Do we love these restaurants because they’re in Chicago? Because they’re Black-owned businesses? Or because they taste so good that we can’t wait to return even before we’ve finished our meals? Check, check, check. These spots, which serve everything from tacos to barbecue, run the gamut of flavors and cuisines. February is Black History Month, so be sure to give them some love in the next few weeks — if you do, we have no doubt you’ll be back for seconds in the months to come.
Prepare to be transported to the South, where biscuits and honey are the perfect starters, and ideally followed by fried green tomatoes, shrimp with crawfish, and warm cornbread with honey butter with a side of buttered grits. This is comfort food, in the best way possible. At Virtue, helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef and owner Erick Williams, you will be absolutely embraced by comfort, with large portions, friendly servers and lots of Southern hospitality. Be aware that there’s a reservation deposit required, and this fee is deducted from your final bill unless someone from your party is a no-show. Also, reservations are hard to come by, so be patient.
Every culture has its own soul food dish, and they’re all offered here at the SoulFood Lounge. Try the Grand Tasting Menu, which is three entrees and a drink for $59, and your soul will be very pleased (you could easily share this with another person, or have plenty of leftovers if you try to eat it alone). They have everything from a pot roast from Argentina to a teriyaki salmon from Japan to shrimp tamales from the Bayou. There are two locations, and both are on the smaller side, so reservations are limited to 90 minutes.
There are times when the wind is blowing fiercely when it seems like you can smell this spot from miles away. On those days, I feel like I’m drawn to Soul & Smoke like catnip. Chef D’Andre Carter learned to cook at his grandmother’s house on the South Side of Chicago before polishing his craft at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. Soul & Smoke is a true barbecue dream, serving up ribs, mac and cheese, cornbread, brisket and more at their two locations and food truck.
The Most Romantic Restaurants in ChicagoFirst date, anniversary or no reason at all? Here’s where to book a table.
This Chicago staple has been serving up Caribbean food for more than a decade. They closed their dining room for a bit and were only doing catering orders, but they’re back open again (if you were waiting for a sign to go back, this is it). We come here whenever we’re craving jerk chicken, conch fritters and fried ripe plantains. Don’t leave without grabbing a slice of the caramel pound cake.
It’s all about the Cajun food here: fried chicken sliders, shrimp po’ boys, alligator subs and the catfish. Chef Erick Williams of Virtue opened this restaurant in honor of his late aunt Daisy and his uncle Stew who loved Louisiana and great food. You’ll taste both in this colorful, casual Hyde Park eatery (located in the Jolly Pumpkin’s former spot). Stop in for happy hour for some super cheap eats.
This new-ish taco joint (opened in May 2023) by couple Taylor and Maya Mason has been years — maybe even decades — in the making. The two took a winding road to get their taco shop started, including college, caretaking and other business adventures before scoring the “Best taco in Chicago” accolade from Good Morning America this summer. It’s easy to see why they stood out: These aren’t your typical tacos. They mix ingredients like shrimp with sweet potatoes, and steak with chicken and asparagus, to move outside traditional taco territory. Be sure to request extra special sauce — you won’t regret it.
Pro tip for newbies: Ethiopian food is meant to be eaten without silverware, which is part of the fun. Owner and Executive Chef Almaz Yigizaw is always happy to explain the food and experience here, and many a Chicagoan has walked through his doors. Open since 1996, this institution is known for its samplers, which are served on a tangy, spongy bread that’s the perfect accompaniment for the meat, veggies and potatoes on top (they’re also very happy to accommodate vegetarians and vegans). The portions are more than generous, and best paired with an Ethiopian beer.
We love everything Chef Brian Jupiter does at Frontier. From his four-course alligator dinners (yes, alligator tastes like chicken), to his whole-animal experience (choose between wild boar, goat, alligator, lamb, pig, short rib, salmon, antelope, wagyu and tomahawk ribeye), to his James Beard Award semifinalist nod, it’s clear you’re in the hands of a pro. This West Town restaurant is all about the family gathering experience and the belief that Southern comfort is an art form.
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