Although Chicago seems to get better and better each time we visit, our 3rdAnnual Chicago Black Foodie Tour started out a little rough. When we arrived at our first restaurant location, the Chicago Police Department was harassing a group of young Black kids standing in front of a convenience store. Then the cops went even crazier, arresting them for trespassing and literally throwing them in a wagon. It was so unnecessary, but of course, these are the unfortunate realities of being Black in America. I was filming the entire altercation just to make sure no bullshit was about to happen, but then one of the cops started yelling at me. I was still mad, but I took my Black ass across the street and used my zoom at a safe distance to make sure no bullshit went down. And to make sure I had enough lead time to outrun them.
Thankfully, this unfortunate precursor wasn’t an omen for our trip, but rather the storm before the rainbow! We visited the delectable eatery, R U Hungry; a small take out joint, located at 1724 West 51st Street, Chicago, IL 60609; (Phone – 773.434.4800). A super unassuming space sitting right on the corner of a neighborhood street, the spot is owned and operated by a father, known to neighborhood as “Pops,” and his son Matt. This duo works their immaculately clean kitchen like any Michelin rated eatery; churning out deliciousness with a wait time that appeared to be 10-15 minutes max.
Our culinary journey started with a double cheeseburger topped with onions, tomato, and shredded iceberg lettuce. Each meat patty is formed in house from a lump of locally sourced grounded chuck, seasoned, and then pressed on the flat iron to your liking. You can choose from a variety of homemade sauces or the standard condiments such as ketchup and mustard. I loaded my burger with as many sauces as possible and realized that Pops is not playing with no damn body. Why was this burger this damn good?
Bobby Flay would be proud of this spot, given that Pop’s unknowingly incorporated suggestions Flay provided in his book, Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries, and Shakes. The patty was not as juicy because of the pressing, but I appreciated it since I like my burger well done. If you prefer your burger juicier, request that it not be pressed. Each seasoned patty was married with melting American cheese dripping on the seasoned seeded bun interacting with the myriad sauces I squeezed on top, was one of a kind. The construction of the burger made for an amazing palate reception, and of course, Instagram photo.
Moving along we had the jerk chicken pita. Being from Miami, I was a bit skeptical of a Chicago spot doing jerk, but I was pleasantly surprised. The jerk was mild, which allowed for the sauce to enhance the flavor profile, instead of warring with it, which sometimes happens when folk try create jerk inspired entrees. I had lettuce and tomato with mine, but looking back, I would have probably added onions as well. I enjoyed this sandwich thoroughly and will come back for the gyro on my next visit because that looked just as delicious!
Now we are about to share with you, the BEST CHICKEN SANDWICH IN THE SOUTH SIDE OF CHICAGO. R U Hungry’s Fried Chicken Sandwich reminded me of a Nashville Hot Chicken spot I visited some time ago. The sandwich starts out with a locally sourced fresh chicken breast marinated for a minimum of 24 hours in a secret marinade I suspect had notes of cayenne pepper, salt, garlic, and another mild pepper, possibly a green chili. Then, the marinated breast is tossed and coated in a house blended seasoned flour, and finally deep fried to a beautiful golden brown and ultra-crispy texture. I had my sandwich made with Texas toast instead of the bun to hold all the delicious sauces I was about to squeeze on here. This sandwich single handedly made me want to contact Popeye’s and tell them to abandon their sandwich and contract with R U Hungry because they have obviously been greatly outdone. The sandwich was divine. Tender, hot, flavorful, juicy, and crunchy. Lord have mercy, I want another just writing about it.
This place is special. The food is awesome and the service impeccable, but there’s something else factoring into the equation. Maybe it’s the love of family and seeing this amazing dad with his son working alongside of him. Seeing a Black father and son duo feeding folks and working with obvious pride, outstanding quality and professionalism on behalf of their community had me emotional.
I thought about all the negative press about Chicago and how stories like this dispel them. I am happy that I came here. I am happy I met Pop’s and Matt. I am happy that I had a fried chicken sandwich worth traveling thousands of miles for. What an honor to highlight the grit, determination, and respect this tiny eater has had for their community for over 10 years. You can reach R U Hungry at 773.434.4800 or visit their location at 1724 West 51st Street, Chicago, IL 60609.
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ALL PHOTO CREDIT IS DUE TO CHEF KRIS KOFI! You can contact the photographer at [email protected]