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Jerk Chicken With a Twist Goes to School in University Village

Phlavz features salmon egg rolls, loaded jerk fries, and more

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Two large egg rolls on a white plate.
Phlavz Bar and Grille offers both salmon and jerk chicken egg rolls.
Phlavz [Official Photo]

Over the weekend, University Village welcomed the “urban jerk” flavors of Phlavz Bar and Grille, a new restaurant from a pair of South Side natives at 717 W. Maxwell Street. For the past two years, the owners have run the Phlavz food truck, which will continue to operate. The new restaurant also houses a full bar.

“Urban jerk” is a departure from the typical half-chicken-and-sides offerings found at many Jamaican jerk restaurants, said co-owners Phil Simpson and Andrew “Dilla” Bonsu. The menu includes fried jerk wings, salmon or jerk chicken-laced egg rolls, loaded jerk chicken fries (cilantro, onion, sour cream, jerk sauce), sandwiches, and pastas. Black People Eats visited over the weekend and raved about the salmon egg rolls.

Traditionalists needn’t be too concerned: “[The chicken] is still going to have spiciness, sweetness, and juiciness in every bite,” Bonsu said.

Custom neon signs dot the 1,500-square-foot space, and neon big purple letters stress the restaurant’s motto: “Phlavz so good make you wanna smack yo mama.”

The restaurant holds 33 seats inside and an additional 24 on an indoor-outdoor patio that should debut when the weather eventually warms. Simpson and Bonsu also created a photo collage on a few walls featuring vintage pictures of historic Maxwell Street, images of Chicago neighborhoods, and family snapshots. Though it’s not a sports bar, the space includes a handful of televisions for game day festivities.

Boozy drinks include “Blacker the Berry” (Hennessy, Grand Marnier, strawberry, sour mix, black sugar rim) and “Phlavz Punch” (Myers’s Rum, Malibu, strawberry, passion fruit, tropical juices). Phlavz also serves booze-free options including peach and strawberry lemonade.

Though they knew many were excited to see the restaurant and try new menu items, the pair said they were still floored by the demand at Saturday’s grand opening. A line began forming outside the restaurant an hour before it opened at 2 p.m., they said, and the steady stream of diners didn’t stop for another 13 hours. Simpson said he was “speechless” at the number of people who were eager to dig into his menu, while Bonsu described the experience as “kind of overwhelming.”

The truck and its owners recently garnered media attention for their practice of distributing clothes and hot meals to hungry and homeless people, a longstanding priority for both Simpson and Bonsu. The pair said they try to make random truck stops at various tent cities across Chicago about twice a month, “to let them know that they’re not forgotten about,” Bonsu said.

“I just talk to them and hear their stories,” Simpson said. “Just to give them someone to talk to, to show there are people who want to give back and look out for them.” Other local food truck operators, including Caribbean food truck Whadda Jerk and decadent grilled cheese truck Cheesie’s, also serve free meals to homeless folks from their trucks.

Check out Phlavz’s flavors in the menu below. It’s now open near the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Phlavz Bar & Grille, 717 W. Maxwell Street, Open 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Monday; 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday; 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Thursday and Friday; 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Saturday, closed Sunday.

Phlavz Bar & Grille

717 West Maxwell Street, , IL 60607 (773) 717-7979 Visit Website