Five Soul Food Restaurants on the South Side

In honor of Black History Month we want to highlight five delicious Chicago soul food restaurants. Soul food, of course, is the delectable Southern cooking tradition associated with the African-American community. Ever since the Great Migration, when millions of African-Americans fled the Jim Crow South, soul food has become a culinary highlight of Chicago’s food scene. Before becoming a tour guide with Chicago Detours, I hadn’t tried a ton of soul food myself. I got rather obsessed with jerk chicken when I lived in Hyde Park, so this research is as much for me as anyone else. Join me in discovering some soul food restaurants to chow down in!

Pearl's Place soul food restaurants Chicago
The staff at Pearl’s Place in Bronzeville are ready for you to visit. Photo courtesy of Pearl’s Place.

Pearl’s Place

Pearl’s Place holds a special place in our hearts at Chicago Detours. We frequently stop in with plenty of guests during our Jazz, Blues, and Beyond Bus Tour‘s swing through the South Side. Private groups can choose to add on a visit so they can feast on the family-style offering at this beloved soul food restaurant in Bronzeville. It’s such an awesome experience for people to come here, especially international travelers who have really never had anything like soul food before.

You’ll find all the soul food staples here, from black-eyed peas to fried chicken or catfish. Personally, the shrimp and cheesy grits dish caught my eye. Grits are coarsely-ground corn kernels that are boiled with water or milk. Also, keep in mind that Pearl’s Place has delectable soul food desserts. I especially love the banana pudding or peach cobbler – a la mode of course.

Pearl's Place Chicago soul food restaurants Cheesy shrimp and grits
Yum! Photo courtesy of Pearl’s Place.

Three Chefs

Located on South Halsted in Auburn Gresham, Three Chefs is a Chicago soul food restaurant that serves down-home food with flair. Classics like breakfast platters or turkey sandwiches can be found on the menu. Online reviews take pains to call out less common selections like the smothered salmon. Multiple Yelpers said that the gumbo was a “straight out of New Orleans” masterpiece. Sounds like some high praise. Maybe you should check it out for yourself?

Daley’s Restaurant

Daley’s is not one of those pop-up soul food restaurants. It’s just the opposite, in fact! Daley’s is the oldest restaurant in the entire city of Chicago, since Schaller’s closed last year. Daley’s has been serving South Side patrons since 1892. And no, they have nothing to do with the Richard Daley’s at all! The original owner, John Daley, opened the restaurant to serve workers constructing the city’s first ‘L’ trains on 63rd Street for the nearby 1893 World’s Fair.  The mind wobbles.  (By the way, be sure to check out our 1893 World’s Fair Tour when you’re up in the Loop.) Over time, the Greek-owned restaurant transitioned easily from serving up classic American dishes to being one of the South Side’s finest soul food restaurants.

Don’t let longevity be the only draw, though. The menu at Daley’s has some real depth – in fact, they serve over a half-dozen specials every single day. Personally, I’m making an appointment to try out the braised ox tail stew or BBQ Texas beef ribs. The servings are ginormous. On top of the massive plate they give you, you get an entire bowl of home-made soup. I ended up bringing home an entire meals worth of soul food leftovers.

We can take you to Daley’s ourselves on the Transformation on the South Side Bus Tour for private groups. One of the options on that tour is a stop for an authentic soul food meal at Daley’s, which is always extremely popular.

Soul Vegetarian

Though Chicago is famously the “hog-butcher to the world,” the city has a long and proud vegetarian tradition as well. The Chicago Diner, in Boystown, is probably the most famous vegetarian spot in town. Soul food lovers need not fear, though. Soul Vegetarian, in Greater Grand Crossing, has been a South Side institution for over 30 years. Many patrons show up for the daily specials, which are announced by the chef. But you can probably make a date to try out the black-eyed peas burger no matter the date. Fun fact about this joint: it’s connected to a religious sect called Hebrew Israelite Community of Jerusalem.

soul food restaurants Chicago chicken and waffles
A soul food staple. Photo via Wikimedia.

Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles

Chicken and waffles may be the most famous soul food creation. The pleasure of crisp, freshly-made waffles and the crackly delights of fried chicken needs no explanation. Serving the two dishes together probably didn’t start until the Great Migration got underway a century ago. Today they come together like peanut butter and jelly. Chicago’s House of Chicken and Waffles devotes themselves to the title dish, understandably, but offer other soul food favorites, like smothered potatoes or grilled salmon, as well. You can find this soul food restaurant in two spots: Bronzeville and Oak Park.

The Bronzeville location is on the King Drive, with really beautiful 19th-century buildings all around. When you visit, keep your eyes peeled for the remains of the ‘L’ train that took workers from Bronzeville to the Union Stock Yards. We swing near there on our other South Side tour, the Chicago Neighborhoods and Cultural Diversity Bus Tour.

Enjoy your eating of some Chicago soul food and keep an eye out for the history and architecture in the neighborhoods you visit.

– Alex Bean, Content Manager and Tour Guide

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Ellen

Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”
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Jen

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Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”
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Elyse

Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.

Anthony

Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.

Marie

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

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Sonny

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
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Alex

Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

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Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
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