A new restaurant has opened in Chicago's Old Town neighborhoodand it's being welcomed with open arms.
Having opened on Juneteenth ( June 19 ), the casual spot Surf's Up Old Town ( 1143 N. Wells St.; SurfsUpOldTown.com ) serves Louisiana seafood cuisine that's enticing enough to already give the restaurant some regular customersand this writer witnessed a few newcomers who were really happy to see such a place in the neighborhood. As one would expect, the restaurant has a nautical decorbut there's also a sign that reads "Be Proud" and has a rainbow heart beside the phrase.
Owner Vanetta Royan engaging woman who can hold her own talking about anything from politics to pupils ( she's also a special-education teacher ) to po'boysis an anomaly during this pandemic. While many businesses are on hold or have closed, she expanded from her South Side restaurant to this one, and plans to open another one in Mundelein. ( Actually, including restaurants her brother and best friend own, there are 10 sitesincluding spots in Oak Park, Aurora and even Huntsville, Alabama. )
When asked how she's able to open new spots during such a tenuous time, Roy said there are two reasons. "Number one, we're a grab-and-go, even though we have indoor and outdoor seating," she said. "Second, I wanted to create a vibe so that, even though you're in Chicago, you might think otherwise."
And upon being asked why she chose this particular location, the candid Roy revealed a sad statement: "I felt like being here was needed in order for me to be more than just a Black girl with a Black restaurant. Coming over here allows me to be looked at like a business owner. This location has given me so much more attention, even though I cook the same food here that I do on the South Side."
And as for the cuisine, it's scrumptious, indeed. The shrimp po'boy was chock full of the crustaceans, and the powdered sugar-topped fried biscuits are, as Roy said, lighter than beignetsand just as heavenly. Of course, the danger is that you could eat 10 of those and not be aware of that.
There are tacos, sandwiches, dinner specials and moreand they primarily revolve around four items: shrimp, crab, (fried) lobster and chicken. However, there are daily specials such as whiting nuggets and salmon burgers; sides like cheese grits, dirty rice with ground turkey and the ever-popular fried green tomatoes ( which can even be done as po'boys ); and even vegetarian options like garlic fries, spinach-and-cheese puffs and potato-themed numbers. "I'm not vegan, so I don't have those dishes," Roy said.
However, most people will find something to eat at Surf's Up Old Townand will be absolutely delighted. Don't be surprised if you become a regular.
Note: Profiles/events are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.