Taylor Mason is a Black woman slinging Mexican-style tacos. She admits it's an unexpected combination. "I get crazy looks," she says. "But someone has to do it."
Chicago's Black restaurant owners develop their own recipes for financial success Commentary: To scale up, food entrepreneurs need to get the basics down first Commentary: Lenders can be more creative in financing food entrepreneurs Commentary: Empowering entrepreneurs with knowledge and capital See all Equity sections
Black restaurant owners are introducing Chicago diners to cuisines beyond the well-worn soul food dishes synonymous with Southern cooking. Some restaurant operators say it's still a struggle to convince consumers that Black chefs can cook Italian or French food, or have fine-dining chops. As such, Black chefs say progress is slow — but it is steady. Evidence is emerging all over the city. Mason, co-owner of Taylor's Tacos, is preparing to open her first brick-and-mortar location on the Near West Side selling Mexican street-style tacos with a soul food twist. Majani Restaurant sells vegan soul food in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood. Bocadillo Market in Lincoln Park is a Spanish restaurant that takes inspiration from Chef James Martin's trips to visit family in South Carolina. Sommelier Derrick Westbrook owns a wine shop called Juice @ 1340 in the West Loop. And the list continues to grow.