Chicago Sun-Times
Tasty morsels about Chicago's food scene

Edna Stewart, 1938-2010

| 9 Comments

2-19-10 Hein blackhist 5.JPG

Edna Stewart, Chicago's soul food queen, has died.

Mrs. Stewart, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last November, passed away this morning at Rush Oak Park Hospital, her brother, Sam Mitchell Jr., said. She had celebrated her 72nd birthday Sunday.

"She wanted to make her birthday," Mitchell Jr. said.

Mrs. Stewart's restaurant, Edna's Restaurant at 3175 W. Madison, has been churning out flaky biscuits, delectable fried chicken and other soul food delights since 1966.

The West Side eatery is a favorite among politicians and foodies alike. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. ate there. Mayor Daley eats there.

"I was working one night, filling in, and some people from New Zealand came in," Mitchell Jr. said. "We had people from Germany, London. And then all the presidents, and all the politicians, and Mayor Daley, all through the years."

Mrs. Stewart was born in Chicago and learned to cook, literally, at her mother's knee.

"She stayed in the kitchen, holding on to my mother's apron, trying to peek at what my mother was doing," Mitchell Jr. said.

Mrs. Stewart opened the restaurant with her father, Sam Mitchell Sr., and then-husband Johnny Stewart, her brother said. She cooked using some of her mother's recipes, and many of her own. She served all of the staples -- those famous biscuits, sweet potatoes, ham hocks and greens-- and more old-school fare, such as brains and eggs.

The restaurant started out inside a bowling alley and moved a few times, all within the same block, until it landed in its permanent home on West Madison.

"My mother fed so many people," her son, Melvin Mitchell, said. "And she was always one to help the next person. People coming home from the penitentiary, on work release, she hired them. And the civil rights stuff."

When King brought his activism to Chicago, renting a slum apartment to shed light on the miserable living conditions of many low-income blacks, he was a regular at Edna's.

When the late soul singer Tyrone Davis came to the restaurant -- he was battling prostate cancer at the time -- "My mom told him his money was counterfeit until he gained some weight," Melvin Mitchell said.

This year, Gov. Quinn declared Feb. 19 to be Edna Stewart Day.

In addition to her son and brother, Mrs. Stewart is survived by her daughter, Marguerite Banks, and sisters Alice McCommon and Judy Mitchell-Davis.

9 Comments

We would like to say it was a pleasure and a memory that we will treasure 4ever, our wedding reception that was held at Edna's in 1997. Such a funny person, Ms. Edna made me laugh everytime I saw her. Certainly gonna miss that dressing and turkey! To the family, stay prayerful!

Love Andrew & Leslie Taylor

to my god mother edna you will always be missed!!!! i love u from your god son andrew and family and your best friend, my mother minnie.

My sincere condolences to the family & friends of Ms. Edna Stewart.

God Bless!

The Mitchell Family has been a part of Our family
(the Hamilton's) since I was a little girl living
on the Westside. We often had family functions at Edna's resturant. We spent just about all holidays as One family from Mr. and Mrs. Sam Mitchell Sr. to My son who is now 15 years old. She will always be my sister-in Law. I love her deeply and She will truly be missed. My condolescent to Margarie, Melvin, Judy, Alice and Sam jr. and the rest of the Mitchell clan.

i met Edna many years ago as a chgo. policeman. what a lovly and christian woman she was.i was introduced to most of her family. how proud she was of all of them.my life has been greatly enriched having known Edna. i've thought of her often over the years, and will continue to do so. the city of chgo. and the world has lost a truly Great and Loving person. Edna you were loved by many, i'm glad to be one of them.

The passing is not only a loss to the Mitchell-Stewart family, but to me and many many people who eat regularly at Edna's. Many times in the restuarant Edna would sit with me so we could catch up on all the news. Her brother Sam, Jr. is a boyhood friend, and she adopted me as part of her family. Just on last Friday, Sam after leaving the hospital visiting with his sister stopped by the restaurant, and I was there.We reminisced about our long friendship, Edna, funny things Edna would say and do. I want to say thank you to the family for sharing Edna with us for so many wonderful years. May God strengthen each and every one you, and grant Edna eternal peace. I already miss you, Edna.

I've lived in Oakland,California since 1999, but make a point of visiting Edna's when I'm in town.

I was back in early May, and went with a friend (who had never eaten there). I got my my smothered steak and mac n' cheese fix (plus extra biscuits :-) ) and was leaving when a customer heard me say I started coming to the old spot as a little kid in the mid-1970s.

"Y'all Pray for Miss Edna, she been sick.", she said. I didn't know she'd been I'll since I hadn't been back in some months.

Descansa en paz, Miss Edna. I'll be back in June, and I'm bringing my kids. We're gonna pour some water in the lot across the street for you.

Juba K

My mom worked off and on for Ms. Edna in the 70s and 80s. My mom always had great things to say about this precious woman. Whenever my mom needed a job to bring in some extra money to feed and clothes her 4 kids, Edna was there to hire her on the spot as a waitress. She thought my mom was very beautiful and a good worker. Thank you Ms. Edna for your kindness and commitment to helping people.

I send condolences to the entire family of Edna Stewart, Edna will alway be known for her kind heart, generous passion for people and a beautiful heart. One of my friends best said it and I quote "EDNA was an icon and a great contributor to the city of Chicago and the west side" If you ever visited the restaurant you know Edna never met a stranger,you were always welcome and felt at home. This was Edna's nature a great soul and wonderful spirit.
To the family and friends let us heal together as we mourn the lost of such a great person!

Margarie, Melvin,Judy Alice Sam Jr.
I love you all!
Ervin

Leave a comment

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

Categories

Pages

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Janet Rausa Fuller published on June 11, 2010 4:26 PM.

A harmless White House foodie story from Lynn Sweet - or is it? was the previous entry in this blog.

Art Smith tapped as judge on TLC's 'BBQ Pitmasters' is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.