Jerk Soul Is Serving Caribbean Food, with Notes of Chicago, in Hyde Park


Ellie Woods and Zahra Spencer were on the cusp of understanding their eating place desires within the U.S. Virgin Islands. They had planned it all out at some stage in the course of their now not-quite 12 months-lengthy courtship: He would circulate from his local Chicago to sign up for her in St. Thomas, wherein they would launch a brunch spot focused on chook and waffles. They had a menu deliberate, a really perfect beachside area, and a plane price ticket booked for Woods. Then, Irma struck.

“I’d been there for most effective one week before Irma,” Woods recalls, regarding the devastating Hurricane Irma, which destroyed much of the U.S. Virgin Islands in September 2017, inclusive of their now not-but-open eating place. “We went via the storm together, and then my own family changed into trying me to get returned. Zahra stayed due to the fact her family was there, and I evacuated by using a boat to Puerto Rico because it becomes the handiest airport open at the time.”

Not far behind Irma, however, became Hurricane Maria, a hurricane that leveled Puerto Rico. Woods turned into aware about the impending hurricane, however, did no longer know the way to get out till a friend from St. Louis helped him get a flight again to the U.S. Mainland. His changed into the remaining one out before the hurricane.

Instead of returning to Chicago, Woods stayed along with his buddy in St. Louis, targeted on reuniting with Spencer. The pair nonetheless desired to open an eating place, however now that the islands have been devastated, they knew they couldn’t do it in St. Thomas. Something informed him to begin searching St. Louis for space, and within 3 days, he’d discovered a completely renovated eating place awaiting its first tenant in the middle of the Hyde Park community. Immediately, he knew it changed into the proper match.

“I’ve been to the East and West coasts, however by no means to St. Louis,” Spencer explains. “Coming right here became a bounce of faith.”

That leap has paid off in the form of the delightful, takeout-handiest Jerk Soul, a restaurant Spencer and Woods describe as the ideal combination in their two selves. Spencer is represented with the aid of the real Caribbean aspect of the menu, with dishes that she grew up getting to know to cook dinner even as a status on a step stool in her grandmother’s St. Croix kitchen. Specialties such as braised oxtail, jerk wings, curry chicken and Caribbean corn have been handed down for many generations in her circle of relatives, and he or she has been cooking them on account that she was nine years antique.

Woods adds his Chicago history on the facet of the menu he and Spencer describe as “fusion.” Traditional Caribbean specialties like a jerk chicken are supplied in “American” form, with alternatives on a Philly cheesesteak sandwich or atop a pizza. And, as Woods attests, there may be no better side to pair them with than the macaroni and cheese — his grandmother’s unique recipe.

Spencer and Woods are pleased with the response they have got acquired from their Hyde Park neighbors — in fact, the desire to turn out to be part of the northern metropolis community turned into what sold them on this precise property.

“The vicinity is up and coming. It’s being revitalized and restored to its former glory,” says Woods. “We’re excited to be right here due to the fact we experience like we are part of that revitalization. With the brand new clinic and the National Geospatial headquarters coming in, we’re pumped. We experience like we’re playing a position in revitalizing the neighborhood.”

Jerk Soul is open Sunday through Friday from midday until 8 p.M. Though the storefront is strictly a carryout operation, the restaurant also does catering and unique occasions.