In case you missed it, our guide to Chicago’s Black-Owned Restaurants has 150+ spots all across the city. But if you’re looking to try something new, this guide has 10 Black-owned restaurants, bars, and cafes that opened in the last year. From a coffee shop in Auburn Gresham to a Jamaican spot in Wicker Park, these are the new spots you should know about.
The original Dr. Bird’s opened in Buffalo in 1981 (fun fact, Griselda named a song after it) and last year the counter-service Caribbean spot opened a second location in Wicker Park. And we like Dr. Bird’s so much that it’s one of Chicago’s Best New Restaurants Of 2021. Their specialty are Jamaican patties, which are filled with either chicken, beef, or spinach. Those are great, but the menu also has tender jerk chicken and creamy rasta pasta with Gruyere, rosemary, and roasted tomatoes. The sides are outstanding too - including must-order coco rice that’s sweet and savory, fluffy coco bread that’s perfect for enfolding your patty, and festivals that are a perfect complement to the smoky jerk seasoning. Bird’s also has a long list of fresh juices, rum cocktails, and incredibly friendly service. In other words, if you like being in a good mood, head here immediately.
Cocoa Chili is another one of Chicago’s Best New Restaurants Of 2021. We fell in love with this Afro-Caribbean spot after our first bite of smoky jerk chicken, but we became even more enamored after hearing its origin story. The owner, Niquenya Collins, is a business development coach who decided to take her own advice and turn her love of cooking into her own restaurant. Clearly, it was a great decision, because everything we’ve ordered from this takeout and delivery-only spot in Garfield Park has been delicious. The citrusy Sengalese poulet yassa is bright and full of lemongrass, and the chili con carne makes us mad at all the versions we’ve ever tried to make for the Super Bowl. And while eating Cocoa Chili on our couch while watching football is a near-perfect experience, we’ll be first in line if she decides to open a brick and mortar.
The Infatuation Celebrates Black History Month
Provaré is a fun, brightly lit Creole and Italian spot in West Town. The busy space has an R&B playlist that will make you realize how much you enjoy 90s Usher, and you’ll get complimentary shots of one of their house cocktails as soon as you sit down. The menu is short (just a few appetizers and mains) but what's on it is really good. Standout dishes include cheesy spinach and artichoke dip filled with shrimp and crawfish, shrimp Hennessy scampi, and bone-in lamb chops with corn maque choux. Oh, and they have a couple of vegan options, too - like bolognese made with Impossible Meat and brussels sprouts topped with vegan parmesan.
If you’re looking for a casual spot where you can finish your thesis and listen to some live music, Afro Joe’s in Auburn Gresham has you covered. This coffee shop also has pastries and breakfast sandwiches, as well as soups, salads, and an incredible pot roast grilled cheese..And they frequently host events—whether music, poetry slams, or an open mic night—after the coffee shop closes.
This counter-service seafood boil restaurant in Hyde Park has incredible shrimp, crab, and lobster that you can buy by the pound. Your bag comes with your choice of flavorful sauce (our favorite is the Cajun or the very spicy house), seafood, and sides like potatoes and corn. If you want your seafood fried, get one of their baskets (with options like oysters or catfish) or a po’boy. You can eat inside the little storefront, or take your precious bag of shellfish home. Either way, grab some extra napkins and prepare for things to get messy.
Soul & Smoke has a familiar story: a catering business designed for events like graduations and weddings buys a food truck and pivots to takeout and delivery because of the pandemic. But now this outstanding barbecue spot in Evanston has (along with a food truck) opened a food stall in Time Out Market, plus has two ghost kitchens in Avondale and the South Loop. And not only is the tender, meaty brisket incredible (currently the best in the city), but the sides (like creamy mac and cheese, cornbread muffins, and spicy baked beans) are all just as great as the meat.
What started out as a sweet tea business in the suburbs, Oooh Wee It Is has expanded into a cereal bar and soul food spot in Chatham. This place has live music weekly, and is open for brunch and dinner. You’ll find dishes like fried catfish, juicy green beans and white potatoes, and smothered pork chops with rice. And one of the best things here are the pot roast cupcakes. This appetizer is a sweet corn muffin, layered with mashed potatoes, tender pot roast with gravy, and garnished with shredded cheese and green onions. Diners have been mixing these ingredients together on their plates since forever, it’s about time someone gave it the recognition it deserves.
Brunch N Burgers, is a casual new spot in Little Italy, focusing on (you guessed it) burgers and weekend brunch. Along with burgers you can also get things like meatloaf and chopped steak sandwiches, and you’ll find a variety of brunch dishes on the weekend. Like chicken and waffles, corned beef hash, fried fish and grits, and chilaquiles made with fresh chips.
The original Kitchen + Kocktails is in Dallas, and last year they opened a second location in River North. This upscale restaurant serves Southern dishes like pork chops, blackened fish, gumbo, and crab cakes. The huge space is full of giant booths, with lots of places for taking social media photos–like an elaborate flower wall and neon angel wings. Just be aware, there is a dress code, which you can see here.
The Original Soul Vegetarian, a vegan Southern and soul food restaurant, has been “serving food as medicine” in the Chatham area for 40 years. But they recently renovated and revamped, and are now known as Soul Veg City. Family-owned and operated, Soul Veg City offers both takeout and dine-in, with deli-style dishes and a $9.95 per pound hot station. That’s where you can get dishes like smothered seitan steak and gravy, cornbread dressing, and delicious vegan mac and cheese.