamental wants of any leisurely day: savory breakfast food, decadent pastries, and a really remarkable cup of coffee. Beverly Bakery and Cafe serves some of the best eggs benedict around, though the side of seasoned potatoes could easily be all the breakfast you need. Set back along a side wall is the pastry case, a sight that may prove moderately distracting during your meal. Fortunately, it is totally acceptable to pick and choose your donuts while you’re still eating; they can be brought to your table, or kept safe at the register as a snack for the road. The morsels of fried dough come in all variety of delectable flavors, and the “coconut crunch” seems to be the crowd favorite. If you can’t decide on one flavor, the miniature donuts make for good nibbles. In the same space as the dining room, customers can browse coffee blends from all over the world that are roasted in house in small batches. A package of coffee roasted in-house starts at about $15 but can cost as much as $48, depending on the blend. The constant coming and going of customers seeking baked goods and caffeine keeps the place lively, making it the perfect place to watch the world go by from behind your bottomless cup of coffee. Beverly Bakery and Café, 10528 S. Western Ave. Tuesday-Friday, 7am-2pm; Saturday-Sunday, 8am-2pm. 773-238-5580. beverlycoffeeroasters.com (Elizabeth Bynum)
BEST PLACE TO PRETEND IT’S THE EARLY 1960s
On the corner of South Western Avenue and 99th Street, Janson’s Drive-In stands as a beacon of American fast food culture. The restaurant was founded in 1960, and both the menu and décor lend the place a certain mid-century charm (it helps that the overhead speakers seem to alternate tracks by the Beach Boys and the Temptations). Although Janson’s has transitioned smoothly to the 21st century, the prices are nostalgia-inducingly low, with most hamburgers and hot dogs under three dollars. Nothing includes sides, but an order of fries (yes, you do want the cheese fries) puts you out $1.69 at the most. Where Janson’s really shines is in its dessert lineup, which includes milkshakes, malts, sundaes, and soft serve cones. The generous helpings of real fruit enhance the various dairy concoctions, but it can be surprising to realize how much a strawberry milkshake can taste like genuine strawberries. Janson’s offers outdoor seating, but the standing room counter along the front window is the perfect place to cosy up to your sweetheart and feel the good vibrations. Janson’s Drive-In, 9900 S. Western Ave. Monday-Sunday, 10:30am-11pm. (773)941-6283. jansonsdrivein.com (Elizabeth Bynum)
BEST FIGURE DRAWING
Vanderpoel Art Museum
John H. Vanderpoel, this museum’s namesake, was a Dutch artist who taught for many years at the Art Institute of Chicago. Through his tenure in Chicago, he guided later greats such as Georgia O’Keefe, who once said Vanderpoel was “one of the few real teachers I have known.” Vanderpoel additionally wrote the literal book on figure drawing (The Human Figure), which was perhaps the definitive textbook on rendering the human form in the early twentieth century. Although Vanderpoel was clearly fascinated with the body, the museum’s collection includes work that represents Vanderpoel’s other artistic muses as well, as well as works by other American artists of the period. The museum is tucked away, and bears few of the tourist tracks that have crisscrossed the Art Institute or the Museum of Contemporary Art. Visiting hours may be short and oddly specific, but the space is worth the carefully scheduled trip to Longwood Drive. Ridge Park Fieldhouse, 9625 S. Longwood Dr. Tuesday and Thursday, 1pm-4pm; Saturday, 10am-2pm. Additional hours by appointment. (773)779-0007. vanderpoelartmuseum.org (Elizabeth Bynum)
Optimo Hat Co.
Optimo Hat Co. is a bit of a hike, but where else can you go to shop for handmade, tailored trilbys and bowlers in 2014? According to the staff at Optimo, nowhere. “We’re the last place in the world that makes a hat of this quality,” a store rep told me. And by “this quality,” they mean quality: perfectly weighted, impossibly comfortable, the kind of hats that can take any suit-wearing pretender and turn him into the best-dressed man in the room. It’s all in the craftsmanship. “There are easier ways to make hats, but it’s usually a bit sloppier,” said one of the talented tailors at Optimo, wrestling with a sewing machine that looked like it could’ve been a Betsy Ross hand-me-down. “We’re going for a classic look, so we do it the old-fashioned way.” Optimo’s hatmakers are mostly amicable hipsters, not mustachioed Italian men, but the store’s aesthetic is otherwise on point. There’s the requisite ancient machinery, the dark wood paneling, and the smell (think of your grandpa’s cologne). Delta blues plays in the background while felt hammers beat silk brims into shape. It’s the kind of place Cary Grant would shop at—if Cary Grant could afford to shop at Optimo. Felt hats, sourced from wild beaver and nutria fur, will run you from $600 to $1000; silk, up to a few thousand. “Their stuff’s pricey, but you get what you pay for,” one client told me as he left the store with a hatbox under each arm. Optimo Hat Co., 10215 S. Western Ave. Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm. (773)238-2999. optimo.com (Will Dart)
BEST TEENAGE DOOM PUNKS
Haki might make you do a double take or three. How do kids this young make music this brutal? Where did they learn their secrets? Which dark spirits are they channeling during their shows? Don’t be a jerk about it, just stand back and appreciate. Haki released two EPs in one month last summer, moving from a noisy self-titled debut to a sophomore collection both bluesier and angrier, with an (unexpectedly) eye-melting cover of Icona Pop’s break-up anthem “I Love It.” Drummer Ruby Dunphy and guitarist Yusuf Muhammad met at the Chicago High School for the Arts in Bronzeville, and began playing their first shows near Ruby’s home in Beverly. They soon found singer Kelsey Ashby, who—red curls flying in face—has the stage presence of a young Kathleen Hanna and the husky cool of Kim Gordon. With the addition of bassist Connor Tomaka, Haki was complete. Their most recent release, Positive, is everything a good punk album should be, with glimmers of classic rock ‘n roll and something slower, more sultry, eerie. “There’s no god inside me, don’t think you can pray,” screams Kelsey one one of the album’s lighter tracks. When they hit a groove, Haki digs deep. They’ve recently lost their drummer to an out-of-state college, but the band reports that they’ll be releasing a new EP this fall. Haki. Music and show dates available online. smile2.bandcamp.com (Bea Malsky)
BEST SURREALIST DUO
Sal Campbell and Sandra Leonard
Just travelling to the studio that Campbell and Leonard share with fellow Beverly artist Carla Winterbottom requires a trek across borders. Perched on the upper floor of a building that was once the Blue Island Opera House and later a movie theater, the studio carries a certain charm from the simple lines of the old building. Although the location is well outside the bounds of Beverly and the city limits, Campbell, Leonard, and Winterbottom have been using the shared space for the past three years to pursue their distinct artistic projects. See feature-length story. (Elizabeth Bynum)