Until now, the food hall trend in Chicago has ignored the city’s South Side, but come January, One Eleven Food Hall will change that. Backed by a trio of vendors — Majani Restaurant, Laine’s Bake Shop, and Exquisite Catering — One Eleven hopes to create a “diverse dining collective” in the city’s Pullman neighborhood.
This is a project designed to stimulate economic development in Pullman from Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, an eight-year-old not for profit. Construction on the building began today at 712-720 E. 111th Street. CNI is working to redevelop the area, as progress continues on the state’s first national monument. The Pullman National Monument is a project launched in 2015 that could draw thousands of people to the underserved neighborhood.
CNI focuses more on the real estate side and needed a partner with restaurant experience. They turned to James Gray and his consulting company, Calibrate Coaching. Gray started the company earlier this year. Gray, an industry veteran, has worked with Goddess and Grocer and Glazed & Infused doughnuts. The company will manage and operate One Eleven while offering vendors support as they hopefully grow their business inside this new incubator.
The project didn’t start off as a food hall, Gray said. They showed off the space to a few interested parties, thinking they would have a single vendor for the 2,500-square-foot room. But it didn’t work out.
“Pullman being that far south, it’s not necessarily the easiest sell,” said Gray, a Pullman resident.
Pullman’s South Side location made it difficult for restaurateurs who already have businesses downtown or on the North Side. The commute was a killer. They pivoted toward the food hall concept, hoping to lure business owners interested in growing their brands.
After looking at 10 or so vendors, Calibrate found its trio, deciding to spotlight South Side businesses. They had already decided one of the three vendors would serve healthier foods, and that’s what made Majani attractive. Chef Tsadakeeyah Emmanuel’s vegan restaurant takes a health spin on vegan soul food. But at the same time, Gray said Majani “maintains the integrity of the cultural and historical sense of the food.”
Next up is Exquisite Catering, the only one of the three without a brick and mortar location. Exquisite is kind of the ideal vendor, one that is looking to grow. Owner and chef Tiffany Mone’t Williams recently returned from touring with Beyonce and Jay-Z. She’s also catered for Chance The Rapper, Coldplay, and Guns N’ Roses. Her stall will give the general public a sample of what her catering services provide her celebrity customers.
Finally, Laine’s Bake Shop — with locations in Morgan Park and Pullman — will handle the sweets. Owner Rachel Bernier-Green had been already been working with CNI, so Including them in the food hall was natural, said Gray.
Majani’s stall will be slightly larger than the other two. There will also be room for about 30 seats inside and another 20 outdoors. Each vendor has a two-year contract, and Gray said they tried to make the terms friendly so the businesses could benefit. Perhaps over the next two years the vendors perfect their craft and seek to open a brick and mortar in the neighborhood. Maybe the food hall setting is comfortable, and they elect to work out an extension to stay.
CNI will eventually build another building. What goes inside remains undecided. CNI may work with Calibrate and expand the food hall concept. Or if the food hall is successful, that could lure a single vendor to take over the entire space.
January 28 is the target opening date, but Gray is hopeful One Eleven Food Hall could open before then. As always, check back for updates.