Uptown showcases local diversity with new event

Baker & Nosh is a restaurant taking a part of the first annual “Taste of Uptown” on Oct. 12. 1303 W. Wilson Ave.

By Arts & Culture Reporter

The Uptown community will travel the globe and benefit charity during “Taste of Uptown,” which will feature culinary “passports” to participating local restaurants offering cuisines from around the world.

Plans for the Oct. 12 event—hosted by Business Partners-The Chamber for Uptown—have been in the works since March and solidified in July and August, according to Greg Carroll, the chamber’s director of partnership and events.

“We were really lucky our restaurants here were eager to support [Taste of Uptown],” Carroll said, noting many lost business because of construction work to rebuild the Wilson el stop.

The Oct. 12 event begins at Uptown Arcade, 4830 N. Broadway, where participants will “check-in” at the bar that is famous for its whiskeys. The will serve as the event’s headquarters. 

Then, visitors will venture down Broadway for bite-sized meals, with each restaurant stamping their “passport,” according to Martin Sorge, executive director of the chamber.

“Uptown is a great place to explore, and this event will showcase just a few of the great offerings it has,” Sorge said, adding that the neighborhood’s residents need to remember that “diversity is delicious.”

Participating restaurants will include Baker & Nosh,  Everybody’s Coffee, Crew Bar + Grill, Pokiology, Lao Sze Chuan, Palla’s Grill and Thai Uptown.

“Uptown is a really diverse neighborhood, and our restaurant scene reflects that,” Carroll said.

Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Inspiration Corporation, an organization that supplies culinary classes and jobs for the homeless and impoverished. 

The first Inspiration Kitchen was founded by Chicago police officer Lisa Nigro and opened in Uptown at 4715 N. Sheridan Road in 1989. In July, the restaurant closed after a $350,000 budget cut in 2014, according to a July 12 blog post by executive director and CEO Shannon Stewart.

“A lot of [local] nonprofits are facing issues due to the current budget situation in Illinois,” Carroll said. “We were devastated to hear they had to close down and thought [this event was] a great way to try and support it.”

Ramona Thomas, chief sweets officer at My Chocolate Soul, which will make its retail debut at the event, said she could not think of a better organization to receive the proceeds.

Thomas, who began making desserts after taking a French pastry course in 2010, moved to Uptown this past summer. Her chocolates have been featured in the 2014 ESPYs and 2015 NBA All-Star VIP gift bags, but Thomas said she sees the opening as an opportunity to reach a new audience.

“Uptown is an amazing community,” Thomas said. “It will be nice to contribute and meet people.”

Rich Troche, director of operations at Everybody’s Coffee, 935 W. Wilson Ave., said the coffee shop moved to Uptown when it needed to expand the business about two and a half years ago.

“It’s great to see different events happening that promote the life and people of Uptown,” Troche said. “To be a part of it is exciting.”