CHICAGO—For the last 10 years, the South Shore community in Chicago has been home to Chef Sara’s Café, owned and operated by Sara Phillips. This neighborhood eatery showcases food made with fresh ingredients within a home style environment. The menu offers something for everyone with plenty of vegetarian options.
After 32 years as a flight attendant, Ms. Phillips decided to make a career change and enrolled into culinary arts school. After reflecting on some of her favorite childhood memories, which was watching her mother cook and having joy eating her mother’s food, enrolling in culinary school, just felt right. She stated that her mother and grandmother taught her the basics, but school put it all together.
With a strong passion for cooking, as a resident of South Shore and having an even stronger desire to help change the wellness of her community, Ms. Phillips decided to open her café.
There are not many healthy food choices in this predominately Black community and there are very few restaurants or cafés that offer wholesome food with a feeling of being at home, so Ms. Phillips created a niche. Some of the residents in the area bring in tomatoes from their backyard gardens to add to the menu.
“I have consistent customers who have supported me the entire 10 years. There was a young guy that came in the other day and reminded me that he was 17 years old when he first came into the café. The neighborhood is great, they are huge supporters.
We haven’t had to close not one day due to the pandemic. The neighborhood and patrons from around the city, called their orders in and either picked up their food or had the food delivered,” stated Ms. Phillips.
Kimberly Brown, a regular of the café, said, “It’s small and cozy, and I just love the friendly atmosphere. Chef Sara prepares the food with a wonderful and wholesome spirit that you just don’t find everywhere,” said Ms. Brown. Her favorite is the turkey sandwich with fixings and house spread and their iced tea.
Keni McClain exclaimed, “Chef Sara is awesome and very welcoming. I love the fact that they have fresh smoothies, a large tea selection, and great breakfast options. The location is convenient, and the atmosphere is relaxing.”
Everything on the menu is a compilation of special requests from the patrons over the years.
Chef Sara loves her customers just as much as they love her. She has gone so far as to name some of her creations after her customers who have supported her from the beginning.
The Granger Arranger is a crowd pleaser at Chef Sara’s Café. It is named after local businessman Ananias Granger, president of A & D Property Services, a pillar in the South Shore community. This dish consists of fresh sautéed mixed greens, brown rice pilaf topped with a grilled salmon burger.
The Billy Boy special is named after Billy Powers, a young educator at a local neighborhood daycare center and focuses on the vegetarian palette. It includes the same as the Granger Arranger but without the salmon burger.
“I absolutely love this place. The service is great, and the food is amazing,” said Morgan Naomi, a regular patron.
Chef Sara’s Café is more than an eatery. This space is a comfortable and includes an inviting makeshift office and study area for networking and meeting new friends.
Chef Sara’s Café is located at 7201 S. Exchange Avenue, and Ms. Phillips has no plans on moving or expanding. “I know I’ve been blessed these 10 years at this location, the patrons are like family,” she said.
To place an order for pick up or delivery, or to dine in, visit https://chefsarascafe.com or call 773-359-4637. The café is open Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Shawntell Muhammad can be reached at [email protected]