By Kate Silver
A touch of Mayberry meanders through storied streets of Beverly. Located on Chicago’s southwest side, this historically Irish neighborhood draws bead-wearing, flag-waving families to not one, but two annual parades every year: the South Side Irish Parade (March 17) and the Memorial Day Parade (May 27). Visitors and residents, alike, wind their way along Longwood Drive to gaze at a ridge of envy-inducing historic mansions, including the famous Givins Irish Castle. With its turrets and battlements, the Norman-style building was once a home but now serves as a church and school.
You won’t find the latest food fad or tasting menus here in Beverly, but you won’t miss ‘em. The hearty, family-friendly, trend-proof grub mirrors the no-nonsense, down-to-earth-ness of the area, as hardworking kitchens churn out comfort-food favorites. Take your pick of beer bars, or even the region’s only meadery to wash it all down, and then cap the night off with a movie or show.
If you ask residents about their love of the neighborhood, they might describe it as “frozen in time,” in that Mayberry kind of way. And yet, it’s just a 10-minute drive from Midway, making a bygone era well within reach.
WHERE TO EAT
For more than 75 years, Top Notch Beefburgers has been a neighborhood staple and a draw for visitors. Beverly residents unabashedly proclaim the burgers here the best in the city — and they may be right. The fresh-ground, hand-formed burgers are served with your choice of cheese, and the fries are cut fresh and cooked in beef-fat for maximum flavor and crisp. The friendly service feels like a throwback to simpler times, as staff greets a steady influx of regulars with a grin. Walking beside the wood-paneled walls, you almost expect to run into the likes of Guy Fieri on the way to the bathroom.
For another edible icon, head over to Original Rainbow Cone. Since 1926, this ice cream institution has been piling five scoops of ice cream — chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (aka New York vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio, and orange sherbet — to create a rainbow effect, and to prove that unlikely combo may just be better than you expect. On warm days, you can count on a line snaking around the corner of the bright pink building, as neighbors reconnect after a long winter.
Over at Jimmy Jamm’s, it’s all sweet potatoes, all the time. Don’t fight it — you know you’ll want to go all Bubba Gump here and start listing all the options until people stop listening: sweet potato pie, sweet potato bread pudding, sweet potato brownies, sweet potato stew. Heck, even the walls are the color of sweet potato. Walk into Calabria Imports and the smell of fresh bread wafts through the air. Resistance is futile, so order “The Freddy” — a house-made sausage patty topped with mozzarella, sweet peppers, and tomato sauce — and then peruse the deli counter and small grocery section, where you can find one of Chicago’s best souvenirs: homemade giardiniera — a spicy, Italian relish made with pickled vegetables. It’s loved by locals, who put it on sandwiches, pizza, eggs, and, really, anything else with a surface area.
WHERE TO DRINK
Visitors to Beverly won’t have to worry about going thirsty. The neighborhood has a work-hard, play-hard vibe, which helps explain the fact that there are two craft breweries less than a mile apart. Horse Thief Hollow, which doubles as a barbecue joint, may well be the perfect neighborhood brewery. Local art decorates the walls. And the beer speaks for itself, the Little Wing, a quenching American pilsner, to the Cinnamon Girl, an imperial milk stout brewed with Saigon cinnamon and Tahitian vanilla.
A few blocks south on Western Ave., Open Outcry Brewing draws a crowd looking for more “out there” beers, like the dessert-in-a-draught Dodd-Frank Blueberry Milkshake IPA or the upper-meets-downer BA Dark Pool with Metropolis Coffee Beans. Wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, and bar snacks are also on tap to soak up the suds. Oh, and if 0.8 miles seems too far to go from one bar to the next, split the difference by stopping at Barney Callaghan’s, a classic Irish pub in a classic Irish neighborhood. With a roaring fireplace and a long, wooden bar, it’s a cozy stop on a bar crawl or for a committed evening.
While beer is all the rage in Beverly, the neighborhood has an especially distinct offering that doesn’t come with froth. Wild Blossom Meadery & Winery raises its own bees, collects its own honey, and ferments it with yeast to make mead, aka the boozy nectar of the gods. If you want to really geek out on mead, you can take a guided tour (make a reservation online), or just head to the tasting room and order a flight of six different flavors, like lemon ginger, blueberry, pomegranate, and more. Prefer to ease into the mead scene? Order one of the creative, mead-infused cocktails, like the “Mead-a-rita,” for a more gradual introduction. Italian relish made with pickled vegetables. It’s loved by locals, who put it on sandwiches, pizza, eggs, and, really, anything else with a surface area.
WHAT TO DO
For more than 50 years, the Beverly Arts Center has been a cultural gathering place on the south side of Chicago. It manages to be all things to all people: a gallery, a classroom, a cinema, a performance hall, and more. One night, you might hear “Take it Easy” by an Eagles cover band; the next, couples may fill the cinema to sip wine and take in the latest art-house flick. In March, families can nab tickets to see productions of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh Kids and High School Musical Jr.
For a more hands-on and admittedly quirky cultural outlet, head over to Cakewalk Chicago and get a lesson in carb-art. At this impressive baker’s supply shop, wannabe cake and cookie artists can register for confection-decorating classes and up their sugar-design game, learning how to make buttercream roses and build better birthday cakes. It’s a fun idea for date night, girl’s night out, or an outing with the kids.
And then there’s shopping. You can find all the retail therapy you’ll need, right here in Beverly. The newly opened Turkey is your go-to gift shop for contemporary, artisan-made jewelry, hand-dyed silk scarves, tantalizing soy candles and more — some of which is created locally. Plan on spending at least an hour at Root Consignment Company, which is the kind of shop you’ll wish you had in your neighborhood. Multiple rooms here are designed to feel as comfortable as a home, and they’re stocked with all things vintage and modern: furniture, men’s and women’s clothing (designer and otherwise), jewelry, shoes and more. New stuff comes in daily, so it’s already worth planning a return trip. And no Mayberry is complete without its own book store. Bookies takes up two storefronts with its expansive selection of new and used books. It’s owned by a former English teacher, so you know you’re in good hands.
A day in Beverly is a little like an “unboxing” video: every shop, every restaurant, every bar, every bakery is a pleasant revelation. That’s true, whether you’re traveling in from out of town, or just visiting from another part of Chicago. This south-side enclave isn’t exactly a secret, but it is a surprise.