Soul Crab, the southern seafood restaurant from Darius Williams, an Atlanta chef with a big-time Internet following, opens today in Bucktown. Williams, known as “Darius Cooks” to his following, is opening his first Chicago restaurant and second Soul Crab location. He has two Atlanta restaurants: Soul Crab debuted in 2018 and Greens & Gravy debuted in 2017.
Willams is a Chicago native and has been looking to come back to his hometown for years. He finally found the former Animale space at 1904 N. Western Avenue and is ready to serve locals. Here’s a few things to know about the restaurant before customers visit. Soul Crab will debut at noon on Friday opening day.
- Soul Crab isn’t a seafood boil. Seafood boils continue to pop-up across Chicago. These are the places that serve seafood sitting in plastic bags with Cajun and Asian spices. That’s not what Soul Crab is about. Williams is pulling inspiration from southern and Afro-Caribbean cooking. Deep-fried lobster has roots from the Bahamas. He’ll throw a dollop of jerk butter on crab.
- The restaurant serves “really great seafood dishes with soul food overtones.” Williams talks about special occasions, how collards were served when a loved one was born or died, how fried chicken was served at weddings (and divorces). This describes the personal connection Williams has with Soul Crab’s menu.
- Chef learned from his late grandmother. Pamela Williams grew up in Louisville and Williams remembers watching her cook in the kitchen. Now he instinctively cooks like her, whether it’s his technique in frying chicken or how he’s coating or seasoning fish.
- Williams has a rich appreciation of Chicago. He grew up eating at places like MacArthur’s Restaurant, Edna’s, and Priscilla’s Ultimate Soul Food. His current favorites include Garifuna Flava, Albano’s Pizzeria, Devil Dawgs, and Coleman’s. He feels Soul Crab is something the city needs and hasn’t seen.
- Williams, a YouTube star, wants to open another restaurant in Chicago. Williams said he bought a one-way ticket from Atlanta to return home. Originally, he planned on first opening Greens & Gravy in Chicago. Greens & Gravy is less casual versus Soul Crab and features comfort food. Williams still plans on importing his other restaurant. But he feels he needs to open in a spot like Bronzeville, closer to the city’s African-American population base.
Check out Soul Crab starting at noon today.
Soul Crab, 1904 N. Western Avenue, (773) 360-8491, open 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday to Thursday; noon to 10 p.m. on Friday through Sunday.