A West Side jerk chicken restaurant that’s attracted large crowds since 2014 will soon open a South Side location in Chatham. But for now, Jerk Taco Man Julius Thomas is serving up jerk chicken tacos and more out of his truck parked outside the under-construction restaurant at 7723 S. State St. Thomas said selling food out of the truck on his property is his way of raising money to finish the buildout which is about 95 percent complete. Thomas isn’t making guarantees, but hopes construction will finish by the end of September.
“I’m very elated, tired, and ready for a vacation,” said Thomas, who’s been working on opening this restaurant for nine months.
Long lines of customers routinely wait for a taste of Jerk Taco Man’s Jamaican spices that are stuffed into burritos and tacos. He serves loaded french fries and other items until 5 a.m. on the weekends. Customers at the West Side location usually enjoy their food from the confines of their cars, carrying it in familiar styrofoam containers.
The South Side location shares similarities with the West Side’s, but there’s more as Thomas has 12,000 square feet. Jerk Taco Man has a food truck and two “hot boxes,” as well as a catering operation. A 5,000-square-foot commissary provides the food for the hot box trucks and other endeavors. Thomas and his crew have modified a glass shipping container with a garage door so customers can sit and dine. The Mexican/Jamaican fusion made Jerk Taco Man popular, but the new spot will have more traditional Jamaican favorites like oxtail, red snapper, curried goat, and meat from whole animals slow roasted on a rotating spit.
Thomas is committed to the surrounding community and wants to feed everyone regardless of their incomes, which is why they accept Link cards. The site will also include a store where customers can by other meats and goods. Customers could cook them on grills in the back, or they could pay the staff $1 and they’ll grill them. The space also includes outdoor seating and a cigar lounge. Thomas hyped it up and called it a “full cigar venue.”
The new Jerk Taco Man is right off the Dan Ryan Expressway, and Thomas is excited that drivers can see the branding on the east side of the highway. A former financial advisor, he quit and ran a South Loop restaurant for six years until a fire burned the place down in 2010. He later opened Julio Mexican Grill at 85th Street and Stony Island Avenue. Thomas grew his business from humble beginnings including running the operation from a Garfield Park hair salon. The West Side location opened in 2015 at 4001 W. Jackson Blvd.
“This is Jerk Taco Man’s world,” Thomas said. “Anything I can think of to put jerk on, it’s here.”
Stay tuned for more on the opening in the coming weeks.