A line grew out the door of B’Gabs Goodies on a Friday evening in late October, as around seventy-five people filed into the intimate Hyde Park eatery for the the second iteration of a grassroots funding event called Food Fun(d)ing Friday. As I waited in line with my friend, we overheard the chatter of friends who hadn’t seen each other in years, and who had encouraged each other to come together to this event.
On a Thursday in early November, around forty people gathered at a coworking site in the West Loop to attend a “(Re)Launch” of the Ward Ambassador program run by Advocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA), a network that supports urban farms, gardens, and sustainable food initiatives in the Chicago region.
When Toure Muhammad organized the first Taste of Black Chicago last year, his goal was to showcase Black-owned restaurateurs, caterers, and bakers from across the city and to help them find new customers. So many people showed up that vendors sold out of food. Before the day was over, people were asking about plans for next year. “I was totally caught off guard by the number of people who attended,” said Muhammad, founder of Black Chicago Eats.
Steve Badauskas is an artist, musician, and the owner of Bernice’s Tavern in Bridgeport. He’s perhaps best-known for the lively games of Stingo (Steve’s Bingo) he hosts every Wednesday. A lifelong Bridgeport resident, he inherited the bar from his parents, John and Bernice, reimagining it for a changing neighborhood.
In the four years and eleven months since Alex Curatolo opened Belli’s, a local food market and juice bar housed in the 18th Street venue-restaurant complex Thalia Hall, she has worked to nurture relationships with the greater Pilsen community. Curatolo, herself a Pilsen resident of twelve years, hired a team of fluent Spanish speakers mostly from the neighborhood, stocked a variety of affordable food options, and built out a program of social-justice-oriented initiatives.
After several years of one-off events, Chicago finally has a hot sauce festival that’s promising to stick around. At the First Annual Chi-Town Hot Sauce Expo last weekend—the latest addition to an expo circuit that already includes Portland, Anaheim, and New York City—thirty-three hot sauce vendors convened in the parking lot of Toyota Park, just southwest of the city limits, to show off their finest and spiciest.
Bridgeport hot dog stand Johnny O’s is going through a transitional time. If you live in the neighborhood or have been by the stand, maybe you’ve noticed a change in their hours. The family business has paused its twenty-four-hour service after losing two major characters in Johnny O’s history: John Veliotis, known as Johnny O, and one of his sons, John Jr., both passed away last year, followed by additional staffing cuts.
This week on SSW Radio we heard about summer plans for a beloved hot dog stand, a candid intergenerational conversation on domestic violence, and a harrowing story about a trip to Beverly.
For D’onminique Boyd, it was the 65th Street Community Garden that turned Woodlawn into a home. She had moved there in 2011, and had taken to biking around to familiarize herself with the neighborhood. One morning, she biked by the garden and saw Tony Samford, 65th Street’s “godfather of gardening,” as she would later come to call him, tending to his plot. She asked what he was growing; he told her to come back the next day at 6am, and he would teach her.
Welcome to the Weekly’s third annual Food Issue, our brightest and spiciest yet. Over the next twenty-four pages, you’ll encounter a veritable feast prepared by the Weekly’s intrepid and insatiable reporters. Like in years past, reviews and profiles—of a family’s habanero hot sauce line, pizza in Bronzeville, michelada and smoothies, new coffee shops and a newly closed coffee shop, and bars along Archer Avenue—abound. But for the whole story of the meal on your plate, look out for pieces that report on the broader context of food production, like the new wave of agricultural cooperatives cropping up across the South Side, the anti-slaughter organizing that activists have brought down to the old Stockyards, and the 2011 urban agriculture zoning amendment that legalized for-profit urban farms—and at the same time raised the barriers to starting, and finding an appropriate business license for, an urban farm in the city of Chicago. To top it off, a new contributor makes a compelling argument about how our conversation about a just food system fails to hit the mark—and that we should be talking about racism, segregation, and the minimum wage when we talk about food access on the South Side. As always, we wish we could feature even more of the nuanced flavors of the South and West Sides than we can fit in one issue. But we’re confident that what awaits you is a carefully crafted and satisfying nine-course meal—so tuck in!