Evelyn’s celebrates a year in Washington Park
By Maple Joy
When I walked through the door of Evelyn’s, I was greeted by laughter, upbeat music, and a smiling room with a quaint atmosphere. Bright colorful pictures furnished the interior brick walls, and, on the staff’s shirts, the words “Evelyn’s Food Love” were spelled out in red rhinestones. Evelyn’s opened just under a year ago in Washington Park (it’ll celebrate its first anniversary on May 26), and serves up a variety of home-style food options.
I walked up to the steam table, a glass case displaying the ready-to-order options for that day. I continued to look around and saw a huge chalkboard behind me with the standard menu items, and the daily specials. There was everything from grits with shrimp and crawfish to fried lobster tails to, of course, the popular catfish po’boy.
I was standing next to a woman who walked in shortly after me and was looking at the menu too. I decided to ask her if she had been here before, but not before placing my order for a catfish po’boy, and the last strawberry shortcake parfait for dessert. After she had placed her order, we decided to sit down and talk.
The woman ended up being Asiaha Butler, the president of community organization Resident Association of Greater Englewood, who’s a regular customer. She was eager to share her thoughts with me about the food.
“I was trying to go to brunch the first day I came here. I had a taste for shrimp and grits. I got the shrimp and grits, and it melted in my mouth. My daughter got the apple cilantro turkey burger. She said she had never tasted a turkey burger as good as that. My husband loves the meatloaf. Today, I’m trying something different, jerk [chicken] Alfredo,” Butler said. “[Evelyn’s is] just fresh food.”
Butler’s family discovered Evelyn’s Food Love back in December and has since been back a handful of times. They intend to keep coming back to try every single item on the menu.
After ten minutes, my food arrived: the catfish with sides of steaming-hot fries and freshly-made coleslaw. I took a bite, and the catfish melted in my mouth, just like Butler’s shrimp and grits. It was soft, moist and flavorful, and the portion size left me with enough food for a second meal.
While stuffing my face with the savory dish, I talked to Valerie Avery Hargrett, another regular who’s been eating at Evelyn’s Food Love since it opened last year.
“My husband and I…come, sometimes two to three times a week. We just fell in love with it. I love her food. It’s healthy. I’m not a fast food person,” said Valerie. As a customer, I could tell why people loved the restaurant so much. Not only was the food outstanding, but Evelyn and her staff were approachable, and even the customers were welcoming toward each other.
When the strawberry parfait came, it was the icing on the cake, literally. The shortcake was moist and sweet, without being overbearing. I ended up staying at the restaurant for two hours, conversing with different customers and staff. I felt like I’d known these individuals forever.
Evelyn Shelton, the chef and owner, said that she hopes to expand within the area or to a neighborhood that needs an economic boost.
“The biggest opportunity has been meeting residents in this community. They are so grateful, so supportive and so appreciative,” she said. “We have customers who come in here and they feel like family now. And they haven’t stopped coming, and bringing people with them.”
Evelyn’s Food Love, 5522 S. State St. Wednesday-Saturday, 11:30am-6pm; Sunday, 11:30am-4pm. (872) 818-5577. evelynsfoodlove.com
Maple Joy is a contributor to the Weekly. She is from Cleveland but has lived in the Chicago area for almost five years. She is obsessed with Chicago food. In her spare time, you can find her biking on one of the Chicago trails or hanging out at a Chicago event or festival. She also wrote about the Bishop family’s fruity hot sauce line for the 2018 Food Issue.
Daley’s moves…across the street
By Christopher Good
When Daley’s Restaurant opened in 1892, its mission—feeding the workers building the El train—was as simple as its food. 126 years later, you’ll still find diners in orange vests and hard hats. But today, they’re building Woodlawn Station: the affordable, mixed-use apartment complex which Daley’s will soon call home.
Yes, the restaurant is moving, and it doesn’t look like those wood-paneled walls and lacquered tables will make it across the street (yes, just across the street) when the time comes. But for now, you can still pass under the shade of the Green Line, slouch in a black pleather booth, and count on a perfect stack of pancakes.
Daley’s doesn’t have Michelin stars, a table Obama ate at, or a connection to the mayor’s office, no matter what the name makes you think. It just has good food. The mac and cheese, in an unusual turn of events, is worth writing home about. When a friend of mine asked for a poached egg at brunch last Friday, the waitress didn’t just accept—she asked what temperature she wanted it cooked at. The hash browns are always crispy, the biscuits are always warm, and the coffee runs like water. Best of all (for anyone who didn’t join you at your meal), there’s always gum for sale under the cash register.
So you could call it an institution, but institutions aren’t beloved the way Daley’s is. Beyond a failed renovation in the Great Depression, where the restaurant was a literal hole in the ground for five years, and a cameo in a recent episode of the television show Empire, it’s been a constant for ages. The relocation has high stakes, but even these fears have nothing on the realization that there have been three centuries where you could get breakfast at Daley’s. Here’s to three more.
Daley’s Restaurant. 809 E. 63rd St. 6am-7pm. (773) 643-6670. daleysrestaurant.com
Christopher Good is the Weekly’s music editor. He last wrote for the Weekly in March about hip-hop collective Mother Nature.
Notable quotes from the January grand opening of the city’s first Culver’s
“It’s very important to me [to open a Culver’s in Bronzeville], especially since I used to live here in the 501 building in Lake Meadows. It was just a focus of mine to make sure we have one in the city, and here in Bronzeville… We provide hospitality, we want people to feel happy while they’re here and enjoy good food while they’re doing it.” — Franchise owner Baron Waller
“It creates a good aura of meeting people and meeting new people. This to me is great, it’s like LA Fitness and the grocery store down the street coming in. It revitalizes the neighborhood. It brings people in. You don’t have to travel so far.” — LaVeda McClinton
“I did get a butterburger. Quite buttery.”— John Jones
Culver’s, 3355 S. King Dr. Monday–day, 10:30am–10pm. (312) 808-1100. culvers.com
Erisa Apantaku is the executive producer of South Side Weekly Radio. When she’s not making #SSWRadio, she enjoys teaching podcasting to kids with Blok by Blok Chicago. Now that it’s getting warmer, she’s stopping in for a smoothie from Chef Sara’s every chance she gets. Her last contribution to the Weekly was an interview with Washington Heights artist H.L. Anderson in March.