A cafe designed to celebrate the legacy of famed agricultural scientist and inventor Dr. George Washington Carver has opened inside South Side cultural arts and education center Little Black Pearl, in the Bronzeville neighborhood.
Carver 47, helmed by chef and professional vocalist Lizz Wright, will feature dinner boxes and bowls using ingredients from an onsite garden and featuring local vegetable purveyors. Wright says she was inspired by Carver’s relationship to nature when designing the menu.
Inside the center, now back open for the first time since the pandemic shutdown in March, Wright is offering a sizable all-day menu includes items including Affy Tapple pancakes topped with spiced apples, caramel, candied peanuts, and peanut butter-butter, a Booker T flatbread accented with mushrooms, spinach, chicken, thyme, and meatless Quarantine Burger spiked with Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce. It also features juices and smoothies with names related to Carver’s life story, including Green Glory and Alternative Fuel.
Born out of a partnership with designer and Little Black Pearl founder Monica Haslip, the new cafe menu realizes of one of Wright’s long-held dreams. “I’ve been saving magazine clippings for my own cafe since I was 15,” she says. “I’ve been thinking about some version of this for a long time, but I had no idea how I would go about it.”
On top of the regular menu, the cafe also will serve dinner boxes, including a Harvest Bowl for one (herb-roasted chicken with gravy or marinated portobello steaks with gravy; sweet potatoes; balsamic onions, kale, and pomegranate salad) and a ragu autunnale with oxtails or herb-roasted eggplant (tomato sauce with garlic and chili-roasted broccolini) The cafe space at 1050 E. 47th Street also includes a retail market with produce, flowers, home goods, clothing, and more.
Wright moved to Chicago seven years ago as part of a large company of musicians, and says she immediately became enamored with the energy and determination she saw in the city’s residents. A performance for members and donors at Little Black Pearl left her feeling “overwhelmed, but also inspired,” so she asked to help with the school’s garden and later joined the board.
Founded in 1994 with an emphasis on serving Black communities in the South Side, Little Black Pearl provides visual arts, science and technology, and entrepreneurship education opportunities to youth in Kenwood/Oakland, Hyde Park, Woodlawn, and Bronzeville. The center offers classes and trainings ranging from painting and photography to technology and digital media. It also houses a high school, Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy.
The pandemic has put a dent in Wright’s performance schedule, and she’s missed several tours since March. Both live entertainment and hospitality industries have suffered significant setbacks due to the virus, but Wright says she’s found clarity in the chaos.
“Food and music are being stripped down to what’s most important,” she says. “I’m learning from and befriending people in both these careers who are remembering why they love it — they need to know their calling is not just tied to what’s commercial. There’s something weirdly sanctifying in this moment.”
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