A new all-day restaurant and bar serving upscale Southern dishes is coming this summer to South Loop. Aptly named Southern Chicago, it’s aiming for a June or July opening with indulgent options like lobster and waffles and Oysters Rockefeller at 2000 S. Wabash Avenue near McCormick Place Convention Center.
The restaurant is the first hospitality project from business partners Troy Vivrett and executive chef Xavier Vance, South and West natives respectively, who met on Instagram and found a shared passion for entrepreneurship. Though both were born and raised in Chicago, each has roots in the South — Vivrett’s family originally hails from Mississippi while Vance’s lineage comes from Tennessee.
Those powerful bonds left little doubt as to the food they’d serve at their debut restaurant. Though the menu isn’t finalized, Vance promises options like Cajun cream shrimp and grits as well as a selection of steaks with sides including garlic butter mashed potatoes, baked layered macaroni and cheese, and Cajun collard greens.
“I’m big on bold flavors, something memorable and long-lasting that will make [you] want to come back,” says Vance, who has run his own catering company for the past seven years. “I want to bring that to the city and capture it in an elegant, upscale way.”
In preparation for Southern Chicago’s debut, the co-owners traveled to London and Paris, gleaning culinary, design, and service tips they’ve channeled into the restaurant’s 6,700-square-foot space. Vivrett, who also owns a construction and real estate development company, and Vance have transformed the venue from a dog grooming business littered with cages into a 200-seat dining room with a cool neutral color scheme, marble tables, and 30-foot booths flanked by olive trees and other greenery. They’ve also installed bi-fold windows that will open onto a 140-seat patio and created a private event space for 300.
Vance credits Vivrett’s real estate know-how for identifying the South Loop location, conveniently situated within walking distance of McCormick Place, where conference and event attendees often mill about in search of something to eat. Both men live in the neighborhood and have already begun to feel the love from would-be customers. While traveling in Paris in November 2021, a driver crashed into their building on Wabash. Immediately, locals began dialing the business partners to let them know about the accident. “These people are so neighborly, so concerned,” says Vance. “They wanted to make sure everything was fine because they’re so excited about the restaurant.”
Black restaurateurs like Vance and Vivrett continue to face significant obstacles relative to their white peers in Chicago and across the country, particularly when it comes to accessing capital. But Vance says he’s heartened by developments in the industry, including the selection of chef Erick Williams (Virtue) as the first Black recipient of the James Beard Award for best chef, Great Lakes in 2022.
“We are two young African American men doing something pretty major that’s on the scale of those big corporate restaurant groups,” says Vance. Though he’s encountered some mocking messages online, he’s choosing to put his energy toward the opening. “We’ve worked so hard over the last year to get to where we are today, and that’s what I would encourage any Black people and people of color to focus on — the positive.”
Southern Chicago, 2000 S. Wabash Avenue, Scheduled to open this summer.