Deep in the recesses of a basement at a former meatpacking facility in Back of the Yards, opposite large hydroponic tanks and industrial storage lockers, lives an unlikely success story. Tiny shoots of pea, radish, and peppercress bask under hanging lights, housed on several racks six feet tall and eight feet long. Twice a week, they are harvested and delivered to restaurants throughout the city, where they introduce surprisingly strong flavors into salads and sandwiches. Meanwhile, the leftover soil is composted, and a new set of trays, filled with germinated seeds, is brought out from underneath and into the light. The cycle continues and the demand for microgreens grows.
The summer of 1943 witnessed a remarkable collective mobilization: Chicagoans produced more than 55,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables in nearly 175,000 Victory Gardens, small plots of land started by citizens to mobilize food production during World War I and II.
An illustrated version of our review/appreciation of the Far Southeast Side’s Calumet Fisheries, published in our 2017 Food Issue.
For many West African immigrants, neighborhoods like Chatham, South Chicago, and Bronzeville are becoming a home away from the North Side nucleus of the African immigrant community. Five West African immigrant business owners share how food is a bridge to preserve their culture and build new homes on Chicago’s South Side.
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.