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A Field Guide to


Stunning architecture and even better barbecue in Obama’s old stomping grounds

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Above:KAM Isaiah Israel Temple Photo: Eric Allix Rogers

Imagine a neighborhood that features wide, leafy streets and million-dollar historic mansions that have housed some of Chicago’s most notable denizens, including Muhammad Ali and Barack Obama. That’s what you’ll find in Kenwood, which was settled in the mid-1800s as a place for the wealthy to escape the bustle of downtown (indeed, it was once called the Lake Forest to the south). As Obama nostalgia sets in, there’s plenty of architecture, history, and damn good food for visitors to explore in a neighborhood that continues to surprise.

Kenwood map
Illustration: Michael A. Hill
Small Shop Cycles & Service
Small Shop Cycles & Service Photo: Courtesy of Small Shop Cycles & Service

1. 4852 and 4858 South Kenwood Avenue

Frank Lloyd Wright designed both of these “bootleg” gems while working for Adler & Sullivan (which may explain the atypical octagonal shapes).

2. Blackstone Public Library

Step inside the rotunda and admire its glass dome and four gorgeous murals by Oliver Dennett Grover, whose work was displayed at the World’s Columbian Exhibition.

3. Hyde Park Art Center

This former army warehouse includes five galleries of student work. (Note that the door to its Oakman Clinton School and Studios is made from an old Coke machine.)

4. KAM Isaiah Israel Temple

See that minaret that looks like one from the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul? It cleverly hides the building’s smokestack. (Call 773-924-1234 to schedule a tour.)

5. Kenwood Community Park

This nine-and-a-half-acre expanse has play areas for kids, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, a soccer field, and a meticulous community garden.

6. Louis Farrakhan’s house

You’ll know this 21-room sandstone manse by the stark wrought-iron fence that surrounds it, the plaque that reads “Residence of Muhammad, Messenger of Allah,” and the stoic security guard who will keep a close eye on you. But you’re on a public sidewalk, so ogle away.

7. Muhammad Ali’s house

Oh, to have a time machine: In 1998, the champ’s 28-room red-brick Tudor sold for $750,000. It’s now valued at nearly four times that.

Sculptures from Faie Afrikan Art
Faie Afrikan Art Photo: Ratko Radojcic

8. Faie Afrikan Art

This eclectic shop (pronounced FAH-aye) features tribal masks and sculptures, as well as landscape and portrait photographs from Africa and Haiti.

9. Small Shop Cycles & Service

Affable owner Chris Willard sells affordable city and hybrid bikes that top out at $350—and include a three-year tune-up plan. (Don’t see what you want? They’ll order it.)

Eat & Drink

10. Bridgeport Coffee Company

Nosh on the homemade pastries and coffee, sure—but bring a book if you want to fit in with the University of Chicago students typing away in the airy yet academic atmosphere.

11. Café on the Grove

This New Orleans–flavored café presents a culinary Sophie’s choice: shrimp and grits or heaping po’ boy sandwich?

12. Honey 1 BBQ

Some say the owner, Robert Adams, makes the best barbecue in the city. His secret: He uses only red and white oak, with a little applewood and cherry, to smoke it (never gas!).

13. Norman’s Bistro

The manager says this popular restaurant specializes in “American Creole with a little Brazil.” Whatever. We’ll live with the cumbersome description if it means we can have the shrimp, chicken, and lobster gumbo.

Some Like It Black
Some Like It Black Photo: Ratko Radojcic

14. Some Like It Black

Remember when cafés weren’t just places to work on your laptop? This inviting spot brings back that old-school vibe with African American–centric poetry readings, comedy shows, and live music.


Sundays:Some of the city’s top players from the Hyde Park Jazz Society jam at Room 43.

Tuesdays:Acclaimed jazz vocalist Nanette Frank brings her five-octave range to Some Like It Black.

Did You Know?

Kenwood gets its name from a part of Scotland where ancestors of John A. Kennicott, an early resident of the community area, lived.

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Tour Kenwood with Joel Reese

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If You Want to Live Here

Population Median houshold income Median sale price (house)
(76% black, 16% white, 4% Asian)
$36,600 $217,000

Listing of the month

1030 E. 49th St.

1030 E. 49th St.
Photo: Joe Noel/Chicago Home Photos

Asking price:$875,000

Specs:3,800 square feet, six bedrooms, four bathrooms

Set back from the street and surrounded by trees, this 1892 mansion feels less like a house and more like a genteel old hotel.

NOTE: Median sale price is for all homes sold from August 3 to November 2. SOURCES: Trulia, U.S. Census Bureau
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