Bronzeville has a vibrant cultural scene strengthened by the lasting legacy of the “Chicago Black Renaissance.” Once deemed “Black Metropolis,” the South Side neighborhood was home to many African American history makers, including Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington, Nat King Cole, Richard Wright and Gwendolyn Brooks.
Some of the notable historic sites in Bronzeville include the Chicago Bee Building, The Chicago Defender, the Supreme Life insurance building, the Overton Hygienic Building and Unity Hall. The Rosenwald Court Apartments were once home to Jesse Owens, Lorraine Hansberry, Joe Louis, Duke Ellington and Quincy Jones. Journalist and abolitionist Ida B. Wells also lived in the neighborhood, and the home she shared with her husband is at 3624 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.
Some of the more recent must-sees are the Gallery Guichard for art, Bronzeville Children’s Museum and the South Side Community Art Center.
Here’s my picks for spots to fuel up while on a visit:
105 E. 47th St.
Since 1990, this bakery has been winning over sweet-toothed customers with its famous upside-down caramel cake, donuts, brownies, cobblers … and charismatic owner William Ball.
Shawn Michelle’s Homemade Ice Cream
46 E. 47th St.
Located in the historic Rosenwald Courts Apartments, husband-and-wife team Yahya and Nataki Muhammad’s shop delights with ice cream made from scratch. Favorites include the Jamaican rum raisin, strawberry cheesecake and honey cinnamon graham.
4652 S. King Dr.
Cliff Rome’s restaurant is a favorite for Southern comfort food. Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. everyday, it serves favorites including peach bourbon French toast and shrimp and grits. Check out Rome’s other local businesses: the Blanc Art Gallery and the Parkway Ballroom.
Pearl’s Place Restaurant
3901 S. Michigan
Pearl’s famous dinner and breakfast buffet has been satisfying diners’ cravings for Southern cuisine for the last three decades. Owner Darrell Green believes excellent customer service sets Pearl’s apart from nearby competition.
Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles
3947 S. King Dr.
You can get both your savory and sweet fix here. In addition to waffles and fried chicken, owner Tonya Johnson makes sure the breakfast skillets and smothered chicken-fried catfish dinners mirror her grandmother’s versions.
Ain’t She Sweet Cafe
526 E. 43rd St.
Owner Margot Strotter’s cafe serves sandwiches, wraps, salads, smoothies and desserts. The Caribbean jerk wrap is a best seller and can be ordered with either chicken or salmon.
Two Fish Crab Shack
641 E. 47th St.
Owner Yasmin Curtis serves up seafood boils everyday except on Mondays. Shrimp, crab, crawfish and lobster are tossed in a bag with an option of homemade sauces. Messy but delicious.
Honey 1 BBQ
746 E. 43rd St.
Pitmaster Robert Adams and his son, Robert Jr., use a method of slow-cooking over wood in an aquarium-style smoker. Despite location changes, Honey 1 BBQ is a consistent critic’s favorite for its rib tips and links.
Another pick for smoked meats is Alice’s Bar-B-Que, 65 E. 43rd St.
Sip & Savor
528 E. 43rd St. and 78 E. 47th St.
You can enjoy certified fair trade coffee while working, reading or meeting up with friends at two Bronzeville locations.
Truth Italian Restaurant
56 E. Pershing Rd.
Favorites include the spicy grilled chicken Alfredo pasta and lobster arrabbiata.
Yassa African Restaurant
3511 S. King Dr.
Owners Madieye and Awa Gueye specialize in Senegalese cuisine. The Yassa chicken is marinated in lemon and spices and served over rice. Another popular dish, maffe, features cubed lamb cooked in a peanut butter and tomato sauce and is served with carrots and potatoes.