A venerable Jamaican restaurant is opening a second location on the the city’s West Side. This summer, Ja’ Grill — the 14-year-old Hyde Park restaurant — will open a new outpost inside an upcoming North Lawndale development called Ogden Commons. The 10-acre project, which includes restaurants, retail, and residential, is just east of Douglass Park.
Since Ja’ Grill’s original debut in Lincoln Park, restaurant owner Tony Coates has built up a passionate fanbase with Jamaican fare including plates of jerk chicken, whole red snapper, and a deceptively boozy Ja’ Rum Punch. The second location will stay true to the qualities that made it a success, but it won’t be a carbon copy of the Hyde Park spot, says Coates. Ja’ Grill left Lincoln Park in 2014 for Hyde Park.
“We’re creating an authentic Jamaican experience with cuisine, spirits, and ambiance,” he says. “It’s going to be the same — but with some added surprises.”
Coates was shy to what those surprises might be, but did say that the new location at 1407 S. Washtenaw Avenue in North Lawndale will have more character and design elements than the “cookie-cutter” space he occupies in Hyde Park within the Harper Court center that’s owned by the University of Chicago. The new location will feature large windows that open to promote airflow and seat about 100 inside with outdoor patio seating.
The new restaurant will open inside the first stage of the $200 million Ogden Commons project: a three-story building with 50,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. Other tenants will include Steak n’ Shake and Wintrust Bank, with additional space leased to Sinai Health System (the building is steps from Mount Sinai Hospital) and Cinespace Chicago Film Studio — both of which are also partners in the development, along with Chicago Housing Authority and local real estate firm the Habitat Company.
Later stages are slated to include 120,000 square feet of commercial space and over 350 mixed-income housing units on 10 acres of land near the 2600 block of West Ogden Avenue. The property was previously home to the now-razed Ogden Courts and Lawndale public housing developments. Partners aim to finish the development in 2026.
Ja’ Grill gives the area a rare sit-down option, and could be a boon for attendees at Riot Fest, the music festival that returns in September. There’s unintended synergy with a few ska bands, such as Hepcat, in the fest’s lineup.
Ja’ Grill inside Ogden Commons, 1407 S. Washtenaw Avenue, Scheduled to open this summer.