Angela Barnes and Renauda Riddle are co-owners of Nobody's Darlinga new Andersonville spot that focuses on queer women.
The bar, named after Alice Walker's poem "Be Nobody's Darling," opened May 20 and is located in the space formerly occupied by Joie De Vine at 1744 W. Balmoral Ave.
"My sister introduced me to Alice Walker when I was in high school," said Barnes. "When I first read the poem 'Be Nobody's Darling,' I remember thinking that it spoke to everything the strong women in my life had been telling me. To me, the poem has a strong and confident stride, and it resonated with us that we, as two African American women, could identify an opportunity and use our strengths and talents to create something that we knew was needed and wanted."
When they are not running the bar, Barnes is legal counsel and strategist for a tech-innovation accelerator while Riddle is an auditor. Additionally, Barnes and Riddle serve on the boards of Center on Halsted and Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and Riddle is also Legacy Project Chicago's treasurer and board member.
The duo have been friends for 11 years and decided to embark on this venture because the opportunity presented itself to them. Riddle approached Barnes about her idea during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. At first Barnes was skeptical that this would work out but she put aside those fears and dove in.
"I had a lot of confidence in Renauda's ability to make this successful based on her background of bringing women together for events so I said 'let's try it,'" said Barnes. "I also don't know how to just sit and relax. This was a great opportunity to keep this space woman-owned and queer-owned.
"I have counseled businesses for years and it just made sense to use that expertise to keep a safe and enjoyable space for women and the neighborhood. This was the perfect turnkey space that just needed some minor adjustments and rebranding. The neighborhood location is ideal for the vibe we wanted to create."
"I was looking at other people who were changing their careers during the pandemic and then when this space became available at a great price I thought that this was a no-brainer," said Riddle. "My passion has always been cocktails and creating experiences. The bar marries my two passions. I am excited to have a permanent space where I can do both.
"I was looking to break even because of the pandemic but once we came out of the pandemic I thought we would be fine financially. I told Angela that the worst-case scenario would be we had a place of our own to drink and invite our friends to join us."
What make Nobody's Darling a unique place are its carefully curated cocktails. They are named after iconic people Barnes and Riddle admire and want their patrons to know about, such as Josephine Baker (Jos Baker Manhattan), Jamaica Kincaid (J. Kincaid Daiquiri), Walker (A. Walker Summer Martini) and others. Barnes said that they will soon be introducing a drinks named after James Baldwin and Angela Davis. Riddle said she's currently partial to the Vesper (which contains Hendricks Gin, Ketel One vodka and Lillet Blanc) while Barnes said she favors the J. Kincaid Daiquiri and the Southside Lychee Martini.
The bathroom wall art features iconic women in history. Riddle said that what ties them together is they are all enjoying cocktails.
They have also teamed up with Pauline's next door to offer food from their menu that patrons can eat outdoors on the bar's patio. There will also be vendors on hand selling small bites.
As for the reaction from patrons, Riddle said the most consistent comments they get is "thank you for this space, we love this space and we appreciate this space so much."
"My heart gets so warmed up when I hear that," said Riddle. "We wanted this space to get that reaction. It is not like they are doing us a favor by coming here. We appreciate them being here."
"I have been surprised by the overwhelmingly warm response," said Barnes. "The diversity of ages is what surprised me the most. We have a lot of people who told us that they love that this is a bar for everyone."
When asked what they hope their presence in Andersonville brings to the neighborhood, Barnes said, "First and foremost, we want to be the neighborhood bar of choice for the community. We want women to feel comfortable in this space and claim it as their own. But everyone should feel comfortable to stop by, have a great cocktail and enjoy great company."
In terms of their long-term plans for the bar, Riddle said they "hope to be a fixture in Andersonville for a long time to come. We will be hosting events as soon as Chicago fully opens up. We certainly want some of the branded pop-up events to consider our space. Mainly, we just want to keep the energy and excitement turned way up."