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Restaurants & Bars 7

Running into Eddie, Chicago's greatest blues fanatic (misc notes Madison Ave: Wallace's, Edna's) + Joan's cobbler at Flo's

RST | Sep 25, 200310:20 PM

On my way home on the purple line last night, I ran into Eddie Berman, the most beloved of all the eccentric characters that color the Chicago blues scene. Eddie is 70 years old now, is a cancer survivor, is suffering from various other ailments but still manages to make his regular rounds (by bus! in winter or summer) of all the blues bars far and near where he is immediately recognized and feted as one of the most enthusiastic of all fanatics. He is often found with his trademark tote bag and beanie cap right up near the performers, dancing in place or yelling out his enthusiasm. I quizzed Eddie on some of the farther-flung places in the far southside and far westside that are completely off-the-tourist-blues-circuit. One of the places on the westside that he mentioned was Wallace's Catfish Corner which ReneG wrote about not too long ago (link below). I knew that there were many obscure bars out on the westside with fairly regular (or irregular/impromptu) blues programming but was quite pleased that this one Eddie recommended offers chow-possibilites as well. Blues at Wallace's can be heard from 5-9 on Fridays and Saturdays. If I remember correctly (I passed this place a while back), the singing (and dancing) takes place in the open lot right next to the Wallace's building.

Was at Edna's last Saturday and enjoyed a wonderfully fluffy & delicate old-school homemade coconut cake. I bet you that MikeG is going to find some really good old-school pies here. And top fried chicken too of course. Fried chicken the way it should be done. Was seriously considering an afternoon meal of their brains-and-eggs which I adore, but we had been munching the whole day long and I just couldn't put another thing in my mouth. We'll have to do a Chicago-board-weekday-power-breakfast of grits, salmon croquettes and brains-and-eggs at Edna's one of these mornings. Had a very young, very gracious and wonderful waitress who chatted with us a bit about the history of the place. As reported on this board earlier, Martin Luther King did indeed frequent Edna's and hold meetings here but at the old location a few doors around the corner of the building. Virtually every important black political figure of the past 30+ years has been to Edna's. Jesse Jackson still goes quite often as does quite an extraordinary roster of basketball stars (Magic etc, United Center is down the street), rap/hip-hop stars etc Edna's is accessible on the Green Line (Kedzie stop then walk 2 blocks south) or on the 20 Madison bus.

Went to Garfield Park afterwards to hear some music and to check out the new "market". Frankly, we had expected a little bit more of this market, but were a little disappointed that most of the craftsy things on display at the various shops were rather generic. It is a great start though! There's a little shop specializing in organic products (and some produce) and a farmer's market on Sundays. The conservatory usually has a couple of plants of chow-interest in a flowering/fruiting stage, but today, I only saw cacao and coffee (arabica) in fruit. The palm house is being restored and should look spectacular when the work is done. The Chapungu outdoor sculpture (Zimbabwean) exhibit is very well worth visiting.

Wandered afterwards all throughout the area surrounding Holy Innocents Church near Chicago and Ashland. It was my first time back to this neighborhood in a long long time. I used to roam all those back streets (Ohio, Superior etc) and know all those turn-of-the-century houses by heart. It nearly broke my heart to see every single quaint little street defaced by at least one hideous condominium; grotesque "lofts" and cinderblock constructions replacing the most extraordinary craftsmanship and masonry. Surely, there must be a circle in Dante's Hell for these condominium dwellers. There used to be a limestone mansion not far from Flo's that was just a marvel of design: detailed hand-carved ornamentation, granite columns, beautiful original woodwork around the round bay windows. It's now an awful cinderblock condo. Stopped at Cafe Central (where Erik M. spied on me ;) while I perused the menu) and at Flo's where I had the most delicious cobbler I have ever tasted. It turned out to be Joan's (Joan of this board). I was told at Flo's that Joan used apple, banana, plum and cranberry for this particular cobbler. I loved the slight bite of acidity from some of the fruit skin that Joan left on her fruits. The cobbler was very moist, with a lot of textural interest as well from the cornmeal on the crust. The whole cobbler (displayed near the front door) was also visually very beautiful, with its squarish shape and slight "dipping" towards the center. Flo's served this warmed through and with a velvety sabayon made with champagne. I was told that they do not necessarily make the sabayon with champagne but may use another wine/liquor but I thought that champagne worked very well here, providing a "heady", slightly sourey/acidic counterpoint.

Excellent service at Flo's by the way. We were really apologetic about coming in on a Saturday night at peak period just for coffee. We made sure to ask the waitress (I wish I got her name) if we would be counted among her number of covers and if she would be "cheated" out of a fair number bec of us. She was very gracious and kept reassuring us that it was not a problem at all. Excellent and friendly assistant (busser) as well. Flo's has always been a warm open inviting place from the day it opened and I am really glad to come back to discover that they have managed to maintain this atmosphere even now that they have expanded to dinner service and even now that the nieghborhood has changed so much. Needless to say, we made sure to take good care of the waitress by tipping close to what we thought her "lost covers" would.

Were headed to Sonotheque but the show was very late (11 p.m.) so we just headed to Gold Star where I sat getting drunk on bourbon from 8:30 to 1:30.



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