Chicago

Where to Celebrate Chicago Black Restaurant Week

Now through February 20, raise a glass to Chicago's Black-owned fine dining destinations, cafes, juice bars, barbecue joints, and more.

Luella's Southern Kitchen
Luella’s Southern Kitchen
Luella’s Southern Kitchen

14 days of unbeatable dining deals have splashed down in the Windy City this week thanks to Chicago Black Restaurant Week’s February 6th kick-off. Founded in 2015 by Memphis’ Lauran Smith as a way to spotlight African-American culinary entrepreneurs during Black History Month, the community-oriented event has since spread to cities around the country. The series came to the Chicagoland area in 2016, with numerous registered Black-owned businesses stretching from South Shore to Evanston joining in on the fun, inviting regulars and newcomers alike to check out their spaces, taste their handiwork, and share in their cultural legacy-all with the extra incentive of discounts, specials, and other limited time promotions.

Taste 222 Chicago
Taste 222 Chicago
Taste 222 Chicago

Since its start, Chicago Black Restaurant Week has showcased 200 restaurants and served a whopping 50,000 customers. The seventh annual celebration features a markedly diverse and far-reaching roster of participants. Upwards of 35 different eateries have thrown their hat in the venerable ring, ranging from neighborhood coffee shops like Afro Joe’s in Auburn Greshamand Lincoln Square’s beloved comfort fare specialist Luella’s Southern Kitchen to polished West Loop innovator Taste 222 and plant-based pioneers like The Black Vegan Restaurant in Little Village and Hyde Park’s Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat. Cutting edge Grand Boulevard pop-up bar concept Prāzbar Chicago, a collective dedicated to non-alcoholic spirits, wine, and beer, is also in on the action, as is Uptown’s award-winning Demera Ethiopian Restaurant.

Demera Ethiopian Restaurant
Demera Ethiopian Restaurant
Demera Ethiopian Restaurant

Stop by any one of the standout restaurants on this list to find out what deals lie in store for lucky guests from now until February 20th. And make sure to follow CBRW on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with the latest happenings.

Information listed here may be subject to change depending on the developing situation with COVID-19’s Omicron variant. Please check for the latest updates available or contact each establishment directly for more info.

Luella's Southern Kitchen
Luella’s Southern Kitchen
Luella’s Southern Kitchen

Participating restaurants:

Luella’s Southern Kitchen, Lincoln Square
Hidden Manna Cafe, Matteson
Kitchen + Kocktails Chicago, Streeterville
The Mukase Restaurant, Uptown
Surf’s Up South Shore, South Shore
Haire’s Gulf Shrimp, Greater Grand Crossing
Flippin Flavors, Beverly

Cocoa Chili Restaurant & Catering
Cocoa Chili Restaurant & Catering
Cocoa Chili Restaurant & Catering

Cocoa Chili Restaurant, West Garfield Park
Surf’s Up Bronzeville, Bronzeville
Pink Panini Soups & Salads, Hazel Crest
Taste 222, West Loop
Unbeatable Eatables, Evergreen Park

Afro Joe's Coffee
Afro Joe’s Coffee
Afro Joe’s Coffee

Afro Joe’s Coffee & Tea, Auburn Gresham
Good to Go Jamaican Restaurant, Evanston
Dozzy’s Grill, South Loop
Flavours Seafood Bar, Lynwood
Flammin Restaurant, Park Manor
Lemme Get Ummm, Galewood

Mabe's Deli
Mabe’s Deli
Mabe’s Deli

Mabe’s Deli, Park Manor
CheSa’s Gluten Tootin Free Gourmet Food Truck, Avondale
Prāzbar Chicago (monthly pop-up), Grand Boulevard
Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat, Hyde Park
Surf’s Up Lombard, Lombard
Dock’s Chicago, Douglas

Dickey's Barbecue Pit National
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit National
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit National

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Douglas
Kozy Korner Deli, Dolton
Copper Still Martini Lounge, Homewood
Eddie’s Food & Liquor, Pullman
Demera Ethiopian Restaurant, Uptown
Surf’s Up Oak Park, Oak Park
The Black Vegan Restaurant, Little Village

Juiced by Shic
Juiced by Shic
Juiced by Shic

Juiced by Shic, Midlothian
Phlavz Bar & Grille, Orland Park
Bureau Bar & Restaurant, Near South Side
Bureau Pizza Co, South LoopWant more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Meredith Heil is a Senior Cities Editor at Thrillist.

Chicago

Robyn DaCultyre Is Doing It for the Culture

"The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone."

Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi

I was introduced to Robyn DaCultyre at an Untitled Queen show at C’mon Everybody in late January, and it was one of the most unique drag shows I’d seen in a while. Afterwards, I tracked down this self-described “drag creature” and video chatted about her drag origin story, the state of drag in her native Ohio, and the dual identities that make up her persona. Thrillist: I want to ask you about how Robyn DaCultyre came about and your point of view behind your performance.

Robyn DaCultyre: I’ve been travelling around the country from a young age in ministry and Christian studies. I moved to Chicago right after high school. Four years later, moved back to Columbus and decided I didn’t really want to do church anymore; that wasn’t where my heart was.

I had a really low point in my life and had a suicide attempt and then really found drag and started doing drag as a coping mechanism and way to let off steam. I started in July of 2019, and it was really a lot of punk and metal music. I created this drag creature of sorts and they were really out of this world and celestial and all of those fun alien type terms.

And then we went into a global pandemic and I had a lot of time to figure out who I wanted to be. Digitally I was still doing a lot of drag creature-esque numbers and all of that, but I had this moment where we’re on the front lines getting hit with pepper spray and rubber bullets and pepper spray-all of those lovely things. And I said, I have this platform and I need to start showcasing what’s happening.

Untitled [Queen] stepped in at the right time and messaged me and said, “I’m doing this show for Independence Day called Untitled in America with 52 different performers and I want you to be a part of it.” It was at that moment I was able to take the footage I had been recording on the front lines and incorporate it into digital content. I did a song called Black Like Me by Mickey Guyton that talks about white picket fences, but if you want to see how America is, then you should try being Black like me. The imagery of what’s literally happening in Columbus in that digital performance really spearheaded me into focusing on people who look like me.

Nina Simone is one of my biggest inspirations, and one of her quotes that resonates with me is that it’s the duty of the artist to resonate with the times. My art is politically charged. I like to entertain, but there will definitely be a time when you come to a show expecting to have your drink and be chill and that might not be the case.

How did the name Robyn DaCultyre come about?

I was smoking with Ursula Major, who was on season one of Dragula, and the first time I introduced myself to her I was Robyn Banks, which is my drag name originally. She said, “Well, do you just not want to be original at all?” [Laughs] And I sat with that for a couple of months, and I got really stoned one day and was listening to Janelle Monae, and she talks about doing it for the culture, and I said “I do it for the culture, too!” And the rest is history.

And you started a series called Melanated.

We started Melanated last February. I told the idea to my show director that there were no shows specifically run by Black people that only featured Black entertainers. I wanted to do this show for a night and she said, Why don’t we do it once a week for the whole month? The first show happens, and it’s a sold out crowd, and [my director] comes back and says we should do this every month. So I sucked it up and here we are a year later.

Melanated is the only fully Black show in all of the state. It’s a horrible marketing tool and not something I want to promote, but it is just a fact. It amazes me that we are the 13th largest city in America and there’s nothing here that’s fully focused on Black entertainers. The name also comes from Janelle Monae; she says she’s highly melanated and I said, that works.

Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)

You refer to yourself as a drag creature, as opposed to drag queen or king…

This is actually the first time I’m making this public. I am in this place where I want to separate the alternative creature from who this melanated goddess or whatever is. DaCultyre is definitely the person who runs Melanated and then Robyn is this drag creature that is out of this world and really loves punk and alternative music. And both intertwine to make Robyn DaCultyre.

You also do pageants. Tell me about that.

In 2020 I was appointed by Nina West, who is from Columbus, as the representative from Ohio for National Entertainer of the Year in Louisville, Kentucky. I placed ninth out of 13 contestants and I really fell in love with the system and fell in love with the pageantry and loved the idea of reigning and being different. I want to show that we as alternative performers, as bearded performers, you can come into these systems and shake things up.

Is there a uniquely “Ohio” style of drag?

No, and I think that’s one of the things that makes it so amazing is that everyone has their own unique style, and it’s all pretty much accepted. I started as a performer and a drag creature and there was space that was afforded to me and I transitioned to more glamor and pageantry and that’s afforded to me as well. I’ve been a bearded entertainer for a year now. The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone.

I think I have everything I need. Is there anything else I didn’t ask you about that you want to bring up, or‚Ķ

I don’t think so. Are there any generic questions you haven’t asked?

Generic questions‚ĶI think I asked all of them already [laughs]. I like to ask what you’d be doing if you weren’t doing drag?

It’s a great question. I have a day job that is very demanding so I need drag to get away. I’m also very creative and artistic. I used to do web design and all these other things to pull into my creativity. Drag is the longest thing I’ve stuck with in all parts of my life, so I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

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John deBary¬†is a drinks expert and writer. His first cocktail book,¬†Drink What You Want, is available now, and his next book,¬†Saved by the Bellini, is expected in early 2023. He is also the co-founder and president of the¬†Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of hospitality industry professionals through advocacy, grant making, and impact investing.

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