As I approach the 75th Street exit on the Dan Ryan expressway, I change the music that’s blasting through my speakers from the soothing spiritual sounds of Mahalia Jackson to the raucous poetic raps of Chance the Rapper’s ‘Coloring Book’ album. And although it’s barely 50 degrees on this particular spring day, I proceed to put my windows down, so that everyone within earshot can hear Chance’s ‘No Problem’ from my car.
If you’re curious where I am, I am in the same Chicago neighborhood where Mahalia Jackson, Chance the Rapper, Michael Wilbon of ESPN, Lena Waithe, and even Cubs legend Ernie Banks once lived. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m in the beautiful south side neighborhood of Chatham.
If you’re wondering where I’m going to go to satisfy my appetite, well the first place I’m going to go is Soul Veg City on 203 E. 75th street. This Chatham staple has been providing tantalizing soul vegan food, rooted in Black American culture, for Chicagoans (and out-of-towners) for over 40 years.
I eat a plant-based diet, so this place is like heaven for people like me. If you’re an omnivore and wondering what you should try out of curiosity, you’re going to have to order the cauliflower wingz, amazing gyro, the Italian v, tofu tidbits, and the vegan shrimp. If you’re short on time, you can stop by and grab something from the hot bar as well where you’ll find more traditional (vegan) soul food. Whether you consider yourself an omnivore or herbivore, I can guarantee that you’ll leave satisfied.
If you prefer not to eat vegan food, I understand. Let’s walk east on 75th Street and go to the legendary Lem’s Bar-B-Q so that you can order yourself some rib tips, hot links, or even some wings, from a neighborhood staple that’s been around since 1968. From what I’m told you’re going to have to make sure you get it with Lem’s special BBQ sauce. So, make sure you order extra because you’re definitely going to want more when you get home. And yes, you’re going to want to buy the gallon size. Don’t second guess me on this, okay?
Alright, who’s ready for dessert? Lucky for you, we can stay on the same street, because by now I’m sure you’re tired and ready for a nap. Right across the street at 328 E. 75th Street, you’ll find the James Beard-nominated Brown Sugar Bakery which opened in 2004.
You’ll have your choice of ten delicious cakes that will have you crawling back for more. There’s turtle, red velvet, double dark chocolate, and their famous caramel cake, to name a few. These cakes can’t be matched. Yes, I know your granny makes cakes better than anyone you know, but that’s because you don’t know the bakers at Brown Sugar Bakery yet.
I don’t know about you, but the only thing on my mind now is watching something entertaining on television when I get home. Lucky for me, comedian W. Kamau Bell, a native of Chatham as well, has plenty of shows and comedy specials for me to choose from as I eat my scrumptious leftovers and plan my next trip back to a neighborhood whose restaurant choices are top-notch and nothing short of legendary.