The mission of Flammin Restaurant is threefold: serving delicious food, nurturing the buoyant Park Manor’s 75th Street corridor and honing the skills of aspiring chefs.
“Why don’t I make something happen [near] the community where I work?” owner LaTasha Taylor said she thought before opening the business’ doors, at 641 E. 75th St., with her husband in October 2017.
As the assistant principal at Chicago Vocational Career Academy, Taylor watched many award-winning students who graduated from the school’s culinary program struggle to find jobs.
So she started hiring them to help them jump-start their careers.
Taylor’s mother and uncle, Marilyn Sturden, and Rodney Shells-Sullivan, had grown up in the area and had often spoken of the affluent, small, black-owned businesses they grew up and hung out in.
It was this spirit and Taylor’s memories of her family’s cookouts and her loved ones’ reputations for being excellent cooks that inspired the restaurant’s name and logo — a heart crowned in rising flames.
Initiatives like “Dining on the 5” highlight the outdoor dining experience on 75th Street’s Restaurant Row during the summer months. And instead of seeing each other as competition, proprietors share ideas, support one another and are like a family, Taylor said.
Sturden and Shells-Sullivan are Flammin’s secret weapons.
“I’ve always thought my family could flame. They are known for their barbecue. I used to always see the fire, and I would say, ‘We’re ‘flammin,’ ” Taylor said, laughing.
Sturden makes the salmon croquettes and marinara sauce used for spaghetti and turkey lasagna from scratch. She’s also known for her famous potato salad recipe.
Also on the menu is Shells-Sullivan’s namesake barbecue “Rod’s Pork and Turkey Rib Tips.” There’s also signature “flammin” grilled shrimp, fish, tacos and wings. The shrimp and grits, French toast and a rotating selection of house-made “Kool-Aid” flavors are a whimsical nod to Taylor’s childhood.
The popular mustard catfish entree is a meal Taylor perfected for her husband, Earnest Taylor, who jokingly feigns being upset over sharing the dish with the world.
Friends since they were students at rival high schools (he at Simeon, she at CVS), the Taylors reunited later in life, got married and saw the restaurant as an opportunity to be their own bosses.
While the eatery has regulars, it’s still being discovered by many other foodies. “We like to think we’re a hidden gem,” LaTasha Taylor said, adding that nothing on the menu is pre-cooked.
LaTasha Taylor said she sees a lot of similarities between being a principal and owning a restaurant.
“When you lead with love and have love in your heart, you can share that and people can reciprocate the same thing,” she said.
Flammin Restaurant is located at 641 E. 75th St. For more information, call (773) 675-8983 or visit the website at www.flammin75.com.