Soul food restaurant reopens with new name

April 22, 2011 8:58:00 PM PDT
Shuttered after the death of its chef and owner, the West Side restaurant Edna's has been reborn as Ruby's.

Last winter, all appeared to be lost at the corner of Madison and Kedzie. Edna's -- the site of many political meet-and-greets, as well as impeccable soul food -- had closed, following the death of its legendary owner and chef. Just as spring brings new life, so too did a remarkable group of friends and co-workers, who breathed new life into this Chicago institution.

Catfish is dredged in seasoned cornmeal then fried to a crisp; same goes for the chicken, burnished a golden brown, still juicy inside. These little rituals were almost lost over the winter, when owner and Chef Edna Stewart passed away, leaving the future of her namesake restaurant in limbo. But her former produce supplier Henry Henderson bought the business, and resurrected it about a month ago.

"Because this is Edna's, you know, just to be a part of this legacy, you know, I'm on cloud nine just to be a part of it and carry this legacy on," Henderson said.

The legacy will now be carried on under the name of Ruby's -- Henderson's mother -- and for regular customers who patronized Edna's over the last four-plus decades, they won't see many changes, thanks to Lillie Joiner.

"It was Edna's for 45 years and I worked for her for 30. I started out as a waitress, from there I went to the grill and then to her cook," Joiner said.

So when you order the famous biscuits -- and you will order them -- you can rest assured they are made the same way Edna would have insisted. Ditto for the rich and creamy mac and cheese, with its slightly blistered top crust and the vinegary collard greens, made without any pork products, as Edna had insisted over the last several years, owing to people's desire to eat a little healthier when possible.

Johnny cakes, smothered shortribs -- they're all back on the menu, being prepared the same way each day, just as Miss Edna had instructed her staff. In some ways, Stewart's spirit is still alive and well here.

"Every day I come in at five in the morning I always say 'Edna we're here.' We do that and we laugh and start our day. She's here, she's here in spirit," Joiner said.

ABC7's Hungry Hound has been told banana pudding may also make a return to the daily menu. Now be forewarned: Sundays, especially after church, are the prime times to feast at Ruby's, so be prepared to wait. Weekdays are always a better bet.

3175 W. Madison St.

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