Chicago Restaurant Week leaves some South Side spots feeling overlooked

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Restaurant Week kicked off Friday, but some South Side restaurant owns said they feel overlooked by the annual food tradition.

Business is good at Truth Italian Restaurant in Bronzeville, but the owner said it probably isn't because of this year's restaurant week.

"We're busy because I'm blessed," said Peytyn Willborn, owner. "That's number one. Number two is we offer great food here, great customer service."

Willborn, along with other South Side restauranteurs, are feeling a bit left out. There are nearly 300 restaurants participating in this year's event, but some say more restaurants in Black and brown communities should be represented.

"We still need help," Willborn said.

Since its launch in 2008, Chicago Restaurant Week, which runs through April 4, remains popular despite a comparatively low number of restaurants south of Roosevelt Road. It's promoted by Choose Chicago, the city's official sales and marketing organization.

In an emailed statement, the president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association wrote, "This year's event represents 34 Chicago communities and more than 90 first-time participants," and added, "Since the pandemic, the Illinois Restaurant Association has advocated tirelessly for all restaurants throughout the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago, with the utmost attention to our 77 communities."

Norman Bolden owns three venues and also feels left out, saying he survived by being creative. He's hosting several March Madness events at Norman's Bistro in Kenwood and he'd like to see more support, despite neighborhood safety concerns and financial constraints.

"That would be absolutely amazing in helping us South Side venues to move forward as we try and move forward out of the pandemic," he said.

The city's new Chicago Alfresco outdoor dining effort hopes to do that.

Restaurants like Norman's Bistro hope to be able to benefit from the city's new outdoor dining initiative. In the meantime, some South Side restaurant owners said they hope the relationships forged during the pandemic will eventually pay off after the world gets back to normal.
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