Over the last several months, the Weekly has dispatched writers to explore the long-lived and fledgling culinary institutions of the South Side, from Calumet’s beloved bridge-side fish stand to a newly opened Bronzeville taco shop, from sprouting vegetable gardens to well-worn restaurant booths. The resulting stories are ones that record the resonances of tradition embedded in the new, and innovation embedded in the old. One writer writes about the “renaissance” of regional Chinese cooking in Bridgeport, while another reports on how houses of worship are incorporating urban agriculture into long-standing food justice projects. A third traces the legacy of the late Jolyn Robichaux of Baldwin Ice Cream by interviewing a younger generation of Black entrepreneurs shaped by Robichaux’s persistence as much as by Baldwin’s hearty ice cream cones.
When Raymond Jones returned to Chicago last year, it was after a career as a rapper, making a song that was number 47 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, writing for FunnyorDie.com, and even suing Eminem. Now Jones, who also goes by Raydio G, spends most of his time in a small restaurant just south of Bronzeville. Seating about ten people, Jones’s new venue is certainly a contrast to the concert halls and studios that have previously marked his career. But for Jones, Love Taco, which opened in March, was a lifelong dream. Located on the corner of 51st Street and Michigan Avenue, Love Taco serves specialty tacos, as well as a mix of other Mexican food.
In late February, Jolyn Robichaux, former president of the historic South Side company Baldwin Ice Cream, passed away at 88 years old. Born and raised in Cairo, Illinois, Jolyn Robichaux studied at both Fisk University and Chicago State University before getting hired at the National Labor Relations Board. Around that time, she met Joseph Robichaux, whom she married in 1952. Joseph Robichaux worked under then-Mayor Richard Daley and served as the 21st Ward Democratic committeeman and a Cook County jury commissioner. During this time, Jolyn became the first Black employee of Betty Crocker, and is also said to have been the first Black woman to do product demonstrations for the company. She would go on to become the president of Baldwin Ice Cream, a Black-owned ice cream parlor chain on the South Side.
That Majani Catering is opening a South Shore brick-and-mortar restaurant in May after just four years of successful operations shows the tradition of veganism on the South Side remains alive and well. Along with Tsadakeeyah Emmanuel, Majani’s proprietor, Camilla Alfred and Gabrielle Darvassy also own and manage vegan food institutions in South Shore and Hyde Park. Each of these South Side residents possess similar but distinct visions centered on healthy and clean eating, and each see their restaurants as feeding more than just the stomach but also the brain, body, and soul. The Weekly spoke with Emmanuel, Alfred, and Darvassy to talk about their institutions, origins, and hopes for the future.
The revolutionary tamales of Dia De Los Tamales, located on 939 W. 18th St. in Pilsen, are the brainchild of Jeni and Sam Wahl and their partner and head-chef Keith Carlson. Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Jeni has been greatly influenced by her Cuban heritage; it informs the culture of food both at the restaurant and the group’s catering business, Get Off The Couch Catering.
The sun was shining brightly on the first morning I walked into to Peach’s, yet somehow the interior of the restaurant felt even sunnier. Ample windows let in light, the hostess smiled, and various shades of peach adorned the space. In celebration of Easter Sunday the following day, Peach’s hired Leon Rogers, a local DJ, to spin for the morning. The loud house music provided a festive atmosphere to the crowd; in a corner booth, a woman with a stroller next to her bounced her child on her knee while dancing in her seat.
Like some of the best restaurants, Calumet Fisheries is famous for being unassuming. It still sits where it has for the last seven decades, with the 95th Street bridge down the road and the scaffolding of the Chicago Skyway downriver. The surroundings have transformed over the years—the shack currently overlooks twin industrial silos—but the same words are emblazoned under the same red shingle roof, and the same fresh catches lie inside.
Kung Fu Tea, Chinatown
On May 20, twenty-four South Side breweries will be gathering for the first-ever South Side Craft Beer Fest, hosted at Baderbräu Brewing Company in the South Loop. To whet our appetites, we held a gathering of our own a month early. These five breweries are certainly not all our side of town has to offer—catch us at the inaugural fest paying our respects to Beverly’s Horse Thief Hollow, Back of the Yards’s Whiner Brewing, Pilsen’s Lo Rez, and more.
Two long, drip-irrigated plant beds run parallel to the southernmost wall of KAM Isaiah Israel, a Reform synagogue that straddles the border between Hyde Park and Kenwood. Some sections of the two beds bear different varieties of kale and collard greens. Others are filled with what appear to be weeds but are actually a cover crop, storing up carbon and nitrogen in the soil for produce that will be planted in weeks to come.