Vegan/jerk food hybrid eatery set to open in Orland Park

Amid steady business during the COVID-19 pandemic, three Black entrepreneurs team up to expand their business imprint.

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The Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat/Phlavz Bar & Grille collaboration location is scheduled to open Saturday in Orland Park.

The Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat/Phlavz Bar & Grille collaboration location is scheduled to open Saturday in Orland Park.

Michael J. McGee Photo

Just in time for Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s area-wide ease of COVID-19 dine-in restrictions on restaurants, a trio of Black entrepreneurs are teaming up to bring a new vegan/jerk food concept to Orland Park.

Phil Simpson and Andrew Bonsu, co-owners of University Village-based restaurant Phlavz Bar & Grille (717 W. Maxwell St.), and Laricia Chandler Baker, the owner of Hyde Park vegan/vegetarian eatery Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat (1368 1/2 E. 53rd St.) plan to open a hybrid location (24 Orland Sq. Drive) at noon Saturday.

Separately, Bonsu and Simpson — who met while working various gigs in the music industry —and Baker were unknowingly searching for business locations in Orland Park before deciding to collaborate.

Andrew Bonsu (left) and Phil Simpson are co-owners of University Village-based restaurant Phlavz Bar & Grille.

Andrew Bonsu (left) and Phil Simpson are co-owners of University Village-based restaurant Phlavz Bar & Grille.

Foto Mack-Media

The trio says their businesses have “thrived” during the pandemic, inspiring the ideas of expansion.

“I think we always wanted to do things together,” said Bonsu, who’s eatery specializes in jerk food and drink options such as their signature drinks “Blacker the Berry” and “Phlavz Punch.”

“Growing up together [with Baker] we always wanted to do business but the timing of this showed itself; we said let’s do it together.”

And Baker, a self-taught chef who’s nicknamed “Chef Fab,” says the eatery will have separate kitchens to prepare food, while customers can utilize a shared dining space.

“We won’t be cross contaminating; we have one big building and Phil and Andrew will have their kitchen and I have mine, too,” said Baker, who went to Northern Illinois University with Bonsu. “The vegans can feel comfortable knowing that it’s one room, but two kitchens.”

Laricia Chandler Baker, owner of Hyde Park vegan/vegetarian eatery Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat.

Laricia Chandler Baker, owner of Hyde Park vegan/vegetarian eatery Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat.

Shaun Michael Photo

Instead of bashing Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot for implementing restrictions tough on gig economy eateries, the trio decided to focus on the things they can control. And while so many businesses in the Chicago area have either downsized — or shuttered for good — the trio counts their blessings.

“We’re looking forward to expanding even more,” said Simpson. “It’s truly a blessing because we know that we survived. If we can survive this pandemic, we can survive anything.”

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