clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Chicago’s Black-Owned Restaurants Earned More Than $1 Million on Juneteenth

Also, robots are cooking in Naperville and 5 Loaves Eatery wants $85K

Two people stand outside a black fence where a sign hangs. It reads “Black owned, we stand with you.”
Frontier was among 130 Black-owned restaurants that participated in the Juneteenth campaign.
Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago

Black-owned restaurants in Chicago and Atlanta successfully generated more than $1 million on Juneteenth, meeting the goal set by Black People Eats, an Instagram account and database that highlights hospitality businesses owned by African Americans, according to the group’s founder.

Black People Eats is also getting into the Thanksgiving spirit, teaming up with Cleo’s Southern Cuisine in Bronzeville to giving away 100 free grocery bags filled with holiday pantry items, according to a rep. Chicagoans can pick up the goods from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday at 4248 S. Cottage Grove Avenue.

Originally launched in 2020 by Black People Eats Jeremy Joyce, the campaign this year featured 130 restaurants including Frontier, Shawn Michelle’s Homemade Ice Cream, Home of the Hoagy, and Golden Gloves Cuisine.: “We all did this with no corporate backing. Just community support!” Joyce wrote Sunday on Instagram. “This is what happens when we come together in unity. This is Black excellence.”

Juneteenth, which this summer became a state holiday in Illinois, commemorates the end of Black enslavement on June 19, 1865 — two months after the end of the Civil War. Restaurants that participated in the campaign marked the occasion with specials for $6.19 or $16.19, with Joyce simultaneously raising more than $8,800 via GoFundMe for his grant program designed to offer additional operating funds for restaurant owners.

Black restaurateurs in Chicago have long faced significant obstacles to accessing the financial capital and visibility available to their white counterparts, despite Joyce’s assertion that the city houses the most black-owned restaurants in America. That gap in resources further underscores the significant impact of events like this summer’s Juneteenth initiative.

Robots take over the kitchen at the Mall of India

After making their debut as servers at the X Pot in South Loop and delivery workers at UIC earlier this fall, robots are now expanding into kitchen work. Two robots, Indra and Sena, are preparing meals at the Mall of India food court in Naperville.

Technically Indra and Sena are robotic arms, not full robots, but they’re efficient: their engineer tells Naperville Sun that they can prepare eight dishes in ten to twelve minutes. Although they can be programmed to cook just about anything, they currently specialize in Indian breakfasts and fried chicken for the Surya Tiffins and One Mean Chicken stalls in the food court. Very soon, though, they will expand their repertoire to Thai food when a third restaurant, Thai76, opens. They are manufactured by Nala Robotics in Arlington Heights.

Owners of 5 Loaves Eatery praying for a miracle — and donations

5 Loaves Eatery, a Southern soul food restaurant in Chatham named after a Biblical miracle, needs a miracle of its own: its owners have started up a GoFundMe page in order to raise the money to reopen after being shut down by the city three months ago for failure to pay past debts. Over the past two years, the GoFundMe page explains, funds were stretched thin due to the pandemic, the rising cost of food, and delivery app fees, and 5 Loaves was unable to get a bank loan. The owners are asking for $85,000 to cover the cost of repaying their debts, plus fees and penalties, and to be able to pay workers fair wages when they reopen. 5 Loaves, on 75th Street near Harold’s Chicken, Soul Veg City, and Lem’s Bar-B-Q, also won the 2017 Jean Banchet Award for Best Ethnic Restaurant (a category that’s since been retired).

5 Loaves Eatery

405 East 75th Street, , IL 60619 (773) 891-2889 Visit Website

Cleo's Southern Cuisine

4248 South Cottage Grove Avenue, , IL 60653 (773) 575-7120 Visit Website

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater Chicago newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world