CHICAGO — For the latest Chuck's Big Adventure, we traveled to Chicago for a trip that took us to Wrigley Field, showed us super heroes, had us tasting the best pizza, and checking out a neighborhood with true artistic flair.
Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood is a bastion of education. It's the home of The University of Chicago, the Museum Of Science and Industry and three seminaries. Frank Lloyd Wright built architectural marvels here and this area was the home of former President Barack Obama when he was a Chicago resident.
Regarded as Chicago's most diverse neighborhood, Hyde Park has seen its share of trouble despite the history and legacy of the area. Unemployment and crime slowly were creeping into the area in the early 2000's but some of the streets are seeing a revival thanks to the efforts of business people like Chef Erick Williams. Noted for being one of the top African American chefs in the country, Williams established a restaurant called Virtue in Hyde Park. His desire was to bring Southern American cuisine to Chicago, but more importantly to develop leaders who can go on and make a mark in the community. His restaurant was doing well pre-COVID and he wanted to keep it going despite the pandemic. The restaurant's name came from the mission of the ownership to air, inspire and share.
"Well, we don't understand the term do nothing. And so my parents used to tell me when you're found, be found doing. And so we stayed active, our initial response was to make sure that we secured our team and secured the facility," Williams said. "And so we were able to do that by providing family meals to the community, and that turned out to be a huge hit people were super appreciative and super giving during that time."
Not only does Williams offer training to up and coming chefs who need leadership skills, but you'll also find art around the property, made by Chicago artists who are getting exposure for their work.
"The majority of our art is from fine artists who are nationally acclaimed and recognized. However, all of them live like within two miles of the restaurant, and they all come, they all dine, and what's even more interesting is they've selected where they want their art to hang .They've literally sat in the restaurant and said, 'Wow, I'm going to bring a piece in to go there.' And so, we feel very very fortunate, again like the kindness of this community is unmatched anywhere else in our city, and we feel fortunate to be recipients of it."
Chef Williams fed hospital workers, local families and students in the COVID days and he feels fortunate that his fellow store and restaurant owners are on the rebound. He hopes to continue, to teach, lead and inspire the Hyde Park Community by going the extra mile in everything he does.
Oh by the way, when you visit, try the banana pudding!
The Silver Room
Just a block east, a different Eric Williams took his love of art, fashion and music to a boutique called The Silver Room.
He moved his store from the north side to a Hyde Park store front. Not only does he sell, books, clothes and jewelry that reflect the diverse neighborhood, but he also hosts events in his space, like acoustic concerts.
World renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright was an active part of the Hyde Park neighborhood. His Robie House, near the University of Chicago, features indoor and outdoor tours of this legendary architect's brilliant work.
Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House
You can take pictures and learn how his work changed the way we look at home design. Other walking tours are available around the area and city highlighting Wright influenced design.