13 most unique black-owned restaurants in Chicago
When people visit Windy City, the first things they want to eat are Garrett’s deep pizzas, hot dogs, and popcorn. While these are all delicious options, there are plenty of cuisines available to suit any foodie, including some wonderful black-owned Chicago restaurants.
Last year, in my forties, I stumbled across food blogger Jeremy Joyce’s Black People Eats page on Instagram. Every day he featured a new black owned restaurant located in the Chicagoland area. The variety was endless, from vegan, Ethiopian and Caribbean dishes to southern comfort foods. His videos were informative and entertaining, and everything he tried made my mouth water. I knew I had to try them myself.
There are over 115 black owned restaurants in the Chicagoland area. While it will take some time to visit them all, here is a list, in no particular order, of my favorites and I look forward to going to some unique black owned restaurants in Chicago.
Friistyle is Chicago’s unique take on Belgian French fries. Executive Chef Chuck G created Friistyle’s signature dressing, boughetto, a variation of a mild barbecue sauce that is the locals’ favorite fry condiment.
The delicious fries are served with your choice of chicken, salmon, lamb, lobster or vegetables. If you like salmon, I recommend my favorite dish: the Jerk Salmon Frite. It is served with a fillet of dried salmon, dill aioli and mango salsa on a bed of fresh French fries.
2. Cleo’s Southern On Cottage
After opening in 2019, the Michelin Guide ranked Cleo’s Southern on Cottage as one of Chicago’s top five new restaurants to visit.
Cleo’s describes its cuisine as having a Creole twist to southern classics served in a white table setting. The menu changes daily, but there are menu staples like pan-seared Scottish salmon caught from the wild and made with habanero mango. This dish looks spicy and it’s the first thing I would like to try when I visit. Since the menu changes daily, I suggest ordering one of the specialty creative dishes listed under “Some Beginners”.
3. The hot dog box
Bobbie Morelli and his 9-year-old daughter Brooklyn work together to create Chicago’s most unique gourmet hot dogs. The hot dog box the most famous dog is the Filet Mignon. Customers can substitute chicken, turkey, and vegan dogs in some of the specialties. If you’re not feeling adventurous, the traditional Chicago-style Viennese beef hot dog (no ketchup!) Is a menu staple.
The menu offerings change daily. One of my daughters and I ordered the Juneteenth Limited Edition Wagyu Filet Mignon Steak Dog Sweet Potato Jam. The dog came up with fresh spiral sweet potatoes, green butter lettuce, walnut-smoked candied bacon crumbs, and homemade chipotle maple mustard. My dog was vegan style, but just as delicious.
The Hot Dog Box operates in a unique area of Chicago’s premier shipping container market in the Bronzeville neighborhood. The containers are modified to each company’s specifications, mimicking any regular brick and mortar storefront.
The market has little outside seating, so I suggest you order online and enjoy your dogs in your car.
Editor’s Note: Still not sold? Here’s why you need to try a Chicago hot dog at least once in your life.
4. Ethiopian restaurant Demera
Tigist Reda, the owner of Demera Ethiopian Restaurant, was born and raised in Ethiopia and has lived in Chicago for over 20 years. In 2007, she opened a restaurant serving traditional Ethiopian cuisine, hand-cooked meals in family portions. Demera makes a Doro Wot (spicy) with an Amish chicken and a Berber spice. It is served bone-in with a hard-boiled egg, ayib (farmhouse cheese), and a side dish of vegetables. If you have room for dessert, try the Ethiopian tiramisu with ladyfingers soaked in homemade Buma and brandy.
5. I can’t believe it’s not meat
I can’t believe it’s not meat recreates many of my childhood favorites like puffs and Italian beef, but everything is vegan. Chef Laricia Chandler Baker loves to create unique meatless dishes. I have a shellfish allergy. I ordered a vegan shrimp po’boy sandwich with all the flavor and none of the consequences.
6. Emeche Cakery And Café
Owner and Dessert Extraordinaire Janelle R has started baking alcohol infused cupcakes in her New York City apartment for family and friends. After receiving more and more requests for references, Janelle decided to return to her hometown, Chicago, and opened Emeche Cakery and Café. The name Emeche means tipsy in French and is a tribute to the cupcakes that started it all. The menu offers many delicious choices, including a Bourbon Pecan Pound Cake and the Upside Down Pineapple Mini Cake. While being known for its desserts, Emeche also offers breakfast and lunch.
7. Majani Soulful Vegan Cuisine
The owners of Majani Soulful Vegan Cuisine have been a team of vegan husband and wife for 20 years. The couple are recreating Southern favorites as herbal options. One of my favorite dishes is the barbecued cauliflower wingz. When planning your visit to Majani, there are three locations to choose from in Chicago: South Shore, Pullman, and South Loop.
8. LiteHouse Whole Food Grill
LiteHouse Whole Food Grill offers healthy and vegetarian options. You start by selecting your choice of protein and pairing it with fettuccine, a salad, a burrito or a wrap. The Lighthouse Wholefood Grill also prepares a variety of exclusive pizzas. It was a tough decision, but I chose the jerk salmon over fettuccine.
9. Jars of Jasiman
After helping a friend by making desserts for their restaurants, Jasiman started selling pudding at home. Jars of Jasiman sells premium desserts in 17 flavors of pudding, cobblers and other baked goods. All desserts can be ordered online and picked up from the South Loop store. When you arrive, you will think that you have taken the wrong direction. Jars by Jasiman resides in a refurbished storage unit. A favorite is banana pudding – with or without bananas.
10. Phlavz Bar & Grill
Phlavz Bar & Grill is owned and operated by Phil Simpson and Andrew Bonsu. Simpson began selling plates of food from his house. When he decided to develop the business, he teamed up with Bonsu, who is in charge of the business. Phlavz has two locations, the original in Chicago on Maxwell Street and one in Orland Park in the southern suburbs. I haven’t visited either site yet, but my order will be the jerk salmon tips with fries. Street parking is available, but the Chicago location is on a busy street. There is paid parking nearby.
11. Gorée’s cuisine
Senegalese restaurant Goree Cuisine prepares authentic West African dishes that incorporate and are influenced by North African, French and Portuguese ingredients. Fish, meats, and vegetables are marinated or simmered in herbs and spices and poured over steamed rice or couscous and eaten with bread.
12. Herbal Junkie
Owner and Chef Bobbie Beaugard-Williams’ mission is to deliver delicious, plant-based foods without anyone having to give up their favorite comfort foods. Herbal junkie home to Chi-Town’s vegan cheese steaks. With so many guilty pleasures to choose from, Williams has no trouble turning customers into “Junk Food Vegans” or satisfying the taste buds of meat eaters.
13. Shawn Michelle’s Homemade Ice Cream
Shawn Michelle’s mission is to bring back the feeling of tradition and togetherness with their unique flavors of ice cream and baked goods. Vegan options are also available.
A must-have item is the single scoop sundae with lemon pound cake and pecan bourbon butter ice cream.
Sign up for Shawn Michelle’s SMS Reward to receive 5% of your first order, and you’ll be notified of their purchase and a special free weekend.
Most of the restaurants featured are cashless and accept all major credit cards. Street parking is easy and available, except in the cases mentioned above. Hours of operation vary; check restaurant websites or Instagram or Facebook pages for updates or call before going.