CHICAGO (WLS) -- In the wake of the protests following the killing of George Floyd, there has been a surge of interest in supporting Black-owned businesses. In terms of restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries, our Hungry Hound says a website designed by a Richton Park man has become the place for Black-owned businesses in at least a half dozen cities, including Chicago.
BlackPeopleEats.com has become a resource - and lifeline - for small business owners in cities like Atlanta, Houston and New Orleans, as well as Chicagoland. Based on an idea a couple of years ago, its evolved into a full-blown website with specific dish recommendations, and a deeper look into nearly every neighborhood and suburb, to find some real gems in the community.
It's a typical afternoon at Sip & Savor, a Hyde Park coffee shop with three locations in the city. The lattes, chais and coffee drinks are made by a pair of young baristas, just blocks from the University of Chicago campus. Since the business is Black-owned, it caught the eye of Jeremy Joyce.
"Black restaurants just need to be promoted in one centralized location," he said.
Joyce launched BlackPeopleEats.com two years ago, mainly under the radar. But since the nation's reckoning on race this spring, interest has soared.
"We went from 38,000 followers to about 70, and the website actually had so much traffic, it crashed twice. I had to increase my bandwidth," he said.
He hired a small staff to help him search out and add new business listings. One of them - Can't Believe It's Not Meat - a few blocks west of the coffee shop, has been making some delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes for just over a year.
"It's not hard to be a vegan or vegetarian these days, because they're putting a lot into it. Everyone loves the Impossible Burger which we do serve here," said Chef-Owner Laricia Chandler.
That same meat alternative is used in their patty melt, which is also stunningly delicious using vegan cheese. Same goes for their chocolate shakes, utilizing soy ice cream. I couldn't tell the difference.
"And now they have these vegan Philly steak egg rolls, with this nice sweet Thai chili sauce...ooh they're good," said Joyce.
For small business owners like Chandler, having a site dedicated to their community is an enormous plus.
"You're just so thankful for him for what he's doing because without him we wouldn't know about a lot of these places."
Another new spot - opened in mid-April - is 14 Parish, also along 53rd Street. The owners moved here from the South Loop, and the menu focuses on the Caribbean. The bar has an impressive list of rums, employing a pair of them, along with guava and passionfruit, for their house punch. The kitchen, meanwhile, offers jerk chicken wings and a lush, coconut milk-enriched curried shrimp.
"And they have this jerk catfish. It is amazing, really good. Gotta come get it."
Joyce says getting to know some owners also helps him recommend dishes on his site, but at the end of the day, it's about connecting would-be restaurant-goers with small, Black-owned businesses that may not have a marketing budget.
"It's about creating memories in the community with all people, and that feeling makes me feel wonderful, knowing that every day that I wake up, people are excited about restaurants and they find new restaurants because of the business that my team and I were able to start."
The site is adding new cities all of the time, and if you know of a Black-owned restaurant that's not on their Chicago listing, be sure to let them know.
Sip & Savor
5301 S. Hyde Park Blvd.
528 E. 43rd St.
78 E. 47th St.
Can't Believe It's Not Meat
1368 E. 53rd St.
1644 E. 53rd St.