Darius Williams, the chef/owner behind Soul Crab — the upcoming restaurant coming to Bucktown — has a simple reason why he created the eatery. He wanted a place where he could serve both quality crab and gooey macaroni and cheese. Williams plans to officially open Soul Crab Chicago on Friday, August 30 at 1904 N. Western Avenue, across the street from the CTA’s Western Blue Line stop.
The restaurant isn’t part of the Cajun seafood boil trend that’s swept through Chicago. Williams described Soul Crab as mixing together seafood with “soul food overtones.”
Williams is known on the Internet as “Darius Cooks,” building up a massive following with 143,000 YouTube subscribers. He’s written cookbooks while running two restaurants. He is a Chicago native who moved to Atlanta where he opened the original Soul Crab in December. For him, soul food’s origins run parallel to the cuisines of many American immigrants. It’s survival food.
“Growing up in Chicago, we’d go to the meat market and we’d ask for meat, but not by the pound,” Williams said. “It was by how much money we had, like $4 of chicken wings.”
Soul Crab Chicago IS Opening. Come, Let’s Take A Tour! ✊Posted by Darius DariusCooks Williams on Monday, August 19, 2019
Soul Crab is a casual spot that will amp those recipes up. But it’s also meant to be a place where the food reminds Williams of his roots and how far he’s made it since. He and his team will serve Bahamas-style deep-fried lobster, buttermilk-battered catfish fingers, and a special egg roll. Williams stuffs a Chinese wonton wrapper with collard greens and crab meat. It’s served with a Thai dipping sauce. Other items include corn brushed with jerk butter and lemon-pepper wings. There’s also butter-pecan cornbread.
Then there’s the macaroni and cheese. Williams is diplomatic and doesn’t want to insult any of the Chicago restaurants that he grew up frequenting. But he maintained that his version elevates the game. He uses six cheeses and elbow pasta.
“It tastes like heaven,” Williams said. “It comes out piping-brown-hot and bubbly and creamy.”
Soul Crab’s got a full liquor license for cocktails like a frozen peach margarita with Hennessy whisky. It will also serve Kool-Aid, and customers will be able to order those drinks spiked. Desserts include salted-caramel banana pudding and red velvet skillet cake.
Williams called his late grandmother, Pamela Williams, his biggest culinary influence. He remembers watching her grandmother in the kitchen, taking mental notes on how she prepared southern-style food. She grew up in Louisville.
Soul Crab is an independent business venture. Williams doesn’t have a big investor backing him. Without the rabid support of his Internet fans, Williams said he wouldn’t be able to open in Bucktown. That’s an area devoid of many independent African-American restaurateurs. Soulé in West Town and Luella’s Gospel Bird could be the only prominent examples nearby.
“I could have never have done this if I wasn’t ‘Darius Cooks’,” Williams said.
Williams also wants to open a Chicago outlet of his other Atlanta restaurant, Greens And Gravy. But he’s adamant that he wants to open that restaurant on the South or West sides.
Soul Crab may open a little earlier than August 30. Stay tuned for more coverage in the coming days.