Taking a page from the likes of National Hot Dog Day and World Nutella Day, black restaurant owners have come up with a gimmick of their own:
Looking to drum up business, they’ve declared August “Black Chicago Eats” month.
From white tablecloth restaurants to fast-food joints and from Southern cooking to Caribbean and African delicacies, black communities are being urged to support a litany of food establishments.
Want the full list? The directory of 200-plus eateries is online at www.BlackChicagoEats.com/directory.
“Two readers dared me to produce a list of 100 black-owned restaurants in the Chicago area. I was not sure it could be done, but we ended up with a list of more than 100, and after more research I discovered more than 200,” said Chatham resident Toure Muhammad, a self-proclaimed lover of all things food.
“The amazing thing is the diversity. Of course, you find traditional soul food and Jamaican restaurants, but you can also find vegan, Cajun, Creole, Belizean, Haitian, Mexican, various African- and Italian-themed restaurants; frozen yogurt and homemade ice cream, bakeries, donut shops, burgers and more,” said Muhammad, who publishes the online news site Bean Soup Times.
The directory became so popular that Muhammad and friends are marking its first anniversary with a month dedicated to those businesses, many existing for years in the city’s most economically challenged neighborhoods on the South and West sides. Others sprung up in gentrifying areas, the downtown periphery or in vibrant neighborhoods.
“We’ve been around for almost 15 years, supplying Southern cakes, pies and deserts to a community that was lacking their historical desserts,” said Stephanie Hart, 55, owner of Brown Sugar Bakery at 328 E. 75th St. The restaurant last November expanded to an enviable second location on Navy Pier.
“It was hard to establish a product in an underserved area, but I’m having a ball changing people’s minds about what’s possible in my community,” she said.
A “Taste of Black Chicago” is set for Aug. 19 on an outdoor lot at 7351 S. Stony Island. On Aug. 25, Muhammad and friends plan an “Everybody Eats” award event recognizing some of the city’s top black bakers, chefs and restaurateurs.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride, to be pretty honest,” said Tyrone Redic, co-owner of Honey’s Chicago, a one-year-old, fine-dining restaurant at 1111 W. Lake St.
“We serve new American cuisine with strong Mediterranean influences, dealing with Spain and Italy. I like to think of it as simple honest cooking you can eat time and time again and never get tired of,” said Redic, 33. “The restaurant business is a challenge, but you learn to put your best foot forward. The best is yet to come.”