A mainstay of Chicago soul food, Mac Arthur's Southern-style cooking will charm your belt off. Owner Mac Arthur Alexander "doesn't know wheat bread from white bread," according to his niece, Sharon McKennie, who does all the cooking. She serves up such classic dishes as short ribs, dressing and meatloaf in a cafeteria-style setting. Opened in 1997 with the intent of giving back to the community (the staff is composed of locals and a few ex-inmates who were given a second chance by Alexander), the restaurant has yet to change its prices; for $5.95 you get two sides and a meat selection.
With pictures of Shaq and Penny Hardaway on the wall, both coasts have gotten in on the action. On some weekends, they have to lock the doors so they don't break the occupancy laws. On a typical Sunday, you'll find yourself surrounded by the after-church crowd. Shuffling through a long line, you'll reach a roped off counter. A server behind the sneeze-guard will ask, "Honey, what do you want?" She'll hand you a turkey leg the size of a small child, with ladleful of mac and cheese dumped beside it and some mashed potatoes as a garnish.
The portions are intimidating (most get it to go), but the food's so good, you'll be eating off each other's plates. The collard greens have a zest hard to find anywhere else on the planet. And the candied yams, not too sweet, but just right, sit on your tongue like a mound of good loving.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: David Rosenstock