The menu's full of soul at Army & Lou's
Think you know every inch of the Windy City? That you've been there, done that? Well, know-it-all, unless you've tasted the spirit of soul, you ain't seen nothin' yet. In addition to Motown and Memphis, Chicago was home to the birth of soul in the late 1950s and '60s, led by native Chicagoan Sam Cooke, in addition to The Impressions, Chi-Lites, Curtis Mayfield and many others. In fact, it was Cooke's 1957 release, "You Send Me," that solidified the sound pioneered a few years earlier by Ray Charles and James Brown into a definitive genre. And although the soul record labels - Vee Jay, King, Chess and others - were short-lived, the tradition of soul in Chicago lives on in both its music and food. Visit these spots and you'll see your city in a whole new light.
Lee's Unleaded Blues
Less is more at this no-frills spot, where blues are played with few frills and even less fuss. You'll also get more for less, as there's never a cover or drink minimum here, and you'll occasionally luck into some free soul food. Shows are on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, while private parties rule the rest of the week.
Hyde Park's famed club may have moved from its grittier original location where Muddy Waters and B.B. King once held court, but it's still a popular spot for authentic blues. Plus, it now lies in close proximity to two other must-stops for those seeking Southern culture in Chicago: Calypso Cafe, another Obama favorite, serves much of the now-closed Dixie Kitchen's menu (including fried green tomatoes, jambalaya and more), while Dr. Wax offers one of the city's most impressive collections of underground soul. As for the music, you'll find live blues on Saturday and Sunday and live R&B on Monday.
Greater Salem Baptist Church, 215 W. 71st
This church was where gospel great Mahalia Jackson got her first job after moving to Chicago from New Orleans - and the music will still move you every Sunday.
West Point Baptist Church, 3566 S. Cottage Grove
Albertina Walker, who inherited the title of "The Queen of Gospel" from Jackson, her mentor, has performed at this church since childhood. If you're lucky, you might catch her at the Sunday-morning glory service at 10:45 a.m.
First Church of Deliverance, 4301 S. Wabash
The gospel choir at this South Side church had its first radio broadcast in 1932, and in 1953 Deliverance was the first church of color to broadcast a religious service on television (on channel 7). Catch one live on Sunday morning at 11 a.m.
Acme Missionary Baptist Church, 8758 S. Peoria
Acme's claim to fame is its choir, which took home the Verizon Wireless prize in 2008. Find out why at Sunday morning service, which begins at 11 a.m.
Stop at this venerable soul joint on a Sunday for a down-home bunch after a visit to the nearby (and free) Garfield Park Conservatory. This place is steeped in history (Civil Rights leaders dined here in the '60s), made homey with personal greetings from legendary owner Edna. Then there's the food: fried chicken, collard greens, biscuits, cornbread, all served in overly generous portions.
Leave it to super-eclectic Hyde Park to turn out this Indian-meets-soul-food joint. The buffet provides saag paneer and mac-n-cheese, side-by-side, in addition to fried chicken and tandoori chicken, chana masala curry, cornbread and peach cobbler.
Dan's Bakery & Eatery
The goods here come delivered in large, family-size portions, with mouth-watering BBQ chicken, short ribs and smothered steaks turning soul-food cynics into hardcore addicts. Vegetarians won't go hungry, either, with items like candied yams and cabbage on the menu For dessert, sweet potato pie, German chocolate cake and other sinful choices satisfy even the biggest sweet tooth.
Sweet Maple Cafe
Cheesy grits, homemade biscuits and gravy, short cakes with real maple syrup and buttery French toast - now you've got your Southern-inspired breakfast go-to. It may take a little while to get served in this busy, small restaurant on Taylor Street, but with food this heavenly (and yes, highly caloric) what's wrong with a little wait?
If Obama loves it, why wouldn't everyone? This West Side restaurant dishes up main dishes like baked chicken, baked turkey, meatloaf and smothered chicken breasts alongside sides like collard greens, mac-n-cheese, sweet corn, sweet peas with potatoes. Go on a Sunday, if you don't mind the wait for a table amongst the church crowd.
Army & Lou's
This Southern style restaurant features entrees such as chopped steak or half-rock Cornish hen, served with sides of whipped potatoes, macaroni and cheese and candied sweet potatoes. Expect buffet-style dining on Sundays after church, and breakfast that doesn't skimp on Southern hospitality with dishes like a pork chop served with two jumbo eggs, grits and biscuits.