When Chicagoers dined at Black’s own restaurants for Juneteenth over the weekend, one of the most iconic vegan restaurants celebrated a renaissance. Since 1981, Soul Vegetarian, the 75th Street restaurant that was ahead of the curve and serves meat and dairy-free foods like protein treats, the grill twist, and vegetable gyros, became chaired by Mayor Lori on Saturday, June 19 Lightfoot reopened a ribbon cutting ceremony in Chatham.
For years, the restaurant displayed a sign in the window that read “Proudly owned by Black”. It has been closed since the pandemic and is now known as Soul Veg City. Co-owners and siblings Arel Brown and Lori Seay, the children of founder Prince Asiel Ben Israel, bought the 112-year-old building at 205 E. 75th Street in 2017 with the aim of completely rebuilding the building, according to VegNews. Now the space has a purple and gold color palette with exposed brick, wood, and marble. There is an extended dining room and an Instagram-friendly selfie wall with a neon sign saying “100% Vegan Vibes”.
There is also something to do when it comes to eating: the employees bake vegan flatbreads and slices in a pizza oven, and a new bar will serve beer and wine. Long-time fans will continue to find favorites such as meatless chick’n drumsticks coated with sauce, but can also expand their repertoire with new menu items such as a Marvelous Mushroom Burger (black-eyed peas, barbecue sauce, soy cheese, fried onion rings).
Lightfoot was there when the owners of Soul Veg were recipients of the city’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, which aims to help Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) business owners with storefronts on the south, south-west and west sides. In a speech, the mayor made a connection between the success of local black-owned businesses and the advancement for Chicago’s black communities in general.
“… I am so happy and delighted and humble to be able to be in those moments like this to make sure we keep our promise to advance our community in a way that shares the wealth,” said Lightfoot on Saturday. “Not only the wealth of money and finances, but also the wealth of mind, body and soul, to say that when we unite as blacks … fulfillment and transmission of these gifts to our children.”
In other news …
– Parishioners are working to save the Klaus Building, a nearly century-old building that once housed a Czech and Slovak restaurant in the suburb of Cicero, in hopes of restoring the venue with a restaurant, bar, museum and event space and again to open. Czech community leaders in the area have formed a 501c3 to buy and renovate the building and are aiming to raise $ 500,000 through GoFundMe.
– Long-time Italian eatery Ristorante Agostino at 2817 N. Harlem Avenue in Montclare was temporarily closed last week after an early morning electrical fire wreaked havoc in the kitchen, according to a Facebook post. No one was injured, although the owner warns the restaurant may take some time to reopen. “It won’t be a short process,” they write on social media. “We’ll keep you all informed as soon as we know how long the recovery will take.”
– Detroit-based Buddy’s Pizza, rumored for years to be interested in a Chicago location, is taking the next step in establishing itself as a national brand. Buddy’s is partnering with pizzerias across the country on Wednesday, June 23rd for the newest fake food holiday: National Detroit-Style Pizza Day. The Chicago agent will be Andersonville’s Fat Chris’s Pizza and Such, which according to a press release will donate 15 percent of daily sales to the Lakeview Food Pantry.
– A new partnership between the A Silver Lining Foundation and the Illinois Restaurant Association will give uninsured hospitality workers access to free mammograms, ultrasounds, and other breast health tests. Workers interested in a test should call (312) 345-1322 and mention the word “restaurant”. An association press release reiterates that it asks patients general information, including date of birth and address, but not financial or immigration status.