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The Soulfood Lounge brings upscale dining to North Lawndale

New upscale restaurant, The Soulfood Lounge, opens in North Lawndale
New upscale restaurant, The Soulfood Lounge, opens in North Lawndale 04:32

CHICAGO (CBS) -- On this Foodie Friday, a new restaurant in North Lawndale is serving up soul food and an upscale dining experience.

Digital journalist Jamaica Ponder takes us to The Soulfood Lounge, where the focus is on good food and good times.

Chicago has come to be known as one of the gastronomic capitals of the United States, but for a lot of its residents, especially those living in predominantly Black and Brown communities, if you want to get dressed up and go somewhere fancy to get a good plate of food, you typically can't do it in your own neighborhood.

For the residents of North Lawndale, that changed about a month ago. The Soulfood Lounge is the neighborhood's first and only high-end eatery.

The Soulfood Lounge in North Lawndale
The Soulfood Lounge in North Lawndale serves up a traditional soul food dishes fused with homestyle cooking from around the globe. CBS

The lounge is on the ground floor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Apartments, a multi-use center run by the North Lawndale Christian Development Corporation, and former home to Dr. King during his time spent here in Chicago in 1966.

"This has been in the works for years, because we realized that the community was really in desperate need of a sit-down restaurant. Every African-American community across the nation, they're considered food deserts, and when we want to go and eat something fancy, we have to go outside of our community just to have an experience," said chef Quentin Love. "So, at this point, it's time for a paradigm shift."

Love is known around Chicagoland for his unique, healthy, soulful food; as well as the community service-driven mission behind his ventures.

The Soulfood Lounge is not the first of Love's restaurants to be created in partnership with a community development organization. About a decade ago, Love opened Turkey Chop in collaboration with the West Humboldt Park Community Development Council.

The restaurant has since given out tens of thousands of free meals, hosted cooking workshops, and become a place for community enrichment on the West Side.

With The Soulfood Lounge, Love said he wants to do something similar in how it serves his community, but different in the void it aims to fill.

"One of the greatest things I've ever heard of was when a family said, 'I live right across the street.' And she said she was so excited to get dressed up, to walk across the street, to have an amazing meal," Love said.

Love believes that it's important for people to enjoy their neighborhoods; that creating a place like the lounge can help to change the tone within a community.

"There's been an unfortunate trend of violence, especially in the inner cities of Chicago, and one of the things that stand out is what if you put more care in the communities? Will they care?" Love said. "But what is missing is the economic development of a community. You know, that needs to be paid more attention to. And so, before we move and leave out of our community, we have to reinvest in our communities with sound businesses that have staying power."

Love strives to develop the community's restaurant scene, as well as their palates, taking traditional soul food dishes, and fusing them with homestyle cooking from around the globe.

"Soul food, you know, it came from, of course, our culture and African-American culture; but what we don't understand is that food that is made from the soul, is of all culture," Love said. "What I want to do is merge those cultures together and call it global soul food fusion."

The Soulfood Lounge in North Lawndale
The Soulfood Lounge in North Lawndale serves up a traditional soul food dishes fused with homestyle cooking from around the globe. CBS

The lounge's entire spread is really interesting, because it's not all the time that you get Black soul food in fusion form, especially not in an upscale dining experience.

"I'm all over the place with it, you know? And then you come in and have this experience, and it's going to blow your mind," Love said.

Interested diners should be sure to make a reservation. The lounge gets busy quickly, and they don't tend to take walk ins.

"You've got to plan to come, right? And that's an amazing experience for people. I look forward to seeing you, and you look forward to coming here, right? And that's The Soulfood Lounge experience," Love said.

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