Black Foodies Group Aims to Create Community of Like-Minded Food Adventurers By Maudlyne Ihejirika Kelly Terrell is all about food — all kinds, but especially the unique and exotic.
“There’s this misnomer that Black people don’t travel much, that Black people don’t drink bourbon, Black people don’t have these kind of adventures — that we only eat #soulfood and that’s it — stereotypes like that,” says Terrell, 53, of Southwest Evanston.
“None of that is true, of course. So #BlackEatEFUS aims to build a community of people who already exist, to bring us together in fellowship and build our network, as well as to be able to dine with like-minded people.”
Black EatEFUS’ board of directors include fellow Evanstonians #HeatherRansom, a co-founder; Karli Butler, its creative events officer; #TrinaPaigeWhatley, the social and marketing officer; and #AmandaWright, its recruiting officer.
The group, launched in June, and found on Facebook and Instagram as black_eatefus, grew out of Terrell’s efforts to coral friends for #foodadventures requiring large groups.
“Some friends and I were enjoying these adventurous dinners that are usually pricey, and it was hard to find enough people to go. Two years ago, three of us wanted to go to #Alinea, but Alinea only sells tables in even numbers. So we needed a fourth person,” Terrell recounts.
“After two years of not finding anyone, Karli and I were at dinner, and she mentioned wanting to go to Alinea. I got super excited, because now we had our fourth person. But that was after two years. I was thinking how nice it would be to have a community of people that we could tap into. And so the idea for Black EatEFUS had been incubating.”
Alinea, at 1723 N. Halsted, is one of the hardest restaurants to get into, with reservations or “tickets,” requiring planning months in advance, as well as prepayment. The Alinea experience, a combination of theater, art and food, runs three to four hours, with a three-tier price range of $275+ to $425+.
“It was during that dinner that we started talking about all the other different restaurants offering diverse foodie experiences, and Karli mentioned she’d been wanting to check out #FrontierChicago’s whole animal experience and couldn’t find anybody to go with her,” says Terrell. “That’s when I realized this was the perfect time to explore this concept.”
Moving through the ranks — from customer service to call center coach, billing and collections, communications and training — she ended up in IT quality assurance and program and strategy, before retiring from parent company AT&T in 2019.
In October 2011, Terrell founded a nonprofit, #KhenArah, an organization for women and girls building intergenerational community relationships through volunteerism. It recently changed its name to WAND - Women Are Naturally Dope.
And in June, she launched #SWANConsultingPartners, a #lifecoaching and business consulting firm, which assisted the group Events By One-Way Street Society in its launch of the “Garden Vibes Day Party,” held monthly at Good To Go Jamaican Restaurant, at 711 W. Howard. You can find that initiative here: Events By One-Way Street Society.
“A really good friend of mine was talking about this idea for #brunch and #dayparties in Evanston, because he and his friends brunch a lot and they have to travel to the city. He wanted to bring something like that to Evanston, with a focus on Black businesses,” Terrell says.
“I helped him narrow the concept, attended business meetings with him and the venue as needed, and help execute the events monthly, as needed. It was through that work that I became confident I could go on this adventure with Black EatEFUS.”
Wild-caught #alligator from Shreveport, Louisiana is on the Frontier Chicago menu, as seen in photos of that dinner on the group's Facebook page.
The alligator is veiled in a house marinade, stuffed with whole chickens, smoked and roasted whole over apple and cherry woods — then served with shrimp and sausage jambalaya, five-cheese mac, kale and romaine Caesar salad, vegetables and rolls.
At $95/person, with a 10-person minimum, seven-day advance reservations are required.
“We ended up with 13 people that came, a friend told a friend, who told a friend, kind of thing. I probably knew four people there, which was exactly what we wanted — to bring people together who otherwise would not be dining together, in the process, creating new friendships, and new #community.”
The fledgling group is growing. Its most recent trip was family-themed, a Sunday afternoon visit to #ComfortDessertsReimagined, where 70-year-old owner Harith Razaa sells only five types of dessert: pie, bread pudding, sheet cake, trifle, and cobbler. The Black-owned bakery opened this Spring at 517 Dempster Street.
“It was an event where people were able to bring their children. Everyone raves about his key lime pie, so we had key lime pie, bread puddings, and lemon pie with berries in them. I for one came home with a week’s worth of pies,” Terrell says.
“It’s our goal to support #Blackownedrestaurants and venues. We will go wherever the good food is, of course. But our focus will always be supporting #Blackownedbusinesses when possible, particularly in our hometown of Evanston.”
The group’s dining sights are far flung, however, with the hope of eventually expanding nationally, its model, groups like the Black Bourbon Society.
Interested #foodies may respond or inbox interest in particular events, to receive follow-up attendance information as it nears.
The group plans to host one major event quarterly, with smaller ones in between, staying mindful of current potential #COVID19 limitations.
“I’m a member of the #BlackBourbonSociety, and saw what camaraderie looked like for that kind of community, centered around bourbon, in their case. If we can do the same for Black foodies locally and nationally, I think it will just be amazing, opening up a whole new world for these kind of experiential culinary adventures,” says Terrell.
“I would say to Black foodies, stay tuned, and watch us grow. Right now, we’re small but mighty. We’re not always going to be small, but we’re always going to be mighty."