The Soul City Corridor coming to life on the West Side is home to a new Southern-inspired grab-and-go restaurant.
Two Sisters Catering made a name for itself in 2012 by serving sweet and savory soul food at West Side farmers markets, pop-ups and private events.
But after hearing from customers who wanted more of Two Sisters’ wraps, salads, drinks and desserts, founder Veah Larde has opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant at 4800 W. Chicago Ave., Suite 1.
“I can give people something that we don’t have on this strip,” Larde said. “We don’t have this kind of food. That makes me very proud.”
Larde grew up just blocks from her restaurant, which opened last month. She saw the area go through a decline as businesses and residents left Austin. As Chicago Avenue once again becomes part of Austin’s commercial backbone with several new businesses, including Two Sisters Catering, Larde is reminded of the vibrant community she lived in as a child.
“I know what this area used to look like,” Larde said. “I know what was here and how vibrant it was. To see it starting to take shape, that is so heartwarming.”
The revival of Chicago Avenue is led by Austin African American Business Networking Association Inc. It wants to rebrand the street as Soul City Corridor. The initiative would make the area a hub for Black culture and history on the West Side, Executive Director Malcolm Crawford said.
Crawford has worked for years to attract investment to Chicago Avenue and bring the Soul City Corridor to life. Those efforts are now bearing fruit, with several Black-owned businesses opening, including Soul City Studios, Forty Acres Fresh Market and Two Sisters Catering.
“I can tell that things are changing, and that the opportunity is now,” Crawford said.
Soul City Corridor will eventually be “a cultural enclave where people in the community and people outside the community can come and relax, eat the food, hear the music, walk safe streets and be excited about Chicago in the way others are excited about their community,” Crawford said.
Opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant wasn’t even on Larde’s radar, she said. But Rosie Dawson of the West Side Health Authority, a neighborhood group that owns several properties in the area, offered an opportunity.
“I tried some of her food, which was delicious,” Dawson said. “I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to get her feet wet.”
By bringing a restaurant to the area, Dawson hopes to increase foot traffic for local businesses and give residents more convenient options to enjoy themselves locally.
“We should not have to leave our neighborhoods to go to other places when we could be in our own neighborhood, enjoying what’s here,” Dawson said. “That’s the main goal, to make sure we have things in this community.”
The restaurant will have a hot food section with Southern staples such as chicken, greens and cornbread, as well as a cold section with sandwiches, wraps and salads. The drink menu will include Southern-style teas and lemonades infused with seasonal fruits like peach, cranberry and blackberry.
Larde is most passionate about baking, and her desserts — especially her caramel apple cheesecake — have been her bestsellers at farmers markets and pop-ups, she said.
“It is succulent, and it has my grandmother written all over it because it’s her caramel that I use,” she said. “The apples are soaked in … brandy to help wake up the flavors.”
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.