The waits are long at the Licking, a Miami restaurant chain started by hip-hop artist DJ Khaled that opened its first Chicago location over the weekend. The outpost debuted Saturday in Austin on the city’s West Side. Khaled opened his first restaurant in 2015 in his adopted hometown of Miami, serving “Miami-style” soul food including fried lobster, steaks, and tilapia. For Monday lunch, waits were as long as 45 minutes for a table for four in Chicago.
When Khaled (whose given name is Khaled Mohamed Khaled) opened his first restaurant four years ago, he saw its impact on the community. His crew wants to give underserved African-American communities a quality spot to eat near their homes. For folks living in the Miami Gardens neighborhood, that meant opening a restaurant away from South Beach. Khaled and company have since opened four more locations, including one on South Beach. Khaled had vowed that he wanted to franchise the restaurants and open “as many as possible.” At the same time, he also wanted to be patient and not rush toward expansion.
The Licking is using a similar recipe in Chicago that it used in Miami by bringing a family-friendly option to the West Side. Marketing director Benda World chatted with Power 92 radio about the project.
“I feel it’s needed, Hyde Park has a bunch of offerings, and so does the South Side,” World said. “So we want to bring jobs and create those things for that sector that didn’t have it.”
Besides the fried or grilled lobster — of which a dinner with two sides costs $22.99 — the restaurant serves a red velvet cake that Khaled lovingly called “a problem.” World also suggested customers try the red velvet chicken and waffles. The online menus also include a “famous mystery drink,” four flavors of lemonade, chicken wings, and alfredo pastas.
The Miami restaurant was originally known as Finga Licking, but the name was changed. Mega chain KFC is notoriously protective of its trademarks.
The restaurant was so busy on Monday that a host couldn’t answer questions on the phone. She was too busy seating people and telling them about the long waits.
Chicago has soul food restaurants, as the Tribune is exploring different soul food and other South Side restaurants this month. But the owners behind the Licking feel their restaurant is unlike anything Chicago’s seen before, and they hope to serve locals and attract visitors to the West Side.
The Licking, 5045 W. Madison Street, hours not posted yet.