When people visit the Windy City, the first things they want to eat are deep-dish pizza, hot dogs, and Garrett’s popcorn. While these are all delicious options, there are many cuisines available for any foodie to choose from, including wonderful Black-owned Chicago restaurants.
Last year during quarantine, I came across food blogger Jeremy Joyce’s Black People Eats page on Instagram. Every day he had a new Black-owned restaurant in the Chicagoland area. The variety was endless, from vegan, Ethiopian and Caribbean to southern comfort food. 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 a while to visit them all, here’s a list, in no particular order, of my favorites and can’t wait to get to Chicago’s unique Black-owned restaurants.
1. Frisian style
Friistyle is Chicago’s unique take on Belgian-style pomme frites. Chef Chuck G created Friistyle’s signature dressing, boughetto, a twist on a mild barbecue sauce that is the locals’ favorite French fries seasoning.
The delicious fries come with your choice of chicken, salmon, lamb, lobster or vegetables. If you like salmon, I recommend my favorite dish: the Jerk Salmon Frite. It comes with a jerked salmon fillet, dill aioli and mango salsa on a bed of fresh pomme frites.
2. Cleo’s Southern On Cottage
After opening in 2019, the Michelin guide listed Cleo’s Southern on Cottage as one of Chicago’s top five new restaurants to visit.
Cleo’s describes their food as a Creole twist on Southern classics, served with a white table atmosphere. The menu changes daily, but there are staples on the menu such as wild-caught pan-seared Scottish salmon prepared with mango habanero. This dish sounds spicy and is the first thing I would like to try when I visit. Since the menu changes daily, I recommend ordering one of the special creative dishes listed under ‘Some new arrivals’.
3. The Hot Dog Box
Bobbie Morelli and his nine-year-old daughter Brooklyn team up to create the most unique gourmet hot dogs in Chicago. The Hot Dog Boxes The most famous dog is the Filet Mignon. Patrons can substitute chicken, turkey, and vegan dogs in some specials. If you’re not feeling adventurous, the traditional Viennese hot dog with Chicago-style beef (no ketchup!) is a staple of the menu.
The menu offers changing daily. One of my daughters and I ordered the Juneteenth Limited Edition Sweet Potato Jam Wagyu Filet Mignon Steak Dog. The dog came with fresh spiralized sweet potatoes, green butter leaf lettuce, hickory-smoked candied bacon crumbs, and house chipotle maple mustard. My dog was vegan, but equally delicious.
The Hot Dog Box operates in a unique area of Chicago’s premier container marketplace in the Bronzeville neighborhood. The containers are customized to each company’s specifications and mimic any ordinary physical storefront.
The marketplace has limited outdoor seating, so I recommend ordering online and enjoying your dogs in your car.
Editor’s Note: Still not sold? Here’s why you should try a Chicago-style 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 food, hand-dined meals in family-style portions. Demera makes a Doro Wot (spicy) with an Amish chicken and Berbere spices. It is served with bone with hard-boiled egg, debt (farmhouse cheese), and a side of vegetables. If you have room for dessert, try the Ethiopian-style ladyfinger tiramisu soaked in homemade Buma and brandy.
5. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat
Can’t believe it’s not meat recreates many of my childhood favorites like pizza puffs and Italian beef, but everything is vegan. Chef Laricia Chandler Baker loves to create unique meatless dishes. I have an allergy to shellfish. I ordered a vegan po’boy shrimp sandwich with all the flavor and none of the side effects.
6. Emeche Cakery and Cafe
Janelle R, owner and Dessert Extraordinaire, started making alcohol-soaked cupcakes in her New York City apartment for family and friends. After receiving more and more referral requests, Janelle decided to move back 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 has many delicious choices, including bourbon pecan pound cake and the mini upside pineapple bundt cake. Emeche is known for their desserts but also offers breakfast and lunch.
7. Majani Soulful Vegan Cuisine
The owners of Majani Soulful Vegan Cuisine are a husband-and-wife team who have been vegan for 20 years. The couple recreates Southern favorites into plant-based options. One of my favorite dishes is the barbecue 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 food and vegetarian options. You start by selecting your choice of protein and pair it with fettuccine, a salad, a burrito, or a wrap. Lighthouse Wholefood Grill also makes a variety of signature pizzas. It was a tough decision, but I opted for the marinated salmon on fettuccine.
9. Pots by Jasiman
After helping a friend make desserts for their restaurants, Jasiman started selling pudding from their home. Jars of Jasiman sells premium desserts in 17 flavors of pudding, cobbler and other baked goods. All desserts are available to order online and pick up at the South Loop store. When you arrive, you’re going to think you’ve taken a wrong turn. Jars by Jasiman is located in a renovated warehouse. 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 started selling plates of food from his house. When he decided to expand the company, he partnered with Bonsu, who heads the management. 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 chips. Street parking is available, but the Chicago location is on a busy street. There is a paid parking garage nearby.
11. Goree Kitchen
Senegalese restaurant Goree Cuisine creates authentic West African dishes that incorporate and influence North African, French and Portuguese ingredients. Fish, meat and vegetables are marinated or braised in herbs and spices and poured over steamed rice or couscous and eaten with bread.
12. Vegetable Junkie
Owner and chef Bobbie Beaugard-Williams’ mission is to provide delicious plant-based foods without anyone having to give up their favorite comfort foods. vegetable junkie is the home of the Chi-Town Vegan Cheese Steaks. With so many guilty pleasures to choose from, Williams has no qualms about 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 sense of tradition and togetherness with their unique ice cream flavors and pastries. Vegan options are also available.
A must-try item is the one scoop sundae with lemon tart and bourbon butter pecan ice cream.
Sign up for Shawn Michelle’s Reward via SMS to receive 5 percent of your first order, and you’ll be notified of their purchase, get one free Weekend Special.
Most restaurants are cashless and accept all major credit cards. Street parking is easy and available except where noted above. Opening hours vary; check the restaurants websites or Instagram or Facebook pages for updates or call before you go.