The Hungry Black Man’s Chicago Black Owned Food tour was delicious, cultural and informative. Missing our Miami sun, we stopped at Sip and Savor for coffee, Anita’s Gumbo for delectable seafood, unimpeachable brunch at Batter and Berries, and outstanding BBQ at Bear Down BBQ.
Then it was time to seek some good ole soul food. We dined at several soul food spots, but our first was Chef John Meyer’s BJ Market and Bakery located at 1156 W 79th Street, Chicago, IL 60620.
The eatery was very spacious and comfortable with cushioned seating booths that I prefer over chairs any day. A full-service bakery brandishing everything from delicious fresh baked bread to peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies to peach cobbler and an assortment of cakes is built into the restaurant! Lord have mercy, everything from the bakery was heavenly; however, it was the food that stole the show!
For starters, we ordered the Mustard Fried Catfish Dinner ($12.99). Each bite slowly revealed the cook as an usher board president/grandma in a 100-year-old Baptist Church throwing down for the post Sunday service dinner sale. Well-seasoned and crunchy where it matters, the fish was fried to perfection with a golden-brown exterior and a meaty tender filet under the tasty fried batter. Accompanying the filet were fresh veggies sautéed with a nice crisp and firmness that I appreciate, and Black family reunion approved macaroni and cheese. This combination was the best thing at the restaurant in my opinion, along with the Salmon and is a definite MUST HAVE.
Next came the Roasted Turkey Wing Dinner ($12.79) with homemade cornbread stuffing and candied yams. This experience was increasingly becoming #BlackThanksgiving!
Why the hell am I tasting low country cooking like this in Chicago? Better yet, who the hell makes Thanksgiving plates in the Spring? The incredibly flavorful wings were meat falling off the bone tender. They were served with a tasty cornbread stuffing and candied yams that were cooked to a perfect soft/firm balance having look for a wooden chair in starting off my Deacon’s Prayer. Yes Lord!
Impressed, I switched things up from Black Thanksgiving to Black BBQ and Cookout with the BBQ Rib Tips Dinner ($13.49), with a side of yams and string beans. In Miami, we don’t have rib tips, and from the taste of BJ’s, I think we need to start. The meat was tender and seasoned well enough to be satisfied, but at the same time welcoming a BBQ sauce to complete the flavor profile. The sauce was decent, but the flavor of the meat is what I appreciated the most.
Slowly getting full, I put in an order of their famous ½ Smoked Chicken Dinner ($10.99) smothered in a house gravy with a side of homemade mash potatoes and steamed cabbage. Unlike traditional white savory turkey gravy with hints of wine and aromatics, chicken gravy is often much blander – like that served at most high school cafeterias.
Chef did an amazing job because this gravy wasn’t your standard cafeteria gravy we are used to, rather, BJ’s gravy was packed with flavor and literally had me wanting to pour it over everything, including in my mouth. (Which I did when nobody was looking.) DO NOT JUDGE ME!
Breathing heavily and steeped in gravy shame, I decided we should go lite with the Salmon Filet Dinner ($14.69) with a side of steamed broccoli and cabbage.
In retrospect, I should have eaten this and simply sampled everything else, but I was in my Game of Thrones mode and everything was getting destroyed! The salmon was one of the best things on the menu. It was cooked to an exactness and precision that salmon requires in texture and seasoned with a fresh herbal seasoning accompanied by a homemade dill sauce for dipping. Our sides were tasty and simple veggies. The salmon is a MUST HAVE.
BJ Market and Bakery truly impressed our team. There are three locations within the Chicago area, but we were only able to visit the 79th Street spot. I’d be surprised if the other locales did not boast the same deliciousness and acceptable service. I am greatly anticipating our next Black Chicago Food Tour so that I can find out for sure. BJ Market and Bakery is Hungry Black Man Approved. You can reach them at (773) 723-7000.
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