Saturday, June 12, 2010


And soul food.

That's just the way it's been here since 1966.

You mention soul food, and someone invariably will bring up Edna, and someone will specifically mention Edna's biscuits. Hard to argue with facts, and the fact is that Edna's biscuits are the best biscuits on earth.

Most things are open to debate, but that's not one of them.

Soul food.

In more ways than one.

(Edna serving her peach cobbler in 2006)

Bobby Rush said that Edna Stewart "nourished and fed the civil rights movement." Her restaurant at Madison and Kedzie was a meeting place for civil rights workers, a rallying point. Edna would feed them ham hocks and greens, and they'd discuss the next steps in the movement. She'd dish up that ridiculously sinfully delicious fried chicken and sweet potatoes, and she wouldn't take any money. Edna Stewart was plugged into the civil rights movement in a big way.

Soul food and Edna. Hand in hand.

Martin ate at Edna's regularly.

Presidents, Daleys, Aldermen, bookies, mobsters, preachers and limo drivers have eaten at Edna's, as have people from all over the world.

Come as you are, and you will get the next available table or booth. Casual attire.

Nothing fancy about Edna Stewart nor Edna's Restaurant, which is why they fit in so well here. Part of our fabric really. Always clean as a whistle, but with that Garfield Park vibe running through the joint.

It's been said that Edna would hire someone just released from prison, as long as she got a good feeling about that person.

There is just something about both the person and the place that are utterly impossible to describe. The kind of person you wish you'd known your whole life. The kind of place where you feel like you really want to belong.

February 19, 2010 was declared Edna Stewart Day in Illinois by Governor Pat Quinn.

Yesterday morning, while a million or two people were making their way into The Loop to celebrate the Blackhawks and the Stanley Cup, Edna Stewart died at Oak Park Rush Hospital at the age of 72. She'd been diagnosed with ovarian cancer last November, and in the words of her brother Sam Mitchell Jr. "She wanted to make her birthday."

Gov Quinn released a statement...

"Today, I join the people of Illinois in mourning the loss of Edna Stewart, who was renowned nationwide for her legendary soul food cooking and landmark restaurant. Throughout her life, Edna Stewart proved, in the words of one philosopher, that `No mean woman can cook. It calls for a generous spirit, a light hand, and a large heart."'

Amen to that.

Sister had soul.


MichaelRyerson said...

And to think she doesn't even look like a hero. Funny, huh? Glad for the picture. Thanks.

Schmutzie said...

Drove by Edna's one day about twenty years ago and it occurred to me "Damn, I wish I was hungry."

That place is living history because of her. They'll carry on I'm sure, but it'll never be the same. Might say the same thing for the whole city.

switters said...

Maybe it's simply this: That no matter one's age, color, creed, era, circumstance or persuasion, there are just some people who can't help but know what the right thing to do is, and then they simply go ahead and do it, no matter the consequences. Those people are our saints, for lack of a better word.

And I won't bother to debate you about the best biscuit on the planet. There's no need to.

Schmutzie said...

She was one of those people.

She turned 72 the Sunday before she died, which means she was 28 back in '66. 28 years old and she's serving up chicken and greens to Martin Luther King while he plans tomorrow's rally. No doubt she knew she was witnessing something huge but still....28 years old? Man, what a life she lead.

I'm open minded about whose biscuits are the second greatest on the planet.