SURVIVING BRONZEVILLE, CHICAGO
September 24, 2023, by Kaiya Letzler
A SEMI-PROFESSIONAL ATTEMPT AT A GUIDE OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD
If you’re thinking of making the big move to Bronzeville, Chicago, or you’re just a curious cat, you’ve landed on the right page. Here’s the lowdown on the neighborhood, sprinkled with our attempts at humor. Brace yourselves!
In the upcoming sections, we’ll dive headfirst into the whirlpool of Bronzeville’s history (no snorkels, we promise), the contagious culture (mask up!), with a somewhat unpredictable housing market, can you afford to live there (pack your crystal ball), the local schools and a plethora of attractions that are bound to distract you.
And, because we’re feeling generous, we’ve thrown in some “semi-pro” advice for newcomers. This guide isn’t the encyclopedia of Bronzeville, but it’s a start, and hopefully, it won’t put you to sleep.
So, while we suggest turning to other sources to fill in the gaps, dive in and have fun exploring! May this guide bring you closer to the heartbeat of Bronzeville and perhaps tickle your funny bone along the way.
By the way, the community of Bronzeville is revitalizing and preserving its legacy, and we will also discuss the renaissance that has and is currently taking place there.
“The hubs” and I are like two bumbling birds who can’t get their migration patterns right. Instead of flying south for the winter, where we can enjoy the chirping and singing of the birds while whining about the humidity, we fly North and complain about the frigid temperatures and windshield factors.
And just like birds, we have our favorite feeding grounds, except ours are loaded with pizza and burgers, which Florida isn’t known for!
So, when we flew back to Chicago for his 50th high school reunion, we made a pit stop in Bronzeville to fill our bellies with some delicious local grub.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to flap around aimlessly when it came to finding the best-hidden spots because we asked our feathered friends on Facebook for recommendations, and boy, did you all “flock” to our aid!
WHERE EXACTLY IS BRONZEVILLE IN CHICAGO?
Bronzeville, also known as “the Black Metropolis,” is a vibrant neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side (see map above) stretching from 31st to 51st Street and State Street to Cottage Grove Avenue. My Facebook friends say these are just two of the best Bronzeville Chicago restaurants. The first recommendation served American Creole Cuisine with a Brazilian twist.
1001 East 43rd Street
Chicago, IL 60653
“The hubs” and I decided that Sunday was as good a time as any other day of the week to try this place out. Besides, our short stay in Chicago would be jam-packed with activities in addition to his high school reunion, which was going to be a two-day event.
We started the meal with Fried Green Tomatoes and a House Salad and moved on to the Boneless Fried Catfish with Roasted Red Potatoes and Onions for our entrée.
The expert seasoning and food preparation make it an excellent recommendation for anyone with a chi-town palate.
After devouring our meal at Norman’s Bistro, my taste buds were so happy they started dancing in my mouth. I had to remind them that we were in a public place and to keep their moves subtle!
But seriously, that Boneless Fried Catfish was so good, I almost licked the plate clean (don’t worry, I didn’t). If you’re looking for a restaurant that will make your taste buds boogie, Norman’s Bistro is the place to be.
My only regret with this dining experience is I didn’t get photos of our meal or enough food for a doggy bag!
But like Mick Jagger (lead singer of the Rolling Stones) says in his song, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you’ll find you get what you need.” And what we needed after stuffing our faces was to stay awake for the drive home!
PEARL’S PLACE RESTAURANT
3901 South Michigan Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60653
The next spot we dined at was Pearl’s Place. We used to pass by this restaurant often, but we were always rushing to somewhere else, promising always to try it out when we had time. And finally, we did! It was like finding a hidden gem in plain sight.
If you’re looking for a food experience that’s a little bit fancy and a little bit homey, look no further. This place is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Downtown Chicago, but it feels like you’re in your grandma’s kitchen.
The couple sitting next to us raved about the breakfast and lunch buffet being the best in town. We will try it out next time we’re in the area.
And the portions are so generous that you could probably feed a small village with just one plate! So, to expand your waistline and feel like a true champion, you must have dinner at Pearl’s Place. They’ll treat you like family, and you’ll leave feeling like a stuffed turkey!
DIGESTING HISTORY: A POST-DINNER STROLL THROUGH TIME-TOUCHED STREETS!
We decided to walk through the neighborhood after dinner to help digest the meal and admire all the gentrification the area had gone through since we last visited.
The beautifully painted murals on viaducts, walls, and buildings illustrated Bronzeville’s rich cultural heritage. The artist recognized such notable residents as Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks, civil rights activist Ida B. Wells, and legendary musician Louis Armstrong.
Word on the street is during the 1950s, this neighborhood was renowned for its bustling commercial areas, famous music clubs, and community of intellectuals and social activists.
Today, the neighborhood embraces its legacy as a mecca for civil rights, jazz, blues, and gospel music. Alongside spectacular Victorian-era architecture and 19th-century mansions, you’ll also find many coffee shops, bistros, galleries, libraries, and restaurants.
After doing a little snooping around on Google “the hubs,” and I discovered that there were four main questions people wanted to know about the area.
Ta-dah! Your very own personal question-answerer has arrived! And just in time to answer the questions you didn’t even know you had! Although, I must say the first one was already covered at the beginning of the article. But hey, no harm in repeating ourselves, right?
IS BRONZEVILLE CHICAGO SAFE?
Let’s not throw caution to the Windy City winds. This isn’t Mayberry, people. Keep your Spidey senses tingling, and stay woke! 👀 Navigate those well-lit streets like you’re the captain of a cruise ship, avoid solo night missions, and secure your treasures with the same tenacity Superman uses to protect his identity!
Got questions? Want to know if Bronzeville is the “hot spot” you’ve been dreaming of? Consult the neighborhood Oracle or, ya know, the local residents who actually live there.
Oh, and if you need the long arm of the law, the Wentworth Police District is your go-to squad. They’re like the Avengers of the 2nd District of the Chicago PD—just with fewer capes and more badges.
BRONZEVILLE REBORN: CHARTING A JOURNEY FROM DEROGATION TO CELEBRATION
We witnessed the fruits of the community’s revitalization efforts with restored historic homes and flourishing new housing and businesses in Bronzeville, reestablishing its former position as a cultural force to be reckoned with.
“IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME COMIN … BUT A CHANGE GON’ COME!” -Sam Cooke, singer/songwriter
The area became an established neighborhood at the turn of the twentieth century. James J. Gentry, an editor for Anthony Overton, suggested renaming it to “Bronzeville” to improve its identity. Before its official renaming, the media referred to it using derogatory terms including but not limited to “Black Belt,” “Black Ghetto,” and “Darkie Town” to refer to the Bronzeville neighborhood and adjacent areas.
THIS IS WHAT LIFE IS LIKE IN BRONZEVILLE, CHICAGO TODAY
Living in Bronzeville is like hitting the jackpot in the city. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in a neighborhood that’s loaded with rich culture and history, right? It’s akin to discovering a diamond in the rough but with a positive twist. Did you know that 20% of the residents here choose to live in condos? This means you don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy their amenities and convenience.
If you want to live in luxury without spending too much, then you might want to check out these Bronzeville condos for sale.
They’re 3-4 bedrooms with 2-3 bathrooms. They come in sizes ranging from 1,260 square feet to 2,800 square feet. You might be surprised at how affordable they are. It’s okay if cooking every day is not your jam; the restaurants in the area offer delicious food at reasonable prices. You can indulge in your favorite cuisines without worrying about your wallet.
And, if you’re a fitness freak or just love spending time outdoors, there are parks galore and plenty of recreational activities to keep you engaged. Mandrake Park is a beautiful destination for leisure and physical activities. It boasts an array of facilities, including a playground, tennis and basketball courts, baseball diamonds, a running track, and a multi-purpose athletic field with artificial turf.
The park’s fieldhouse also features meeting rooms, a spacious gymnasium, a performance auditorium, and a culinary center. In addition to its regular programming, Mandrake Park also organizes movie-in-the-park screenings and other special “Night Out in the Parks” events throughout the year.
BRONZEVILLE: CHICAGO’S SOCIALLY CONNECTED GEM! 😄 😉
The Bronzeville area is so well-connected. It’s like the social butterfly of Chicago neighborhoods! Not only does it chat with the rest of the city via the Red and Green rail lines – courtesy of the Chicago Transit Authority – but it also flirts with the Metra Electric District Main Line.
And let’s not even get started on its numerous bus route buddies. If Bronzeville had a social media profile, its status would read: “In a relationship with the whole city.”
Plus, for those who prefer the scenic route, the Dan Ryan Expressway is just a few minutes away – and it promises not to tell tales of your (completely legal) singing car concerts!
A HIGHER EDUCATION LIFESTYLE
Bronzeville is home to the Illinois Institute of Technology and is attended by students worldwide. Illinois Tech faculty and alums have contributed to some of the most remarkable innovations in history. The cell phone, magnetic recording, tall building architecture, and barcode technology are just a few examples. Thanks to them, we can now text while skydiving from a skyscraper. It’s truly impressive!
Illinois College of Optometry is the largest optometry college in the United States and the oldest continually operating educational facility dedicated solely to teaching optometrists. However, it is also renowned for its ability to train individuals to roll their eyes at dad jokes. This tradition has been ongoing for over a century, and both students and faculty supposedly partake in the eye-rolling!
Did you know that Northeastern Illinois University hosts over 35 specialized centers for research and education? These centers act as academic heroes, combating ignorance and apathy while conducting interdisciplinary research to save our planet, one paper at a time.
FROM JAZZ BEATS TO TIKTOK TWEETS: A TIMELESS VOYAGE IN BRONZEVILLE
Whether you’re juggling toddlers, navigating the single life, or flaunting your stylish senior swag, Bronzeville’s got a spot for you. This neighborhood isn’t just a place; it’s a mood. Here, history gives a sassy side-eye to the contemporary, and trust us, it’s a sight to see. Ever wanted to time-travel?
In Bronzeville, you don’t need a DeLorean. Simply stroll the streets, and you’ll seamlessly drift from the echoes of the past into the beats of modern-day Chicago. So, dust off those history books, put on your future-forward shades, and step into the vibrant dance of Bronzeville Chicago.
If you can jive to jazz and keep up with TikTok trends, this place might just be your next favorite backdrop. Cheers to embracing the best of both worlds with a sprinkle of humor and a dash of style!