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Chicago Area Soul Food

Soul Food: MacArthur’s and H&A

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Soul Food: MacArthur’s and H&A

Rene G | Jan 5, 2004 12:48 AM

I recently found myself eating a lot of Soul Food. I went to MacArthur’s and H&A on two consecutive days and had nearly the same meal. Both were good but I have to give the edge to H&A.

MacArthur’s moved across the street a few months ago. I actually visited a week before but somehow didn’t notice the new restaurant or the sign in the old place’s window. The new place is large, bright, and efficient and seems to pack ‘em in like the old one. It’s cafeteria style, just tell your server what you want and they dish it out for you. Six bucks gets you "meat and two" from about a half dozen main dishes and an equal number of sides. Things like ham, baked chicken, short ribs, liver & onions, smothered pork chops, neck bones, ham hocks, and fried cat fish. I went with smothered pork chops ($1 surcharge), mac’n’cheese, and greens. Good, cooked-forever meat but I didn’t love the gravy which had a burnt flavor. Mac was a nice slightly soupy version and the greens were good. The warm corn muffin was just fine. I went back for some banana pudding (extra charge) to go. This was quite good but had more vanilla wafers than any other version I’ve encountered, more like a cake than pudding. Not bad at all but I think I’d prefer a bit more pudding. All in all a good value and a good solid meal with no surprises.

H&A is one of the South Side’s historic restaurants, in business since 1945. A steam table greets you as you enter. You can either get an order to go or sit at the worn counter or old booth. More or less similar offerings as MacArthur’s. I had a smothered pork chop, mac’n’cheese, and greens. Dinner rolls and bread pudding for a little variety. Meat was thicker and better than MacArthur’s and H&A’s gravy was incomparably superior. The mac was good, a drier version, and the greens were similar. Too close to call on the sides. Freshly baked dinner rolls were extraordinary, slightly sweet and light as a cloud. Likewise the bread pudding was in the upper reaches; I can’t remember when I last had a better version. Prices are a little higher than MacArthur’s but the dinner includes soup or a (forgettable) salad.

Return visits to H&A have left me almost as happy. Excellent fall-off-the bone roast chicken with remarkable sweet gravy, stellar butter beans, decent buttery mashed squash, decent pea soup, good peach cobbler (pastry clearly made with lard), so-so corn muffins (end of day and kind of stale). I need to get back there for breakfast and try their biscuits. I only hope they’re half as good as those dinner rolls.

MacArthur’s
5412 W Madison St
(Note: was at 5401 W Madison until about September 2003)
Chicago
773-261-2316
Open 11am-9pm, 7 days a week

H&A Restaurant
432 E 63rd St
(CTA: Green Line King Dr stop)
Chicago
773-684-8214
Open 7am-9pm, 7 days a week

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